True wisdom - James 3:13 - 4:3

This is a sermon by Nathan Buttery from the morning service on 23rd June 2002.

Click here to read the bible passage. Click here to use larger text.

Now I want to begin this morning by having a quiz for which I will need two volunteers. And these two volunteers will need to answer three questions each in order to be the wisest person in St. John's. So can we have the music (Mastermind music) and the volunteers.
And the first question I have for contestant No. 1: "What is the capital of Mongolia"? Ulan Bator.
First question for contestant No. 2: "What must you do if a traffic light is red?" Stop! Second question for contestant 1: "What is the square root of 961?" 31.
Second question for contestant 2: "What time is it?"
Third question for contestant 1: "How do the Russians say thankyou?" Spasibo!
Third question for contestant 2: "Where would I go to buy some carrots?" A shop!

Sadly contestant 1 didn't do very well, but well done to contestant 2. Now as you may have guessed this quiz was slightly rigged. Because the problem with the first lot of questions was that they were about general knowledge, and you either know the answers or you don't. But the second set of questions were all about things we do every day, about how to live life. Now often we think that the wise people are those who know all the answers to hard questions, like the capital of Mongolia. But actually the Bible says something very different. The Bible tells us that wise people are those who are able to live life properly, that is to live life God's way. You'll notice in verse 13 of our reading that James says: "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom." So the wise person shows he's wise by the kind of life he leads. And the wise people in the Bible are those who know how to live God's way. So being wise is not about how much you know, but knowing how to live life. And that is our topic for today. How to be really wise, wise according to what the Bible says. And to help us we're going to have a look at a passage from the letter of James. And in this passage from James' letter he tells us two things about how to live life:

1) The Wise Way to Live is God's Way

2) The Wise Thing to Do is to Accept God's New Life

1) The Wise Way to Live is God's Way

(Acetate 1- Titles- Point 1 only). So the first thing we learn is that the wise way to live is God's way. And the way James helps us to understand this is by comparing two ways to live, or two wisdoms as James calls them. So we need the help of Inspector James (Acetate 2- Inspector, asking questions) to help us work out which is the right way to live and which is the wrong way. And I'll need two volunteers to help at this point. (Volunteers given aprons).

And we'll begin by looking at the first way to live, the first wisdom that James talks about in verse 15. And the first question Inspector James asks is where did this way come from? Whose idea was it? And James tells us- this wisdom, this way of living, does not come down from heaven, but is earthly, unspiritual and of the devil. So this way of living is actually from this world. So we could say that it was our idea, though James adds that it is the devil's idea too which is very worrying. But for the time being, we'll say that the first way is our idea and comes from us. So let's call it our way. (Volunteer 1 given hat saying "Our Way"). Well if this is our way of living, then the second question the inspector asks is what is this way like? What sort of things do we do? Well James tells us in verse 14 that the sort of things we do are to show envy and selfishness. So let's mark these on the first volunteer. (1st volunteer's apron marked with "Envy" and "selfishness"). But then there is a third question Inspector James asks, and that is what does this way lead to? And James tells us in verse 16: "For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." And he says in 4 v 1 that there are also battles and quarrels with this way. So our way of living which is envious and selfish leads to fights and quarrels. (1st volunteer's apron marked with "Fights and quarrels"). So that's the first way to live that James talks about. It's our way of putting us first and it is a way of selfishness and envy which leads to battles. (Acetate 3- 3 cartoons of envy, selfish etc.) And it is true isn't it in our lives, that when we put ourselves first in our lives, it leads to all sorts of problems. We're jealous of others and we want our own way all the time. And it leads to all sorts of difficulties and fights. So that's the first way James talks about- our way of living. And to be quite honest, it's not a pleasant way to live because it leads to all sorts of problems when we put ourselves first all the time.

But then James talks about another way, another wisdom in these verses. (Acetate 2 again- Inspector). So let's ask Inspector James to find out a bit about this way of living. First he asks, where is this wisdom, this way of life from? And James says in verse 17 that this wisdom, this way of life is from heaven. So it is from God. It is God's way of living. (Volunteer 2 given hat saying "God's Way"). So inspector James asks his next question: What is this way of living, this wisdom, like? Verse 17: "It is pure; then peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." So that's sounds wonderful doesn't it? (2nd volunteer's apron marked with these things). That sounds like the sort of life I might want to have. So let's ask James what this life leads to? It leads to a harvest of righteousness in verse 18, which basically means a life which pleases God. (2nd volunteer's apron marked with "a life pleasing to God"). So (Acetate 4- Crowd happy) that's the second way James tells us about- and it's the sort of way which leads to a life which is pleasing to God.

So here we have two ways to live. We see our way, or our wisdom, which is a way of living life with me at the centre which is envious and selfish, and leads to fights and quarrels. And there is God's way which leads to all those lovely qualities and a life which pleases God. Now just before we move on, I want to ask everyone here which way they think is better. Hands up if you think our way is best. Hands up if you think God's way seems better. Well there's no doubt. God's way is obviously the better way to go. Going God's way is the wise thing to do because it pleases God and is very attractive. So that's the first thing we notice that God's way is the wise way to live.

2) The Wise Thing to Do is Accept God's New Life

(Acetate 1 again- titles- Point 2) But then there is another thing we learn from James that the wise thing to do is accept God's new life. Now we might think that is obvious, but actually the reality is that none of us by nature go God's way. We all want to cling to living life our way, with us at the centre. (Acetate 5- Baby) In fact, even from our youngest days we do what we want, and things never change when we get to be adults. One of the first words that babies learn is "no"! And there is nothing we can do to change that. No matter how hard we try, we can never free ourselves from going our way. And even worse is that God is greatly offended that we don't go his way. He made us to go his way, and we don't.

But we have all just agreed that living God's way is far better. His way is the wise way. So what can we do? Well James says that the answer is that God freely offers us a new life so that we can begin to live life God's way, the wise way. James says in chapter 1 verse 18 that God chose to give us new birth through the word of truth. In other words, God is offering to give us a fresh start, a new life, a life which is lived God's way. And the only way that is possible is through what Jesus has done on the cross. (Acetate 6- Cross). You see on the cross Jesus died in our place so that he might take our old way of life with all it's horrible things and get rid of it, and offer us a new life, offer us forgiveness and a fresh start. It is as if Jesus takes our old way of life, and takes it on himself (Take off apron from volunteer 1- put it on volunteer 2). But at the same time he gives us a new life, a fresh start (Volunteer 2's apron given to volunteer 1). So there is if you like an exchange of lives. Jesus takes my life. We receive his life. And that means that with this new life that Jesus gives us, we are now able to live the life God wants us to. We are now free to live the wise way, God's way.

So that's how we can start to live God's way, the wise way. It's nothing we can do on our own. We need to accept what Jesus did for us on the cross and receive the new life. So for those of us who have not yet done that, then the challenge is to do just that. Receive the new life. There are booklets at the back which help you to do just that, and even today that offer of new life, life lived God's wise way, is open. And for others of us who have been living this new life for some time, then the challenge is to keep going God's wise way, and to get rid of everything in our lives that God does not like. For that is the wise way to life.

So today we have seen that the wise way to live is God's way and the wise thing to do is to accept God's new life.


Copyright information: The sermon texts are copyright and are available for personal use only. If you wish to use them in other ways, please contact us for permission.