Wisdom, Humility and Real Life

James 1:5 NKJV

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

James 4:6 – 10 NKJV

6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:     “God resists the proud,     But gives grace to the humble.”  7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. 

Naturally, in and of myself, I don’t have any wisdom at all.  I become painfully aware of this sometimes when God removes His wisdom from me.  Then I realize that if my own wisdom was dynamite I wouldn’t have enough to blow my nose.  God is the source of all true wisdom.

I used to write these posts for the local newspaper, accompanied by a meaningful photo.  After writing them weekly for two years I became proud, thinking I was writing them out of my own wisdom, out of my own power, out of myself.  I knew I was getting proud, but I couldn’t shake it.  My pride got in the way of hearing from God to write the posts.  And eventually I had to quit writing them.  And I couldn’t write another until eight years later.

There is a relationship between wisdom, love and pride.  Wisdom is the practically working out of love for God, others and ourselves in our daily lives.  Pride is the opposite of love.  Pride cuts off the ability to hear God’s wisdom because we seek glory for ourselves and so it results in a fall, or the destruction of our lives.

God knows we all have a problem with pride.  That’s why He sent Jesus to take the punishment for our pride.  God said to humble ourselves under His mighty hand and in due time He will lift us up.  He doesn’t lift us up the way this world does, that is, by making ourselves “greater” than others.  He lifts us up by making us like Himself, by making us able to be a loving servant like Him.  Humbling ourselves and loving and serving others is real glory.  And this real glory, when we humble ourselves, and love God with all that we are and others as much as ourselves, is just breaking even in God’s sight.  It is the minimum God expects from each of us.  We are no “greater” than anyone else.

And that’s the way we would want it isn’t it?  We want others to love us as much as they love themselves.  But, we don’t want them to feel “greater” than us by doing so.  It is just what is expected.

But loving others this way is impossible in our natural selves.  When we are born our spirits are dead.  But, when we confess our sins to God and believe that Jesus paid our sin debt in full (when He died and rose from the dead), God gives us the Person of His Spirit that is alive and willing and able to do all that God asks.  We then are able to choose to follow God if we want to follow Him.  And when we choose to follow Him we find out the reason He made us.  We find real life the way God intended it to be.

 1 John 5:11-13 NKJV

11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

Matthew 10:39  NKJV

He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

Today, right now, Jesus is calling you.  And if you listen to Him, and respond to Him, you will never be the same.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Satan’s work exposed

2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV84

 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

I suffer from lack of confidence sometimes, especially in new situations.  Satan knows this and regularly attacks me there.  Satan’s fiery darts, those destructive thoughts and feelings, are hitting me most recently in my new job.  I am praying that Jesus will take care of my thought life and me personally and my company and their customers.  I am praying that Jesus will expose the lies of satan (that I believe) to the light of God’s truth.  The truth will disarm the lies and make them powerless against me.  How does this work?

When satan tells me a lie it is usually aimed at a shame and insecurity I feel.  He threatens to expose my weakness and I fear telling anyone because I feel ashamed.  And the lie grows hidden in the dark.  But if I have the courage and insight to realize what the lie is and expose it, or I talk to someone who helps me to do this, I can compare satan’s lie to the truth found in the Bible.  Then I realize that Jesus loves me just as I am, that He has already paid for whatever I’m ashamed of, that I am complete in Him, and that satan cannot harm me.

Writing about this is easier than dealing with it and so though I know what’s going on I still have to fight the battle.  Praying and reading the Bible, talking with Christian friends who understand, and even writing a blog post about it, helps expose and destroy satan’s work in my life.

Thanks for reading this and feel free to comment about anything you would like.

There is room for you at the "top".

Someone has said that Jesus’ kingdom is an upside-down kingdom.  Our Lord and Master, our God, is also the servant of all.  Our greatness is not measured in how many people are working for us, but in the works of love we do for others.

This attitude does not come naturally.  It comes super-naturally.  Jesus said we must be “converted”.  Jesus said that He reveals His truth to “babes”.  Jesus said that if we hear His message and receive it [do it] we receive Him and God the Father who sent Him.

(My son has given me permission to share the following).  I am continually impressed with my 18 year old son and how he grasps who God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are and their ways.  When faced with a problem, many times he is the first to say, “Dad, let’s pray.  Let’s ask Jesus for help”.  My son is brilliant socially and is one of the leaders in his classroom.  He also reads and writes at a second grade level.

Though some in this world would overlook him, I admire him.  He’s like the child that Jesus held in His arms and gave as an example for His disciples to be like.

I’ve explained to my son that he is smart, frequently pointing out to him when he demonstrates that quality.  But I have also told him that he is wise, also pointing out that quality when he demonstrates it.  And, I’ve explained the difference.  My son loves God the Father and Jesus His Son and the Holy Spirit.  My son reverences God and values God.  My son is teachable about God and His ways.  And so my son is wiser than some with multiple times his IQ.

Some value intellect.  Some value athleticism.  Some value popularity.  God values love.  Love for Him and love for others.  And true love for God always expresses itself as obedience to God.  Not that we are perfect.  But when we do sin we repent (turn around), ask God and anyone involved for forgiveness, learn from our mistake, and press on.

So my goal is to humble myself and be like my son, like the little child Jesus gave as an example to be like.  And the nice thing about Jesus’ upside-down kingdom is that there is always room at the top, or rather bottom.  All of us can serve others and be like Jesus.

16 He who hears you  [Jesus’ disciples] hears Me [Jesus], he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” (Luke 10:16, NKJV)

21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.” (Luke 10:21, NKJV)

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them,  3 and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  5 Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.” (Matthew 18:1-5, NKJV)

“Perception is Reality.” – Lee Atwater – “Is Mr. Atwater’s statement a Perception or Reality?” – Jim McNaughton

According to perception, Jesus was a failure.  He was tortured, mocked, beaten, and spat upon.  His followers ran.  One of His friends had turned Him over to His enemies.  His only defense was to validate the charge against Him.  One of those closest to Him, denied that he ever knew Him, in order not to experience His fate.  The thousands that had heard Him preach and experienced His miracles didn’t show up.

He was buried and His own disciples didn’t expect Him to rise from the dead as He had claimed He would.  Guards posted at His tomb said His disciples stole His body.  No reputable government official ever saw Him after that.  It was over.  It was finished.  It was done.

Yet the reality is that Jesus won the ultimate victory for all time!  He conquered death when He was raised from the dead.  His followers stopped running and, once filled with His Spirit, risked their lives boldly proclaiming that He was alive, that only He was King, and forgiveness of sins is found only in Him.

His message of God’s unconditional love for everyone has never stopped growing.  Though many have tried to stop Jesus and His love, they have all met with or will meet with, ultimate failure.

Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away”.

And so, in the end, Jesus words, the words of the Bible, are the only Reality.

From nothing to everything

God, the Father of Jesus, respects us, His creation, made in His image, so much, that He does not force us to love Him.  In fact, He has created this world in such a way that we can go through our whole life denying His existence and His rightful claim on our life.  God does not demand worship.  He is love, and love does not force others to love.  In fact, love cannot be forced.  He simply loves us continuously from before we are conceived until we die; and He orchestrates circumstances and relationships in hopes that at some point we will see that He loves us and that as a response we will freely choose to love Him in return and others as ourselves.

But, why would God send good people to hell?  What if no one ever told them about God?  God would be unfair to reject someone who was never told about Him, wouldn’t He?

Romans 1:18-20, NIV:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Before I knew Jesus and surrendered my life to Him I was scared to death of dying.  Occasionally, I thought the rapture (Jesus taking all of His people from the earth) had occurred and that I was left behind.  When I thought I was going to die, or I thought I was left behind, I had a brief moment of clarity.  I knew God was holy, I knew I was sinful, and I knew He was just to reject me.  And after those brief moments I rejected what I knew to be true and “closed my eyes” and went back to my life as usual.

I knew God was real but I didn’t care.  I had no love for Him.

But God had love for me.

He gave me mental illness, which might seem like hate, but it was really love.  The mental illness struck at my biggest source of pride and self-sufficiency: my brain.  I was paranoid and could not think logically and I could not emotionally relate to others.  Because of my mental illness I was rejected and alone, even in a crowd of friends and family.  After ten years of this “hell” I was still rebellious toward God and still did not respect or love Him.

But He loved me.

And, when I had absolutely nothing left to lose, God offered me a relationship with Him.  And it was only when God had taken away everything the world had to offer: intellect, money, jobs, cars, friends, family, that I grudgingly accepted Him; specifically because I had absolutely nothing left to lose.

Thinking that I was naturally “pretty good” I could not have been any more disrespectful to God.  And He humbled Himself and endured me until I accepted Him and His love.  He has transformed me from someone who hated love to someone who rejoices in love.  I have been forever changed by Jesus’ love and all the credit goes to Him.

If you want to know Jesus the way I do all you have to do is to reach out for Him with all that you are.  He said He will be found by you.  Tell Him that you have sinned against Him and that you are sorry and that you accept that His death on the cross paid for your sin debt in full.  Then tell Him that you believe He rose from the dead on the third day to make you just, forgiven, and holy.  And tell Him that He is now your Lord and Master and that you will follow Him for the rest of your life when at last you will meet Him face to face.

Next, tell someone what Jesus has done for you.  And find a church that believes and preaches the Bible.  Find someone who is farther along in their walk with Jesus and who’s life is worthy of imitating and ask them to mentor you.  And always read the Bible and pray, because God loves you most of all and He can help you most of all.

Nobody’s perfect

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.   Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
Psalm 51:5-6 NKJV

Being truthful in my head is very hard.  I decide what I want because I want it. Then I pretend I really want it for another reason, a “good”, acceptable reason, a “righteous” reason.  I deceive myself, but almost no one else.  God wants me to tell the truth to myself.  If I read the Bible and see all the “good guys” as me and all the “bad guys” as someone else, I’m missing everything.  The Bible is a mirror to show me who I really am.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
James 1:22-25 NKJV

Most of the Bible heroes were flawed!  Abraham lied and let another man take his wife to save his skin.  David got another man’s wife pregnant and then killed the man to cover it up.  Jacob’s name meant deceiver and he lived up to it.  Noah got drunk and exposed himself.  Moses was a murderer.  Peter, the “rock” of faith, denied Jesus and called down curses on himself to keep himself from suffering Jesus’ fate.  Paul ruthlessly murdered men, women and children who would not betray Jesus.

If God can work with a crowd like that, and turn them into role models for us, do you think He can work with someone like me? or you?  Well, not if I lie to myself and tell myself I’m really not so bad, and nobody’s perfect, and my good outweighs my bad, and who are you to talk and… and… and….

Jesus “redefined” sin so that no one would feel left out:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire….“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  – Jesus, Matthew 5:21- 22, 27-28 NKJV

God desires truth in the inner parts.  Before Jesus can cleanse me of my sin I have to admit I have sin for Him to cleanse.  If I deny the true motives for my actions and cover it up with “righteous lies” Jesus can’t help me.  I have to be ruthlessly honest within myself.

Okay, so if I’m honest with myself, humble myself and agree with God that I have rebelled against Him, what do I get?

Peace with God.  And peace within myself.  And the ability to see and treat others differently.  More compassion, less judgement, less demands.  Jesus grants us forgiveness and grace (i.e. kindness we don’t deserve) and we can pass it along to those who hurt us.  We absorb the sting of their attacks, and we offer them kindness and understanding in return.  This isn’t natural, it’s supernatural.  It’s the work of the Holy Spirit who works through you as you allow Him to work through you.  This fulfills the second half of the verse: And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

To help with the process of confession you may want to ask someone you trust if you can tell them your sins as you confess them to God.  This takes guts and I haven’t done it much.  I will report back to you after I have talked with my accountability partner.

Pastor Dr. Charles F. Stanley observes, “Obedience always brings blessing”.  And Jesus said, “The truth will set you free”.  May God grant me and you the grace to always confess our sins, so that we can reap the blessings and freedom Jesus always wants to give us.