January 3, 2016
Epiphany. The word itself means "an experience of sudden and striking realization, especially of supernatural origin. For the Christian, it refers to the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles (that means us). The Magi were not Jews, and yet it was revealed to them that this child born in Bethlehem was the Son of God, the King of the Jews, the promised Messiah foretold in the Scriptures; and whose birth was marked by the appearance of a unique star. Since they are also referred to as the 'Wise Men', Christians today often use the phrase, 'Wise men still seek Him'. And that is why I chose 'Wisdom' as the topic of this morning's message.
Wisdom is something the Bible repeatedly tells us to pursue. However, it is important that we differentiate between two types of wisdom. Our epistle reading (James 3:13-17) makes it very clear that one type is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. This is the type of wisdom that satan tempted Eve with in the Garden of Eden. Think about it. Here are Adam and Eve, in an absolutely perfect, peaceful environment. There is nothing negative in their life. No war, no sickness, no death. No pollution, no crime, no natural disasters. They live in harmony with the animals, and enjoy the companionship of God Himself. The only thing they did not have, was permission to eat from one tree, for God knew if they did, they would die - first spiritually, and later physically. So that is the only thing that satan could tempt them with. But how? This forbidden tree was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They already knew all about good. What they did not have knowledge of was evil. So, satan decided to tempt them with wisdom - but not godly wisdom. Demonic wisdom. So in Genesis chapter 3 he tells Eve that if she eats of the tree she will be LIKE GOD, knowing both good and evil. And how does Eve react? Verse 6 says, "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it." I am quite certain the other fruit trees in the garden were also good for food and pleasing to the eye. It was the desire to gain wisdom that brought about her fall. And she did indeed gain demonic wisdom. But what a price she had to pay! And us along with her.
This is why we must make sure the wisdom we pursue is spiritual wisdom. The type that Solomon sought. The type that comes only from God. In 1 Kings 3 we read, "At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you. Solomon answered, "You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours? The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, "Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be."
Now, you might think that the wisdom he sought sounds a great deal like the wisdom that Eve sought. Solomon wanted to distinguish between right and wrong, and Eve wanted to have knowledge of both good and evil. So what is the difference? Eve wanted to know evil, as well as good; but Solomon wanted to be able to discern between good and evil. Discernment is spiritual wisdom. Mere knowledge of good and evil does not enable one to choose good over evil. It does not enable one to tell the difference between true goodness, and evil disguised as goodness. But most of all, spiritual wisdom is desired for the glory of God - not the glory of self. Eve did not want God to have all of the glory. She wanted to be LIKE GOD. The very same desire that caused satan's original fall. Envy and selfish ambition, as James said. That is by far the best way to tell whether or not the wisdom you seek is from God, or from satan. Solomon wanted to rule justly. He wanted to be able to do right by God's people. And God was very pleased with his request and granted it. If you continue to read in that chapter, you will see God even rewarded him with more than he asked for, because his desire stemmed from a pure heart. And as James said, the wisdom from above is first of all pure.
And it also loves peace. If you desire wisdom so you can show someone else you are smarter than them, or even interpret the Bible better than they can, are you seeking peace? And it is considerate. Do you take the feelings of others into consideration when you speak your ˜wisdom'? How about submissive? That is a tough one to put with wisdom, because unless the wisdom comes from God, it is very easy to be anything but submissive if you think you know more than the other guy. And it is full of mercy. Do you forgive easily? Or do you retaliate with "But I was right! He doesn't know what he's talking about!" And good fruit - the fruit of the Spirit. What kind of fruit does your wisdom produce? Fruit that helps others? Or fruit that only increases your personal benefits? Solomon wanted to be able to judge fairly. Spiritual wisdom is impartial. It can see the wrong in someone you favor, and it can see the right in someone you don't. And lastly, it is sincere. Sincerity is defined as the quality of being free from pretense, deceit, or hypocrisy. As I am sure you are aware, there is little Jesus preached against more when He was on earth than hypocrisy. He called the outwardly pious, self-righteous Pharisees 'children of the devil' because of their hypocrisy! So if you think that being able to quote Bible verses is a sign of wisdom, it is not. It is merely a sign of a good memory. Truly believing - and living - those Bible verses is the true sign of wisdom!
Teaching the children the difference between being smart and being wise. First they identified a photo of a wolf, then one of sheep. Being able to made them smart. But if they knew what this one is, then they are wise...