January 11

Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.” (Proverbs 4:13) “Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.” (Proverbs 8:10-11)

 The Enlightenment Period of history exalted scientific and intellectual knowledge to the extent that it was and is worshipped. Great awards are given in the name of scientific achievements such as the Nobel Prize, the Copley Medal, and the Kyoto Prize, to name a few. These achievements are based on new information and understanding that have led to great discoveries. New podcasts keep popping up that focus on information you never had before; if you do an internet search you may find “13 podcasts that will expand your brain.” Having listened to a few, I have found that the producers strive to make the material understandable to the listener, because knowledge without understanding, for the sake of knowledge alone, is not very useful (unless you are trying to win a trivia contest). Knowledge and understanding are only the stepping stones to wisdom, which is practical knowledge and understanding applied to life and the issues of life.

What is the world’s definition of wisdom? An article in a popular Christian magazine defined wisdom as that which “involves an integration of knowledge, experience, and deep understanding that incorporates tolerance for the uncertainties of life as well as its ups and downs. There’s an awareness of how things play out over time, and it confers a sense of balance. It can be acquired only through experience, but by itself, experience does not automatically confer wisdom.” The last sentence helps us to see the limitations of human wisdom, at least in this definition, since experience is necessary, but will not guarantee wisdom.  Biblical wisdom is not based on experience, but is founded on the truth that God gives us, available in Scripture. Proverbs 2:6 declares, “for the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding…”

When you instruct your teens, or offer godly counsel to others, which do you find yourself saying, “In my experience…” or “In the Bible…”? Do you base your decisions and choices on yours or others’ experience, or on wisdom that comes from prayer and walking with God?

January 10

“Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” (Matthew 11:19b)

Have you recently shopped for a specific model or brand of an item that is obscure, which you only intend to use periodically? You may spend hours, or even days searching for it, only to put it on the shelf until it’s time to put it to use. Unlike a material possession, Biblical understanding and wisdom cannot be obtained once and then used upon occasion. If we truly intend to live a life devoted to a biblical worldview, our search must be continuous throughout our earthly lives. To strengthen it, we must live out our wisdom in our conduct and choices. Only then will it to increase to become a fundamental aspect of our lives.

A wise life is one lived by the power of the Holy Spirit, that produces evidence. When Jesus said, “wisdom is justified by her deeds,” wisdom is personified as a woman who has “children” of works. Jesus may have been referring to disciples who were at least trying to live by his wisdom. They followed Jesus and there were many others who gathered around Christ to hear His teaching. Most, however, returned home afterward, to resume their usual activities, as if putting their wisdom on a shelf for another time. Many of us listen to good, even great sermons in church, on podcasts, or at conferences, but rarely apply the godly instructions we receive. If we want to mature in Christ, we must make application of our learning. Wisdom is acquired through constant practice, much like a sport. The good news, though, is that we never outgrow our ability to be wise; rather, as we practice and utilize biblical wisdom, we become increasingly skilled at biblical discernment to live a godly life. “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13)

In Matthew 11:19 we see that we are the “works” of wisdom. Psalm 139:14 David declares, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Our works can never produce wisdom; wisdom is fruit of our trusting relationship with Jesus Christ, whose atoning work saved us. The more we put this gift of wisdom to use, the more it increases, becoming a habit in the best possible way. We may listen more carefully to others, wisely asking them questions, to know them better. Perhaps we should wait to make important financial decisions, in order to pray and discuss the matter with our spouses over a period of weeks, rather than days. Maybe waiting ten minutes before eating that snack will help me discern if I am eating because I am hungry or because I am bored. Truly wise living is a lifestyle, not an intangible ideal.

January 9

“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:1-5)

If you look up the word “understand” in the dictionary, you will find a definition such as this: the ability to grasp the meaning of something or reasonableness of something. From Proverbs, we learn that this “ability” is not passive but active, and even proactive. In order to obtain understanding of God that leads to wisdom, we must seek it energetically. We must strive for this hidden treasure by meditating on Scripture, which has the power to change our thinking and our understanding. “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119:130).

We learn about God’s character through Bible study, which gives us understanding of the continuous working of His attributes. The highest, most superlative wisdom is found in the integration of all of God’s attributes: holiness, justice, love, mercy, patience, and purity, to name just a few. God reveals and expresses His goodness through all that He does, since there is no sin in Him. In Christ, the Word made flesh, we come to know God intimately.

However, our sin nature has a corruptive influence over our intelligence, and thus warps our understanding, and wisdom. We deceive ourselves into thinking that we have great insights when our hearts, priorities, and choices reveal worldly values. Discernment between good and evil, integrity and manipulation, or right and wrong is an essential aspect of wisdom (1 Kings 3:9). But because when we have deceived ourselves, it is impossible to discern correctly, giving evidence that we are not as understanding and insightful as we think. We Christians frequently listen to sermons and study with great interest, but then our minds are ensnared by worldly values (Ezekiel 33:31; Matthew 15:7-9). Sincere understanding of God is found through the means of grace given to us: Bible study and preaching, prayer, personal confession, repentance the sacraments, corporate worship, Christian fellowship, and service. As we engage in these, with sincerity and humility, the Holy Spirit imparts the understanding that we require. The Lord will open the meaning of the Scriptures to us as He did for the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:45ff). The Holy Spirit graciously and gradually removes the veil from our eyes to truly know, understand, and fear God.

Which of the graces mentioned do you neglect? Do you think that you can become wise without regular prayer, service, corporate worship, or personal confession? This is worldly wisdom. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2)

January 8

“…Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1:30)

We remember, from yesterday’s post that God gave The Ten Commandments to Israel as a unique gift from a loving Father to His children. The Law reveals God’s holy character and remarkably high standards. However, our problem is, that being judged by His law, we come to hate and resent the guilt that arises from our failure to keep it. Our efforts to obey the Ten Commandments result in disappointment and personal discouragement. This is why it is vital to not only know the law, but to understand its purpose. Without proper understanding, we cannot progress toward wisdom, but remain trapped in knowledge alone.

God, in His mercy, uses His Law to instruct sinners. David wrote: “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way…Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose” (Psalms 25:8, 12). Now we must remember that God’s Law cannot save us, but instructs us in God’s ways. The Law is also a mirror that exposes our sinfulness; it drives us to Jesus Christ in our desperation to be rescued from its judgment. Only in Christ can we truly know the fear of the Lord, since only in Him can we truly know God and understand His ways. Until we know Christ, our sinful nature prevents us from accurately knowing, understanding, and fearing God. Therefore, Godly wisdom, established on the knowledge, understanding, and fear of God cannot be obtained outside of Christ. Let us adopt Paul’s prayer, “[That our] hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:1-3).

In what way do you continue to try to live under that law rather than by the grace of God in Jesus Christ? Sinner, are you tired of the Law’s judgment? Will you run to Christ in humility, for forgiveness, repentance, and true wisdom?

January 7

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:19-23)

Proverbs teaches us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10). Many people, even Christians mistakenly think that fearing the Lord is what the Old Testament is all about, since God, the righteous Judge, condemns all sin. Thus, we should tremble in our boots. However, the kind of fear to which the writer refers is not that of dreading destruction, but having great reverence and respect for God. To fear God in this way is to love, honor, exalt, and delight in His holiness, righteousness, and majesty. Some Christians are surprised to find great truths, such as this in the Old Testament. However, God gave The Ten Commandments to Israel as a unique gift from a loving Father to His children. The Law reveals God’s holy character and remarkably high standards.

When we look at the commandments, however, we cannot help but appreciate how different we are from God. We are sinners who cannot control our own hearts, let alone our conduct, to worship God as He requires and live holy lives. We have the opportunity to worship God rightly in our churches today, to know that we have a sure hope in Christ, by the shedding of His blood on the cross as our substitute. As we worship corporately, Christ attends to His bride, the Church, for His own glory, but also for our unity together with Him. The wisdom that results from our biblical fellowship is unique. “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) Assurance of our cleansing and receiving the imputed righteousness of Christ adds to our wisdom. As you prepare for church, or reflect on your worship today, what was the quality of your worship with Christ’s family? How can you be more attentive to the grace of God, with the wisdom He has given you?

January 6

January 6

 “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God…” (Colossians 1:9-10) 

For many years I worked in Africa as a missionary with The Rafiki Foundation, which runs Christian Classical schools in ten countries on the continent. Like many Christian Classical schools, the Rafiki curriculum is built around three natural stages of learning: grammar, logic, and rhetoric, which reflect the biblical worldview, so central to CCE.1 Simply put, knowledge is the foundation for the development of understanding, which leads to wisdom. As in CCE, Christians are to build wisdom on a foundation of logic, which is built on the foundation of true knowledge. Wisdom is only accomplished to the extent that there is trustworthy knowledge of a subject and understanding of how this knowledge interrelates. God’s people can only be as wise as they are knowledgeable and understanding in the person and work of God. John Calvin writes: “…it is a true knowledge of God which begets confidence in him, and leads us to call upon him; and as none can seek him sincerely but those who have apprehended the promises…”2

Knowledge of God and His attributes is evident in the world around us. “The heavens…day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1-2) God also give us personal knowledge of His existence and holiness in our conscience, so we have knowledge of God every time we make a decision that has moral or ethical implications. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” (Proverbs 1:7a) However, Christians have special knowledge and understanding of God through the person of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20) Understanding that leads to biblical wisdom requires consistent study of the Bible, since it is the revelation of God for His people, and the primary means by which we mature in our knowledge, understanding and wisdom. Sermons, talks, podcasts, articles, study Bibles, devotionals, and commentaries that are true to Scripture help us to know and understand the Lord. Only then can we begin to apply what we know and understand for wise choices and decisions. With practice, we can learn to make the best use of our time, resources, intellect, interests, affections, skills, and spiritual gifts to glorify God—this is wisdom. How will you enlarge your knowledge and understanding of God, in order to develop more effective wisdom?

 

  1. CCE—Classical Christian Education

John Calvin, “Heart Aflame”, P & R Publishing, 1999, (August 15 entry on Psalm 91:14)

January 5

“See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” (Deuteronomy 4:5-6)

Israel, God’s chosen people were to keep God’s commands and not let go of them. In the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses reviews God’s instructions to the nation in order that they will remember and teach their children all God had taught them about himself and living for Him as a testimony to the world. Israel’s ways were to be God’s ways, in contrast to the customs and beliefs of the rest of the world. The prophet Jeremiah reminded Israel of their unique calling: “Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.’” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

 God has always been counter-cultural theologically and practically. The calling for His chosen people of Israel is a picture of the calling we have in Christ—to belong to God, being sanctified, and consecrated to the Lord, devoted to Him. Just as the nation of Israel was to be loyal to God, through His power, Christians are called to be holy and devoted to Christ, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. In Chapter 1, James, the Apostle defines religion that is “pure and undefiled before God” (v. 27). The second part of his definition is no less important than caring for widows and orphans: “to keep oneself unstained from the world.” If we belong to Christ we also must be counter-cultural theologically and practically. Evidence of our belonging to Christ, by God’s grace alone, includes our desire and ability to live by God’s wisdom rather than by the world’s simulated, artificial, and inferior imitation. This requires sincere and focused prayer, as the apostle notes in James 1:5-8 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” In what areas of life do you doubt the wisdom of God and yield to the world’s influence? Will you identify three areas in which you will seek the wisdom of God, asking and accepting His help to fight the strong cultural pressure to conform?