Finish Strong: Week 7 – Wisdom

Previous post recaps:
James 1:1-12 (Facing Trials with Joy)
James 1:13-18 (Overcoming Sin)
James 1:19-27 (Listen with Humility)
James 2:1-13 (Favoritism)

James 3:13-18 “Are any of you wise or sensible? Then show it by living right and by being humble and wise in everything you do. But if your heart is full of bitter jealousy and selfishness, don’t brag or lie to cover up the truth.  That kind of wisdom doesn’t come from above. It is earthly and selfish and comes from the devil himself.  Whenever people are jealous or selfish, they cause trouble and do all sorts of cruel things.  But the wisdom that comes from above leads us to be pure, friendly, gentle, sensible, kind, helpful, genuine, and sincere.  When peacemakers plant seeds of peace, they will harvest justice.”

We are continuing our study of James. It is week 7 of this study, so don’t lose steam! Continue to press into the Word and see what God has in store for you! The verses that we discussed at the Venue this week were James 3:13-18 which talks about wisdom. Wisdom is one of those things that everyone needs but few seem to ask for.

Since we live in the world, it can be difficult to differentiate between “good” worldly wisdom and godly wisdom. How can we tell? The great thing about God and His Word is that it will never change and never contradict itself. Verse 17 provides a standard. Was the wisdom you were given pure and lacks selfish motives? Is it gentle and aware of other people’s feelings? Is it genuine, heartfelt, and sincere? If you can say no to anything on the list or it does not line up from God’s Word, it is not godly wisdom! Another way to see if the wisdom comes from God or man is by who gets the credit in the end. Godly wisdom will always point to God. It will never point to man.  A third way to tell if a person in your life is a godly source of wisdom is to look at their life. “True wisdom is authenticated though the process of time.” A true godly  source will live a life that points to Jesus and they will produce fruits that are only given by God. They will not have one foot in the world and the other in the church.

The verse that seemed to stick out to most people was verse 18 which says, “Peacemakers who plant seeds in peace, they will harvest justice.” This is a pretty hot topic. We live in a world that is constantly seeking peace and justice. We see injustice and violence every single day and it can be depressing to even turn on the tv. Everyone has their own answer to all the injustice in the word. Everyone believes that they have the wisest answer to deal with the world’s turmoil.

Just yesterday a man was shot in the street by police officers. Public response was to break out in violent protest that left two dozen people injured. People like to misquote Levitucus 24:19-21 in situations like this. “Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury. Whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a human being is to be put to death.” But we seem to forget when Jesus says in Matthew 5:38-42, ““You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Now, Jesus isn’t nullifying the Old Testament law. He’s clarifying the fact that the average person does not have the authority to judge others for their wrong doings. It is not your job to take matters into your own hands. Jesus preached to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Judges are to be impartial and to have pure motives. If someone has done you wrong, your motives are tarnished and what you claim is justice, is actually revenge.

If you seek peace, God is our peace. Spend time in His presence and you will produce seeds of peace. You may not see the results in a minute, today, or even tomorrow. You must be patient with every step. Pastor Juan pointed out that the text is plural when it mentions the seed. You can’t just plant once. You have to continue to plant every season of your life. You have to continue to wait. “You can’t see a harvest in a place that you are not faithful.”

If there’s an area of your life that you are lacking wisdom, it is not a lost cause. You can make wise choices in every area of your life. We broke it into a 3 step process. Find where you are and make a change today!

1. Realize & admit that you need God’s wisdom in every area of your life. In order to correct a problem, you have to admit there is one.

2. Be where there is godly wisdom and surround yourself with people who have godly wisdom. We’ve talked about this a bit in the previous weeks. Your environment shapes your outcome. Don’t expect to find godly wisdom from people who’s lives don’t point to God.

3. Be patient with yourself. When you begin to walk in wisdom, you will be parting from a lifestyle choice that you have made for years. It may be more difficult than you think. But remember, seeds take time to grow. If doesn’t blossom as soon as you plant, it doesn’t mean the seed is dead but rather that it is still fueling and nurturing growth.

I hope this study is blessing you and that God is revolutionizing your walk with him. We hope that you will join us every Tuesday night at the Venue to discuss what God is doing in our lives today!

Finish Strong: Week 4 – Favoritism

If you are behind, it’s not too late to catch up! See previous posts below:

James 1:1-12 (Facing Trials with Joy)
James 1:13-18 (Overcoming Sin)
James 1:19-27 (Listen with Humility)

James 2:1-13 “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

This week we talked about a topic that everyone has dealt with in one way or another: favoritism. I know in my life, I have showed favoritism but I’ve also been negatively affected by it. What stood out to a lot of people is the fact that to God, favoritism is a serious sin. We try to polish it up and make excuses for why we didn’t help out coworker or why we only hang out with a certain group of people and ignore the loners. But James says that it doesn’t matter which rule you break, at the end of the day, you still sinned. As Pastor Juan said, “you can give a pig a bath but it is still a pig!”

A lot of our behavior is learned. Maybe we got hurt, so now we push certain people away. Maybe we desire attention and validation from our parents or boss, so we treat them like gods and then backstab or ignore the people around us. Maybe we lock our doors when certain people walk by because we see stories on the news. Or maybe we are just being selfish and looking out for our own interests. But this is a mindset that needs to be broken. When you read the Bible, you don’t see Jesus doing any of those things. Jesus is the perfect example of love and kindness. As Christians, we need to be consistently working so our life is one that emulates His. If you’re not treating others with love and respect, maybe you haven’t fully encountered or understand God’s love. God’s love is one that reaches out to those who are completely different.

Think about yourself. You are a sinner and God, because He is so pure, can’t be associated or in the presence of sin. Instead of ignoring us and thinking that we are too far gone, He made a way so that He could be with us. He made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could experience freedom. So how are you showing that kind of love and sacrifice in your daily life? Who are you blessing that can’t return the favor?

Favoritism keeps us from being more like Christ. It keeps the lost in the dark and from experiencing God’s love. When we love some and not others, we are devaluing God’s creation. It’s saying that some people are worth your time and energy, while others aren’t. Honestly, how degrading is that? God has made every person with unique gifts and has made them in His image. When you show favoritism, you are missing out on a part of Him and in the end, it is ultimately your loss.

On the flipside, how many of us have been negatively affected by favoritism and what do we do when that does happen to us?

1. Clear your head.
2. Know your identity in Christ
3. Understand who gives you fulfillment

If you don’t have a solid foundation of your identity in Christ or you search for fulfillment from friends/spouse/boss/parents, you are never going to be satisfied and you will constantly be changing who you are to meet the fluctuating criteria of those around you. Juan and Daniel made the perfect point for this. “Don’t let favoritism change who you are and who God made you to be. Better to have no one’s favor and know who you are, than to have everyone’s favor and not recognize yourself.” If you need to, write a list of who the Bible says you are. Keep that and when people try to mold you into who they want you to be, you can look back and stand firm on who God has called you to be. Also keep it as a reminder when you feel like showing favoritism, remember that the people around you aren’t just people. You should love and treat them like you would treat yourself or a loved one. Go above and beyond for the people you encounter. Try to get back to that childlike mentality where you see a person for who they are and not just their status or label.

I hope this encourages you to evaluate your life and see where you need to grow. Ask God to show you the people you need to love harder and work toward being the best example of Christ that you can be.