Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wisdom from Above: Living in Light of the Victory of Jesus Christ

 

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 

Ephesians 5:15-17 ESV


Ah wisdom, who can have it?  Who can live wisely in such a strange corner of the universe?  Who can live on this place they call Earth?  More so, who can live rightly? 

Perspective I think, it's all about perspective.  We arm ourselves with truth, we gird ourselves with it.  We see rightly, and we learn to live rightly.  Yet blindness is common in this life.  People seem to hide from truth.  They set up systems to subvert it.  They develop industries to plod around it.  Yet it's God's wisdom, the wisdom we ought to have that allows us to see through the ploys of this world.  Or as it says in the good word:
 "Make the best use of your time, for the days are evil."  They are indeed.  Truly they are.

When one reads in the news of the body parts of exterminated fetuses being sold for profit by a government funded organization like Planned Parenthood... You start to wonder, has everyone gone crazy?  What is it our government is sanctioning and encouraging?  

On a day to day basis our society can seem, on the surface, fairly clean cut and decent.  At least that's how it seemed to me when I was growing up.  Obviously there were issues, but it seemed like society was basically good, and people were basically getting along fairly well.  As I got older that facade seemed to peel away.  Just beneath the surface it was rotting away.  With the internet and the spread of information, it's not hard to learn about how various sectors of society and government are corrupt, broken, and charging further in those directions.  

The genocide of the unborn is one of the more disturbing aspects of that systemic corruption.  Another aspect would be the sex slave industry, or what has come to be known as "human trafficking."  Military spending in the United States.  The prison population problem in the USA.  The depravity of Hollywood and the music industries.  Cable television.  The hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into Congress from special interest groups.  Need I continue?  

The point being, wisdom is needed.  Before I came to know Jesus Christ in 2012 I saw some of these problems.  I could see some of them, not all.  It was like I was looking through a glass darkly.  I couldn't see clearly.  

Upon receiving Christ as savior, my vision began to clear.  I was reborn into a new family.  I had become a foreigner in the world, and often foreigners can see the truth more readily than natives.  Yet even for the regenerate, born again believer, seeing the truth can be tough.  Wisdom is hard to gain.  

The Holy Spirit makes so much of this wisdom business possible.  And we live in light of the victory of Jesus Christ on the cross two thousand years ago.  We live in light of that tremendous victory over the forces of corruption in the heavenly places.  So much strength flows to the believer from that victory.  It means everything.  

Through the eyes of the Holy Spirit, the new eyes, we can see there are troubles in this world, and also victories for good in this world.  At times we do suffer trials, difficult circumstances, losses, and internal sorrows, yet we do so in light of eternity.  We must always caution ourselves to remember that physical death is not the end. The social and political activists of this world tend toward despair because they see no way out, and death as the final.  But death is not the end for us, it is only the shadow of death which we pass through.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 ESV  

The wisdom from above begins with a healthy fear of God.  Yes indeed, a reverence for the Creator and a desire to shun evil.  Many don't like that, including myself.  FEAR?  WE WANT LOVE!  LOVE IS THE ANSWER!  Love is certainly very important.  But so is reverent fear.  Not a terror, but a reverent foreboding...  A trembling respect for the majesty of an infinite God.  Fear isn't always a bad thing.  Fear motivates us.  Fear warns us of boundary lines, and dangerous places where we should not go.  Fear is a good thing, when kept within it's boundaries.  A reverent fear for God keeps us humble, and reminds us of our own limitations.

I've often said that I don't like reading the Bible sometimes.  Why?  Because it upsets me.  It pisses me off.  I get angry and up in arms about what its saying to me.  I think that's a good thing! 

I just smile.  I couldn't believe in a book that I open and agree with every single sentence.  Because I'm a flawed human, and I make mistakes.  I have growing to do, a lot of it, I can see that.  The Bible is the eternal word of God, and I'm reminded of that when it offends me.  It means I'm learning and growing, and it's teaching me something that's hitting a little too close to home.  

Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding. Proverbs 10:23 ESV

Have you ever had a friend who got into trouble, did something stupid, and it was a joke to them?  I think we all know someone like that.  They laugh callously as things get worse and worse.  They jeer at anything with moral hintings.  At times I'm sure I've been that guy.  The idiot with a beer in his hand jeering and laughing while doing something bad.  Or making fun of someone.  Or hurting someone.  

But wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.  We should all try to be that person who enjoys gaining wisdom.  The search for wisdom and truth is a powerful and exciting one.  Doing evil is boring.  It's repetitious and stupid. 

An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. Proverbs 18:15 ESV 

 

The truth is something I lust after with a passion in this life.  I'm so tired of hearing opinions and how people "feel."  Instead I want to know the truth about all these issues.  The truth is so vital.  It guides us in all things.  Without it we are blind fools stumbling about in the dark chasing our wicked hearts to ever terrible ends.  Often so cluelessly, jaunting into dark nests of addiction and despair.  I did in my past.  Truly I did.  Thank you Jesus for saving me from the chains I found in the nest they call drug addiction. 

 

 "And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:32 ESV


In contrast is the journey of faith, wisdom, and truth.  When we know the truth we are wise.  We follow the Spirit of God into ever brightening valleys of growth, love, goodness, and service to others all the way to our final home in the eternal dwelling of God himself.

 

Who is like the wise? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man's wisdom makes his face shine, and the hardness of his face is changed.

Ecclesiastes 8:1 ESV  

 

I was a hard nosed prick in the past.  I knew nothing, but thought I knew everything.  My friends and I would smoke pot and laugh at everything.  Some of the laughing was good, other times we'd make a mockery of sex, drugs, culture, society, government, and just hold up every aspect of life to mockery and ridicule.  No one could teach us anything, and we felt morally superior to society.  We could jeer and smoke drugs and feel superior; righteously rebellious.  Yet what were we doing, but buying drugs, smoking them, talking a lot of talk, and then doing it again the next day?  We never tried to change anything, we just complained, laughed, and got high.  Pretty dumb... let's just be real about it.  


Today things are very different in my life.  I work for an organization called the Salvation Army.  Soon I'll be moving from central Wisconsin to Escanaba, Michigan to begin an internship with the Salvation Army.  I'll be serving the needy.  To the glory of God.  I'll have the chance to fulfill my internal designs for mercy, love, and justice instead of just ranting about them.

I'll definitely continue writing and sharing the truth on this blog.  But I'm not just writing my friends.  I'm also doing.  That's so important that we also do.  When considering those endless drug talks of my past, I'm so clearly reminded to remember to do the Christian life.  And the Christian life is love and service, in practice.  I don't think I would have any right to write a word unless I was also living it.  So I encourage you also to live the life of faith.

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might  Ephesians 1:16-19 ESV 

This is what one calls the beauty of the scriptures.  Ephesians chapter one is so wonderful.  The words are so filled with the Spirit, so intensely meaningful.  We find in this formula an excellent mindset for wisdom.  

First of all we are reminded to live in gratitude.  The secret to joy and happiness in life is living an attitude of gratitude.  

Still in the opening we are reminded to pray endlessly.  And to pray for others.  Prayer is huge.  We find hidden treasures in prayer, on a daily basis. 

In Jesus Christ himself, our savior, who is always with us and always accessible, we find that in the study of his life and in the knowledge of his teachings we have what Paul calls a Spirit of Wisdom and of Revelation. 

He writes of "having our hearts enlightened."  I think that's absolutely true.  As we study Jesus Christ, grow in his Spirit, and live the Christian life, our hearts are transformed.  What was once a wicked heart defaulting to selfishness and personal needs is now a soft heart, gentle, kind, full of love, brave, courageous, and powerful.  And tending toward serving and thinking of others before self.  Imagine that hm?  What a change, what a change indeed!  

We are told that we are called to hope in Jesus Christ in Ephesians chapter one.  What do we hope in?  We hope in the fulfillment of the teachings of Jesus Christ.  We hope in his return.  We hope in his act of righting this broken world, and restoring it to perfection in a divine mystery called glory.  Glory.  Who can know glory?  

This scripture speaks of our inheritance.  What is our inheritance?  When we live in wisdom, serving others, loving others, and growing in Christ, we are gathering up a store house of heavenly treasure.  What does that mean?  It is certainly a mystery.  But I think in part it means gathering wealth in heaven, glory in the next life, honor and praise in the next life, perhaps somewhat like accolades that flow back to the throne of God as witnesses to the goodness of God.  What does that look like it practice?  Perhaps something as simple as a man you cared for once, maybe 10 years ago, walking up to you in the kingdom of God, thanking you with tears in his eyes, and hugging you intently.  And so much more I'm sure.  So much more.  

And finally Paul writes in Ephesians 1 of the power of God toward his people, us, who believe, and in connection to that, the acts of God in the world at large.  The work of Jesus Christ in our lives motivates us to a life of wisdom.  We get to see the work of God.  We get to smile when he smiles in our direction.  We receive the joy of Jesus Christ when we function within his will.  Those are the works of God, as his plan moves forward in the world.

While I was packing for my move to Escanaba I felt a peace come over me.  I didn't know quite how to describe the feeling.  I felt it again this last weekend when I was in East Troy at a Salvation Army retreat.  It wasn't a jubilant joyous feeling.  But it was certainly a feeling of joy, of quiet, calm, steady joy.  I felt it again today, taking a walk with my girlfriend, talking about the move.  And I finally understood what C.S. Lewis meant by "surprised by joy."  The joy of God fills the heart of the wise who remains in the willful plan of God, those being his acts of power and greatness in a broken world.  All through Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  

In connection to that mindset is the Holy Spirit gift of sharing that faith, that wisdom with the world, and sharing the gospel.  As it is written:

For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. Luke 21:15 ESV

In conclusion, the wise person living in the light of the victory of Jesus Christ has a sense of reverent fear for his or her heavenly Father.  The wise individual lives an attitude of gratitude and prayerfully approaches every situation, praying constantly for everyone in all circumstances.  The wise individual focuses on Jesus Christ, studies his life in the scriptures, and emulates that life in the Spirit of God.  In so living the Christian life the wise person experiences a transformation of their heart, an "enlightenment of the heart."  They hope and faithfully await the return of Jesus Christ and the coming of the renewing of the world.  They also store up treasure in heaven through the good works of the kingdom of God, through love and service.  Finally the wise man (or woman) remains in the will of God, in his designs, seeking to follow God's path, not his own (even when it leads to Upper Michigan).  And through so doing the wise man gets to witness the transformative acts of God, acts of incredible greatness as he shares in the unspeakable joy of Jesus Christ.  And through all of this, the wise individual shares their journey with others, encourages others in the faith, and shares the gospel with any and all who will listen.  God is just that good.  He gives us the formula to live the wisdom from above.  In light of the victory of Jesus Christ, we indeed can live wisely.  Amen.

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family[c] in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
-Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV)



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