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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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James

Faith In Action- Where Does Wisdom Come From?

faith in action

James 3:14-18

But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.


Read all of James Chapter 3 here

James teaches us that there are only two sources of wisdom. Wisdom can come from God, or man. Wisdom can come from above, or not. In other words, we can get our wisdom from God, or Satan. We could stop right there and the point would be made, but let’s continue and break it down some anyway.

James was not alone in his thoughts about the wisdom of man versus the wisdom of God. Paul had some to say about this in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2. In fact, those chapters are good reading for anyone placing great stock in the wisdom of the world. Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 1:20 that God considers the wisdom of the world to be foolish, and in 1 Corinthians 2:14 that man considers God’s wisdom to be foolish.

If we can take a quick side trip here, I have been amazed to see how the two writers in God’s Word sometimes said to conflict with one another(James and Paul), in actuality complement each other in astounding ways.

How do we get the wisdom of God? How do we get the wisdom of the world? Immersion is the answer. That word has been coming up a lot lately around every corner I turn, and it’s a good word. We get our wisdom from wherever we choose to immerse ourselves.

If we are immersed in television, movies, music and literature which is from the world, we will get our wisdom from the same place. If we are immersed in God’s Word, immersed in prayer, and immersed in fellowship with other believers, then that is also where our wisdom will come from.

 

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Faith In Action-Wisdom For Teachers

faith in action

James 3:13

Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.


Read all of James Chapter 3 here

One way this passage is considered by some is that it is a continuation of an exhortation to teachers. This exhortation would have begun back in Verse 1 of this chapter.

My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.

If this interpretation is correct, then James made it clear at the first of the added responsibilities teachers have for the ways in which they allow their tongues to behave. Greater responsibility brings greater loss of reward if the responsibility is fulfilled improperly.

Not everybody agrees with this particular interpretation, but feel James’s instruction was for all members of the audience he was writing too; either way seems perfectly okay, so we will just touch briefly on how this might apply specifically to teachers.

Simply put, teachers need more than just a lot of pretty words; they must have something to say. Teachers are not in place just to read scripture, or regurgitate some Sunday School lesson; teachers are there to impart wisdom.

I heard it said that knowledge enables us to take things apart but wisdom enables us to put things back together and relate God’s truth to everyday life.

If we are teachers, are we relying on just knowledge, or do we have wisdom to impart?

Faith In Action-What Is Wisdom?

faith in action

James 3:13

Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.

Read all of James Chapter 3 here

Wisdom and knowledge are not the same things Surely, we all know somebody who fits the bill of having lots of book knowledge but no common sense. In fact, I have been accused of that very thing myself! How many down South have heard the phrase, “That boy ain’t got no common sense!”?

Wisdom can be defined as, “the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting.” This definition was put in the dictionary with life in mind, but certainly applies to our relationship with God’s Word as well. In fact, one might say it is the key to our relationship with God’s Word. Proverbs 4:7 sums up in one sentence the importance of wisdom in our spiritual lives:

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

We have discussed in some depth that an intellectual, or head knowledge, about God’s Word or about Jesus Christ does not necessarily translate into a saving faith. The same is true concerning our intellectual knowledge about The Bible. We can know the whole thing from front to back and still not possess wisdom concerning it.

Wisdom regarding God’s Word, then, might be defined as the ability to take a knowledge of the facts in The Bible and transfer that knowledge into practical applications in our lives. God did not inspire the writers of The Bible to write so that we would have facts; He intended us to take His Word and use it as our guide for faith and life.

We ought not to be surprised that James is addressing this subject; in fact, it would be rather surprising if he did not talk about it. After all, the entire Epistle is about the practical applications of the Christian life.

Also, it may be possible here that James is simply continuing his discourse on our tongues, and the things which come out of our mouths. A lack of wisdom causes things to come out of our mouths which destroy, and the presence of wisdom causes things to come from our mouths which edify and build up.

We are going to spend a bit of time on this particular passage, but here is just a question to ponder over in the meantime: Are we smart, or are we wise?

Faith In Action-The Danger of Flattery

faith in action

James 3:9,10

Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.


Read all of James Chapter 3 here

One writer I read, commenting on the Book of James, said the following: “If gossip is saying behind someone’s back what you would never say to their face, then flattery is saying to someone’s face what you would never say behind their back.”

What is flattery? Well, flattery and compliments are not the same; that is why the saying above rings so very true. A compliment is good for the person being complimented, whereas flattery is primarily for the benefit of the person giving the praise. And that, in a nutshell, is why God has a problem with flattery.

Like almost anything having to do with our tongue, we can find much guidance on the subject of flattery in the Book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 6:24; 7:5; and 7:21 all teach us that a flattering woman can lead us into trouble.

Flattery is put in the same league as lying and deception in Psalm 5:9 and Romans 16:18.

As we have been discussing, James is trying to teach us how to live the Christian life; he is attempting to teach us how our salvation will always result in some fruit, or action as a result. What’s that got to do with what James is teaching? Well everything, really. Because just as hard as James is trying to teach us how to do right, there are a host of people trying to teach us wrong. These would be false teachers, and flattery is one of their primary weapons in their arsenal.

Paul warns clearly of this danger in Romans 16:18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

Peter likewise warns of this in 2 Peter 2:3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.

Here’s a question just for bloggers. Ever like, comment or follow just in the hopes of getting one yourself? A little encouragement in there just to make it look good? Of course, we have to engage others to build a network of readers, but where is the line? I would really like people’s thoughts on that one.

 

Faith In Action-Gossip Is Poisonous

faith in action

James 3:8,9

But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.


Read all of James Chapter 3 here

Gossip: the favorite indoor sport of many Christians. In an earlier Devotion, we talked about that old schoolyard saying on how sticks and stones hurt, but words do not. We all know that is patently untrue, because words do hurt; gossip and lies about other believers is one of the primary ways we use our words to wound other believers.

I have heard a particular story several times over the years, and I would like to relate it here as an illustration of how the power of gossip spreads. In a particular church, there was a woman who had, over time, spread some completely untrue things about another woman in the congregation. Ultimately, these lies had just ruined the reputation of the victim. One day, the woman who had spread the slander came to realize that everything she had said was untrue and unfounded. To her credit, she was seized by remorse and wanted to make things right. She went to her pastor, seeking guidance on how to accomplish a repair of what she had done. He pastor told her to take a down pillow, filled with fine feathers, and scatter them in the streets of the town; he then told her to come back and see him the next day. Upon her return, the pastor instructed her to walk the city streets and gather the feathers and put them back in the pillow. Instantly she responded, “Well, of course, I can’t ever gather those feathers back!” His response to her: “Correct, and unfortunately you can never gather back the words you said either.”

The Bible has much to say about the subject of gossip. In Romans Chapter 1, as Paul is laying out the list of the sins of man which have separated us from God, gossipers were right there in the middle of the list. In verses 29 and 30 he referred to them as “whisperers,” and “backbiters.”

Solomon had much to say about the subject as he wrote Proverbs as well.

Proverbs 11:12,13 He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace. A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.

Proverbs 18:7,8 A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

Proverbs 21:23 Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.

Visualize the following if you will. If a man stands up during church prayer time and offers the following prayer: “Lord, please deliver my friend Joe from his alcohol and drug addiction, his womanizing and his little gambling problem. Thank you, Father, and Amen!” Is that a prayer request? Not really. That would be gossip shrouded in the guise of a prayer request.

What then, do we do about his issue? How do we fix ourselves? A wise older gentleman I know, who has never been known to say a bad word about anyone, offered the following advice to us all one day:

Is it true? If it’s not, stop right there.

Is it necessary? Just because it’s true does not mean it has to be said.

Is it kind? Neither truth or need matter if the words are unkind.

I don’t think any words are necessary to add to that!

Faith In Action-We Can’t Tame Our Tongue

faith in action

James 3:7,8

For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

Read all of James Chapter 3 here

Man, in the Garden of Eden, was clearly given dominion over all of the animals of the world. Genesis 1:26.Even today, after the fall, we know that humankind is generally able to control the beasts of the world.

We need to look no further than the nearest circus to see that man is able to bring the largest, and most terrifying of animals under his control. Lion, tigers and the largest of land animals, the elephant can be controlled by one tiny human being.

However, our tongue is an “unruly evil.” In its natural state, our tongue is similar, if not worse, than any wild animal. It is wild, untamed and without discipline. Rather than tromping us or eating us, however, our tongues destroy by lies, gossip, slander and filthy language.

James tells us that no man can tame the tongue. In and of ourselves, we cannot even to the same to our mouths as we can do with a huge elephants; we cannot tame it our bring it under control.

Since James’ Epistle is about Christian living, the solution to our problem seems readily evident. Like any sin, sins of the tongue can be managed by the saved person through the indwelling and filling of the Holy Spirit. We certainly do not have the power to do it, but God does!

David, back in the Old Testament, had something to say about how we actually take advantage of the strength of the Holy Spirit to control our tongues in Psalm 141:3:

Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.

Faith In Action-The Tongue Is the Fire of Hell

faith in action

James 3:6

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.

Read all of James Chapter 3 here

This is quite likely the strongest statement in the entire Bible concerning the misuse of the tongue in our lives. I this simple sentence, James quite completely and unequivocally lays the dangers of the misuse of it right out.

 “The tongue is a world of iniquity.” One Bible translation words this, “the tongue is the very world of iniquity.” One writer describes this as referring to a system, scheme or arrangement. It is a system of iniquity that represents every other sin of mankind.

The tongue defiles our entire body. We already discussed the comparison of the tongue to a bit in a horse’s mouth or the rudder of a ship. How those two things direct something much larger than themselves, so does our tongue. In this case, the sins of the tongue defile the whole person.  It’s similar to the fire and the smoke damage it causes. The fire itself may not destroy everything, but the smoke permeates and ultimately ruins even what the fire doesn’t touch.

The tongue is “set on fire of hell.” This particular description was simply fascinating. The word for Hell here is from the term gehenna. This was the Valley of Hinnom to the south of Jerusalem. This is the place where the Caananites and idolatrous Israelites had gone for their child sacrifices. Because all that activity had rendered that place unclean, it was finally used as simply a garbage dump. So, this was simply a big, rotting garbage dump, constantly burning and maggot filled. Jesus used the same term to represent Hell, the place which God had prepared for Satan and his demons. This comparison of the tongue with Hell strongly implies that the tongue can be Satan’s tool to pollute and corrupt.

Next: How do we tame our tongue?

Faith In Action-The Destructive Power of the Tongue

faith in action

James 3:5

Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!

Read all of James Chapter 3 here

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

It may be, that a more untrue statement was never written, or said actually since I can remember it vividly from my school days. Think back, when did we normally invoke that phrase way back then? Usually when the exact opposite was true was when we would recite that phrase. In other words, we usually made a point to say that to somebody who had just hurt us with their words.!

Here, James uses a great comparison to discuss the destructive power of our tongues, or our speech. Earlier he compared the small tongue’s ability to control our conduct to a bit in a horses mouth, or the small rudder piloting a giant ship. Here, he compares the destructive power of the small tongue with a tiny spark which ignites a huge fire.

One of the most notable examples of this, of course, is the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Although started by something so small as a lantern in a barn, this great fire eventually burned almost half of the city of Chicago to the ground.

Two of the greatest men in the Old Testament, recognized the power of the tongue and issued guidance about controlling it. David and his son Solomon both wrote about the destructive power of speech. As David was somewhat hot tempered, we should strongly consider his words in this matter.

Psalm 39:1-3 I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me. I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue,

Solomon had the following to say:

Proverbs 17:27 He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.

Proverbs 14:29 He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.

The tongue and fire have other similarities as well. Few would dispute that a fire under control can have many benefits, and can be used for much good. On the other hand, few would dispute that a fire, like a mouth, out or control can cause massive devastation.

What do we do with our tongues? Do we use them for good, for edifying believers or telling the Gospel to unbelievers? Or do we use them for evil  by teaching untruths, gossiping or pushing the non believing away from Jesus Christ?

Faith In Action-A Controlled Tongue Shows Maturity

faith in action

James 3:2

For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.

As I was preparing this Devotional(a long time ago), I received in my Blog feed a wonderful poem written by blogger Gloryteller. Rather than write anything on this issue today, I am including his poem as a powerful illustration of words, the tongue, and their proper role in the lives of mature Christian believers.

A Farmer of Words

I want to be a farmer of words
I want to nurture words
I want to plant them in good soil
Cultivate them
Grow them until mature
Make them fruitful
Pick them and harvest them
Squeeze out their nutritious juices
Prepare them deliciously
Give them to those in need of
A good word

I want to begin a culture of
Word husbandry.

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