Wisdom


All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

Proverbs 16: 2, 3

Isn’t it interesting how what we think about the quality of our own thought processes and the results of all of that planning and contemplation can be so far apart from the way that God may view the same efforts. I have found that it is very easy to become highly focused on the things that seem important, the issues, plans, and desires that are capturing the majority of my attention and energy at any given time; yet, I know that in those same situations I can so readily miss the real truth of God’s wisdom so that the outcome of all of that planning can be far removed from what is right, holy, and for the best.

This is why it is so important for me to slow down my own thinking and to allow time for God to interact with my heart and my mind so that the ideas that I begin to consider have been formed with the involvement of the Spirit, and the actions that I plan to take are ones that will bring glory to God. The Lord is the One who knows the actual intent of my heart, and He wants to show me the righteous way to handle each and every situation that I encounter. Thus, He wants me to let Him in on my thoughts and my plans, for the Spirit will respond to my concerns, desires, and wishes by helping me discover the truth of God’s perfect will in everything.

There is nothing that I desire to do, and there is no issue that is causing me concern that is too small or insignificant for the Lord’s involvement. In addition, everything that I seek to accomplish, engage in, or pursue commands the complete interest of God. He will provide all of the wisdom, knowledge, and encouragement that I will need to do what it is that He desires for me to do. God wants me to surrender my will and my own attempts to find the answers to life’s challenges to His infinitely superior understanding. The Lord also asks me to set aside the imperative of my desires so that the sure and true calling of His will prevails in my life. When I do these things, He will provide me with a plan that is guaranteed to achieve the form of success that is measured in heavenly currency.

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If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body is thrown into hell.

Matthew 5: 29

All people have a right eye. For most of us it is an organ that functions to varying degrees of efficiency and effectiveness to provide us with a visual image of our world. Yet for others, it is either disabled or does not even exist. Still, the right eyed view of the world that Jesus is talking about is one that we all possess. It is that perspective that sees everything with a view toward our own satisfaction and enjoyment. It values power, and it covets after the unobtainable. This right eye can dominate even the most committed of followers of Christ if we allow it to have free reign in our hearts. It leads us into unrighteous anger as it builds up energy in our minds and our hearts that is fueled by our fleshly concepts of personal rights. It sees the sin in our brothers and sisters, and it shows us exactly how that sin is directed at our most vulnerable points.

This right eye is something that we are all doomed to carry with us for the remainder of our earthly life. Also, in the seemingly contradictory manner that God so enjoys, its active presence is a source of great blessing and peace. In my experience of life, it is a truly rare person who does not see things from this right-eyed point of view from time to time. For me personally, I am sorry and saddened to admit that it takes over control of my thinking and of my feelings far too frequently. I don’t even need to be wrong in my thinking for my right eye to impose its sinful will upon me. That is the problem. The sin that is still present in my flesh and the distorted thinking that it brings out in my mind tends to lie very close to the surface of my daily life. It can rapidly take over and dominate my appraisal of situations and my thoughts about other people.

Yet, herein lies the blessing. For Christ knows us humans very well. He understands that this sort of thing, this right-eyed and sin-distorted view of life, plagues us all. So, in response to this common failing, Christ tells us to come to Him. He says that we can trust in His goodness and His love to lead us through a life that is always going to bring challenge, strife, and struggle into our paths. We can cast off the false safety and the uncertain security of our old way of assessing the environment where we live. We can choose to dwell in the peace and the solid security of God’s Word and the truth about life and regarding other people that Christ’s Spirit reveals to us. When this right-eyed vision starts to impose itself, it is apparent; for, the chaos and the death that is found in that ancient garbage heap of Gehenna will try to impose itself on life. Yet, Christ leads us through these times, and He brings us into the light and the grace-filled community of His presence. 

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.

Ephesians 6: 16-19

As Paul is closing this great letter to the churches that he has poured so much of himself into, he asks them to be praying for him in a very specific way. Paul wants to be bold in the manner with which he proclaims that great eternal mystery that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. At first glance, it does not seem as if Paul is asking for much, for he has been a very bold person for a great many years now. In fact, one might say that the Paul that we see and know from the bible was always bold. Even before Christ forced Himself into the trajectory of his life, no one would have mistaken the young man Paul for a shy and retiring personality. Yet, now, at this final juncture of his life, Paul wants to be held up by others before the Lord as he desires to be bold one last time. 

He seeks out boldness, not comfort or even salvation from his seemingly certain date with an executioner. Paul wants to live out his days by proclaiming life-saving and eternity-giving truths to anyone that he comes into contact with. He desires to do this even with the probability that his actions will hasten his own demise. These are not foolish or rash actions on the Apostle’s part; rather, he knows that speaking out regarding the only true path to salvation is exactly what God has called him to do. Additionally, it is why he has been placed where he is and with the people with whom he is in contact. All of Paul’s day to day life is the result of God’s plan and is an outworking of the Lord’s will. As Paul looks back over the years of his life and considers the places he has been, the people he has engaged with, and the adventures that he has known, I have no doubt that he can see God working in each twist and turn of the journey. Now he wants to finish it all with the words of the gospel of Christ upon his lips and the realization that he was bold to his last breath as his final earthly thought.

Paul was truly unique. God crafted him with a specific intent in mind, and the Lord used him to fulfill those purposes. Each of us is also specifically created by the Lord with intentional purpose and with a plan in place for the ways that we will serve Christ with our lives. Regardless of where we are in our journey through life, whether just starting out or rounding that final turn, Paul’s request for boldness in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ is fitting and appropriate for each of us. None of us will have Paul’s skill, Spirit directed inspiration, and capability to write out explanations of the gospel for the world to read and consider. A few will be gifted with the ability to preach and to speak of these truths before groups and crowds, and all of us are called into lives of service to Christ and within His kingdom. Each of us can be bold in the way that we conduct our days. That is, we can love without reservation, seek justice for all, care about the needs of those that are powerless, and provide the comfort of grace and hope when life has overwhelmed people. We are to live righteously when our culture implores us to do otherwise, and we can bring the glory of the face of Christ into the dark corners of our world so that eternity touches the wounds of the day with its healing balm of grace, love, and mercy. In short, we can enter into the fulfillment of Paul’s final request and live out the gospel of Christ as our bold proclamation of its wonderous and mysterious truth.  

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1: 4

Doubt is a personal reality that I, in honesty, have to admit to possessing. My doubt is not generally of the large scale and global sort, for I don’t have times when I lack a belief in the existence of God or question whether Jesus is real, true, and fulfills the role of Savior. These are not my doubts. Mine are ordered in the class of trust and reliance. When times get hard or the road that I am facing gets to be harsh and rough, I can turn from that easy daily faith in the provision, protection, and truth of God’s Word and instead I start to listen to my own voice of desperation and fear. This voice leads straight into my personal form of doubt, and this is never a good place for me to go, for it tends to freeze me into either inaction or it brings about self-driven poor choices.

I recognize that my own journey in this area may look very similar to that of some people, and it will be completely different from that of others. Just as God made each of us to be individually gifted with the blessings of His Spirit, He also formed us to be distinct and individualistic in most others aspects of life and of living it out. Yet, I also think that most followers of Christ do have times when we enter into a form of doubt. These periods of time or episodic events are often brought about in times when there is stress, trouble, and challenge present in our lives. These are those times of trial that James is speaking about, and these are the parts of life when hanging in there with God’s truth as revealed in His Word and through the interaction of his Spirit with me leads to a deeper and a stronger faith and trust in my relationship with Christ.

God’s desire and will is that each of His people would continue to grow and to develop in our capacity to live fully in the expression of His grace, love, and redemptive purposes. This sort of living takes courage to carry out in a world that tends to be antagonistic toward God’s absolute form of righteousness. This world fights back against people who bring Godly love, acceptance, justice, and peacemaking to bear upon all of the relationships and situations that we encounter. Therefore, it takes both courage and faith in Christ to continue along a pathway that leads straight into the angry rejection of many of the people and institutions of this world. This conflict in conjunction with physical, emotional, and financial stresses and struggles make up the wide array of trials that we can encounter during our days of following Christ; yet, as we trust the Lord to sustain us and to care for us fully in these times, we grow in our faith and move ever closer to that promise of perfection that is defined and completed in us by Christ. 

I (Paul) am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.

Colossians 2: 5

We have participated in a neighborhood wide garage sale in the past, and there is almost nothing else that you can do that reinforces just how unstable the value of most of our possessions is that putting them on sale in this manner. We put out for sale a few pieces of furniture that we paid some very serious prices for quite a number of years ago; yet, the concept of deflation of value was clearly driven home when no one was willing to pay even our meager ten dollar asking price for any of them. Actually, if someone had shown any interest, I would have been willing to offer them a three for ten deal, but, alas, there were no takers.

Paul is pointing toward something that made his heart glad, for he could see that the people in Colossae had grasped the idea that there were some things in this life that did hold value. They were showing the sort of discipline that it takes to invest in permanence and in eternity. They were putting their time and their energy into getting to know the Lord more deeply, and they were taking this knowledge and understanding and applying it to the way that they conducted their daily lives. The things that they were buying with their capital were the spiritual treasures that come from a relationship with Christ, and they were growing their investment by putting it to work in their community.

Christ looks at each of us with the same sort of loving pride that Paul expressed when we seek to own the only things that will never be devalued by time, become obsolete or out of style, and that are guaranteed by the highest authority possible to do nothing but appreciate in value. When we seek to know God well and to follow His will fully, we bring the sort of stability into our lives that we will never find anywhere else, and we also touch the world around us with Christ’s promise of redemption. The process of growth in this area does bring to mind one aspect that is similar to that of the garage sale, that is, it is good and worthwhile to get rid of those old aspects of life that no longer are useful or valuable so that the priceless treasures of Christ can replace them and furnish our spiritual homes for the days to come.

At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.

Ephesians 5: 8

Light and dark, images that describe the two ends of the day and that also depict the beginning and the end of our earthly days as we are born out of the darkness into the light of the world outside of the womb and then we end our days by returning to the darkness of the grave. These same light verses dark concept reflects the conduct of life during the hours in the middle of our days and in the days of our earthly journey. Although people are faced with many decisions that seem to be shaded in gradations of grey, in fact, all of a person’s personal morality and its ethical underpinning is founded upon beliefs that are either darkened or enlightened.

The source of all light in this world can be traced to God. He is the author of all that is just, right, loving, and merciful on earth. In the Lord’s design for this world and in its original creation, these characteristics of God were universally present. Even the darkness that was the result of the way that the earth travels in its orbit about the sun was infused with the same holiness as was the day. Yet, rebellion and sinfulness shattered that perfection and brought a counter-God force into being in all of creation. Now, as people are born into that light of the sun, we are all still darkness dwellers in our hearts and to the depths of our souls. Thus, each person starts life in conflict with the light of righteousness that is the nature of Christ.

However, that same Christ from whom we flee is actively and aggressively seeking after us and pursuing relationship with each person on this earth. The light of the Lord seeks to replace the darkness of sin and death in the hearts and the minds of all people, and as we accept Christ, His light becomes who and what we are. Although we are now true children of the light that is the character and the nature of God, the darkness that was ours from birth still attempts to assert itself into our daily journey. So, Christ implores His followers to reject the darkness that attempts to enfold us, to confess the times when it shows up in our thoughts and actions, and to turn away from its hollow allure as we claim the victory over sin that is found in the glory of Christ in us.

Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

            ‘You shall worship the Lord your God

              And Him only shall you serve.’”

Matthew 4: 10

This is not a thought that I can claim as great and unique revelation from God. In fact, it is almost laughable to even state this idea. But here it is, Jesus got life right all of the time. That is, when He said or did something that was in response to the sorts of issues and struggles that all people face while living out our days on earth, His responses are the model for the rest of us to follow. This scene involving direct, face-to-face temptation by Satan is not one that I have experienced, thankfully! Yet, this is what is occurring to all of God’s people every day of our lives. Satan is active and seeks to entrap and devour people. Often the methods and the means that he uses involve people and situations that on the surface seem safe, attractive, and benign. However, evil surrounds us; it has infiltrated the very structure of our world, and it always leads people away from God and His righteousness.

What does it mean to live righteously? That is a complex question that warrants examination and that each of us should explore prayerfully with God. However, in simple terms it means living in a manner that is fully consistent with God’s Word, that brings glory to His name in our world, and that declares Christ through the sacrificial love, mercy, grace, and truth that we live out regardless of life circumstance or situation. This is not exactly an easy path to follow or one that will guarantee popularity and success in human terms. Yet, anything and everything else is functionally and factually idolatry. It is setting before us a standard for living that comes from a source other than God, Himself. It usually places us as the arbiters of what is right and just so that our personal desires, lusts, and comfort are served while the sacrificial love of Christ is hidden and locked away.

So, on view here we have Jesus’ most direct response to the sort of pressure and temptation that we face. Satan has asked Jesus to bow down to him and offered the world as the reward. When we turn away from thinking, saying, and doing what is loving, gracious, merciful, understanding, just, and truthful; we are agreeing with Satan’s request. For us humans the tension that exists between evil’s continual appeal and God’s will is going to continue throughout our earthly lives. The situations and the power of the temptation will at times be subtle and deceptive and at others it will carry the force of a great waterfall. That is why Jesus’ modeled response matters so much. We certainly can and should invoke Christ and His Spirit’s power in order to resist evil in all of its forms. Yet, there is much more here. The real answer to temptation is found in worship. Righteousness is made real and is understood more fully as we bow down before God. Temptation is defeated as we remain with our hearts and minds focused on Christ and away from ourselves.  

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