Wisdom: To Be In The World And Not Of The World

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Series: Wisdom

10 August 2014 – Justus Swart

Eccl. 3:3; Luke 2:52; 1 Cor. 2: 1-16; Matt. 10:16; Matt. 4:18; Eph. 3:1-6;
John 17:14-19; 
(John 18:36);Phil. 2:1-11; Matt. 20:26; Eccl. 8:1

A time to tear down and a time to build (Eccl. 3:3). There will be a time to build, not a time to rebuild. What has been taken down will not be brought back. A very important thing we need to understand because when something we are familiar with is taken away, we have a longing to bring it back or to just immediately fill the space with something else. God has inexhaustible creativity, there is no limit to how much God can create, build and continue to surprise us with. Even though we long for familiarity in times of change, it is important that we allow change, although painful, to part of our lives, to accept the change happening to us. It is so tempting to return to the things we know simply because there is so much comfort in routine and predictability. It is only with courage and wisdom that we learn to accept the changes happening around us.

So let’s turn our attention to wisdom. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52). Jesus who was king from His birth saw that He needed to grow in wisdom. He knew that it was something that did not just happen but it needed to be cultivated and nurtured with careful attention. If Jesus made it a priority then surely we should to do the same.

What exactly is wisdom? Where does it come from and how much does it cost? One of the common errors we make today is to think that knowledge and wisdom is essentially the same thing. Unfortunately we cannot substitute knowledge for wisdom without paying a very severe cost. There is a clear distinction between them. Knowledge is commonly defined as facts, information and skills acquired through experience or education, the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. Wisdom is defined as the ability to discern or judge what is true, right or lasting. It is the ability or the result of ability to think and act utilizing knowledge, experience, understanding, commonsense and insight. Wisdom is the accumulation of both knowledge and experience and discerns the best possible way in which to apply that to a given situation. In the Bible there is a further distinction between wisdom from the world and wisdom from the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:1-16). The first five verses show Paul as just an average man. He says he did not come to convince them about God but He came and demonstrated the Spirit. He just wants the simplicity of the gospel to be known and the only way to do that is by the Spirit of God. No one can be argued into the kingdom of God. No one can convince you that the right thing to do is to become a Christian. Becoming a Christian is the spirit within you reaching out and connecting with the Spirit of God. It is a renewal, a transformation, a complete and total acceptance of a new identity.

This new encounter bursts new life into us and brings us to a place of recognizing that we are not alone and that we are not some lowly creatures but that God loves us and this God came down and died for us. The problem with people who are convinced about the gospel through very clever persuasive words and clever phrasing is that they abandon it when they hear something better. They have been taught to analyse something on a different level. What Paul is talking about here is the demonstration of the Spirit’s power. He is not saying that we do not need an academic or intellectual form of Christianity; in fact I think Christianity can do with more of that.

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves (Matt.10:16). It is our Christian duty to sharpen our minds and to be alert about what is happening around us. Christianity has a lot to offer society around us and we should never place ourselves exclusively in a spiritual category otherwise we will exclude ourselves from conversations on politics, education, medicine and all that is happening around us. However when it comes to following Jesus it is a decision that is made not through reasoning but it is an encounter with the Living God and that is something that cannot be ignored. As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him (Matt. 4:18-22). It does not make any sense unless you add the factor of the Spirit calling these people. They had received an invitation from the Messiah and that is something you cannot ignore.

Paul speaks to the Corinthians that there is a wisdom that does not come through the rulers of this age. It is not a governmental wisdom but a wisdom that comes from the Spirit, a secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory from before time began. God has revealed it to us by His Spirit. There is nothing like it on earth but we can only receive it in Christ through the Spirit. Through the Spirit you not only encounter God in a new level but yourself and others too.

What is this mystery? It is God revealed in Christ who died for all humanity. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus (Eph.3:1-6). This was a seriously confronting message to the Jews of those times because they thought they had an exclusive relationship with God. Jesus came and leveled the playing field. It is open to everyone; everybody has access to this encounter with God’s Spirit. It is our responsibility to project the Christ spoken of here, the One who made provision for salvation for every human being. That is the wonderful power of the cross. It is not up to us to create a religious system that promotes exclusivity that separates us from the world as if we are morally superior. Our faith does not make us greater or entitle us to a special life that excludes hardship. We are not in a position to judge the world, only Jesus can do that.

Jesus lived in this perfect tension, to be ‘in’ the world and not ‘of’ the world and He expects the same of us. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified (John 17:14-19). You are not of the world in that you do not function in the same way the world does. This is coming back where Paul distinguishes between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of the Spirit. You are still being sent back into the world. This is where your commission comes from. At this point it is fit for us then to define wisdom in such a way that we can say it is a rightful understanding of our relationship with God and the world. It is our duty to live within the tension of these two truths exactly the way that Jesus did, in the world but not of the world. It does not mean we hold back and just live a morally good life. Christianity is a commission, a call; it is something that pulls your spirit and says, “Go, take it to the world”. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world, but for this reason I have come into the world” (John 18:36). Heaven needs to find an expression among us. Jesus fully embraced this tension in perfect wisdom, to be in the world but not of the world. The world is not the field of the hopeless; it is the field of the fatherless. There is always hope with Jesus; we are the embodiment of this hope in Jesus. We are not of the world but are continually being sent back because we are channels of God’s grace to His people.

The world needs something powerful; it needs a wisdom that is going to demonstrate the power of the Spirit. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to instruct him?”But we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:11-16). Paul comes to the conclusion saying we have the mind of Christ. We need to adopt the mind of Christ which is the key to addressing this paradox of being in the world and not being of the world.

How are we going to make a difference in society? What is the mind of Christ? Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place; and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:1-11). These are significant building blocks of the Christian community; these are features that should define us as a church; humility, obedience. Your blessings mean little to the un-churched. Your humility, your willingness to serve and lower yourself and be humble will speak volumes, and you will speak wisdom from the heart of God. Wisdom is the rightful understanding of your relationship with God and the world.

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant (Matt.20:26). Wisdom means understanding your place as being a channel for God’s grace to everyone. Your humility needs to be that of Christ, to lay yourself down for the church and the world. Because God so loved the world. God’s heart bleeds for the world and He wants to continually send us out. Church is the place where you fill up, but then you go back and demonstrate that love. Humility is not a choice you make; it is a lifestyle you embrace to consider others as you consider yourself. The church should be doing more for the world.

Who is like the wise? Who knows the explanation of things? A person’s wisdom brightens their face and changes its hard appearance (Eccl. 8:1). Wisdom makes you carry your burdens with joy. There is joy in the commission of God. Make it a conscious effort to display the love and humility that Christ showed us so that the world will know that God loves them.