Friday, 21 December 2012

When True Wisdom Appears

Some people fake Wisdom. In Paul's epistle to the Colossians he told them that fake wisdom and true wisdom have two different appearances. The shocking thing about Paul's distinction, is that what he describes as fake wisdom is usually, even today, thought of as true wisdom! And the problem with what he calls true wisdom, is that it is very boring! Before we discover how to be wiser in Paul's view, let's consider one of the oldest and greatest examples of wisdom.

Two prostitutes had babies.
¶ Then two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. The one woman said, "Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house, and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house. Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. And we were alone. There was no one else with us in the house; only we two were in the house. And this woman's son died in the night, because she lay on him. And she arose at midnight and took my son from beside me, while your servant slept, and laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. When I rose in the morning to nurse my child, behold, he was dead. But when I looked at him closely in the morning, behold, he was not the child that I had borne." But the other woman said, "No, the living child is mine, and the dead child is yours." The first said, "No, the dead child is yours, and the living child is mine." Thus they spoke before the king.First Kings 3:16-22
Solomon's wisdom and judgment by RaphaelHow on earth could even wisdom resolve this problem? After all, Solomon wasn't there. There are no witnesses. And besides,some would scoff: they're just prostitutes so what does it matter? Given this impossibly difficult situation it's not wisdom that most people look for. Many people would rather pray and have God simply tell them straight up what to do. But Solomon's response was brilliant despite being initially shocking. Often the wisest course of action seems strange to those who can't see wisdom at work. King Solomon asked for asword to resolve this dispute!
¶ Then the king said, "The one says, 'This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead'; and the other says, 'No; but your son is dead, and my son is the living one.'" And the king said, "Bring me a sword." So a sword was brought before the king.
First Kings 3:23-24
Genuine wisdom has a God-glorifying flavour to it. Fake wisdom has a man-glorifying end to it. Genuine wisdom comes from God and causes its beholder to act humbly and at times: counter-intuitively. Certainly bringing a sword to resolve a dispute over the identity of a baby's mother seems a little counter-intuitive.
¶ And the king said, "Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other." First Kings 3:25
Solomon had no intention of hacking the baby with the sword. It was a test. Wise people conduct lots of tests. In a book that he contributed to, the Book of Proverbs, Solomon lists testing as one of the twelve ways to derive at a wise decision. In this instance the test was designed to reveal who the true mother was. And it did.
1Kings 3:26 Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, "Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death." But the other said, "He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him." Then the king answered and said, "Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother."
First Kings 3:26-27
This episode marked the beginning of Solomon's reputation as a wise man. The sad unfolding of Solomon's life is that despite starting out with the advantage of divine wisdom, he died a fool. Yet to most people who witnessed the latter part of his life, it appeared that Solomon was still incredibly wise. He wrote thousands of Proverbs, songs, poems, and scientific discoveries. Yet the latter part of his life was cloaked in fake wisdom. They are many wise-sounding teachers today who may have started out their journey with a spark of God-gifted wisdom but then forsook the truth of God's Word, His revealed wisdom, and began dispensing fake wisdom. It may sound wise to suggest that prayer should only ever be contemplative, but this wise sounding idea can not stand in the presence of the true wisdom of God's Word which invites us to present to God all of our requests and petitions in prayer (Philippians 4:6; 1John 5:15). It may sound wise to suggest that all religions will ultimately lead a person into eternal life in heaven, but it soons becomes apparent that this wisdom is a vile pretender when true wisdom enters the room.

The Apostle Paul knew that his beloved Colossian church was under attack from people employing fake wisdom. These people appeared to be wise - but they were not.
These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh."Colossians 2:23
His entire epistle to the Colossians is fueled by the pastoral desire for them not to be taken captive by these peddlers of fake wisdom. He contrasts this human wisdom, which he says merely has the appearance of wisdom, with God's wiisdom which is: a gift from God (Col. 1:9); the basis of true Biblical preaching about Christ (Col. 1:28); only found in Christ (Col. 2:3); the essence of true Christian fellowship (Col. 3:16); and the way in which we should be seen by the world (Col. 4:5).

There are many people promoting the appearance of wisdom today. They tell people that Jesus is not unique. They claim that following Jesus of Nazareth is only one of many ways to find God's approval and that any religion will ultimately get you to Heaven. They come up with clever ways of reading the Scriptures to make it sound like there will be no ultimate, final, and everlasting judgment on anyone. They reason that if God is love, and that surely love will win, that God would never really allow anyone to die in their sins (John 8:24). They assert that God is not really a Person, but a mere cosmic force and that we too are just expressions of that "universal force" which is why death is not really the end or even the beginning - it's just a doorway to the next reincarnated expression we morph into. To which Paul cries out to the Colossians - "Fake wisdom!" Against the backdrop of this first century fake wisdom, the Apostle speaks beyond his first century audience and into our present day.
¶ Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
Colossians 3:5-6
Before Solomon experienced true wisdom, he had what only most of us could dream of. At the beginning of his reign God appeared to him and offered him anything he wanted. Wisely, he chose wisdom. Today we have a higher wisdom available to us in Christ. Don't settle for the false, man-made wisdom of self-appointed gurus - despite how large their TV audience is or how many Twitter followers they might have! You can begin to become familiar with this true wisdom as you open up His Book and allow it to cleanse, feed, and shape your mind. The next time you have a tricky decision to make, it's not so much a Word from Heaven you need, or man-made fake wisdom, but the true wisdom that comes being taught by the Spirit of God from God's Word resulting in a radical change of character. James calls fake wisdom "demonic"! And he calls true wisdom "pure".
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
James 3:14-17
Father God, please help us to be wise and grant us an increased desire to be washed, watered and wised by Your Word. Amen.
Ps. Andrew

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