Habits: Wisdom

This morning, we continue our new message series entitled, “Habits.”   Through this message series, we’re learning about how to do small things consistently, which ultimately leads to an abundant life of integrity.

Small habits lead to big change!

We’ve been encouraged to develop Godly habits into our lives and learned how God intentionally created us as creatures of habit to set us up for success.  As we develop these habits, we will live lives of Godly integrity. 

So far, we learned about the habits of seeking God, of reconciliation, and building up ourselves, others, and God’s Kingdom.

This morning, we’re being challenged to develop the habit of wisdom.

Wisdom is defined as: the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience and knowledge.

We live in a world full of knowledge.  With our smartphones by our side, we can know anything about anything in a matter of seconds. 

Not a mechanic?  That’s OK, there’s a YouTube video out there that will show you how.  Not crafty?  That’s OK, Pinterest has a guide on how to create that perfect hand-made gift.  Break your electronics?  That’s OK, iFixIt will show you step-by-step repair guides with pictures.   Lost?  Not any more, your maps app will locate you and will literally tell you how to get back where you need to be.

What is far less common than knowledge in our world today is the ability to properly apply that knowledge.  That’s where wisdom comes into play.  There are far more people out there in the world doing things like this today!

(video montage of people doing stupid things)

Wisdom is the ability to make good decisions and to take sound action to apply that knowledge or past experience. 

Note that it doesn’t matter if your past experiences we’re good or bad. It doesn’t matter if yesterday you were living by faith or living by your flesh and being a fool.

What matters is that we consider our past and use it to make good decisions now. Our failures are actually our best teachers! Anyone can be wise!

James 1:5
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Of course, this lack of wisdom isn’t anything new.

James 1:21-25 (NLT)

21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.

22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

We need to be in the habit of not just knowing what we’re supposed to do, but actually doing it.  Parents can well relate to this frustration.  We so often sound like broken records saying the same things over and over again.  I’ve often just stopped and asked my child, “What am I going to say?”  Surely enough they quote exactly what I was just about to say for the millionth time.  It’s not a matter of knowing the right thing to do, it is about developing the habit of actually doing it.

Jesus taught a parable about a scene familiar to many families here:

Matthew 21:28-32 (NLT)

28 “But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. 30 Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go.

Anyone have children like this?

31 “Which of the two obeyed his father?”

They replied, “The first.”

Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. 32 For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to believe him and repent of your sins.”

God is concerned about our words and our actions both.  However, He is far more interested in our actions than in our words.  Obedience is all about doing what is right even if we don’t understand it or even outright disagree with it verbally.  Life does not consist of how much scripture we can quote, but how well we live it out.

Jesus said that prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before the church folk.  Why?  More often than not, prostitutes are aware of their sins and choose to confess them, ask forgiveness for them, and then repent of them. 

Church folk put on faces and act like they have no sins, then even when they know that they do sin, they keep it hidden and refuse to confess it, and therefore they certainly act as if though they nothing to repent of.

Church folk quote God’s word and say that they’ll do it, but don’t.  Prostitutes can’t quote book, chapter, and verse of God’s word, but they put it into action.  Therefore, which one is entering God’s Kingdom first?

As Christians, we usually know what good things we should be doing.  We know what God’s word tells us to do.  However, we don’t often apply it and actually do what it says.  We are morbidly obese with knowledge, but starving in wisdom.  Filling our lives with God’s word and then living it out keeps us healthy and fit spiritually as we avoid both extremes. 

As the old adage goes, we don’t want to become so heavenly minded that we become of no earthly good.  As we follow Jesus as His disciple, we find the balance between these two.  Jesus was the living word of God in the flesh, God dwelling among us.  He spent lots of time alone with His Heavenly Father, but also lots of time meeting the earthly needs of the crowds, and lots of time meeting the spiritual needs of His disciples.  He lived a balanced life of being Heaven on earth, but also of earthly good.  His brother, James, said it this way:

James 2:14-20 (NLT)

14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?

It’s critically important for us to have a knowledge of God’s word.  We need to read it, study it, and meditate on it.  However, we can’t just stop there.  We also must cooperate with the Holy Spirit to live out God’s word.  We need God’s wisdom to know how to take His word and apply it to our everyday lives.

Otherwise, we’ll be a whole lot like that hungry, naked person.  Sure, we may know that God provides for our needs and we may be able to talk all about what God’s word says about it and quote it perfectly verse-by-verse.  However, if we don’t apply those words to ourselves and clothe and feed ourselves, we’re totally missing it!

1 Corinthians 4:20 (NLT)

For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.

Discipleship, following Jesus, is all about developing the same habits that Jesus had.  It is emulating His life and following His lead.  Sure, Jesus was a teacher who spoke a lot about the Kingdom of God.  However, His life is more known by His actions than His words.  As the sayings go, “Talk is cheap” and “Actions speak louder than words.”

Just read through Mark chapter 1.  The news that spread quickly wasn’t about the teachings of Jesus, but the acts of Jesus to heal the sick and cast out demons.  He healed one fever and the house was surrounded by the entire town and all those who were sick that same evening.  He healed one case of Leprosy and word spread so far that He couldn’t even enter public places any longer!  Even that didn’t keep people away, however!

Mark 1:45 (NLT)

But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him.

Were they coming to Jesus for His knowledge? No.

Were they coming to Jesus to learn how to live a better life? No.

Were they coming to see God in the flesh, the living word of God, the savior of the world? No.

Most of the people that came to Jesus only cared about one thing; what He could do for them.

They wanted their suffering alleviated.  They wanted a solution to their problems.  They wanted an end to their suffering.  They went to Jesus not because of who He was, but because of what He had to offer.

Let’s try to not be that type of person.  Don’t get me wrong here.  Yes, we absolutely come to Jesus initially because of all of the free benefits that He offers to us.  We come to Him to be forgiven of all of our sins, to be healed of all of our sickness and disease, to be delivered from every snare of the enemy, and all of the other amazing benefits of His salvation.  There is nothing wrong with this and Jesus desires to be these things for us.

However, Jesus wants our relationship with Him to go deeper than that.  In fact, He wants to have a real relationship with us.  He wants to form a true, healthy friendship with us.  This key difference is what separates the crowds from the disciples.

Crowds seek benefits with no real regard to the person offering them.  Disciples desire to get to know Jesus personally and imitate the life that He lives.  They want to serve Jesus and not just be served by Him.  They want to reciprocate the love, forgiveness, grace, mercy, and faithfulness that they have received.  They want to go deeper.

Jesus wants to explain to us all about the secrets of His Kingdom.  He wants to help us to understand His word and know how to live it out.  He wants to live life together with us and to be our Helper and Guide.  Jesus wants us to stay connected with Him closely enough that we can develop the same habits that He has.

Paul summarized the process of discipleship in a simple, yet impactful way here:

1 Corinthians 11:1

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

We need to establish the habit of wisdom; not just knowing God’s word, but also knowing how to live it out.  We follow the example of Christ and we invite others to follow our example.  This is discipleship.  This is developing the habit of wisdom.  Knowing and applying.  Learning and living it out.  Understanding and teaching by example.  As Paul wrote to Timothy:

1 Timothy 4:12-16 (NLT)

12 Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young (and I say regardless of your age, don’t let anyone think less of you!). Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 13 Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them.

14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. 15 Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.

Know God’s word and live God’s word.  Understand God’s word and teach God’s word.  Discern God’s spiritual gifts in your life and use them passionately to serve others.  Watch closely how you live, your salvation and the salvation of those around you depend on it!

Let your life preach the good news about Jesus loudly.  Let your life teach other’s the word of God without quoting a verse.  Let your life be the proof of God’s great, unfailing love.  Even as Jesus said:

John 13:35 (NLT)

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

Let’s develop the habit of wisdom.  Not just gaining knowledge, but making good decisions and sound action to apply that knowledge.  Let’s live life well for all to see the goodness of God!