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About this series
How to Change for the Better
Are you tired of self-help programs that never bring results? Have you tried diets and work-out programs that only bring frustration? How does lasting change occur? This series from James 3 deals with how God changes us, from the inside out, and how this change can be lasting, fruitful, and significant in the deepest areas of our lives.More from this series
Well, I’d like to start today with some of the most profound, and I would say, sobering words that Jesus ever spoke while He was on the planet. They are found in Matthew chapter 7. You can follow along or you can lean back and listen. They are brief but powerful.
Jesus spoke, finishing up one of the greatest sermons ever written. And He said, “Anyone who listens to My teaching and obeys Me, is wise, like a person who builds his house on the rock. Though the rain comes in torrents, and the flood waters rise and the winds beat against the house, it won’t collapse, because it is built on the rock. But anyone who hears My teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on the sand. When the rain and the floods come, and the winds beat against that house, it will fall with a mighty crash.”
Profound because in very, very simple fashion, He gives us the key to life. He tells us how we could be successful, stable, and make an impact. You hear His words and you put them into practice, little by little, and your life – it’s the key, it’s wisdom.
But they are sobering because I did a little thinking and I thought, You know those two houses? They look exactly the same. If you can’t see underground, the same roof, same windows, same porch, until they are tested. Until the wind, until the storms, until the rain comes, both of those houses, they look identical. But one, built on sand, will be destroyed. The other, built on rock, will stand.
He is basically telling us there are two kinds of ways to build your life. And the sobering part is that you can look Christian, sound Christian, go to church, work in ministry, care for the poor, give money, say prayers, even read the Bible. But the fundamental question is: Are you building your life on the rock? Or are you building your life on the sand?
Is your life really changing for the better from the inside out? Or is it sort of a religious show, even that you are unaware of, in denial? Where you think you’re doing the right stuff but then it’s revealed when the pressure comes, when the storm comes into your life.
See, all that stuff is above the waterline. It’s mostly observable, external behavior. There was a group of people that had external behavior that was matchless in Jesus’ day, called Pharisees. And He would say all of them, with few exceptions, were built on sand.
James is going to open it up and he is going to ask and answer the question: How do you know if your life is built on sand or the rock? How do you know if your life is really changing for the better, down underneath where life transformation occurs?
I put a little teaching handout, why don’t you pull that out? And James is going to jump right in and he is going to give us a test. It’s a pretty easy test, because there is only one question. Here is his question. Verse 13 of chapter 3, “Who among you is wise in understanding?”
There are a couple technical words there and he is using words differently than us, so let me just fill you in. The theme of this book is integrity. The theme is that your life matches your words. Your life matches your beliefs. That your relationship with God isn’t something that you do in corners and pockets, but it’s integrated. It comes from the inside out.
And now he stops and says, “Who among you is wise?” He doesn’t mean wise as in smart or have intellectual capacity. He is using the Old Testament concept of wisdom. “Who is it that understands what God’s will is; has the skill, the discernment to place the Word of God, the knowledge of God, and the person of God in a way where you organize your life in trust and dependency, so how you actually live reveals what God’s will is? A winsome, beautiful, Christ-like life. That’s what he is saying.
Basically, who has got it together? Who has spiritual maturity? And then he adds this little word, “…and understanding.” He is playing with them. Only used here in the New Testament. It has the idea of an expert. It has the air of superiority. He is basically saying, “Okay, a lot of you stepped forward and you want to be teachers and you want to be visible and you want to be hot-shots in the Church. Who among you are the spiritual giants? Who are the real experts when it comes to authentic walking with God?” That’s the test question.
Then notice he gives us the answer. The very next line, he says, “Let him show it by his good behavior.” The word show there is a little prefix. It means: Let him demonstrate it by his good behavior. There are a couple of words in the New Testament for good. One means: moral, good, good and bad.
This is a different word. This is a word that means: beautiful, winsome, attractive. He says, “In other words, if you are really spiritually mature, your life is integrated, you’re building on the rock, demonstrate it by your daily life and the kind of life that is winsome and godly and loving and harmonious relationships and morally pure.”
But notice he goes on. That is above the waterline, isn’t? That’s a behavior. “His deeds done in humility.” See, as you look at our little iceberg that we have been dealing with, that little wavy line is what you see in the iceberg. The little bit above the surface, that is your behavior and your speech.
He is saying, if you’re really spiritually mature, if you’re authentically godly, building on the rock, your behavior will be Christ-like, but then now he is going under. Done in, what is the motivation? Humility.
I put the word “gentleness” there because there are a couple of words or so that can be translated as “humility.” This is the idea of dependency, taking your God-given power and having it under control. Jesus used it of Himself when He said, “I am meek.” It’s the exact opposite of arrogance and self-assertiveness.
And so, James says, “You know what the answer to the test question is? If you really want to know whether you are spiritual, whether you are really mature, building on the rock, your outward behavior will demonstrate it but the motives behind your outward behavior will be humility. You want to honor God and serve people, not just get ego strokes.”
And then notice the final one, “That flow from,” or literally, “come out of wisdom.” Wisdom is a set of core beliefs and values. What, down deep, we believe will make us successful.
And so, in summary, lasting change demands that we examine the source, the core values and beliefs of our attitudes and actions, to find out whether we are building on the rock or building on the sand. You need to go down deep.
And James, turn the page with me, James is going to take us on a journey. It’s a pretty cool journey, actually. Really interesting. He is going to use wisdom in a different way than we do. And the functional idea of “wisdom” here, he is going to say, there are two types. And as he grew up, he was Jesus’ brother. And he is going to talk about a life built on sand, a life built on the rock.
He is going to say wisdom, the way he uses it here, is there’s a set of core values and beliefs that both consciously and unconsciously, you believe will make you successful.
And one he is going to call “man’s wisdom,” the other he is going to call “God’s wisdom.” In verses 14, 15, and 16, he is going to describe man’s wisdom. He is going to say there are characteristics of it, there is a source of it, and there is the fruit of it, or the results. Then he is going to shift it in verse 17 and say, “Hey, but by contrast, you can know if your life is building on the rock if you’re living by God’s wisdom,” and he gives us about four characteristics and three results.”
Now, there are a lot of different words and what I am going to try and do is give you the overview of them and then here and there, I will stop so you can just jot down a couple of things, because the goal is not that we understand all these words, is it?
The goal is that we have the courage to say, Lord, this has been a pretty tough series. But I know that You love me so much, You’re so for me, You so care about me, if there are some core values and attitudes that if they get played out, will damage relationships and hurt me and cause me to be less than who I want to be and You want me to be, then I surely would like to hear from You today, even if it hurts. Because I know You care about me.
And so, with that attitude, let’s jump in and look at man’s wisdom. And ask yourself, as I am talking, ask yourself this question: Is my life, if my life is a bucket, am I dipping out of the water of man’s wisdom? Or am I dipping out of the water of God’s wisdom? And the way you will be able to tell is when you see how it gets played out.
Man’s wisdom is a “me-centered” attempt to achieve and appear righteous to satisfy ego needs and fulfill private agendas. And you say, Well, where did you get that? I got that from verses 14, 15, and 16.
Let me read it by way of overview. He says, “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ doesn’t come from heaven but it is earthly, unspiritual. It’s of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every evil practice.”
Well, let’s walk through it. Characteristics of man’s wisdom, verse 14. He says, “But if you harbor,” circle the word if. Grammatically, it’s a conditional clause, assumed to be true. And what he means by that, literally you could translate it, “Since,” or, “already going on in the life of this church,” James is saying. Already happening in the life of this church are a couple of things. They are harboring bitter envy and selfish ambition. Where is it occurring? What does it say? In their hearts. Can you see what is in people’s hearts? No, you can’t.
He says, “Well, then don’t boast about it and deny the truth.” See, what he is saying is, he is saying, “There are some people in the church who want to be teachers, who want to be up front, who have all kinds of things that externally look really godly.” He said, “But if you look in their hearts, they are really not based on God’s wisdom, it’s on sand. It’s man’s wisdom.”
Let’s explore these two words, see if we can get our arms around it. Bitter envy, the word means jealousy. It’s a fierce desire to promote one’s self, one’s opinion, to the exclusion of others. It is very concerned with one’s image, what other people think. Here, the idea of bitterness has this sense of harshness or resentful thoughts toward other people. It’s jockeying for power and prestige and position.
And notice, by the way, it’s coming out of the heart. You can’t see this. This is the thoughts that people have when they smile at you in a Bible study. But in their heart, they envy what you wear. They envy that you are the leader instead of them. They envy and have bitter resentment towards you and others. James is saying it’s actually happening in that church.
Selfish ambition, the original meaning of this word was meant to hire someone for a job. In later Greek literature, it was used of politicians who bought votes and won elections unethically, and then bragged about it. The basic idea of selfish ambition is to be motivated and driven by ego needs: pride, the desire to be seen and admired, to be in control, to fulfill your personal agenda, my personal agenda. All the while, projecting a love for God and others in the name of Christ. And where it shows up is in divisive relationships, gossip, side-door posturing.
What James is saying is that in the Church of Jesus Christ, there are some characteristics of man’s wisdom. And even if it has a spiritual front to it, he is saying, at the heart is people with “me” in the center, trying to fulfill their own personal agenda, and using the Church and the name of God to get there.
Has anyone ever seen this happen? Like, ever? Has anyone here, you don’t have to raise your hand but if it’s cathartic, I’ll let you. Has anyone here ever been in a church, ever been in a Bible study, ever done business with a group of Christians, ever gotten involved in a ministry, and you got closer to it, and closer to it, and closer to it, and closer to it, and you realized people had all this religious jargon and they went through all these motions, and they were selfish and proud and arrogant and there was gossip going on and they back-bit one another, and they stabbed one another.
Or you got their business card and it has a little fish on it and that reminds you, you don’t know what that fish meant back then, but it reminds you they took you for a hundred thousand dollars in the name of God. Have you ever seen that? Has anyone ever had this experience with these so-called Christians? I have. I grew up in a church like this.
I mean, remember the eighties and all the scandals? I grew up believing anybody on TV, anybody on the radio, all you “born again Evangelicals,” I thought, one: Narrow, bigoted, anti-intellectual, steal people’s money, and they are hypocrites. I’m sorry! That’s how I grew up. You know what? James is saying there are people that use the name of God, not because they honestly want to serve Him, but it’s an ego trip. It’s self-promotion. They serve and they do good things so people will think better of them.
Well, where does this come from? How in the world could this happen in the church of Jesus Christ? Because he is saying, by the conditional clause here, it’s happening here. What is the source of this? Look at verse 15.
He says, “Such wisdom doesn’t come down from heaven but it’s earthly, unspiritual, and of the devil.” Those three words build and they are a climax. Earthly means it views life, success, and goals from a material point of view. Unspiritual, literally, is the word soulless, fleshly, temporal, versus an eternal perspective. And demonic is the ultimate, “Where does this come from?” It comes from the pit of hell.
The enemy is working in the Church of Jesus Christ to get good people to do the right things for the wrong reason, to promote themselves, to destroy God’s testimony. Does that sound familiar? Look at America. Forty plus million people say, “I have had a born again experience with Jesus Christ,” and then when you look at the morals of America, the divorce rate of America, I’ve got news, there is a lot of this going on.
But before we point out there, let me ask you, just between us chickens in here, how much of this has happened in your life? How much of what you do in the name of God, when you’re really honest because you really want God to help you, how much of it is because of what other people will think? How much energy do you spend trying to project that you’re a little more godly, a little more holy, pray a little more, a little more generous than you really are?
You want to know what the results are when this operates? Look at verse 16. It says, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition,” those characteristics, “there you will find disorder and every evil practice.”
It’s like a cancer in relationships in a church. Let me give you a little definition on those two words. Disorder is the idea of confusion, antagonism, lack of unity and stability. It’s the concept of disarray, being out of control with regard to one’s personal life and relationships. He says, “That’s what you’ll see once you peel the onion and look below the surface of people’s lives, once you get in their home, once they really begin to talk and you hear what is going on inside.
And not only is there this disorder, there is every evil thing. And that phrase just means all manner of evil springs from pride and jealousy. It impacts lives and families and churches and businesses.
How many of us here? We have all got that picture in our minds, right, of that Christian family or that Christian single person and they had it together. The mom is driving her minivan with all the kids and telling them about Jesus and they have Bibles and they go to Bible studies and they pick up everyone for VBC and the dad is passing out tracts at work and is known in the community as a spiritual giant and he leads a ministry in a church like this and he just looks, they’re just squeaky clean and we all want to be like them someday.
And then you pick up The Sentinel and find out he is indicted. Three months later, they get divorced. And then they go into their home and they found all this perverted material.
Haven’t you seen that? And it’s not just with business people. The ones that scare me are all these pastors that it has happened to. And I’m sure they love God more than I do.
Close, close friend. Business man in the community, we got together and started doing Bible study, very eager. He went back and picked up a seminary degree on the side. Owned his own business, worked out, good looking, the best sales person I have ever been around. I sat in rooms where I’m thinking, I work for him and I want to buy what he’s selling.
And this guy had people skills, a leader in his church, leading a ministry, going overseas at times. And when we got really open and really honest, there were always little areas around finances that were a little bit shady and he was one of those shuck and jive type guys and the end justifies the means and, you know, it’ll all work out in the end. “Don’t be so legalistic.” And I said, “Yeah, but that seems like this verse is pretty black and white.” “Ah, come on. You know, Ingram, lighten up.”
And I hadn’t heard from him in a long time, and we were close friends. I said, “Hey, how have you been?” You ever had someone answer that with, “Not good, not good at all”? I could feel his voice was about to break.
And he said, “I haven’t talked to you in a long time and it’s for a reason.” I said, “Why?” He said, “I’m ashamed.” He said, “I am deeply, deeply, deeply ashamed.” I said, “Well, what are you ashamed about?” He said, “Well, you know that stuff that you used to poke around on?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “I always thought I had a little financial problem.”
I’m talking about above the waterline. This guy is the kind of person we all want to become. He said, “I just realized, recently, I didn’t have financial problems,” he said, “Chip, I’ve got a character problem. I’ve got a character flaw. And the finances are only the symptom. I want to tell you right now, I owe multiple people hundreds of thousands of dollars and I am about a half an inch away from being thrown into jail. And I’m ashamed.”
Here’s a guy leading ministries and doing all this stuff. And then when you peel it back, you see some chaos and disorder in his family, in his marriage, with his kids. So, let me ask you. Is your life built on the rock? Do you find yourself doing outward things to get other people’s attention? Is it about ego or is it really about honoring God? Serving God? God says that, not to put you down. He says it to reveal, to love you.
Think on that one. Now let’s look at the contrast. James now turns the corner and what he says is, “There is a different kind of wisdom.” He is going to say to this group, “Hey, you can know whether you’re on the rock or whether you are on the sand. You can know whether below the waterline, you can know for sure whether you are building the kind of life that is changing for the better, from the inside out.”
He says, there is God’s wisdom. God’s wisdom is Christ-centered dependency that seeks to obey God and serve others to fulfill God’s agenda. That’s what God’s wisdom is.
Notice it’s Christ-centered. Man’s wisdom is me-centered! What does everyone think of me and my ministry and my knowledge and my marriage and my singleness and my job? What does everybody think of me? How did I come off? What are thinking of me? What are people saying about me? Me, me, me, me, me!
And we will go to unbelievable lengths to image cast and project and protect and be hypocrites to get people to think – what? Better of us than we really are. That’s man’s wisdom.
He says, by contrast, God’s wisdom is Christ-centered. Dependency. Dependency. The idea, you go four steps and three steps backward. It’s hard, it’s in a fallen world, but it’s Christ-centered dependency that seeks to – what? Obey God in every area, without dichotomy. And to serve others, not so that my agenda gets done or your agenda gets done. So that God’s agenda – His divine, sovereign purposes that He has for you in His great love – it gets done.
When those are your core values and beliefs, he says, your life will be characterized by these things. Look at verse 17, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.” Four characteristics and then when he shifts there, “Full of mercy and good fruit,” he starts thinking of this idea of the results of a life built on the rock.
So here is what I want to do. I did a word study on all seven of those little words and phrases. I want to give you a quick description and so, lean back. Every obsessive-compulsive person here is going, You’re going too fast, you’re going too fast, you’re going too fast, you’re making me crazy!
I don’t think God wants you to get all the notes in your little handout. I think He wants you to get the truth in your heart. And then I will summarize it with one statement that won’t catch it all, but will give you enough to focus on, okay?
So, what I want you to begin to say is, Lord, does this reflect, is this the kind of life I have? Notice this first phrase, “But the wisdom from above is first pure.” It means of primary importance. In other words, it’s the number one domino. If it doesn’t fall, you don’t get any of the other dominos. First and foremost, the wisdom from God is pure.
And you say, Well, what does that mean? What does “pure” mean? It means, clean. It’s translated in other parts of the Bible for the word holy. In ancient Greek, it was pure enough to approach the gods. It means, free in your thought from ulterior motives. Moral cleanliness, without contamination. It’s the opposite of jealously, envy, and bitterness.
It certainly includes sexual purity, but it’s not just isolated to that. The wisdom that comes from God is, first, pure. Not perfect, but pure. God, I want to honor You. God, I want to serve you. God, I want to do this, not for what other people think of me, but I want to do it unto You and to serve them so Your agenda gets done. And, God, when it’s not there, You show me and I’ll, you know, we’ll correct. Lots of mid-course changes. But it’s first pure.
You can summarize this by the little phrase, “If I am wise, I won’t compromise my integrity.” That’s how you can remember it. If you’re going to be built on the rock, the wisdom from God, you don’t compromise your integrity. When you know what is right to do, you don’t allow your behavior, your relationships, your finances, or your speech to tell a different story than what you know is right. That’s the first condition of a life built on the rock, God’s wisdom.
The second one is this idea of peaceable. It means to be at peace in one’s relationships with others. Harmony. Issues are resolved and forgiven, both with other people, and with God. It’s a desire to foster peace by, listen to this, restraining discord and pacifying turbulent elements around it.
It’s this idea of when people lash out at you. What is the natural tendency when people are angry or there is discord? What do we want to do? Yeah, I want to lash back! Why? Because I have to protect me! Why? Because me is what is important! Starting to make sense? If I am wise, I’ll be peaceable. And that means I won’t antagonize your anger.
A gentle answer turns away wrath. It doesn’t mean you don’t stand up for things when it’s true. But you’re not going to go there. You’re complete in Christ.
And you actually find yourself, prompted by the Spirit of God, to pray for that person. One, that he won’t kill someone else. And two, for whatever perverted way of thinking that puts other people’s lives in danger. Do you see the characteristics of God’s wisdom? How it comes out, relationally?
The third characteristic is gentle. Consider it forbearing. It means to be really kind. Have you ever been around someone who is just kind? I mean, they are just nice. It’s a good indication.
And they are nice for the right reasons. It’s respect for the thoughts and feelings of others. It’s being willing to look beyond the letter of the law. It’s the willingness to forego one’s rights and justice – why? To care for others, to make sure it’s fair for everyone.
One commentator calls this word: sweet reasonableness. One of the characteristics of God’s wisdom is gentleness. If you want to fill this one in: If I’m wise, I won’t minimize others’ feelings.
It doesn’t mean their feelings are right, doesn’t mean they’re wrong, but you won’t minimize them. Do you find people that, when you start to share your feelings they cut you off? Why? Because they can’t be important because they have an agenda. It’s one of the most damaging things we do in close relationships, especially in marriage.
It’s okay, God’s wisdom, you can feel whatever you want. I can listen to those. This gentleness will always take a stand for the truth. But aren’t there times where you say, “You know, that’s the letter of the law. Isn’t there more to this?
And someone stops and says, “You know, why don’t you tell your side of the story? Let us hear what’s going on and why. I’m not going to minimize your feelings. If I was in your moccasins or your shoes, I don’t know all the history and I don’t know where you’ve been and I don’t know what your baggage is, but I want to hear how you really feel without being threatened or intimidated.”
And then it’s the kind of person with sweet reasonableness that says, “Now, can you see why he or she may have responded that way to you?” It’s not about your rights, it’s not about me, it’s about harmony in relationships and doing things God’s way. That’s the characteristic of a person whose life is built on the rock.
The fourth one here is the idea of reasonableness. It literally means to be easily persuaded, open to argument or reason, to be teachable, willing to hear another person’s perspective that is different from your own opinion.
It’s the idea of people that are approachable. It’s the opposite of stubborn, hardheaded, unyielding, or rigid. Ooh, that’s convicting, isn’t it?
Literally, the idea of people that are easy to work with, easy to get along with. Does that describe you? Is that how you do relationships? Easy to work with. You have convictions, but easy to get along with. Approachable. Teachable. You don’t power up, intimidate people, or you don’t withdraw in silence and say, I’ll make them pay.
Let me summarize, he says there, “If I am wise, I won’t criticize others’ suggestions.” You don’t have to agree with them but you don’t criticize their suggestions.
See, if it’s not about you, if it’s not about me, if it’s not about my rights, if it’s not about, “I’ve got to have my way, my agenda, and I’ve got to be the star!” And, by the way, we do this with such amazing subtlety, don’t we? If it’s not about that, it’s really about God’s agenda, then someone has a suggestion, what if it’s better than mine? What if we use it instead of mine? And what if they get all the credit? And what if God uses it for His glory? You say, Yay, God! Because that’s what it’s about.
Because success isn’t me getting my way and me being the center of attention and everyone thinking something of me. Success is God is obeyed and honored, people are served, God’s agenda is going down the road. Do you get it? Do you see what he’s saying?
Let me summarize it for you, because those four words, you’re saying, Okay, now, what am I supposed to do with this in my life? Those four characteristics, I think, can be summarized in this way: God’s wisdom will be revealed in our lives, in lives characterized by personal holiness and relational oneness.
Does that describe you? Personal holiness and relational oneness. Does that describe me? That’s the characteristics of building your life on the rock.
I’m in a small group. I have shared with them things that I hope they never share with anybody in the whole world, for sure. We talk very candidly about temptation, about where we struggle, about our thought life, about our marriages. On multiple occasions, we will just say, “Where is God specifically speaking to you?” And that’s the question. And then people will open their Bible and share it, and then we will interact at a very significant level.
We confront one another, we confess our sin to one another, we gather around each other, we have often stopped in meetings and have just prayed for someone who is going through a hard time. I don’t lead it. But it’s the group I’m in.
There are men there that are twenty years my senior and some, eight or ten, and a few about my age. But here’s what I will tell you. Their lives are characterized by personal holiness. Do they have it together? Absolutely not. Do they never blow it? Are you kidding? Of course they blow it. It’s how they respond when they blow it.
They have a yearning and a seeking to be pleasing to God, to obey Him, and to serve others for God’s agenda.
God has His hand on this body and on ministries where He finds people who are building on the rock. Personal holiness and relational oneness.
What did Jesus say about unity? Jesus prayed for unity. Jesus, right now, is praying for unity. Authentic relationships that are unified, that are pure. Not perfect. Pure.
How are you doing? Does that characterize you? God wants to help you. He wants you to build on that. Because are the storms going to come in your life? Yeah! Are you going to have marriage problems? Of course! Unless you have, just like a totally blasé marriage. Every marriage has seasons. There’s one the first five years, second five, next five, next five. And they are all different, they all require tremendous grace, lots of conflict, and you grow in Christ because of it.
If you’re having a really hard time, welcome to the marriage NFL. And God will use that person to make you holy. This idea that it’s going to be great and wonderful and like all that jazz on TV? That’s jazz on TV. Go behind the TV, all those people playing all those parts have been married multiple times, in multiple situations, have lived with three or four different people, and then I’m going to stop. I could go off on that, but I won’t.
I want you to know. Those are the characteristics that God honors.
The results of God’s wisdom are these three phrases: “Full of mercy and good fruit.” And “full of mercy” means, feeling merciful and compassionate for someone in trouble, are you ready for this? Even if they got themselves in trouble. Like, it’s their fault. But it’s not stopping at the feeling level, it’s not seeing someone in pain and saying, Oh, that’s really too bad. That’s empathy. Mercy is seeing their pain and their hurt to the point that you act, to relieve the pain. And that’s the idea of this good fruit.
In multiple ways, specific acts of kindness, you reach into the lives of people who don’t deserve to get help and because you are like Christ, we are probably never more like God than when we give people what they don’t deserve.
I have found a pattern in my life. I want justice! If I get ripped off, I want the right deal! If people use me, relationally, I want them to get what their due is. I want justice for everybody but me. It’s just how I have learned to live. It’s wrong. Have you found yourself doing that? Man, that is wrong! I can’t believe my supervisor did that! Oh, justice over here! Well, you did this and you did this and you did this so I am going to bring up the past. Justice right here. Well, what about this? I did this, this, this, and justice right here.
And then we really blow it and what do we say? Oh, God, forgive me. Be merciful to me, a sinner. You know? Right? People who are built on the rock have the Spirit of God flowing through them in such a way that if I am wise, I won’t emphasize others’ mistakes.
It doesn’t mean you don’t deal with them, it doesn’t mean there’s not consequences. You don’t emphasize them. Your goal is to help them through them.
The next word here is interesting. Unwavering. It means not to be double-minded. It’s the opposite of duplicity. It’s the idea of a person who lives by principles. Undivided, not vacillating. This is a person who knows what is right to do, and no matter how the lay of the land comes, he doesn’t act this way with this group and this way with that group.
The idea of unwavering, literally, is without partiality.
People who are built on the rock see people through the eyes of Jesus, and the ground is level and they don’t play games. And they don’t play to the crowds. And they don’t sense the momentum is shifting. They don’t take polls to find out where to go. They base their lives on truth and without partiality, they live out their lives.
That means lots of people will often disagree with you and everyone will respect you. And that’s really what you need from people. Unwavering, if I’m wise, I won’t disguise, I won’t show partiality.
And the final one here is right where we started in the whole series. A person who is living their life in the growth of God’s wisdom is without hypocrisy. The word hypocrisy comes from the ancient Greek plays and it was a word for the actors. And what they had, they had a mask with a stick on it.
And in ancient Greece, all the actors were male. And so, they would learn to throw their voices. And so, you might play one part and they would have a costume on and they would put this mask up and go, “Oooooh!” You know? And then they would play another part, take this mask, and put another mask. That mask, those different fronts, that’s the idea behind hypocrisy.
Why do we do that? Why do we do that? Can I tell you why I do it? I want you to think better of me than is true. When I blow it, spiritually; when I blow it, financially; when I blow it in my marriage; when I blow it as a pastor; when I blow it with my kids; when I lose my temper, what I want you to do is think better than me.
So what I do is I hide my weaknesses and the only way you can hide your weaknesses is you pretend. So people ask you a penetrating question, you know the right answer, and so you lie. But you don’t call it lying because you’re a Christian, and Christians don’t lie. You exaggerate. You reformat. And so, you learn all the little jargon and you operate in a way so you cast an image that is better than who you really are and the whole goal is – what? To hide your weakness.
In fact, the wisdom that is from God, if I’m wise, I won’t disguise my weaknesses. Can I tell you an interesting discovery I have had? The people that appear to have it all together don’t. And the people that others are attracted to aren’t people that have it all together.
It’s people who admit they have weaknesses because when they admit you have weaknesses, guess what, I can identify with them. I identify with other people who struggle in their marriage and don’t always tell the truth and have a problem with time management and do all the other things and blow it with their kids. I can really identify with them. And what happens is authentic relationships are born out of being real, being authentic.
And, by the way, you spend a lot of energy, do you realize how much energy it takes to be a hypocrite? That’s when I’m sort of a pragmatist in some ways. I just thought, I’m putting in so much energy just to pretend I’m something I’m not and I can’t remember what I told them. You know what? Hey, God, maybe it’s just easier to be myself. Fallen, making progress, empowered by the Spirit. When I blow it, just own it.
You know my friend who called me?
Well, he went and got some high-powered, very effective Christian counseling. He started telling himself the truth. He faced deep issues there and in his marriage and in ministry. And he had been working on it.
And we sat across the table, I’m telling you, and I just, you know, curly fries over here and, [crying] “Can I get some more napkins here?” And he’s just bearing his heart. I mean, whoo! “This is where I blew it, this is how I thought, this is where it came from. I used money to project this. I controlled people like this. I always wanted to appear this way. Chip, it was sin. I was in such denial.”
And then he began to share the freedom that he had in Christ. Then he began to share how coming clean with God and what it had done and, man, I’ll tell you what, I just sat across from him and I thought, Whoa. I didn’t think less of him. I thought, God, I want to be like him. I want to have the kind of courage that he has to look into my heart and my life the way he is looking into his heart and his life.
And so, if you want to summarize the results, if you want to know whether God’s wisdom, you’re building on the rock, the little summary statement is: God’s wisdom will result in compassionate, authentic, vulnerable relationships.
Do you have compassionate, authentic, vulnerable relationships? If you do, it’s an evidence of God’s wisdom.
This is not about you thinking, Okay, I really want to be authentic. I want to have integrity! I’m really going to work hard. I’m going to pull up my bootstraps! I’m going to try, try, try, try, try! See me in six weeks and you will be flat on your face and discouraged. God never intended you or me or anyone else to live a life of integrity and Christ-likeness and holiness on your own. It always happens in community.
But now, I think the question you ought to ask, I’m sure you are. I can’t imagine anybody with one and a half brain cells working, going, Okay, that opening thought was: Do I want to build on the sand or build on the rock? Okay. If I build on the sand, hard times are going to come, the waves, the storms, the pressures of life. My life is going to be destroyed, I’m going to embarrass God, maybe lose my family. Yeah, that’s where I want to…
No one is there. Everyone is over here going, God, what would it look like to build on the rock? God, I have been really open. I asked the Holy Spirit to show me and you know the little red light on my conscious is going, “Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!” And I need to address some things.
Let me tell you how. Turn to the back page and let me give you a quick to-go package to simplify this. How do you get God’s wisdom? If that’s what you want and that’s what God wants, well, how do you get it?
The action step is very simple. “In this way,” Colossians 2:2 and 3 says, “you will know God’s secret, which is Christ Himself. He,” speaking of Jesus, “is the key that opens the hidden treasures of God’s wisdom and knowledge.” You want God’s wisdom? You don’t get it in a formula, you don’t get it through trying hard, you get it in a relationship. You get it in a relationship with Christ.
Look at what it says. “You’ll know God’s secret, which is Christ Himself. He is the key to the hidden treasure, God’s wisdom and knowledge.” And you say, Well, how do you take that key and open some things? Where do you begin?
Let me give you four quick steps, depending on where you are. First, receive the Son. If Jesus is the key to wisdom, if you don’t know Him, if you’re here and have never repented of your sin – I don’t mean you’re religious, I don’t mean you’re moral, I don’t mean you give to the United Way – I mean, 1 John 5:11 and 12. “This is the testimony, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that has the Son has life; he that does not have the Son does not have life.”
Question: Do you have the Son? Not, “Do you go to church?” Do you have the Son? Does the Son of God dwell in your heart, in your life? Answer: Yes, Eternal life. Answer: No. Eternal separation. Don’t leave here until you receive the Son. He is the beginning of all wisdom.
Second thing, for those of you that have received the Son and you are a believer, pray. Ask God for wisdom. This is amazing. James 1:5, “If any man, any woman, if you lack wisdom, if you lack the skill and the ability to live life God’s way, let him ask of God who gives generously and without reproach, and He will give it to you.”
Now, here’s the deal. Verses 6, 7, and 8 of James says God guarantees He will give it one hundred percent of the time if, when He gives it, you say, “I’ll do it.” What I find is I pray for wisdom and God gives it and He says, “Do this,” and I think, Oh, that looks scary! He said, “The question wasn’t scary. Do you want wisdom? Do you want to do it my way?” Yeah.
And so I risk and sometimes I don’t. But when I do, bang, wisdom. God works. Obviously, Him, He gets the credit.
Third, wisdom isn’t laying on top of the ground. Dig for it daily. One of the greatest passages in Scripture is Proverbs 2. 1 to 5 is at the core of it. Take the first ten or eleven verses. He talks about, “My son, treasure My commandments. Don’t let them depart from you. You want to get wisdom? Search for it as for hidden treasure. Dig for it. Go for it. Cry out for discernment. Then you will discern the fear of the Lord and then you will discover the knowledge of God and then wisdom will be yours. It’ll guide your steps. It’ll help you with decisions. It will show you how to live. It will guard you.”
See, Christ is the key and He is revealed in this, His Word. We read it. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God. The Word became flesh.” This Book ought to be your passion. God, show me, show me, show me.
He will show you how to do relationships, He’ll show you how to do business, He’ll show you how to be holy. Dig in. It’s not on top of the ground. It’s for those who dig.
And then, finally, Proverbs 13:20, “He who dwells with wise men will be wise.” Go after this, people! Let’s see, sand over here, rock over here, long-term future, long-term future. Which do you want?
I find people that are wise in leadership and I hang around them. I find people whose marriages that I think, Man, that’s what I want in another ten years. I hang around them. Buy them breakfast. Buy them lunch.
Knock at their door and say, “Hey, would you hang out with me?” And you know what? I’ll guarantee they are busy. They are busy! They will say, “No, I really can’t.” “How about next quarter?” “Well, I don’t know, I’m looking at my calendar.” “Well, how about the quarter after that?” You just keep bugging them until they will hang out with you!
I bugged Howard Hendricks for almost two and a half, three years. And finally he said, “Chip, you’re making me crazy!” I said, “Prof, I’m listening to your tapes. Do you hang out with people, or not? Someday you ought to hang out with me!” He said, “All right…” And then he shaped my life. Who are you going to hang out with? He who dwells with wise people, you will be wise.
I was really concerned that some of you were going to go, Oh, God, oh, God, I want to do what You want me to do. But some of you are clueless, okay? You don’t know where, it’s like, Get in the Word? Man…ooh hoo. I’ve never seen one of these! You know?
And so, if you’re taking first steps, there is a book, very easy to read, called The Fight, by John White. And it will start you from the beginning how to walk with God and get wisdom.
There are others here. You’re thinking, I’ve tried, I’ve tried, I’ve tried, I’ve tried, I’ve tried. I’m scared to do this again because I’ll fall flat on my face. I’m tired of trying to measure up. That’s the name of the book. Jeffrey VanVonderen. He’ll teach you in practical ways how to understand your position in Christ and how to live it out.
Or there are others here that, you’re thinking you look good on the outside and you’re thinking, when I was talking about motives, little lights went on. Ooh, gosh. Ooh, gosh. Larry Crabb, a couple of books, Inside Out and Finding God. Excellent on motives.
And the last one is just for you who are kind of mature and you want to take the next step, J.I. Packer’s book, The Knowledge of the Holy. No, that’s Tozer. Read the notes, Chip. Knowing God, all right? Fantastic book. You guys have the idea?
Build your life on the rock. It’ll take effort, energy, focus, priorities, discipline, community and you’ll be glad every day that you did.