Not What You Know, What You Do

James 3:13 ESV

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.”

Wisdom is not the same as intellectual knowledge. Someone can have a lot of book smarts and not be wise at all. Someone could have a seminary degree in biblical studies from a prestigious seminary and still be living very unwisely, not exercising good conduct at all.

So, it isn’t what you know that is so important as it is what you do with what you know. If you know to do good, but you don’t do it, it is sin. If you know that you are not to commit adultery, view porn, gossip, slander, be idolatrous or greedy, but you do it anyway, it is sin, and it is unwise.

Wisdom is proved right by her actions (Matt 11:19). We show ourselves to be wise or unwise by the things that we do, not merely by the things that we say. For, we can spout off all kinds of wise words, but if we do not live them ourselves, that is not wise at all, and it is hypocritical.

Wisdom is also humble, not proud, not arrogant, and not self-serving. Wisdom puts others and their legitimate needs above our own. Thus, wisdom is also self-sacrificial. It cares more about what others truly need than it cares about its own reputation.

James 3:14-16 ESV

“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.”

There is “another gospel” being taught these days that is totally self-serving, and which is false to the truth. For, it caters to the sinful cravings of the flesh. Thus, it does not put sin to death, but it entertains it, and it gives full reign for sin, all under the guise of what they call grace.

Yes, it is true that the Bible says it is by God’s grace, through faith that we are saved, and this not of ourselves, but it is the gift of God, not of works lest any should boast (Eph 2:8-9). But verse 10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

So, we are not saved by our own good works of our own flesh. There is nothing we can do in ourselves to earn or to deserve our own salvation. But our faith and our salvation are not absent of works. But they are the works of God which God prepared in advance that we should walk in them.

Our faith is action, in other words, not just the words we say. We prove our faith to be genuine by what we do. Abraham believed God and he obeyed God. All the heroes of the faith proved their faith by what they did, not by what they professed. And, Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.

So, our salvation is not freedom to keep living in sin. Jesus didn’t die merely to forgive us our sins and to promise us heaven when we die. He gave his life up for us on that cross to transform us and to conform us to his likeness, that we might be a holy people, living godly lives, pleasing to him.

So, a gospel that teaches that a mere confession of Christ is enough to secure you eternal life with God, regardless of how you live from that moment forward, is not of God, nor of the wisdom of God, but it is earthly, unspiritual and demonic. For, it does not put sin to death, but it preserves it.

James 3:17-18 ESV

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

So, the wisdom we are to seek after is the wisdom that is of God, which is evidenced by our good conduct, of the Spirit, and empowered by the Spirit of God. If we are wise in godly ways, it will be seen by how we act, not just by the words that we speak, for our actions will be pure and sincere, etc.

For this godly wisdom is what stems from the true gospel of our salvation. For, it instructs us in the ways of God, to put off our old sinful lifestyles, to be changed in our way of thinking, of the Spirit of God, and to now walk according to the Spirit and no longer according to our flesh.

It is not self-seeking, and it is not selfish in its thoughts and desires, but its desire is for the Lord, to please him in all ways. And, that is why it will bear good fruit, not bad fruit. It will demonstrate love, not hate, mercy, not disdain, purity, not immorality, and honesty, not lies and deception.

And, the fruit of this righteousness, i.e. of this godly wisdom, will be godly living, holy lives, and lives committed to Jesus Christ and to his will for our lives. It will be the sharing of the gospel, too, so that others will also know Christ and have the wisdom of God in their lives.

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer

Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

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