Gentle Wisdom

The Bible speaks of two different kinds of wisdom, one that is of the world and one that is of God. In his epistle, James gives us a list of characteristics that describe “the wisdom that is from above.” he says that it “is first pure, then peaceful,” two characteristics we talked about in posts titled “Pure Wisdom” and “Peaceful Wisdom.”The next characteristic on this list is “gentle.”

Intelligent people often have a reputation for having a cutting wit and a low tolerance for those who don’t see things their way. Wisdom doesn’t act like that. It is gentle in a fitting, proper, and unassertive way

Defining gentleness

There are several Greek words you can translate as “gentleness.” The one James uses is epieikes. This word has to do with legal fairness and indicates moderation, clemency, and equable dealings with others. It involves being “lenient, yielding, and unassertive.” The closely related word epieikei expresses “the virtue that rectifies and redresses the severity of a sentence.”

This type of gentleness is about actively choosing equity and justice in our dealings with others, even when you could assert your legal rights against them. Gentleness keeps us from “the danger that ever lurks upon the assertion of legal rights lest they be pushed to immoral limits” (Spiros’ Zodhiates’ The Complete WordStudy Dictonary: New Testament, entries 1932 and 1933). Read more

How Do You Hold on to Hope When You’re Fighting Anxiety and Depression?

Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental illnesses, and they often occur together. Just because its relatively common, though, doesn’t make dealing with both feel any less weird. Exhibit A, this image I ran across on Pinterest:

It’s overly simplified, of course, to say “depression is when you don’t really care about anything” and “anxiety is when you care too much about everything.” Still, these comments capture part of how strange it feels to simultaneously (or alternately) deal with depression and anxiety. “Having both is staying in bed because you don’t want to go to school and then panicking because you don’t want to fail. Having both is wanting to go see your friends so you don’t lose them all, then staying home in bed because you don’t want to make the effort.”

Anxiety and depression are going to show up a bit different for everyone who struggles with them, but for me it’s like one day I’m on-edge, jittery, and so distracted by my inner anxiety monologue that I struggle to remember how things actually happened. Then the next day I feel like a weight’s pressing down on me snuffing out all motivation and hope. And some days, the smothering feeling is there but I’m also anxious about stuff I should care about and there’s this weird fight going on in my head. It’s exhausting.

Holding on to hope isn’t easy when you’re fighting a struggle inside your mind that tells you the worst could happen and there’s no point in trying to do anything about it. But we’re also not helpless victims of our own minds. We can change the patterns of our thoughts. We can choose to hold on to hope even when there seems no reason for it, and the easiest/best way to do this is with the Lord’s help.

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Do I Love God Enough To Obey Him?

The apostle John had a particularly close relationship with Jesus. Though Jesus loved all of “his own who were in the world,” John is identified in particular as a disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:1, 23; 19:26; 20:2, 21:7, 20-24). If we want to know Jesus — and we do, because that’s part of salvation and eternal life (John 17:3; Phil. 3:8) — then who better to learn from than John?

We’re taking a short break from our series on godly wisdom because I really felt like this was the topic I should be studying this week. Love and relationship are so important to God. Knowing Him and being known by Him are central to salvation, Christianity, and our eternal hope. We have to know Him in His way, though. Jesus said there will be people at the end who think they know Him and yet never had a relationship with Him (Matt. 7:21-23). That’s a scary thought, but John makes sure to leave us guides in his writings for how to love Jesus and how to tell whether or not we truly know Him.

Knowing God is Essential to Life

John’s writings are among my favorite in the New Testament. He highlights Jesus’ power and divinity — the things that make Him so much higher than us — more than any other gospel writer, yet He also highlights Jesus’s love and His longing for relationship — the things that make Him closer to us. The way John talks about Jesus and the Father makes it clear that the powerful, eternal, creator God longs for a relationship with us.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him. Without him, nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. … The Word became flesh, and lived among us.  (John 1:1-4, 14, WEB)

Jesus came here not just to die for our sins and reconcile us to God, but also to get to know us. He is the good shepherd who knows His sheep and is known by His own, who choose to follow Him (John 10:14, 27). He calls us His followers, friends, chosen, and beloved (John 15:12-16). And He reveals that knowing Him and the Father is key to eternal life (John 17:3). The importance of knowing and being known by God cannot be overstated. Read more

Peaceful Wisdom

We’ve been working on a study of godly wisdom, as described in James 3:17. Last week, we talked about how “the wisdom from above is first pure.” James goes on to say it is “then peaceful.”

In what way is wisdom peaceful? We might say that wisdom avoids strife, but that can’t be all there is to it since peace in the Bible goes far beyond lack of conflict. It’s a state of tranquility, harmony, and wholeness that comes from being in a relationship with God. And since God is the source of true wisdom, it’s not too much of a surprise that wisdom and peace are linked.

Paths of Wisdom

There are not many verses in the Bible directly talking about the link between wisdom and peace. Searching for those two words turns up a verse in 1 Kings 5:12 that says “Yahweh gave Solomon wisdom, as he promised him. There was peace between Hiram and Solomon.” Other verses talk about wise people who hold their peace, but that phrase means to keep silent rather than to have shalom (Job. 33:33; Prov. 11:12).

As usual when studying wisdom, the best place to find what we’re looking for is in Proverbs. This book of wisdom has several things to say about peace, and one of these passages is found in a lengthy discussion of wisdom. Read more

Pure Wisdom

Last week, we looked at how God defines His kind of wisdom. One verse in particular, James 3:17, lists characteristics of “the wisdom from above” and gives us a starting point for defining godly wisdom. The first characteristic on that list is “pure.”

What does it mean to say that something, in this case wisdom, is pure? Synonyms for this word include undefiled, chaste, clean, innocent, and sacred. In Greek, the word hagnos (G53) is very closely related to hagios (G40), which is the word used for a thing or person set apart for God’s holy use.

Purity and holiness are key concepts in scripture. We’re supposed to have these traits, and they’re part of the type of wisdom that comes from God Himself. Since they’re so important, let’s take a closer look and see what we can learn.

A Pure Bride For Jesus

 For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy. For I married you to one husband, that I might present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve in his craftiness, so your minds might be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. (2 Cor. 11:2-3, WEB)

Priests in the Old Testament were told to “take a wife in her virginity” (Lev. 21:13), and Paul extends  this into a metaphor for talking about us as the future bride of our High Priest, Jesus the Messiah. He’s not talking about never having sex, though, or even never having sinned.  The purity of a Christian is something we arrive at as part of a process. Read more

What Is God’s Definition Of Wisdom?

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.

We all have a basic idea of what wisdom is, even if the first example to come to mind is a humorous one. It has to do with applying knowledge and experience in a sound manner. The Bible has a lot to say about wisdom and its importance. Part of what it says involves clarifying that God’s wisdom is not the same as worldly wisdom. James writes,

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by his good conduct that his deeds are done in gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t boast and don’t lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, sensual, and demonic. (James 3:13-15, WEB)

There is a wisdom that comes “from above” — from God — and there’s a wisdom that does not. James defines the wisdom from above in another verse, which we’ll come back to later. We need to be careful which wisdom we practice and what type of wisdom we praise.

Wisdom of Men vs. Gift of God

Paul also speaks of the difference between “wisdom of men” and the wisdom from above. One is about clever, persuasive arguments. The other is about truth.

My speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith wouldn’t stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. We speak wisdom, however, among those who are full grown, yet a wisdom not of this world nor of the rulers of this world who are coming to nothing. But we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the wisdom that has been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds for our glory (1 Cor. 2:4-7, WEB)

God’s wisdom is something precious, something hidden from people who don’t know Him. Once we do know Him, though, this wisdom is available for the asking.

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