Fruit-Tested and Heaven-Approved

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, June 9, 2019 0 comments

by Logan Ames

If you’ve ever been in a situation when you weren’t sure that someone’s actions were going to match their words, you’ve probably heard the saying, “The proof is in the pudding." In other words, we know we have the right ingredients to get the job done, but we don’t know the result until we see the finished product and it has been adequately tested. Some of the prominent figures of the New Testament would agree with this saying, but they would use a much healthier alternative to pudding - fruit. John the Baptist saw a bunch of Pharisees and Sadducees who rejected the good news of Jesus coming to him to be baptized after they had watched the crowd do so. When he realized they were just trying to do what was popular, he confronted them and called them out, then challenged them, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). It wasn’t their one act of being baptized that would ultimately show whether they were serious about repenting, but the overall fruit that is produced in their lives.

In last week’s post on James 3:13-16, I wrote about what true godly wisdom is NOT. I discussed the need for humility and the fact that head knowledge without a fear of the Lord actually sets us further away from true wisdom. In James 3:17-18, the writer switches course from talking about worldly wisdom to pointing out what godly wisdom, which comes from heaven, is supposed to look like in our lives. In talking about the characteristics of this godly wisdom, James trots out a list that rivals that of the “fruit of the Spirit” described by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23. James says, “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). Because this wisdom comes from heaven, its fruit is consistent with that of the Holy Spirit, with the holiness of God.

I want to dig into James’ description a little more so that those of us who wonder whether or not we are wise in the world’s eyes or wise in God’s eyes have a “mirror” of sorts that we can look at and get an honest reflection to help us answer that question. Godly wisdom is “first of all pure." This means more than just sexual purity; it is undefiled by even the popular or common sinful attitudes of the world. Peter thought he had godly wisdom when he stood up for Jesus and declared that he would never allow his friend, teacher, and Messiah to be handed over to the authorities to suffer and die. But Jesus boldly said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Matthew 16:23). This may seem harsh coming from Jesus but he had to be crystal clear so that Peter and the other disciples understood the vast difference between worldly thinking and a life based on the concerns of God. Peter was a bold follower of Jesus who had just demonstrated that boldness by declaring that Jesus is the Messiah (Matthew 16:16), but the sinful and selfish attitudes of the world infiltrated his mind that quickly. True godly wisdom recognizes this worldly attitude, reject it, and works to eliminate it from the mind altogether.

James then builds on the initial statement that godly wisdom must be pure. He says it is “peace-loving” and “considerate." It takes on the character of God in this way. The Messiah was described as the “Prince of Peace” in Isaiah 9:6, centuries before He came to the earth and demonstrated that peace even though he had every right and reason to punish us with all the might available to him as King of kings. Godly wisdom doesn’t love punishment and only uses it when absolutely necessary. Godly wisdom loves peace, gentleness, and kindness. It considers the benefit of others rather than its own rights. It may have a right to apply the letter of the law strictly, but it recognizes when it is wrong to do so and necessary to forgive and look beyond someone’s offense.

Next, James says that heavenly wisdom is “submissive." This simply means that it is willing to yield to others. It is not stubborn or stiff. A person who demonstrates the quality of submissiveness does not demand his own way. He is willing to listen to others, is open to what they need, and willingly defers his own rights for the sake of those around him. Heavenly wisdom is “full of mercy and good fruit." It recognizes that we must show mercy to others if we want God to show mercy to us. Too often, we seek mercy from God for ourselves but don’t show it to others. Godly wisdom recognizes the level of mercy we receive is DIRECTLY affected by the level of mercy we give to others (Matthew 7:1-2). It is “full of good fruit” in the sense that someone cannot just claim they have this wisdom from above with no evidence in their lives to back it up. A person who has heavenly wisdom naturally demonstrates it in action.

James wraps up his discussion by stating that heavenly wisdom is “impartial and sincere." It is not partial to others, meaning it does not assume problems or look for faults by which to judge them. It is sincere in that it does not pretend to be something it isn’t. The NKJV translates this word as “without hypocrisy." Those who have heavenly wisdom cannot be posers. False humility doesn’t work. They always act according to their own character and not to try to prove something that isn’t true in the first place. James then concludes what we know as chapter 3 by saying, “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” (v. 18). In other words, if we live peaceably according to the characteristics of this godly wisdom previously described, we’ll see the benefits in the lives and relationships of those around us. It is a direct contrast to the envy, selfish ambition, and disorder mentioned in James 3:16.

In closing, I want to tell you about a book I am reading right now called Love Without Limits by Nick Vujicic. I just read a chapter that deals with a struggle that is personal to my wife and I along with many other couples out there. Nick talks about the shift in perspective that was needed once he got married to his wife, Kanae, and especially after she gave birth to their first child. Nick was born without any limbs and travels the world speaking about his life and evangelizing about the goodness of God despite his physical limitations.

Shortly after his son was born, Nick left for a four-month tour. He writes about the excitement he had at the thought of coming home to snuggle with his wife and son and his expectation that they would just smother him with kisses and desire to snuggle with him and comfort him after all his hard work. Like any husband who’s been in those shoes finds out, Nick learned when he got home that his expectations were far away from reality. His wife had been living as basically a single parent that entire time. While she loved Nick and was excited to see him when he arrived, she was also in desperate need of a break and saw HIM as her relief. At first, this bothered Nick. But I was struck by his ability to self-reflect and change his attitude. He writes about how his wife and son are “excellent mirrors that reveal just how flawed and selfish a man (he) can be."

Nick realized that he had lived a long time as a single man devoting his life to ministry. It was rewarding, yet he felt very lonely at times. Now, God has given him the precious gift of a family and he failed to change his perspective from a life focused on SELF to a life focused on providing for his family both financially and with his presence. As Nick came to this difficult realization, he could either demand that HIS rights and HIS needs be respected and cared for, or he could change his focus and consider what he can do for the benefit of others. This, my friends, is the difference between Godly wisdom and the worldly wisdom that demands to be recognized. Nick apologized to his wife and told her he never wants to be away from his family for that long again. He had a renewed focus and sense of what it means to be a man of God. May you look in the “mirror” of your own life and honestly reflect on where you need to change, as Nick did. God will bless you as you seek His holy face and His wisdom.

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