Christianity,

Worldly vs. Godly Wisdom

Ever hear the phrase, “lead by example”. I think it’s a popular phrase and it often goes with the sentiment that words mean very little, while leading by example is everything. I think when many people talk like this, their main concern is not to be a hypocrite. The logic is, if I don’t say it, but I do it, then when I don’t do it, at least I’m not a hypocrite. I think the intentions of this way of thinking are often good. A person wants to be “real”, truthful, and someone of integrity and honesty. Christians have often been accused of being hypocrites because you can always find one not “practicing what he preaches”. At first glance, the “lead by example” method seems like the better choice. However, “lead by example” can be very dangerous and it’s consequences far outweigh being labeled a hypocrite.

There are several points I want to consider. First, we cannot underestimate the influence of the world. Second, teaching is important for a deep understanding .  Third, we must be realistic about our own righteousness.

Recently we were sitting around the table with my parents wondering where I had learned to become materialistic. My father had expressed that he doesn’t understand where I learned the behavior because both him and my mother are very frugal in their spending. I’ve occasionally been able to talk my mother into buying a few expensive computers, which seem justified now that computer engineering is my career. But by and far, the example they provided was one of wise choices concerning money. So what happened to me? Why didn’t I follow the example my parents demonstrated? The answer is simple. The influences, messages and teachings of materialism and wealth coming from the world had a bigger influence on me than my parent’s example. I had learned materialism from the world. The Bible’s parable of the sower illustrates this problem.

Parable of the Sower
“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.?” (Matthew 13:3-9, ESV)

The “lead by example” method doesn’t sow the seeds of wisdom so that they take root deep in the heart. It just sprinkles wisdom on the surface, hoping that some of it will take root.

This brings me to my second point, teaching is important for a deep understanding. In order for the wisdom to take root deep in the heart, it must not only be heard and understood, but it must have stronger roots than that which can be torn out by the influences of the world. This is where I think non-Christians are really at a disadvantage.

I was not a Christian for most of my upbringing, however, this has changed in recent years and I thank God that he brought me to such a place where I now have access to the best source of wisdom available, the Holy Scriptures. Since becoming a Christian, I’ve had the opportunity to compare the teachings of the world with the teachings of the Bible and I’m continually amazed at what I see. The Bible provides a complete way of looking at the world. It touches every important aspect of life. It has the power to effect our deepest thoughts and desires and influence our every action and emotion. So often, I look at the self help, inspirational teachings the world offers and they are like a theater stage prop, which appears real on the outside, but empty and meaningless on the inside. And usually the scope of their effect is so limited and varied. You have self help manuals of every flavor coming out every year. But it’s no wonder they don’t take root in people’s lives. They don’t have the life changing power found in Scripture and they simply cannot compete with the wisdom derived from God, the all powerful and all knowing creator of the universe.

Sometimes Christians have been labeled Bible thumpers, as they use Scripture like a blunt instrument to wack people over the head in every circumstance. Although Scripture is good for reproof and correcting others, the example we have in Jesus is not of a person who went around correcting people with Old Testament versus in every conversation. But even the Bible thumpers have illustrated a very good practice of the Christian life. Scripture is memorized, meditated upon and repeated throughout life. It’s as if Christians are going to the gym to exercise those same muscles and resist the opposing pressures of the world and in doing so, the spiritual muscles of the Christian grow stronger and more mature. In our world, people who are serious about getting physically strong have physical trainers who point out the errors in technique, tailor the workout to the individual and encourage the athlete on a frequent basis. For the Christian, life is filled with teachers and preachers who devote themselves to the Christian in the same manner. Someone might say, “I’ve seen those television evangelists and I know the local church pastor, if they were physical trainers, I would be better off making my own workout.” There may be a lot of truth in that. In fact, many of the teachers I respect have voice their concerns on the decline of teaching, preaching in the churches in America . But I would encourage each person to find those teachers and preachers that are excellent. Commitment yourselves to learn all you can from them. Read their books, listen to their sermons, and also listen for their recommendations on other preachers and reading material. Looks for preachers and teachers that are accurate and faithful in their interpretation of Scripture. I have a handful of teachers and preachers that are not only accurate in their interpretation of Scripture, but tailor the application of Scripture to the individual, and encourage the Christian to follow the teaching. Click Here to see a list I’ve compiled for your reference.

Many people out there hate the thought of going to the gym, so perhaps illustrating Christian disciplines as physical training can sound unattractive and tedious. But the chief end of all this isn’t simply to stand on moral high ground. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says it well in question #1, “What is the chief end of man?”. “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” All the worldly ways ultimately reduce the amount of glory we are giving to God and the amount of enjoyment that we have in Him. The disciplines are not at all a way of reducing enjoyment in life, that is a lie that the world tries to sell you. Don’t buy it! What in this world can equal the wonder and majesty of the creator of the universe? Through Christian disciplines, the Christian is not only better equipped to resist the pressures of the world, but he is also better equipped to glorify and enjoy God. I have tried all that the world has to offer, material wealth, financial success, indulgent partying, doing as I please, and more. Nothing compares to the complete package for human fulfillment that God offers through Christ. And no wonder that God offers such a fullfiling life through Jesus Christ. Who would know better at how to satisfy man, than the one who knows all? No religion can compete with the God’s offer of salvation and sanctification for the human soul through Jesus Christ. If you are someone who wants to know more about this salvation through Christ, please feel free to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

My third and final point, is that we must be realistic about our own righteousness. Earlier I talked about how a person would try to avoid being labeled a hypocrite by not preaching about ideals and morality and not engaging in the seemingly hypocritical Christian life. But in doing so, the person has set up for himself a system of self-righteousness that is ultimately going to fail. This personal system of self-righteousness not only ignores God’s standard, but challenges God’s system. Any man made system is certainly going to prove less stable, less fulfilling and less fruitful. After all, how can man compete with God? In the final analysis, we are all fallible humans who are in desperate need of God to provide direction for our lives. And sometimes we even fail at discovering what direction God wants for our lives. Fortunately, God has provided Scripture, the local Church and a wealth of wisdom from preachers and teachers throughout the ages. It is wise to treasure and make use of these gifts from God.

 

 

 

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