Growing Up Into Wisdom
Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse,
and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
For by me your days will be multiplied,
and years will be added to your life.
If you are wise, you are wise for yourself;
if you scoff, you alone will bear it.
As a Christian, one of the things we aim for is that we grow in maturity. James says as much, ‘Count it all joy my brother when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.’ These words, ‘perfect and complete’ are the idea of maturity. And the whole rest of James helps aim our trajectory to growing up.
Now the difficult thing is that we don’t always grow up, do we? I know that there are people who have claimed Christ their whole life and yet, their apparent growth stopped in high school or in the college ministry they were a part of. This is a serious thing, what are we to do about it? I think the first thing is that we’ve got to consider things that hinder us. And then we’ve got to think about the proper posture we ought to have to position us to continue to grow spiritually.
Next week will be our final week we meet as a church. Now, I know that many of you have experienced some spiritual growth over the course of this little bit here. The challenge is that we not let it end here. Our aim is that we be reformed and always reforming. We’re saved by God and continually being sanctified. And honestly as your pastor, I should hope that whatever foundation I built (along with Emmanuel, Tom Zempel, and the other Jason), it should only be a launching point for further up and further in. May you pursue exponential spiritual growth as you continue to put yourself in places where God’s means of sanctification are emphasized.
Now the joy is that God will continue his work in problematic and difficult circumstances, he intends to preserve his own, but we also are responsible to pursue spiritual health. So what things hinder our growth? I think we can name a handful of things: sin, the world, and the devil. This is simply a list in 1 John, but it is a fine place to begin. One of the biggest hindrances to our growth in Christ is our own sin. Whether sexual sin, anger, or selfishness, sin causes spiritual atrophy.
And the world also chokes out the seed of the word. America has filled up our imagination that we can get all that we desire. The post-WWII building boom has exploded what the normal of a home ought to be. Fast fashion fed the desire for changing clothes all the time. Target has all the toys we could ever want. And it’s cheap enough that we could buy a lot of it. Our food is so subsidized, we have to work at it not to eat too much. We desire, and we can almost fulfill all of our desires. The world and all its desires will choke away the seed of the word. And on top of it all the devil, that ancient serpent, has been at it from the beginning deceiving us, tempting us in perhaps the most mundane ways we could imagine, but also the way we are most wont to fall into temptation. All that to say, we’ve got to work to do something different.
Now we should never neglect the truth that we do and act out of a place of resting in the salvation Christ has bought through his blood. From that, we ought to pursue both putting our sin to death, fighting the temptations of the devil, and denying the desires that have been fueled by the world’s images. But we also ought to pursue the wisdom found in Christ. Christ has spoken his word, and it is in his word that we have life. Wherever we all go next as far as churches, we ought to consider that the word is central and not the worldly accoutrements. It is not wrong to have something nice, but if we are only desiring nice things and we are drawn in by flashiness, it is unhealthy. Would that we were in a run-down church who found only the word of God precious. Additionally, we hear in the words of Solomon in Proverbs that we ought to build our house on the wisdom found in God and this is first found in fearing the Lord. We are to put God in his rightful place as Lord and we are to learn what he loves most and love likewise. I think as we grow in our maturity, we will grow less enamoured by entertaining things and more in love with what is truly precious: God’s people gathered around God’s word, submitting to it and worshiping God in it all.
The beautiful thing about this picture is that a person who has grown into wisdom is a person who will receive criticism. It is quite interesting. It doesn’t say berate the wise person, but I do think that a wise person will not react to the folly of someone always correcting him. He will receive it, consider it, and also ask how he can help that person grow in the fear of the Lord. And the church who is pursuing maturity is a place that others can join and catch that growth into maturity. And the rubber hits the road in times of testing and trial. How is the difficulty refining you? It ought to produce steadfastness. In the last decade, difficulties have produced a lot of whining internet people. But this shouldn’t be so. We ought to smell the beautiful aroma of Christ as we hear of others suffering and as we too suffer. And through it, we grow in steadfastness, and this brings us to the place where there will be no Sun, for the Lord our God will be the Sun and we will be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.