“I am a Christian, Jesus Christ was sent to the world for me a sinner, I am saved by the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross, I am alive because he has redeemed me.
I am a Christian and I make a commitment to live by his promises, live by his power, amazed the Spirit of God is dwelling in me.
I am a Christian, a follower of Christ, committed to growing in faith, learning constantly, living as a forgiven imperfect soul.
I am a Christian, putting Jesus Christ on the throne of my heart, the center of my thoughts, the motivation for living, the strength in my bones.
I am a Christian that is excited about sharing with others the good news of Jesus Christ that all can turn to him and be transformed by his power.
I am a Christian.”
It’s time to draw a line.
Over the years people have asked me if there are any good books that would help them grow in faith, or something they could study to help in their Christian walk. Guess what? Faith is a verb. Faith is a living dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ, with an emphasis on the living. Studying is great. Inspiration by a host of great writers is a blessing. But the only way to grow in your faith is to live your faith. We are saved by grace which is evidenced by a changed life.
I have a fear: when you hear the word, WISDOM, your eyes glaze over. It is a wonderful word, yet we hear it and kinda know what it means, but it can so easily become part of standard Christian language. When we talk about wisdom how easy it is to dismiss it because we are who we are and we aren’t sure how to become wiser. I want to try and simplify the word WISDOM.
Whenever I read the word WISDOM in the Bible, I think choices. Wisdom is about choices. The Christian life is meant to impact every area of life, including choices. A Wise person makes good choices. A foolish person makes bad choices. A wise Christian person makes choices that honor Jesus Christ who sits on the throne of your heart. A paraphrase of James 1:5 highlights the impact of choices: “If any of you makes poor choices that compromise your Christian walk, you should ask God, who gives generously to all, even those who are feeling out of control, and God will help you make better choices that are honoring to him.”
Make good God honoring choices and you will grow in your faith. Life is about choices. I’m not talking today about inconsequential choices that make little difference, such as what tie I decided to wear today. Sally assures me I am quite handsome no matter what tie I have on [btw, next week’s message is about arrogance :) ]. I am talking about moral choices, priority choices, healthy choices that make a difference. God cares about our choices. There are theological beliefs that God has preordained our choices, and perhaps there is some truth in that, but all I know is the Bible and life show me people make real choices that have consequences. Some choices make us more aware of God and others choices are to our shame. God gave us the capacity to make choices. We don’t always have a choice in the things that happen to us, but we have a choice in how we respond. Wisdom is the desire and God given ability to make good choices.
In today’s scripture, James 3:13-18, we learn there are two choices before us: earthly choices and heavenly choices. The Christian life is about choices.
Often the approach to life is making earthly choices: what I want, what is best for me, and then when we get in trouble we turn to God and say, “OK, I’m in trouble, now send me a miracle.” I like miracles, believe in miracles, but the Bible says we are first and foremost to live by wisdom, by making heavenly choices. If a couple is deciding whether or not to get married, the best way to make the decision is to ask the Lord and he will give you a conviction of heart…there is much to go into the decision, but bottom line is wisdom from heaven. Often the choices we make are obvious. We don’t need an audible voice from God to know the movies we choose to watch are not God honoring, or the way we choose to spend our time.
Choices. We have all sorts of criteria for making choices that sound good, but many are in reality earthly, they may even lead to good choices, but not always ~ Rick Warren calls a lot of the criteria for how we make decisions “unreliable authorities”:
"Many of our trouble occur because we base our choices on unreliable authorities; culture ("everyone is doing it"), tradition ("we've always done it"), reason ("it seems logical"), or emotion ("it just felt right")."
Unreliable means the choices we make based on those authorities may turn out to be good or bad….they are inconsistent. But heavenly choices will always be right. If I consistently make heavenly choices, “not my will but your will”, ALL my decision will be God honoring. Young Christians often put at the top of their prayers a list of things they want God to do for them. My challenge for everyone this week is to pray each morning a simple prayer, “Lord, may every decision before me today be honoring in your eyes, help me Lord to make good decisions pleasing to you.” Heavenly decision making is about God and His will!
Let’s walk through today’s scripture:
READ James 3:13 ~ Are you among those who make good choices ~ it makes a huge difference in the character and quality of your life. Good choices regardless of tension, means you have a satisfying life. You know how I know a lot of people are wise in this church and make good choices? because many are at peace, many enjoy life, I’m not saying there is any among us that don’t have room to grow in our faith, but there are many who make a lot of good choices. Let me pick on Doris Hammingh. A week and a half ago she made an awesome choice she will never regret to go see her good friend Barb Bol one more time in Alsaska. Barb has now died. And Doris almost glows with the blessings she received. God honoring choices are humbling because God blesses you and God is amazing. Al Carlson asked Geri to marry him 58 yeas ago….and in spite of their teasing one another, Al joking about Geri never making him pies and cookies…what a wonderful God honoring choice. Who makes good choices among us in this room today…. A lot of you…
James 3:14-16 describes earthly decisions. READ. According to v. 13 you make heavenly choices by asking God, but earthly choices out of envy…perhaps you think you deserve this or that, you compare yourself to others, you overspend your money in an effort to make yourself feel better, these fit into the “unreliable authorities.” No matter how well meaning your criteria for making choices is, if it is anything other than God honoring, it is earthly. It is based on you. It is based on your wisdom. At the end of 3:14 this is a prescription ~ “Do not deny the truth.” In other words, be honest about how you make consequential decisions. It is natural to make decisions based on earthly reasons, it is supernatural to make decisions based on what God wants. The way to go from earthly to heavenly decision making is to be honest. The way to go grow in your decision making is to admit you are putting yourself as the priority instead of God.
I have heard it said that if you have a problem with gossip, commit the person to prayer. You cannot curse someone and pray for them at the same time. The same thing can be said of yourself, speak the truth, in prayer admit that your decisions are less than God honoring, and in time, the prayer will be answered with a transformation of your spirit and you will turn to God in conviction and be able to declare with authority “I am a Christian and I live my life to honor God.” It is time to take a stand by making God honoring choices.
James ends this portion of scripture details of the character of people who make heavenly choices. READ James 3:17. Good God honoring heavenly choices result in a most amazing life that is 100% a gift of God.
Pure., Peace loving. Considerate. Submissive. Mercy. Good Fruit. Impartial. Sincere.
Last year I did a series on the fruit of the Spirit. I already put this list in future notes in another 2-3 years for an awesome outline of what it means to be a Christian. Meditate on each of these qualities. Christians who follow the Lord Jesus Christ are people of high character. When the goal of your life is to honor Jesus Christ. When the criteria for all your decision making is to ask what God wants. The gift of God is a blessed life ~
- pure as opposed to a complex life out of control.
- Peace loving as opposed to competitive with winners and losers that characterizes so much of the tension of relationships that plague us.
- Considerate means your choices are based on how what I decide effects others
- submissive means putting others first ~ when is the last time you truly made a decision that was a sacrifice for somebody else?
- Mercy –living to build others up even when they make bad decisions,
- Good fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control),
- Impartial ~ too often decision making is based on what the other person can do for you, heavenly choices are impartial, doing what is right no matter what the other person can do for you, in an earlier message James warned the people to not favor the rich over the poor….
- sincere ~ you mean it, if you force yourself to help others you will resent it….
The last verse is a summary principle, a wise saying similar to Proverbs: READ. The scripture in a nutshell: Heavenly Choices Seek Peace. Pray a silent prayer whenever you are faced with a consequential decision: “Lord, may the decision that is before me bring peace to all the people it effects.” Do that, and God will gift to you a life of righteousness, all will be right with God. Practice peace, make that the focus of your choices, and you will grow in faith.
The choices you make will determine the quality and character of your life. Earthly choices are based on unreliable authorities. Heavenly choices are based on what is God honoring. Be honest in how you make choices, turn to God in conviction, and in time there will be a transformation of your spirit and you will be able to declare with authority “I am a Christian and I live my life to honor God.” Amen.