Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
she will honor you if you embrace her.
She will place on your head a graceful garland;
she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”
– Proverbs 4:8-9
In this chapter of Proverbs, King Solomon urges his children to consider the abundant treasures of godly wisdom. The lush language and personification in these two verses both burgeon powerfully with promise. The pursuit of wisdom is greatly rewarded, Solomon says. But, why is obtaining wisdom so important, both for the new believer and the mature, seasoned one? As Matt preached last Friday on an overview of the book of James, a book of practical wisdom likened to the Proverbs of the Old Testament, he considered this question.
The Christian faith must be lived out according to God’s wisdom. As we grow in the knowledge and love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we must also obey His commands by exhibiting a faith lived out with and unto others. We are called to uphold the one-anothers in fellowship within the local church and to be the salt and light— a testimony of our regenerate birth through Christ— of the world (Hebrews 10:24-25, Matthew 5:13-16). In daily Christian living, wisdom is necessary, whether it’s choosing a class schedule for next quarter (who else endlessly plays with the colors on myUCLA Class Planner?) or considering how to joyfully serve at home, suffer well, share the Gospel with a friend, or think through applying to graduate school. I preach to myself as I write these words— my heart aches and grieves as I uphold Paul’s confession in 1 Timothy 1:15— “the saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” It is my prideful, sinful tendency to rely on my own decision making, over-planning, and other worldly counsel rather than to first seek Scripture, sufficient for all things.
Yet Christ gives the sinner grace upon grace! As we learn about practical wisdom, from the endurance of trials and temptations (James 1:2-4), the conduct of our speech (James 1:19, James 3:5-8), the sin of partiality (James 2:9), and the distinction between faith and works (James 2:14-26), the abounding grace of Jesus Christ should be at the forefront of our minds. My earnest prayer is that this year, we can prepare our hearts well to study the book of James, so that we may open ourselves to both the convicting and encouraging truth of God’s Word. I pray that we would use this year for much-needed exhortation, that the Word would bring us to grieving repentance, that we would mourn and weep over our sin, and that we would draw near to God (James 4:6-10). I pray that afterwards, we would recognize the beauty and magnificence of the humbling sacrifice of our Savior on the cross and His subsequent resurrection (Philippians 2:5-11). As we are baptized into His death and burial, praise God that we are also made anew with Him in life (Romans 6:3-5)!
I recalled this truth— the joy in having the Lord as my salvation— as Matt preached on the life of James. Jesus’ younger half-brother, the eldest of Mary and Joseph’s children, first did not believe in His brother as the Messiah, the anointed one who came from heaven to earth to save sinners. In John 7:5, this is painfully made clear, as Scripture says that not even his brothers believed in Him. But God patiently, leniently, and kindly brought James to transformative repentance and life-giving faith in Christ, just like He did to you and me. James later became the shepherd of Jewish believers in Jerusalem and was known as “old camel knees” and James the Just, for his prayerfulness and zeal for righteousness.
I close with a few verses in James that exhort the believer to be a hearer and doer of the Word, words to prod the sinner towards a deeper obedience to Him.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
– James 1:22-25
10.08.21 Fall 2021 Week 2