Pursuing Wisdom

Chapel 01.18.2018- Pursuing Wisdom


Well, this is the second chapel of the new year, and I don’t know about you, but a new year’s is time to be thinking about how are things gonna be different for me, what are my goals, my priorities? And so, in my first chapel of the year, I wanna talk to you about wisdom, about wisdom, and I wanna take you to one of the most important probably educational texts of the Bible. It’s found in the book of Proverbs, chapter one verses one through seven. So if you have a Bible, would you turn to it please, and I’d like to read it for you. I think we can get it up on the screen, if I can figure it out here, there we go. The Proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel. To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity, to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth. Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Fools despise wisdom and instruction. May the Lord add his blessing to the reading of his word. That’s a mega-text. That’s a really important text. It tells us that wisdom’s important, and the heart of learning involves wisdom. Do you believe that? Because wisdom’s in short supply these days. If you’re in business, you need wisdom. If you’re in politics right now, our leaders desperately need wisdom. If you’re a judge, you need wisdom to make the right call. If you’re a ministry leader or a pastor, you need wisdom. If you’re a parent and you’re raising these little kids who are gonna grow up, you need tons of wisdom. If you’re a board member of CCU or if you’re the president of CCU, you need more wisdom than ever in your lifetime. So it’s really an important text, important topic, and I think we need to think about it. So just look up on the screen if you don’t have a Bible and just notice all the wisdom words in the text. Solomon, the wisest person who’s ever lived, according to scripture, to know wisdom, wise dealing, prudence, discretion, the wise, wisdom, fools despise it, obtaining guidance. It’s all about this important topic of wisdom. And proverbs, you see, is a wisdom book. What the Psalms is to prayer, wisdom is to Proverbs, wisdom and learning. It’s all about how to learn and how to be knowledgeable about the most important things. If you ever read through Proverbs in a sitting, you’ll remember the first section deals with wisdom for young people, the second section deals with wisdom for all people, and the end deals with wisdom for leaders. But it’s a book of really, kind of a formal education book of a parent to a child or a king to his court, Solomon to his son, and he’s trying to say, you gotta walk in this way. You’ve gotta take on this kind of life if you wanna do well. Get wisdom, get wisdom. It’s a phrase that’s repeated through the book, and it’s a phrase I think I need to hear and we all need to hear today.

Now, I wanna ask you a question. Do we have any philosophers in the house, any philosophy lovers, students? Just kind of raise your hand. All right, give it up for the philosophers. Philosophy, the word philosophy, it’s a word that comes from two Greek words. The Greeks were considered the founders of western philosophy. So philo comes from phileo, which means to love, and then sophia, philosophy, is wisdom. So philosophy literally is the love of wisdom, and the Greeks focused a lot on abstract wisdom, metaphysics and epistemology and things like that. The Hebrews and wisdom literature in the Bible, so that would be Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, is really more focused on practical wisdom, wisdom under God, the one God, the sovereign God who exists, and so, it says a lot about wisdom training. In fact, right here in this passage, when you look at it, modeling is a part of wisdom. So Solomon was to model what he wanted his trainees to be like. Instruction is a part of wisdom, giving ’em the right way to walk into. Wisdom has a moral dimension. It involves justice and equity and righteousness. Wisdom involves guidance. And so, you wanna know the will of God for your life? You need wisdom, because wisdom helps us in so many ways. Wisdom involves the words of the wise, and there’s a big emphasis on taking in all of the words of wise people and the sayings of the wise that you can, and of course, in those days, what they would do is they would memorize them and memorize speeches and memorize these to let it shape their soul, so that the storehouse of their memory for wise sayings was really important. And then faith was a key part of this. The fear of the Lord has a lot to do with wisdom. Now, I find this fascinating, because when you look at higher education in the Western world, so we’re talking universities and schools, you go back to the beginning, and the foundation had three elements.

There was competence, so you train somebody, you want them to be competent in their area, but then the second area was character, which involved morals and virtues and wisdom, and the third area was faith, those three components. So faith, character, competence. But as time went on in the Western world, you see people sort of chucking off one or the other. So let’s get rid of faith. We don’t need to teach faith, that’s not important. We’ll just teach character and competence. And then time goes by, and let’s get rid of the character part, ’cause we don’t know what morals are or what the purpose of life is, so we’ll just teach skills and competencies and give out knowledge. But of course, the founding of our universities and colleges, they had a different vision, a vision that CCU still embraces, that these three elements are vital for anybody’s education, and they really lead to life and solidness and all the rest. Now, you say, what is wisdom? If we’re gonna talk about wisdom, we better know what it means and what Proverbs means by it, and I’ll tell you what wisdom is not. Wisdom in Proverbs, it is not information. It’s not information. There’s gobs of information out there today. We’re being hit by a tsunami of data. We’re on information overload. We get hosed by information. We’re told that new technical information doubles every two years. The Economist came out about a year ago and said 90% of the world’s data has been generated in the last two years. So we’re getting plastered with data and with information, but that is not wisdom. And some of you who are a little older, you know in the internet world, we’ve gone from megabytes to gigabytes to terabytes to petabytes to exabytes to zettabytes to yottabytes to Hittites, Amalekites and all the rest. And it’s just expanding so rapidly. But wisdom is not information, and by the way, wisdom is not even knowledge, because there are a lot of people who have lots of knowledge that aren’t wise. Wisdom is not high IQ. There are a lot of people who have a high IQ who are fools, or have a high SAT, but they’re not wise, they’re fools. So it’s not those things, but wisdom, according to the Bible, can mean a number of things. It can mean distilled general truths. So you have these wise sayings in Proverbs. Someone said a proverb is a short statement based on long experience, so wisdom can be this distilled general truths, or wisdom can mean a skill. It can mean that, that’s not the full meaning, a masterful understanding of something. So a craftsman, as described in the Old Testament who’s building the tabernacle, they were to be wise with skills. By the way, do we have any artists in the house? Raise your hands. Okay, we need artists, right? Okay, important. Administrative skill fits into this category. Do we have any business majors? Of course we do, they’re dressed like me today. They look wonderful. I mean, they’ve got suits and dresses. So where are our business majors? Come on, don’t be shy, don’t be bashful. You look good, yes you do. So, wisdom can mean an administrative skill. But the thrust of Proverbs is that wisdom means the ability to discern the natural moral order of creation, and to make good decisions based on the way the world is that God created. It views the world as something God has designed, ordained, maintains. It’s a coherent system. There’s a God-given structure to the world that some have called this creational revelation, and wisdom is the ability to discern this reality that God has made. And so, the burden of the wise is to pass on this sense of what reality is, what God-given reality is to the next generation. Now, as soon as I say that, I know what some of you are thinking. You’re thinking, well, in our world, we don’t believe in reality. We talk about my reality and your reality, and sometimes, that’s the way we talk, but Proverbs begs to differ and says wisdom means knowing reality as God has made it. And if you deny that, you’re swimming against the stream of creation. You wanna know the world as God has made it and fit into it and align yourself to it. I heard the other day about a woman from Norway who is convinced that she’s a cat. So, she hisses at her dog, and she doesn’t like water, and she wears little ears, and she’s got an artificial tail. But I’ve got news for her. She may like cats, she may have a house full of cats, but she’s not a cat. She wasn’t born like a cat. She doesn’t think like a cat. She doesn’t speak like a cat. She can try to imitate them, but she has to deal with reality. And Proverbs says the opposite of wisdom is folly, is foolishness, where you’re out of line with reality and you get lost, and you become gullible and naive, and you go down this path that does not lead to life. And so, the passion of Proverbs is get wisdom. It’s a plea, get wisdom. This is the way of life. This is what we desperately need. This is the secret of success in any realm, and then it says wisdom is precious, it’s valuable. In chapter eight verse 11, it’s more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. That is wisdom, find it at any cost.

So I wanna ask you, as you come to CCU, or you think about coming to CCU, what are you after? I know some of us are after success, career, to become great in our fields, and some, if we’re honest, we’re after fame, and some, we’re after a great salary, and all kinds of things, but is wisdom on your list? Is that precious thing that Proverbs described, is that what you long to be, to be wise? And of course, verse seven tells us that the beginning of knowledge and wisdom is what? There it is, the fear of the Lord. It’s the beginning of knowledge. That is, it’s the necessary condition for anyone who wants true wisdom. Now, what is the fear of the Lord? Well, it’s not terror or horror. Luther said a good way to understand it, it’s filial fear. It’s like a healthy respect of a child for his father. You know he’s stronger. You know he can have righteous wrath and sometimes lash out. You know he’s bigger, but you know he loves you, and you know he’s there for you. And so it’s a healthy reverence and respect, the fear of the Lord. That kind of fear is the beginning of knowledge. The essential starting point of knowledge and wisdom, Proverbs says, is this. The first running on the ladder for being a knowledgeable person, a learned person, a wise person, is the respect and submission to the Lord. Not God, the Lord, the God of Israel, the Creator and the Redeemer. By the way, with CCU, we talk about our starting point is different. We teach scripture. We require you to take Bible because we want you to know God’s word, and we talk about Jesus a lot because we believe that he’s the center of everything, and submitting to God is submitting to his Son Jesus Christ. So in the minutes that we have remaining this morning, I would like to talk about how you get this wisdom, how you grow in it, and I want you to follow me closely here, because this is something we all need to take in very conscientiously. You don’t get this all at once, you grow in it. Jesus grew in the wisdom and the stature of the Lord. Solomon grew in wisdom, and the young people in his court were to grow in wisdom. So lemme offer you seven quick steps towards wisdom in 2018. You want wisdom, step number one, ask God for it. Ask God for it, pray, call out. That’s what Solomon did at Gibeon. In I Kings three, God said, what would you like as a new king? And Solomon said, I need wisdom, God, and God gave it to him. He’s the one who gives wisdom. Romans 11, oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of God. What a great source of wisdom. James 1:5, if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally. So if you want to be wise, the first thing you do is you pray, and you say, God, I’m not wise. I’m kind of gullible, I’m kind of foolish, but I wanna be wise. Would you help me to grow in wisdom while I’m at CCU? Step one. Step two, learn to discern permanent things. Learn to discern what is permanent, foundational things, because wisdom is knowing what changes and what doesn’t change. What are those unchangeable, transcendent norms or laws or truths that God has built in creation? What is the order of creation? What is the enduring moral order that he set in place? What is the outward order that he ordains for the state? What is the inner order that he wants for your soul? It’s so easy to get lost in our culture, but when you grasp onto permanent things, they become like an anchor or a compass to guide you, and it simplifies everything. You ignore permanent things, and life becomes a maze. You affirm them and embrace them, and all of the sudden, you start to grow in wisdom. Now, of course, the Greeks taught like this. They taught about permanent things, but it was Proverbs which teaches that these permanent things are rooted in the God who is there, and they’re relevant to everything. So if you wanna be wise, second step is you have to say, okay, so what is timeless, eternal? What do I need to sort of be my compass, those permanent things that God has set in place? Third step to wisdom, humble yourself and become teachable. You’ll never grow in wisdom if you don’t become humble and teachable. Proverbs 11:12, with humility comes wisdom. Teachability means you submit to somebody who’s wiser than you, to your teachers. By the way, do we have any faculty in the house? Come on, where are you, raise your hand. Give it up for our faculty. So, when you talk to faculty, I say, I don’t want you just to dispense knowledge. I mean, you’re experts in your field. I want you to be a living curriculum for our students. I want you to spend time with our students, and then if you’re a student, I hope you realize that you just don’t know everything. You might think you know a lot, but you have a lot to learn, and they’re here to teach you. And they’ve studied, and they’ve disciplined themselves and earned different degrees, but they’re experts in their field, and they’re gonna help you become wise. So part of growing in wisdom is to respectfully submit to a teacher. That doesn’t mean you don’t ask hard questions, or you don’t engage in dialog, but it means you recognize that they’re the God-given teachers that God had put over you right now. So if you wanna become wise, you become teachable.

Fourth thing, if you wanna become wise, you study the past, and you study great literature. You study the past and you study great literature. Any English majors in the house? All right, see, I didn’t ignore you, all right? You study human literature, letters, why? Because you have the opportunity to study the best that has been thought and written ever when you’re at the university. I remember as a student, I didn’t major in English, but I remember taking Great British Writers I at my college, and it was one of the best courses in my whole four years. I discovered writers I didn’t know about, and I still read them, and they lift me up, and they help me to think, and they make me wise. So, reading great literature, studying history and biography, the history of great men and women. Any history majors in the house, by the way? All right, that’s getting closer to the love of my heart. You expose yourself to great events and the great tradition. G.K. Chesterton said I believe in the democracy of the dead, the filtered wisdom of the ages. And so as you study history, hopefully you pick up wisdom of that’s not the way we wanna do it. This is the way we do wanna do it. That’s a part of it. Israel was all about remembering the lessons of the past. So if you wanna be wise, don’t ignore history and great literature. By the way, that’s one reason we have gen ed’s, not to trouble you and fill up your schedule, but to expose you to areas that you need to know about, that will enrich your life. So, a couple more. Fifth, you wanna become wise? Hang out with the wise, hang out with wise people. C.S. Lewis said the next best targeting to being wise oneself was to live in a circle of those who are wise. He did that himself. Who did he hang out with? One of his best friends was Tollers. Who’s Tollers? J.R.R. Tolkien. They sharpened each other as they wrote. Now, hanging out with the wise. Proverbs talks about that too, Proverbs 1:5. A man of understanding will obtain wise council. So early on in your life, that’s your parents. Later on, it’s wise people, wise teachers, mentors, friends, who rub off on us. Proverbs says he who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion to fools suffers harm. So who do you hang out with, and how are they affecting you? That’s an important question, and it’s a personal question to me. I remember I started out, did the first part of my degree at Moody, and then I transferred to a secular liberal arts college in Wisconsin, Lawrence University, and I remember at Moody, I learned a lot of great things, but I got in with the wrong crowd. So even at a Bible college, there are some people that are forced to go there. That of course never happens here. But you know, and then you become what? You become cynical, and you push the edge all the time, and after a while, I thought, you know, I don’t like what this is doing to me. I’m becoming a very cynical, sarcastic person, and that’s not the Don I wanna be. And I remember having to consciously say, you know what, I wanna be with these people, because they will build me up. I didn’t think in terms of wisdom. I knew the influence would be better. So, if you wanna be wise, you gotta ask yourself and do a little inventory. Who am I hanging out with, what effect are they having on me, and if you wanna be wise, hang out with the wise. Hang out with the wise, two more. Six, sixth step towards wisdom in 2018. So you wanna be wise? Listen to the word of God. Root yourself in the scriptures, because the Bible is the supreme textbook of wisdom. II Timothy says the scriptures are there to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. All through scripture, we hear things like this: the statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly with all wisdom. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, O Lord. You let the scriptures continually check your thoughts and the motivations of your heart, and as you bathe your mind in it again and again, it tends to make you wise. And if you wanna focus on one place, focus on wisdom literature in scripture to grow in wisdom. That’s why we have godly teachers, by the way, who teach theology. We want them to open the word of God to you, and any theology students here? I’m not gonna cover everybody, in case you’re wondering, but we are getting kind of close. So if you wanna be wise, listen to the word of God.

As a pastor, one of my practices was to read through the scripture continually, because I wanted it to check my thoughts and just shape my mind and heart. But here’s the last one. If you wanna be wise, adjust your habits of the way you take in knowledge. Now, I wanna put a slide up here. I discovered this about six months ago. It was put together by the senior editor for the Gospel Coalition, a guy named Brett McCracken, and he calls this the wisdom pyramid. We are sloppy in the way we take in knowledge, all of us. We are dominated in our age by mental junk food, and it shows, because we lack wisdom. And McCracken said just as there’s a food pyramid, you’ve seen the food pyramids, right, eat this food the most, and then this, and then this, and you can have a little bit of this, but don’t invert the pyramid, or you’ll die. So be wise in your eating habits. We’ve all seen the food pyramid. So he came up with what I think’s very helpful, the wisdom pyramid, and he said, think about sorts of knowledge groups that we take in and the proportion that we take in. You want a healthy life of wisdom, he said, first of all, your biggest focus should be what? Well, your carbs, the daily bread, the scriptures, because it’s God’s word, it’s the Creator speaking. It’s the foundation of everything, and then he says, then we should take in what the church has given to us, and he sort of talks about first the local church, the embodied rhythms and worship of the local church, the word proclaimed locally, but then also, the church through history, the universal church, time-tested theology. You need lots of wise people in church history, and you let that shape you. You don’t ignore their witness. The Holy Spirit was working through them in the centuries and can use them to shape your life. He said, so if you wanna grow wise, you keep growing, the Bible, the church, and then he talked about another level, nature and beauty, nature. We need to get outside. You have this privilege of being in one of the most beautiful states in America, and what a shame when we don’t get outside and enjoy the beauty. There are days I gotta get out of my office, and you may see me throwing a football or a baseball out in the yard there. I just wanna get out and experience a taste of Colorado. I need a break from my work. Not everybody like that when I do that, by the way. But nature, general revelation, God speaks through it. Do we have any biologists in the house? God speaks through creation. He does, he still does, and it’s there to humble us and put us in our place and show us his incredible artistry and design that he’s built into things, and beauty. Do we have any artists and musicians in the house? Yeah. So exposing yourself, going to a concert and letting the beauty of some of their recitals just lift you out of your slump. It starts to shape, and it makes you wise. So he talks about nature and beauty. Then he goes to books, and he says read, level four. You wanna become wise? Take in great books. Not junk books, there’s so much junk, great books, a broad array of good reading, older books, older writers who aren’t captive to the deceits of our time, as well as the best of the new writers. Read. Readers are leaders. Learn to read, learn to read well. Learn to read deeply, and it will help you become wise. And then he goes to the fifth level, and notice the triangle’s getting smaller, the internet. Now, the internet’s a great tool. It can be used for good or bad. There are tools that you’ve gotta weigh carefully. Wikipedia, sometimes, sometimes not. What are the trusted sources? Listen to what wise people recommend about sources for the internet, and then finally, look at the top. It’s Twitter, but it’s meant to be social media, right? Use it sparingly. Too much is not good for your overall mental health or spiritual health. Now what do we do? Honestly, what do we do? The top ends up being the biggest thing, and it’s like eating chocolate all the time. After a while, it’s not good for you. I mean, I love chocolate, but a diet of constant dark chocolate, you just don’t wanna see me, right? So this pyramid is helpful. Maybe of us have got it upside-down. Our diet’s not right. I’m here to help you become wise, to set you on a path for 2018 that will be different from last year, to help you become wiser than you were and wiser than our generation. If you wanna be wise, friends, you have to adjust the habits of knowledge intake and change your diet. And so, this is the beginning of the year, to reset priorities.

And here’s a passage that God has given to all of us today, this great educational text, a dose of educational sanity to remind us about the pursuit of wisdom. And by the way, lemme end with this. Proverbs does this. It says, there are two ways you can go in your life. It emphasizes this theme two ways. The way of the wise, or the way of the fool. And one leads to life, and the other to destruction. And then Proverbs goes a little deeper and says, and there are two crowds that will call you in life. The crowd of the wise call you, chapter one verse 20, and the crowd of the fools, chapter one verse 10. Which crowd will you listen to? Proverbs nine puts it this way, and there are two women that will reach out to you, Madame Folly, which will lead you to destruction, and Madame Wisdom, which will lead you to life, because whoever finds her finds life and receives favor from the Lord. So, what will you choose January 2018? My hope, my prayer for you is that God would raise up a generation of students from CCU who are imminently wise in our time and become great leaders. Would you pray with me?

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