|WORDS AND WISDOM
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
February 22, 1998
I invite you to turn with me to James chapter 3 and follow along as I read. And while we’re reading, ask yourself this question: “What kind of teacher am I?” By the way, that doesn’t mean we’re evaluating the pastor this morning. Ask yourself this question: “What kind of teacher am I?”
James 3: Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness. For we all make many mistakes, and if any one makes no mistakes in what he says he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also. For we put bits into the mouths of horses that they may obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Look at the ships also; though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind, but no human being can tame the tongue - a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening fresh water and brackish? Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh. Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity. And the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
One of the great desires that I have - as a parent - is that our children will follow after the Lord - to live in obedience to Him - to be the men that God has called them to be. And one of the things that concerns me is that a significant number of “PK’s” - “pastors kids” - when they grow up - want nothing to do with God or His church.
A survey was taken and the researchers found out that only 39% of American teenagers wanted to be like their parents. Think about that and consider your own kids.
So, I’ve been taking a survey. When I run across PK’s - and especially pastor’s kids who are in the church - I ask them, “What advice can you give me about raising my kids? What helped you deal with being a PK?”
And on the list of suggestions that I been putting together - one of the suggestions that sticks out very prominently in my mind is this one: “Make sure that you are the same person at home that you are at church. Be consistent in your relationship with God. If your kids hear one thing and see another they’ll reject you and they’ll reject your God.”
If kids hear their parents talking about God and what it means to be a Christian - and yet, they see their parents coming to church only because it has something to do with family and culture - and they don’t see the reality of a relationship with Jesus Christ lived out in their parents lives the other 6 days of the week - or they see their parents finding something else to do on Sunday morning besides coming to church - why should they want anything to do with the church - or Jesus Christ?
The example we set for our kids is crucially important. And it can’t be faked - our kids know us too well. A study made a few years ago found out that if both mom and dad attend church regularly, 72% of their children remain faithful - if only dads - 55% remain faithful - if only moms - 15% - if neither attend - only 6% remain faithful.
In James 3 - when James is writing - he’s talking about those who desired the position of a teacher in the church, but lacked what it takes. What makes a good teacher is the true depth - the true reality - of our relationship with Jesus Christ. And what James shares applies to each of us.
Each of us is a teacher. Not just the person who gets up in front of a classroom - or leads a seminar or Bible study - a pastor. Each of us is an example of what it means to know Jesus Christ. Wherever God puts any one of us - at home - at church - at work - in the community - we are examples - we are always teaching others about what it means to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
So, there’s this question: “What kind of teacher am I?”
Three qualities of Godly teachers:
1. WHAT THEY SAY TESTIFIES OF THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH GODThese past few weeks have been an impressive reminder of the Great Flood. On the way to school my son and I are always looking for rainbows. And, I kid you not, there's a guy down the street from us who’s building an ark in his driveway. Which isn’t too bad except for all the animals in cages. Well, not really. But, I don’t know anyone who isn’t tired of all this water.
Just about everything seems to be slipping - sliding - and soggy. And, on one hand, its sobering to consider the power of water and its ability to be destructive. On the other hand is the power of water and its ability to be constructive - to be helpful if used right. Water provides electric power, transportation, irrigation.
In a similar way - James talks about our tongues. What we say has great power - either destructive or constructive.
Verse 3: James says the tongue is powerful - like the bridle which gives directions to a strong horse - or a small rudder which directs the course of a huge ship.
Verse 5: And the tongue has great potential for destruction - like a tiny spark that can set an entire forest on fire. James says the tongue is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.
In verses 7 and 8, James says that the tongue is uncontrollable. Man has domesticated every type of animal - but he cannot tame his own tongue. Man cannot - but God can. People are not righteous because they run around saying righteous things. We are righteous because our lives are surrendered to God and He makes us to be righteous.
Aesop - the ancient storyteller - told a fable about a donkey who found a lion’s skin. He tried it on - strutted around - and frightened many animals. Soon a fox came along - and the donkey tried to scare him. But the fox, hearing the donkey’s voice, said, “If you want to terrify me, you’ll have to disguise your bray.” Aesop’s moral: Clothes may disguise a fool, but his words will give him away.
James says - verse 11: No spring of water pours out sweet and bitter water from the same opening! A fig tree....cannot bear olives; a vine cannot bear figs; nor can salty water produce fresh water.
What’s inside comes out - and when we see what comes out we know what’s inside.
If we surrender our lives to God then He will control our tongue - and the true reality of a relationship with Jesus Christ will be evident in what we say. Our tongue will be a powerful tool in God’s hands for His glory.
“What are we teaching others by the words we say?”
Secondly....Qualities of Godly teachers...
2. HOW THEY LIVE SHOWS THEIR CONFIDENCE IN GODThere’s a story about a proud young man who came to Socrates asking for knowledge. He walked up to the muscular philosopher and said, “O great Socrates, I come to you for knowledge.” Socrates eyed the young man and saw that he was a pompous numbskull.
Socrates led the young man through the streets - to the sea - and chest deep into the water. Then he asked, “What do you want?”
“Knowledge, O wise Socrates,” said the young man with a smile. Socrates put his strong hands on the man’s shoulders and pushed him under the water. 30 seconds later Socrates let him up. “What do you want?” he asked again. “Knowledge,” the young man sputtered, “O great and wise Socrates.”
Socrates pushed him under again. 30 seconds passed, 35, 40. Socrates let him up. The man was gasping. “What do you want, young man?” And between heavy, heaving breaths the fellow wheezed, “Knowledge, O wise and wonderful....”
Socrates jammed him under again - 40 seconds passed... 50. “What do you want?” “Air!” he screeched. “I need air!”
“When you want knowledge as you have just wanted air, then you will have knowledge.” said Socrates.
There’s no way to fake the pursuit of knowing God - the desire to know God deeply within our being. And, as we know God and experience Him in our lives we grow in our confidence in His ability to care for us. Godly wisdom comes as we take all of what we have come to know about God and trust Him in the daily circumstances of our lives. If we are Godly people it will show in how we behave - our daily confidence in God.
Verse 14: Those who are not wise are always trying to take care of themselves. They act with bitterness toward others - they have jealousy for the positions others hold - and they’re always promoting themselves. They’re the injured party - always righteous - harmed by the unrighteousness of others - always critical of others. In their own eyes they’re the wise and righteous - those who have lived exemplary lives - and in humility they will tell us that it is their example we should follow.
Verse 16: Where all this jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder - confusion - rivalry - and every kind of evil. There may be a lot of activity - but spiritually speaking - there is absolutely nothing of value produced for the Kingdom of God. Its all self-serving.
James says - verse 13: Is there a wise and understanding man among you? Let him prove it by his good life, by his good deeds performed with humility and wisdom.
Godly wisdom comes from within - it comes as we learn to have more confidence in God than ourselves. And who we have confidence in shows through our actions.
“What are we teaching others by the way we live our lives?”
Thirdly....Qualities of Godly teachers
3. BY THEIR LIVES THEY LEAD OTHERS CLOSER TO GODBruce Larson shares this about himself. “When I was a small boy, I attended church every Sunday at a Presbyterian church in Chicago. The preaching was powerful and the music was great. But for me, the most awesome moment in the morning service was the offertory - when twelve solemn - frock-coated - ushers marched in down the main aisle to receive the brass plates for the collecting of the offering. These men - so serious about their business of serving the Lord in this magnificent house of worship - were the business and professional leaders of Chicago.
One of the twelve ushers was a man named Frank Loesch. He was not a very imposing looking man. But in Chicago he was a living legend. For, he was the man who had stood up to Al Capone.
In the prohibition years, Capone's rule was absolute. The local and state police and even the FBI were afraid to oppose him. But single-handedly, Frank Loesch - as a Christian layman and without any government support - organized the Chicago Crime Commission - a group of citizens who were determined to take Mr. Capone to court and put him away.
During the months that the Crime Commission met, Frank Loesch's life was in constant danger. There were threats on the lives of his family and friends. But he never wavered. Ultimately he won the case against Capone and was the instrument for removing this blight from the city of Chicago.
Frank Loesch had risked his life to live out his faith. Each Sunday at this point of the service - my father - a Chicago businessman himself - never failed to poke me and silently point to Frank Loesch with pride. Sometimes I'd catch a tear in my father's eye. For my dad and for all of us this was and is what authentic living is all about.”
James says - verse 17 - that those who really are Godly live without ulterior motives - without sinful attitudes - they’re peace loving - not insisting on their own rights - lenient and loving - teachable - compassionate and helpful even to those who don’t deserve it - honest and genuine. What is produced by their lives is righteousness.
Its a hard question: “What kind of teacher am I?”
William Ward has said, "The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
Being Godly is not just words we speak or the things we do. Its our inner relationship with God. And that consistent - undeclared - life is what God will use to lead others to Him.