In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
And that’s the definition of wisdom. Not merely knowing things, but doing and acting according to what is true, walking in the paths of righteousness. Which is probably why it takes us so long to “learn” wisdom because it is a discipline of reigning in our passions, desires, and trusting what the Lord says, and practicing walking according to it.
And the wise author of Proverbs says wisdom is the opposite of going in the path of the wicked. But in our foolishness we would dispute what Proverbs says when it says that the wicked can not sleep unless they do evil. In our foolishness we say, “Oh, no one is really like that. No one is that evil. There is no one who is truly wicked. It’s all more of a spectrum.”
And we even use pious rationales saying, “Well, everyone is a sinner. No one is perfect. But no one is that bad. That they can’t sleep unless they do wickedness.” But I tell you the truth, you are that bad! You have been there. You have been consumed by your own wickedness. You know wickedness intimately for it lives in your heart.
Just listen to the laundry list in Galatians, for the works of the flesh are so obvious! The wise can see through these things. Which is to say we are so unwise because we live in the midst of them all the time, we indulge in them all the while claiming that our eyes are open, that we are Christians, that we are not so bad, that our works are not evil.
So back to that list:
“Sexual immorality” meaning any kind of adulterous action, any kind of sexual behaviour not between a married couple. The Greek word for this is porneia which is where our word, "pornography" comes from! This word refers to all kinds of sexual expression that are not under God’s wonderful blessing of marital faithfulness. And to the wise it is obvious, but our society in its “wisdom” says that is stupid. And so even we who claim to be wisened by the Lord indulge in porn, in tv and stories which delight in sexual action outside of marriage. And what should be our wise revulsion against such things is utterly dulled so that we find ourselves doing these things, and not thinking twice. For we have no wisdom.
And what is result? Rampant transmission of disease. Shattered hearts. Sexual excess. Shot-gun marriages which lead to loveless homes, abuse, and divorce. And all these things not only crush the souls of all involved, but even lead to poverty on all sides as princely sums are spent on the divorce proceedings, or medical treatments, and lives are impoverished by empty meaningless relationships.
But that list continues: “impurity,” which is really talking about not just simple one time actions of adultery, but habitual, reckless abandon. These habits of course lead people to the next on the list: “sensuality,” the if it feels good do it way of living. A complete and total breakdown of all sexual mores, no restraint, no self-discipline. People debased by their utterly animalistic ways of living. And isn’t that where our society is at? Aren’t our own thoughts, attitudes, actions utterly full of this sin? Repent.
But maybe that is not a temptation for you. Well, there are plenty of foolish behaviours to go around. “Idolatry,” trusting in anything for your life’s meaning, purpose, and salvation other than the Lord your God. “Sorcery,” the active engaging with demons for the purpose of control in an out of control world. This is an extreme form of idolatry. But despite its extreme nature, it is far more subtle than we realize. For it means you must be careful of various mystical practices you may engage in, especially anything linked another religion, be they astrology, palm reading, or forms of meditation. Even yoga and Tai Chi you should be aware of. For their roots are in other religions and as soon as your instructor steps beyond any kind of physical exercise into the focusing or channeling of energies, the centering of the mind, and forms of meditation where one is to clear the mind of all things, you may in fact be engaging in demonic practices. The Bible tells us that we are to meditate, to meditate on His Word. But the meditation of other religions and philosophies usually focuses on the emptying of the mind, so as to purify oneself by ones own will. In contrast, our Lord would fill our minds with His Word! If you engage in such practices, either stop, or try memorizing verses of Scripture or hymns and using your meditation time to ponder Our Lord and His powerful Word.
But maybe those things don’t apply to you either, well there is more: “envy, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy.” These are truly the sins of churches and church people in our lives together. “Enmity,” is mutual hatred. Is there anyone here in church you hate? Someone you can’t stand? This is a manifest working of sin in you. Repent! Ask God to root it out of you, for those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!
“Strife” is the working out of that inward hatred you’ve been harbouring so that you actually don’t merely avoid them, but actually engage in little spats, in nit-picking, in nasty words and spiteful tones to them and about them. “Jealousy.” This Greek word takes our strife to the next level so that there is not merely a casual antagonism toward someone else, but actually a virulent hostility so that everyone knows very clearly that you have issues. This is when people begin avoiding you, because you are so unpleasant to be around. This is what destroys relationships, families, even church communities. Its what leads to “fits of anger”. All of us can identify with this. Have you ever found yourself so bothered by something that you find yourself having violent emotional reactions? Reactions that may even shock you. And maybe you can keep the lid on them so that they are mostly internal, or merely under your breath, but left undealt with and they will flow out into violent behaviour which will not merely strain your relationships, but utterly destroy them, when certain words said or actions done that tear the other down so completely you may not be able to repair the damage done.
And lesser forms of these things are the common “rivalries” or resentfulnesses we harbour. “Why did my father, my pastor, my fill-in-the-blank favour them over me!?” It’s petty, it’s pathetic, it’s our daily bread isn’t it? We’ve all been there.
And this is often basis of the “dissensions” and “divisions” that take over in churches. “Dissensions” are those fights between people that you always see in churches or any human group. But left undealt with they tear communities apart and destroy churches. These are the personality conflicts that go on. And they usually over petty things, such as how teas will be run, who is in charge of what program, someone who may be president of one group but doesn’t trust their treasurer and other officers, etc. “Divisions” are when there is a difference of understanding about God’s Word and someone either leaves the church over it, or talks it up until they have a whole group up in arms against the other group or the pastor. Divisions ought to be settled by God’s Word, and the truly wise will submit to God Himself, but the foolish persist in their division. The Greek word for this is haereseis, where “heresy” comes from.
All of these things we have had and currently have in our congregation and these clear, obvious works of the flesh are tearing us apart. They have no wisdom in them. Repent and let go of them. Cling to the wisdom which comes from your God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For Christ is God’s wisdom.
That one single leper who returned to the source of His healing, to Jesus, is our model, our example, of wisdom. He was a social outcast. A Samaritan. A non-Jew. An alien to God’s covenants. Yet He is the one who was wise. In faith He recognized the source of His healing. In faith he returned, he repented, he came back to Jesus. And Jesus freed him, saying, “Go your way, your faith has saved you.” It was Jesus who healed him, who had saved him, but faith clings to Jesus. Faith is wisdom. Faith is the opposite of those works of the flesh. And faith flows forth in wondrous fruit of the Spirit. Nine of them. Three groups of three. This is the fruit of salvation. There is no law against them, or even governing them, they are free, for they are wisdom. They flow from Jesus into you who repent, who return to the source of your healing, your Lord and saviour.
In Jesus name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock