SELF-AWARENESS IN THE PURSUIT OF TRUTH, BEAUTY, & WISDOM
Because the concept of “love” had been so watered down and corrupted, Francis Schaeffer often substituted the word “beauty.” I regret that I have not kept a balanced emphasis and worked on all three of these areas as a Christian. My emphasis has been toward the conceptual, doctrinal, theological, philosophical truth, sadly to the neglect of the wisdom and beauty in interpersonal relationships. So this is a plea to you to consciously focus on all three – truth being the right way to understand Scripture and reality; beauty being that which we bring into the world through the Holy Spirit as we give ourselves to God in obedience to His word; wisdom being that attention to the details of how to go about and approach given situations.1 To say it another way – truth focuses on the interpretation of what God says and integrating that knowledge with what is [see Boundary Conditions http://pop.eradman.com/]; beauty refers to the expression of Christ’s character in us as we are transformed into His likeness [spiritual character development]; wisdom seeks the big picture and learns to walk according to the principles of life and to be consciously corrected by the reproofs of life [see Cause and Effect http://pop.eradman.com/]. Each of these areas involves correct reasoning and responses to God as the events & circumstances of life unfold. Getting to Know God and His ways imbues our lives with meaning, purpose, and significance which drive our motivation to live and accomplish in this world for Him.
Just as there are clear principles governing proper interpretation of Scripture (ie, context governs the interpretation of passages within) and examination of systems (ie, Covenant theology; dispensational theology) purported to be derived from same, so the areas of godly character development and wisdom may be discussed in terms of principles [see What is a Principle? under Cause & Effect http://pop.eradman.com/]. Let’s begin by reviewing the Scriptural teaching on pride and humility.
1. Sometimes wisdom looks a lot like common sense, good psychology, or sound reasoning. It always impresses us as resulting from deep understanding.
Any cursory review of the scriptural teaching of pride vs. humility reveals how God regards [His attitude toward] and responds to [deals with] each. Essentially pride is self-exaltation where one thinks more highly of himself than he ought [hence, self-deception] – the self-importance, self-assertion, and self-sufficiency of one who lords it over others. It is expressed in terms such as: a heart that is lifted up, lofty, exalted; haughtiness, a haughty spirit; arrogant, arrogance. He is a smug, self-serving, autonomous person whom God will bring down and humble. In terms of the principles of life [cause and effect], his path leads to destruction (a fall) and humiliation.
Humility is the attitude of those who are aware of their lowly estate – like little children, those who bow down, submit, and become obedient as servants. It can be seen in terms like: brokenness, a broken and contrite heart; poor in spirit; meek or meekness. Such people are blessed [highly favored] for God lifts their head and exalts them.
Jesus in answering the Pharisees
inquiry about “when the
The time is either the morning or evening sacrifice at the temple and the scene was something like this: The lamb’s throat has been slit and blood pumped out by its still-beating heart at the base of the altar. While the priest was burning incense out of sight in the inner courtyard, the circumcised Jewish men in the outer courtyard stood and offered their prayers. Pharisees were highly respected as devout and righteous men of God because of their rigorously disciplined lives, separateness, and uncompromising adherence to tradition. The Pharisee in the parable was use to seeing himself in this exalted light. He doesn’t seem to have a clue what the sacrifice is about and approaches God as one pleased with himself expecting that God would be also.
Tax collectors, on the other hand,
were seen as traitors to their own people because they collaborated with the
THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST IN US
27Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side [united in disposition and purpose] for the faith of the gospel, 28and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30engaged in the same conflict [with those who oppose the Gospel] that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
1So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 14Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16holding fast to the word of life…Phil.1:27-2:16
Work Out Your Own Salvation
In Phil.2, Paul encourages a like-mindedness to Christ in looking to the interests of others with the same dedication and vigor we have when looking to our own. Christ’s humility and total obedience to His Father’s will climaxed in His ignominious death and resulted in His exaltation above every authority. Paul speaks of what such an attitude meant for him in terms of his own humility and suffering (3:3-8) as he poured out his life for these believers (1:12-26) and would continue to do so (2:17). He speaks of our obedience to God as working out our own salvation with fear and trembling (2:12; see 2 Cor.7:15b). “With fear and trembling” reminds us of the prophets and other men of God before us that were called to different tasks and carried them out faithfully (Heb.11). So we are tasked to suffer in the midst of the crooked and twisted culture of our day and to shine as lights in the world – to become true children of God by clinging to the word of life. We are to display a different spirit by doing [and suffering] all things without grumbling or arguing than those people of God in the OT who complained when tested (Dt.32:5; 1 Cor.10:10).
We are being conformed to the image of Christ. Through the things we suffer God is working in us that which was in Christ – that bowing to the Father’s will and working for His good pleasure. It is a push through to the end in which we determine the principles that govern each situation and detail what it means to consider others first. How do I love my wife in each mood and circumstance? How do I teach each of my sons as different as they are so as to motivate them and not exasperate or discourage them? Working out my salvation involves the particulars of how I suffer in laying down my life. In other words, this working out requires some thought, very much akin to the law for Israelites in Dt.6:4-9.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart…(Dt.6:5-6)
Just as loving God meant pondering His words as a continual means of understanding and appreciating Him and His ways for the Israelites, so it does for each of us in the working out of our salvation.
Humbling oneself translates into obey and means to bow, to kneel, to worship God in spirit and truth by doing His will.
7In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. Heb.5:
1For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
6In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
5Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
8When he said above, "You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law), 9then he added, "Behold, I have come to do your will." He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
1I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God [why?], what is good and acceptable and perfect. Rom.12:
One of the areas I have not done well at is in allowing Scripture to instruct my heart – to judge, reprove, and correct me. I think my failure to take to heart and wrestle with the lessons of God’s word is a consequence of my off-balance focus on the intellectual, conceptual, philosophical side of things [On the other hand, a great many Christians seem to be deficient in this area]. Neither have I given enough reflection to the consequences of my words, actions, and attitudes or the reproofs that have pelted me through the reactions of others and through the events and circumstances of my life. In a supernatural universe it makes little difference whether such corrective discipline comes directly from God’s hand or results from the ordinary operation of principles He ordained in the flow of cause and effect.
Coming to Christ involves a change in our perception of reality so great that it is described as “Once I was blind but now I see.” Being converted is like a spy who is turned to work for the one he formerly spied upon. God makes us new creatures, regenerates us who were once dead to live unto God. Our perception, reasoning, knowledge, allegiance, belief, all of our world undergoes a drastic rebirth in which all things become new, and it must necessarily be so because we were born at enmity with God – naturally at odds with Him. This means that once converted, we begin a new life during which we grow up spiritually - mature as God’s people under His tutelage. That growth takes place during a learning-to-know-and-trust-God process of correcting our old ways and dependencies through His methods of instruction, discipline, and reproof just as it did for the saints of old (Abram, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, etc.). He uses all situations and everyone in our lives to accomplish this.
In order to train us, God must first break our will. The following Scriptural terms convey different aspects relating to our learning to bow to His will as Jesus did: repentance (change of heart); submission (placing yourself under authority); subjection (lining up under); obedience (carrying out orders). I have not done well at this either.
1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3And the tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." 4But he answered, "It is written, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Mt.4:
WORKING OUT THE LOGICAL IMPLICATIONS
Mt.5-7, Jesus the new lawgiver describes the
21"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' 22But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire. 23So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled [aorist tense, passive voice, imperative mood] to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. Mt.5:
This passage emphasizes the seriousness of our treatment of our fellow human beings in attitude, words, and actions. It is implicit in verse 22a that there is great benefit in getting rid of anger soonest. The Law of Moses for the nation of Israel had no penalty for anger, bitterness, or hatred, but the Law of the kingdom of heaven under Christ does. In v.22b, the angry heart reveals itself by spewing forth contemptuous and demeaning words. Verses 23-25 open the possibility of righting the wrong before God steps in to deliver justice as He surely will. The situation is of such a magnitude that acceptability of your dedication (worship, sacrifice, and service) to God depends upon your setting right this matter between you and another person, and that you do it right away. You have turned a friend or potential friend into an enemy – the one called brother in v.22-24 has become your adversary in v.25. The situation is dire because you are in jeopardy of being irreversibly caught in the very sequence of consequences you initiated by allowing anger to grow in your heart. That which started as a personal matter has become a legally actionable and judicial matter in the kingdom under the government of Jesus. “Come to terms” is reminiscent of justice under the Old Covenant where in lesser offenses the damaged party had a say in the recompense, and could even forgive the debt. Here, if the matter is not timely settled between the parties, the grace period expires. Punishment is then taken out of their hands and dealt with as if it were a more serious crime where the penalty is prescribed by law [see chapt.4 But I Say to You].
Remembrance that your brother has something against you refers to the sense that something is wrong between you - the pricking of your conscience.2 It’s up to you to identify what it is and move to reconcile3 it [to make peace between two parties at odds with each other]. Reconciliation moves toward restoration of a broken or strained relationship. You caused the problem by your insensitive, thoughtless, unkind, or hurtful words or actions, or compounded it by your reaction.4 In either case it is up to you to dress the wound you made [take responsibility for corrective steps, see lecture 3 in Identity series by Dick Keyes, Dealing with Anger]. To do this, you must confess to the wounded party your offense irrespective of his part. But confession merely confirms your culpability and admits to your sin – it does not reconcile and may even serve as the basis for your accuser to justify his reaction to you. You must also humble yourself, throwing yourself upon the mercy of your accuser by asking his forgiveness. Such an action transfers to offended party the burden to love by forgiving you. The onus now shifts to him to complete the reconciling. Let us move on to the role of wisdom and reason at this intersection of truth and life as pertaining to pride and humility in achieving reconciliation.
2. Eph.6 has a discussion on gearing up for spiritual battle. Paul's words to Timothy relate to that discussion. "I...sent you out to battle for the right armed only with your faith and a clear conscience. Some, alas, have laid these simple weapons contemptuously aside, and as far as their faith is concerned, have run their ships on the rocks." (1 Tim.1:18-19, Phillips) 1 Pt.3:16 raises an instance where a clear conscience is used in our defense and directly affects witnessing [which is the battle as we invade the enemy’s territory with the Gospel]. "The ultimate aim of the Christian ministry, after all, is to produce the love which springs from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a genuine faith" (1 Tim.1:5, Phillips). Reconciliation cannot be accomplished without taking responsibility for past wrongs. Every person sincerely desiring to follow Christ must make sure his record is clear with those he is uncomfortable with – everyone who exhibit coolness or animosity toward him. Be careful, it is a path fraught with pitfalls, not to be embarked upon lightly, but with determined diligence in seeking wisdom in a spirit of humility.
Paul recognized his ministry as God's work in reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor.5:18-19) and approached it as an ambassador from the new creation to the old (v.20a) in a joint effort with God (6:1). He resolved to "put no obstacle in anyone's way" so as not to hinder that ministry (6:3). Paul speaks of what this entailed in the next few verses, and mentions "with the weapons of righteousness" in v.7. Phillips puts it this way, "Our sole defense, our only weapon, is a life of integrity..." This cannot mean we never sin or throw stumbling blocks in front of people. It must mean that when we do and our conscience alerts us, we set our hearts to be reconciled with and restored to those offended.
Consider Mt.7:1-5. A spirit that condemns others reflects one's own inability to see himself clearly. You may be right about them, but you judge yourself along with them because you are in the same category. There is an equivalent problem in both people. The splinter I see in my neighbor's eye is like a beam I don't notice in mine. Discernment is not only necessary to recognize and remove my splinter, but his as well. The order is paramount. Without a clear conscience yourself, don't think you will be able to discern the insights necessary for helping your children, spouse, friends, etc. with their problems. "He that covers his sins shall not prosper, but whoso confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy" (Prov.28:13). For anyone desiring to teach others, developing sensitivity and discernment is a matter of training (personal practice, Heb.5:11-14).
3. The principle expressed in Rom.12:18, If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all is understood here.
4. How does the following passage relate to this?
"Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you" (Eph.4:30-32).
APPROACHING THE PROBLEM WITH WISDOM AND ITS REASONING
Reconciliation is no small matter - an amazing percentage of personal problems (including physical and psychological ailments) cannot be dealt with or effectively counseled without squarely confronting issues raised by one's conscience. An unkind word can overshadow all the good that has preceded it, and no amount of good thereafter can make up for it. The longer one harbors anger, the more it festers in the very heart of one’s being - the more intrusive its destructive influence will insinuate itself into both parties and reach out to infect others as well. Sin in one area of our lives has a ripple effect and results in complications in other areas. Yielding to the temptation either ignore the promptings of our conscience or to react against people rather than responding to them in love grants Satan a foothold5 in our lives – things just got a lot harder. [see paragraph on the temptation of Cain, Gen.4:7, under Temptation at Bible Studies http://pop.eradman.com/]
Where will you turn for counsel? To whom will you go for help?
What does the Bible say about applying yourself to the pursuit of wisdom?6 Wisdom working with Scripture, right-thinking, and an understanding of the lessons of life teach us how to proceed. What steps are prudent to take once it is apparent that something is wrong in a relationship? My purpose here is not to lay every step, all the details, associated reasons, cautions, and related considerations, but to expand your perception of the necessity to know what you should do and why, what is the wisest approach and why, and what to avoid and why. Would making a list of their faults and offenses be important? Yes, offenses often result from both action of one party and the reaction of the other. You cannot be prepared to seek their forgiveness until you have first fully forgiven them.7 Are there passages that address this? Mt.18:21-35; 6:9-15. Do you know the difference between faults and offenses8 or forgiving and pardoning? Are you aware of what it really means to forgive? If not, you are not ready to proceed.
What about listing your faults and offenses? Have you learned to distinguish between immediate offenses and basic offenses? They are not always the same. How will you answer the rationalizations your mind will bring up to prevent you from taking action – like “Things have gotten better”? With uncanny regularity, those who purpose to make things right with one they are not getting along with will find the situation improving before they ask forgiveness. Often this improvement is God’s way of preparing the other person to forgive us – don’t mistake it as a reason for not seeking forgiveness. What is the difference between a reason and an excuse?
How important is it to plan your confession? Which of the following statements spoken in the right attitude reflects a heart of repentance devoid of all pride?
I apologize for _______________;
I’m sorry that _______________;
I realize that I’ve been wrong in [basic offense], will you forgive me? [and wait for the answer]
I’ve been wrong, please forgive me;
What about naming shameful details, restitution, involving others in your confession, etc.? Suppose they won’t forgive you? Aren’t your good intentions enough? I thought reconciliation was urgent - I’ll never be ready at this rate. When you truly repent and purpose to make things right, God will give you the time to prepare to do it properly. As you can see, it’s not so easy to overcome sin and repair the mess it leaves and there is the real possibility you could make things worse, but by God’s grace substantial healing is possible. This is what it means to take our faith seriously – to obey the Lord.
I recommend taking the Basic Seminar at the Institute in Basic Life Principles http://iblp.org/iblp/
5. 25Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and give no opportunity [chance] to the devil. Eph.4: The word translated opportunity is literally place (KJV), referring to a region or ground, like a foothold (NIV) or beachhead on our turf which our enemy can then reinforce, establishing a fortified position (stronghold) as a base of operations within our own territory from which to carry on attacks against us. Although the context is referring to those within the body of Christ, we are extracting the principle for a wider application. [for a theological discussion on this passage see Commands in Scrip. at Cultural Mandate http://pop.eradman.com/]
6. Our study has brought us to the place where the absolute necessity of submitting to God by continually placing ourselves under the counsel and authority of His word should be crystal clear.
1Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of
the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of
scoffers; 2but his delight
is in the law of the LORD and on his law he meditates day and night. 3He
is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season
and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
4The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. Ps.1:
The underlined terms in the passages below go together and reflect different aspects of the help we need.
13Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets
14for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.
15She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.
16Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.
17Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.
18She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.
19The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding
he established the heavens;
20by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew.
21My son, do not lose sight of these — keep sound wisdom
22and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck.
23Then you will walk on your way securely and your foot will not stumble.
24If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
25Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes,
26for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught. Prov.3:
5Get wisdom; get insight; do not
forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
6Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you.
7The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.
8Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her.
9She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown." Prov.4:
7. How do the following passages relate to this?
For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions (Mt.6:14-15).
And whenever you stand praying, forgive [remove the offense from yourself], if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions (Mk.11:25).
8. Pick out the appropriate responses to faults and to offenses according to the following passage: [see cassette on Col.3:13 by Glen Riexinger]
12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive… Col3: [see last sentence of footnote 5]