X-TRIALS: TAKIN’ LIFE TO THE X-TREME
October 7, 2001
Do you guys remember all those wacky comedies that were so popular in the 1960’s, all those zany shows? I want to see how good you guys are. I want to see if you can match the show with the particular theme song of the show. Just blurt it out if you recognize it. Don’t worry about embarrassing yourself. Just say that is this or that and let’s play the first theme song of the day.
(Petticoat Junction theme song) You guys are good. It’s early and I’ll give you a couple of seconds. That’s Petticoat Junction. Old Joe, he’s a moving kind of slow at the junction.
Let’s do another one. (Green Acres theme song) Here’s a little Green Acres trivia. My entire life, ever since I can remember, I have known Eb, Tom Lester, and he’s a fantastic Christian guy. My parents grew up with him. I just wanted to name drop there—fantastic actor, Tom Lester.
Let’s go to the next one. (Mr. Ed theme song) You know, I have been called Mr. Ed my entire life. I love this song. Mr. Ed is a great show.
Okay, let’s keep going. (The Munsters theme song) What is that one? That’s right, the Munster’s. Not to be confused with The Adam’s Family. Here is my Herman Munster impersonation. That’s it. Herman Munster is in the house.
Let’s keep going. This is great. (Andy Griffith theme song) Best show ever. No question about it. Why can’t they make shows like that today?
All right. (Get Smart theme song) What is that one? Get Smart, starring Don Adams as agent 86, and his beautiful sidekick, 99. They always fought against the forces of evil and they always won.
Today’s talk is called Get Smart. Some of you, in fact, most of you who were born in the 70’s or 80’s, are clueless about a deep and profound show like Get Smart. So to bring you up to speed, I want to give you a little bit of a video highlight. It is paramount that you understand the thrust of the show because, if you miss the thrust of Get Smart, you will miss today’s entire message from the book of James. Just check it out.
(Video clip of Get Smart)
I told you it was profound. Maxwell Smart and 99 worked for Control, the good guys. Control always fought the bad guys. The bad guys worked for an organization called Chaos. Control vs. Chaos. Maxwell Smart didn’t seem that smart. But he was pretty smart, because Control always dominated Chaos.
Believe it or not, the book we have been studying lately, James, the most practical book in the Bible, talks about the battle between control and chaos. James tells us, in no uncertain terms, how to get smart. He says if we truly get smart, we will have control, and control will take out chaos every single time. Question, how many of you were not here last weekend? Go ahead and confess that you were not here last weekend. Don’t worry about it. We have cameras right now recording you.
Last weekend, James talked about that two-ounce slab of mucous membrane known as the tongue. All of our tongues are incarcerated by some teeth. Now and then, our tongues escape. When they get out and escape, they can mess us up. We say things we want to get back. We damage people, even hurt our careers and our most precious relationships.
James says, if you are going to think right, you will speak right. James says that right speaking is all about right thinking. So if I am going to be a mature Christian, if I am going to go deep, if I am going to develop an authentic faith, I have got to understand what it means to really get a hold of godly wisdom. I have got to understand how to get smart.
Let’s see what James says about getting smart. James 3:13, James begins by lobbing a rhetorical get smart type of question to his readers. Remember that James was writing this letter to Christians dispersed throughout the Mediterranean world. They were having problems with incorrect thinking. James says, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” The Bible puts a Neiman type price tag on wisdom. It is mentioned hundreds of times. Wisdom is mentioned over a hundred times in the book of Proverbs. Here, James hammers it home. James says right talking is all about right thinking. You better understand how to think right.
Here is how I define godly wisdom. It is strategically strapping on God’s truth to every situation we face. Once again, it’s strategically strapping on God’s truth to every situation we face. It’s strapping God’s truth in our marriages, to our dating relationships, to our careers, to the way we handle finances. Here is what often happens. We mess up by confusing knowledge with wisdom. You see, knowledge is knowing how to take things apart. Wisdom is knowing how to put things together. It is knowing how to apply God’s truth to every situation.
A lot of us have a Ph.D. in knowledge, yet we are flunking wisdom. Knowledge gives us all this data, all the facts, and we can recite them verbatim. Wisdom takes those facts, puts faith to them, and puts feet to them. Maxwell Smart was always using the shoe phone, wasn’t he? He was always talking to the chief. God is our chief and God is telling us, in no uncertain terms, that the Christian life is about shoe leather, or in this case, shoe rubber. God is telling us, and I have a strap here on my shoe, to strategically strap his truth to every situation.
Well, maybe you don’t get it yet. Maybe you are still a little bit fuzzy. Maybe you are saying, “I still don’t understand the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Ed, show me something I can connect with.”
Owen Goff, come out here for a second, Pastor Owen Goff. Let’s say Owen Goff, right here, represents knowledge. Let’s say Owen has the knowledge of what it means to be cool. He has got the facts down of what it really means to be sly, to be hip, to be vogue, or whatever you want to say.
Okay, now Owen, you have got the knowledge. Now I want you to go out and come back with wisdom and show us what cool really is. Just come right back. He is going to come back cool, watch this. There’s Owen. He’s back. He’s cool. (Eric Orson comes out)
Knowledge is, “Okay, I understand what it means to be cool.” Wisdom is cool. Thanks, Owen, I appreciate it.
Now maybe some of you know the facts. You have got the facts down cold, about what it means to have a great mutually satisfying marriage, good for you. Let me give you an applause. But that doesn’t mean Jack-Q-squat. What means something is wisdom. You have got to apply the facts about how to have a mutually satisfying marriage from the Bible. You have got to strap it on. You have got to live it out.
I just talked about finances a second ago. God says that money is a gift from him. He will take care of us. He has given all of us different piles of stuff. Some have small piles, some have big piles, and some have medium piles. Now a lot of us know all the facts about money management, what the Bible says about it. We are to give 10% to the local church, we are to save at least 10%, and live on 80%. We have got that down cold. But wisdom is applying that. Wisdom is living that out. There is a difference, and we have got to see this now, between knowledge and wisdom.
Proverbs, a book of wisdom, chapter 4, verse 7, “Wisdom is the principle thing. Therefore, get wisdom.”
James answers this rhetorical get smart type question in the last part of verse 13. Remember the first question he threw at us, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” He answers himself in the last part of verse 13, he says, “Let him show it by his good life.”
Now if you know me very well, you know that I love to collect cheers. When you have sat on the bench as long as I have, you have got to do something. So I used to watch the cheerleaders and memorize all these cheers. One of my favorite cheers goes something like this, “We’re bad. We know it. We’re here to show it. So what you see is what you get and you ain’t seen nothing yet. So get get get get get get get on up. So get get get get get on up.”
That’s what James is saying. James is saying, you’re bad (bad meaning good), you’re bad, you know it, because you have been saved by the grace of God. You are here on this planet to show it. So what you see is what you get. You ain’t seen nothing yet. Real faith and real Godly wisdom means you gotta get get get get get get get on up. “Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility.” This word “humility,” I love it. Humility is power under control.
Remember last weekend, we talked about two little objects that control big objects. We talked about a little piece of metal called a bit, that goes over a horse’s tongue and it controls the entire animal. We talked about a rudder, a small piece of fiberglass or wood that controls a big boat. They are small objects that control a big object.
James must have loved horses because the word humility is power under control. There is nothing more beautiful than to see a racehorse that has been broken with all that energy focused and laser beamed as this horse just cruises down the track. That is what it means to be humble.
“So let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom.” It’s a vertical thing, not a horizontal thing. It comes from God.
Now I wish I could sit down and say, “Let’s just all ask God to give us wisdom and that would be it.” But it’s not that easy, is it? We have this classic Get Smart type of confrontation in our world, in our lives, between chaos and control. Because even those of us who are believers and this book is addressed to Christians, Christ-followers, even those of us who love Jesus, we struggle with Godly wisdom versus worldly wisdom. Some of us want to have a little bit of worldly wisdom mixed in with the Godly wisdom, a little bit of chaos with control. James says don’t go there.
Let’s look at the characteristics, the character qualities of chaos. A lot of people right now, if the truth were known about your life, you are living a chaotic, hydroplaning type existence. Why? Because you are getting your wisdom from the world. I’ve been there before and it will mess you up.
Let’s see what it looks like. Look at James 3:14, James say, “But if you harbor bitter envy,” in other words, if you welcome worldly wisdom in, if you let it drop its’ anchor, if you let wisdom tie up to your dock, watch out. “If you harbor bitter envy.” The word “bitter” here means “brackish water,” water unfit to drink. Envy is bad-tasting, horrible, gagging type water.
I wrote a book several years ago called “Fatal Distractions.” It’s on the seven deadly sins and how to overcome obstacles that mess up our lives. One of the fatal distractions, one of the seven deadly sins, is a sin called envy. Here is how I define envy in my book, “to be envious is to be sad about someone’s successes and glad about someone’s failures.” If I am envious of you, being envious is the great equalizer. I want everyone to be as unsuccessful as I am. The Bible says we have that evil eye of envy. I want that car, your car. I want your spouse. I want your house. I want your bank account.
“But if you harbor bitter envy,” that’s what worldly wisdom will do to you, friends, “and selfish ambitions in your hearts,” this phrase “selfish ambitions” is the picture of a politician who is only in it for himself. I know that never happens in our culture.
“Oh, they are just worried about what they can get, what makes them look good, what puts wind in their sail.” This is the picture of a politician who will step on anybody and anything just to get to their goal of being number one. But check out how this progresses. You have got envy, you have got selfish ambition in your hearts, and then it says, “Do not boast about it, or deny the truth.” You show me someone who has got worldly wisdom, now check this out, they are always going to have bitter envy and selfish ambitions. And whenever you have worldly wisdom, envy and selfish ambition, you have always got lying, you have always got boasting, you always have people exaggerating.
Now in verses 15-16, James keeps on hammering us, “Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven.” It’s not vertical. But is earthly, horizontal, unspiritual, of the devil. Satan, the evil one, is tweaking the dials behind worldly wisdom.
“For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder,” that’s chaos, “and every evil practice.”
We can see the result of worldly wisdom wherever we turn, wars and rumors of wars, rape, murder and assault. All the people who make these choices to go the way of evil, they believe they are thinking right. They are using worldly wisdom. It’s totally of the devil.
This morning, I was watching a documentary about Elvis Presley at about six a.m. I get up early on Sunday. Referring to his drug addiction, Elvis, the king, said this about his life, “I would rather not feel anything than feel the pain of my life.” Elvis Presley, if you read about his life, operated by worldly wisdom, not a vertical wisdom, but a horizontal wisdom.
Remember last weekend, when I talked about spending 24 hours on that beautiful yacht? The guy who owned the yacht lives in another state. I talked to him for several hours. One morning, in that palatial cabin, he was spilling his guts to me, just downloading. He was saying, “Ed, I am 68 years old and I am worth millions of dollars. I have a horrible marriage. My three children hate me.”
I am thinking to myself, “Man, I would not trade places with you for all the money in the world.” What a miserable life. I was talking to someone who was involved in horizontal, worldly wisdom. It will always lead to chaos and disorder.
The Bible says in Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” There is a freeway that looks good. “Oh, that is the way I am going to take.” But it will lead to destruction. Don’t go there. It’s worldly wisdom. It’s chaotic.
Proverbs 26:12, “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
I hear people telling me all the time, “Ed, if it feels so good, how can it be so wrong?”
I look back at them and say, “Well, if it is so right, then why is your life so messed up?”
The Bible says time after time, God’s way works. God’s wisdom is it, strapping on his truth for every situation.
Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
Now, Christians, why do we do this? I am talking to believers now. Why do we mix a little bit of worldly wisdom with all the Godly wisdom? When we do that, we are giving the evil one a little foothold. We are literally helping him up in our lives. When we kind of do a little worldly stuff, we are saying, “Go ahead, Satan, just climb on board my life.” Once Satan gets a toehold, he is hard to get off your life. I am talking to believers now.
We cannot mess around with the evil stuff in the world. For example, I know a lot of believers who read their horoscopes.
“Oh, Ed, it’s so innocent, you know, psychic hotlines.”
That is of the devil.
Think about rat poisoning. 99% of rat poisoning is good food for the rat. It’s that 1% arsenic that messes him up every time.
Think about fire ants. You know Amdro, that stuff that will kill fire ants. Read on the back of the label, 99% of Amdro is good for the ant. It will build muscle, fiber for the ant, high in protein. It’s that 1% of arsenic that kills them.
I see so many believers that want to do what God wants them to do in almost every area. But they have this little pet sin, this little area where Satan has a foothold and they think, “Oh, surely it won’t mess me up.”
Think about Solomon back in the Old Testament. I call him Solo-man to remember his name Solomon, because he did a solo thing. He said, “God, I will do it my way.” He turned his back on God, and took a 40-year freefall into the abyss of rebellion. How did it begin? It began when Solomon gave Satan a little foothold: a little pagan worship here, a little pagan women there, and slowly it consumed him.
Don’t let that be you. It’s worldly wisdom. There is a way that seems right but only leads to destruction.
Well, that’s kind of bad news. Let’s talk about the good news. Let’s talk about control because we can have control. We can tap into the wisdom of God.
Let’s go to James 3:17-18, and basically now, I am just going to go through and explain every single word in this verse. So when you leave verses 17 and 18, you will say, “I understand every word in that passage, and I can apply it.”
Here is what James says, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
What does it mean to be “pure?” It means to be clean. We saw a couple of weeks ago that the Bible is the mirror. Most of us looked into the mirror before we came to church today. We didn’t take the mirror off the wall and then shave or put on make-up or do our hair. The mirror told us what to do. We look into the mirror of God’s word; it tells us that we are dirty and we’d better take a shower. We can get clean only by the precious blood of Jesus, only when we receive him. He will forgive us and cleanse us past, present and future.
It’s like the guy who is talking to his Christian friend. He says, “Man, all you Christians are just brainwashed.” The Christian thought for a second and said, “You know, everybody is brainwashed. But those of us who are Christians, we have chosen the right person to wash our brains.” I love that.
It all begins with purity. I can’t make myself pure. You can’t purify yourself. It’s got to be a God thing.
When I think of being “peace-loving” and “considerate,” I think about the cross. The cross has a vertical aspect to it, to God, and a horizontal aspect to our fellow man. Once we bow the knee to Christ and receive his sin sacrifice, then we will reach out to others in peace and consideration.
How about the word “submissive?” There would never be, think about this, there would never be a resurrection without first of all, a death. There is no way you will ever discover God’s will for your life or have godly wisdom until you have a death to self-will. I have got to say, “God, you are God. I am not. You take the throne of my life. I want to submit to you. Whatever it takes, I am going to do what you want me to do. I am going to put shoe leather, or shoe rubber, beneath your requirements.” That is being submissive.
What does it mean to be “full of mercy?” To be full of something means to be controlled by it. Once you have been purified, once you have a peace with God and of God, once you are submissive, once you are full of mercy, you will give out mercy to others. That is what it means to be controlled by the Spirit and to produce good fruits.
The Bible says to produce the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of yourself, but the fruit of the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is in our life, and the Holy Spirit produces fruit from the inside out: love, joy, peace, etc.
We have three options with the fruit of the Spirit. We can produce peels. As I have said over and over again, we do not produce fruit for self-consumption. We shouldn’t give people apple cores and orange peels, that is wrong. A lot of people are spiritually fat. The last thing you need is to eat your own fruit. You need to share your fruit. So a lot of people are peel people.
Some are plastic people. Have you ever seen a plastic arrangement of fruit that looks so real. You come right up to it, and you think, “I want a bite of that apple.” You pick it up and you realize, “Oh, it’s a fake apple.” A lot of hypocrites produce fake fruit. It’s not good. We should produce Farmer’s Market type produce, hopefully organic, and share it with others so they can eat it. Because we have a world that is dying for fruit.
Impartial. The word “impartial” means unwavering. Sincere. The word “sincere” means to live a hypocrite-free life. The word hypocrite means to wear a mask, and a lot of us have these masks on. We come to church with masks on. “Oh, yes, I am a Christ-follower. I live for the Lord.” Once we hit the parking lot, the mask is gone. The real person comes out then. If you are sincere, your life is characterized by honesty and one of my favorite words, integrity. The word “integrity” comes from the word integer, which means a whole number. I am not giving out fractions. I am giving out a wholeness to others. We have too many fraction folks out there, if you hear me screaming.
Now, peacemaker. What does it mean to be a peacemaker? A peacemaker means that I am going to speak the truth in love. I am going to do truth God’s way. Sometimes, it might ruffle some feathers, sometimes people might get a little freaky, but I am going to be a peacemaker. A peacekeeper is something you don’t want to be. A peacekeeper says, “Oh, I can’t ruffle feathers. I can’t step on anybody’s toes. I have got to keep everybody a-okay. I have got to keep the waters calm.”
If you are a peacekeeper, then nothing will ever get changed. That’s control. You’ve got to say, “God, I want your wisdom. God, I want to die to myself. God, you work through me. God, I turn to you for wisdom, not the armed chair experts, not the horoscopes, not some talk show, not some little self-help book at Barnes and Noble, I turn to you and you alone.”
Now the Bible is not saying that all of the knowledge in the world is bad. There is some very beneficial stuff out there for all of us. But it is saying the ultimate knowledge comes from God. It’s saying that God’s way works.
That brings us to our point of application, of putting feet beneath our faith. How do we do it? I’ll tell you how we do it. We do it this way. We do it by PB & J. PB&J is how we get smart. What does PB&J mean? Peanut Butter and Jelly. You know I usually watch my diet, but I tell you that I have a weakness for peanut butter and jelly. Right here, we have got some good stuff. We have got some Peter Pan Crunchy Peanut Butter. It’s only 25% fat.
You know, it’s funny if you go to a restaurant with a bunch of Christians and they order all this fatty food and then they will pray this prayer, “Lord, bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies.” I want to say, Let’s give a time out here. You ought to pray before you order, that God will help you pick out the right food so your body can be nourished. The only way you can pray that prayer is if you are ordering organic and healthy foods and then you can pray that. But most of our food is not that great.
I have got to make this sandwich here. This is a classic, Peter Pan Peanut Butter and Welch’s Concord Grape Jelly. I hate food to get mixed up too. I don’t have time to wash this knife. You know what “P” stands for? “P” stands for prayer.
“Ed, I want this godly wisdom.” It begins with prayer. James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God.” Here is what my prayer should be, “God, I want your wisdom more than anything else in my life. I want your wisdom about my marriage, about my finances, about my career, about how to handle my rebellious teenager. God, I want it more than anything else and I am going to do what you want me to do.”
A lot of people I talk to waste some serious prayer. For example, I talked to a young woman a while back and she said, “You know, Ed, I met this guy and he is not a Christian, and I am just really praying about whether I should marry him or not.”
I said, “Man, don’t waste your time and God’s time. Don’t pray about stuff already written down in the Bible.” God said, “If we love Christ, if we are Christ followers, we should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. We should not marry those outside the family of faith.” This girl said, “Yes, I am also praying about whether we should continue to have sex.”
I said, “Uh, the Bible says that sex is reserved for the marriage bed. You are wasting your time praying that.” So don’t come to God with these dumb prayers when he has already spoken about it in his word. Why is God going to reveal something new to you when you are not doing what he has already told you to do in black and white.
“If anyone of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously…”—God cannot wait to give you and me wisdom— ‘to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
I love Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Does this word fear mean to be scared, freaked out? No, it doesn’t mean that. Fear means reverence. It’s kind of like this. Your cruising down the freeway. You go over a hill and you see a highway patrolman. What do you do? You put your seatbelt on. You think, “Man, was he or she looking? I’ll slow down. Are they coming? Please, please, don’t get me, don’t get me, don’t get me.”
We change our driving when we see that car, because that car represents authority. A lot of believers are just cruising down the freeway of life, come over a hill, see God, and “Well, who cares?” They keep on going. Unlike the highway patrolman, God is not going to pull us over. He will just let us go, because he has given us the ability to make our own choices. He will let you hydroplane, he will warn you now and then, and then one day you get in a wreck and find out that it’s not worth it to ignore God. So, you need to stop and reverence God.
“God, I fear you. God, I reverence you. God, I want your wisdom more than anything.” That’s the “P.”
What’s the “B?” The “B” is the Bible. Deuteronomy 4:5-6, “See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’”
What do you think the “J” is? It’s not jelly. It’s Jesus. Because it all begins with Jesus.
You know, my wisdom is sad. My wisdom alone is pathetic. So is yours. Yet Jesus gives me the strength and the power to really have great wisdom.
Colossians 2:2-3, “My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
So it’s a PB&J thing.
Remember Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone? It could be the difference between worldly wisdom and Godly wisdom. Because 24/7, we need to have an open line to the Chief.
“God, what do you want from me? God, you tell me. God, I understand the facts and figures. Now, I want to apply it.”
God says, put feet to your faith and talk to the shoe. Take your shoe, strap it on, and then have a bite of PB&J.