29 October 2011

Loving the church: {Day 29} Seek wisdom!

Y'all, it is day 29!  Three more days of the series on loving the church.  I hope to have a guest post tomorrow by someone quite dear to me.  Monday I will wrap things up with a profound and amazing conclusion the likes of you which you have never seen on the interwebs!
Just kidding.  On Monday I will do my best to wrap up some of the main ideas we've discussed in the past month.  Hope my brain can hack it.
Hey, did you know I'm doing the first giveaway ever on my blog?  Leave a comment on the blog between now and Monday, October 31 (otherwise known as the Halloweenie in these parts), and you will be entered to win a copy of one of my favorite books, A Praying Life:  Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul Miller. And guys (I know you're out there), it's not a chick book.  It's written by a dude. You might like to read it, too!

Today (Who am I kidding?  It's definitely tonight.) I want to talk about wisdom, and how gaining wisdom leads to maturity.  We can love the church by seeking wisdom in all areas of our lives.  Doing so benefits not only us as individuals, but also benefits the whole church body.
Proverbs 2:6-11 says the following.  I've highlighted the benefits promised from seeking wisdom.
For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the ways of his saints.  Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you.

Further on in Proverbs 4: 5,7, 12-13, we are exhorted:
Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth...The beginning of wisdom is this:  Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight...When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble.  Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.

The repetition of the phrases "get wisdom...get insight" leave no doubt as to the importance of these two traits.
With wisdom comes maturity.  And by maturity I don't mean becoming stodgy and boring and old (though I am quite advanced in years in relation to most people in our church...wink, wink).  I mean growing up into the person that Jesus wants you to be right now, in your current stage of life.  I think all of us as believers should seek to become mature in the Lord, no matter our age or life stage.  Don't put off seeking wisdom and maturity.  When I was in college, I used to think, "Well, when I get a job, then I can start to really be a grown-up."  Then it was, "Well, when I get married, then I will be really settled and then I will really start to grow and learn and become wise."
Boy, was my thinking wrong (and also, um...immature)!  God is telling the stories of our lives now, wherever we are, and we must not wait to seek wisdom and get insight.  Don't wait for the perfect job, marriage, promotion, motherhood, or whatever major life stage you think will make your life really begin.  The time for wisdom is now, whether you have just started to trust Christ, or you have known him for years, whether you feel like your life is in limbo, or you are perfectly settled and (maybe a little too) content with your life.

As we consider maturity, two related issues come to mind.  One of them is gossip.  Participating in gossip is most definitely not loving the church.  When we tear others down, we tear down the body.  Our tongues are "a restless evil, full of deadly poison" (James 3:8...sheesh, James!) and we must be careful how we use them.  When in doubt, it is always better to hold your tongue.  How tempting it is to cover up gossip as "sharing prayer requests" or even just saying that "I need to vent".  God is big enough for us to leave certain "prayer requests" unspoken.  And he is certainly big enough to hear our venting!  He can take it.  Let's not impugn the reputation of someone else, no matter how good it makes us feel at the time.  Our words cannot be taken back, and we might lead someone down the same path of gossip.
The other point of maturity that seems to come up frequently is the idea of looking out for the conscience of others.  In the church, we don't all have the same convictions; we are told in Scripture to look out for our brothers and sisters and not cause them to stumble.  In Romans, Paul mentions this in several places:
So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. (14:19)
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.  (15:1-3)
What is permissible for me may not be so for someone with a weaker conscience.  For example, one of my dear college friends for many years had a strong conviction that Christians should never drink alcohol.  While I did not share her conviction, out of love for her and a desire to pursue peace, I did not take the freedom I feel I have in the Lord to drink alcohol (as long as I'm not getting drunk!).  In 1 Corinthians 8, in a discussion about eating food that had been sacrificed to idols, Paul says, "Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.   Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
We have great freedom in Christ, but we must not insist on this freedom if it will be a detriment to a brother or sister.  Again, as Paul says, "'All things are lawful for me', but not all things are helpful. 'All things are lawful for me,' but I will not be enslaved by anything." (I Corinthians 6:12)
Even while it is hard to lay down our lives, to give up what we feel are our "rights", we can trust the Lord to give us everything we need.  We can freely honor our weaker brothers and sisters as we trust the Father to take care of all our needs.
Let us love the church today by seeking wisdom and maturity, by guarding our tongues and by giving up our own freedoms to protect our brothers and sisters.
   
This is the 29th part in a series.  Go here to read the series from the beginning.  Go here to read over 700 other 31 Day series on all kinds of topics.

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