The other day I was listening to a podcast as I got ready, and the speaker largely focused on talking about how we can (by God’s grace) live as a Proverbs 31 Woman. For those of you unfamiliar with this scripture, it talks about a woman of noble character. She is trustworthy, reliable, a supporter and uplifter of her husband. She works hard, helps to provide for her family, and plans ahead for the future. She is wise, compassionate, and shows love to those less fortunate than herself. It goes further to describe that she is clothed with strength and dignity rather than flaunting her physical beauty and she’s careful to have her words seasoned with grace.
So literally less than a week later, I came across an article on my Facebook feed discussing how the Church needs to “rethink” the Proverbs 31 Woman. It went on make points like, “Let’s face it: we can’t measure up to this lady- and I don’t think we’re even meant to” and “The problem lies in the guilt that this description inevitably places on many women within the church.”
Only a few days ago I read more about a new movement that’s challenging people to “Unlearn” Church and find the biblically mandated Church outside of what our Churches have become: mostly bench warming spectators who are uninvested in learning and sharing a life-changing gospel.
On the flip side, I’ve also read numerous commentaries on how we must value and uphold the Church and do whatever it takes to each do our part to allow the Church to stay alive and grow, and that leaving is never the solution.
I’ve been engaged in numerous discussions surrounding the topic of sanctification and whether or not it’s really possible to live the way Jesus lived, and how grace fits into the picture.
The point of this post really isn’t to bash any of of these sources- i don’t even intend to discuss this topic of the Proverbs 31 Woman or the Church or sanctification or any of these things specifically… Instead, I’ve been thinking a lot about the topic of wisdom.
When you scroll through social media feeds or the internet- even perhaps in conversations with friends or coworkers- it can become easy to see an increasingly murky truth. Discussions on what the Church should look like, which scriptures should or “shouldn’t” be taken literally, how we “should” be doing outreach, what sanctification really means, how to read scripture through this particular lens or way of thinking, what about all those ‘grey areas’ that the Bible doesn’t talk about….What is truth??! Maybe you can relate to this on a personal level. Maybe you’re even thinking of a very specific example of something you’re struggling with, or something that seems to just get more and more muddled as you hear different perspectives…
Now let me back up for a minute. I want to share my personal stance on extra-biblical resources. I believe that there’s SO much valuable information and wealth of knowledge that can be found in other sources such as commentaries, books, devotionals, podcast sermons, etc…I’m reading a fantastic commentary called “Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes” right now, and it has totally given me a new perspective as I read through the gospels understanding cultural context, original translations, etc. It’s totally wild and I’m loving the depth it’s adding to my understanding of Jesus’ ministry. That being said, I think that we need to do it responsibly. I think there’s some pretty blatant unbiblical teaching out there, but there’s also just a whole of human opinion interjected into sources that we sometimes all-too willingly accept as truth.
These sources can add to our depth of understanding and insight into scripture if we are willing to place them next to Scripture and discern what is truth. Sometimes it’ll be pretty clear, other times it won’t. What I believe is important is not just soaking up everything we’re told or hear or read and claiming it as truth. Test and approve what is true.
God has been showing me just how important wisdom really is in all of this.
In my study through the book of Colossians, I’ve been seeing just how much emphasis Paul placed on wisdom. Throughout the letter to the Church at Colossae he writes things like,
“We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worth of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit, growing in the knowledge of God…”
“…so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ”
“put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
“…always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in the will of God, mature and fully assured.”
As I continue to study through this book, it’s really impacting me to see how wisdom was a theme interwoven throughout the whole letter. There were other themes in Paul’s words to the Church, but wisdom was alongside each one.
To give a bit of context briefly, Paul wrote this letter to the Church in Colossae because Epaphras (who helped plant this Church after his own salvation) had shared with him that some false teaching is beginning to threaten the Church, and some of its members are also still hung up on traditional “rituals”, not understanding that their new Identity in Christ is not dependent on these things.
I imagine that this same issue that the Church in Colossae faced is one that is not absent for us as believers today. I’d even venture to say that we might even be more at risk of having truth become muddied up as we’re bombarded with an information overload, but maybe not doing a good job of testing and approving the things we come across.
It might be a bit bold to say this, but I think Satan is gaining a foothold into the heart of the Church in two ways: 1) Through individuals who soak up everything they hear or are told as truth but don’t dig deeper to truly understand what they believe. (Yes, it’s possible to be a benchwarmer in church and never actively participate in your own faith!!) They can’t even really vocalize what the absolute truths are that they stand for. They roll with the waves and ‘go with the flow’. 2) Through individuals who are so obsessed with their pursuit of finding answers that they turn to everything except the Bible, and as a result become more confused and uncertain about what they stand for, dragging down others alongside them in the process.
You could fill the blank with so many things other than doctrine specifically here. I won’t even bother listing all the endless possibilities of topics related to discernment- every day life choices. I’m sure you can fill in the blanks for yourself. What I WOULD like to do though, is share a few short points that God has been teaching me on the topic of wisdom as I’ve been reading through Proverbs and Paul’s letters to the Churches.
1. Test and approve.
In Philippians 1:10 Paul says, “And this is my prayer: that your love would abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, that you may be able to discern and approve that which is most excellent and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”
You might find it interesting to know that in this passage, the original greek translation used the word eilikrines in place of pure, which literally means “found pure when unfolded and examined by the sun’s light”. Doesn’t the original greek translation just add so much depth?! It’s basically saying, “as you grow in your knowledge, you’ll grow in your ability to discern and will be able to approve the things that have been judged, examined, and inspected in the light of God’s Word and are found to be in agreement with Christ.”
I’d like to add some extra depth to this point by borrowing an illustration from Pastor Eric Ludy’s sermon on the thought life. Here’s a picture for you of the testing and approving process:
The thought receptor (eyes, ears or mouth): Thoughts come to us on a regular basis. We’re bombarded by them. Thoughts come in the form of other people’s words, things we hear, things we read, things that show up on our social media feed or on the radio or TV, out with friends, at work or even at Church. We were designed by God to be able to receive thoughts and have thoughts enter.
Thought tester (Kidneys): Just as kidneys purify and filter out the bad in our physical bodies, our “spiritual kidneys” (the Holy Spirit) allow for purifying of the things that come in. Are we taking in anything and everything and allowing it to remain, or are we allowing for purification by taking it captive to Christ?
The second thought tester & storer (Heart): Think of this as your “food pantry”. You still have the option to go through your pantry and get rid of things, but hopefully by the time things come to the pantry they’ve already been tested and approved. God cares a great deal about what’s going on in your heart. This is where your “food for thought” is being kept and stored, and from it flows the fruit- whether good or bad.
Preparation of outgoing thought (kidneys and the brain): Another “kidney” helps to do the thinking before speaking. Doing more testing and approving before a thought goes out. Then the preparation of thought happens in the “kitchen” (our brain), coming from what the pantry has stored in it.
Thought expresser (the mouth): Communicating thoughts. That which is flowing out of our mouth is a giveaway for what’s going on inside the heart (or pantry). “Out of the heart all things flow” Proverbs 4:23
I hope you appreciated that illustration as much as I do. It’s good to have a visual for this very active process that’s happening with our intake and output of thoughts every single day. But how do we ensure that the things we’re storing in our heart are good? It’s entirely possible to desire to be wise and discerning and have good things flow from you, but you’ll be unable to as long as you don’t have the “good food” coming in. This brings us to the second point…
2. Know God and His Word
This is the food that my previous illustration is talking about!! The Word of God is the best food we can allow in to be stored in our pantry (our heart). It’s good to remember that while the Word of God is text of scripture, it’s also the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said “I AM the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry.” John 6:35
When Jesus and His word are the center of our thought process, and the Holy Spirit is sponsoring our input and output, that’s when God will be evident in our lives. That’s when we will add to our knowledge and understanding as He guides us through His many truths, commands, and commissions for our lives. I’m quite convinced that if we didn’t have Church to go to, we wouldn’t be nearly as complacent in seeking to know and understand truth, and be wise in our discernment apart from what others are telling us to think and do. And don’t misunderstand me…Church is a God sanctioned thing and it has immense value and purpose, but if that becomes our replacement for thinking and discerning, it can become dangerous. The Word of God and personal conviction as you walk with your Lord should be where your discernment flows from- not what everyone else is doing.
So to add to that point, it’s good to remember that in order to know God and know how to discern, we need to spend time with Him!! That time is something you can’t get around or try to replace with anything else. It’s fundamental to our Christian walk that we spend as much time as it takes each day to learn and grow in wisdom. His word is filled with principles that can guide our discretion and decisions, even if everything isn’t laid out for us in black and white. Sometimes it’s not even a matter of right vs. wrong, but of good vs. best.
3. Other reliable sources can add depth
So as mentioned earlier, this isn’t about trying to convince you that extra-biblical sources are important. I just hold the opinion that they’re very valuable to add depth to my understanding.
There are topics like sanctification, healing, discipleship, interpretation of parables, and sometimes even specific confusing scriptures that require additional information. With how far removed we are from the biblical times in which scripture was written, I believe it’s valuable to especially seek to better understand context and culture surrounding the time that something was written! I’ve gone through some fantastic books, podcast series and commentaries in my search for better understanding. And in this process I’ve tried to very actively take each thought captive and test and approve it by the grace of the Holy Spirit. And I’ll be honest that sometimes I found sources to be questionable or lacking biblical basis, but this also then challenged me to find out why. To not just let something that’s uncertain or different than what I grew up believing cause me to run the other direction, but to find out how it stands against scripture.
Hebrews 5:14 says, “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil”. So I think it’s also wise for me to add that going through additional sources should often be reserved for those who are more mature in their faith.
Don’t forget that the first two points are Know God and know His Word, and test and approve! Those are the priority, this is supplemental.
4. Be faithful in your pursuit
God delights in us seeking after wisdom. He really does. There are countless times in Proverbs alone that allude to this, but here’s one passage specifically that I really enjoy:
“indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding…for wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.” Proverbs 2
I think it’s neat that the author likens the search for wisdom to a search for treasure. If you’re given a shovel to dig for treasure, and even TOLD where to dig, wouldn’t it be silly not to do the work?? We’re given the tools to dig and told what we should seek after: wisdom. When we ask for wisdom His answer will always be yes. But this isn’t a passive pursuit…it’s an active one. To seek after something means to continue until receiving it. And I don’t believe we’ll ever be perfected in our wisdom on this side of heaven, which leads me to believe we should never stop seeking after wisdom.
I hope that like me, you are newly challenged to remember to take every thought captive and test and approve them with the help of the Holy Spirit. Let’s seek after wisdom like it’s a treasure and remember that what we store up in our hearts and minds will flow outward as the evident fruit to others. This is a lifelong journey and I’m constantly encouraged and thankful to remember that God’s grace is sufficient for us to run this race victoriously and fulfill His will in the process.
Be blessed this week my friends!
“Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.
She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honour.
Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
those who hold her fast will be blessed…
My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight,
preserve sound judgment and discretion;
they will be life for you,
an ornament to grace your neck.
Then you will go on your way in safety,
and your foot will not stumble.”