8/17/03, P10B

“Wisdom Comes Through...”
Ephesians 5: 15-17

e had a boy in our freshman class who was in his third freshman class. The only way he stayed in college was that his rich aunt was a generous financial supporter. Someone accused him of thinking that algebra was a foreign language. It is said that he tried to attain a passing grade by sleeping on his history textbook in the hopes that the information would flow into his brain during the night. He has turned out to own a successful delivery service. He was not dumb; he was just not at all interested in higher education.

In his letter to the believers in Ephesus, a city just across from Greece in what is now the nation of Turkey, Saint Paul instructs the fledgling Christians to, "...not be foolish, but understand." We are to live lives of "wisdom." In other words, each disciple of Jesus Christ is encouraged to develop our minds along with their spiritual growth. It is only natural that if our experience with Christ has meant a lot to us that we will be interested in reading the manual and following the service schedules.

I bought a tractor this week. Actually it is a riding lawn mower, but the dealers all call them "tractors." It does look like a kind of small Go-Cart tractor. However, it had a big price tag and its fun to drive around and around in the yard. I am interested in my new tool/toy, so I plan to read the manual and watch the video and keep up the maintenance schedule of services. Is it not assumed that your Christian Discipleship should mean as much to you as you're riding lawn mower, or your new golf clubs?

One of the great challenges of life is to attain a sense of wisdom as we grow in knowledge of the Bible and Christian Theology. Spiritual wisdom is the application of our knowledge to actual life situations. The accumulation of un-applied facts is not the long range purpose of education. Over the years I have found many times that the information that I gathered during ten years of college has been helpful. However, the wisdom that has come through thoughtful living has made my factual knowledge into a sense of understanding.

Let me hasten to say that what little understanding of the universe has not so much come from my formal and continuing education, but from an ongoing commitment to learning, and a dependence upon the omniscient Spirit.

The truth is that the true wisdom we attain comes from Him who enlightens our way:

"So pay "close attention to how you live.
Don't live like ignorant men, but like wise men.
Make good use of every opportunity you get,
because these are bad days. Don't be fools,
then, but try to find out
what the Lord wants you to do."

(Eph. 5: 15-17, TEV)

Through cooperating Grace the Spirit quickens our minds and focuses our discernment in a way that brings believers to their own best level of what we might call wisdom. This does not mean that those without formal education are usually ready to debate the professors, but they are amazingly farther down the path than anyone ever believed. C. S. Lewis points out that this is the way the uneducated Puritan Lay Preacher, John Bunyan, was able to write The Pilgrim's Progress, one of the finest allegories and the most read book in English other than the Bible. In fact, he wrote a number of religious books during his imprisonment for preaching in England without a license, where his only textbooks were the Bible and Foxe's Book of Martyrs.

A key component in Methodism's method of living the Christian experience is the emphasis on attaining all of the formal education that one can, but also relying on the power of God's Spirit to enhance a lifelong of learning. Indeed, the chief value of a college education is that it prepares one to become a lifelong student. Yet, three of the wisest persons of Christian history avoided formal education for the most part. Samuel Johnson dropped out of Oxford after a few weeks feeling that it was a waste of time, and because in his era students made fun of a boy who was physically handicapped. Soon thereafter he wrote the great English Dictionary and became the most respected mind of England. G. K. Chesterton would not submit to the formal processes of the Universities either, choosing to attend The Slade College of Art in London. He became the greatest essayist of all time. Professor Lewis refused to do a Ph.D., feeling that it was a distraction from his studies, and went on to be the most well read man of the twentieth century, and one of the wisest.

Since I have chosen a sermon title that points to a bold claim, I would say that these three wise men, along with Bunyan and Wesley, were made wise through a deep sense of understanding that was their gift from God. We can say that their lives embodied a continuing love of learning and a serious bearing of thoughtfulness. Wesley and Bunyan were especially serious about life's fleeting hours and days, making the best use of every opportunity that they had to learn and do good. It may give those of us caught in a modern American fast paced lifestyle encouragement to know that Johnson, Chesterton and Lewis made plenty of time for their friends and led full social lives. Indeed their social lives enhanced their wide knowledge and gave their wisdom a more down to earth tone. Lewis was especially apt at speaking to the common person, even through his formal Oxbridge language. He danced with angels but was able to give his radio talks to the people of England, some hiding in bunkers during WWII. These ordinary talks were later compiled into the book, Mere Christianity; or, common truth from Christianity; or perhaps, how to finally find "what the Lord wants us to do." Life ultimately comes down to this somehow; finding His pathway for us through it all. That is wisdom!

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

8/10/03, P9B