James 3:13 "Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom."
True Christians demonstrate their profession of faith by fruits of obedience
As you look at the opening verse of today's blog, you may wonder what point is James trying to make when he asks his question? The short answer is that he is saying: "who among you is a Christian" or "who among you is saved"? With that question, James then exhorts his readers who are Christians to act like Christians. 1 What will follow in James 3:14-4:7 are encouragements and warnings to believers who are operating in one of two ways: those who are spiritual or operating out of their human spirit with the Holy Spirit dwelling therein and those who are carnal or compromising in their Christian walk.2
Two telephones - an illustration
Years ago I heard an illustration of how the Christian's soul in communication with their spirit and the body is comparable to having two telephones. With a little bit of upgrading to that illustration I want to help you to see the significance of what James is writing to us here in James 3:13-4:7.
Your life before Christ - an empty room and one rusty old telephone called "the wisdom from below"
Picture for a moment your soul (mind, emotions, will and conscience) as being a room in which you live. You are a soul, a living soul, with a spirit clothed in a body. Your human spirit, prior to salvation, is an empty room upstairs with no lights and no windows. All you know is the room of your soul that is enhoused in your physical body. Now in the room of your soul there is a rusty old telephone that is connected to what James describes in James 3:15 as the "wisdom from below". Whenever that phone rings, you pick up the receiver and have conversations with those that claim to be your friends. On the other end are voices that comprise this "wisdom from below", influencing your soul before salvation to be influenced by the world, your natural bodily drives and the demonic realm that is working through this world system. (James 3:15) Furthermore, unknown to you, you are continually on the line, and are quite happy with your telephone. It is in you to keep the rusty old phone.
How you go from having one telephone as an unbeliever to having two telephones as a Christian
A neighbor of yours invites you to church one Sunday, and so you relunctantly go. While sitting in the church service, a man gets up front and preaches the Gospel. In your soul the rusty telephone suddenly rings - distracting you from focusing on the preacher. The voice on the other end tells you to ignore the man and bide your time until the lunch hour. Suddenly on the inside of your soul you see a second, shiny red telephone appear, and on the receiver you find these words as described by James 3:17 "the wisdom from above". At first you ignore it, you leave the church service and move on with your life. About mid-way through the week the shiny red telephone in your soul begins to ring. Again you ignore it, since you are on the rusty old telephone with your friends from the place called "wisdom from below". However it begins to ring more and more. Getting agitated, you say: "excuse me, I need to put you on hold, for I have another line trying to ring."
The Shiny red telephone of the Gospel rings with the convicting work of the Holy Spirit who is moving into your human spirit
As you do so and proceed to pick up the shiny red telephone, the voice on the other line says: "hello, this is the Holy Spirit." As He begins to speak to your heart, your find your spirit coming alive. As He continues, you find that what the Spirit of God says to you about your lost condition and Jesus Christ the Savior is pure, brings you peace, washes over you in gentleness, makes sense, is full of mercy and makes you want to live a live for Jesus without hypocrisy. (James 3:17) The Holy Spirit persuades you to hang up the other phone and cut the cord, and to never pick up the old rusty phone of your old life ever again. As the Holy Spirit moves into the upstairs room of your human spirit, you surrender by faith to Jesus Christ.
The two telephones represent the daily battle you have between the wisdom from above versus the wisdom from below
Now even though the Holy Spirit has moved into the room upstairs (your human spirit), and even though your are on the line with Him, comparing spiritual thoughts with spiritual words in your Bible and prayer (1 Corinthians 2:12-13), at about noon everyday that old rusty telephone begins to ring. According to James 4:1-4, as a Christian, you still have your dying body and the remnant of sin to contend with, tempting you to lust after what you do not have - meaning that there is a part of you (the self-life) that is tempted to re-connect with that old phone. At first you declare war and cut the cord, saying to yourself: "I know that the power of sin was taken away when I got saved, but yet at about this time I find my self having to die to this old self-life." (compare Romans 7:14ff) At anyrate you continue talking to the Spirit, enjoying sweet fellowship with Him, reading your Bible, praying and going to church.
How the spiritual Christian can become carnally minded - talking on the wrong telephone
Then it happens - a bad day. The boss yells at you, the car breaks down and you get a bill that was more than you estimated. Its about noon and you're hungry, frustrated and you are finding yourself not clearly hearing the Holy Spirit speaking from your human spirit on that shiny red telephone. Suddenly that old rusty telephone rings and in desperation, you tell the Holy Spirit: "please hold!" Now He is warning you with a loud voice to cut the cord of that rusty telephone, for as James notes in James 4:5, the Lord with His Spirit is Jealous or desirous for our undivided attention.
As soon as you pick up that rusty telephone, an old song, a sweet voice of an old friend speaks words that you have not heard in a long time. The red shiny telephone's light is blinking, but you ignore it. As a Christian, you can only talk on one telephone at a time. Soon you are spending more time with your old friends from your former way of life than you are with the Holy Spirit. You stop reading your Bible and your prayer life goes to the wayside. For a while all seems well - and yet you get the feeling that all is not right between you and God. You're growing cold and mean. Church is losing its draw, the Bible has become to you a wordless book and your prayer life is boring. What happened? You became carnally minded.
How God wins you back and rescues you from your carnal, backslidden state - reconnecting with the right telephone
Thankfully the Holy Spirit has not given up. His silence has been deafening, however He and the Father and the Son have engineered some difficult circumstances to come your way to steer you back to repentance. God the Father has ordained to permit the difficulties, since you are his child, and He only disciplines those whom He loves. (Hebrews 12:6) In tears you humble yourself and pray a prayer of repentance, knowing full well the promise of James 4:6 "But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”
One night the old rusty telephone rings. This time you snatch it up. Having repented and submitted yourself unto God, you say to that voice on the other line that you resist the devil and that he must flee in Jesus name. And as you slam down the receiver, you cut the cord and resume your conversation with the Holy Spirit, in your human spirit, on the shiny red telephone.
1. No doubt James, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was echoing such passages as Psalm 107:43 "Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things, And consider the lovingkindnesses of the LORD." Jesus too equated the term "wise", as so used by James, with the idea of somebody who was truly converted by grace through faith. We read in Matthew 7:24-25 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25“And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock."
2. To truly grasp what James is speaking about in James 3:14-4;6, we can read his words in light of Paul's words about these two types of Christians in 1 Corinthians 2 and 3. Out of the three men described in that text, two are Christians. Both are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and both are forgiven of their sins by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. However the one who is spiritual in 1 Corinthians 2:10-13, 16 is ordering his soulish realm (mind, emotions, will) and body under the subjection of his spirit that is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The other type of Christian in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 is called by Paul "fleshly" or "carnal", meaning that at some point he has grieved the Spirit and is ordering his spirit around the drives of his physical body as bound by his sinful self-life operating in his soul.The carnal Christian still has the new nature and like a bag of potatoes that contains one rotten one, the carnal believer has compromised in an area and that area, lest removed by repentance, will begin to affect other areas.