As a follow up to my last post on wisdom I am going to drill down further on wisdom and knowledge and look at how to exercise wisdom by acting on our knowledge. To begin, the simple distinction between wisdom and knowledge is that knowledge is possessing information; wisdom is knowing what to do with the information we possess. We see this all of the time in advice on diets and health. It is easy to arm people with knowledge. Imparting the wisdom to act on that knowledge is another matter. The same is true of sermons. Most sermons share knowledge. However, whether we act on that knowledge is another matter.
A major challenge in acting on what we know is the struggle of conflicting desires, as Paul laid out in Romans 7. Knowing what to do but struggling to exercise wisdom and act on it. Paul had both knowledge and wisdom but as he presented in Romans 7, struggled with the actual application.
15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. Romans 7:15–25 (NKJV)
One thing that is clear here is that the application of knowledge isn’t all about willpower. Paul said his will was right, his actions were not. Paul expressed very clearly that he knew what to do, wanted to do it and yet something was hindering his engaging in what he desired to do. Paul then pointed us to the need to draw on something outside of ourselves – grace! Grace has been defined by many as ‘unmerited favour’ but the definition falls short. Grace is that, but it is also His empowering presence, His enablement to do what He has called us to do. We see that in the very next verses in Romans.
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1–2 (NKJV)
Paul described sin as ‘dwelling’ in his body, not his nature as he received a new nature at conversion (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21) but something inherent in fallen humanity that was not eradicated by his conversion. Which is why we need a glorified body at our resurrection or translation. Paul presented the battle against sin but he also pointed us to the solution. Sin is like gravity; it seeks to pull us down. If I hold my hand out with my phone in it and let go of my phone, unless there is an intervention it will fall to the ground, drawn by gravity. If I reach out and catch it with my other hand, I overcome the force of gravity and interrupt what would naturally take place.
In terms of applying knowledge to overcome the pull of sin, this interruption and overcoming of what would naturally take place is grace. Paul described the effect of grace as, ‘the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.’
At conversion Jesus came to dwell in me and you. If He is in us then He is also the source of the grace we can draw on to interrupt the power of sin in us. We are now back to knowledge. What we need to know now is how to exercise wisdom to draw on this grace. In a single word, intimacy. If I have developed an intimate relationship with Jesus, in my interactions with Him I will find myself rising above and moving away from the pull of sin. I do this by simply looking to His presence in my spirit. This is trusting Christ in me the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27) rather than my abilities. When I do this, I experience His empowering presence (grace) enabling me rise above the pull of sin.
Two passages of scripture that speak further to this are in Hebrews and 1 Corinthians. We know that Jesus was without sin in the presence of temptation, not only in His wilderness temptation but also throughout the rest of His earthly life.
15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15 (NKJV)
We then have Paul telling us that when we are tempted, just as others are, that there is a way out.
13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV)
The way out is what I have outlined above, living in the reality of Romans 8 rather than Romans 7 and knowing Jesus within as Paul presented in Colossians. To that end, let’s pursue intimacy with Jesus and look to Him within that we may walk in wisdom.