What is the “Wisdom Thesis”?
It’s an attempt to lay out simply, in unambiguous terms, and without any obfuscation, what I understand the basic tenets of the Christian faith to be. In what way I am I qualified to make the below statements? In short, I’m not (a theologian) but I’ve lived life.
During this short life I’ve had the rare privilege of shaking hands with presidents and CEOs (although I’ve often wished I was bolder in asking them more questions rather than being satisfied with just a handshake and introduction!). I’ve lived in four different countries (so far), travelled dozens more and throughout this time have engaged actively with people of all faiths and none, both at work and socially. I studied and qualified as a Mechanical Engineer but also subsequently completed three years of Bible School. I’ve worked directly for the church in a ministerial and management capacity for a total of nearly seven years; equally I’ve started my own IT business and worked in technical, administrative and management roles in (other) startups and large corporations for the best part of 10 years. I have certainly had my share of successes and failures.
I mention these things not to impress you with my CV, but to assure you of one thing: I’ve given some time to developing the below thoughts and I have had opportunity to refine them in the fiery furnace of life, so I’m not just passing on some trite one-liners. It’s only now that I feel ready to take a first stab at committing these to paper (or web, rather). I also accept that you can only start making a claim to be generically “wise” once you are over the proverbial hill (age 50 seems like a round number at which this becomes true), so I’m still holding back in the boldness of some of my statements for at least another 10 years!
The statements I have made below (so far) are based on what I have researched, been taught, have learnt (from the scriptures and from others both older and wiser than I), all mixed with a healthy dose of real-life experience of living as a Christian over the past 18 years (and counting). To be clear, before that I had 20 years to learn and experience what it means not to be a Christian (I hope you will appreciate the figure of speech, because I knew little of the Christian faith before a fateful day in January 1995). It’s really hard to explain what becoming a Christian meant to me in just a sentence, except to say that it changed my life in ways that I would never have thought possible. Here is something that comes close to capturing what my life has been like since that day. The motivation behind Wisdomhub is to share the Truth that I have been privileged to encounter in life with those who may not have had the benefit of a similar encounter yet.
Nonetheless, I’m quite open to being wrong on some/many/all of the below points and therefore I’ll start with a disclaimer:
(i) the Wisdom Thesis is never to be mistaken as a substitute for either the ten or the two great commandments;
(ii) the Wisdom Thesis is penned by my hand and not the finger of God and thus are inherently fallible and I will fight tooth and nail to defend my fallibility;
(iii) the Wisdom Thesis is subject to change as I grow and learn…so do come back regularly to see it develop!
- A sinner cannot and will not love God, but God can and will love a sinner. This is where our journey must begin – an acceptance that we did not seek God first, but that He first sought us; a simple acknowledgement that we did not and cannot love God of our own, but that He chose to love us, despite our desperate state. We must accept that he loves us only because he is love. He is motivated by this undefiled love and it is directed to us because of his choice – not because of who we are or what we have done. If we entertain the belief that something we have done makes us worthy of his love, we are in great danger of never being able to receive his love. If we accept that we were never nor will we ever be worthy, then it becomes a wonderful thing to discover the grace of God’s unmerited love. It remains only for us to yield to Him and to allow ourselves to be drenched in the riches of His grace and mercy, despite our sinful state. The more His grace and mercy saturates our lives, the more we will hate our love for sin and begin to love him. Love always leads repentance.
- God never tells us to “try” anything. This is very important – we cannot and should not “try” to love God. He commands us to love and unless we have first accepted God’s grace in the matter, it is impossible for us to obey this command. We shouldn’t waste our time trying to obey God – he commands us to obey and it is only by the power of his grace that this becomes remotely possible. If you ignore this point, you will waste your life trying to prove to God that you love Him or trying to get His favour. God gives us both love and favour as free gifts and it is the ultimate insult and offence to him if you think that you can somehow earn – or buy – these gifts. The only way to start our journey with God is to accept that he alone can give us the grace to love AND obey him. Faith is this: reliance on God, rather than reliance on self.
- The purpose of life is to discover Christ. We can easily spend our lives searching for meaning but still come up empty handed. This is because purpose is not found in going somewhere or becoming someone or possessing something. The meaning and purpose of life is simply to discover Christ. When we have found the glorious one who is the absolute and perfect image of God, we will find not only ourselves but meaning, joy, peace, love, hope and every other conceivable and deep desire of the human spirit. When we discover Christ, it is a day of great relief because we realise that life and its ultimate outcome is not dependant on the meagre wisdom and resources we have out our disposal. Christ is the great reconciler, who connects a beautiful, yet far fallen and very broken, world to the one and only source of eternal life and glory – our ever-living Father in heaven. Christ alone came down from the Father and He alone took it upon himself to suffer for the removal of our sins so that he could lead us back to the Father who loves us but whom we forsook. Salvation is to know and believe in the One who has traversed the heavens and offered up his eternal riches and sinless life to redeem us from certain death and unite us with our father in Heaven.
- God is most glorified when we love Him and one another. If you have accepted the previous points, then you will not question that the only way to be able to love God (or one another) is first to be loved by Him. The command to love is then no longer burdensome, but a great joy, privilege and adventure – because it comes from him and not from yourself. You will love to love. You will never try to love. When someone hates you, you will love them because you will remember how you were before you knew God. When someone persecutes you, you will forgive them because you will remember how God forgave you. When someone hurts you, you will bless them because you will remember how God blessed you despite all that you had done before. The command to love one another is like the command to love God – that means it is of equal standing. This means simply that our love for God is often and mostly expressed through the way we love one another. Yet there is a place in our hearts that should always and only be reserved for him, because we remember that he and he alone is the source of all goodness and love and that without him we are nothing but creatures of dark habit.
- God does not need, require or demand our time, money or talents. This is important to understand correctly. If we have accepted God’s love but do not understand this, then we are in danger of spending our lives thinking we can give something to God. This is a gross error because the moment we think we can give something to God it implies He is no longer God, because by definition it means that God has a need. God is, however, self-sufficient and has need of nothing and no-one. He possesses all of creation and does with it as he wills. Everything we have he has given to us. He does not want or need it back. He gives us all good things to enjoy – time, money, talents and so on. There are no strings attached or demands to pay them back. He is our heavenly father and not our heavenly miser. Yet this is not the full story:
- God is blessed, and so are we, when we freely and out of love serve Him and His purposes with our time, money and talents. This is equally important to understand correctly. Just because God gives us everything freely to enjoy, it does not mean we should do with these things as we please in the sense of squandering them. If you have accepted all the previous points, this will not be difficult for you to understand. Your desire will be to honour God with everything you have been given – your time, money and talents. Your overwhelming love for God will cause you to seek him daily for an understanding of how you can offer these things to advance His kingdom. The only danger here is that we will get overly enthusiastic because of our love, so God has created a safety valve, which we will address in the next point.
- You cannot do anything for God which He has not already done for you. Our biggest challenge in life is to accept that God is God and that we are not. This means we must accept that He has already worked everything out. He is the ultimate forward planner because he knows the beginning from the end. That means he has already foreseen and pre-created (i.e. created in heaven before it is manifested here on earth) every good work that you and I should ever do while on this earth. No exceptions. Anything we do outside of these pre-created good works is known as a dead work. This simply means that it is a work that is not pleasing to God and it will be burnt up by fire on the last day. So it is not worth investing your time, money and talents in such dead works. In fact, it is best to repent and run away from them or you could get burnt too if you happen to be around when they get vaporised (it’s nothing personal!). The exercise that we must get good at, is determining which are the good works God has prepared for us and then praying “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, here on earth as it is in heaven”. Faith is the only means by which we can access these good works and see them manifest here on earth. As a true believer saved by grace, our judgment will not be one of hell fire or heaven, but a judgment of our works – whether they were dead or good. If you align yourself with the perfect will of God, it simply means you are busy completing every good work he has prepared beforehand for you – nothing more, nothing less. It could be that all of these good works are compacted into a year or a day or a second of your life, but no-one can tell you this, only God can show you this by His Spirit.
- God’s primary vehicle to establish His kingdom and will on the earth is the bride of Christ. We must recognise that the previous point, specifically, is not designed to be achieved by us alone. Quite often God has a plan to bring many people together to accomplish His good works on the earth. Presently we have only few examples of what this should ideally look like. There are many para-church organisations with few people that are doing many works because of their frustration with the church, which in turn has many people but largely does not do any works. God’s will is that the people and the works come together in one place and this place is called the bride of Christ – the true church of Christ, which he desires to spend eternity with. The bride of Christ is both beautiful and powerful. She is a complete body with hands and feet to act, a mind to think, a heart to show compassion, eyes to discern, ears to hear God’s voice, lungs to breath in and out the life of the Spirit of God. She is a living, active body that straddles the earth. Many people are disillusioned and offended with the church, for all the right reasons. However, we cannot escape that fact that Christ is returning for His bride and His bride alone.This leads us to the next point.
- The bride of Christ is not a building, nor does “she” consist of things that can be seen. She is made up of living stones –those whom God has saved and filled with His Spirit. She is characterised by those who walk in the good works that God has prepared for His people (note that while the works themselves must be done, they stand on their own and are not intrinsically part of the bride that Christ is returning to wed). The mistake we make today is that we think God is interested in building a temple – a glorious building that is supposed to magnify God and in which people can gather to glorify God. But if we understand all of the above points (and this requires maturity), we will firstly understand that this is not so and secondly we will not despise those who think it is so. Remember that God is glorified when we love him and love one another, not through physical buildings or songs that we sing (while recognising that both of these may be expressions of love, but they are not the primary means of conveying love). We should seek to turn Christians back to love in the biblical sense because we have been called to love first! Those who understand these things are called to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. If we become offended with the church, then we are as much part of the problem as those who believe the church is a building.
- True Christian relationship is never transactional. This simply means that our relationships should never – ever – be defined by what we can give or get from them. If you love someone only because of what you get from them, then it is lust, not love. If you receive something (spiritual) only because you have given something first, you are committing the sin of Simony (thinking you can buy or earn the free gift of God’s grace). Stop transacting. Repent. That is why the bible says we should purpose in our hearts beforehand what we should give so that when we get into the situation in question, we will not be tempted to sin by either withholding or overextending on what God has purposed us to do. If you get into a church where you feel money is being exacted from you in exchange for a blessing, you have a difficult choice: if you are mature enough to resist the spirit of Simony, then perhaps you can still flourish. If you are weak in your faith and feel that it would impair your ability to receive, then it might be better for you to find a church where this spirit is not in operation. That in itself might be a challenge, but God will remind you of points 7 and 8.
- Although we are God’s creation and by extension His possession, He is love and therefore chooses not to exact His ownership rights over us, but grants us the free will to serve Him (or not). The only way to really understand this, is by having children of your own. Even though they come out of your own body and are “yours” in that sense, only an unloving parent would treat their children like a possession. Love would lead us to want to invest in our children and see them grow into loving, whole adults and to give them the freedom to impact the world according to the calling on each of their lives. Of course in the first few years of life, the child cannot and should not be given free reign but must be shaped by copious amounts of love and protection with the right measure of discipline. But all good parents will understand that these years of input are there for one purpose only – to build into your children a godly moral compass that will enable them to make right choices of their own when they reach adulthood. However, once they reach that age we can no longer control them. That is extremely hard for parents to do, but it is the only way. God acts in the same way towards us, yet without being bound by the imperfections inherent in human nature and emotions. It is for freedom’s sake that Christ has set us free.
- Times of spiritual drought in our lives are usually (but not always) self-inflicted and not God initiated. God promises to never leave us nor forsake us. If we feel forsaken, it is most likely that – a feeling which may feel very true, but probably isn’t. God is still there even in times when we may feel he is not. Mostlywhen we feel far away from God it is because we have chosen sin over relationship with him. It could be that we intentionally or unintentionally have violated a principle of God’s word and therefore the lack of peace we experience is not an indication that God has left us and no longer loves us, but a warning flag to help us recognise that something is wrong and that we should go in prayer and ask God to reveal to us what it is (if we don’t know already). It would be callous to suggest this is always the case, but most often it is so. The most fitting analogy is of a husband and wife that love one another but have grown distant because of something the one or the other has done, sometimes unconsciously, which has caused hurt and created distance. It is important to note that God does not play hide and seek with us. God does have a great sense of humour but he’s not into hide and seek. That’s not to say that if we walk in deliberate rebellion against God we will easily find Him – He’s likely to turn His face away from us until we repent and return to relationship with him. But if you have the Spirit in you, it will be hard (and foolish) for you to deliberately sin, because you love God and would naturally be drawn to him.
- God is reasonable, rational and consistent. When His acts appear to us as unreasonable, irrational or inconsistent it is because of our lack of understanding of Him and His ways. Not understanding this is a cause of great confusion, especially to young believers. The world and universe is created as an ordered ecosystem that functions like a well oiled machine. This is a reflection of the consistency of God’s character – the sun rises every morning and sets every evening without fail. Gravity works, wherever you are in the universe and so on. Supernatural acts of God are often far more (to the untrained eye) natural than super, but this doesn’t mean that God wasn’t intimately involved. This should at the same time not discount the fact that God does intervene in extreme ways that contradict the laws of nature from time to time. But generally, things tick over as they should. This means that God would expect most of us to have a job and earn money to buy food (while recognising of course that all of these things come from God and living in perpetual thankfulness for them all) rather than having to rely on manna or quails from heaven. Similarly, He would expect us to sow seed and reap a harvest rather than expect to have to multiply bread supernaturally. But that is not to say that when the situation demands it, he won’t do the latter.
- There’s probably more to come…watch this space