James 3:13-18 “Who is wise and understanding among you ? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness”

James starts with a question. Look around you in the congregation. Do you know who are the wise and understanding people ? You say that the elders know. But do you know ? Shouldn’t we all know that ? James wants a New Testament church to be characterised by such people. That is a great aim of Christianity. All our church activities are to be to that end, to produce and multiply the wise and understanding. In this section of his epistle James is going to tell his readers what this means and how it may be attained. First he is going to set the standard, and then he is going to warn us of those particular sins which mean the destruction of such wisdom. Finally, he is going to list the marks of a wise life, and the promised harvest.

1. Wisdom is Not a Hidden Character Trait.

If a foolish man keeps quiet some will judge him to be wise, but a wise man cannot escape by silence from the responsibilities that the grace of God has given to him. His wisdom must be manifest: “let him show it.” The Lord Christ says to us, “Let your light shine before men.” He warns of the defiance evident in an enlightened man, to whom the Lord has been so gracious, who hides his light. If he plead modesty, shyness, or fear for his actions they are no excuse. If God has given someone the grace of wisdom and understanding then ” let him show it !” No graces of the Spirit are given to us for our own satisfaction and personal benefit, as the apostle Paul says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (I Cor. 12:7). It is an insult to God to receive a gift or grace from him and plead some excuse for not using it for the benefit of the body of Christ. Some of you have the grace of public prayer and are not exercising that grace. Some of you have gifts of help and of leadership, and we are being deprived of them. People pleasantly tease me by saying that they pick up all kinds of magazines and in them they find something I have written. Those pieces are of varying quality, but I could spend my life sharpening my sword, honing it to razor-sharpness before being satisfied with it, but with that mentality, who knows when that would be ? I have to address the situation as I see it, with my rusty blade, and maybe the church is helped.

Are there the “wise and understanding among us” in this congregation ? Let them show it. Don’t spectate and pity us as we get into muddles. Counsel us. We need such graces, and increasingly as the darkness deepens. Don’t deprive us of what God has given to you. You have been in conditions where a whole group was ignorant about something or other not working, and then, after a fruitless delay somebody told them what was wrong, and how it could be put right. “Why didn’t you say sooner ?” you all said. Show your wisdom !

In the New Testament wisdom is different from knowledge. Wisdom is knowledge obeyed and applied. You must have both, and they are interdependent, but here is the only place in the New Testament where you find wisdom and understanding joined together. James is evidently describing a man of some Christian maturity, who not only applies the knowledge of God and his salvation to his daily life, but this man understands himself and his own heart, he understands men and women, and he understands the world. You remember there were ” men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (I Chron. 12:32). What a gift to the church ! Let them show it !

How does a man show it ? James says, “by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom” (v.13). People of wisdom and understanding show it primarily by their lives. The ‘good life’ means for the world today possessions, prosperity and pleasure. You had it in a beer commercial. The men are fishing together one warm evening; someone is frying the trout they have caught; they open cans of lager and sit back on the river bank and one of them says, “It doesn’t get much better than this.” The good life is fishing with your mates. There is no harm in fishing with your friends. Small boys enjoy it. The harm is thinking that that is what it’s all about. The good life is far richer and more rewarding. It is the life of goodness. It consists of not being evil, and of cleaving to what is good. It is not defined in terms of leisure activities and nights with the boys, but a father who is always there for his children, a mother who denies herself to feed, clothe, wash and keep a home for her family. You see it in a wife caring for her husband who has got into such a state of senility that he no longer can say her name. The good life ! You see it in such “deeds done” – not in admiring them and talking about them, but actually doing them in our lives.

These deeds must also be done in a particular way, “in the humility that comes from wisdom” (v.13). Humility was a despised grace to the Greeks. They judged it to be an utterly servile posture, and even today how few role models are men of humility. But every Christian is to be characterised by this grace, and it is to be genuine meekness. There is not a trace of the postures of Uriah Heep in these good lives – no faking humbleness. Here is a man who has taken Jesus’ warnings about Pharisaic religion to heart. Those ostentatious people prayed standing up, and on street corners, and when they fasted they put white ash powder on their faces so that others knew, and when they gave to the poor they fairly rattled their donations into the great receptacles in the temple so that everyone could hear. There are people today who let the world know how hard life is for them, but what ‘good’ they are bravely doing. James says that the wise Christian shows he is living the good life “by deeds done in … humility.” The Lord Jesus tells us that our giving is to be wrought in utter secrecy so that even our own right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. The good works that come from wisdom are done in humility.

We have every cause for humility. We are rebel sinners who have forfeited receiving anything good from God. All that is decent, caring and patient about our lives is only because of the grace that the Lord has shown to us. “Every virtue we possess, and every victory won and every thought of holiness are his alone.” He pitied us when we were lost and came seeking for us and found us. What a change he has achieved in our lives. Once we only lived for ourselves, but now he’s made these loveless hearts of our compassionate, and he has given us energy to serve others. We have nothing to boast in. Any good in us is by nature alien to us and solely a matter of the divine pity perforating our lives. We have become followers of the Lord Jesus. When he invited us to him he said, “Come unto me … for I am meek.” If anyone had the right to be majestic and mighty it was the Lord Christ, but he revealed himself to us as incarnate humility. So we seek in all we do to be like him. We remember our Prime Minister stating that his first priority was education, and his second priority was education, and his third priority was education. Christianity’s priorities are different. John Calvin wrote quoting Augustine, ‘When a certain rhetorician was asked what was the chief rule in eloquence, he replied, ‘Delivery’; what was the second rule, ‘Delivery’; what was the third rule, ‘Delivery’; so if you ask me concerning the precepts of the Christian religion, first, second, third, and always I would answer, ‘Humility'” (Institutes 2.2.11).

So James is telling us of the value of wisdom and understanding, and that this show itself in a life of goodness, in actions humbly done. In the year 117 a preacher called Ignatius who came from Antioch was condemned to death as a Christian. He was sent to Rome to be thrown to hungry wild animals. A squad of ten soldiers accompanied him on the long journey, and he wrote seven letters as he traveled. There is no trace of bitterness in one of them. The letters are full of gratitude for kindnesses received on the journey. His one concern was to be found in Christ. Those letters reflected the deeds Ignatius had always done “in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

2. Wisdom and Understanding Can Be Destroyed. (vv. 14-16).

Let no one presume on the fact that as they have some graces now that they will always have them. We know that king Saul had great graces in his youth, but bitter envy for David destroyed him. We have all seen men we respected change for the worse, adopting positions and writing books during years of maturity which have hurt themselves and the cause of Christ. For James one reason for that problem lies in envy, or as he says in v.14 and repeats in v.16, “envy and selfish ambition.” He is talking about that resentful and hateful dislike of blessings which others know. The tendency is when a man reads these verses in the Scripture or when a preacher comes to deal with them that he doesn’t think that these words are describing him. They may be useful for other people in the congregation, but “I don’t need any warnings about envy and selfish ambition.” So we go off to sleep. The Holy Spirit could have left out the verses in the Bible that deal with those sins, could he, because they are totally absent in your life ? You have complete victory over them, do you ? Are you so full of the Holy Ghost that that sin has been ejected from you life ? You know that that is not the case. Every sin in seed form is in your heart. You also have green eyes. James says, “do not deny the truth” (v.14).

Is there no one in the congregation whose possessions, or rank, or marriage, or status, or beauty, or job, or intelligence, or style, or family, or office, or health you envy ? Is there no selfish ambition in your heart ? Are you truly contented with all that you have ? Do you wish that your gifts and intelligence, your management skills and capabilities had been recognised, and you had received the calling you feel you deserve. Are you pushy, and self-promotional ? Do you argue that that is the only way to succeed ? Maybe that is how the world thinks, but it is not the way of Christ. When James talks about envy he adds the adjective ‘bitter’ because that is the effect of envy, it embitters us. We all know men who feel they were passed over. They had championship potential. They were contenders, but they never even received recognition. They never got a call to the church worthy of their gifts. A man was talking to me recently who feels he has been shunned by everybody. “You have never asked me to preach in your church,” he said in self-pity. He is becoming bitter, and his comments are unwise and hurtful. Men and women, it is a privilege to do anything for God. Imagine being truly converted to Christ after a long wasted life, and now having a mere twelve months to serve him. You have had many long years to serve him. You said as a young Christian that you would do anything for the Lord. If he asked you to hew wood and draw water you would be content. He has taken you at your word. Why then this bitterness ? You see what James is saying here, “you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts” (v.14). Think of King Saul hearing the crowd’s cries of delight in David, “Saul has slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands” and into the harbour of Saul’s heart sailed the pirate crew Captain Bitter Envy and Chief Officer Selfish Ambition, and that is where they set up their base, and where the king gave them anchorage. But worse than that Saul paraded his bitterness to everyone. He threw a javelin at David trying to pin him to the wall. He hunted him across the wilderness as if he were a goat. “We’ll get him,” he said to his men. They all could see what envy was being harboured in Saul’s heart. His selfish ambition was to be the sole possessor of his people’s hearts. He wanted their exclusive love and would brook no rivals.

I have known some great preachers who have been envious. They constantly fall out with other men of ability. They can’t work with anyone else except those who submit to them. Once a friend was having a meal with one of these men and they were discussing certain annual meetings of a minority movement, sound enough but a bit on the fringes of Christianity. Another younger promising speaker was taking those meetings. This older minister said to my friend, “He’d better be careful, if he wants to be a leader, for whom he chooses to speak.” My friend was troubled by that phrase, “if he wants to be a leader … if he wants to be a leader.” What Christian wants to be a leader ? An ambitious Christian. The Saviour said that he came not as a ruler but a servant. The Christian thinks in terms of, “How does God want me to serve him and his people ?” The greatest among us is the servant of all.

James is saying that wisdom, understanding and humility are all destroyed by envy and selfish ambition. But where does this unwelcome ‘wisdom’ come from ? Not from above, certainly, but in fact it comes from our three old enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil. Do you believe that ? The envy and selfish ambition of your own little life is being nurtured by such illustrious foes ? Screwtape is interested in destroying you, and the world also has more influence over you than you realise. Such powers fuel your restless ambition and jealousies. i] James says, firstly, this envious attitude to others is “earthly” (v.15). In other words, the inspiration for your vaunted ambition is man. The standards, sources, and aims of an envying spirit all come from a fallen world. Why are so many men in business depressed ? Because all they have to live for, in one brief life, is this world. And from its godless system they have set standards for themselves and when they fail to attain them, but see others achieve them, they are in the slough of despond. Worldly ambition has messed them about. ii] Then, secondly, there is the flesh; this envy is all so “unspiritual.” You know that man is soul and also spirit. When the Bible talks of man’s soul it thinks of man as made from the dust of the earth just like all the lesser creation, and that man’s feelings and strategies and hungers and instincts are very similar to animals. Man is soul, and this is what this word ‘unspiritual’ is reflecting upon. It is found just four times in the New Testament and always negatively – the word is also translated ‘sensual’ or the ‘natural man.’ Man is also spirit and so is transcendent, eternity is in his heart, and he can know God. But when man harbours vaunted ambition and pomp and show then it is man as soulish who is paramount. iii] Then, thirdly, James says that this envy is “of the devil” (v.15). So the triad is complete. Lucifer is the most envious creature under the heavens. It was because of his envy that both he and man fell. His approach to Adam was to make our first parents envy the superior knowledge that God had, promising them they would know good and evil if they ate the forbidden fruit. The tree was to be desired to make one wise, but not as they had imagined. Their eyes were opened to know good without the power to do it, and to know evil without the power to resist it. The devil, since that time, fuels the fires of jealousy to cause man to fall into many sins.

What effects do bitter envy and selfish ambition have ? James tells us of two, “disorder and every evil practice” (v.16). Imagine a business which is full of tensions and unhappy workers because of the boundless ambition of the boss. His firm is small, but he is constantly looking over his shoulder at a much bigger one and he wants his to be like that. It is just impossible, but his ambition and envy is driving his staff on and on into confusion and every evil practice. Or you meet a minister who is infatuated with Church Growth. He wants to break the ‘300 barrier’ for a Sunday morning crowd, and the methods he adopts to do this become increasingly unspiritual, worldly, even devilish to attract the crowds, and the result is disorder and every evil practice. Would you believe mud-wrestling before the pulpit ? It has been done. What has not been tried ? Envy and selfish ambition in preachers is the cause of much disorder and every kind of evil practice in the church. So James tells of the destruction of wisdom and understanding. It is caused by men who increasingly harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in their hearts, and it results in disorder in the church and every kind of evil practice. Now what should characterise church leaders ?

3. How True Wisdom Shows Itself (vv. 17 & 18)

There are those beautiful words of the Authorised Version, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” This reminds us of the fruit of the Spirit listed by Paul in Galatians 5:22. James uses an alliteration so that the first four graces in the Greek begin with the letter ‘e’ and the last two with the letter ‘a’, so there is euphony about the language as well as a beauty about the graces themselves. Let’s look at this picture of a mature Christian. It is a description of Jesus Christ, of course, and it is what one day we shall all be, what God’s love intends to make us. So that when we read this list we say to ourselves, “every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (I John 3:3). Let us look at these sevenfold graces:-

1. “first of all pure” There, in the place of priority, is purity. You can understand that can’t you ? That purity is going to affect everything else. Think of pure water with nothing contaminating it at all. It affects all the food you cook with it. You want your baby to wash in pure water. You want no germs in it, no Nasties, no viruses, no amoebas, no Chernobyl radiation, no lead, just pure water. You like pure air and pure gold. How pure ? As pure as possible, you say. We are called to be as pure as God himself. You may be satisfied with 97% purity, or you think that 99% purity is very good. But would a wife be happy if one night in every hundred her husband did impure things ? Or what if one word of every hundred your children spoke was impure ? Or what if your accountant at work channeled one penny out of every hundred into his own account ? He was 99% pure in his service to the company. The Christian’s first priority is to be pure in thought and word and deed. The whole ethos of the church is to keep that priority. It is to be pure in its fellowship, pure in its officers, pure in its worship, pure in its young people’s meetings, pure in its music, pure in its sermons. And we have to be prepared for the world to put us in the stocks and call us Puritans, and fuddy-duddies, and hopelessly out of touch and idealistic and not living in the real world, but to the scores of people who have been defiled and used so that they no longer know who they can trust the church has to maintain for its life a purity as its first priority. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is preparing a place for us and that he is going to take us unto himself that where he is there we may be also. That place is like a city bright, and all its inhabitants are clothed in white. And we who have the hope of being there purify ourselves now as God is pure – “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).

2. “peace-loving” This grace begins in one’s own life first of all. A Christian is someone who has come to see how enormous his offences are against a high and holy Lord, and that God has the right to put him in hell for what he has done against him, but in his mercy God has sent his own dear Son into the world, the Lord Jesus Christ. He has kept God commandments which we have failed to do, and he has done that on our behalf, and so fulfilled all righteousness. Then on the cross of Golgotha he has propitiated the wrath of a sin-hating God against all our transgressions so that God now can look upon us with love and delight because in Christ we are accepted. We have peace with God through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Then we do everything to maintain that peace, never wanting to grieve or antagonise him by defiance and rebellion. There is a poem of a man called Henry Van Dyke in which he says,
With eager heart and will on fire,
I strove to win my great desire.
‘Peace shall be mine,’ I said; but life
Grew bitter in the barren strife.

My soul was weary, and my pride
Was wounded deep; to Heaven I cried,
‘God grant me peace or I must die;’
The dumb stars glittered no reply.

Broken at last, I bowed my head,
Forgetting all myself, and said,
‘Whatever comes, His will be done;’
And in that moment peace was won.

We maintain our own peace with God by submission to his will, and then in our own congregations we “endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephs. 4:3). The Lord Jesus spoke of the blessedness of peacemakers. It means getting the log out of our own eyes before drawing attention to the speck in our brother’s. It means overlooking minor offences, and not dwelling on unhappy incidents, not bringing them up again and using them against people. It means saying positive things about the person whom we’ve forgiven. It means listening patiently to others. Remember how kindly George Whitefield dealt with John Wesley’s muddled letter entitled ‘Free Grace’. He showed Wesley exactly what he believed, and why he could not accept Wesley’s Arminianism, but then said, ‘Nothing but a single regard for the honour of Christ has forced this letter from me. I love and honour you for his sake; and when I come to judgement will thank you before men and angels for what you have, under God, done for my soul.” Whitefield showed his wisdom and understanding in being a peace-lover.

3. “considerate” A Christian knows how to make allowances for people, for the behaviour of novices and of children. The Christian is not always rigid and austere. A friend of mine is a pastor who worked for ages with a derelict who had had some distant connection with his denomination. The man had been in prison and was penniless. He had nothing to wear to church, but my friend got him a suit and told him where to sit and that he should get to the church at a certain time to get into the back row. “They won’t accept me,” he said to my friend. “Yes they will,” he assured him. Then that morning he turned up in church, and sat in the back row and everything went smoothly until the benediction. The a man sitting with his wife two pews in front turned around and caught a glimpse of him, sitting self-consciously at the back. He turned to his wife and said in a stage-whisper, “Not the type of person we want in our church.” “There, I told you they wouldn’t want me,” he said to the pastor, and he hasn’t been back since. There was that church member who knew how Christians should appear, and was always decent and proper, but he could not make any allowances for other people who are invited to hear the gospel. We have to make allowances for the weak and try to understand the muddles people get themselves into. I remember the way nine years ago you welcomed a girl into the congregation who was a single expectant mother, and how you even were forbearing when she got pregnant again. She is still living with the father of her two children though she does not attend here any more, but not because you did not seek to help her and welcome her to hear the gospel. You were considerate to her weakness, and this reluctance to marry which many young people have these days. So here is the gap between vice and virtue which so often we have to walk between, not a chasm but a razor’s edge. We have to be pure. and yet we have to be considerate too, and God will show you how, as you grow in wisdom.

4. “submissive” You know the wonderful AV translation of this word, “easy to be intreated.” The word originally was a military term. The person easy to be intreated was the common soldier, who recognised the rights of the commander over him. When the orders were given he immediately submitted to him. That does not mean that he was Private Spineless, lacking in any strength of conviction. The Christian is not a pushover, but neither is he an obstinate, unyielding man. Let me put it like this: you may have talked to some religious people about the sovereignty of God, and you may have quoted verses to them such as, “he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world” (Ephs. 1:4), or John 15:16, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” or Romans 9:16 “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” or Peter’s words, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God” (I Pet. 1:2). Then their response has been to say, “Yes, but the ultimate choice is ours not God’s.” Then, you have pointed other verses to them and shown them that if it hangs on our unaided choice we would never choose Christ. Then they have looked at you and said, “Even if you show me that in the Bible I could never believe it.” What is that spirit ? It is the very opposite of what James is talking about here as the mark of wisdom and understanding, ‘submission,’ certainly to the Bible, because the Son of God submitted to it, and he has much more common sense and a better knowledge of God than any of us, but a willingness to listen to the youngest believer in whose life the Son of God is at work. So the way of wisdom is to be submissive.

5. “full of mercy and good fruits” We can too often pass judgment of someone in trouble that, “It is his own fault.” We can so judge parents and also young people who are feeling guilty enough anyway with their falls. James says that here is a very different attitude which shows itself in action. The attitude is the fullness of mercy; the action is fruitful help. Remember what Rachel Saint did when her brother was killed by the Auca Indians in Ecuador, and what Elisabeth Elliot did whose husband Jim was killed in the same attack, both the women organised support for themselves and went out to live amongst the Aucas and taught them and helped them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. They were “full of mercy and good fruits.” How otherwise can we be if we say that our Lord is Jesus Christ, and we serve him and try to be like him ? When they were laying him out on the cross and driving great nails through the palms of his hands he prayed for them that God might forgive them because of their ignorance. His death was predetermined, and they had no idea that they were killing God the Son veiled in flesh. He took that into consideration. Rachel Saint and Elisabeth Elliot knew that these Auca men were frightened of these five white men, and thought that they might be there to hurt or kill them. Let’s take everything into consideration and show mercy, and have some fruit for them, and help them. Love hopes all things. On the Day of Pentecost the Lord saved these men who had crucified him for whose forgiveness he had prayed. If a fire destroys student accommodation then we don’t say, “Why weren’t you insured ?” I don’t think my daughters were ever insured when they went to university. We are full of good fruit in practical help.

6. “impartial” I know of a minister who wanted to show how impartial he was when his daughter became pregnant out of wedlock that he made her confess her sin to the congregation. He overcompensated for the fact that she was his daughter and might expect some preferential treatment. I do not think that what he did was kind or righteous. That is harsh. I have never heard anyone else being treated like that in a church. I think something needs to be said about both her and the father of the child’s sorrow at what they have done, and that that has been noted and accepted. But to be impartial is to treat all fairly and alike, and you should treat no woman in that way. John Blanchard writes, ‘I found these words written on the wall of a church in Wiltshire: “O God, may the door of this house be wide enough to include all who need divine love and human friendship; narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride and strife. May its threshold be smooth enough to be no stumbling block to children or to straying feet, yet rugged enough to turn back the tempter’s power.”‘ (Truth for Life, Evangelical Press, p.222). Wisdom and understanding shows itself in being impartial.

7. “sincere” That is, no show, no mask, no hypocrisy. You don’t disguise your real aims and motives. That is how the Christian life begins. As I stand in a pulpit I look at a congregation wearing masks. Jesus looked at a man in the Temple wearing a mask, thanking God he was not like other men, because he prayed and fasted and so on. That was his mask. But there was another man in the temple who was utterly sickened with his mask – I mean, who was he fooling, and why ? That day he threw his mask away and with utter sincerity, terribly exposed and vulnerable, not daring to look up, he prayed, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” That was the beginning of new life for him. He left that place a justified man in God’s eyes, and the entire rest of his life consists in maintaining that sincerity. Whenever you find yourself to be making another mask – ‘the old beloved preacher’ or ‘the evangelistic expert’ or ‘the Christian consultant’ – then you have to start all over again, and strip yourself of the mask, and get real and honest with God and with the rest of us. I mean, who are you fooling, and why ? That is how the wisdom from heaven shows itself. So there are sevenfold graces of the wisdom that is from above. Where God is present, these graces will be seen. This is the mark of the blessing of God, that he is at work in a congregation. No amount of wit or struggle can produce them. They are the consequence of sheer vertical sovereign grace. Such wisdom is only ‘from above.’ Is this what we long for in ourselves, and in our church ? Is the end of all the organisation and financial involvement and missionary endeavors and meetings for prayer and Bible Study and with the young people ? That this wisdom from above should be found in us increasingly ? That is how we measure the success of any church. We are not in some numbers game. We must allow no criteria to affect our pursuit of this end, that this wisdom be found in our midst, increasingly. What if we were double our size but were a crowd of fools led by fools ? Don’t lose your nerve. In other words, don’t lose faith in the absolute centrality of this.

See the final promise that James appends to this great enterprise. He says, “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness” (v.18). Let me stick to the interpretation which the NIV gives to these words. He is talking about the Christian life – the steady toil of parents raising their children to live like this: the work of mission: the printing of Christian literature: the training of men for the ministry: the weekly sermons. All this, James says, should be done by peacemakers. They practice what they preach. The atmosphere they create in their congregations is not at variance with the gospel of peace. They are not confrontational men looking for a fight on any issue. They are showing the beauty of this life of wisdom and understanding. The servant of the Lord must not strive but be gentle to all men. They are commending this way of life to their hearers. They are trying in every way to get it into their minds and hearts. “See how lovely it is,” they cry, “because it is the life of Christ. This is how the Lord Jesus is and how he is determined to make us.” All their lives these good sowers go forth to sow this seed of wisdom from heaven, sowing it in the hearts of any who will hear, and sowing it lovingly and peacefully. What happens ? What happens when you sow good seed ? You get a crop. You raise a harvest. Of course some seed falls by the wayside, and some only brings forth a temporary crop, but for the most part such seed, sown in peace, “raises a harvest of righteousness.” You see it in such churches, and in families who go on and on producing fruit. I meet young people who introduce themselves to me as the children of students here thirty years ago, and they are wise and understanding young people. They are part of this great harvest of righteousness.

GEOFF THOMAS 22nd November 1998