Chapter OneWhere Wisdom Begins
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.PROVERBS 9:10
JANUARY 1Proverbs 9:10-12
True wisdom is
gazing at God.
IN WORD We're uncomfortable with the idea of fearing
God. We defend Him as One whose love is so great He needs
not be feared. As 1 John 4:18 says: "Perfect love drives out
fear." So we redefine fear as "awe" and "reverence." Yet the
Scriptures use the term "fear of God" frequently enough
to give us the impression that something more than awe
is appropriate. It is the kind of fear that terrified the disciples
when they heard God's voice at the Transfiguration
(Matthew 17:6); that overwhelmed Isaiah when he cried out:
"Woe to me! . I am ruined!" in God's presence (Isaiah 6:5);
and that drove John facedown at the sight of the glorified
Son (Revelation 1:17).
Why does a God of love tell us that wisdom begins
when we fear Him? Because when we approach the Holy
One with a casual familiarity, we are not living in reality. We
do not take Him as seriously as we ought, and we do not
take our sin as seriously as we ought. Fear-not of punishment
but of the overwhelming greatness of God-sees Him
correctly. When we stand on the edge of the vast, bottomless
chasm that separates us from Him, and we behold the
immeasurable expense He paid to bridge that chasm, we
experience fear. Fear of what would have been if we had
never known the gospel. Fear of our own unworthiness.
Fear of the absolute dedication to Him that is now required
of us. When this fear grips us, we begin to understand the
enormity of the gospel and of our God. That understanding
begins to rearrange our lives. And that is what wisdom is
IN DEED It is vital that we know God's love and rest comfortably
in it. But a true understanding of God's love begins
with an overwhelming awareness of His greatness, holiness,
and power as they contrast our own sinful nature. There is
nothing more fear-inducing than that. But this is where we
must begin. This will shape our self-awareness, our relationships,
our work, our prayers-everything we think and do.
It will make us wise.
I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your
bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this
is your spiritual act of worship.ROMANS 12:1
JANUARY 2 Romans 12:1-2
Worship . is
not part of the
Christian life; it is
the Christian life.
IN WORD Wisdom begins with basing one's life on
reality. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom"
(Proverbs 9:10). Why? Because fear of the Lord is based on
a true understanding of who we really are and who God
really is. But there is a next step. Wisdom doesn't begin and
end with fear; it continues into worship. When we really
understand who God is, the natural response is to offer
Him whatever we can get our hands on-and all we have
All of those in the Bible who encountered the living
God in His glory fell on their face in worship. Like Isaiah,
they would offer themselves (Isaiah 6:8). If we have not yet
gotten to that point of laying ourselves on the altar before
Him-without reservation-we have not yet encountered
the living God. His glory prompts sacrifice. It is the only
wise, intelligent, reasonable response to the magnitude of
IN DEED We often think of worship as words and songs
that come out of our mouths. It is so much more. It is a
lifestyle, a sacrificial way of living that acknowledges every
moment of every day that there is One far more worthy
of our allegiance than ourselves. When His interests consistently
supercede ours, and we act accordingly, we are
Imagine yourself in the throne room of God. See the
altar at His feet. Get on it. Lay yourself out before Him and
say to Him: "I am Yours. Do with me as You will. I give up
my right to govern myself, because You are far more worthy
to do it, and You will never do me harm. I exist for Your
purposes, and for Yours alone." Do this every morning, then
live out your day mindful of whose you are. In light of who
He is, this is true worship. And true worship is the wisest
thing we can do.
A Higher Mind
We have the mind of Christ.1 CORINTHIANS 2:16
JANUARY 31 Corinthians 2:6-16
The truly wise are
those whose souls
are in Christ.
IN WORD At first glance, Paul's claim is boastful. It
would not go over well in our "politically correct" culture
of today. It probably did not go over well in the Corinthian
culture then, except within the church. There, it would have
been a treasured truth and an amazing revelation.
So it is with us. It is almost unthinkable: the mind of
the One through whom the entire universe was created, the
fount of all wisdom, is available to us. We are not limited
to human reasoning. We are not bound by the limitations
of history's greatest thinkers, who, while often exceeding
human standards of intelligence, have all fallen drastically
short of discovering eternal truth by natural means. No,
we have a supernatural access to ultimate reality from an
eternal perspective. We know the direction of history and
where it is leading; we know how to escape this fallen world;
and we know who holds all power in the palm of His right
hand. This vast, incomprehensible treasure is ours-if we
will accept it.
That's our problem. We often resort to lesser means of
wisdom because we're unaware that the mind of Christ is
accessible, or we're unable to believe such an extravagant
promise. But if we can't believe it, we can't have it. The mind
of Christ is ours through the Spirit of God, who comes to us
only through faith. The Spirit searches the deep things of
God (v. 10) and reveals them to His people. Such things are
foolish to the world, but they are truth nonetheless-truth
that we can know and base our lives on.
IN DEED You have your own mind. You also have
Christ's. Which would you rather depend on? Begin each
day by disavowing your own wisdom. We must acknowledge
that we do not have the understanding to make the
decisions we will face each day. We do not know all the
details or future implications of any decision. But God does,
and He makes His wisdom available. Acknowledge your
utter dependence on the mind of Christ, ask for His wisdom,
Driven by Instinct
In the last times there will be scoffers who will
follow their own ungodly desires.JUDE 18
JANUARY 4Jude 17-21
Let temporal things
serve your use,
but the eternal
be the object of
-Thomas à Kempis
IN WORD Guidance is always a pressing issue for the
Christian. Pick a moment in your life-any moment at all-and
it is likely that you have needed guidance on some critical
area at that particular moment. We are always in need of
direction, and most of us are acutely aware of that need.
The unbeliever, as this passage says, is a slave to instinct
and self. Those who do not follow God must follow their
own internal logic. And that logic is a mess of distorted perspectives,
most often driven by self. The self-guided person
will make decisions based on emotional needs, cravings
for self-esteem, physical impulses, and present-life planning.
There is nothing eternal about their choices, no urge
to submit to their Creator, no consistent willingness to put
others' needs ahead of their own desires. Even in their highest
moral behavior, they are driven from within, where the
Spirit does not dwell.
We, too, often lapse into instinctual decision making.
Though we want God's guidance and ask for it, we often do
not wait for it. We make decisions based on what our internal
logic tells us. Is that logic guided by the Spirit? Or do we
serve our own emotional needs, self-esteem cravings, physical
impulses, and present-life interests? We are inhabited by
God's wise, eternal Spirit. But are we driven by Him?
IN DEED When we are driven by our own internal impulses
and reasoning, we are settling for second best. Even
when those instincts are shaped by years of discipleship,
they are still subject to sin and deception. We can use them
to God's glory, but we can't trust them. They must always
be submitted to the guiding mind of God.
We do not need to follow the patterns of this world. We
are not left to figure things out on our own. We are not ruled
by our base desires, or even by our noble ones. We have
not been abandoned to our own moral codes and higher
philosophies. We are called to follow our Leader. We must
submit our instincts to Him and follow Him diligently.
Guided by God
If my people would but listen to me, . how quickly would I
subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes!PSALM 81:13-14
JANUARY 5Psalm 81:11-16
If God's will is
your will and if
He always has
His way [with
you], then you
your way also.
IN WORD The hardest aspect of the Christian life is to
learn to submit to God in all things. His yoke is easy, but
remembering to be bound by it is difficult. We worship Him
for His goodness, we thank Him for His love, we pledge
to be His disciples, and we ask Him for His wisdom. All
the while, the nuts and bolts of following Him are hard to
grasp. When it comes to making decisions, we still like our
What is it about our independence that so intrigues us?
Why are we so captivated with our decision-making powers?
Why, even when we know that a sense of autonomy
is Satan's specialty and the root of our sin, do we insist on
maintaining little pieces of it in various corners of our lives?
Why, when God tells us one thing and our internal compulsions
tell us another, do we often choose the compulsions?
What does that say about our trust in God?
That's what the fall of man in the Garden of Eden was
all about: mistrusting God and seeking our own interests.
And that's still what sin is all about. When we choose our
own will over God's, we're mistrusting Him and trusting
ourselves. What an absurdity! We forget the most basic of all
biblical teaching: God's will is in our best interest.
IN DEED Are you convinced of that? The Christian life
will be a struggle until we know deep down in our hearts
that His commands-even the hard ones-are ultimately for
our benefit. We can be sure that the best way to seek our own
self-centered interests is to be entirely God-centered. In this
paradox, godliness and the self-life meet. Or, as Jesus said,
"Whoever loses his life will preserve it" (Luke 17:33). Our
happiness is deeper and richer when we listen to Him.
In that sense, it is a self-fulfilling act to forsake our own
will and submit to His. Submission seems so noble, but we
have a lot at stake in it. When we serve Him, we serve ourselves.
Believe that wholeheartedly, and see what happens.
Not Your Own
You are not your own; you were bought at a price.1 CORINTHIANS 6:19-20
JANUARY 61 Corinthians
The condition for
gaining God's full
blessing is absolute
surrender to Him.
IN WORD Life is a series of decisions. Some of them are
relatively minor, others have lasting impact. We often act on
the minor decisions-what to eat, what to wear, whom to
talk to-out of our natural behavior patterns, giving them
little thought. With the serious choices-which job to take,
where to live, and the like-we weigh pros and cons and
try to determine the right course of action. In any case, we
are likely to forget an important backdrop to our decision
making: We are not our own. We belong to God.
Isn't this easy to forget? We tend to approach life with a
certain autonomy, as though we are independent individuals
with a responsibility to acknowledge God in worship
and sacrifice. But God wants a deeper worship in our lives.
Rather than living independently of Him while giving Him
our respect, He wants us to live dependently on Him with
awareness that every action, every thought, every impulse is
to fit into His purposes. We must not act-or even breathe-without
this awareness. We have been bought. We are His.
Some might consider this the equivalent of slavery or
servitude. Paul always did (Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:10;
Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1), regardless of whether he was
free or in prison. But it is a joyful service that carries with
it no sense of oppression. How could it? Our Master is the
epitome of benevolence. He knows our innermost being and
is zealously intent on fulfilling us. The key for us is living
with the knowledge that we are owned and operated by the
most loving and qualified Owner possible.
IN DEED The Christian who lives with this wisdom-that
we are owned by Another-is a Christian profoundly
changed. Our decisions are affected, our character is
reformed, and our load is lightened. We lose the right to
ourselves, but we also lose the burden of self-rule. It is a
wonderfully freeing truth. Everything about us is the concern
of Someone else.
The Available Mind of God
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives
generously to all without finding fault.JAMES 1:5
JANUARY 7James 1:2-7
There is a deep
to the wise
and prudent, but
disclosed to babes.
IN WORD Why would God set up a process for us to
gain wisdom? Why would He not just give it to us? Because
asking for His wisdom and receiving it brings us into relationship
with Him. The wisdom we receive is not information
imparted, but character learned. We observe who He
is and we learn to behave like Him. We come to know Him
better in the process. His wisdom is readily available, but
we must ask.
Have you found yourself needing guidance in a given
situation? Our usual tendency is to pray for direction. But
God has a better way. Pray for wisdom, and the direction
will become clear. If we were to pray for direction, God
could only answer by giving us information. But if we pray
for wisdom, God answers by giving us His own mind.
We are prone to call upon God for wisdom only when
we find ourselves in a difficulty. But far from being a one-time
request in a moment of need, this verse hints at an
ongoing process. It isn't that we ask for wisdom one day
when we're at our wit's end; we are to ask for wisdom daily
because we will find ourselves at wit's end sooner or later.
God's provision of His mind is often given in advance. It is
more than instructions for a way to go; it is training for a
way of life.
IN DEED Do you need direction? Guidance? Wisdom
from above? The crucial step, often neglected, is to ask. How
often we try to figure things out on our own! How often we
ask others for advice before we ask God! Ask Him now. Ask
often. Make the asking a regular part of your life. Don't wait
until trouble comes; learn the mind of God now. He offers
The Obedient Mind of Man
When he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who
doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.JAMES 1:6
JANUARY 8James 1:2-7
God will never
reveal more truth
about Himself till
you obey what you
IN WORD We easily forget the requirement before the
promise. God's extravagant gift of His wisdom is only
given when a prior condition is met. When we ask we must
believe. Otherwise, His wisdom will not come.
What does God mean by requiring our belief? Is it only
that we must believe He will answer us? It is that, but it is
more. We must believe-ahead of time-that what He tells
us is wisdom to be followed. We must be committed to heed
His instructions before He gives them. If we are not committed,
He will not answer. If we do not purpose in our hearts
to do His will, we will never discover it.
Many Christians ask for God's wisdom as an option
to throw into the mix. It becomes one possibility among a
range of many. If we are only requesting His advice, He will
not give it. He only gives solutions to be implemented, not
suggestions to consider. The commitment to follow comes
first. The mind of God is generously granted to us, but only
for us to obey. It is not a shopping item. It does not come
with a return policy.
To ask for God's will as an option to consider rather
than a command to obey is to place our intellect above His.
We put ourselves in the position of authority, with Him
submitting His proposals. But He will not relate to us that
way. He is the authority. When He speaks, there is no better
option. The omniscient Creator does not offer us a second-
rate plan. His first direction is always the right one.