Has God given you an opportunity or situation that made you realize just how much you need His wisdom? Becoming the executive director of Jews for Jesus has made me keenly aware of my need for godly wisdom. When people ask how they might pray for me I always request prayer for wisdom. I count on those prayers, but I also began a spiritual discipline that has helped me through thirteen years of leading this ministry.
Each day my Bible reading includes the chapter of Proverbs that corresponds with that day of the month. This continually reminds me that wisdom is the principle thing. The more I read the more I realize how much I need the Lord’s help in this search for wisdom. As often as I contemplate these 31 chapters, I can learn anew what God wants to teach me and I hope I really am able to gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
I have been pondering matters that can help or hinder the quest for godly wisdom and I want to invite you to think along with me. First, I see that most of our lives are spent learning and acquiring information from sources and activities not directly related to the Lord and His Scriptures. Think about it. From the age of five through eighteen most of our productive hours are spent soaking up the sum of knowledge provided through the local school system. Much of this information is factual and spiritually neutral—but much is heavily biased against “the knowledge of the Holy One.”
We absorb yet more viewpoints via books, magazines, newspapers, television and the Internet—viewpoints mostly generated by popular culture, not Jesus-culture. If we learn in proportion to the amount of time we spend taking impressions from various sources, we might be disproportionately influenced by “wisdom” that is not from God. I think there is a good chance of that, don’t you?
That is not to say that God’s wisdom can only be found in the pages of the Scriptures or various kinds of Christian literature. God’s fingerprints are evident all over His creation, even springing from those who don’t recognize His lordship. We should not ignore secular sources or automatically exclude them as means by which we can truly grow in wisdom and knowledge of Him. Even the Proverbs contain select material from the wisdom literature of ancient Egypt (see Proverbs 1:2-9:18 and 22:17-24:34).
So how do we discern which voices we should listen to as we seek after godly wisdom? While the Bible is not the only source of godly wisdom, it is the standard by which we should measure and filter all other sources. We should test everything against the standard of God’s revealed truth in the Bible.
When we fail to use God’s Word as a filter, our thoughts will naturally be infiltrated by the culture in which we are immersed, whether it be through friends, popular talk show hosts or a respected leader of a religion other than Christianity. We should not doubt for one minute that these types of cultural and political thought leaders have a spiritual influence on the lives of those who follow their lead. The depth of influence that non-Christians have impressed upon the world-views of countless followers of Christ is really quite stunning.
The Bible tells us, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). And so it is a peculiar thing to me when Christians expect to find good advice on how best to obey and follow Jesus from people who don’t know Him.
I thought it was clever marketing when I first saw an ad in Christianity Today magazine announcing, “Everyone Needs their Own Rabbi.” I was surprised to see that the advertisement offered a new commentary on the book of Genesis by Rabbi Daniel Lapin, a well-known Orthodox Jewish rabbi. I often study the teaching of rabbis and Jewish sages because I believe there is much to learn from these sources—and no doubt Rabbi Lapin also has some interesting insights. But I remind myself that whatever I read must be weighed and tested against the fullness of God’s revelation in the Old and New Testaments.
Many Christians appreciate Dennis Prager, a well-known Jewish conservative radio commentator—and I have to say I have appreciated many of his opinions too. But I have to remember that his views include a firm commitment to uphold a religion that does not see Jesus as Messiah and Lord. I don’t know if most Christians understand his commitment, but it’s important in forming realistic expectations.
I read a news article about a gathering of forty Jewish and evangelical Christian leaders who spent two days together talking “about Israel and about proselytizing.”
What should Christians expect from such a meeting? I have seen this agenda often enough to know that from a Jewish perspective, it’s an opportunity to seek to influence Christians against direct Jewish evangelism. This usually comes in the form of subtle attempts at friendly wisdom and advice.
This is an important agenda from the perspective of Jewish leaders because they are committed to protecting the Jewish people from what is mistakenly perceived as a threat. But it is not wise for any Christian to enter into such a meeting without understanding that agenda or understanding how subtly that agenda can be advanced.
The article about this meeting indicated just such an effort. Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, who co-convened the conference, was quoted as saying, “I think that when one religious group says we have the only avenue, it makes us feel condescended towards.”
Rev. Joel Hunter, senior pastor at the 12,000-person Northland, A Church Distributed in Orlando, Fla., and also a co-convenor of the conference responded, “We don’t want to unintentionally offend or miscommunicate.” He further assured readers that during the gathering, “No Jewish leader said evangelicals shouldn’t share their faith, but offered thoughts on ‘what is a helpful way’ to do it, and what comes across as ‘artificial and pushy and offensive.'”
I don’t think any Christian wants to offend or miscommunicate. But what Rev. Hunter needs to ask himself, and what all other well meaning pastors need to ask themselves is this: What would constitute good advice from a rabbi on how Christians should share their faith in Jesus with Jewish people? Does he imagine the rabbi is in any way interested in helping him be more effective in that endeavor?
Rabbis are committed to the position that Jesus cannot possibly be Messiah and Lord. That is the bedrock on which any Jewish discussions on “proselytizing” (a term with pejorative connotations) are built, even when there are no overt attempts to ask Christians to stop witnessing. In fact, it is far more productive for Jewish leaders to water down a term like “witnessing” than to speak against it.
The Bible tells us that those without Christ are spiritually blind. If we make their wisdom the measure of how we can most effectively witness for Jesus, instead of the blind leading the blind, it’s more like the blind leading the short-sighted. And yet this is the kind of behavior that many Christians are falling prey to—not just in the area of Jewish evangelism, but in many areas of life today.
As we seek after true godly wisdom regarding evangelism or any other part of our walk with Jesus, may our search be guided by the Word of God and by His Holy Spirit. May God grant us all true wisdom, even as the apostle Paul prayed, “… that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ…” (Philippians 1:9-10).