23(Isaiah 09,06)Wonderful Counselor
The four of the names of Christ, found in Isaiah - prophetic descriptions of the King who was to come; they told God's people what kind of deliverer He would send them.
(Read Isaiah 9:6)
Why study these names? No better time than Christmas to consider why Jesus was born. These names help us understand the purpose behind the incarnation. Even more than that, they help us relate to God. They help us to know Christ better so that we can have a deeper relationship with Him.
"Wonderful Counselor" It seems that never before have there been so many people searching for advice and counsel. Especially since 9/11, people are seeking answers, looking for guidance and direction.
And never before have there been so many claiming to have the answers. There are dozens of religions and philosophies to choose from; hundreds of new self-help books; and the airwaves are full of experts of every kind. But we have something that takes us back to the source of true wisdom. And that's the Word of God.
“Wonderful” Heb-something indescribably great; something so tremendous, so amazing, that it's literally beyond description.
It doesn't just mean that he's good at giving advice. It means that he understands things that are beyond the ability of our finite minds to comprehend. He knows things that only God can know. So in Jesus Christ, we have someone who, by virtue of his great knowledge and understanding, is abundantly qualified to guide and direct our lives.
Why does this matter? Because I wonder if we really see Christ in this way; as a fully competent counselor, someone whose guidance is superior to any other. Do we really see him as someone who understands, better than anyone else, what life is all about? Do we believe him when he claims to be able to lead us into "abundant" life? Do we go to him first for assistance in dealing with our marriage, our children, our job? When we need help coming to terms with illness, or depression, or conflict? Yes, we know he's the Son of God, and so we view him as omniscient, all-knowing. But when it comes to living our daily lives, do we really look to him for practical guidance? Do we study his teachings? Do we follow his example? Do we go to him in prayer? Or do we look first to the advice of our friends, our family, our co-workers; perhaps even someone we stood in line next to at the hardware store, or someone we saw on Oprah; and only as a last resort go to Christ?
This evening, my goal is simple. I want to convince you to look to Christ first whenever you need advice, or guidance, or counsel. And in order to do that, I want to persuade you of two things. First, that God is the source of all wisdom. All wisdom, not just theoretical, abstract wisdom, but everyday, practical wisdom about how to live, comes from God. And we have access to this wisdom through Jesus Christ, and through His Spirit. Listen:
Job 12:13 “With Him are wisdom and strength, He has counsel and understanding.”
Psalms 16:7 I will bless the LORD who has given me counsel; My heart also instructs me in the night seasons.
Proverbs 2:6 For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding;
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
The source of all true wisdom is God. Does that mean no one except a Christian can have any wisdom or understanding? No. It's possible to discover many things about life without reading the Bible or knowing God. That's why you can read the Koran, or the writings of Confucius, and find some truth there. All truth is God's truth, and even apart from Christ, men still have enough of the image of God in them to find some truth.
But here's the problem: it's truth mixed with error. It's wisdom combined with foolishness; light combined with darkness. And so it's unreliable as a guide to life. The only way to separate the truth from the error in these alternative sources of wisdom is to compare them to the Word of God. Because the Bible is pure truth, without any mixture of error. The Bible is God's Word, and God cannot lie or be mistaken. Therefore, by definition, the Bible is completely true from beginning to end. So, is it wrong to read the sacred texts of other religions, or to read secular self-help books? No, it's not wrong, as long as you keep in mind the need for discernment, the need to constantly compare what you're reading to the truth of the Bible. It's not wrong. But on the other hand, it's not necessary either. Because as Peter tells us,
2 Peter 1:3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,
In other words, if you were to read only the Bible, and never again opened another self-help book; if you never got around to checking out Buddhist philosophy or the Koran, you wouldn't be missing anything. You have everything you need to live the life God intends for you, right here in the Bible. It is a comprehensive guide to life.
Which raises another question: if that's true, then why spend precious time on inferior sources of wisdom when you have the mother lode right here? Does anyone in this room think they have mastered the teachings of this book? If not, then why spend precious time on anything else? At least when it comes to seeking guidance, why read anything other than the Bible, and books that help you understand and apply the Bible?
All truth is God's truth; all truth and wisdom have their source in God. And how is that truth communicated to us? Through the Son of God, the Wonderful Counselor, Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:23-24 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Colossians 2:2-3 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Jesus Christ doesn't just reveal the wisdom of God to us, He is the wisdom of God. There is no truth, no knowledge, no understanding which He does not possess. In Him are hidden "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge". Now, who would you rather have giving you advice on how to raise your children? Jesus Christ, the "wisdom of God"? Or some guy who graduated with a degree in clinical psychology from the State University? Or even Harvard? Who understands people better? Who understands the dynamics of human relationships better? Isn't it the one who created us in the first place?
"Well", you might say, "of course God knows everything. But he never intended that we should look only to him for instruction in how to live. He didn't intend for the Bible alone to guide us through life. He expects us to seek out the advice of experts." Well, if that's true, then how did Christians manage to honor God with their lives for eighteen hundred years before psychiatry was invented? How did Christians of the first century manage to raise children, and overcome temptation, and relate to one another, and relate to unbelievers, without the modern psychological theories to guide them? Peter says that in Christ, we have "everything we need for life and godliness." And Jesus said: "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10) Was the abundant life that Jesus promises really out of reach until the last two centuries?
Again, I'm not saying you should never see a secular counselor. As I said before, you don't have to be a Christian to have some wisdom. And sometimes there isn't a pastor or Christian counselor available who has experience in the issue you're dealing with. But if you're going to a secular counselor because you don't think Christ can help, then you need to re-evaluate your choice of advisors. Because when it comes to questions of how to live, Jesus is the wisest and most insightful counselor you could have.
How do we receive his guidance? How do we receive His advice and counsel for the specific issues we're dealing with? And this is the second thing I want to persuade you of; that you can receive the wisdom of Christ.
First, you have to read and understand the Bible. And I don't mean just looking for a few verses that speak directly to the issue you care about. I mean becoming familiar with the Bible as a whole. You can't just open your concordance and start looking up verses with the word "teenagers", for instance, because you won't find any. There's no chapter devoted specifically to "depression". That doesn't mean God doesn't know anything about depression, or that he doesn't care about it. It just means that in order to understand the causes and cures of depression, you need to dig deeper. You need to read the Psalms where David talks about his soul being "downcast". You need to read what the Bible has to say about discouragement, and despair, and joy, and gladness. It takes time and effort, which is one reason wisdom is in such short supply. People think the Bible doesn't speak to the issues they're struggling with. But the real problem is that we don't know our Bibles well enough to draw the wisdom out; we're not students of the Word. Do you want to be wise? Do you want to know how to live a successful life? Then read the Bible. Read the gospels. Study the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
The second thing you need to do to receive wisdom is to pray. Because when we pray, the Holy Spirit gets involved. He helps us to pray; He guides our prayers and changes our hearts. He enables and empowers our prayers.
Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
What does it mean to "pray in the Spirit"? It doesn't mean to speak in tongues, or pray in some kind of altered state of consciousness. It means to pray in the power and freedom that the indwelling Spirit gives us. It means to rely on Christ, trusting that our prayers will be heard because of his merit, rather than our own righteousness, not just memorized words, but the outpouring of our hearts. It means being genuine, and trusting in Christ alone. If we do that, then the Spirit will help us to pray.
Why is that important? Because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. And so as we pray, He becomes our Counselor. As we pray, and as we read, the Spirit opens our minds to understand, and opens our hearts to accept, the wisdom that we need.
It doesn't always come quickly. Sometimes we have to continue asking, and seeking, and knocking. But the Spirit will give us the wisdom we need, because He is the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of wisdom. If you are a Christian, then the Holy Spirit dwells in you. And He will direct your path.
Isaiah 11:2 The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.
Ephesians 1:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,
One last thing: seek help and counsel from other believers as well. God never intended that we should be spiritual "lone rangers". He has placed us in a body, so that we can minister to one another. When you need help with an issue, seek out those who are more mature in the faith and ask their help. Let God speak to you through them.
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
God wants to reveal His will to us. He doesn't intend for us to grope around in the dark, looking in vain for some guidance or help. Nor does He intend for us to seek wisdom and insight from the world. God wants us to walk with Him, for our lives to be guided by Him. And for that purpose He sent His Son, and has given us His Word, and His Spirit, and also one another. If we look to these things, and place our trust in God, then we will find that His counsel is the only counsel we will ever need, and the best we could ever find.