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Last week Solomon told his son to hear and accept his sayings. He’s talking about sound teaching because they are the things of God. He spoke of two paths. One path is the road of wisdom while the other is the road of wickedness. The path of wisdom is bright and the path of wickedness is dark. You can see where you’re going on one path, but the other causes you to trip over things you cannot even see. This morning, Solomon tells his son to control his behavior by controlling some keys parts of his body.
I encourage you to take a moment and read Pro. 4:20-27.
We’re on some familiar ground here. If you notice, this chapter is divided into three passages that begin with the same type of phrase encouraging the young man to listen. In 4:1 he says, “Hear O sons, the instruction of a father and give attention that you may gain understanding.” In 4:10 he said, “Hear my son and accept my sayings.” Now in the third passage, Solomon begins by reminding his son of something he’s heard before. “My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.” When I hear this, I think of someone telling an incredible story, a story of intrigue that captivates your mind. You’re on the edge of your seat and can barely contain your excitement. That’s the picture I get here. Do we get excited to hear what the Lord has shown someone or do our eyes glaze over and our mind drifts away? “Incline your ear to my sayings.” Remember where these instructions came from. Remember that God took the time to inspire holy men of old to write these incredible truths down. Never take these things for granted. Understand the privilege we have to read and meditate on the words of God.
“Do not let them depart from your sight.” In other words, keep your eyes on right teaching. Don’t surround yourself with people that will tell you what you want to hear, or what is popular or faddish, or what sounds good. Keep your eyes focused on what things are pure and holy and right. Keep your eyes focused squarely on God’s revelation to us. Keep these things in the, “Midst of your heart.” I’m going to skip this phrase and come back to it. Solomon is telling his son these things because, “They are life to those who find them and health to all their body.” God’s wisdom can be found. Solomon has mentioned the life part before, but there’s a word in this verse that is really cool. It is the word health. It comes from the root word that means to heal as in medicine. Solomon is literally saying the teachings of God are medicine for your soul that brings healing. If we really get a hold of this, I think it’ll change our life. There’s not a real parent out there that wouldn’t force their child to take medicine. You’ll get your spouse to help hold their arms and even hold their nose so they’ll open their mouth and you force the medicine down their throat because you know they need that medicine to fight the infection, or cold, or disease or whatever. You know it will bring healing if they’ll just take it. Solomon is telling us the same thing, but we’re too smart to listen. He tells his son pay attention, listen to me, I know what I’m talking about, you need this. Unfortunately, when it comes to the life changing healing of our soul, we think we know better. Well, we don’t know better. The words of God bring healing to your troubled soul; they bring eternal life to you.
Solomon has talked about the kid’s ears, eyes, heart, and body. In v. 23 he continues with the heart by telling his son, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” Keep in mind what Solomon said in v. 21 about keeping the instructions in, “the midst of the heart.” We often speak of the heart. God speaks to your heart, the Holy Spirit leads and guides our heart. We ask Jesus to come into our heart and live there. These are pretty common things we hear in the church, but have you ever thought about how odd that is? In most instances, the use of the word doesn’t have anything to do with the organ that pumps blood, but rather it is the center of your being. The seat of your soul. You’ve heard people say, “Trust your heart.” Or maybe, “Go with your heart.” “My heart is filled with love.” Or even, “You have to follow your heart.” Jeremiah contradicts this sentiment by saying, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9) Solomon says, “Watch over your heart.” The English translation loses the impact contained in the Hebrew. He’s really saying, above all things, more important than anything else, actively guard your heart. Put up a fence with razor wire, put a moat around it, put infra-red, motion activated cannons around it. Do all these things, “For from it flow the springs of life.” What a beautiful word picture there. It reminds me of John 7:38 when Jesus said, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” The very same thing Solomon is telling his son.
Solomon shifts from the inner parts of the body to the outward. “Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you.” Just so we’re all on the same page, this verse should be taken as one phrase that means twisted or distorted speech; speech that misrepresents what is true. In other words, this is lying. White lies, bold faced lies, lies that protect another’s feelings – they’re all lies. For many of us, the tongue gets us into more trouble than any other part of our body. James wrote about the importance of this when he said, “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.” (Ja. 3:2) This is one of the greatest reasons to effectively guard your heart because Jesus said, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” (Matt. 12:34)
Solomon closes this chapter with some great guidelines to live by. Vs. 25-26 say, “Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.” Remember Lot’s wife that did not look straight ahead? “Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.” That’s the bottom line. Don’t let anyone or anything push you off the path God has you on. If you’re not on God’s path, get there now. Remember what Solomon said just a while ago in Pro. 3:7, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”
Solomon is talking metaphorically and literally in these verses. Keeping your eyes focused on correct, biblical teaching will help your feet stay in the right path. Don’t stretch or twist the truth. Above all this, guard and protect your heart. If Solomon’s son listens, hears, and does these things, the whole body will be healthy. If we do the same thing, our body will also be healed.
You can listen to the podcast here.
Last time we were in Proverbs we saw that King David invested time into Solomon by teaching him the importance of the things of God. We learned that when parents do not take the time to invest the teachings of God into their kids, it is possible that an entire generation could miss who the Lord is and what He did. We’re to acquire wisdom and understanding because it’s the smart thing to do. This morning, Solomon tells his son the results of paying attention to his teaching.
Take the time to grab your Bible and read Proverbs 4:10-19.
So what are the results of wisdom? There’s an underlying theme seen through Proverbs thus far. There is a difference between hearing and listening. And there is a difference between listening and accepting those things that are heard. Perhaps in dealing with your friends or family, as soon as you bring up something about the Bible or God, their attitude changes. Maybe they get defensive or dismissive, maybe they get offended, maybe they get belligerent. Maybe they mock you or God. All these things may hurt your feelings, but I just like to tell folks what has worked for me. As we have said, following the principles of God do not guarantee that everything goes great all of the time, but I can tell you this without hesitation or apology, I’ve never regretted being obedient, I’ve never regretted not sinning, I’ve never regretted following after Christ. For me the regrets come when I fail to do the things I know to be right and pure and holy. This is what Solomon is telling his son. Listen to what I’m telling you and accept it as truth because they’re from God. It’s great for people to listen to me because I’m giving what I believe to be godly truth, but it’s really exciting to see when people accept these things as truth and live them out. We call that discipleship and that should be at the forefront of all we do. The second half of that verse brings another generality. “And the years of your life will be many.” Many is a relative term and is not an absolute statement. This generality is consistent with 3:2 that talks about quality of life. That’s the real meaning here too. The years that you have will be filled with peace because of who God is. Circumstances do not change who God is.
In Solomon’s mind there are two possible paths. We’ve probably heard them stated as black and white, good and evil, right and wrong, godly and ungodly. The father here has spent a significant amount of time ensuring his son gets the right foundation for life. The foundation is the Scriptures; the things of God; the source of absolute truth. Solomon puts it this way in vs. 11-13: “I have directed you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in upright paths. When you walk, your steps will not be impeded; and if you run, you will not stumble. Take hold of instruction; do not let go. Guard her, for she is your life.” He uses some pretty forceful words as he sets up the right path. This seems to be a no brainer. When we follow the paths of right, things are good. Parents are pleased, the law is pleased, and most of all God is pleased. No one stands in your path. There’s no stumbling or tripping. I’m not saying there will be no issues, but you won’t be deterred; you know that the plan is from God.
“Take hold of instruction, do not let go.” I love this verse because it’s so opposite of what we do. Something so simple we choose to ignore. We have the instructions for a life that pleases God and yet many times, we choose to ignore those instructions. It’s as if we discard them because we think we can figure it out on our own. We’re like the weary dad on Christmas Eve that is trying to put together all those toys for his kids, but he refuses to look at the instructions. If he would do that before attempting the assembly, he’d have a much easier time of it. The principle here is the same. That’s the right course of action and it should be obvious to us. “Guard her, for she is your life.” You don’t quit or give up. You continue to follow the instructions and trust that God will work it out.
The other path or course of action should be obvious to us as well. Solomon goes on to say, “Do not enter the path of the wicked and do not proceed in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not pass by it; turn away from it and pass on. For they cannot sleep unless they do evil; and they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble.” (Pro. 4:14-16) Soak that in for just a minute. It seems there is a choice. This opposite path represents the wrong way, the ungodly way, the evil way, the way of missteps and miscues, the path we should never travel on. Avoid it at all costs. If you’re on that course, change course now! Avoid the areas that tempt you or influence you. These wicked people Solomon is talking about are really bad. They don’t make one or two bad decisions; their life is defined by wickedness and evil. “They cannot sleep unless they do evil.” That’s quite the opposite from the path of wisdom. Back in 3:17 regarding wisdom, “All her paths are peace.” In 3:24 when you follow wisdom, “Your sleep will be sweet.” V. 16 says, “They cannot sleep unless they do evil; and they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble.” Their depth of depravity seems to know no bounds. They live for crime and to make others suffer.
Solomon contrasts these evil people with what we’re supposed to be. “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until full day.” That’s a really beautiful word picture. If you’re ever up and about before sunrise, you’ll notice something really cool. Before the sun breaks the line of the horizon, you’ll see beautiful and brilliant colors precede the sun. As the sun continues to rise, the light grows increasingly bright and difficult to look at. When the sun is fully visible above the line of the horizon, you can’t stare directly at it. After Moses spent time with God on Mt. Sinai, he had to wear a veil to cover his face because his face shined so brightly with the radiance of God that you couldn’t look at it. (Ex. 34) The light radiating from his face was blinding. The same thing happens to us when we spend time in the presence of God. That’s what Solomon is saying here. When you consistently walk on the straight path, on the narrow path, on the righteous path, people will notice you because the radiance of God burns brightly in your life and it becomes easier to walk that path. The opposite is also true. “The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.” Devoid of light. No holiness here; no radiance of God here. They trip and stumble and it’s so dark, they don’t even know why they’re tripping. If you ever watch Cops on TV, you’ll see this played out again and again. Someone is stopped or arrested and they don’t even know what they did . . . at least they claim they don’t.
The path of evil never leads to good things. While crime may pay in the short run, it never pays in the long run. It never benefits anyone anywhere to violate the principles of God. Solomon has good reason to teach his son about God. His son, our sons, our daughters need to hear and follow our teaching because our teaching is from God’s personal revelation to us. One last thought, if the teachings of God are good and right for our children, aren’t they good and right for us to follow too?
You can listen to the podcast here.
Today we observe the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted church or IDOP. 100 million of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. Why does God allow persecution? Why is the church growing fastest in countries where persecution is most severe?
The book of Acts opens with the very last moments of Christ’s physical presence on earth. Jesus gave His apostles one last instruction to witness to the city of Jerusalem, the area of Judea and Samaria and even to the ends of the earth and then Jesus was, “lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:9) And so the apostles did just that. The early church was growing by huge numbers. Peter preached his very first message at Pentecost where 3000 souls recognized Jesus as the Messiah. Those 3000 people didn’t know any better and so they began, “continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42)
Over the next couple of chapters in Acts we see something extraordinary take place. Opposition began to grow against this loving bunch of guys that walked and lived by faith in a passionate, authentic way. Peter had just healed the lame man and he, the lame man, and the apostles went together to Herod’s temple and find themselves inundated by the people in the portico of Solomon. Peter gives his second message where 5000 men were saved. The priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees were, “greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” (Acts 4:2) As a result, these religious leaders toss Peter and his colleagues into jail. They hold a trial and question Peter as to what authority he had to speak of such things. Peter lays it on them by answering the question of the ages by concluding that, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given my men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) The apostles were released with the warning that they would not preach in the name of Jesus again.
A short while later, perhaps the next day or two, we find Peter and the apostles back at the portico of Solomon teaching in the name of Jesus, the very thing they were told not to do. Back to jail they go for the night, but this night would be different. An angel of the Lord opens the gates of the prison and tells them to go back to the temple and teach the whole message of this life. They arrived back at the temple about daybreak and began to teach. That brings us to our passage in Acts 5:27-42. I hope you’ll take the time to read this great passage.
To be sure, biblical persecution results because of our position in Christ. For those of us that follow Jesus, can we expect persecution? 2 Tim. 3:12 says, “Indeed all who desire to live godly will be persecuted.” While we may not suffer the same type of persecution here as in those top 50 countries, I think our persecution may take a different form. Satan is our enemy, our adversary and he knows and understands how things work. Our enemy can use most anything as a trip wire to get our focus away from God. Satan is not so concerned with lost people. He seeks to destroy you, to deceive you, to discourage you. Why? When people watch us, we serve as an example of Jesus Christ in the flesh. We are not Christ, but we have His DNA. While I believe the tortuous persecution will come to these United States, for now religious persecution is not tolerated . . . unless you’re a Christian. The church has taken a defensive position and has fallen back on her heals under cultural screams of intolerance and judgment. In America I believe we are spiritually persecuted. We’re told by society how we’re supposed to act and many Christians have become introverted in their faith. We become unwitting pawns in Satan’s plan.
The enemy of Jesus Christ is real. I think one of the top attacks of the enemy is confusing us with things that aren’t bad in themselves, but they misprioritze life even if for a moment. How does he do this? He attacks us. He is on the offensive. He attacks our marriages, one of the principle foundations of society. He attacks relationships pitting friends against friends. He leads us to think about ourselves rather than others. We are deceived about the truth because we form opinions of the Bible without ever looking at the Bible. When C4 first started in 2007, our leadership was committed to keeping things simple. Some of us were particularly weary of church busyness so we committed to not have activities and things every day or night of the week. Christians were so busy with church activities that there wasn’t an abundance of time to do actual ministry. Now it seems that we’re too busy for church. We have the freedom to worship the One and only true God and yet we fall in the trap of our enemy. We’ve bought the lie that we can have casual, shallow associations with believers. We’ve bought the lie that we don’t need the fellowship the early believers had. They were together continuously and we find it nearly impossible to spend an hour or two a week with believers.
I think we’re persecuted with the mind games of the devil. At least our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world can see the tools Satan uses against them. Those that oppress and persecute are visible. The enemy can be seen. Christians are fighting among themselves and attacking one another when Satan is the enemy! The world desperately needs to see the power of God that was evident in Peter’s life in us. The world needs to see that we’re confident in Christ, that we’re bold in Christ, and most of all that we’re loving in Christ. After the disciples were flogged in Acts 5:40, we come to vs. 41-42:
“So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”
In their time of greatest need, they continued in what they knew; they were not deterred. The time we’re supposed to draw close to Christ, we actually withdraw and blame God for abandoning us in our time of need. The principles of prayer, trust, hope that once grounded us in faith are cast aside and traded for doubt, anxiety, and fear.
These all fall right into our enemy’s plan. Shifting the focus from God to ourselves and we’re lost in a sea of despair with no way out. Will you allow your circumstances to control your faith? Or will you allow the power of Christ to shine in your life regardless of what’s going on? We often ask the question, if faced with adversity, would you deny Christ? That’s a difficult question to answer and probably the wrong one to ask. Maybe a better question is, if faced with life, would you deny Christ? Isn’t that, in essence, what we do when we abandon the fundamental principles of the faith?
Yesterday I did something that I rarely do. I preached the same message I preached a couple of week ago. As I’ve studied through the great book of Proverbs, I’m reminded over and over again the importance of teaching and the importance of learning God’s Word. That’s how we connect with God. That’s how we get to know God. That’s how we learn to follow Jesus Christ. That’s how we discover truth. In an age where common sense is no longer common, it seems downright elusive. Biblical sense comes from knowing God through His Son Jesus Christ. Do you want to know God? Get to know Jesus Christ. Do you think there’s another way? According to John 14:6, think again.
The ancient book of Proverbs is exactly what we need today. In it you’ll find guidance on finances, time management, prioritizing our lives, sexual purity, and parenting as well as a host of other topics. Biblical wisdom begins with the realization that Jesus Christ made a way for us to be reconciled to God. That path must go through the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. It is the only way.
So are you wondering, how different can the same message be? Perhaps you’ll be as surprised as I was.
I encourage you to listen to the message here.