Leadership Wisdom

2 Mar

LeadershipYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week Wisdom spoke. She spoke noble and right things. Her message is available and she can be found. Wisdom is not just for the educated elite, but is available to any and all that will listen. She is far more valuable than gold and jewels. This morning, wisdom continues to speak and she offers up a guarantee and gives us some points to consider.

I encourage you to take the time and read our text for today found in Pro. 8:12-21.

Let’s look at wisdom’s clarity. Just when I think we’re beginning to understand the depth of godly wisdom, she gives us additional insight into how truly incredible she is. She, “dwells with prudence.”    Prudence means showing care or concern for the future. And it can also mean careful good judgment that allows someone to avoid danger or risks. In the context of Proverbs, it conveys the idea of sensible behavior. She also finds, “knowledge and discretion.” These are three qualities that form the wisdom triad. When these qualities are ingrained in you, it becomes easier to live the life that God expects. When these qualities are evident in your life, it demonstrates the power of God. Everything we do should point back to God. When we allow this triad to work in our lives, Solomon tells us it helps us do three things.

First, because we fear the Lord, we “hate evil.” Remember, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Pro. 1:7) Evil is a general term wisdom uses for anything that could be considered ungodly. Specifically, “Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate.” So wisdom is a hater too. Remember the haughty eyes that God hates? We have the same thing here; pride and arrogance which always seem to go hand in hand. Have you ever been around someone like this? Wisdom mentions the “evil way.” I want to spend a bit of time here. I frequently talk about manner of life and this is what wisdom is referring to. Much is being said about how we should be as individuals and as a church. Society has told us that it is unloving and judgmental to say some form of behavior is wrong. We’re called intolerant because we adhere to a biblical worldview. I submit to you that it is unloving and ungodly to allow people to boldly enter hell without ever hearing the message of hope that is found in Christ.

If you have paid attention to the things that God and wisdom hate, you would quickly realize that nowhere is it said that God hates people. He might call us names like stiff necked, obstinate, and stubborn, but that simply describes our behavior. Just because things might not be going your way or it seems like the world is against you doesn’t mean God is against you. The evil way is not the godly way. We need to evaluate our manner of life. Is there anything in our lives that would indicate we’re not walking on the path of righteousness? The wise person does not approach the cliff to see just how close he can get to the edge without falling over. Once you fall, it’s too late. The wise person recognizes the danger and stays away. That’s really wisdom’s message. Once wisdom tells us what she hates, she tells us what she is. “Counsel is mine and sound wisdom; I am understanding, power is mine.” Counsel means what you think it means. It is guidance, advice, direction, but always from a godly perspective. Job 12:13 says, “With Him are wisdom and might; to Him belong counsel and understanding.” These qualities are who wisdom is; they are inherent to her character. Do these words sound familiar? Isaiah 9:6 says, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;  And the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,  Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”

What does leadership look like in practice? You may not consider yourself a leader, but one thing is for sure, you cannot lead effectively without wisdom. Well, I suppose you can, but your leadership won’t last long and you likely won’t be followed. Remember that Solomon prayed for wisdom to lead his people. It seems unlikely that anyone could lead a nation effectively that does not possess wisdom. In our world today this is definitely lacking. In context, we’re still talking about biblical wisdom and the only way to have that is for the Lord to give wisdom according to Pro. 2:6. Rom. 13:1 says that all authority is established by God so leaders need to rule in accordance with God’s instructions and principles. When your decisions are made apart from the counsel of God, they are sure to fail. Solomon calls out kings, rulers, princes, and nobles, but this principle applies to anyone in leadership.

Wisdom also has tangible benefits. You sometimes hear business people talk about return on investment or ROI. Unless there is a significant ROI, there is a hesitancy to spend money on something. This model has made its way into the church too. What price do you put on eternity? Wisdom says, “I love those who love me.” Do you love wisdom? How would you know? Think about the people and things you love. It’s obvious the love you have. Wisdom should be no different. Do you scoff or ignore wisdom? “Those who diligently seek me will find me.” It’s not a wild goose chase where you’ll never catch what you’re looking for. If you go looking, you’ll find wisdom. But you have to be diligent. Careful and conscientious. We exercise diligence in other areas of our lives and wisdom is far more important than those other things. People will say, “No. Sports, school, work, pursuit of pleasure, and, spending time with my family is important.” See there’s the mistake people make. No one ever said those things aren’t important, they’re just not as important as seeking God. Are you really seeking wisdom? She can be found, she is not elusive. Ps.119:33 says, “Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall observe it to the end.”

Let’s answer the question that many people are asking . . . including people in the church, “What’s in it for me?” Her benefits are tangible and they are found in vs. 18-19: “Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, even pure gold, and my yield better than choicest silver.” But wait! That’s not all. Check out the last two verses. The idea of righteousness here refers to our horizontal relationships with people and our vertical relationship with God. Justice here is better translated judgment and justice. These are character qualities that set us apart from the norm. Look at the final thing wisdom offers. “To endow those who love me with wealth that I may fill their treasuries.” If you’re thinking that your treasury isn’t full, maybe you don’t love wisdom. Matt. 6:20, “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.”

Solomon asked for wisdom and he got that and wealth. If you really love wisdom, you’re going to seek her and you will find her. Then you will follow her where she leads you. You’ll be walking in God’s will and that is the best place to be. Our inheritance, “is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.”  (1 Peter 1:4)

Wisdom Speaks

23 Feb

speakYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon reminded his son of the importance of remembering the instructions and commands of God. Then he told us the incredible story of watching that senseless young man walk to his certain death by getting involved with a married woman. She had one thing on her mind as she led him like a dumb animal to the slaughterhouse. It wasn’t Solomon’s son that he was watching, but he is relating the story so that he will not fall into the same trap. We would be wise to heed the same warnings. This morning, we leave the adulteress in Sheol and we hear from wisdom herself.

I encourage you to read our passage in Pro. 8:1-11.

This is not wisdom’s first call. Remember back in Pro. 1:20-33 we heard wisdom shouting for all to hear, but three types of people did not listen. The naïve ones loved being simple minded. The scoffers delighted in their scoffing. The fools hate knowledge. So Solomon asks a rhetorical question in v. 1. He answers his own question by telling us exactly where to find wisdom. Vs. 2-3 says, “On top of the heights beside the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; Beside the gates, at the opening to the city, at the entrance to the doors she cries out.” Another way to put this is wisdom can be found where the people are gathering. Cities typically were founded at the intersection of two roads, “where the paths meet” which we would call an intersection or crossroads. There’s only a few ways to get into St. Marys. As a result, our economy suffers because you can’t really pass through – St. Marys must be the destination. In the old days when people travelled by boat, cities on the water were vitally important. Port cities were and continue to be important to moving goods across the globe.

So if wisdom is right in the middle of people, it tells us that the common man, the regular guy can gain wisdom and understanding. Wisdom is not just for the educated and not just for the religious elite. Wisdom is accessible to the young and to the old if we’ll just listen. No need to climb the mountain to reach the wise old sage to glean from his vast storehouses of knowledge and experience. All you have to do is listen. Who’s she calling to? “To you O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men. O naïve ones, understand prudence; and, O fools, understand wisdom.” Notice that naive ones and fools are called out. Everyone can benefit from wisdom, but these people in particular can greatly benefit by listening to what wisdom says.

So what does wisdom say? She says a lot that’s contained in vs. 6-10. Let’s talk about them individually to get the full effect. “Listen, for I speak noble things; and the opening of my lips will reveal right things.” Noble means having fine personal qualities of high moral principles. Do you know anyone that as soon as they begin speaking, a hush fall over the room? They’re like E.F. Hutton. When this person begins speaking, it’s obvious they speak the truth and really know what they’re talking about. These people really are few and far between. Wisdom is like that person only way better. Whenever wisdom speaks, people ought to listen. “For my mouth will utter truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.” Every word of wisdom is true. 1 Cor. 1:24 says, “But to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Our wonderfully loving and just God is the source of truth. Since, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever,” (Heb. 13:8) His Word is unchanging. There are no revisions or alterations. No addendums. It is complete, accurate, timely, and applicable for every situation we face in life. People everywhere have continuously tried to pass off the Bible as irrelevant, archaic, hard to understand, full of contradictions, and sometimes barbaric. Some of these criticisms come from professing believers. Side note, can someone be an authentic believer in Jesus Christ and deny the inerrancy of the Bible? 2 Tim. 3:16-17 seem to tie that one up neatly. Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Wisdom says that, “Wickedness is an abomination to my lips.”

Verse 8 says, “All utterances of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing crooked or perverted in them.” Nothing dishonest or unacceptable are contained within its pages. Ps. 12:6 says, “The words of the Lord are pure words.” There are no hidden motives and no secret agenda. Why do some people find it difficult to understand the Bible? There are numerous factors that contribute to difficulty in understanding God’s Word. It could be that people read it for the wrong reasons. It could be due to misinterpretation or taking things of context. It could be due a lack of understanding of the culture and times in which it was written. It could be that people don’t have the necessary scriptural foundation. Instead of trying to figure it out ourselves, let’s let Scripture interpret Scripture to provide us the clarity needed. 1 Cor. 2:14 reminds us, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”  The Apostle Paul says in 2 Cor. 4:3-4, And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.” So there you have it. From my understanding of Scripture, a lack of understanding of God’s Word could be because the person reading it is not saved.

Your next obvious question is, “I’m saved and I don’t understand everything I read.” Don’t freak out! You’re not alone. No where does it say you’ll know and understand everything in Scripture. The most common thing I see is people aren’t willing to take the time and really read and study Scripture. They’re not willing to work diligently to understand. It’s easier to Google it or ask a friend. 2 Tim. 2:15 is a verse you hear me quote often and I love the King James Version translation of it, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” NAS translates it like this, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” The onus is on the individual. No one can relieve you of the responsibility to study God’s Word. Remember what Paul said in 2 Cor. 4:4, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Here’s the true test. When we set this study up, we looked at 1 Kings 3:5 where God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.” We know that Solomon asked for wisdom and God granted him that and so much more. Solomon acknowledged that he was young and didn’t know anything – he was humble, yet walked faithfully in the statutes of God. See, that’s what sets up Solomon, it wasn’t because he was King David’s son. He was already doing what he was supposed to do in God’s eyes and that’s why God granted the incredible gift of wisdom. That’s why wisdom says, “Take my instruction and not silver, and knowledge rather than choicest gold.” There will come a day that silver and gold will be useless. We must think with an eternal mindset rather than a mindset focused on the here and now. We push off the things that matter for eternity in favor of what we can see right now. That’s not how it works in God’s economy. Remember Jesus’ words as recorded by the tax collector in Matt 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The instructions, commands, and principles of Scripture are eternal.

One day, you may end up poor by earthly standards; you may be there right now. You can have everything you consider valuable taken away, stolen, repossessed, or destroyed. All that you hold near and dear, whether it’s your children, spouse, job, friends, or family can be ripped away from you. I can tell you from studying God’s Word myself that when that time comes and all you have is God and His Word, it will be enough. Don’t wait until that happens to learn the value of God’s Word. Never take it for granted. “For wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things cannot compare with her.”

The Scarlet Letter

16 Feb

Scarlet LetterYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week we walked down memory lane as Solomon reminded his son of some great principles. Remember the commandments and instructions that he taught. Those instructions will provide the path of righteousness to keep you from people that do not have your best interests in mind. Specifically, stay away from another man’s wife; stay away from another woman’s husband. When it comes to the adulteress’s husband, there will be no satisfying his rage. This morning, as is his custom to this point, Solomon reminds his son about the instructions he has been given and then gives some more warnings about the adulteress.

You really need your Bible for this one. Take a look at Pro. 7:1-5 as we begin with a general reminder. Solomon opens up the chapter with some general reminder principles. He uses some great phrases like, “Keep my words.” “Treasure  . . . keep my commandments.” He opened up this book by saying, Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” (Pro. 1:8) Take care of God’s commandments; hold on to them because they are valuable. It’s a theme given throughout Scripture. 1 John 2:3, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.”

“Keep my teaching as the apple of your eye.” This is a really great phrase and it doesn’t mean what you might think. Being the apple of one’s eye typically means you cherish something. The word translated apple literally means pupil. It is the center of the eye that allows light to enter. That light falls on the retina where it is translated to the image you see just like a projector displays images on a screen. It’s an incredible process that we take for granted. If the light no longer is allowed to enter our eye, we trip, we fall, we stumble, we can’t find our way, and we wander. Without the eye, we are rendered blind. Consider what Solomon is saying to his son and to us. Keep the instructions I have given you. While the eye is essential to keep one from stumbling on a literal path, Solomon’s instructions are essential for keeping us on God’s holy path. “Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.” This seems to refer to the Jewish custom of binding the phylacteries on the hand and forehead. Phylacteries were little boxes that would be tied to the hands and forehead that contained four Scripture passages: Ex. 13:1-10, 11-16, Deut. 6:4-9, 11:13-21. Each passage refers to the binding of God’s Word to your hands and foreheads. At the very least, it means remember what the Word says.

And now Solomon tells his son to speak to wisdom. “Say to wisdom, you are my sister, and call understanding your intimate friend.” Wisdom is again personified as a person. In Matt. 12:50 Jesus said, “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” So we’re not talking a literal relationship, but a type of relationship that would be very close, personal, and intimate. That person can and should be trusted. Solomon’s rationale for these reminders is found in v. 5. The idea is that when love fills your heart and you are guided by the fundamental principles of Scripture, you won’t do things that are unwise or ungodly. If you think that is overly simplified, well it kind of is. People who routinely make poor choices rarely consult Scripture or biblical principles prior to making that decision. Others may consult Scripture then choose to ignore its teaching. It goes back to all those great reminders about keeping and treasuring God’s Word. You cannot say you hold God’s Word dearly when you choose to ignore it.

Solomon says, “Picture this.” He has personified wisdom in previous passages, but now he provides an actual example of something he has seen. Read through vs. 6-23 to get the word picture in your mind of what’s happening. I want to highlight some of the key things in this passage. Solomon says he spots, “A young man lacking sense.” We don’t know the age of the young man, but it seems like he’s not out looking to get himself into trouble. He’s out and about and passes by what Solomon says is “her” corner. Look at the time phrases, “In the twilight, in the evening, in the middle of the night and in the darkness.” So this young man is really walking back and forth, waiting until she happens to come by. The great guidance from Pro. 5:8 that says, “Keep your way far from her and do not go near the door of her house” is totally blown off. His wait is rewarded as she comes out to meet him and get the picture of what she looks like. “Dressed as a harlot.” Harlot is defined as someone that engages in extramarital sexual relations for commercial purposes. Women dressed enticingly with the hope of luring their prey back to their houses of ill repute.

She was, “cunning of heart.” Cunning means skilled at achieving a goal by deceit  or evasion. “She is boisterous and rebellious, her feet do not stay at home.” Other translations say, “Loud and wayward,” “Loud and defiant,” and “loud and stubborn.” Consider Tit. 2:5 where Paul instructs wives, “to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” This isn’t some chauvinistic, Neanderthal thinking, but so the Word of God will not be dishonored. This woman is the opposite of godliness. She’s out and about in the in the city square when she should be at home. She tells the young man that she has given her peace offerings and has paid her vows and now she comes out to meet this young man lacking sense. It seems like she is using the offerings and vows as license. Vs. 16-17 describe her luxurious accommodations with the fine linens and spices. Verse 19 presents us with the shocking detail that she is married. Her husband is away on business and won’t return for at least a month. Don’t worry she says, we won’t be interrupted. Remember from Pro. 6:34 that, “Jealousy enrages a man.” He’ll never know, don’t sweat it. And now her plan is laid out because she is, “cunning of heart.” She is persuasive, she uses flattery, she is enticing. And the unwitting young man follows her to his death. He’s like the dumb animal that walks right up to the slaughterhouse not realizing that death awaits him. How can someone be so unwitting? How can someone be so blind to reality? How can one be led astray so quickly? Think about the crises you have gotten yourself into when you ignore clear, biblical principles and you ask yourself, “How did I get here?” When you ignore the biblical counsel of a friend, the guidance of a parent, or the wise advice of your pastor, why are you surprised when you end up in a place you don’t want to be?

Solomon provides the sobering conclusion of certainty in vs. 24-27. Once again Solomon says, “Listen to me and pay attention to my words!” Don’t be fooled, don’t get hoodwinked, don’t get taken, be wary, be careful, exercise caution, don’t wander near her! This is not her first rodeo, “For many are the victims she has cast down, and numerous are all her slain.”

If you follow the path of this adulterous woman and women like her, the road always leads to the same place. The destination is certain. “Her house is the way to Sheol, descending to the chambers of death.” If you’re on the path, get off before it’s too late. Avoid the trap Satan sets for you. If you ignore these principles, death will result.

A Walk Down Memory Lane

9 Feb

Memory LaneCheck out the podcast here.

Last week we learned that there are six things the Lord hates and the seventh that is an abomination to Him. The qualities Solomon listed are ones that should obviously be avoided and with the power of the Holy Spirit, it’s not only possible, it’s expected. This morning, Solomon wraps up the instructions regarding sexual purity and provides the benefits of following the principles taught.

To set up Solomon’s message, take the time to read Pro. 6:20-35.

Here are some great reminders. Who doesn’t need to be reminded of important truths? Solomon takes the times to reiterate what he has already said. Anytime Scripture is repeated, we really need to pay attention to what is being said. The reminders here are no exception. Instead of going through them one at a time, let me paint with a broad brush. In context, the understanding in these instructions come from the vantage point that they are being given by loving, godly, passionate, authentic believers in Christ. They’re not instructions to be taught only, but followed. Solomon personifies his instructions by the using the words guide, watch, and talk. This confirms the idea that the instructions are not just helpful hints, but essential elements in the walk of faith. The principles apply even for those that do not walk with Christ. He also uses the words lamp and way to indicate that the instructions will guide you into doing the right thing. If you’re not sure what is right or wrong, follow Solomon’s instructions. Allow biblical instructions to light the path that you walk on so you won’t trip and fall on the rocky path of life and so you don’t blindly walk through life. When you’re driving and visibility is reduced due to rain or fog, you slow down. When it’s dark, you turn on the lights so you can see. This is the principle Solomon is telling us. He’s giving us the tools needed to remain pure and holy in relationships.

Here’s Solomon’s reasoning. If you follow the instruction he provides, something magical happens. It’s found in v. 24, “To keep you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress.” Keep here means avoid. These principles are designed to help you avoid, “the evil woman” and, “the smooth tongue of the adulteress.” It looks like these are two separate women that are dangerous for different reasons. “Do not desire her beauty in your heart nor let her capture you with her eyelids.” This woman is not ugly. It’s no secret that men are drawn to the visuals of a woman. You’ve heard the phrase coined by English poet Sir Thomas Overbury in his poem entitled “A Wife” in 1613 that beauty is only skin deep and that is absolutely true. If all you want is beauty, you’re going to find yourself wanting as the beauty fades. Don’t get trapped by her beauty, by her flattery, or her honey dripping lips. Once you’re trapped, escape is difficult. It seems pretty clear not to get yourself trapped by the honey lipped harlot, but look at v. 26 for something not so clear. Exact translation from the Hebrew is difficult and I am not a Hebrew scholar, but experts seem to conclude the best translation is, “Although the price of a prostitute may be as much as a loaf of bread, another man’s wife hunts the precious life.” The key in understanding this verse is with the phrase, “the precious life.” A prostitute expects a small payment in return for a service, but the adulteress wants the man’s life. Neither is acceptable and it goes to show us the ridiculousness of engaging in activities outside of marriage. One commentator remarked, “Going to the immoral woman is the quintessential act of self-degradation.” Listen to Solomon’s reasoning and incredible word picture in vs. 27-28, “Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? Or can a man walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?” These are rhetorical questions. The answer is of course not. If you play with fire, you will get burned. Just to be clear, Solomon says, “So is the one who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; whoever touches her will not go unpunished.”

It looks like Solomon is shifting gears I the next verses, but he’s not. Verse 30 says, “Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is hungry.” Hunger is the motivator to steal, not greed. Most people have compassion for people that are hungry and would understand why one would steal food. Just because you understand something doesn’t mean it’s right. Look at what happens to this guy in v. 31. Not only does he have to pay back what he stole, he has to repay it sevenfold. In other words, if you steal a loaf of bread, seven loaves must be paid back. So even though there’s compassion, there must be restitution. According to the Law, if you couldn’t pay the restitution the thief would be sold. The rest of the verse says the thief will also forfeit the wealth of this house. Solomon brings it back to adultery. It is nonsensical to think that someone would do such a thing of folly and v 32 confirms that, “The one who commit adultery with a woman is lacking sense; he would destroy himself does it.” Happiness and joy will not be found, but look what will. “Wounds and disgrace and his reproach will not be blotted out.” This most likely refers to the injuries sustained at the hands of the husband that finds out you’ve been carrying on with his wife. There is a certain stigma associated with adultery. No sin is too great for God and this is true for adultery. You have probably figured out by now that people are not as forgiving as God. When trust is broken, it’s very difficult to get back, not impossible, but very difficult. Forgiveness is given and often I hear complaints from the one that committed the adultery that the other spouse doesn’t trust them. I typically respond, “Too bad!” That’s the consequences for your actions.

Verses 34-35 are in response to the adultery. The assumption is this response is from the angry husband of the woman that engaged in adultery. Jealous means fiercely protective or vigilant of one’s rights or possessions. We don’t think of a spouse as a possession, but even in a marriage ceremony, I ask, “Who gives this woman to this man?” The standard response is, “Her mother and I.” There is a sense of belonging in marriage, an exclusiveness that is reserved for a man and a woman. We must think of marriage as God thinks of it: the union of one man and one woman that become one flesh. That’s why adultery is so damaging. You’re ripping apart the flesh. That’s why, “Jealously enrages a man.” It’s understandable and the rage the husband feels is an unstoppable force that cannot be satisfied. There is no possibility of restitution for what was taken cannot be returned. No amount of money will make it right. Song 8:6, “Put me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, jealousy is as severe as Sheol; its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord.”

Adultery may seem like a deal breaker, may seem like an end to a relationship. It doesn’t have to be. Men, be very wary of a woman that approaches you in a way that would jeopardize the relationship with your wife. If you’re carrying on with someone you’re not married to, stop! There is a chance for reconciliation if you’ll allow the Lord to be a part of it.

God’s Hatred for Sin

2 Feb

HateYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week we learned about the scoundrel. We saw that wickedness and worthlessness are evident by a number of characteristics that should not be present in the life of an authentic believer. The scoundrel is always devising evil. This morning, we hit a passage of Scripture that might be familiar to you and is contrary to the message some “religious” people tout that God is only love.

Pro. 6:16-19 says, “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”

God is a hater. Okay, let’s qualify that. Can a loving and all powerful God hate something? Before we get into specifics, people who make the claim that God is only love have not studied the Bible. God has a nearly infinite list of awesome characteristics that we should strive to emulate. He is patient, kind, compassionate, empathetic, creative, understanding, decisive, dependable, generous, gentle, humble, strong, loyal, meek, just, balanced, truthful, wise, and totally awesome. We could go on and on.

So we come to this passage of seven things that God hates. This list is not all inclusive as we have other Scriptures listing additional things that God hates. Before we get to the list, let’s see how Solomon sets it up. “There are six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him.” Hate means an intense dislike for or a strong aversion towards something or someone. Abomination is more difficult to define and the best I can come up with is it means detestable or loathsome. Just because there is a list, do not assume that some sins are okay or not as bad as others. You may have heard sin broken up into mortal and venial sin. Venial sin is a lesser sin that is forgivable while mortal sin ruptures a person’s link with God’s saving grace. Don’t confuse this list of seven with the seven deadly sins. The seven deadly sins may lead to mortal sin. 1 Jo. 5:16-17 tells us, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.” One denomination uses this passage in their statement of faith to justify the concept that some sins are more severe than others. I quote, “The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.”

So let’s clear this up. Sin is sin in God’s eyes. Rom. 6:23a tells us that, “The wages of sin is death.” Sin leads to death. “If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jo. 1:8) God does not want us to sin, and He knows that we still have a sin nature and a natural desire to sin. That’s why He gives us the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to overcome that nature. No sin is too great for God to forgive. Yes, the wages of sin is death – both spiritual and physical, BUT, “the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 6:23b)

So let’s check out the list. Remember biblical lists often are ordered in severity or importance. Sometimes the lists go from bad to worse and this is the case here. As we go through the list, look for the body parts mentioned that generally flow from the top of the head to the feet. Notice also that the first five refer to general moral characteristics such as pride, deceit, violence, etc. “Haughty eyes.” This phrase is also translated a proud look. Haughty means arrogantly superior or disdainful. It is a self importance and a putting oneself ahead of everyone and everything else. It is the exact opposite of the primary virtue we should have that Paul mentions in Eph. 4:2 when he says, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.” Remember that, “God is opposed to the proud” according to Ja. 4:6. Solomon mentions pride numerous times throughout this book.

“A lying tongue.” All lies are sin. I would say this includes exaggeration, but not hyperbole. Saying you caught a 30 pound bass is when you caught nothing is a lie. Saying you’re so tired you could sleep for a year is hyperbole – an exaggeration used for effect and is not to be taken literally. Don’t lie – ever. Solomon is talking about a person that has no regard for truth, they consistently lie; they are habitual liars.

“And hands that shed innocent blood.” Innocent does not mean perfect in this passage, it means not guilty of a crime or offense. Solomon is describing a person who is prone to violence. Someone that would commit murder if the circumstances presented themselves. This describes someone that has little or no value for human life. They would engage in violence over a presumed wrong, someone always looking for a fight.

“A heart that devises wicked plans.”Always scheming or devising ways in which to gain an advantage over another person. Following the rules or laws is done when it’s convenient or serves a specific purpose. If the rules don’t meet those criteria, they’re ignored.

“Feet that run rapidly to evil.” This is an excitement or eagerness to sin. This is someone that evaluates the opportunity to sin. It’s someone that receives extra change and considers is good luck that he got away with something. The benefit is secondary. It’s like the speeder that gets a warning and not a citation. It’s not that no fine has to be paid although that’s good. The real joy comes from getting away with breaking the law. If you do some casual research into these characteristics, you’ll find they are consistent with sociopathic behavior. That’s not consistent with the godliness that is expected of authentic believers. All of us likely have committed one or more of these things that God hates, but before you get all antsy about this, Solomon is talking about consistent, habitual behavior.

Here’s the break out in the last two on the list. While each of the seven in the list are moral character flaws, the last two represent something a bit different. “A false witness who utters lies.”  Solomon already said in v. 17 that God hates, “a lying tongue.” This one is different. Literally, this is someone that lies under oath or in direct examination. Think about a courtroom. Lying under oath is called perjury which is punishable as a felony under the criminal code. Lying when you promise to tell the truth undermines the fabric of society. Finally, “And one who spreads strife among brothers.” Strife means angry or bitter disagreement or conflict. This can happen in the workplace, in the school, in your neighborhood, and in the church. This is an attempt to drive people apart. Some people aren’t happy unless they’re making other people unhappy. Some folks don’t know they’re unhappy until they’re told. I have seen this happen on more than one occasion in the church and even here at C4. The common thread is there is no desire for resolution or reconciliation. Someone gets upset and tries to get others upset too. If and when I hear of it, my practice is to make contact and see what I can do to resolve whatever perceived or real issue there is. I’m often told everything is fine, yet they separate themselves from the body. It’s rarely an individual thing. It affects the spouse, the kids, the person’s friends, others that know him; it affects relationships.

What is particularly troubling is that disagreement or conflict may occur in other facets of life like school, work, with coaches or players on a team, with neighbors, but rarely does that result in any change. A child can be bullied at school and the child continues to go. You can work for the worst boss in the world, but you continue to go to work. You can have a neighbor that complains about everything you do: they don’t like your kids, your pets, the way you park your car or your Christmas decorations, but you don’t move. Someone doesn’t speak to you at church and you quit. Someone doesn’t like your new profile picture and you quit. Yes, it does get that trivial in the church. We’ve become unwilling to be a people that work things out; that acknowledge people’s differences with understanding – we have unattainable expectations for everyone else and none for ourselves. This is a character flaw that God does not approve of.

God is indeed a God of love, but that doesn’t mean he loves everything. This list of Solomon’s is not all inclusive. God hates all sin, yet loves the one committing sin. We must learn to overcome the faults of others and love people regardless of what they do or do not do. We must love unconditionally and love people to lead them to an authentic and passionate relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son.

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Wordless Wednesday

28 Jan

4 Wheel Bus

The Scoundrel

26 Jan

SCoundrelYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Solomon talked about the value of hard work. He talked about being surety for a neighbor and how unwise that may be. While debt is not necessarily a sin, taking on debt that you cannot repay most assuredly is a sin. If you’re in debt, work hard to pay off that debt to get out from under the lender. Solomon told us to consider the hard working ant that labors even though no one is in charge; they do what needs to get done. Solomon also said don’t be lazy. This morning, Solomon continues his warnings against laziness and uses some really harsh words.

Pro. 6:12-15 says, “A worthless person, a wicked man, is the one who walks with a perverse mouth, who winks with his eyes, who signals with his feet, who points with his fingers; who with perversity in his heart continually devises evil, who spreads strife. Therefore his calamity will come suddenly; instantly he will be broken and there will be no healing.”

Here are some character traits to avoid. Solomon kicks this passage off with a description of a worthless and wicked man. Worthless is also translated scoundrel, naughty, and a man of Belial. Contextually accurate definitions are important when studying Scripture. Belial is a general term in the Old Testament meaning wicked. In the New Testament, the term is synonymous with Satan. Solomon says this is what a person is, no debate or discussion. Worthless means having no real value and wicked means ungodly or evil. That seems extraordinarily harsh. Please understand this is not the intrinsic value of a person. Everyone has value, but Solomon is saying there comes a point that a person is characterized by what he does. Jesus died for any and everyone and He can change the path of any person. He can take the hardest of people and transform them, but it has to be completed in accordance with God’s character. God will not subvert the free will of men. I believe He does all He can to draw people into a relationship with Him through His one and only Son. The people Solomon refers to are not worthless and wicked by happenstance. It is because of what they do. Remember, actions speak louder than words.

How can we spot this type of person? Thankfully, Solomon gives us some clues as to how to identify a worthless or wicked person. There are six indicators for this type of person so they should be pretty easy to spot. First, this person, “Is the one who walks with a perverse mouth.” That’s a curious description. How does one walk with his mouth? It means the manner or habit of life that I so often talk about. Having a perverse mouth is who the person is; it is his character, it is how he is defined. Perverse means a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave unacceptably. Obstinate means stubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion or chosen course of action despite attempts to persuade one to do so. God, through the writing of this book, tells us that this is the type of behavior they want to engage in. Ungodly behavior is a choice.

The second clue is this person, “winks with the eye.” In this context, it isn’t a friendly gesture. It is a subtle, crafty expression. It is meant to convey a message to an accomplice, a cohort in crime. Third and fourth he “signals with his feet” and “points with his fingers.” Signal here literally means scrape with the feet. The jury is still out on this one, but this phrase seems to give an indication of singling out a victim. Fifth, “with perversity in his heart continually devises evil.” Remember that perversity means a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave badly. The heart is the seat of the soul. This guy is always planning the destruction, plotting evil for the sake of evil. Always looking to see who he can take advantage of. Finally this person, “spreads strife.”   Strife is a word we hear on occasion. It means angry or bitter disagreement or conflict. Conflict is not always bad, but here it gives an indication that strife is the goal. We see these kinds of people at work, at school, at family reunions, and yes . . . even at church. When you see them, you might think of going the opposite direction. These people are always ticked off about something or someone and they can’t wait to get you onboard with them. We’ll see next week that God really hates it when this goes on in any context and that would include with people who profess to be believers. These are the outward indicators of wickedness.

Solomon’s conclusion regarding these people is set off by the word therefore. Therefore his calamity will come suddenly; instantly he will be broken and there will be no healing.” Calamity is an event that causes great and sudden damage or distress. Remember this is a worthless or wicked person. The pain and suffering he causes will be meted out to him. His destruction is certain. It comes without warning; the chances for transformation are no more. All the opportunities to turn to the One that can provide deliverance is gone. “He will be broken.” This is a result of what the person has done. Don’t forget the intentional nature of his behavior. The word broken means to break into pieces like a ship that is wrecked. There’s no hope for repair. The pieces cannot be put back together. There is complete ruin. “There will be no healing.” No healing because of what he has done because that is who he is. I cannot emphasize strongly enough that outward actions are a direct indication of who controls you. People like this do exist, but they shouldn’t exist in the church. Now I’m not talking that they wouldn’t be welcomed in the church and loved on or ministered to. If Jesus lives in your heart, this type of behavior is not just reprehensible; it is a complete mischaracterization of the power of Christ. I’ve often said it and I will say it again. If you’re breathing, there is hope. The only hope is for a complete transformation is giving Christ the freedom to do so. The character traits Solomon has written about are in direct opposition to the fruit of the Spirit which is, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23) That’s why it’s so painful to see Christians behave in a manner that is contrary to what they claim.

The wicked person who is characterized by his deceit, his malice, his perversity, and his desire to do evil will be broken instantly with no hope for repair. There are people like this around and you may even know someone like this. Perhaps God will give you an opportunity to share the life changing power of Christ with them.

The Value of Hard Work

20 Jan

Hard WorkYou can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Last week Solomon talked about drinking your own water. The mandates he gave were really metaphorical instructions to remain faithful in marriage. Don’t be under the false assumption that what happens between two consenting adults is no one’s business. Everything we do is before God’s eyes. Pay attention to the instructions of Scripture so you don’t wander in your own foolishness. As we begin Chapter 6, we’ll see four divisions in the text that don’t deal specifically with wisdom or parental guidance. This morning, Solomon shifts gears and introduces two new subjects.

Find your Bible and read Pro. 6:1-11.

Solomon enters a land I tell people never to go. He enters what if land and gives us a couple of conditional phrases. His first is, “If you have become surety for your neighbor, have given a pledge for a stranger.” There are a couple of words that we don’t really use much anymore. Surety means taking on the responsibility for a debt. You may know it as a cosigner. There is no specific prohibition against cosigning a loan. Paul said he would take care of any outstanding debt regarding the slave Philemon in v. 18 by saying, “But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account.” (Phl. 18) One thing we know for sure is that it’s wrong to take on debt you cannot repay. When you cosign a loan, you’re taking the responsibility for that loan in the event the one taking the loan cannot repay it. So if you cosign a loan, understand that you could responsible for the entire loan amount. There will be much more regarding finances later in Proverbs. Remember this; creditors these days get you hooked by selling you on a monthly payment rather than telling you the entire debt. “Have given a pledge for a stranger” is an interesting phrase. It goes along with the first part regarding surety. The word “given” means to clap the palms or strike the hands. This looks a lot like a handshake. We apply this verse in broad terms as not giving surety or taking on the debt of another. But the verse is directed at your neighbor or a stranger. As I was reading this, I’m thinking, who would do that? And then it just struck me. In this context, pledge means a promise of charity. It could mean don’t promise money to anyone. The principle is a good one.

This leads right into the next conditional phrase, “If you have been snared with the words of your mouth, have been caught with the words of your mouth.” Think of debt as a trap. You have made promises that you are obligated to keep. A quick application of this might be the housing crash of a few years ago. People were given loans for houses they could not afford and then the banks were blamed when the houses were foreclosed. They said they would pay the debt, but were not able to.

So what’s a guy to do? Getting caught in the trap of debt is not a life ending sentence. Solomon provides the solution in vs. 3-5. Notice that the individual is to deliver himself. No bail outs, no hands outs, no absolution of debt. Several years ago, I heard an older, seasoned Christian counsel a younger one who was feeling the weight of a mortgage. The counsel was, just let it go back to the bank. Even if you’re protected under bankruptcy, you are still obligated to pay your debts biblically. Part of getting out from under that bondage is to, “Go, humble yourself, and importune your neighbor.” In some connotations, importune means to prostitute yourself. While the word is typically associated with sexual activity, it can also mean offer your services to another. We can conclude from the abundance of principles in the Bible regarding sexual purity that this verse has to be talking about offering your services to work off a debt. That makes sense because Solomon goes on to say, “Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids.” Do not rest until that debt is paid off. When we work hard to pay off a debt we, “Deliver yourself like a gazelle for the hunter’s hand and like a bird from the hand of the fowler.” We escape the snare that has us trapped. We are set free from the debt that has entangled us.

This next passage is going to hit home with something I believe might just be crippling people. Solomon tells us to consider the insect world. Most of us don’t give a second thought to an ant. We apply insecticide to make sure they don’t hang out in our houses. We smoosh them with our hands or feet. They are pretty interesting creatures. More than 10,000 ant species are known. They can lift and carry more than three times their own weight. Solomon says watch them and learn from them. They have no chief, officer, or ruler according to v. 7. In other words, no one tells them what to do. They know what needs to be done and they do it. Ants work hard all summer long to prepare for winter and they do it without anyone or anything beating them over the head. Learn from them. Compare the ant to the sluggard. He’s not talking about the shell-less gastropod that eats your plants. A sluggard is a person that is lazy. One that is slow moving or inactive. The ant is hard working and needs no leader. The sluggard can have someone standing over them and still not get done what needs to get done.

Look at Solomon’s rhetorical questions in v. 9 as he says, “How will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?” How long are going to lounge around not doing what needs to get done? Get off the couch, get out of the recliner, quit napping, put your phone down, get up and get to work! Solomon answers his own how long questions by saying, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest.” Just five more minutes, hit the snooze. You get five more minutes, then want five more. The more you get, the more you want. I’ll get to it, I’ll do it tomorrow. Solomon is saying what no politically correct person will say. Laziness leads to poverty, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Look at the progression. Lack of foresight, poor preparation, laziness, too much sleep, poverty. The poverty doesn’t come in like a thief, it comes in like a slow rolling train, “like a vagabond.”

Then what happens? “And your need like an armed man.” Need means something that is essential for life. In other words, your needs are like an armed man – literally like someone that has a gun. The gunmen takes you by surprise; there is no opposing him. He’ll take what he wants and there is nothing you can do to stop it. You realize: I’m hungry, I need to buy food. Your needs come upon you suddenly. We’re not talking about a lazy day here; we’re talking about a lazy lifestyle. Is your life characterized by inactivity? Solomon is talking physically, but is there a spiritual application? Are you a sluggard when it comes to your spiritual walk with Christ? Just give me five more minutes, then I’ll get up. I’ll take care of that later. The church has become a reflection of society rather than a reflection of the transforming power of Christ. We are developing a generation of entitled Christians that scream what’s in it for me? People who’ve been professing believers for years that have never lifted a finger in service to Christ in or out of the church. We have professing believers that claim they don’t like to or don’t have time to read God’s word, they don’t like to or have never prayed, they’ve never given any money to support the work of the ministry, in fact they’ve done little to nothing to support their claim of being a believer in the One that created all that we know from the power of His voice. This one of a kind, incredible, loving, omni-present, omniscient, all powerful being is somehow too weak to make a change in your life. We have a responsibility as a church to teach and expect transformation. I acknowledge that the process takes time, but what do you say to someone that does not want to change, that wants to continues in the lifestyle they’ve always had, that wants to live life on the fence and be in the world and in the church, to discount the fundamental principles of Scripture, that refuses to listen to spiritual or earthly authority, and does not want to be accountable to anyone or anything? What do you say to that person? Repent!!

There is no time like the present to allow Jesus to modify your life. You will not regret it. What you will regret . . . at some point . . . is the years of inactivity, excuses, and laziness. There is value in hard work. Don’t let the cares and concerns of this world derail you from following Christ.

Church Shopping?

13 Jan

ShoppingA Facebook friend recently posted that his family was in a new place and had begun week #1 of church shopping. It sounds innocuous enough, but I think there are some real underlying themes there that are overriding traditional church culture and is indicative of where we are in the church today.

While finding a church home is not as critical as other decisions, it’s not to be taken too lightly either. I’ve heard many people use this phrase and it gives an indication that if you keep shopping, you’ll find a better bargain. Have you ever scoured the internet or searched sale papers looking for the best deal for a purchase? As soon as you pull the trigger and buy or order the item, you see the same thing advertised at a better deal. Shopping can be really exciting and fun, but it can also be a real bummer.

Does God’s desire come into play or are we like an excited bride looking for the perfect dress for her wedding? Wedding dresses have become such big business that we now have reality TV shows that follow brides seeking that perfect dress. Tirelessly trudging from store to store with the idea that there is the perfect dress out there . . . you’ve just got to be willing to find it.

Well Captain Obvious, churches are not dresses. You’re right. But when we shop for a church, we convince ourselves that there are better deals, better bargains, and more choices if we just keep looking. I live in a military town and there is a fairly high rate of turnover with people transferring in and out. Unfortunately, God seems to be consulted a lot more frequently about a dress than He is about where to serve. It’s not a life ending choice . . . about the dress or a church. At our church I’ve heard from people’s own mouths that they’ve been looking for a church for years. I think the longest I’ve heard is five years of searching. It took less time to build the Golden Gate Bridge. Paul’s first missionary journey took less time. So did his second and third. What in the world are you looking for? People today are significantly more transitional then they used to be. It’s not unusual for someone not in the military to move every three or four years. Why do people delay in committing to a church? There it is . . . commitment. People are quicker to jump into relationships than they are a church. What if it’s the “wrong” church? What is a wrong church?

I’ve often said there are three things to look for in a church. When I say church, I’m referring to a New Testament church. I remember speaking at a church years ago discussing their future and I preached from Acts 2. I asked the question, “Are you functioning as a New Testament church?” The leader of the church, a 78 year old woman (that’s another story), told me, “No.” That church was dead, they knew it, but they didn’t care. Okay here are the three:

  1. Does the pastor preach biblically based messages?
  2. Does the church care about the community?
  3. Are the people mostly friendly?

There are a number of other benchmarks I would include (doctrine, theology, missions, vision, accountability, etc.), but if a church has these three, then you can enter into further discussion with the leadership about those other important areas. People have got to quit browsing the spiritual buffet to determine where God wants them. Oh, well church X has something for the kids, but church Y doesn’t so we’ll go to church X. In my own ears someone told me, “We’re looking for something for our kids, they’ve never even sat with us in church.” Huh? It doesn’t matter how awesome a church’s student group is if the pastor never preaches from the Bible.

Here’s the deal, if you’re looking for the perfect church: STOP! You’ll only mess it up by going there. Be intentional about plugging in. Take advantage of what is offered. Don’t wait to be asked to serve or participate. Time is short and eternity is long. Do what you can to show people the way there. Get in the game and live out your faith. Do not be a lone ranger Christian.

Parental Guidance Suggested

12 Jan

PGYou can listen to the podcast here.

It’s been a while since we were in Proverbs, so let me remind of what we last talked about. Solomon reminded us of the all too familiar trap of illicit relationships with women. While Solomon was giving his son specific guidance about avoiding an adulterous woman, the principle applies to men and women. No matter how exciting it may seem to be in the moment, death and destruction always results from immorality. We may not see it here in this earth, but judgment will come. This morning, Solomon continues with the theme of marital purity, but he does it in metaphorical terms.

Grab your Bible and check out Pro. 5:15-23.

Are we really talking about water? Most of us do not store drinking water, but back in Solomon’s day, water was a precious commodity because the area was so dry. People would collect rainwater in underground reservoirs so they would have water available during the dry summer months. You can travel to Israel today and see many cisterns still standing. Wells were different than cisterns and were equally important. Gen. 26 and 29 shares stories about the value of wells. Wells often had stones placed over the top of it to prevent unauthorized use. Isaac’s son Jacob first saw his future wife at a well. Solomon is not talking about water. He’s continuing his warning about fidelity in relationships. He’s talking about purity prior to marriage and faithfulness after marriage.“Drink water from your own cistern and fresh water from your own well.” This is a continuation of the warnings from the previous passage. Don’t take what isn’t yours. You can apply this to numerous things, but he’s talking about marital relations. The cistern and the well are metaphors for a wife. A man should have sexual relations with his wife and only his wife. Intimacy is reserved for marriage. Everyone would be wise to follow this seemingly obvious instruction. Think of the world wide implications of abstaining from sex prior to marriage and then remaining monogamous after marriage. If she’s not meeting your needs, demonstrate sacrificial, unconditional love for her. If the man is not a follower of Christ, Peter says it this way ladies, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” (1 Pet. 3:1-2) The cistern and the well represent a source of water to quench thirst. The wife is designed to quench the desire for intimacy. That metaphor seems pretty clear, but then the water gets muddy.

Let’s try and clear up the muddy waters. So far, Solomon has been giving instructions to his son so that the son will, “receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice, and equity” that was stated way back in 1:3. The theme that began at the beginning of chapter 5 continues here, but I wish it were clearer. There is an exclusivity that is expected in marriage and that continues here with vs. 16-17. Some have made the argument that these verses are talking about prostitution, but we can’t be sure. What is certain is that a man’s sexual desire is reserved for his wife and only his wife. All energy must be directed within the boundaries of marriage. Fantasies are not healthy, helpful, or holy. It was Jesus that raised the standard of holiness from the physical act of adultery to the thought of it. Matt. 5:27-28 says, You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Lust is defined as an unhealthy craving or desire. Men, if this is how your life is characterized, it’s sin.

 Verse 18 contains a subtle principle I don’t want you to miss. Notice the phrase, “wife of your youth.” This gives us the idea that the one that married when you were young is still your wife now that you’re old. I love the fact that I’ve been married for over 28 years, but it’s by the grace of God that we have remained married. I can tell you the secret of our marriage is not that I’m a great guy, or Kari is a great girl. It is only because of God working in us and our desire to please Him that we have stuck it out. I can honestly say that we have a great marriage, but it is not without issues. We disagree; we can be short with one another. The only formula I can offer is to become the man or woman God expects you to be as He transforms you continually into the image of Christ. V. 19 contains some very graphic language and I want to focus on that last phrase. “Be exhilarated always with her love.” Exhilarated literally means intoxicated or make very happy. Men, be head over heels, crazy in love with your wife. Solomon is really a romantic guy. Listen to what he said in Song of Solomon 4:9, “You have made my heart beat faster, my sister, my bride; you have made my heart beat faster with a single glance of your eyes.” There is an excitement in marriage that cannot be sustained in any other relationship between two people. Notice that Solomon uses the word, “always” and since, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for training in righteousness,” (2 Tim. 3:16) we need to pay attention. Marital sexuality is a wonderful gift for mutual enjoyment between a husband and a wife.

Notice the rhetorical question in v. 20. Why would anyone choose to throw away the blessing of a wonderful marriage? Maybe you’re thinking, my marriage isn’t so great. Are you faithfully and sacrificially loving your wife or your husband? Consider Paul’s definition of love: “Love is patient, love is kind and not jealous; love does not brag, and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails!” (1 Cor. 13:4-8a) I’ve fallen out of love some would say. You have likely heard it said that love is a choice and not a feeling. Choose to love and allow the Lord to transform that cold, stony heart.

Here are some sobering thoughts. In v. 21 Solomon says, “For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord and He watches all his paths.” Solomon is still talking about marital fidelity. What happens between consenting adults is still visible to God. This isn’t some sort of biblical threat, it is a reality. David asked the rhetorical question, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?” (Ps. 139:7) The answer is absolutely no where. And why would anyone want to flee from the Lord’s presence? That’s the better question. You can pretend it’s your little secret. You can convince yourself that no one knows what’s going on and that no one will get hurt. God is watching, but not in the way some in ministry have led you to believe. If you’re not a believer, God’s aim is not to punish you, but to draw you into an authentic, passionate relationship with Him. If you are a believer, God wants you to follow the straight path that demonstrates the power of God. The one that fails to heed these warnings finds himself in a terrible predicament. Check out the final thoughts in this passage in vs. 22-23.

Folly means foolishness and astray means wander. Wow. The immoral man has no one to blame but himself. Don’t ignore the instructions of Scripture. Following the instructions will save time, money, and energy and you’ll end up with the product that you’re supposed to have. Think of all the heartache you’ve experienced just because you didn’t follow instructions. Don’t do that in life.

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