No One Truly Knows the Sorrow I’m In

SorrowYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we saw the shocking truth that liars lie. Lying is not part of the makeup of an authentic believer. Scoffers continue their scoffing and they wouldn’t recognize wisdom if it came up and slapped them in the face. The other side is that knowledge is easy for a person that understands that God is the source of wisdom. Fools have no standard of truth and therefore make fun of absolutes and those that hold to them. This morning, we’re going to look at a troubling concept.

In Pro. 14:10-12 Solomon says, “The heart knows its own bitterness, and a stranger does not share its joy. The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish. There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

So what about the heart? There are lots of things we say about the heart. Your heart knows best. It’s what’s in your heart that matters. He has a heart of gold or he has a bleeding heart. We’ve had a change of heart, we’ve eaten our hearts out, and we’ve crossed our hearts. We set our heart on something and we also lose heart. We need to be careful with the heart.

Bruce Springsteen had a, “Hungry Heart.” Rod Stewart counted, “Every Beat of My Heart.” Bryan Adams spoke, “Straight from the Heart.” Madonna said, “Open Your Heart.” Janis Joplin gave him, “A Piece of My Heart.” Elton John and Kiki Dee said, “Don’t go breakin’ My Heart.” The Backstreet Boys promised, “I’ll Never Break Your Heart.” The Eagles declared there would be, “Heartache Tonight.” Patsy Cline sang about, “Your Cheatin’ Heart” which led to Dionne Warwick singing about, “Heartbreaker.” Billy Ray Cyrus developed an, “Achy Breaky Heart.” Bonnie Tyler had, “A Total Eclipse of the Heart” which caused the Bee Gees to ask the question, “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?”  Tina Turner answered that question when she sang, “When the Heartache Is Over” and Yes became an, “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” The Beatles decided to form a club and called it, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” All this occurred at Elvis Presley’s, “Heartbreak Hotel.”

Jeremiah tells us, The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick.” (Jer. 17:9) Solomon says, “The heart knows its own bitterness.” So can you trust your heart or not? This seems to be a contrary statement to Jeremiah’s, but we have to let scripture interpret Scripture and read the Bible on more than a casual level. Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” (Matt. 15:19) What’s really interesting is that very few times in the Bible does the word heart actually deal with the organ that pumps blood throughout the body. The heart is the center of emotion and is often used metaphorically to describe personality, will, intellect, and memory.

When Solomon talks about the heart knowing its own bitterness, he means that no one can truly know how you feel. It’s true that we can have an idea or we empathize with someone going through a tough time. We can celebrate with others when they celebrate, but this is never the context of empathy. Even when we have experienced the same thing as another, we cannot know exactly how that person feels. No two people are alike. People have various backgrounds, come from different places, were raised with different values and ideals, have different life experiences, and are at different places in the walk of faith with Christ. There is an old Italian proverbs that says, “To everyone his own cross seems heaviest.” We are incapable of truly knowing what’s going on in someone’s heart. But there is someone that knows you better than you know yourself. There is someone that does understand all your idiosyncrasies, your background, your values, understands how all of that has shaped your personality, and loves you with an eternal love. “And a stranger does not share its joy.” How can he? He doesn’t know you from Adam. The idea is that you can and should share feelings with another, but no one can truly know how you feel and they don’t need to in order to effectively minister the love, grace, mercy, and hope found in Christ.

Here’s a familiar theme. Verse 11 reminds us, “The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish.” We saw this principle in 3:33 and 12:7. We’ll also see it when we get to 21:12. Remember that wickedness will never win out. There may seem to be short term wins, but eternity is where it matters.

The proverb I want to sit on for a while is found next. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” During the time of the judges, “There was no king in Israel, every man did what was right in his own eyes.” (Jud. 17:6, 21:25) This was not a good time in Israel’s history. Idolatry and apostasy abounded. The people forgot the fundamental principles that brought them there. It became a land of situational ethics and individual morality. There were no standards. All of the things I’ve been saying in recent weeks comes full circle. When a person’s heart becomes the center of right and wrong, we’re in for a world of hurt. When society follows its own desires, chaos typically results. Even though we live in a culture with rules and laws, we still tend to determine what we want to do regardless of the rules. That’s why our jails are full and our courts are backed up. That’s why we have trouble in the home and trouble in the workplace. The natural man or woman, and the natural boy or girl tends to do what they think is right even when given clear instructions. When questioned on why they didn’t do as instructed, you get the answer, “I didn’t feel like it.” “I knew that, but . . .” or “I thought it best to . . .” or “I wanted to. . .” There are ways that seem right, but death results. It seems right to someone that doesn’t have a biblical worldview, that doesn’t have a relationship with the Creator, that hasn’t spent time knowing God, that doesn’t walk in wisdom. That’s one of the reasons that professing believers also tend to do what comes naturally. It stems from the same sin that led to Satan’s demise. It’s the sin of pride. It is the declaration that the creation knows more than the Creator. I can offer the guarantee that if you fail to follow Christ, you will die. That death is an eternal death. Jesus said in Matt. 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

It’s very challenging to upset the apple cart; to speak things that are so contrary to the way people think and act. It can be difficult to expose yourself to ridicule and hatred and persecution, but I wonder what would happen if people of faith would quit. People can ignore the complexity and beauty of nature, can dismiss the intricacies and diversity of the human being, and can ignore absolute truth. But how can people discount the transformation that takes place in the heart of an authentic believer? How can people dismiss God’s ultimate work of creation? Because we fail to live up to the expectations Christ has for us. Make today the day that you begin living for Christ. Let us be a people that demonstrate the transforming power of Christ so that everyone can see what Jesus is capable of.

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A Walk Down Memory Lane

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

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.

Two Paths

Two PathsYou 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?

Remember . . . . Again

RememberYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we learned that wisdom is a protector, a deliverer, and provides a safety net as we walk the tight rope of life. Biblical wisdom is a great friend to have; we just need to pursue her while she can be found. This morning, Solomon gives us the conclusion to that giant conditional clause as he warned his son about the dangers encountered from people that don’t walk with God.

Pro. 3:1-4 says, My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.”

Repetition is always a key in Bible ready and study. Anytime we see a word or phrase repeated in Scripture, we need to pay attention to it. If God takes the time to repeat Himself, we need to understand what He’s saying. Solomon repeats the same principle he gave to his son back in 1:8 and in 2:1-2. Here’s his first reminder. “Do not forget my teaching.” Our lives are filled with reminders. I use Google calendar for my appointments and it sends me email, text, and pop up reminders of meetings and events on my calendar so I don’t forget. I need reminders because my mind is human and I tend to forget things. We put reminders on the fridge and write notes to ourselves and do all sorts of things so we don’t forget. What’s funny though is we don’t seem to forget the things we really want to remember. “Do not forget my teaching,” Solomon says, “But let your heart keep my commandments.” Whatever you need to do to remember, do it.

It is fairly easy to lose a skill you have if you don’t practice it. We have practice for all kinds of things. Sports. Musical instruments. Drill teams. We do these things to maintain the skill set we have and also to improve. We can and should do the same thing with the commands and instructions of God. Solomon is telling his son to transfer the head knowledge he has and get it into his heart. Get the teaching of God to the innermost core of his being. Whatever is in your heart will naturally pour out of you. Ps. 119:11, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” When God is in your heart, that’s what should come out when you’re squeezed.

Solomon tells his son that when he gets God’s word in his heart, “Length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.” As we progress through Proverbs, we’ll see this formula for long life. It’s reminiscent of Deuteronomy. Deut. 8:11, “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today.” Obedience brings reward – it is as simple as that. But, we aren’t obedient to be blessed or rewarded, we’re obedient because it’s the right thing to do and it pleases God. That being said, I am not prepared to say that if you’re presented with a decision and as you think about it and determine to do what is right or pleasing to God in order to get a reward or blessing is necessarily wrong. When you treasure God’s Word in your heart, the formulaic response to life is for God to come out. In our walk with Christ, if you reduce decisions down to reward versus punishment, I think you’ll be on the right track. You do it with your kids, don’t you? If you tell your child to do some task and you say, if you do that, I’ll give you a cookie. Aren’t you rewarding the child because they were obedient? Over time, you expect the right behavior because they have been taught and know what’s expected of them. You wouldn’t give a cookie to your teenager for picking up his toys, would you? Obedience leads to peace – a quietness of the heart, calm, tranquil, at rest.

Now Solomon gives some instructions for dealing with people. Verse 3 say, “Do not let kindness and truth leave you.” This is a great reminder of how we are supposed to be. Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Paul said, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32) It’s not conditional which means we always maintain kindness and truth. It’s not dependent upon the situation, not dependent upon the people you’re dealing with. We are to, “Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” Add this to v. 1 and we really get the sense that this is an internal quality we are to have. Willful control of your actions is great, but when you are totally submitted to the authority of Christ, your innermost being is filled with the love of Christ. Paul said it beautifully in 2 Cor. 3:3, “Being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

What’s the result? God smiles. When these things are ingrained in us, the godly outcome is that we will find, “Favor and good repute in the sight of God and in man.” What is better than that? God’s favor falls on us. Favor means approval or liking. God likes what we do and smiles down on us. God being pleased is good enough, but look what else happens. Favor comes from man as well. You’ve heard me often say, do things to please God and let Him work everything else out. Seek to please God first.

All this comes because God’s Word is in our hearts. His teachings and principles, and commands are part of our makeup, our part of our DNA. Ps. 119:93 says, “I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have revived me.” God’s Word will nurture you, it will sustain you, it will bless you as long as you take the time to remember.

Solomon’s Purpose

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Last week we began our adventure into Proverbs. We found out how Solomon came to be king of Israel and we discovered how he came to be so wise. As I said last week, I encourage you to read one chapter of Proverbs each and every day of the month. This morning we’ll find out why Solomon, through the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, put these proverbs together.

Take the time to grab your Bible and read Pro. 1:2-6.

If you take even a quick glance, you’ll discover it doesn’t take long for Solomon to get to the point. He says we are, “To know wisdom and instruction.” As we established last week, Solomon was the wisest man to ever live. God gave Solomon the wisdom he asked for. Godly wisdom enables us to see the world through His eyes. That wisdom is increasingly unheard of today. What was common sense in the past no longer is today. I think there are a number of reasons that we could attribute that to, but I think the predominant one is that we have continued to deviate from the standard of Scripture. What was once taught in the home, is now outsourced to others. When I was growing up, kindergarten was optional. Now we have parents getting their kids in “school” while they’re still very young. Now don’t go getting all crazy on me, I know that moms may have to work to support themselves, but that’s a symptom of the real issue. We’ve deviated from the biblical standards of morality and ethics. Just because something is culturally acceptable does not make it biblical.

Freedictionary.com says wisdom is the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting. This lines up with what Solomon asked God for. So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil.” (1 Ki. 3:9) So if you’re going to determine what is right or wrong, good or evil, you must have a standard of determination. It must be unchanging; it must be divinely inspired, it must be accurate, it must be available. All of these are available in the copy of God’s Word you hold in your hand. Solomon says we can know wisdom. The word know is the same word that means grasp or ascertain that is used in the New Testament. This is the Hebrew form of the word while the N.T. uses the Greek. His use of the word, “know” indicates this wisdom should be common among people who follow Christ. We can, “Discern the sayings of understanding, to receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice, and equity.” This is what the Holy Spirit through Solomon’s words offer to us. Deut. 4:6 says, “So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’”  The “them” in this verse refers to the statutes and judgments from the previous verse.

So who’s Solomon writing to? His target audience is found in vs. 4-5. There are four target groups Solomon is thinking about as he writes. First there are the naïve. In this passage, naïve means simple ones, it means gullible. They’ll believe anything they hear. When it comes to wisdom, this can be very dangerous particularly when someone tells you something contrary to Scripture.

Second and way more difficult is, “To the youth knowledge and discretion.” That is something seriously lacking in people today. In this context, the term youth identifies anyone between childhood and adulthood. That’s a fairly broad age gap. Have you heard the saying, 30 is the new 20? Basically, life for the typical 30 year old is like that of a 20 year old in yesteryear. Some of that is driven by our economic state. A survey conducted last year revealed 38% of parents had grown children living in the home. In the last half century, pollster Jeffrey Arnett says a new life stage has developed he calls emerging adults. These emerging adults may fall into this category, but Solomon is targeting young and inexperienced people because they typically have no plan. Discretion here refers to the ability to form a plan so that goals can be pursued and achieved. One of the difficulties in the naïve and the young is they often don’t recognize their need for wisdom.

Third is, “A wise man will hear and increase in learning.” Wise people recognize they don’t know everything and continue to learn – they’re teachable. As you mature and move through life, you gain new insight that goes along with experience.

Fourth is, “a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” That wise man seeks the counsel of other wiser, more experienced people. Pro. 14:12 says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” The man of understanding doesn’t follow his own guidance, he asks! If you look carefully at the four groups, clearly anyone and everyone can benefit from the wisdom contained in this book.

Here’s the conclusion to Solomon’s introduction. He has given us the tools to be successful in life. After all that’s his goal. In Solomon’s mind, if we do one thing, we’ll be good. If we simply follow the wisdom of God, everything else will fall into place. The conclusion comes in v. 6, To understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles.” This sounds sort of like a riddle itself. We really love riddles. There are millions of riddle sites online. There are riddles contained in Scripture. Read about Samson, he loved riddles. Solomon is not talking about silly riddles that entertain or trick someone. He’s talking about the riddles or mysteries of life. Biblical wisdom seeks to eliminate the gray areas of life. But we’ll need the help of God to understand it. Paul told us that, “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.” (1 Cor. 2:14) We need the help of the Holy Spirit.

Solomon’s goal is to impart his wisdom, wisdom received from God, to us. All we have to do is follow it. It sounds simple enough, until we’re faced with our own will. The wise man lays aside what he thinks in favor of the truth found in God’s Word.

An Odd Mandate

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Last week Jude told us we have a responsibility. Jude told us very simply to keep ourselves in the love of God and we saw that is an intentional, consistent pursuit of Christ. There is no tomorrow. It is a personal responsibility that cannot be transferred to another. Others can and should help us, but the responsibility rests on each of us. Adding to the responsibility to, “Keep yourselves in the love of God,” Jude tells us to do something else in v. 21b. In the second half of verse Jude 21 he says, “Waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.”

It’s another straight forward command yet seems a bit odd. Jude begins by telling us to, “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” Then he says we are to be, “Waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” “Waiting anxiously for” seems to be an oxymoron, but in the original Greek it is one word. Jude tells us to play the game none of us wants to play. It is the waiting game. You’ve heard people say, “I have no patience for that.” We even hear this in the church. Particularly when seeking someone to serve in the nursery or some other aspect of dealing with children. In Gal. 5:22-23 Paul emphatically says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” As children of God, Paul is saying we have these qualities. In the context of Gal. 5, Paul is contrasting the flesh with the Spirit. His conclusion is that, “Those that belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passion and desires.” Some of us are better at waiting than other people. Some people are extraordinarily patient, but the expectation is that every Christian is supposed to be patient. One way that we grow and develop these qualities is to, “Keep ourselves in the love of God.” Again, it is a consistent, intentional process.

What are we waiting anxiously for? The word waiting is eschatological. It points to the end times and is sometimes translated looking. We see this idea of waiting  from others in Scripture too.

Mark 15:43, “Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.”
Luke 2:25, “And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”
Luke 2:37-38 referring to Anna, “And then as a widow to the age of eighty four, she never left the temple, serving day and night with fastings and prayer. At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”
Titus 2:13, “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.”

We wait just as the saints of old waited.

So what are we waiting anxiously for, with eager anticipation for? Jude says we wait for the, “Mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” Back in v. 2 Jude prayed that his readers would have, “Mercy and peace multiplied” to them. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Our children sometimes beg for mercy. Criminals will throw themselves on the mercy of the court. Often when it comes to us, we want mercy and not justice. 2 Cor. 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.”   Jude wants us to wait for God’s mercy and that mercy will not be fully realized until Christ’s return. God is merciful to His children and He’s merciful to those that curse Him. Matt. 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

We wait until Jesus returns. How can we wait, how can we finish well? As I mentioned earlier, waiting is not a game many of play well. Sometimes our impatience manifests itself in prayer. We’ve prayed for something and we don’t get the answer, or don’t get the answer we want and for some reason that causes us to doubt. Jude taught that we are to keep ourselves in the love of God. We must remain in the love of God until the end, until Jesus returns or until we die. There is no quitting, no giving up, no giving in. We fight the good fight. We finish the course. We keep the faith.

Jude, among others, didn’t believe that we would achieve a state of perfection in this world. We look forward to the mercy of God because we will need it when we stand before Him. We maintain ourselves in God’s love to minimize the influence and corruption of the world. As we’ll see in the coming verses, authentic believers cannot remain in God’s love and be immersed in the world. If you don’t keep your eyes on God and eternity, you’ll find yourself slowly slipping away. If Jesus truly lives in your heart, there should be a hunger, a passion, a supernatural desire and ability to follow Him.