Tried and True

tried-and-trueCheck out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon said destruction awaits those that are wicked. Followers of Christ have His righteousness and as a result have a refuge in Him. Wise people know when to demonstrate the wisdom they have obtained through knowledge in God, they don’t have to go around advertising it. A nation exalts God when it does what is right in God’s eyes. Be a good servant in the example of Christ. This morning, Solomon gives us some wisdom regarding the mouth

Here’s our passage for today found in Pro. 15:1-4: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, but the mouth of fools spouts folly. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good.
A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit.

We start off with an incredible principle. All of the principles in the Bible are true and most can be applied to our everyday lives. Some principles though are so incredible they really stand out. Some principles are more important than others in the Bible too. Speaking to the religious crowd of the day, Jesus said in Matt. 23:23, Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” Some principles are higher than others in Scripture. It doesn’t mean they’re not important. In sports you’ve heard the term most valuable player. All the players on a team are valuable. Some are more valuable. It’s the same principle here.

I think the first principle we look at today could be considered an MVP – most valuable principle. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Since gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit, every believer has the ability to put this principle into practice. Gentle means mild in temperament or behavior, not harsh or severe. This MVP can be applied in any situation where there is interaction between at least two people. When tensions rise for whatever reason, soft words can quell the strife. You’ve seen this first hand I am sure. It can be in interactions with your boss, your teacher, your coworker, your spouse, or the clerk at the store. You can diffuse the situation or you can exacerbate it. You can be a help to the situation or you can be a hindrance. Not only do you have that heavenly gift of gentleness, you also have self-control. That means you don’t have to respond the way you’re being talked to. It can be very difficult to respond gently when you’re being yelled at. Yell back and it will only get worse. I encourage you to put this into practice and watch how things change. Easy? No, but it’s definitely the best way to handle things. We have a natural way to handle things and that’s to fight back, to yell back, to respond the same, but we have something supernatural in us that gives us the ability to be different. Not only is this an MVP, it’s an excellent way to minimize the possibility of feeling horrible regret later. I know there have been times I have not responded with this principle. As I recall, it always led to conviction and deep regret. This led to doing something even harder – apologize for my ungodly behavior. It’s not always that I yelled. It’s that I used words that were not respectful or edifying. I would offer that if you can gain godly control over your tongue, your life would be incredibly transformed.

The second principle goes hand in hand with the first. “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, but the mouth of fools spouts folly.” The person who uses wisdom when speaking makes the truth more palatable. Do not misunderstand; I am in no way, shape, or form saying compromise the truth or water down the truth or give partial truth. Just because something is true does not mean you need to go out of your way to provide someone that truth. I often refer to social media because it has become such a big part of our lives. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, it just is. If you want to test what Solomon is saying, post something that is absolutely true in accordance with Scripture and watch the attacks start. Keep in mind that you put this on your own Facebook page and depending on your privacy settings, the hateful comments will start rolling in. Many of these comments come from your friends. So you have to ask yourself, who are you allowing in your life and why? Use wisdom when speaking the truth. There are appropriate times and places to share the truth. As a pastor and Chaplain, I’m often called into action in some of the most tragic situations. Suicides. Marital strife or domestic violence. Fatal accidents. Unruly children and cheating spouses. I have learned and continue to learn discretion when dealing with these events. I have learned that speaking the truth even while preaching can be hurtful to hear. I’m not going to not tell the truth, but I want to exercise wisdom in doing so. I want to be careful so that people will hear the truth that can set them free in order to change their lives. It is that serious. Fools just say whatever comes to mind. No filter, no discretion, no thought. That’s because what’s inside will come out.

Solomon shifts from the tongue to God’s eyes and in the next verse says you can run, but you can’t hide. There are some people that are convinced God doesn’t know what’s going on in the world or else He would do something about it. There is nowhere that God is not. There is nothing that God does not see. Solomon says, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good.” There’s a song I remember from 1984 where the bridge lyrics are, “I always feel like somebody’s watchin’ me and I have no privacy. Oh, I always feel like somebody’s watching me. Tell me is it just a dream?” God is always watching, but not in a creepy, voyeuristic way. I encourage you to read Ps. 139 which is a wonderful testimony of David regarding God’s omniscience and omnipresence. There is no where you can go where God is not there. He watches the good and the evil. The righteous will be rewarded while the wicked will be punished. In my study of Scriptures, I am filled with an overwhelming sense that the biblical writers expected people who have an authentic relationship with Christ will do good; they’ll behave in manners that are pleasing to God, that will seek to do His will, that will seek to further His Kingdom; they will seek to passionately walk the straight and narrow path – that’s what I see modeled over and over in Scripture.

It’s only been in recent times that we have taken on a lackadaisical attitude in our commitment to Christ. It’s only recently that we’re satisfied with mediocrity, where Christ has taken a back seat to the things of this world. It’s only recently that people have become satisfied in meeting with Jesus on occasion so we have to ask ourselves, what has changed? Heb. 13:8 reminds us that, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” God calls Himself, “I am” present tense.          Since God has not changed, we can only conclude that we have changed. The same Holy Spirit exists with the same power so how can we get to a place where His power is restored? I think a primary thing we can do is say no to ourselves and say yes to Jesus. I have grown weary of professing believers that ignore biblical wisdom, that have beliefs based on popular opinion and cultural feelings, that say one thing and do another. I would never suggest doing this, but I wonder how our marriages would be destroyed if we approached our spouse with the same casualness we approach God. God sees the evil and good in the world and He understands why people do what they do, He sees into the secret areas of your life, the places you don’t want anyone else to go. What totally amazes me when I think like this is that God still has an infinite, unconditional love for you and for me. He loves the righteous and the unrighteous.

And now it’s back to the tongue. Many of us are familiar with the tree of life in Gen. 2:9. Solomon has also spoken of a tree of life. He called wisdom a tree of life in 3:18. He said the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life in 11:30. He spoke of fulfilled desire as a tree of life in 13:12. And now, “A soothing tongue is a tree of life.” Like the heart, when Scripture speaks of the tongue, it’s rarely talking about what’s in your mouth. It’s about the words you say. Those words can bring comfort to a grieving soul. Those words can bring the Gospel that will revive a dead soul, can bring encouragement to a weary soul, can bring correction to a wayward soul; those words can bring reconciliation to a troubled soul. The contrast is that, “Perversion in it crushes the spirit.” Perverse here is used in the sense of perverting the truth. It means to twist or distort. These perversions have been used since the garden when Satan told Eve, “You surely will not die.” (Gen. 3:4) Satan is a twistilator. He has been and continues to be the greatest perverter of all time. He has perverted sexuality. In fact, he perverted it so bad that God had to include specific details as to what was forbidden when He gave the Law to Moses. Our speech is to be used to praise the Lord and build people up, but he perverted that so much that we have numerous passages directly referencing how we talk.  Paul said, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (Eph. 4:29) Satan also perverted justice. From the deceptive business practices we saw in Pro. 11:1 to the killing of innocent people mentioned in Ex. 23. Our attitude should be like that found in Is. 1:17, “Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”

There are tried and true principles in Scripture. MVPs. Use them not as magical incantations, but as principles that God gave us to live by and glorify Him. There is nowhere out of God’s eye or beyond His reach. Use your speech to edify people and draw them to live passionately for Christ. Don’t be shocked that Satan wants to twist everything you say or do. Keep moving forward for Christ.

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No Regrets

No RegretYou can check out the podcast here.

If we think about our lives even for just a moment, we’ll think of things we could have done differently; things we shouldn’t have done, decisions we’d like a do over on. I call it what if land and it’s not a good place to be. The Apostle Paul provides us some excellent insight in his letter to the Philippians. This letter differs in some respects from any of Paul’s other letters. It contains less logic and more of the heart. His letter to the Romans has incredible logic. His letters to the Corinthians rebuked certain prevalent sins. Galatians rebukes a dangerous heresy that threatened the welfare of the Galatian churches. Ephesians unfolds the mystery of God in reference to the Gentiles. This letter is the outpouring of the love towards one of the most affectionate and faithful of all congregations which he had planted. The church at Philippi was founded in A.D. 50 or 51 (Acts 16). On his second missionary journey, Paul, led by a vision at Troas, crossed into Europe, landed at Neapolis and went directly to Philippi. Why Philippi?  It was “a leading city of the district of Macedonia.” (Acts 16:12) It is interesting to note that this was the first church planted in Europe.

Take a careful look at the incredible words of Phil. 3:1-14.

Paul begins with what is not the Way. He starts by this third chapter by telling the church what the way is not. Religious ceremonies are not the way. Paul was, “circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.”  (Phil 3:5-6) If anybody had a heritage to brag about it was Paul. He met all the religious requirements of a good Jew. “Circumcised the eighth day.” In strict compliance with the Law. “Of the nation of Israel.” He could trace his lineage as far back as any Jew. “From the tribe of Benjamin.” Remember that the tribe of Benjamin and the tribe of Judah were the only two tribes not to revolt under the leadership of Jeroboam and maintained their allegiance to God. The tribe of Benjamin was physically located next to the temple. “A Hebrew of Hebrews.” He belonged to a tribe that was as honorable as any other, and that had its location near the very center of religious influence; both of his parents were Jewish with no mixture of Gentile blood. Not one of his ancestors had been a proselyte, or of Gentile extraction. Paul says he was entitled to all the advantages which could be derived from it. “A Pharisee.” The Pharisees strictly adhered to every letter of the law. “So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem.” (Acts 26:4) If religion could save anyone, it certainly would have saved Paul. “Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law.” He was zealous in his persecution of the church who he thought was in great error in doctrine. As a Jew and a Pharisee, he believed righteousness was found in the Law.

Notice how Paul introduces his religion to the Philippians: “Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” (Phil 3:2-3) Look at the warnings. Dogs – the greatest insult you could give someone. The Jews called the heathen dogs, and Islam calls Jews and Christians by the same name. The term dog also is used to identify a person that is shameless, impudent, malignant, snarling, dissatisfied, and contentious. Evil workers. Probably the same people Paul considered dogs – Jews who taught that religion saved you. False circumcision – from the Greek word meaning to mutilate. These dogs and false teachers were not truly circumcised. True circumcision comes after salvation as a sign of obedience; it does not cause salvation. But Paul says, “For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” (Phil 3:3) We are the circumcision. We worship God the only way one can worship God – in Spirit. We rejoice in Christ Jesus and place no confidence in the flesh.

What is the way to God? You’ve got to look at verses 7-11 to find out. All things were loss except the knowledge of Christ Knowledge in this verse is the Greek word gnosis. This is head knowledge. Anything he had mentally. His seven religious credentials. In v. 8 Paul says, “I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” “Suffered the loss” comes from a Greek word that means to willingly give up. Paul gave up “all things.” Anything thing that someone might depend on for salvation: works, religion, heritage, earthly favor, position. Paul considered it rubbish. Rubbish comes from the word that means excrement. Just as you rid your body of waste, Paul wanted to rid himself all of the earthly advantages and Jewish privileges as a means of obtaining salvation. Why?  Look at what Paul says: “That I may gain Christ.”

In verses 9 and 10, Paul speaks of his own righteousness which comes from the Law. Paul wants the righteousness of Christ which can only come through faith. What is faith? Faith comes from the Greek word pistis meaning a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God. “That I may know him.” This is a different know. This is from the Greek word meaning to know and understand. Paul wants to know Christ so he could share in His sufferings and be conformed to His death. This knowledge or understanding of Christ’s sufferings is obtained by experiencing the daily challenges and needs of ministry that will draw us closer to Christ. Sharing in the Lord’s sufferings will bring you into a more meaningful and intimate relationship with Christ. Comfortable or conformed unto death has a double meaning here. Just as Jesus died because of the sin of the world, Paul is dying more and more to sin in his daily life. Remember that Paul is in prison as he writes and is prepared to die for Christ if that is what’s necessary.

In v. 11 Paul desires to attain the resurrection of the dead. In v. 12 he denies that he has attained it. The word “attained” means to have arrived at the goal and won the prize, but without having as yet received it. Paul knows Christ, but not to the fullest extent possible. He has experienced God’s power, but not to the degree he desires. He has been made like Jesus in His death, but Paul can still die to sin and self. Paul walks in newness of life, but there is still room for improvement. Paul didn’t think he arrived after 25 years of serving the Lord, so we shouldn’t either. In verse 13 Paul says, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” Notice that Paul forgets those things that are in the past. The wrongs you have done. The sins you have committed. The things you should have done, but never did. The things Satan tells you cannot be forgiven. Put all of them behind you and forget them. In his pursuit to know Christ, Paul refuses to let guilt drag him down and doesn’t rest on past accomplishments. We don’t sail on yesterday’s wind. He’s pressing toward the mark. What is the mark? The mark is contained in vs. 10 and 11. Be like minded with Paul because his thinking comes from the Lord.  If you don’t think like Paul, the Lord will reveal it to you.

Are you living in the past or allowing Christ to renew and refresh you? Are you repeating mistakes or sins of the past? Rom. 8:1 reminds us, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”