The Depth of Wickedness in Man

pitYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week, we reaffirmed that we are privileged to play a part in God’s plan for humanity. Whatever that role may be, we’re part of getting accomplished what God wants to accomplish. Our motives should be pure and holy as we seek to fulfill the purpose He has for our lives. Do right in all facets of life because it’s the right thing to do. Be obedient to His leading, but line His leading up with Scripture. We quickly covered a number of principles for daily living that we’ve seen before in Proverbs. We finished last week talking about a contentious woman. If the woman in your life is contentious, show her the unconditional love of Christ. If you’re the contentious woman, allow the power of God to transform your life. This morning, we’ll see the depth of depravity that’s present in the wicked.

Take a look at what Solomon says in Pro. 21:10-19. Where does wickedness come from? I think that’s a good place to start. We need to understand the foundation for wickedness that is present in man. People born into this world don’t need to make a conscious effort to do wrong – it comes naturally. We’re born with the sin nature that is passed from father to son from generation to generation. We saw this a couple of weeks ago when we looked at Rom. 5:19a that told us, “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners.” Remember, “There is none righteous, not even one.” (Rom. 3:10) Sin is the lost person’s master and you have to do what the master says.

Wicked people do wicked things because they have no power to do otherwise. Of course, they can do things that society would call good, but goodness evaluated by a morally bankrupt culture is not the standard. I know that sounds harsh, but we’ve got share the truth of Scripture so people are aware of where they are. Eternity’s too long not to tell the truth. The wickedness is formed in the soul at conception because of Adam’s disobedience. That’s why, “The soul of the wicked desires evil.” Desire can also be translated crave. Evil dominates the thoughts and plans of the wicked. Remember what led to the flood: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 6:5) Remember the second greatest commandment Jesus referred to in Matt. 22:36-40? He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The wicked have no favor for their neighbor.

Let’s do some quick review. V. 11 says, “When the scoffer is punished, the naive becomes wise; but when the wise is instructed, he receives knowledge.” It’s the same principle we saw in 19:25. When people see that others are held accountable for their actions, it will deter bad decisions. That’s one of the reasons the news reports sentencing for high profile crimes. Wise people make themselves available to learn and are willing to receive instruction. This leads into the next verse, “The righteous one considers the house of the wicked, turning the wicked to ruin.” Even though there may be short term gain for wickedness, the righteous wants to avoid the pain and suffering that comes with it. The righteous remember Pro. 12:7 where Solomon said, “The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand.” No amount of prosperity or comfort in this world will turn the righteous from following God. I’m sure this next verse has been used to justify all sorts of pseudo outreach programs. “He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be answered.” This is a verse that speaks to mercy, but it can’t stop there. It’s great to feed people who are hungry and clothe people that are naked, but if that’s where you stop, it’s just a good thing to do. The Gospel must be intentionally woven into that work for it to be a work of God. Our primary goal as a church is to make disciples, but if all we do is feed hungry people, we’ve missed the goal established for us by Jesus Himself. This verse speaks to the cry of the poor being ignored. If we ignore the plight of those in poverty, then our cries will not be heard. Remember Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matt. 5:7)

The next verse is not an endorsement to bribery. A gift in secret subdues anger, and a bribe in the bosom, strong wrath.” Gifts are often appropriate, especially when given in private. If you make a big show of giving someone a gift, then the emphasis is on the giver instead of the receiver. If a bribe is offered to subvert justice, that is clearly unbiblical and must be avoided. “The exercise of justice is joy for the righteous, but is terror to the workers of iniquity.” This make sense, right? If you are righteous, and the only way to be righteous is through the blood of Christ, you want to see justice done. This is the justice dispensed by our government: you want to see right things accomplished and wrong things squashed. So, the next obvious question is, right according to who? We must stick to the unchanging standard of God’s Word. There may be amendments to the U.S. Constitution, but there are none to the Bible.

“A man who wanders from the way of understanding will rest in the assembly of the dead.” The path of righteousness is a straight and narrow path. Last October, Kari and I were in the mountains of NC and we went hiking. What’s nice about hiking off the Blue Ridge Parkway is the hiking trails are marked. If you get off the marked path, chances are good you’ll get lost. If you stay on the path, you won’t get lost. This is the metaphor Solomon is using. If you get off the path of understanding, you’ll end up with the dead because you will be dead. In Matt. 7:13 Jesus said, “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.” There are no alternate paths to righteousness. It is only God’s way through Jesus.

“He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not become rich.” I could spend a whole lot of time here because this is sure a verse for today. The pursuit of pleasure drives many people – even in the church. Solomon is not just talking about pursuing pleasure, but coveting pleasure. Now there’s nothing wrong with having a good time, but if that’s your focus, something’s wrong. If you’re looking for the next fun thing, the next thing to entertain you, the next thing to wow you, Solomon says that you will become poor. Solomon also says, “He who loves wine and oil will not become rich.” At the risk of being labeled old fashioned, I think this loving wine thing is an epidemic in the church. I know I spent a lot of time on 20:1, but Solomon addresses the topic again. Do you look as forward to getting into God’s Word as you do having that glass of wine? The oil in this verse refers to olive oil. This seems a strange addition to the wine. Wine and oil were common at banquets. Overall Solomon is saying if you pursue pleasure and luxury, you’re going to be poor. Turn over to 2 Tim. 3 and we’ll tie up this thought nicely with Paul’s warning to Timothy. Look at vs. 1-5. Avoid here means keep away from. That’s a pretty stern warning.

“The wicked is a ransom for the righteous, and the treacherous is in the place of the upright.” This is a pretty challenging verse that has to do with justice. The same idea occurs in Pro. 11:8 where it says, “The righteous is delivered from trouble, but the wicked takes his place.” The wicked are atonement or payment for the righteous, but don’t confuse that with the atonement of Christ that brings redemption to those that believe. In Exodus 12, the Israelites were told to put blood from a sacrificial lamb on the doorposts and lentils of their houses. The Lord said He was coming and when he saw the blood, He would pass over the house and go to the next. The Jews followed the instructions and were spared at the expense of the Egyptians. In that manner, the Egyptians became a ransom, or payment for the righteous. Righteous and upright don’t mean perfect here, but an overall desire to follow after God.

In Joshua 6, God told Joshua to lead Israel into battle against Jericho where the walls came tumbling down. Israel was instructed to take nothing as spoils from the battle: no gold or silver, bronze or iron – those are holy to the Lord. Following the victory at Jericho, Josh. 7:1 tells us, “The sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the Lord burned against the sons of Israel.” Achan’s sin affected the entire nation of Israel. Their next battle occurred against the much weaker Ai where they were soundly defeated causing Joshua to tear his clothes and go into mourning. God told him to get up and told him what had happened to cause Israel to be defeated. God declared that, “Israel has sinned,” and because of that, “Israel cannot stand before their enemies.” (Josh. 7:11ff) God instructs Joshua to cast lots to find the guilty party and the lot eventually falls to Achan. Joshua confronts Achan who says, “When I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it.” (Josh. 7:21) Joshua sends people to Achan’s tent and they find the spoils exactly where Achan said it would be. Achan the wicked, was used as a ransom for Israel, the righteous. Achan was stoned to death and then burned. Everyone else in Israel followed God’s instructions – they had a desire to follow after God. I know that was a somewhat lengthy explanation, but sometimes, you really have to work at understanding the meaning of Scripture.

Let’s get one last one in for today. “It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and vexing woman.” This is similar to 21:9 that we looked at last week and Solomon adds vexing here. Vexing means intending to harass and full of disorder or stress. Now, that’s a lovely woman. First, the man is alone on a roof top and now he’s alone in the desert or wilderness. The commonality between the two verses is that it’s better to be alone than deal with an argumentative and unruly wife. I don’t know if that woman from 21:9 found her way to the roof and now the guy has to get away even more or not. It’s better to be exposed to the harshness of the wilderness – the wind, the weather, and the sand than it is to be with that harsh and vexing woman. And before you allow the thought to enter your mind, this is not an endorsement to leave a woman that is constantly arguing and causing stress in your life. The best way to handle a contentious wife is to love her as Christ loved the church.

Another message that covered a lot of ground. We saw where wickedness starts and that’s in the soul of humanity as we are born into sin through one man’s disobedience. Wicked people do wicked things because they don’t know any other way. Righteous people look at pleasing God rather than any short-term gain from wickedness. Don’t shut your ear to the cry of the poor, but make the Gospel an intentional aspect of any acts of mercy you engage in. We looked briefly at gift giving, exercising justice, and staying on the path of righteousness. Don’t love pleasure so much that you forsake God. We looked at the results of Achan’s sin and finished looking at the vexing woman and hopefully we now have a better understanding of the depth of wickedness in man.

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What’s the Harm with Santa Claus?

This is a reposting of an article I wrote in December 2010 concerning Santa Claus and believers. This is my perspective as a child of the King, a father, a grand-father, and a pastor.

He’s fat and jolly. He loves kids. As Christians, is there a problem including Santa in your Christmas festivities and if so, what’s the big deal? I get asked that question fairly often during the weeks leading up to Christmas.

We see it all too frequently. Parents drag their kids all over town to get their picture made with Santa. Many children are placed on Santa’s lap kicking and screaming. I mean, really kicking and screaming. Think about it, some children don’t want to sit on the lap of someone they know let alone a complete stranger, but Santa dutifully endures the children, no matter what kind of mood they’re in.

By most reports, the origin of Santa Claus can be traced back to the 4th century and a man named Saint Nicholas. He was the Bishop of Myra, an area in present day Turkey. By all accounts St. Nicholas was a generous man, particularly devoted to children. After his death around 340 A.D. he was buried in Myra, but in 1087 Italian sailors supposedly stole his remains and moved them to Bari, Italy, greatly increasing St. Nicholas’ popularity throughout Europe. St. Nick’s reputation for generosity gave rise to the idea he could perform miracles. It wasn’t until 1822 when Clement C. Moore wrote the poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” for his family on Christmas Eve that the idea of Santa Claus grew to legendary proportions. The story became known as, “The Night before Christmas” and was first published on December 23, 1823. The rest I suppose, is history.

Santa Claus continued to live on in the hearts and minds of children and adults as well. He is on TV every December in the classic, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” as well as others. Santa has appeared in a myriad of movies including, “Miracle on 34th Street,” “The Polar Express,”  The Santa Clause 1, 2, 3,” “Santa Claus, the Movie,” and “Ernest Saves Christmas.” And who can forget the popular 1964 movie, “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.”

Santa is so fun, who could find fault with such a popular, lovable, jolly, old guy in a red suit?

I’m not going to tell you what to do, mostly because my experience has shown me that people will do what they want to do anyway. I would however, like to offer up some ideas why bringing jolly old St. Nick into our lives might not be the best thing to do as an authentic Christ follower.

Can we be authentic Christians if we include Santa in our Christmas activities? There are people that I love and respect that include Santa in their family Christmas traditions so I don’t want you to think I live with some lofty, high, and mighty, holier than you people attitude because I don’t. I love the Santa Clause movies (all three of them) and I love Elf. But what’s the difference in enjoying a good Santa Claus movie and telling our children that Santa Claus brings them presents? I would say there’s a huge difference.

 

SPOILER ALERT!       SPOILER ALERT!

 

Santa Claus is not real. At all. He’s totally fake. Really.

Look at the characteristics of Santa.

  • He knows when you’ve been good or bad, so you need to be good, for goodness sake, right? The idea is that Santa brings gifts to those children that are good. Often forgotten now a days, is that he gives a lump of coal to those naughty children. Have you ever known any child that got a lump of coal in his stocking? Can you name just one kid? Have you ever known someone that knew someone that knew someone else that heard of a kid getting coal at Christmas? Me neither. The idea here is that a child needs to earn the gifts that Santa brings. I’ve never met a kid that didn’t think they were “good” enough to receive presents.
    • Santa’s reward system is contrary to that of God. God’s gift is unconditional. John 3:16 tells us that God gave His son to us simply because He loved us. We didn’t have to earn God’s love.
    • So God’s gift is not dependent upon our behavior. Can I get a Hallelujah?!?!? In fact Romans 5:8 tells us God’s criteria is the exact opposite of Santa’s. Even though we are currently bad (sinners), Christ  died for us. It’s not whether or not we are good or bad, it’s simply because we are here.
    • Only God is omniscient.
  • Santa has the supernatural ability to deliver presents to children all over the world beginning on Christmas Eve by flying around in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. Think about the logistics of that. Does he go back and forth to the North Pole to restock, or does he carry all the gifts at once? Is the sleigh equipped for landing on any type of terrain? I mean does it work on sand so Santa can go to places in Saudi Arabia? Does he have a conversion package that adapts the sleigh to concrete landings? I know these are silly questions, but you see how far you have to go to continue the myth of Santa. He has to be everywhere at once in order to carry out this feat.
    • Jeremiah 23:25 tells us that God fills the heavens and the earth.
    • Proverbs 15:3 says the eyes of the Lord are everywhere.
    • Psalm 139:7-10 tells us there is no place where He is not.
    • Only God is omnipresent.

So Santa takes on a God-like character. Is that a problem? I think so. I’m pretty sure that God said there shouldn’t be any gods before Him. Now I’m not saying anyone out there is worshiping Santa, but come on, when did it become okay to lie to your children? I don’t know a parent out there that would be okay with their children lying to them. After all, isn’t that what you are doing by perpetuating the myth that Santa is real? Do you tell your kids that there really is a talking sponge that wears square pants?

What about selfishness? Acts 20:35 says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Doesn’t the idea of Santa bringing presents contradict that? When a child sits on Santa’s lap, the conversation typically goes like this: Santa: “Have you been a good boy (girl) this year?” As a side note, why does Santa ask this? I thought he knew if you’ve been good or bad. Well perhaps it’s to give the kid an opportunity to fess up for wrongdoings. Anyway, back to Santa. After that question, he generally asks, “What do you want for Christmas?”  The child then recites a list of acceptable gift ideas for Santa. Now it’s about getting gifts, not giving which is consistent with Scripture.

In light of this, when do you talk to your kids about Jesus? Isn’t He the reason we celebrate Christmas? What about the manger? What about His miraculous birth? What about His purpose for coming? What about God’s incredible, unconditional gift to us? I cannot reconcile Santa with the Bible.

As Christian parents, our primary mission regarding our children is to introduce them to Jesus Christ at the earliest age possible teaching them who He is and why He came.

I am certain there are people that completely disagree with me including pastors and people a whole lot smarter than me. That’s fine. It is my choice to exclude Santa from our celebration. It is your choice to include him. I don’t love you less, I don’t think bad thoughts about you. When I present my case, some people get down right angry with me. Yes, it’s true. They’ll say, “Pastor Ian is just an old-fashioned fuddy duddy that wants to take the joy out of Christmas for my child.” On the contrary, I want to introduce you to Jesus Christ, the only person we can truly find joy that is unspeakable and full of glory. Jesus Christ is the reason for Christmas, not Santa Claus. What are you missing out by excluding something that is not in the Christmas story found in the Word of God? Remember, I’m talking to people who profess to be followers of Christ. Why would you want to take any of the focus off of the One that made our salvation possible?

One more thought. When your kids find out that you have been perpetuating a myth about Santa (okay, when they find out you have lied to them), how will they feel about what you have told them about Jesus. Will He be viewed as a myth or make believe too? Hmmm.

The Whole Truth

LiarCheck out the podcast here.

Last week, Solomon gave us a biblical perspective on poverty. Instead of looking at things through the world’s eyes, we need to understand things from God’s point of view. As hard as this is to believe, money is rarely the answer to poverty. Money can actually be a barrier to an authentic relationship with Christ. It can affect the poor, but it can also affect the prosperous. In our self-satisfying world, we learned that having too many friends can really cause problems in our lives. Blood bonds are important, but there is no bond stronger than the bond between the created and the Creator. That bond is made possible because Jesus became the Son of man and experienced the full force of God’s wrath as He became sin for us enabling that relationship with God. This morning, we’ll evaluate honesty.

Pro. 19:1-5 says, “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool. Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who hurries his footsteps errs. The foolishness of man ruins his way, and his heart rages against the Lord. Wealth adds many friends, but a poor man is separated from his friend. A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will not escape.”

What is your word worth? If you grew up in my generation or before, you’ve heard the phrase, “A man’s word is his bond.” Deals were made with a handshake. When someone said, “I’ll do it,” it got done. Solomon starts off Chapter 19 talking about something that is extremely valuable these days, but seems to be lacking in many people. He says, “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool.” The word poor used here means destitute or hungry. The form of the word used here is not a bad word as Solomon has used before. The poverty experienced is not because of laziness or an unwillingness to work.    He’s setting up the contrast. “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity.” I think we have a pretty good handle on walking. It means manner of life. It’s who you are, it’s not an act, it’s not something you put on and take off: it is really who you are when you’re alone, when you’re in a strange city, when your boss isn’t looking, when your spouse isn’t home, and when your parents are out for the evening.

So what about integrity? This can be a difficult concept to define. Some will say it’s being honest. I like this definition from vocabulary.com: “Having integrity means doing the right thing in a reliable way. It’s a personality trait that we admire, since it means a person has a moral compass that doesn’t waver. It literally means having ‘wholeness’ of character, just as an integer is a ‘whole number’ with no fractions.” Solomon is talking about having strong moral principles. The obvious follow on question is, “Where do I get moral principles?” The source of morality must be from an unchanging standard. The standard of morality must come from a source that knows the beginning from the end, that was engaged and continues to be engaged in humanity. The standard of morality must come from a source that is impervious to the changing values of society and cultural norms. The standard of morality must transcend human thought. In light of these musts, where can we find that incredible standard of morality that is accessible to us that we can follow and live by?

  • Paul reminded Timothy that, “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.” (2 Tim. 3:16)
  • 2 Pet. 1:21 says, “for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
  • Heb. 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

There is plenty of other scriptural support to conclude that the Bible is the only source of absolute truth that we can live by. It was given to us for training and correction, it’s alive, it’s applicable for our times, and it does not change. It’s better to be hungry and have integrity, “Than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool.” Perverse here means twisted or false and fool means thick or dull headed. It’s better to be poor and walk in integrity than it is to use twisted or dishonest words to escape poverty. He goes on to say, “Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who hurries his footsteps errs.” This is a really good one. We have seen a number of times where Solomon has talked about knowledge leading to understanding leading to wisdom. The Hebrew form of the word “person” here is normally translated as soul, but here it means inner drive and vitality. With that in mind, he says that you can have all the ambition and drive and zeal, but if you operate without knowledge, it’s going to cause errors. You’ve heard the term, “Go off half-cocked”? You operate without all the facts or knowledge needed to accomplish the task. As a result, errors are made.

Kari and I sometimes watch those home renovation shows like, “Renovation Realities.” It always horrifies me to watch what they do. I remember a recent episode where a homeowner wanted to take a wall out, and the question was raised about it being a load bearing wall. The response was, “I guess we’ll find out.” It’s not good to proceed in something without the requisite knowledge for success. Hold on, you might be thinking. Don’t you tell us to trust God and go forward even when He doesn’t fill us in on the details? That is entirely different. Keep it in context, if you’re trying to get out of poverty by going off on some half-baked scheme, it will lead to errors. I knew someone that decided one day that he would begin investing in real estate by building houses and doing the work himself. He didn’t really know which end of the hammer to use and it turned out very poorly. That’s not to say that every single time we act without knowledge will lead to problems. Even that blind squirrel will find a nut once in a while.

Here’s some more foolishness. Verse 3 says, “The foolishness of man ruins his way, and his heart rages against the Lord.” How often do we experience consequences from our own misguided notions? How many unbiblical things have we done that led to disaster and then asked God where He has gone? This is the point Solomon is making. When you take God out of the equation, things will generally not work out the way you expect. You enter a relationship with someone that the Bible says not to. You enter or change career paths without seeking guidance from the Lord. You go to college or don’t go without consulting God. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again. Many times we inform God of what we intend to do and then expect Him to bless it. When He doesn’t, we tend to blame God or say He doesn’t answer our prayers or offer up whatever type of blame shifting we can do instead of saying, you know, I blew it. Don’t you try and get your kids to admit when they’ve done something wrong? If you have gone down a path God doesn’t want you to go down, isn’t that sin? Shouldn’t sin always be confessed? Isn’t confessed sin forgiven? I want to look at Ps. 51:1-17 and I really encourage to read this great passage. That’s what genuine repentance looks like. Your sin doesn’t have to be out in the public. You don’t have to have been caught in some sinful act to pray this prayer. It’s never too late to turn your life to Him and follow Him.

Verse 4 says, “Wealth add many friends, but a poor man is separated from his friend.” We’ve seen that principle before. People that have money will attract new friends and forgotten friends. This verse can be summed up by quoting Bruce Wayne: “There’s a thing about being a Wayne that . . . you’re never short of a few freeloaders, like yourselves, to fill up your mansion with, so, here’s to you people. Thank you.” (From the movie Batman Begins)

Just in case you missed it. Back in Pro. 6:19 Solomon said, “A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.” These are numbers six and seven on the list of things God hates. A lying tongue is number two. We know God hates that and Solomon now gives us the result of dishonesty. “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will not escape.” Notice this is a guarantee. You may get away with lying for a short while, but the truth will come out. Maybe not in a natural context, but definitely in a supernatural context. Just because you don’t see consequences does not mean there won’t be any. There are two aspects Solomon is talking about here. One is an official type of capacity like a court of law while the other is normal conversation. In a courtroom, you take an oath to tell the truth. Even though you take that oath to tell the truth, if you’re a liar, do you think that the oath will somehow guarantee that the whole truth and nothing but the truth will be told? My experience has shown that people that lack integrity will lie even when there is no advantage to be gained. I’ve seen people lie even when the lie is so easily proven false. I do believe dishonesty is a character flaw. It is nearly impossible to learn integrity – you either have it or you do not. That being said, do not underestimate or discount the power of God to transform your life. Remember all of the things you used to be. Those character traits have been crucified with Christ. The Apostle Paul said, “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Rom. 8:12-14) You do not have to lie, you’re not forced to lie, you do not ever have to sin.

We started by asking the question, what is your word worth? Do you keep your promises? It’s better to be poor with integrity than get out of poverty by dishonesty. We saw the standard for morality is found in the living Word of God. Don’t do foolish things and then blame god when it doesn’t work out the way you want it to. We finished by talking about lying. It’s never good, right, or acceptable and that’s the whole truth.

Wisdom in Action

LiarYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week we saw the importance of a godly woman in the home. We saw that walking in uprightness demonstrates your love for God. It matters not just how you walk, but also how you talk. It matters how we act and react in our lives. Finally, we saw the mess you have to clean from having an ox is worth the benefit that he provides. This morning, Solomon continues giving his rapid fire principles that are going to be eerily familiar to you.

In Pro. 14:5-9 Solomon says, A trustworthy witness will not lie, but a false witness utters lies. A scoffer seeks wisdom and finds none, but knowledge is easy to one who has understanding.  Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not discern words of knowledge. The wisdom of the sensible is to understand his way, but the foolishness of fools is deceit. Fools mock at sin, but among the upright there is good will.”

Liars lie. This comes as no shock to you. In my experience, I can tell you that people lie. I have found this to be true no matter the setting I’m in. Remember, I have not always been a pastor and my experience is not limited to church settings. Even today, my experience is not limited to a church setting. One should assume that in dealing with Christians, people that profess a relationship with Christ, that truth would be at the forefront of their mind. You would think that to tell a lie, one would have to consciously create a lie in their brain for it to come out. Solomon emphatically states, “A trustworthy witness will not lie.” Notice the finality of his statement. If this sounds familiar, it’s because he said in 12:17, “He who speaks truth tells what is right, but a false witness, deceit.” Notice the two words that form the word trustworthy. Trust means firm belief in the character, strength, or truth of someone or something. Worthy means having great character, merit, or value. So when you put it together, you can see how powerful the word is. When you are trustworthy, and all of us should be, your word is golden, it’s not going to be doubted. The character of a person determines if his words are true and wise. If you catch someone you trusted in a lie, how difficult is it going to be to believe other things they say? We often see this in the role of parenting. A child lies so often to the parent that the parent ends up not believing anything the kid says. When they actually tell the truth the parent doesn’t believe them and the kid gets mad.

Another area where we see this is when someone lies to themselves. Christian existentialist Soren Kierkegaard said, “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”  I do not like when people lie to me, but I need to recognize that they’re not really lying to me because they’re lying to themselves. We convince ourselves of things that are not true. God doesn’t love me and God doesn’t care. God sent this and He doesn’t answer prayer. I know what’s best. Nobody has reached out to me. I can go it alone, I don’t need anyone. These conclusions typically come not in the good times, but in the difficult or challenging times. What is the root cause for these beliefs? It’s a lack of understanding about God’s character that is revealed throughout Scripture. Yes, I believe it comes from not knowing who God really is. Jesus said in Jo. 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth, Your word is truth.” But Solomon says, “A false witness utters lies.” “A false witness who utters lies” is on the list of seven things the Lord hates from 6:19. He hasn’t changed His mind. If you utter a lie under oath in a courtroom it’s called perjury and is punishable as a felony. No matter what you do, no matter the offer you may make, a trustworthy witness can’t be persuaded to tell a lie. We must be a people of truth.

Let’s look at Solomon’s apparent hypocrisy. “A scoffer seeks wisdom and finds none.” This seems totally wrong. Ja. 1:5 says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” That is of course true, but the scoffer lacks something critical to finding wisdom. Solomon set up the book of Proverbs in 1:7 when he said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The reason the scoffer can’t find wisdom is because he refuses to listen to wisdom. He discounts wisdom; he ignores it; he hates it; he despises it. There’s no reasoning with a scoffer because his reasoning comes from within. He creates it himself. On the other hand, “Knowledge is easy to one who has understanding.” This guy understands Pro. 1:7. The fear of the Lord, or a healthy respect for God, is essential in understanding the mysteries of life; it’s the key to understanding what God wants for us. It’s comparatively easy for a person to gain wisdom who understands that they need God and His Spirit to help them.

To go along with this principle, Solomon says, “Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not be able to discern words of knowledge.” It’s as if a fool is a vacuum. The wisdom you have is sucked right out of your brain. That’s not exactly true, but the idea here is that when you realize a fool is a fool, don’t bother with him. It’s a waste of energy, a waste of breath, a waste of time to pursue it any further because he will not accept the truth you speak and will not accept the wisdom you demonstrate. What’s worse, he’ll hate you for it. If you hang around a fool, your ability to gain godly knowledge will be greatly diminished. A good question to ask yourself if, “Am I foolish in any area of my life?” All of us can be foolish at times or about certain things. Are you willing to allow someone that has demonstrated consistent faithfulness, that has demonstrated a commitment to Christ, that has lived by example, that is truly authentic; will you allow them to sow wisdom into your life? I know people in the church that are complete fools when it comes to finances; that are complete fools when it comes to parenting or relationships. You’re thinking , “Is it me?” I know I have been foolish in decisions. I used to think I could simply attend church and that was good enough, that that’s what it meant to live for Christ. I used to think reading along with the preacher was Bible study. Over the years, I have come to understand that living a life of authenticity is much more than that. If you’re unwilling to hear and follow biblical wisdom, regardless of the source, then you are a fool. Sometimes, we make foolish decisions because we keep the company of fools. Carefully evaluate who is on your friend list.

In a seemingly contrary statement Solomon says, “The wisdom of the sensible is to understand his way.” This verse lines up with Jesus’ words in Matt. 7:3 that we saw a couple of weeks ago: “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Sometimes we can see the path that others need to take and we offer “help” in getting them there. Solomon and Jesus are both saying look first at your own path, make sure you’re on track before you go getting involved in everyone else’s lives. With all the verses that speak of discipleship, we must make sure we strike the balance of encouragement and correction, and grace and mercy. Look at your life through the eyes of God, through the mirror and lens of Scripture. “The foolishness of fools is deceit.” Their brains are clouded by foolishness. This isn’t self-deception; it’s trying to fool others. You see this in all aspects of life and we’re going to see it play out in verse 12, so I’ll wait until we get there.

Solomon helps us understand reality. When it’s all said and done, “Fools mock at sin.” Mock is the word that means tease scornfully or ridicule. This really is the root cause of foolishness. A biblical fool doesn’t see sin from God’s eyes. There are no absolutes. Since there are no absolutes in the fool’s world, everyone does what they want to do regardless of the impact on others, regardless of the impact on the family, regardless of the impact on the very fabric of society that keeps things in order. The things that fools engage in actually serve to break down that which is good and right. Listen to Isaiah’s haunting warning, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Is. 5:20) “Among the upright, there is good will.” The times in which we currently live in seem so far from God, but actually provide us with incredible opportunity to be different. No matter what others are doing, we can choose to walk with God; we can choose to serve Him faithfully. There’s no need to panic. While we live in challenging times, other people have lived in challenging times and still managed to live victoriously for Christ. In fact, every generation has faced some sort of challenge. Just in my generation, we’ve seen the inerrancy of Scripture debated several times on a national level, we’ve seen denominational splits over social issues, we’ve seen an overall decline in biblical literacy, we’ve seen the embracement of moral relativism, and we’ve seen landmark Supreme Court decisions on abortion and same sex unions. That highlights just some of the challenges. How we respond to these challenges is what matters. God is in as much control as He’s always been. These things do not change who God is. Recognizing that God is God is hugely liberating.

In Eph. 5:15, Paul warns us to, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise.” We’re responsible to walk the walk of faith. We’re responsible to keep going. We’re responsible for our actions. We’re responsible to shine the light of Christ to a world that is walking in darkness. The good news of Jesus Christ is that you are able to do just that through Him who gives you strength.

You Can Run, but You Can’t Hide

HideYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we learned that when we hang out with wise people, we get wise. When we hang out with smart people, we get smarter. We must and should follow people that follow God, but we must be careful because the opposite is also true. When we hang with people that are not walking with God, we also tend to not walk with God. That’s why discipleship is so vital in our walk with Christ. This morning, we’ll see that God is relentless.

Grab your Bible and read Pro. 13:21-25 so you can follow along.

The hunt is on! “Adversity pursues sinners.” You’re never going to avoid labels. We’re often identified by labels. Applications are filled with them: race, ethnicity, sex, age, religious preferences, etc. We’re good with labels that are part of our personal characteristics or heritage, but introduce a label that has to do with choice, and people start screaming. Sinner can be an offensive label in our times because of the changing morality of people. No matter how fast or how far you run, God is there. God is a relentless pursuer of sinners. If you remember the message from a couple of weeks back, I said that you must have a standard on which to formulate your beliefs or they will shift or change with the circumstances. So we need to evaluate sin from an unchanging standard so we don’t get caught up with the ever changing attitude of people and society. I think one of the root causes for this ever changing standard of ethics and morality has been the general departure from the Bible and the standards found therein. We’ve shifted priorities from God and eternity to self and the here and now. We’ve filled the time we used to spend in the Bible with other pursuits that while not bad or sinful, prevent us from doing what God would have us to do. We’ve convinced ourselves that we can have it all and do it all just like everyone else. That’s why I continuously talk about getting back in the Bible. That’s where we get our standards and the interesting thing is the Bible even predicted a deviation from Scripture would develop. Paul warned his young protégé Timothy about this. Two passages that really highlight this are found in 2 Tim. 3:1-5 and 2 Tim. 4:1-4. Take the time to read these insightful thoughts.

So don’t lose heart. “Adversity pursues sinners.”  We must look at the Bible to determine what a sinner is. In its simplest form a sinner is one who commits sin. The person who says, “We’re all sinners,” as a justification for his sin is likely the same one that has no standard to begin with and will certainly not like being told there is absolute truth.  If we really believe that God is unchanging and thus His Word is unchanging, then the standard for life is the same today as it was before humanity was created. If murder has always been wrong, then it will always be wrong. You can plug in anything you want, but understand the entire teachings of God. Please don’t bring up eating shellfish or pork, the washing of hands, etc. as justification for how outdated the Bible is. The ceremonial aspects of the law were fulfilled by Jesus Christ, and the moral aspects of the Law have been repeated in the New Testament. Jesus Christ was the answer before humanity and He remains the answer today. Being a sinner is what Christians were, but are no longer. The adversity Solomon mentions is always on the heels of the wicked one. There may be short term prosperity or happiness, but again, we must think eternally. And that’s exactly what Solomon says, “But the righteous will be rewarded with prosperity.”

Solomon’s next point is deeper than what you might think. Verse 22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, and the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.” Some would use this as a proof text that you need to work hard to make sure your kids and grandkids are well supported after your death. It’s much deeper than that. The idea is when wisdom is at the forefront of who you are and what you do, the wealth accumulated will be passed down from generation to generation because it’s handled with wisdom. For the sinner, which Solomon uses synonymously with wickedness and unrighteous, there is no inheritance to be passed down because there is no wisdom and therefore anything gained is lost. An even more important principle is passing down the faith of the righteous from generation to generation. “Abundant food is in the fallow ground of the poor, but it is swept away by injustice.” This is a challenging verse. The best I can offer is this refers once again to the diligent work ethic Solomon has told us about. The poor man that is righteous diligently works his land, no matter how small it is, to the best of his ability. As a result, he will have an abundant harvest. The second part of the verse gets tricky. “Swept away by injustice” is also translated, “For want of judgment.” Given the contrast formula used so often by Solomon, it seems likely this refers to the mismanagement of resources by the wicked. To put it in a modern context, management overextends the company, too many employees are hired, too much money is borrowed, too much equipment is purchased and all is quickly swept away. A story published in the New York Times on July 31st highlights this principle perfectly. Let me talk about verse 25 briefly because it goes hand in hand with this verse. The key word is enough. God will provide what is needed. Often He provides more than we need, but we will always have enough. We’ll see later in Proverbs that Agur prayed that he would have enough: neither too much nor too little, but enough.

And now for a total deviation from what you might expect next. Like many verses we’ve seen to this point, the next verse seems out of place. “He who withholds the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” Your wonderful newborn baby has something lurking within them that is difficult to see when they are so young and innocent. As they grow older, that natural tendency begins to come out. In some it is stronger than in others. That natural tendency is known as sin and it takes many forms. Rebellion, pride, disobedience, stubbornness, deafness, the ability to ignore, laziness, lack of focus, short term memory loss, etc. that parents are all too familiar with. These characteristics come naturally to human beings because we are all sons of Adam. That means we were born with this ability to be ungodly, Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) The way to overcome that natural tendency is to use the rod. Rod in this verse means correction. It does not refer to a physical rod, or a broom handle, or a switch, or a wooden spoon, or a hair brush. There are other places in Proverbs where that is true, but not here. Here, Solomon is talking about correcting behavior that is not godly, that’s not consistent with the standard. We’re in a church setting here and that’s the direction I’m coming from. We’re to instruct our kids to adhere to the standard. This is going to be painful for some folks to hear including me. Since we’re all at different places in our walk with Christ, it only makes sense that our kids will follow suit where we walk. If you are prone to gossip, it’s going to be difficult to get your child to understand why gossiping is wrong. If you’re prone to lying, it’s going to be difficult for your child to understand why he gets punished for lying. If you are prone to neglect your study of God’s Word or your reading of God’s Word, it’s going to be difficult to get your kids to understand the value of God’s Word. If you’re lazy in your walk of faith, it’s going to be difficult to get your kids to understand why their faith is so important. If you sporadically attend church, it’s going to be difficult for your child to understand why it’s important. That’s why we must go to the standard of our faith. Some people, even in the church, do not see the value of good, solid, Bible teaching in the home. They want their kids to find their own way. They somehow have missed the importance of training their kids. Somewhere along the way, we’ve come to believe that having reasonable expectations for our kids will somehow harm them. We’ve come to believe that we will irreparably damage their psyche if we discipline our kids. Not every child will respond to a spanking. Not every child responds to a time out. Not every child is the same. One thing is the same. Every child will benefit from being held to a reasonable, age appropriate standard. This is how they learn and grow. When you don’t correct your children, chaos will result.

Also, teach your kids to listen to other adults. It can be very disrespectful to have an eight year old tell me, “My mom says I don’t have to listen to you.” One final thought on this as we’ll get to a score of other parenting principles later in Proverbs, as adults, understand that each parent trains their child to not do things that annoy them. Every person has different annoyances. Also understand that every parent is at a different place in their walk of faith. When you lovingly correct your child, you’re demonstrating how much you love and care for them. There must be the same diligence in this area as in our other endeavors. Don’t neglect this crucial area of the family.

Trouble always pursues the sinner. They may think they won’t be caught, but God will catch them and He can do it anytime He wants. Don’t misunderstand short term worldly “success” as God’s approval. Demonstrate love for your children by teaching them and holding them accountable. Know this, God will relentlessly pursue you as He seeks to transform you into the image of His one and only Son.

There is Hope

HopeCheck out the podcast here.

Last week we learned that it’s better if our kids listened to us. Having good, compliant, respectful kids makes parenting look easy. We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover though because looks can be deceiving. Just because you’re wealthy by the world’s standards means nothing. Money has nothing to do with wealth in God’s economy, but it is better to work hard to obtain what you do have than it is to be handed it. This morning, we’ll see some principles you probably have heard of, but maybe didn’t know came from God.

I encourage you to read Pro. 13:12-19 so we understand where Solomon is coming from.

Solomon opens up with something you probably have experienced. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Everyone has hopes and dreams. Society often dictates these hopes and dreams. Get an education, get married, have kids, have a great job that fulfills you, build that dream home or what is now being called the forever home. Even in the church, we have fallen into the marks of success of defined by society. When those hopes and dreams go unrealized, sometimes we’re defined as failures or at the very least, we feel like failures. To put it into something we can readily understand, think about the promotion you feel was deserved that you didn’t get. Think about the test that you studied so hard for and came up short. Think about the mortgage you applied for that you didn’t get. Think about the ungodly decisions that have come at the hands of our elected leadership.

Solomon is talking about something far more important. The Bible goes beyond those ever changing marks of achievement where you were taught to work hard to achieve what you want. We’ve already learned that this is a good virtue to have, but there is something even more important that leads to this work ethic. As we move through this passage, we’ll see that it has to do with something Solomon has hammered on and that’s character. It’s far more important to develop virtuous character which is borne out of diligent examination of the Scriptures, seeking and listening to wise counsel, and engaging in a lifestyle of Christian community. The biblical outcome of that life long process is a maturing, growing, loving, kind, Christ like individual that lives each day passionately and zealously pursuing Christ in authenticity. Notice I said lifelong process. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. There are too many people in the church that give up or give in. Some folks are unwilling to stick it out. They’ve prayed for weeks and God hasn’t answered. They’ve been serving God for months and don’t see the fruit of their labor. Our fast paced society filled with “I want it now” people are unwilling to persevere for the long haul. Over the years here at C4, we’ve seen many people come and go. Folks have transferred or moved away, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about people that are gifted or talented to serve in particular ways, but don’t want to get involved to build something for God. People want to get in on what’s exciting and happening and growing, but it seems like they don’t want to do the work necessary to make it so. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, real ministry is hard work. When our hopes are in things of the world, they can easily be crushed to smithereens. “But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” We’ll see this conclusion is solidified later in v. 19. Think of those desires that are fulfilled and the feeling that you have. Joy, gratitude, peace, confidence, trust, and of course, hope. This comes from knowing who God is and His unchanging character.

In the next verse, Solomon says you don’t have to like it. “The one who despises the word will be in debt to it.” I think of people that ignore good, solid biblical guidance. This is not so much a perception issue as it is a defining issue. We are experiencing this in ways that are quite shocking. Anytime we quote the Bible in reference to almost any type of behavior we are labeled hate mongers, intolerant, judgmental, unloving, and unkind. Solomon is talking about a willingness to place yourself under the authority of the written Word of God. Just because someone doesn’t like the Bible, understand it, believe it, or follow it, doesn’t mean it’s not applicable. You can despise the law, but you still have to follow it. You can really hate stopping completely at a stop sign, but when you violate the law and get caught, you will be in debt to it. That’s the reality for lost people. People can disagree and hate the Bible, but it doesn’t make it less applicable to them. Even if they don’t know everything in it, they’re still accountable to it and so are we as believers. For us, “The one who fears the commandment will be rewarded.” This isn’t a terrified type of deal. This is reverence, respect, a willingness to trust that God knows what is going on, that He knows the best way for us to live, that He knows what’s what. Do you find it hard to do that?

Let me give you some perspective. You’re sick and go to the doctor and you trust that doctor to provide you with the medical care necessary to make you feel better. Your car breaks down and you go to the mechanic and trust him to correctly identify the problem and fix it. You trust the school teachers to adequately prepare your children to gain and understand the principles necessary to be productive members of society. You trust the bank to take care of the money you put there on deposit. So it’s not really a matter of trust because I just established that we are pretty free with our trust. Sure you might get a second opinion or you might send your child to a different school, but the bottom line is you’re still trusting. The one who may not understand the whys or the hows or the details of the Bible, but trusts in the unseen power of the One and only true God, well he will be rewarded. Don’t look for a check in the mail or anything you might actually put your hands on though. That may not be how God chooses to reward you. The for sure thing is eternity. What I’d recommend is that you put at least the same trust in the Creator of all things as you do your family practitioner, your kid’s teacher, or the bank that holds your money. Always default to God loves and cares more for you than any other living creature on this planet.

I encourage you to commit Jer. 29:11 to memory: “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Paul brings it home by saying, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Rom. 5:5)

Back in Proverbs, “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life.” Fountain is also translated spring which gives us the idea of a never ending source and that’s what Solomon is saying here. You’ll never be able to reach the bottom of the wisdom found in God’s Word. The water continues to flow and never runs out. Through God’s Word, we know Him more intimately. We can better understand His character and His purposes for us. We understand how to deal with the obstacles and challenges of life. His Word provides the road map, “To turn aside from the snares of death.” When you are diligent to study God’s Word, when you are diligent to walk with Christ, when you are diligent to worship God in spirit and in truth, when you are diligent to engage in Christian community, when you are diligent in your walk with Christ, you’re able to recognize the traps being set for us by Satan. Some common traps we’re faced with. I’m too far gone for God to forgive me. God will not use me. Nobody likes me or cares about me. It’s my life and my body. What I do in private is no one’s business. No one will know. I’m as good as the next guy. Solomon says, “Good understanding produces favor.” All those traps are recognized when we are engaged in the fundamental principles of the faith. You may think you’re too far gone, but 1 Jo. 1:9 reminds that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  You may think God won’t use you, but be like Isaiah when he said, “Here am I, send me.” We may conclude that people don’t care about us, but we go back to the truth in 1 Pet. 5:7 that tells us to cast, “All your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” The common thread in most of the traps Satan sets is he gets us to focus on ourselves. When we have the understanding that Solomon encourages, we can recognize and address the issues. Good understanding is built on the foundation of God’s Word and in the context with which it is written.

The opposite way is just that. “The way of the treacherous is hard.” This is another understatement. He’s not talking about difficulty here as in hard to do or understand. He’s talking about overall pain and suffering involved in the way of the treacherous. Sin is slavery. Slavery is awful. And he does not necessarily mean right now. We need to think eternally rather than in the here and now. “Every prudent man acts with knowledge.” He’s cautious, not reckless. He does not get involved in things he does not know about or in things that are not his concern. “A fool displays folly.” Again, opposite of the person that acts with wisdom. The next verse is a reference to the olden days, but has a very modern application. “A wicked messenger falls into adversity, but a faithful envoy brings healing.”

We need to remind ourselves that we haven’t always had the conveniences we enjoy today. We have people alive today that have always had the internet, have always had instantaneous communication, have always had the ability to get information right now. You talk to someone that has lived four decades and they didn’t always have cable TV, cell phones, or computers. You talk to someone five decades old and they didn’t always have color TV and their telephone was attached to a wall and their number had letters in it. You talk to someone six decades old and they were only beginning to watch coast to coast live news. Messengers were sent on foot or horseback to hand carry the news back in Solomon’s day. So let’s bring this verse to 2015. If we only shared the judgment of God, or the bad news, we’re doing everyone a disservice. This also applies to half truths, scriptural misrepresentation, gossip, and just plain old lies. I saw this humorously depicted when one of my Facebook friends posted a quote. “The trouble with quotes on the internet is you never know if they are genuine.” (Abraham Lincoln) Solomon closes in vs. 18-19.

There is hope. If you receive instruction from Scripture, you will be better off. If you don’t pay attention to those people around you that are wiser, older, and more experienced, you’ll find yourself on the impoverished side of life. Solomon is not necessarily talking about poverty, but that may happen too. He’s more concerned with how we live our lives; with how we behave, with how we interact with others so that they may know the hope we have in Christ.

A Fool’s Life

FoolYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Solomon gave us some great patterns contrasting the wicked to the righteous. The wicked have hidden agendas and motives. The behavior exhibited by the righteous and the wicked provides evidence of what’s in the heart. Righteous men want what is good and the wicked want what is evil. This morning, Solomon hits the fool squarely in the face

I hope you’ll take the time to look up and read Pro. 12:15-22. It’ll help set the context for what you’ll read.

Solomon begins with the understatement of understatements. When you think about this first verse, you immediate think of someone in your past or someone that currently gives you fits. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes.” This is so true. You know it because you’ve dealt with people like this. What keeps this guy from becoming wise? He think he’s right about everything. He doesn’t ask anyone for advice, doesn’t research anything, thinks he knows more than Google, fails exams and concludes the teacher doesn’t know anything. He doesn’t think he’s right or have a hunch he’s right – he’s confident he’s right and it doesn’t matter what anyone says because he’s not asking. He determines the path that is right and it can have very broad applications. So how are the fool and the wise different? “But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” The wise person knows and understands he doesn’t know everything. He knows he can learn from someone else. He’s not afraid to ask for help or guidance or advice and he’s selective about who he asks. It can be incredibly frustrating when these two types of people get together in a meeting or collaborate on a project. The fool typically just begins something. The wise person wants to chat about it, wants to brainstorm, wants input from others, wants to evaluate past successes and failures, wants to consider people’s strengths and weaknesses. The fool says, “That’s a waste of time, I’m doing _______.” The fool determines he’s right, the wise seeks the guidance of others to ensure the best decision is made. Obviously, the application for this is very broad. As I have said, we can be foolish from time to time or we can make a foolish decision. But those are, or should be, single points in time and are not how our life is characterized

Be sure the truth will find you out. It’s tough to keep who you really are under wraps. It takes a lot of effort to pretend or play a role. The wise man has the ability to control himself and does, but the fool lacks this character trait. “A fool’s anger is known at once, but a prudent man conceals dishonor.” When the fool gets angry, regardless of the reason, everyone else knows it. The fool’s anger controls him – he is the ranter, he is the one that flies off the handle, he is the one that others will be embarrassed for him. Does anger have a place in the life of a Christian? The wisest answer is, it depends. People will quickly be reminded of Jesus in the temple driving out people with whips and overturning tables and use that as justification to be angry. Eph. 4:26 says, “Be angry, and yet do not sin.” There are some circumstances in which anger is an acceptable emotion, but we should be slow to anger as James says in 1:19 of his book because, “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Anger is an emotion and emotion comes from God

There are things in this world that will, and should anger us, but the difference is that anger does not control the wise man. Think about the times we get angry. Our kids don’t listen or don’t perform as we think they should. We get slow service in the restaurant or the fast food place gets our order wrong. A friend doesn’t text or message back. We don’t get that promotion. Our car breaks down or our house needs to be repaired. We drop our cell phone or tablet and the screen shatters. Our internet runs slow or the cable goes out. Someone in church doesn’t speak to us. The pastor says something in a message and we think he’s talking about us

In the famous temple scene where Jesus used a whip and overturned tables, He wasn’t angry for the reason we think. When you study the passage in context, Jesus says, It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robber’s den.” “It is written” refers back to Is. 56:7. Isaiah is sharing the vision of foreigners and outcasts joining themselves to the Lord and ministering to Him, and serving Him at His house. As Jesus approached the temple, He saw the court of the Gentiles overrun with merchants that had set up tables to buy and sell. Yes, there was price gouging and improper business practices, but that was only part of the issue. There was literally no room for the foreigners and outcasts to get to God in the temple. “The mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised about the hills; and all the nations will stream to it.” (Is. 2:2) The ultimate place of worship at the time – a place where God’s people could meet with God – had been turned into an outdoor shopping mall and the religious leaders of the day let it happen. Jesus was angry because what He saw was not the worship that Isaiah saw and He had enough.

That’s hardly the same as us blasting the clerk because the gas pump won’t start. At some point, the pretending will stop and the real you will come out. I have done and said things in my Christian walk that I am ashamed of, embarrassed at, and horrified by. I can honestly say those times are getting fewer and farther between. Things that used to bother me don’t bother me any longer and there are things that I never thought of that are at the forefront of my mind. I am growing, and learning, and being transformed by Christ – present tense – into what He wants me to be. I wanted to spend time here because I am increasingly concerned with Christians that dismiss their behavior or the behavior of other Christians because they use an overall justification model called “I have an anger problem.” I made that model up. I don’t find anger problems in Scripture. We don’t accept when someone lies to us and says I have a truth problem. We don’t accept when someone steals from us and says I have a theft problem. We don’t accept when someone spreads rumors about us and says I have a gossiping problem. We need to accept responsibility for our ungodly behavior and take the steps necessary to restore fellowship with God and one another. I am also growing weary of Christians that have a falling out and do nothing to reconcile with one another.

What Solomon says about behavior moves to the spoken word. Let me read the remainder of our verses today because the theme is the same. (Read 17-22). Let me hit the highlights of what Solomon writes. “He who speaks truth tells what is right, but a false witness is deceit.” This not a shocker and we need to make sure we use love when speaking the truth (Eph. 4:15). The truth can hurt, but when it is bathed in love, the resulting sting is eased. Remember when you’re told what is right, best, better, wise, or smart and you refuse to listen, Solomon says you’re stupid. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the people that are so easily offended these days are often the most offensive and hard headed people around. Thinking back to Pro. 6:19, a false witness that speaks lies is on the list of seven things the Lord hates. “A false witness, deceit.” Plain and simple and in direct contrast to the truth speaker. “Rashly” in verse 18 means acting or behaving without careful consideration. When you don’t consider your words, they become weapons that pierce to the core. Think about it this way, in the hands of the wrong person, a scalpel can become an instrument of destruction or death, but in the hands of a skilled surgeon, that same scalpel can facilitate the removal of disease, repair broken bones, ease pain and suffering and leave little evidence behind. The words of the wise edify, lift up, and encourage. When in the right hands, they can also bring healing. “Truthful lips will be established forever.” Truth is truth. It is not relative, it is not changing, it is not dependent upon the source. If truth is spoken, it remains the truth regardless of the circumstances, regardless of the people involved, regardless of any variables encountered. Even though we are in the world with all its changing values and standards, we are not of the world. Jesus set the standard in Jo. 17:17 for truth as He was praying to His father, “Your Word is truth.” Since God is unchanging, it makes sense that His Word is also unchanging.

“But a lying tongue is only for a moment.” Those liars out there or those that tell lies, it’s only fleeting because the truth always comes out. Typically, all you have to do to find out if someone is lying is continue talking to them. The seat of deceit is the heart. You hear people today saying things like trust your heart or follow your heart to find the course of action or direction you should take. Jeremiah the prophet reminds us that, The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9) Your heart will lie to you because that’s where deceit finds its home. So we need a new heart. Ez. 36:26 says, Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” You can be new in your heart, your thoughts, and your actions. Jesus can make a whole new you if you’ll only let Him. One final thought. You’re probably going to have trouble with v. 21 when Solomon says, “No harm befalls the righteous.” Righteous people are harmed all the time: car accidents, they fall victim to crime, they get sick, their kids rebel, they have challenging relationships, and they suffer persecution. Is that what Solomon is talking about? Your first thought might be people that suffer from these kinds of harm aren’t righteous. We know from Rom. 5 that God allows trials to build our perseverance which leads to proven character which leads to hope. Solomon is saying that even when harm comes, whether it be in the form of suffering, persecution, sickness or whatever, that those troubles allowed by God will not cause us to lose hope. Our focus is on God. We are God centered. We understand that God works in us and through us to bring glory to Him.

The fool’s life is not a life we should envy. If people look at you and conclude you are a fool, step back and ask yourself why. Do you think you’re always right and don’t want to listen to guidance. Are you prone to anger? Do you words bear witness that you are a child of the King?