wisdom

The Wisdom of Knowledge (Proverbs 2:1-15)

            On May 11

th

, 1849 Mr. S. Shufelt left New York City aboard the Panama heading for the beautiful San Francisco Bay in search of gold. A year earlier, James Wilson Marshall discovered gold in a river near present-day Sacramento. His discovery of the gold had spread across the country sparking the Great California gold rush of the 1850s. S. Shufelt was one of 200 men who left their families and friends in search for gold on the other coast. Mr. Shufelt departed New York City leaving behind his wife and a newborn child. He told his cousin of his motivation for leaving, no doubt similar to many who made the same voyage. He said, “I have left those that I love as my own life behind and risked everything and endured many hardships to get here. I want to make enough to live easier and do some good with, before I return.

[1]

” On his hunt for gold, Shufelt endured hunger, natural disaster, the death of friends and came very near death himself.

            History has not recorded whether Shufelt struck it rich or made enough to live easy and do good, or if he ever made it back to his wife and newborn child. What we do know was that he was willing to endure a three month difficult voyage at sea and many hardships to pursue gold. Regardless of whether we appreciate his motivation for going, we cannot fault his determination and willingness to suffer to accomplish his goal. Shufelt left those he loved and risked everything for gold. Proverbs 16:16, “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” Men, like Shufelt, have endured extreme hardship and risked everything for gold. How much more should we pursue wisdom over gold?

            When given a choice of gold or wisdom, the decision will be wisdom, hands down!!

Proverbs 8:10

, “Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold,

for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.” (Proverbs 8:10-11) Proverbs 8:19, “My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver.” Beloved, there are so many things we can pursue with our lives, but there is nothing better than wisdom.

The blessings of wisdom will always pay back more than gold. We must pursue wisdom. Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7) Proverbs gives us practical advice on our money, relationships, parenting, communication and government. And yet this is not just practical advice, but wisdom given from the hand of Almighty God. Let us look at 4 aspects of our pursuit of knowledge.

The Wisdom of

Learning

Knowledge

            The beginning of our quest for knowledge is to first to realize our need for it. We need help, but we will never pursue wisdom unless we know we need it. As a dad, I have discovered one of the most frustrating times of my day is bed time. I love my children and I love having my children go to bed. Usually my wife and I look at each other right before the bed time routine begins and we know it is go time. And inevitably, my sweet little Olivia will say, “I can’t find Bla-Bla.” Bla- Bla, legally named Mr. Bubbles the Cat, is Olivia’s lovey and is the one of the most valuable things in our home. I have often joked that I would rather have someone steal my car than take Bla-Bla.  It is not uncommon to spend 10-15 minutes scouring the house, the garage, and the car in search of it. Why would we spend so much time searching for a stuffed animal? Because we see its value. We know that without it no one is going to get any rest. And because we deem it valuable we search for it.

            Do you see God’s wisdom as valuable? Solomon begins his second mini-sermon at the beginning of Proverbs 2 and I want you to listen how often he uses the word “if,”

My son,

if

you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes,

if

you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding,

if

you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5)

All Christians want to understand the fear of the Lord and to find the knowledge of God, but that is conditioned on the promise of pursuing wisdom as for a hidden treasure (v.3).

            Do we view wisdom as Shufelt viewed gold or as I view Bla-Bla? Are we willing to earnestly and diligently pursue wisdom? There are two competing calls laid out in Proverbs, the call of the wise and the call of folly. The natural current of our world flows towards folly, so we have to be ever more diligent to swim upstream towards wisdom. There are so many resources available to set our hearts on wisdom. Podcasts, blogs, free seminary courses (biblicaltraining.org, sebts.edu, itunes University, etc.), but we cannot forsake the most basic and most powerful resource that God has given us: HIS WORD!!

            DL Moody was given a Bible by his mother which was inscribed with Matthew 6:33, “‘Seek first the Kingdom of God’ and with a warning, ‘this book will keep you from sin and sin will keep you from this book.’” Beloved, we must earnestly pursue God’s Word in our personal study, in our discipleship and for our church. Do you pray for the preaching of the Word? Do you come prepared to hear a Word from God? When was the last time you took a week and memorized a chapter in the Bible? Proverbs 2 was written so that it could be memorized with each verse beginning with one of the 22 letters of the Hebrew Alphabet. Saturate yourself with the Word of God.

            We will pursue God’s Word when we realize we need it. Dear friends, understand your desperate need for knowledge and give all that you have to attain it. Be like the man who finds a  a pearl of great price in a field and then sells all that he has purchase that field.

The Wisdom of

Listening

to Knowledge

            Life is more than listening, but it is not less than listening. Solomon continues to exhort his readers to listen to his words. Listening takes humility. Listening begins with a posture that says, “I need to hear what you have to say.” Of course the implication of listening is not merely hearing, but listening with the intent to obey. James says we should be quick to listen and slow to speak. He adds,

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25)

We must listen to wisdom and then walk in that wisdom. We must obey.

            The great enemy of listening is busyness and the clutter of the mind. How hard is it to find solitude to simply hear and listen to God’s wisdom? Don Whitney writes in Spiritual Disciplines, “One of the greatest costs of technological advancement is a greater temptation to avoid quietness.

[2]

” Progress is not always good. As our society advances technologically, we have to be careful to guard our hearts and minds. Technology has given us access to much more time. It takes a fraction of the time to complete tasks today than it did years go. We don’t have to take a 3 month journey to get across the country, but a 6 hour flight. We do not have to wash our clothes or dishes by hands, but have machines that can do that for us. And yet with all the additional time technology can save us, we still find ourselves running crazy busy lives.

            Over the last several months as we have been studying Proverbs, I have seen two worlds in conflict. There is the way of wisdom and the way of folly. God wants us to be wise while the world wants us to be foolish. The wise listen, the foolish don’t. The wise obey, the foolish don’t. Our world is set up so that we don’t listen. We have to guard our listening time. “Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.” (Proverbs 19:27) One way you can guard yourselves from straying from words of knowledge is by setting aside time every day and every week to hear instruction from God’s Word. We take time to be alone with God in studying and meditating on His Word, but we also need time to corporately gather and hear God’s Word.

            How hard is it for you to focus during a sermon? It could be because you are tired from staying up too late. It also could be that our minds are so cluttered that it is hard for us to hear because there are so many things clouding our thoughts. I pray every week our corporate time together will give you time to think and contemplate the deep things of God.

            The concept of listening is vitally important for our evangelism and discipleship. We have to be creative enough to engage our neighbors in serious thought. If it is hard for Christians to slow down to hear and listen to God’s Word, how much more for our non-Christians friends? If we are going to reach people, we need to listen to them. We need to hear where they are and what they believe. And then, we need to help them hear God’s wisdom from the Bible. Over the past year the greatest tool for discipleship that I have seen is simply taking an hour once a week and reading the Bible with people and talking about it. The Bible is powerful. Do not underestimate it. Write down 2 names of people in your life that you could ask to read the Bible together with you. Pray over those names and consider if you are able to find time to read the Bible with them. Is there anything you could cut out of your schedule to make time? We should help our neighbors take time to hear God’s Word.

The Wisdom of

Looking

with Knowledge

            I pray this series through the Proverbs has made you more aware of the importance of God’s wisdom. God’s Word is relevant to every area of life. Proverbs teaches you how you show earn and spend your money. Proverbs teaches you who to befriend and how to invest in friendships. It provides practical instruction on how to raise your kids and love your spouse. And I pray as you see God’s Word applied to these different practical areas of life, you will be able to approach the world with God’s wisdom on your mind and will be able to more readily identify folly.

            The Apostle Paul gave himself to the proclamation of the Word. He lived to help others become mature in Christ. My prayer throughout this series has been that you would desire to take God’s wisdom and apply it to your life so that you would know Jesus Christ and make him known. Colossians 2:1-3,

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in the person of Jesus Christ. To pursue wisdom is to pursue Jesus Christ.

As we face this world living out our daily lives, we should always be thinking how can I know Jesus and make Him known? Jesus Christ is the goal of life for all the world was created by him and for him. We live for the glory of Jesus Christ. Proverbs doesn’t just help us have better friendships and manage our money, but to display the glory of Jesus Christ through a life that has been transformed by His wisdom. Friends, we all have lived as fools. We all have followed our own way and experienced the harsh reality of our own sin. In the solitude of our own hearts, we know our consciences condemn us for our folly. But thanks be to God, that while we were fools, God sent Jesus Christ to die for us. Jesus willingly laid his life down to pay for our sin. And after he died for our sins, God raised him from the dead accepting the payment in full and publicly declaring his Lordship over death and the grave.

Jesus who knew no sin became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus has promised righteousness to all who would repent of their sins and trust in Him. When we trust in Jesus Christ, in whom is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, God declares us righteous, not because our good deeds, but because of His righteousness. So now we live as God’s righteous people, in our parenting and our finances, to display that righteousness to the world. Our lives are witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We live resurrected lives. Our old lives are dead for we have been made alive with God in Christ.

This is my prayer that you would view the practical matters of your life as an opportunity to witness the resurrection power of Jesus Christ to the world. Therefore you have to approach this world on guard against the deceptive philosophy and empty knowledge of our world. Folly calls aloud, but we strive for wisdom so Christ would be exalted. After Paul encourages the church to find the wisdom in Christ, he continues,

I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:4-8)

We must look at this world with the knowledge of God so that we will not be taken captive by seemingly plausible yet deceptive philosophy which is not of Christ.

      Beloved, we are easily deceived. This is why we have to pursue learning and listening to God’s wisdom. We need God’s Word. We need’s God’s people. Following God’s wisdom in the Proverbs will give most likely give you a better earthly life, but a better earthly life should never be our goal. Our goal should be to walk with Jesus Christ, rooted and established in him abounding in thanksgiving. We must be armed with the knowledge of Jesus Christ if we are going to heed wisdom’s call.

The Wisdom of

Loving

Knowledge

            We can guard our hearts by avoiding the deceptive philosophy of our world, but I do not think that is the most effective way to walk in wisdom. The most effective way is love and treasure wisdom above all else.

My son, if you receive my words and

treasure

up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for

wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;

(Proverbs 2:1-10)

We do not just want to be wise, but we want to love wisdom. We want to delight ourselves in the Lord and have his knowledge be pleasant to our soul.

            Greek Mythology illustrates this well in how Odysseus and his men overcame the foolish call of the Sirens. Sirens would sing an irresistible song luring unsuspecting sailors to come aboard their island which would lead to their death. Circe warns Odysseus of the danger and encourages him to tie himself to the mast so he could not jump overboard and to have his men fill their ears with beeswax so they would not hear the song. Many of us try to overcome foolishness like Odysseus and his men. We want to avoid hearing the world and withdraw from society. This method may be effective, but I do not believe it is best.

            There was another adventurer who overcame the allure of the Siren’s foolish call. Orphesus did not plug his ears or tie himself to the mast, he simply played more beautiful music that drowned out the Siren’s song. Lady Wisdom is far more beautiful than folly’s call. She sings a “sweeter song” for she leads us to Christ

[3]

. The answer is not to run from the world, but to run to Christ. Delight yourself in wisdom and she will guard your life.

Let’s Pray:

We bow our knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of your glory You may grant us to be strengthened with power through your Spirit in our inner being, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith—that we, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to You who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to You be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)

[1]

http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/californiagoldrush.htm

accessed 7.25.2015

[2]

Whitney, Don. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. 228.

[3]

Newheiser, J. (2008).

Opening up Proverbs

. Leominster: Day One Publications. Chapter 2

The Wisdom of Wealth (Proverbs 30:7-9)

        In 1990, best-selling author Randy Alcorn was a pastor of a large church. He had published several books and was making a considerable amount of money on book royalties. He loved his life as a pastor and wanted to stay in that role the rest of his life. Through his study of the Scriptures, he became convicted to fight for the unborn through peaceful, nonviolent protests at abortion clinics. Through his peaceful protests, he was arrested, sent to jail and sued by the abortion clinic. He agreed to pay his fine to the government, but would not give his money to support the taking of innocent lives. The church he was pastoring was about to be ordered by a local judge to garnish ¼ of his wages to pay to the clinic. He had no choice, but to resign from the church and he had to relinquish the rights to all his book royalties. The only way he could avoid having his wages garnished in the future was to make no more than minimum wage.  

            Alcorn was eventually sued again for participating in another non-violent protest. He lost this case as well which awarded $8.2 million dollars to the abortion clinic. So he had to remove his name off the deed of his recently paid-off home and could never legally own any assets again if he wanted to avoid supporting the work of abortion clinics. How would you handle that? How would you deal with being forced to resign from a job you love, giving up all your assets, and only ever being allowed to make minimum wage?  By all worldly appearances, Randy Alcorn would look like a failure. He had no assets and could never make more than minimum wage, but if you were to ask him, he would say, “It was one of the best things that ever happened to us…My inability to legally own assets was nothing I sought after and nothing to be congratulated for, but God used it to help me understand what He means by, ‘Everything under heaven belongs to me’ (Job 41:11).’[1]

            Randy Alcorn learned the secret of being content in every situation, whether having plenty or living in want. Sadly, many Americans have yet to learn this lesson. According to a recent report issued by the American Psychological Association, almost ¾ (72%) of Americans feel stressed about money. Almost one in four Americans say they experience extreme stress about money.[2] Another recent survey done by SunTrust Bank says that the number one cause for stress in relationships is the stress caused by finances.[3] We all have to deal with money. And we all have our own perspective of money, but the key is do we have God’s perspective on money?

            The theme most emphasized in the book of Proverbs is financial wisdom. Money problems are ultimately spiritual problems. Our checkbooks are an indication of our spiritual health. A wise perspective on money will help limit stress, avoid folly and, most importantly, help us to honor God with our all of our lives. 

The Wisdom of Financial Perspective

     
       God is the owner of all wealth. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). Everything under the Heaven belongs to the Lord (Job 41:11). He gives people strength in order to get wealth (Deut. 8:18). All of our wealth belongs to the Lord, not just the 10% we are called to tithe. The Lord distributes different gifts to different people. He gives some great wealth and others he gives a relatively small amount. This may frustrate us, but God’s ways are above our ways and his thoughts are above our thoughts. We know that he works all things for the good of those who love God and are called according to our purpose. We have to believe that God knows our needs and will provide for us the way that is best (Mathew 6:19-34). With that being said, there are three simple ways to view wealth that will help to make us financially wise.

Wealth is a Blessing

            When Wisdom speaks in Proverbs 8:18, she says, “Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness.” The rich man will be able to endure more easily in the day of trial because he wealth will provide him some protection. Proverbs 10:15, “A rich man's wealth is his strong city; the poverty of the poor is their ruin.” Proverbs 14:24, “The crown of the wise is their wealth, but the folly of fools brings folly.” Wealth is a blessing from the Lord. Those who have wealth should recognize that every good and perfect gift comes from above.  Proverbs 22:4, “The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.” Wealth can be a blessing to people in a vast number of ways.

            It is important to point out that proverbs are maxims which generally come true. We may be those who live in wisdom, but still may not possess great wealth. We know people who work hard and are poor and others who live extravagantly while piling up debt. When we look at money, these are general principles that typically are proven true based on our experience.

Wealth is Dangerous

            Wealth is a gift of God, but also can prove dangerous to the soul. Riches pose a very real threat to salvation (just ask the Rich Young Ruler). The rich are tempted to put their hope in their wealth instead of their hope in Christ. Proverbs 11:28, “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.” Many have walked away from Jesus Christ because of their desire for wealth (1Timothy 6:9-10). You cannot serve both God and money.

            We should be very wary of the dangerous pull of wealth. Proverbs 30:7-9 give us a wonderful perspective on money,

Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.

Sadly, too many are full and deny God and say, “Who is the Lord?” The prosperity of this country has drawn many people away from God. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Wealth is a blessing, but it also can be a curse.

Wealth has limitations.

We all need to realize that money has its limitations. Proverbs 11:4, “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.” No one will be able to pile their money before the Lord on their day of judgment as a reason to enter heaven. You never see an armored car drive behind a hearse. Once someone asked JD Rockefeller’s accountant how much he left behind and he replied, “All of it.”  1 Timothy 6:7, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” And Job said after losing all his possessions, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)

Do not put your trust in riches. Do not expect money to give you ultimate happiness. A bigger car, a nicer house, or more vacations will not fill the longing in the soul, neither will denying yourself all of those things for a larger savings account. Benjamin Franklin has said, “Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one.” Wealth has limitations so do not give wealth the place it should never hold.

The Wisdom of Financial Pursuit


            Solomon provides two general principles for those in their pursuit of wealth which should frame how we approach our pursuit of financial gain. We should work hard and honestly.

Pursue Wealth by Working Hard

Those who do not work hard should not expect riches. The best way to acquire wealth is simple, good old-fashioned hard work. Proverbs 10:4, “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” Proverbs 12:27, “Whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth.” As we have said before, proverbs are maxims that provide a general rule of how things work out. There are lazy people who have acquired wealth, but the majority of the world acquires wealth by simple, diligent, faithful work. Do not look for the get-rich quick schemes, but diligently work to slowly acquire wealth. Proverbs 13:11 says, “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” Do not listen to the spirit of the age with the promise of quick and easy money, but be willing to give yourself to a life of hard work to acquire wealth.


One thing I have heard recently is how often young people expect to start their careers and home life at the same standard of living as their parents. Young adults want their dream home and their dream job right when they get out of school. We need to readjust our expectations and realize that it will take hard work over a long time to get where we want to go.

Pursue Wealth by Working Honestly

            We should not only pursue wealth diligently, but also honestly. People should work hard, but do it with integrity. An honest day’s work is more valuable than great wealth.

Proverbs 22:16, “Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.”
Proverbs 28:6, “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.”
Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”
Proverbs 8:11, “for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.”
Proverbs 28:8, “Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.”

Which would you rather have: money or a good name? Wealth or wisdom? Christians should value integrity and honesty more than making money. If you value money more than righteousness, you will probably fall into temptation. “Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it.” (Proverbs 15:16)Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.” (Proverbs 16:8 ESV) Can you say it? Would you rather have little wealth and Christ, or great riches without him?

            There is a reason that Paul says, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. (1 Timothy 6:9) The desire for great wealth is tempting, but may lead you to ruin and destruction. Tim Keller warns that, “money can become much more than money. It can become a powerful life-altering, culture-shaping god, an idol that breaks the hearts of its worshippers.[4]” Do not underestimate the power of wealth and the desire to be rich. Choose wisdom over wealth, righteousness over riches.

The Wisdom of Financial Practice


            We should work hard and honestly to pursue our money, but how should we spend our money? There are three simple rules that I see taught in the Proverbs on how we should practice with our wealth.

Practice Generosity

            Christians should be generous. Christians are freed to be generous because they understand that all their resources have been given to them by God. Therefore we should practice generosity. Proverbs 3:9, “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce.” Generosity protects people from idolatry and shows they value the Lord above riches. When we are free to give our money to the Lord, then we show that money does not master us. We show that we are serving God, not money. Throughout Proverbs we see the generous being promised a reward from God.

Proverbs 19:17, “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.”
Proverbs 14:21, “Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.”
Proverbs 14:31, “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.”

God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7). Christians should practice generosity because God has been generous to them. We give because God has first given to us. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Those who sow generously will reap generously. Practice generosity.

Practice Restraint

            One of the greatest tools in how one uses their money is to practice restraint. We do not need as much as we think we need. Solomon encourages restraint in three specific ways.

In Spending- Proverbs 21:5, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” Fools do not plan, but spend their money hastily. We should be cautious in our pursuit of entertainment and luxury. Proverbs 21:17, “Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.” We are an entertainment- and a comfort-addicted culture. We are trained to believe that we are entitled to pleasure and comfort. Whether its movies, video games, eating out, or a remodel, we have to be careful not to love pleasure. Think careful in how you spend your wealth.

Restraint is not the same as being stingy. Remember, we should be generous with our resources. We should be hospitable with others, including our families. God has given us good things to enjoy. He is gracious and kind to us and has given us wealth to enjoy his world. “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” (1 Timothy 4:4). Practice restraint in your spending, not stinginess.

To Avoid Debt – Proverbs 22:7, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” Whether it is student loan debt, credit card debt, a huge mortgage or a car loan, debt can be crippling. Debt may hinder generosity. Debt may hinder one’s ability to serve others because they have to work longer hours or get a second job. Debt may also bring undue relational stress. There are certain debts that we cannot avoid, like a huge medical bill, but there are others that we bring upon ourselves. We should honor our debts. Proverbs 3:28, “Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.” Psalm 37:21, “The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives.” Practice restraint in your spending and your purchases to avoid being put in situations where you will not be able to honor your debt. Be not one of those who give pledges, who puts up security for debts. If you have nothing with which to pay, why should your bed be taken from under you? (Proverbs 22:26-27)

To Avoid Schemes – Restraint will help us discover the various financial schemes of our day. Whether it is getting a free t-shirt on a college campus to sign up for a credit card, being roped into a pyramid scheme, or receiving an email requesting help from Nigeria, restraint will make you think twice before falling to a financial trap. “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” (Proverbs 13:11) Restraint will protect you from the get rich quick schemes.

Practice Saving

            We should intentionally practice saving for the days ahead. The righteous plans for the days ahead like the ant prepares for winter. Christians should work to leave an inheritance for their children and to be prepared for the days of calamity. Proverbs does not specify how much one should save, but simply that one should save. “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous.”(Proverbs 13:22) “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5).

            We practice generosity to honor the Lord and thank Him for his good gifts. We practice restraint to protect us from worldly pleasures, debts and schemes. We practice saving to prepare for the days ahead. There are many other things that could be said in how we spend our money, but these three practices will help one grow in wisdom in the use of their money.

The Wisdom of Financial Payment

            There is little doubt that some of you feel weighted down when thinking about finances. Whether you are struggling with debt or bound to an apparent never-ending cycle of poor choices, there is hope for you. The beginning of financial wisdom, like all wisdom is the fear of the Lord. Always remember your greatest debt has already been paid.

Christ Paid Your Debt

            The wages of sin is death. We all rightly earn death because of our sin. We have a debt to God that we cannot pay. And through the fear of death we have been subject to lifelong slavery. Therefore God sent forth his Son to free us from our bondage to our debt. We who were dead in our trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14) After Jesus was dead and buried, God raised him from the dead proving that he accepted Christ’s payment in full. Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow. The greatest debt that stood against us has been canceled; paid in full, forgiven in the blood in Christ. All who turn from their sin and trust in Christ have their debt wiped out. You may be overwhelmed by creditors, but in Christ, you have righteousness credited to your account forever.

            The more we understand the debt that Christ has paid, the more we will love him and strive to honor him with all of our lives, including our finances. We have been bought with a price. We no longer are our own, but we belong to God. Jesus died as our ransom to buy us back to God. Our wealth, our resources, and our investments all belong to God. We should not be hesitant to give, but delight to give as God has given us so much. He did not spare his own Son, but give him up for us all, how will he not graciously with him give us all things? We cannot out-give God. We should delight in giving our all to him for Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe.

Christ Provided Your Contentment

            Let me close with one verse that should give us hope when we feel the squeeze of our checkbook. “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5) Beloved, keep yourself free from the love of money, be content with what you have, because you have Christ. Jesus will never leave you or forsake you. If you have Christ, the King of glory, what else do you need? Learn the secret of being content with living in plenty and in want, for you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.




[1] Alcorn, Randy. The Treasure Principle. Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving. 2001Pg 22-23
[4] Keller, Tim. Counterfeit Gods. Xv.

Our God Reigns

No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the LORD. (Proverbs 21:30)

Beloved,

      On June 28, 2015, Time Magazine published an article by Mark Oppenheimer stating that in light of the recent Supreme Court Decision on Same-Sex Marriage it is time to end tax-exempt status for churches. And Oppenheimer is not alone. There has been a loud cry throughout our nation for the church to “get in line” with the new American ideology or face continued scrutiny and persecution.

      The end of tax-exempt status would cripple many churches that would suffer in their budgets and may lose their building due to failure to pay property tax. The wisdom of the age continues to grow aggressively against religious liberty calling for a new tolerance where people must accept all ideologies as equal. The world’s wisdom will only continue to assault the church, but we shall not fear.

      There is no wisdom, no understanding, and no counsel that can avail against the Lord. There is nothing that can thwart the plans of the Lord. The church does not need tax-exempt status to survive. The church does not need public acceptance to survive. Jesus Christ will build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. We should not fear, but trust how God is going to use our current political climate for his glory. We,

Rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

Our country may take away certain freedoms, but it cannot take away our hope. Our hope will never put us to shame. Our hope will never disappoint.


      Let us take heart to know that church will not fail. The gospel will never be thwarted. Many believed Jesus failed as he gave up his spirit and breathed his last that dark day on Calvary’s cross, but God vindicated his Son through the resurrection from the dead. Jesus was, is and will always be victorious. No worldly wisdom, no worldly counsel, and no worldly understanding can stand against the Lord. Take hope our God reigns.

The Wisdom of Politics (Proverbs 16:10-15)


Groucho Marx defines politics as, “the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” Ronald Reagan states, “It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.” Aesop says, “We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.” And the ever witty Mark Twain says, “Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.” Politics is a dirty business. It is like entering a coal mine in a white suit, one cannot leave clean. Politics creates deep passion and utter frustration. 
      Christians vary in their views of politics. Some evangelicals have become so disgusted with the political process that they have withdrawn from it entirely while others are so devoted to partisan politics that it appears to overtake their allegiance to Christ. Christians can easily err on both sides of the line. As Martin Luther has said, “The world is like a drunken peasant. If you lift him into the saddle on one side, he will fall off again on the other side.[1]” So do we avoiding being like “drunken peasants,” falling on the side of total political apathy only to go to the side of total political immersion? How should Christians view politics or political leaders? What is the role of the government and its citizens? Should we place any hope in our political system?

      These questions have been debated throughout the centuries, as politics have always played a significant role in the health, good or ill, of a nation. Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs so that his readers would, “know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight and to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice and equity.” (Prov. 1:2-3) One of the key arenas in which Solomon desires these principles to be displayed is in the arena of government and politics. Some scholars believe that Proverbs was written specifically for the young men in Solomon’s court who were responsible to help govern the nation. As we struggle to process our role as Christians within a pluralistic, secular society it would be wise for us to glean wisdom from one of God’s kings who was inspired to write about God’s world, even the messy world of politics.


The Wisdom of Political Separation

Christians are citizens in two kingdoms. We are citizens of the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of the earth. Our primary citizenship is that of heaven, for God’s kingdom is not of this world (Phil. 3:20, John 18:36). Therefore we have to be very careful to make a strongest allegiance that of our citizenship of our earthly nation. We are fundamentally aliens and strangers in this land for our home is heaven. We are citizens of the King of kings living in a foreign land.

Separation of Church and State

In 1802 Thomas Jefferson wrote to Baptists in Danbury, CT introducing the concept of the separation of church and state into the American political lexicon by saying,

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.[2]

Jefferson believed that it was not the right of the government to dictate matters of the conscience, but to empower people to freely express their beliefs in worship of God.

The idea of separation of Church and State has been misunderstood to mean a “religion free” public square. Jefferson never meant to limit the conversation, but to inhibit the government to dictate matters of conscience. Christians should rightly desire a separation of church and state as it was originally introduced into our country. We should fight for the government to be limited as to not infringe the conscience of believers.

Separation for the Gospel

      The church should never wed itself to a political party. Our primary mission should never be to elect someone from a certain political party into office, for our mission is far more important than the political activism. Our mission is the proclamation of the gospel. Our King has given us a task to preach the good news of Jesus Christ. The only saving message of the world is not through politics, but through a Savior. Men are going to perish for eternity in Hell if they do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior. Therefore the church must never waver in its primary mission to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sin in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

      The keyword is “primary.” We should be actively involved in our world, but our primary mission will always be to makes disciples of Jesus through word and deed. If we extend a hope in anything other than Jesus Christ, we are putting people in danger of eternal fire. The only lasting hope is the living hope of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).

The Wisdom of Political Suitability

What is the purpose of government according to the Proverbs? Solomon believes kings and/or political rulers should enforce justice. Thus a suitable government promotes justice and punishes evil. Proverbs 16:10-15,

An oracle is on the lips of a king; his mouth does not sin in judgment. A just balance and scales are the LORD's; all the weights in the bag are his work. It is an abomination to kings to do evil, for the throne is established by righteousness. Righteous lips are the delight of a king, and he loves him who speaks what is right. A king's wrath is a messenger of death, and a wise man will appease it. In the light of a king's face there is life, and his favor is like the clouds that bring the spring rain.

Kings lived under the rule and reign of the Lord. Kings were to administer justice to the land which is why it is an abomination to kings to do evil. Their very purpose was to order a society that praises those who do good and punishes those who do evil. This is how a king is measured through 1st and 2nd Kings. The king either did what was right in the eyes of the Lord or he did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord. They were judged well if they promoted righteousness and justice.

People often talk about president’s political legacies, but the way we should judge a successful government is their ability to promote justice. Peter echoes Solomon’s exhortation in saying, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” (1 Peter 2:13-14). Paul says we should obey earthly governments, “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good.” (Romans 13:3-4) Rulers are placed in authority by God to bring about his justice. When a government does not punish evil and praise righteousness, it has forgotten its purpose.


The Wisdom of Political Servants

      In a democratic republic we have the responsibility to elect representatives to help fulfill God’s mandate of justice. What should we look for in our political servants? Well we should first look for servants. Politicians are supposed to public servants not self-servants. We should work to elect servants of the people who:

Serve in Humility

      God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. God sets up and removes kings. Daniel 2:20-21, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” Kings and rulers serve because God has placed them in that position.

      Nebuchadnezzar is a great historical example of someone who had to learn this lesson the hard way. Nebuchadnezzar was ruler over Babylon. He served for himself and thought the power of his kingdom was because of his hand. He was on the roof of the royal palace looking over his kingdom and said,

“Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” While the words were still in the king’s mouth there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field …until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” (Daniel 4:30-32)

Nebuchadnezzar lost his power, his palace, and his position to live on the grass like an ox. At the end of his life, Nebuchadnezzar was moved to “praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and all his ways are just and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” (Daniel 4:37)

      Let us choose leaders who understand that all God’s ways are right and that God is able to humble the proud in heart. “The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” (Proverbs 21:1)

Serve in Wisdom and Justice

      The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Rulers are given wisdom to govern justly. Proverbs 8:12; 15, “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion…By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly.” The state should not rule the church and the church should not rule the state, but that does not mean that God’s wisdom should not be applied to the government. The best governments are those who seek God’s wisdom in their rule.

      Proverbs 20:26, “A wise king winnows the wicked and drives the wheel over them.” A wise king understands his rule to punish the wicked and promote justice. Proverbs 20:28, “Steadfast love and faithfulness preserve the king, and by steadfast love his throne is upheld.” The king defines righteousness and love by the commandments of the Lord. The king’s throne is upheld by his steadfast love to the Lord.

      We have all seen political leaders in our day that have not lived under the authority of the God. And those who have not lived in and for righteousness, cause grief among the people. Proverbs 11:10, “When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.” Proverbs 28:28, “When the wicked rise, people hide themselves, but when they perish, the righteous increase.” Proverbs 29:2, “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.” The joy and sorrow of a nation can be traced to its leaders. If leaders are honorable, they will lead in justice and the people will rejoice. If leaders are dishonorable, they will extend grief and sadness to the people.


The Wisdom of Political Struggle

Many evangelicals think it is best for us to retreat from the public square and to ignore the political partisanship that dominates national discourse. They rightly believe the Great Commission is our number one priority, yet they wrongly apply that belief by retreating from politics. We are called to struggle for justice. We have an obligation to speak the truth in love. We have an obligation to command people to repent and believe in the gospel and live in a way that honors the Lord. We are called to struggle.

Struggle for Wisdom with Fools

We see Solomon pleading with his readers to pursue wisdom over folly. Lady folly calls aloud leading people to ruin and destruction. We have to battle against Lady Folly by being those who call aloud with wisdom. We believe God’s ways will ultimately be better for our neighbor. If we love our neighbors, we should engage in political discourse which will lead them to wisdom.

The spirit of the age wants everyone to accept everyone else's ideology.Islamic ideology cannot coexist with Judaism. Judaism and Islam cannot coexist with Christianity. Judaism and Islam are enemies of the cross of Christ. They do not believe in the gospel, but offer another way to salvation. If Jesus Christ is man’s only hope for salvation, it is wicked to offer hope in anything else. It is naïve to believe that the cross is compatible with any other religion. Jesus Christ says, “I am the way and the truth and the life and no man comes to the father except through me.” We can leave peaceably with others, but we cannot accept their ideology. If we accept false ideology, we are abandoning the gospel.

We are in a real battle with foolishness. We have to struggle for the wisdom of the Cross in a world of folly.

Struggle for Preservation of Morality

      Jesus has called Christians the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We are called to slow the moral decay of our world by preserving it with righteousness. When we work for justice and peace, we are restraining the moral evil in our day. We cannot retreat into the shadows, but continue to be heralds of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. We know that God will,

Render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. (Romans 2:6-8)

We know judgment is coming so we must speak. We do not have the option to be silent.

Struggle for Engagement

      Non-involvement is a vote for the wicked. If Christians are silent, they allow wicked to rule. A non-vote is still a vote and God will still hold you accountable for inaction. Proverbs 24:10-12,

If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we do not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay according to his work?

The silence of the church is a great tragedy while the innocent unborn children are being led to the slaughter. The silence of the church is a tragedy for those who are deceived in their sexual immorality that will exclude them from inheriting the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10). Beloved, we must open our eyes and continue to struggle for wisdom. We must engage in the political process.

The Struggle for Honor

      We may dislike our leaders, but we must continue to walk in respect and humility. I do not love the policies of our current president, but that gives us no right to malign him. Proverbs 24:21, “My son, fear the Lord and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise, for disaster will arise suddenly from them, and who knows the ruin that will come from them both?” 1 Peter 2:17, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor.” The early church was called to fear Nero, who was far more brutal a leader than our country has ever seen. One way we honor them is by praying for them. 1 Tim 2:1-2, “First of all, then I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”


The Wisdom of Political Savior

      Proverbs 29:26, “Many seek the face of a ruler, but is from the Lord that a man gets justice.” God will ultimately be the one to establish justice. He should engage in political action working for God’s justice to reign, but we should never put our hope in our government. Our hope should always be in God. God promised in the birth of his Son, Jesus Christ, in Isaiah 9:6-7 that,

The government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Jesus has inaugurated his kingdom in his first coming and will fully establish it on his second. The kingdom of God is already here, but has not yet been fully realized.

Beloved, we were once under the domain of darkness. We were sinners in rebellion against God. We do not fear God or keep his commandments. We were destined for ruin and destruction because of our foolishness, but in God’s loving kindness he sent Jesus Christ. Jesus lived in perfect fear of God and embodied wisdom. He died as a sinner hung on the cross. Cursed by God. He was dead and buried, but God raised him from the Dead. His resurrection validated his Kingship. He ascended to heaven and sent the Holy Spirt into the world as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance of the kingdom of God. Jesus has begun the kingdom of God and one day he will fully establish it.

Every earthly kingdom will one day perish. America will not last forever. There is coming a day when God will shake not only the earth, but the heavens and will remove all things that are shaken. Jesus Christ offers us a place in his kingdom if we confess him as our King, for all who confess with their mouth and believe in their heart that Jesus Christ is Lord will be saved and will receive the kingdom of God. Jesus is the only forever King of a forever kingdom. Right before Jesus ascended to heaven the disciples asked,

“Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8)

Beloved, we do not know when the Lord will ultimately establish his kingdom, but we have received power to be his witnesses. Therefore, live as citizens of heaven as we await our King’s return. He is our only hope and is and will always forever be our only true political Savior.

The Wisdom of Marriage (Proverbs 18:22)


     
 Alexander Pope said of Isaac Newton, “Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night:
God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.” Isaac Newton has been credited in discovering the theory of gravity. Many earlier scientists believed the Sun revolved around the Earth, but we now know that the sun is the center of our solar system. Every planet in our solar system rotates around the sun and is held in its orbit by the sun’s gravitational pull. The sun is by far the heaviest object in our solar system. The sun is 300,000 times heavier than the Earth. The lighter planets orbit around the heaviest planet. The weight of the sun places a gravitational pull on every other planet.
        
    The gravitational center of marriage has shifted in recent years. The new view of marriage is pulling people to a new gravitational center. People are changing their long-held traditional and historical views of marriage. We should not be surprised by this recent shift on marriage as we have seen our nation move away from a biblical worldview over the last 40 years. We are bearing the fruit of a nation that has rejected the straightforward testimony of the Bible. We talk most often about the change in perspective of same-sex marriage, but there have been many other shifts in how people approach marriage. People are getting married later and later. Most couples are choosing to live together before they get married, while divorce continues to be a legitimate way to solve marital conflict.

Our constant language of what we are against has obscured the beauty and gift of marriage. Non-Christians typically know more of what the church is against than what the church is for. They hear us being against a particular kind of marriage rather than seeing us being for godly marriages. We have been so focused on what we oppose that we have forgotten to cherish and treasure what we have in God’s gift of marriage. We must rejoice in our marriages. We must apply God’s wisdom in our marriages. The world needs it now more than ever.

The Wisdom of Marriage Choice

Before we dive into Solomon’s exhortation for a healthy marriage, we have to first establish the importance of choosing the right person. There are many marriages begin at a disadvantage because people are foolish in their choice of a mate. If you are not married, you have most likely asked, “Who should I marry?” If you are already married, you could probably help someone someday answer the question, “Should I marry this person?” As Christians, what are things that we should consider when choosing a spouse? Does God have any particular advice for Christians in choosing a spouse?

It is dangerous to preach about marriage in America. Americans love their personal autonomy. Even the Supreme Court this past week made a declaration that individual autonomy of a marital choice is a fundamental right. We are taught that our personal choices should not have any restrictions. We do have freedom to make our own choices, but those choices have consequences. We can chose to honor God with our choices or to dishonor God with our choices. The question is not whether we have freedom, but whether we are using our freedom to honor the Lord. The apostle Peter encourages the 1st century Christians to “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” We have freedom of choice, but as Christians our choices should honor God and be governed by his Word.

      First, Christians must consider if they should marry at all. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.” (1 Corinthians 7:8). Singleness is not a curse, but should be commended, for those who are single have the unique opportunity to have a singular focus on the Lord. They are not bound by other responsibilities and can give themselves to the service of the Lord and His church. Singleness is a gift and should not be squandered with a constant longing for spouse. The desire to be married is a healthy desire, but can also dominate a person’s life, clouding them from seeing the tremendous opportunity that singleness provides.

      Secondly, if a Christian is going to be married, then they should marry a Christian. Christians singles should not enter into a romantic relationship with a non-believer. I have asked many young Christians that start a dating relationship about the spiritual state of their partner and many times they respond, “We have discussed that yet.” If you haven’t discussed it, then how do you know if you should be in that relationship? 2 Corinthians 6 is not explicitly about marriage, but I believe it is appropriate to apply to the marriage relationship. Paul writes,

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty. Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. ” (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1)

Paul makes the biblical application from the Law that believers should not yoke themselves or intimately connect themselves with an unbeliever. This does not mean we should not be friends with unbelievers, but our closest relationships should be believers as they will encourage our walks with the Lord.

      Let me add a caveat. I know a number of marriages where one of the spouses was a non-believer when they were married and the testimony of the spouse won them to the Lord. We should praise God for his kindness for using those spouses to draw their partners to the Lord. And yet for as many positive stories we hear, there are countless others of those whose faith was shipwrecked because of the influence of an unbelieving spouse. And there are many others who experienced tremendous hardships in their marriage because they married someone outside the faith. We cannot base our choices on anecdotal evidence, but on the Word of God.

      Solomon is exhorting young men in Proverbs to choice a mate wisely, because he knows of the powerful influence of a spouse, 1 Kings 11:6-8,

So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.

Beloved, trust God’s Word in your marital choice.

Thirdly, Christians should marry only those who are free to marry. We live in a fallen world, so people are going to experience broken relationships. Marriages are going to end. Brokenness is woven throughout our lives. Everyone has been affected by divorce. We cannot escape its reach. It is a very present reality. There is a debate among conservative biblical scholars of what qualifies as a biblical divorce and a biblical remarriage. There were debates in Jesus day on what constituted a biblical divorce between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Although there is a debate, there are only two agreed upon reasons for a divorce in the Scriptures: sexual immorality and desertion (Matthew 19:9; 1 Cor. 7:15).

Before you engage in a dating relationship, be sure you are only entering into a relationship with someone that is free to marry. If you are not careful before you enter the relationship, you may find yourself in a very difficult predicate as time goes on.

There are many other things to consider when choosing a spouse: sense of humor, physical attraction, personality, worldview, etc. Bring your friends and spiritual mentors into your life before you enter into a dating relationship. Let them help you ask the tough questions so you can honor the Lord with your choice of a spouse.

The Wisdom of Marriage Contentment

     Proverbs 18:22, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.” Marriage is awesome!! Marriage is a good thing. God loves marriage and wants us to delight in our marriage. One of the reasons that the gravitational center of marriage has changed is because there are a lot of people discontented in their marriages. Discontentment seeps into a marriage in many forms.

Comparison – Comparing your spouse to others breeds discontentment. Even comparing your spouse to themselves 5 to 10 years earlier. Comparison can make us long for someone other than our spouse.

Unrealistic Expectations – This is comparison’s ugly twin. We often place too much on our spouse. We expect them to meet the demands of our souls that only God can meet.

Sin – We are sinners who married sinners. We sin against our spouse which can drive them away from us. We are sinned against by our spouse which can drive us away from them. We need to see sin through the eyes Christ. Jesus did not lay his life down for perfect people, but for sinners. Romans 5:8, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” We are called to treat our spouse with the grace they do not deserve. We treat them as Christ has treated us. God gives us grace to deal with the sin of our spouse. Yet there are times when the sin is so severe it cannot be dealt with alone. If you are in an abusive situation or know someone who is, please find help. We are here for you. You do not have to walk through it alone.

There are a myriad of different reasons discontentment can grow in your marriage which is why Solomon encourages you to delight in your wife. Solomon gives three long discourses in Proverbs 5-7 warning of the dangers of the adulterous woman. She is the picture of folly, inviting men into ruin and destruction. Folly’s call may come from a co-worker, neighbor, a website or a chatroom, but the call will come. How does one stand against folly’s call? It is easy to stand against it if we are delight in our spouse. We must be content with the good gift God has given us.

Marriage is a blessing. Proverbs 18:22, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing.” God wants his people to delight themselves in their spouse because marriage is a sweet and precious gift of God. Solomon gives strong warnings to avoid the adulteress because she leads to death. Listen to the outcome of those who are lured to find satisfaction outside of their marriage.

Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it. (Proverbs 5:5-6)
He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away. (Proverbs 6:32-33)
With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life. And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.  (Proverbs 7:21-27)

The way of folly leads to death. Do not be deceived to think you will find satisfaction outside your marriage. This admonition is both for the married and the single. True intimacy is reserved for marriage.

The key to protecting your marriage is to cultivate contentment within your marriage or your singleness and rejoice in the good gift given by God’s hand. He who finds a wife finds what is good. She who finds a husband finds what is good. Marriage is good. Solomon makes his case in Proverbs 5:15-19,

Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.

Listen to the words Solomon uses to describe one’s satisfaction with one’s wife: rejoice, delight, and intoxicated. The key to healthy marriage is to rejoice and delight in the gift of your spouse. Do you realize how amazing marriage is? Marriage is a gift and all good gifts come from above.

      The key to a healthy marriage is profoundly simple and yet excruciating hard. Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” The key is a healthy marriage is oneness. God desires a husband and wife to be one. Contentment is a fruit of oneness. If couples work to cultivate a one flesh union, they will be content with one another. Marriages fall apart because couples drift away from each other rather than working to remain close to one another. Analyze your marriage with the “oneness test.” Do activities promote oneness or division? Are you “one” in your finances, raising of children, communication, intimacy, time, and/or hobbies? If you are not growing in oneness, there may be gaps of discontentment growing.

      Beloved, marriage is good. Guard you’re the oneness of your marriage with contentment.

The Wisdom of Marriage Peace

      Solomon wants marriages to be at peace. Solomon spends a considerable amount of time warning young men to avoid adultery because its pull is very strong. As men may be drawn away from oneness through sexual temptation and passivity, women are tempted to divide oneness with a critical, quarrelsome spirit.

      Husbands need to take responsibility to lead their marriage in peace. Husbands are called to lay down their lives for their wives to cherish and nourish their souls with the Word of God. Many wives become quarrelsome because husbands abdicate their responsibilities to lead. Imagine a husband and wife on a field playing soccer. An often typical response of a husband is take off his jersey and go sit in the stands. He stops intentionally engaging with his wife, but chooses to passively watch from the distance. Wives, on the other hand, trade jerseys with the referees and start blowing the whistle at their husbands.

      The lack of peace in a marriage is never one-sided. There is sin on both sides of marriage. And if marriages are full of strife, it will be unpleasant for both parties. Solomon writes,

A foolish son is ruin to his father, and a wife's quarreling is a continual dripping of rain. House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD. (Proverbs 19:13-14)
It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife. (Proverbs 21:9)
It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman. (Proverbs 21:19)
It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife. (Proverbs 25:24)
A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike; to restrain her is to restrain the wind or to grasp oil in one's right hand. (Proverbs 27:15-16)

It is not pleasant to live with a quarrelsome wife. God’s desires marriage to be peaceful. Wives have to strive to be at peace with their husbands. Husbands have to strive to be at peace with their wives. Solomon talks often about the quarrelsome wife, but remember both parties may be responsible for the quarreling. Paul gives two main exhortations in Ephesians 5. He tells husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husbands. I believe he gives those exhortations because those are the areas that men and women need to be reminded. Men need to be exhorted to love their wives and women need to be exhorted to respect their husbands.

      A quarrelsome wife may not respect and honor her husband. Wives need to work to cultivate peace in their marriage by addressing the discontentment in their hearts that spills out to discontented speech. But a quarrelsome wife may have a husband that is passive and lazy. The main issue is the “why” a home is quarrelsome. Wives, must first ask if you they are quarrelsome. And if they answer yes, then deal with their heart before the Lord. Lean on other women in the church to help diagnose your own heart. Pray and ask God for help to reveal the reasons for you’re a quarrelsome spirit. And remember an excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but it is not natural to our fallen world. If it was, Solomon would not say, “An excellent wife who can find?” (Prov. 31:10) A prudent wife comes from the Lord.

      If husbands believe their wife to be quarrelsome, they must first ask how they are contributing to her quarrelsome spirit. Wives may appear like the constant drip of the rain because husbands are not talking responsibility to lead their families in word and deed. Husbands may need to get in the game. A husband can help his wife by serving her in a manner that does not invite criticism. Husbands need to intentionally engage in family life so that the wife does not have to feel it is her responsibility to nag her husband. Husbands have to fight to lead while wives have to fight to let them lead. Be patient with each other and fight for peace.

The Wisdom of Marriage Power

        The power of marriage is the gospel. Husbands and wives have to view their spouse through the lenses of Jesus Christ. There are no perfect marriages this side of heaven, but we have the power through Christ to cultivate godly marriages. Every believer in Jesus Christ has been given the Holy Spirit to overcome the flesh and to live in righteousness. Jesus Christ died for sinners. God is not surprised by your sin. If you are struggling in your marriage, there is hope for you. If you are struggling with discontentment, there is hope for you. If you are a quarrelsome wife or a wayward husband, there is hope for you. If you have been divorced, there is hope for you. Jesus Christ died to pay for you. He is calling you to come to Him. He died that you may live. We all have failed in our marriages. We all have been discontented or quarrelsome. Our failures should remind us of the hope we have in Jesus. Jesus died for us. Our only hope in our failures is to cling to Jesus who has made a way for us to be reconciled to God. His grace is greater than our failures. And we do not have to remain failures because God gives us power to overcome our sin.

      The power that God offers sinners is His resurrection power. Christians can overcome temptation because Jesus Christ overcame the grave. Romans 8:10-11, “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” God will give life to our marriages if we trust in Him. God wants our marriages to be a reflection of the gospel. He wants husbands to love their wives as Christ has loved the church. He wants wives to respect and submit their husbands as the church submits to Christ. He wants our marriages to be a fragrant aroma that leads people to the gospel of grace.

      There will be much conversation regarding the Supreme Court ruling to legalize same-sex marriage this past week, but our calling has not changed. We are called to be witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ through word and deed. Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, summarizes this well,

In one sense, everything has changed. And yet, nothing has changed. The cultural and legal landscape has changed, as we believe this will lead to very real harms to our neighbors. But our Christian responsibility has not changed. We are charged to uphold marriage as the union of a man and a woman and to speak the truth in love. We are also commanded to uphold the truth about marriage in our own lives, in our own marriages, in our own families, and in our own churches.

We are called to be the people of the truth, even when the truth is not popular and even when the truth is denied by the culture around us.  Christians have found themselves in this position before, and we will again. God’s truth has not changed. The Holy Scriptures have not changed. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has not changed. The church’s mission has not changed. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.[1]

Beloved, God desires godly marriages. The world needs godly marriages. We have a great opportunity to display God’s wisdom to the world in our marriage. Let us cultivate godly marriages so the world will see and savor the beauty of God’s wisdom.

The Wisdom of Words (Proverbs 22:17-21)


            Over the past several months, our family has experienced a lot of car trouble. We have had windows that will not roll down, doors that will not open, engines that have been over heating and a computer system that would randomly shut off leaving the car without air conditioning and windshield wipers. It has been a rough couple of months on the car front. Our cars have been perishing. We finally had to say goodbye to our family car, Big Blue. It was a 2003 Dodge Caravan with 245,000 miles that served us well, but it had to be replaced. It was a little sad saying goodbye to the family car, but we had seen that day coming for a while.

            We knew the van was sick, because of the noises that we would hear come out of the car. The car was so loud that I could tell when my wife was coming about ½ mile before I could see her. The noises the car makes is often an indication of its physical health. Many mechanics can listen to a car and diagnose the problem simply by listening to the engine. The average car customer, when buying a new car, always listens to the sound of the engine to see if anything sounds odd. The noise coming from a car is a barometer for its physical health. Likewise, the noises our bodies make are a sign of our physical health.

            The first thing the doctor does when he enters the examination room is to take out the stethoscope and listen to your heart. By listening to the noises of the body, he can make observations and judgments about the health of the body. The noises within the body indicate our physical health, but the noises that come out of the body indicate our spiritual health. The words we use are a barometer for our spiritual health. Jesus says, “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.” (Matthew 15:18a) If we want to diagnose our spiritual health, we need to look no further than the tongue. In order to diagnose the health of our own soul, we need to be like the doctor and the mechanic and listen the noises coming out of our mouths. We have to examine their truthfulness and their timeliness.

            A key theme throughout the book of Proverbs is speech. Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” There is power in the tongue. Wisdom calls aloud from the street and beckons us to use our tongues to honor the Lord and to love his people. We have the choice every day to walk the road of folly with the tongue or the way of wisdom. James says, “With the tongue (it) we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:9-10) Our words matter to God. We have the choice and the responsibility to walk in wisdom with our words.

The Wise Speak Gracious Words
    
        Solomon shows throughout the book how death and life are in the power of the tongue. He wants the youth to choose wisdom with their words so that they can be a blessing to their neighbor. It is hard to underestimate the importance of good communication for the health of any relationship or any community of faith. The words we use to one another have power to bring life to the soul. Proverbs 16:24, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” The gracious words we use to and for others function like medicine to the sick soul. Solomon says that the anxious heart weighs a man down, but “a good word makes him glad. (Prov. 12:25) There indeed are so many helpful benefits of the good communication weaved throughout the Proverbs that it will be hard to touch on every one, but it is helpful to remind us how powerful our speech can be for the good of others.

            How often do you sit down at the end of the day and examine how you used your words that day? It is a helpful practice to think through conversations and to examine if our words were edifying. Did we say too much? Did we leave words unsaid? We will never grow in our speech unless we see the importance of it. All animals communicate to varying degrees, but only human beings have been given the power of speech. God has given us speech because we were made in God’s image. The very first words in the Bible, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…and God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light.” God speaks and creates life. Beloved, God has given us this gift. We speak and create life. Our words should be life-giving to our neighbors. Proverbs 10:11, “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.” God has given us the power to speak life into people’s wearied souls.

            The most obvious way we speak life is to speak the gospel. Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “As we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:4) We speak the gospel because the gospel brings life. We should make a practices of speaking the gospel to our neighbors for this pleases God who tests our hearts.

If you are a visitor today, I wonder what you think when you hear the word gospel? ”Gospel” simply means good news. It is the good news about how God has sent His Son, Jesus Christ to stand in the place of sinners. God spoke the world into existence. He created man and breathed life into his body. Man rebelled against God’s Word and turned to folly. And because of Adam and Eve’s sin, we were born sinners. Born as fools. Our foolishness deserves to be punished. The Bible states that all fools will perish forever in a literal Hell. But God does not only speak a word of judgment, but a word of salvation. The good news is God sent Jesus Christ to us. He lived a perfect life and was punished as a fool on a cross to pay for our foolishness. He was dead and buried, but God raised him from the dead. Jesus overcame death and hell in his resurrection. And the beautiful word of the gospel is that if anyone turns from their sins and trust in Christ, then his death will be credited to you along with his resurrection. Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. You can be saved from the consequences of your foolish, by turning from your sins and trusting in Christ.

Beloved, the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life so let us speak of the gospel that brings forth the fountain of living water. Let us speak about Jesus.

Of course we want our lips to constantly be extolling the gospel, but we also are going to speak about a variety of issues. The Scriptures should govern all our communication so let me give two practical questions that one can ask to improve their communication with others. “Should I say anything?” It is so easy to get in trouble by not practicing restraint. We do not need to speak into every situation. As Elvis has said, “Only Fools Rush In.” We can intentionally speak life by first asking if I should speak at all.  “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” (Proverbs 13:3) “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” (Proverbs 21:23) We all have probably had the experience of regret after quickly saying something foolish only to realize we can never take what we said back. Training our minds to ask the question, “Should I say anything?” will help us grow in much needed restraint in our communication. “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18) Do not thrust the sword at your neighbor, but use a wise tongue to bring healing. This should be truth for all Christian communication, including that which occurs online.

The second question we should ask is, “What is the right word to say?” After we discover if we should say anything, then we need to think through what to say. Remember the goal is to speak life, not to voice our opinions. We want to speak life-giving gracious words, for a timely word is beautiful to its hearers.  “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11) “To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!” (Proverbs 15:23) We want to bring joy to our neighbors. Of course this requires thought and wisdom, but in working to find the right words we will speak life to our neighbors.

The Wise Avoid Foolish Words

            The wise speaks words of life, but they also avoid the various ways fools communicate. Pastor Ray Ortlund speaks about the seriousness of foolish communication by comparing it to the awful sin of adultery. He writes, “I have never seen a church split over the sin of adultery. Gossip is a sin rarely disciplined, but often more socially destructive than the sensational sins.” Gossip is one form of foolish speech and has destroyed countless people’s lives. I have seen relationships destroyed in my own family because of someone’s misrepresented, manipulating gossip. One of the best ways to have a healthy church community is to resolve ourselves to avoid using our words like a fool. As we examine the list of the particular foolish use of words, ask yourself which ones you are most tempted by and then work to eradicate them from your life.

Fools Lie

Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight. (Proverbs 12:22) A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin. (Proverbs 26:28) There are many reasons people lie: fear, shame, vengeance, or cowardice. Christians have been called to truth by Him who is Truth. God never lies and as his people neither should we.

Fools Flatter

Flattery is a cousin to lying, but just as dangerous. Flattery excessive and insincere praise, especially that given to further one's own interests. Flattery may not be malicious, but that does not mean it isn’t dangerous. Flattery may allow people to put confidence in skills that they do not possess. “A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.” (Proverbs 26:28) “A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.” (Proverbs 29:5)

Fools Gossip

            As I stated above, gossip is one of the deadliest forms of foolish speech. “Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret.” (Proverbs 25:9) “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.” (Prov. 11:13) We are guilty of gossip when we repeat that which is not worthy of repeating. Ending gossip is a community project. It involves both the gossiper and the one who listens to the gossip. “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.” (Proverbs 20:19) For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. (Proverbs 26:20) If the whisperer has no one to whisper to, then they cannot whisper.

Fools Create Strife

            The end result of poor, foolish communication is that it divides and fractures relationships. Christians must be zealous for unity. Jesus prayed in John 17 that we should be one as Jesus and the Father are one. The unity of the church was on Jesus’ mind right before he hung on the cross. Proverbs 18:6 says “A fool’s lips bring strife,” and among the things listed in Proverbs 6 that God hates is “one who sows discord among brothers.”

Beloved, God views unity with the highest importance, and so must we. Do not use your lips to fracture the body. God hates the one who sows discord among the brothers. Repent of your use of foolish speech and giving an ear to foolish speech. Wise communication is a community project. Let us strive for unity in the bond of peace.

The Wise Heed Difficult Words

            We should exercise restraint in our communication. We should avoid foolish ways of communicating. We should be very careful with our words, but biblical communication still requires us to correct and admonish one another. Most people avoid correction or admonishment like the dentist. We do not want to give correction because there is the possibility of hurting someone we care about. I would say that withholding admonishments and correction actually does more to hurt the people we care about. Withholding correction is one form of selfishness. We are afraid more of how we will be received than the good of our brother or sister in Christ.

The other reason we do not offer correction is that people do not take correction well. In our flesh, we want to defend ourselves when corrected. The righteous should delight in correction because it leads us deeper into wisdom. Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. (Proverbs 12:1 ESV) We want to love discipline for it is a sign we love the knowledge of the Lord. When we buck up against reproof it is our pride welling up in us. Human pride is against the Lord and the Lord is against the proud.

As Christians, we no longer need to worry about justifying ourselves. God is the one who justifies. And he justifies not on the basis of your righteous works but on His mercy. When someone corrects us and we get defensive, the kernel of self-righteousness is growing in your soul. It says, “This can’t be true about me, because if it is, then I will be in trouble.” The gospel says, “I am a sinner and will continue to sin until I die, but thanks be to God who saves me from this body of death.” How we respond to criticism is a good indicator of our true belief of the gospel? Do I need to justify myself? Or do I trust in the justification given to me by Jesus Christ?

Solomon continues contrast the righteous and the wicked in their ability to hear rebuke. A wise son hears his father's instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. (Proverbs 13:1) A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool. (Proverbs 17:10) Reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge. (Proverbs 19:25b) As the words we say indicate the spiritual health of our hearts, so too how we hear and listen to rebuke. We should not be defensive and self-justifying when we hear correction, but delight that God has sent someone to give us an opportunity to trust in the full atoning work of the gospel. Correction also gives Christians the opportunity to grow and move to Christ. Beloved, I pray we would grow into a community who both gives and receives correction well. It is an indicator of our spiritual health.

The Wise Reflect the Word

Ultimately, the reason we want to use wise words is because they reflect the Incarnate Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word, has called us to be salt and light to the world. The words we use reflect Him. Proverbs 30:5, “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” We want people to see God through our words. Every one of His words prove true so we want our words to prove true. We want all our words to be gracious and seasoned with salt so that we can draw men’s gaze to our great and glorious Savior. For drawing men’s gaze is to Jesus Christ is the only way one’s heart can be changed. If we want the world to be wise, then we point people to Jesus Christ. If we want our words to be wise, we fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.

Jesus Christ is the perfect Word. The more we focus on him, the more we will become like him. Jesus Christ always spoke gracious words. John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” Peter confirms this a few verses later, “Lord, to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life.” The Words of Jesus Christ, the Righteous, are a fountain of life welling up to eternal life.

Jesus Christ always avoided foolish words. He never lied, flattered, gossiped, or slandered. “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:22-23) Jesus never spoke in sin, but avoided all foolish speech. He is wisdom personify. He lived and spoke as true wisdom.

Jesus Christ also heeded the most difficult word ever spoken. The word spoken by His Father that sent him to the cross. Jesus was sent in the world to be disciplined for the sins of his people. Jesus wanted the cup to pass from him. He prayed in the garden, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Jesus cared more about the Word of His Father more than he did about his own life. He became obedient to death, even death on the cross. Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the Name that is all names. And at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess he is Lord. Jesus heeded the hard word of the cross and God raised him from the dead. And because he heeded the Word spoken by the Father, we now can heed the same word by taking up our cross and following Him. And we too, like him, will be raised to life on the last day.


Beloved, we should care about our words because they reflect our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. King Jesus has taught us and continues to teach us to be wise in our words. Let the wise words of our Savior be forever on our lips, for that will show that He is the Lord of our heart.

The Wisdom of Work (Proverbs 6:6-11; Proverbs 26:12-16)


      The average person will spend 80,000 hours at work in their life. An article published in the Business Insider a few years ago detailed some interesting facts about the workplace.
  • 80% of people are dissatisfied with their jobs.
  • On average, Americans work 8 different jobs before they are 30.
  • 25% of employees say work is their main source of stress and 40% say their job is "very or extremely” stressful.
  • More than 13 million working days are lost every year because of stress-related illnesses.
  • The average American spends 100 hours commuting each year.
  • 64% of Americans canceled vacations last year. One-third did it for work-related reasons even though most felt they were more in need of a vacation than the year before.
  • In the United States, workers take an average of 57 percent of their vacation days. That means most of us voluntarily give up about 50 percent of the time off we're legally allowed so we can continue to work instead.
  • 25% of people check into work hourly while on vacation, via email and phone. 59% said they check work during traditional holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. Basically, work is everywhere.[1]

Work is everywhere. Everyone will be called to work in one way or another. Are we all destined to be dissatisfied and stressed during our work life? How do we approach our work? How should we understand the purpose of work? How can we approach Monday morning with joy instead of dread? How should our faith impact our work lives?

      German Sociologist and Economist Max Weber coined the term “Protestant Work Ethic” in 1905 in his seminal work, “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” He argues in the book that the protestant work ethic traced back to Martin Luther redefined worldly work as one’s Christian duty that benefits both the individual and society as a whole. Since the Protestant Reformation, the church has believed that one’s faith should be displayed as a sign of grace. So one’s hard work and frugality became markers that one possessed a true faith in Christ. One’s work was a picture of the grace one had received by Christ.

      Work has always been important in our culture. The Protestant Work Ethic built America’s railroads, supplied factories, and harvested crops. America grew in cultural dominance because of the people’s ability to work. Although there are many who still value work, there are others who have given their work an inordinate amount of power in their lives. Some work too much, while others do not work enough. Solomon hoped to encourage and warn to young people to have them see the importance of work while guarding against the dangers of poor work habits. Before we dig into the practical exhortations, let us first build a brief theology of work.

The Theology of Work

            What we believe shapes how we live. If we want to live right, we must first believe right. Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Work has always been part of God’s world.

God Designed Work

            Work was established in the opening two chapters of Genesis. After God created Adam and Ever he charged them to work to care for his good world, Genesis 1:28, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” Adam and Eve were called to exercise dominion or to work to care for the garden. In the parallel account of creation, in Genesis 2:5, “there was no man to work the ground,” so God formed man and Genesis 2:15, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Work was created and designed by God. It is good.

God Cursed Work
            The world used to cooperate alongside humanity to bring joy to a man’s hands while he worked the ground, but after man’s sinful rebellion God cursed our work. Our work would no longer be easy, but difficult. God cursed Adam’s work saying to him,

Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:17-19)

The ground now works against humanity. The sweat that Adam experienced in the garden is like stress we feel before walking into the office on Monday before a presentation. The curse brought sweat and stress into our work.

God Redeemed Work

            God had pity on humanity. We were under the curse of sin and death so God sent his Son to redeem us from the curse by being cursed for us. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:13-14) Christ became a curse to reverse the curse. He came that we may have life and life abundantly. He restored purpose in our work. He restored promises from our work. We no longer live to serve ourselves in our work, but now we live to serve him.

            A key text on work is Colossians 3:22-24 where Paul redefines our work by redefining our master. He writes,

Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:22-24)

Every day we work, we are serving Jesus Christ. This should give us purpose in any job we have whether if it is a ditch digger or a stay-at home mom, a sales rep or a CEO, a janitor or a postman. Every job has value because it is done for the honor of the Lord Christ. We get to serve Jesus through our jobs. Praise God for his kindness to allow sinners to experience joy and eternal value in our work.
           The Bible never speaks about retirement. Retirement is a modern construct. You may no longer need the money for a paycheck, but that does not mean you are not called to work. The Bible says whatever we do we are to work heartily unto the Lord. It is the Lord Christ we are serving. Many of you no longer work for wages, but continue to work diligently for the good of your family members who need care, for your community, and for your church. Whatever stage of life we are in, we must view it through the lens of Scripture. We should always live with an eye on eternity whether we are 15 or 75 years old. (I would commend to you John Piper’s Rethinking Retirement: Finishing Life for the Glory of Christ.)

      This 30,000 foot view of work should shape your 9-5. It should shape every minute of every hour of every day of your life. We have been purchased with a price. We are not our own, but belong, body and soul, life and death, to God, and to our Savior Christ Jesus. We want to work wisely, not only for practical benefits, but for the glory of the Lord Christ. It is from him we will receive our inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading. And Proverbs has much to say about how the wise work. Although many of us will apply these principles to our jobs, keep in mind that your job is only a small part of your work. How we work encompasses our jobs, our home life, and our service.

The Wise Works Diligently

      All of the exhortations to wise work can be summed up in one word: diligence. Diligence is constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken; persistent exertion of body or mind; careful and persistent effort. This is something that desperately needs to be recovered in our society. We all have personal stories of those who demonstrate diligence in their work and frustrations of those who are slack in their work. According to God’s Word, the wise will work hard. We have to recover a healthy, robust biblical view of work. Besides honoring the Lord, there are practical benefits to working diligently.

They Have Resources

            It is easy to spiritualize work, but we cannot avoid that we work to get money to pay our bills and put food on the table. We do not work only for money, but we do work for money. Proverbs are generally true, but not always true. There are people who work hard, but are still in poverty. The majority of world is filled with people in this situation, who for whatever the reason, be it systematic problems, discrimination, or infrastructure, work hard, but have little to show for it.

Although it is true that some hard workers are poor, often those who become wealthy are diligent. Proverbs 10:4, “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” The diligent hand is careful and persistent. Wealth does not come over night, but it takes long term faithfulness. My uncle worked as a HVAC repairman for years. He lived a modest life, but retired a very wealthy man. His years of diligence gave him riches. Proverbs 21:5, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” Proverbs 13:4 says, “The soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” A general rule is those who work harder have more in the end. Slow and steady diligent work is a picture of a wise worker.

Let us consider the ant. Let us learn from her ways and be wise for, “Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” (Proverbs 6:7) Work hard, work steady and you will have the resources you need to live.

They Have Rule

            Not only will the wise worker have resources, but he will also rule over people. Proverbs 12:24, “The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.” Those who work hard are often the ones promoted and trusted with the responsibility to lead. It is always a poor move to promote someone who is lazy, but diligent worker will eventually rule over those with little effort. 1 Timothy 5:25, “So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.” Our good works will not remain hidden and we will be rewarded for them.

They Have Reputation

Proverbs 22:29, “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” Diligence will lead to skill which will lead to influence. Frank Chodorov wrote how political figures were once required to demonstrate reputation of skill in his work. He writes,

There was a time, in these United States, when a candidate for public office could qualify with the electorate only by fixing his birthplace in or near the “log cabin”…In short, he had to be “self made.” The so-called Protestant Ethic then prevalent held that man was a sturdy and responsible individual, responsible to himself, his society, and his God. Anybody who could not measure up to that standard could not qualify for public office or even popular respect.

You do not work for the reputation. You work and you will get a reputation. A man in our church, Olin McKee, has the reputation as one of the finest business men in Rock Hill. He built half the city, because his work was such a high quality, he received a reputation of excellence. His reputation kept in business for over 30 years. The diligent will receive a reputation that is fitting for the God they serve. 

They Have Righteousness

            Christians are called to work hard, but they are also called to work in righteousness. A shoemaker once asked Martin Luther., “How should he make shoes for the glory of God?”  Luther responded, “Make a good shoe and sell it at a fair price.” Christian should operate in the public sphere with kindness and equity. Proverbs 16:11, “A just balance and scales are the Lord's; all the weights in the bag are his work.” Proverbs 20:23, “Unequal weights are an abomination to the Lord, and false scales are not good.” It is tempting to sell things above their value or to buy things below their value. On the last day, a few dollars will not be worth it. We are living for the Lord Christ. We should work for righteousness. We bear His name so let us conduct our business in a way that fitting to the Lord.

They Have Risk

There are many blessings to work, but there also are some very potent pitfalls. Bob Schultz writes in his book, Created for Work: Practical Insights for Young Men,

The grand quality of diligence, which is essential when you begin working, turns a man into a workaholic if not balanced. The freedoms that bless the industrious become snares when given to selfish pleasure. The diligent are tempted to forget God, trust in riches, and look down on the poor. What once was the reward of hard work quickly transforms resources to fulfill the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Be on guard. God designs the diligent to collect resources and talents with the goal to use them in an appropriate season for good. As always, Jesus leads us by His example.[2]

Diligence turns into a snare when people do not fear the Lord. Diligence must be placed under the protection of the fear of the Lord.

It is very easy to have work become an idol. Our work becomes an idol when we give it more importance than the Lord. Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert write in God at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs,

For many people today, their passion is their job and all things their job and all of the things their job can provide for them – money, status, identity, pleasure and purpose. Our jobs capture our hearts and our devotion. We give ourselves to them day in and day out. They become the primary object of our passions, our energy, and our love. We may not be willing to admit it, but we worship our jobs.

Have you given your work too much importance in your life? Does you work give you ultimate satisfaction? Or does it give you a sense of meaning or value? Work is a terrible god because it can never satisfy. It always wants more: more to be done and more to be achieved. Satisfaction will always be elusive. We cannot be defined by our jobs, but by our King. The most important title in our lives is not Senior Pastor or Senior Vice President, but Christian.

Another danger to the diligent is compartmentalization. There are many who are diligent at work, but may be a sluggard at home. Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” We serve Christ at the office and in caring for the home. Diligence at work can also lead people to become spiritual sluggards. God has given the Sabbath to protect us from the snares of diligence. We rest from our labors on Sunday as a reminder to live for the eternal Sabbath rest for the people of God in heaven. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul? Regularly practicing the Sabbath will guard our hearts from the idolatry of work.

The Sluggard Works Lazily

If the main attribute of wise work is diligence, than the main attribute of foolish work is sloth. The Proverbs contrast the diligent and sluggard frequently. The sluggard is wise in his own eyes and allows pleasure and ease to dominate his life. The main problem of a sluggard is that he does not see the value of work. He does not serve others, but wants others to serve him. There are great dangers for the sluggard.

They Have Hunger

If the diligent are satisfied, the sluggards are hungry. Proverbs 12:27, “Whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth.” Proverbs 13:4, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” Proverbs 20:4, The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.” In an agrarian society, one’s food had to be cultivated from the land. A sluggard who refuses to work the land did not eat. The modern advancements in our society may mask sloth by not allowing the sluggards to experience the consequences for their slack hand.

They Have Hem-Haws

            Sluggards are full of excuses for not doing the work.  They hem and haw when asked to work. Proverbs 26:13-14, “The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets! As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed.” A sluggard can always find a reason not to complete a task. They put off until tomorrow what should be done today. Sluggards may do the work, but they give excuses why mediocre work is ok. When I was 16 years old, I worked in maintenance for an outdoor mall. My job one Saturday was to weed the little decorative pebble islands throughout the parking lot. The work was tedious and boring. I decided that it was easier to shift the pebbles over the weeds rather than pull them. I excused my lazy, slack work because “no one” could tell the difference. Be on guard for the excuses in your work. Serve gladly and with a cheerful heart whether at work, at home or in the church. Remember you are serving the Lord Christ.

They Have Hatred

      Sluggards do not love their neighbors. Our work is an expression of our love for God and our love for our neighbor. Sloth does not serve others and should be taken seriously. We cannot minimize the sin of sloth. Proverbs 10:26, “Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him.” Proverbs 18:9, “Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.” If you have ever sat around a fire and had smoke get in your eyes, you know how frustrating it can be. The smoke stifles the pleasure and enjoyment of the fire. A sluggard stifles pleasure and enjoyment of others. They serve themselves and do not serve others.

Paul writes to the Ephesians how the new life in Christ should change our work habits, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” (Ephesians 4:28) How one worked in and for the community was a sign of their faith. Do you view your work as a way to love your neighbor and community?

They Have Helpers

            Sluggards are fools. Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. Sloth is bound up in all of our hearts. We all have tendencies to live as sluggards in different areas, but we cannot accommodate for sluggards. There seems to be an epidemic among young people who have an aversion to hard work. The problem is not with the young people, but with the people who enable and accept that behavior. If you serve the flesh, the flesh will grow. It does not serve our children or Christian brothers and sisters to enable their laziness. Paul warns the Thessalonians how to handle idleness,

For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-15)

We are obligated to warn people of the dangers of idleness and if necessary allow them to experience the consequences of laziness.

The world may tolerate sloth, but Christ does not. Sluggards do not love the community, but love themselves. Those who love themselves do not love God and are in danger. It is not loving ignore laziness, but we most admonish the idle.

The Gospel at Work
    
        Beloved, God has redeemed our work through the gospel. Who we work for is far more important than what we do. We serve King Jesus through our work. We should approach our work as way to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. We should allow God to use our work to sanctify us and to serve our neighbors. We should approach our jobs not as a means to an end, but as an expression of our Christian discipleship for the glory of God. Paul tells Titus that Jesus Christ, “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:14) Jesus Christ laid down his life so that we could work diligently for his glory. God’s people should care about their jobs. Our jobs matter to God. He died and rose again to purify us to work to display God’s glory. Our work does not save us, but is a sign of God’s grace in our lives. God allows us to work so let us work for good of our neighbors and the glory of God.




image credit - http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://satravelblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Festive-Fridays.jpg&imgrefurl=http://satravelblog.com/melt-your-stress-away-with-festive-fridays-at-ruimsig/&h=2808&w=4212&tbnid=euYCnCY9rojxzM:&zoom=1&docid=CWNd_gQZijjbvM&ei=ld5YVdrsE4jzggTCpYDgDA&tbm=isch&ved=0CDgQMygGMAY
http://apologetics.servantsofgrace.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/TheologyofWork.jpg
http://www.watermark.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Diligence.jpg
https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTQvsb2SAiFwyKWV0rLdMfRIy2OHAqkhAARhP858iQl8yuV0uoL

Wisdom of the Parenting (Proverbs 23:12-19)


In December 2014, Caitlyn Ricci won a court case to receive tuition for her college education. Court cases are won and lost every day, but what made this case interesting is that Ricci won this case against her parents.  Ricci believed that she was entitled to college education and her parents were obligated to foot the bill[i]. This may be an extreme example of American entitlement, but it is a great picture of the foolishness that is bound up in the heart of a child. And even more amazing than this youthful foolishness is the fact that two separate judges would affirm her self-will and entitlement forcing her parents to pay up. We are no longer living in the Age of the Enlightenment, but the Age of Entitlement.

            How did we get here? How did we get to a place where a child could sue her parents for thousands of dollars demanding that they pay for her college education and win the courts? How did we get to a place where we live in an age of entitlement rather than an age of service? There are many reasons, but one of the biggest ones is the failure of parents to impart wisdom to their children. We are bearing the fruit of foolishness. We have a society run adrift with a lack of sense. Our nation has turned its back on God and God has given her over to bear the fruit of her folly. Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” In God’s good design, he has given parents to rear children away from folly into wisdom.
      
     
How can you fix the nation? Beloved, we will only be as good as the families that comprise the nation. And the only way to change the family is through the fear of the Lord. We can recover wise principles of child rearing through the pages of Proverbs. Proverbs gives parents wisdom on how to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Every home may apply these principles slightly differently, but every home should strive to intentionally implement biblical wisdom in how they raise their children.

The Wise Desire of Child Rearing

Before we can get the practical instructions of parenting, we first must establish the goal of our parenting. When you begin a journey, it is wise to have a final destination in mind. If I invited you over to my house for dinner, you will need the address to get to my house. So if we are going to be wise parents, we have to know where we are going with our kids. Or maybe another way to put it, how would you define successful parenting? At the end of the parenting journey, how would you measure if you are a successful parent? How you answer these questions will inform the practical steps you take to get there.

The goal of all Christian parents is teach their children the fear of the Lord. If a child fears the Lord then everything will flow in the right direction. Listen to these Proverbs,

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (Proverbs 9:10)
The fear of the LORD prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short. (Proverbs 10:27)
In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. (Proverbs 14:26-27)
The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm. (Proverbs 19:23)

The fear of the Lord is the river that waters the valley. The fear of the Lord is the steel frame that supports a mighty tower. And to fear the Lord is to know Jesus Christ. He is the one that saves from death (Col 1:21, Prov. 14:27). He is the one who prolongs life (John 3:16, Prov. 10:27). He is our refuge (Prov. 14:26). He leads to life and satisfies our weary soul (Matt 11:28, Prov. 19:23, John 4:14). Is your deepest desire for children that they may know Christ and make Him known? If this is not your desire, then pray for your own heart to fear of the Lord for your sake and your children’s, for if your children to the fear of the Lord, the rest will fall into place. This is our goal. And this goal should impact our day to day lives. How does this or that activity support the goal of fear of the Lord? Or what about our educational choices? Television shows? Books? Technology? Sports? When sports are played?
      
      The main problem I see in the church is not that we do not want our kids to fear the Lord, I believe they do, but they set up systems in their family’s life to divert from that mission. The problem is that most people are not asking the right questions. So two questions that you can honestly discuss this afternoon, “Do we have the right goal?” and “Does our family life reflect that goal?” And be honest with yourselves. There are some of you who need to make some changes in your family life. Please do not skip over these questions.

The Wise Direction in Child Rearing

I never shot a gun before I moved to the south. And the first time I shot a gun, we didn’t start with shooting. We started with picking a target and working on aiming at that target. You don’t start shooting until you know what you are shooting at. So if you are know your aim is the fear of the Lord, how do you shoot to hit the target? There are four primary ways God has given to directing our children in the fear of the Lord. I won’t spend a lot of time on the first, even though it may be the most important. The most important aspect of wise child rearing is to live a wise life. It is impossible to teach the fear of the Lord until you first possess the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Remember the fear of the Lord is the river that nourishes the value and which supports the mighty tower. Proverbs 20:7, “The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him!” Imitation is the greatest form of flattery and children have an innate sense to follow what they see in their parents. He who walks with the wise is wise. If you are wise, the odds dramatically increase that your children will be wise. And that gives you the drive to do the next 3 things.

Secondly, to direct you children to the fear of the Lord, you must instruct and teach them wisdom. Children are born precious, but they are also born sinners. Children come with righteousness not included. They have to be taught and instructed in the way of righteousness, and this instruction fills the pages of proverbs. Listen:

Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching, for they are a        graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. (Proverbs 1:8-9)
Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life. (Proverbs 4:23)
Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her. (Proverbs 8:10-11)
Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. (Proverbs 8:33)
Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray. (Proverbs 10:17)
A wise son hears his father's instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. (Proverbs 13:1)

There is this refrain over and over again to the youth to listen to instruction and teaching. Let me draw a couple of principles here. First, children listen to your parents. Remember the book of Proverbs is written to young people and its chorus is “Listen!” Listen and hold tight to your parents’ instruction. You need to develop a “yes ma’am and yes sir” mentality. Do not speak back to your parents. Honor them by how you listen to their words and respect their insight. When you do not listen to your parents, you are hurting yourselves. Would you ever take a hammer and smash your thumb on purpose? Well, Proverbs says that when you do not listen to the wise instruction and teaching of your parents it is like you are hitting your thumb with a hammer on purpose.

The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence. The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 15:31-33)

Do not hurt yourself on purpose, listen to your parents. God takes that very seriously.

Secondly, parents instruct your children. You have to be intentional in how you instruct your children. Put down your phones and talk to your children. Take walks and teach them about the diversity and beauty in God’s world. Set aside daily time to read the Bible together and pray. Sing with kids. We have excellent opportunities for your children to learn while they are here during our gatherings, but our church will only be as strong as the families who come. And families will only be strong if parents are intentional about instructing their children in godliness. Beloved, please care more about your children’s godly character than their athletic success. 1 Tim 4:7-8, “Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Do not short-change their spiritual lives by setting their minds on earthly pursuits. Sports and the arts have a place, but should never have the primary place.

The world is teaching and instructing your children. It is training your children to focus on the here and now. Philippians 3:17-20,

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. (Remember the first way to learn the fear of the Lord is by watching and imitating) For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. (Listen to how Paul defines the enemies of the cross of Christ) Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, (Philippians 3:17-20)

Do not set your mind on earthly things, but set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.


            One of the most famous verses on child-rearing is Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” This verse has been misunderstood greatly. Literally verse 6 should read, “Train a child in his way and when he is old he will not turn from it.” The question is who the “his” is referring too. Most people usually read that as referring to God’s way, so train a child in God’s way and when he is old and he will not turn from it. Most scholars believe it is referring to the child. Train a child in the child’s way and when he is old, he will not turn from it. So one reading is a blessing while the other reading is a judgment. We also have to remember that proverbs are not meant to be promises, but they are wisdom sayings, which means that this is typically the way things work. Commentator Bruce Watke believes that if we train up a child in God’s way than that training will make an impression that is inescapable on the child. It does not necessarily mean the child will walk in the training, but the training will never leave him. Regardless, we have to understand than molding is best done when the cement is still wet. Take advantage of the early years of your children. The instruction of the earliest years will leave a permanent impression.

The Wise Discipline of Child Rearing

The third way we can be wise in our children rearing is through discipline. The word for instruction and discipline are the same Hebrew word, but when it was written in the context of physical instruction it was translated discipline. If verbal instruction is given to prevent folly, then discipline is physically instructing the child from continuing in folly. There is a progression of instruction. It begins with a verbal instruction and, if not heeded, it extends to physical. Listen to the importance of discipline (physical instruction) Solomon gives,

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. (Proverbs 13:24)
Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death. (Proverbs 19:18)
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15)
Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol. (Proverbs 23:13-14)
The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. (Proverbs 29:15)
Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart. (Proverbs 29:17)

“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child” means that children are naturally bent to folly. And we have to expand our normal way thinking about folly. For example:

Fools reject wisdom and instruction (15:5; 1:7, 22, 32; 10:8; 18:2; 30:11, 17; 20:20); Fools don’t respect their parents (19:26; 30:17); Fools choose foolish and wicked companions (13:20; 14:7; 22:24); Fools talk too much (12:23; 13:16; 15:2; 18:7; 29:11, 20); Fools are boastful (27:1–2); Fools are proud (14:16; 28:26); Fools justify their sin (12:15; 28:26); Fools are self-centered (18:2); Fools are quick-tempered (12:16, 18; 14:17, 29); Fools are argumentative and quarrelsome (18:6; 20:3; 26:4–5; 29:9); Fools gossip and tattle (11:13; 20:19); Fools get into mischief (10:23); Fools mock at sin (14:9); Fools are stubborn (17:10); Fools are unreliable (26:6); Fools flatter and manipulate (29:5); Fools are lazy (10:5); Fools lie (12:22; 26:18–29); Fools steal (28:24); Fools are unwise with money (14:24; 28:24); Fools are immoral (7:22; 29:3); Fools abuse intoxicating substances (23:29–35); Fools are gluttons (28:7).[ii]

Children are naturally prone to foolishness, so physical correction (corporeal punishment or spanking) is a tool that drives folly from their hearts. The rod has the power to awaken our children to the fear of the Lord, which brings them to true wisdom.

      Physical instruction or spanking is a tool given to parents by God drive out foolishness and lead our children to wisdom. To neglect the rod is to leave our children in foolishness which is not love, but hate. To spare the rod is to hate the child, because it leaves the child in foolishness and eternal danger. Physical discipline has been under attack in recent years because parents have abused the rod. Biblical spanking should be done in love. The point of discipline is love, therefore it should never be done in anger. Spanking should always be done in a way that shows a special love for our children as a special creation made in the image of God[iii]. Our discipline should model the Lord’s discipline. Proverbs 3:11-12, “My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” The goal of discipline is to turn our children from folly (in its many expressions) back to the wise way of the Lord.

We exercise discipline in the Spirit of Jesus who took our discipline. Isaiah 53:5, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement (discipline) that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” Jesus took our discipline. We were all once foolish and disobedient, but when the goodness and loving kindness of our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of our works done in righteousness. He saved us by his own mercy. We must discipline our children in the spirit of the Gospel knowing every time we use the rod, we have had one who took the rod on our behalf. This should discipline in love and humility. We have been healed by the wounds of another and our discipline to our children helps them learn the fear of the Lord and to be saved by the same wounds. Hebrew 12:11, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Let our discipline yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness as we train up our children in the way of the Lord.
Susanna Wesley wrote a letter to her son John Wesley on July 24th, 1732 explaining the importance of discipline for the foolish self-will in a child. She writes,

Self-will is the root of all sin and misery, so whatever nourishes this in children, insures their later wretchedness and irreligion. Whatever checks and mortifies it, promotes their future happiness and piety. This is still more evident, if we further consider, that religion is nothing else than the doing the will of God and not our own will. Self-will is the one grand impediment to our temporal and eternal happiness and no indulgences of it can be trivial, no denial unprofitable. Heaven or hell depends on this alone. So that the parent who studies to subdue it in his child, works together with God in the renewing and saving a soul. The parent who indulges it does the devil’s work, makes religion impracticable, salvation unattainable, and does all that in him lies, to damn his child’s body and soul for ever![iv]

Discipline is loving. It is not, however, loving to ignore laziness, anger or lying. Do not nourish the self-will and entitlement that keeps a child against the Lord. Our world does not love wisdom, so there is no doubt that the tools that God has given for wisdom will be under attack. Laws have already been proposed to make spanking illegal, but we press on in the wisdom of the Lord, setting our minds on heavenly things. We work with his tools to train our children in the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (If you would like more information on the rod, I would recommend Shepherding a Child’s Heart, by Ted Tripp or Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Hubbard.)

The Wise Dependence of Child Rearing

There are no perfects parents. We are going to mess up, and when we recognize our inability to parent perfectly, it is a sign of wisdom and it will drive us to depend on God. The fourth way of wise child rearing is dependence on God. There are godly and wise parents whose children have walked away from the Lord into foolishness. We train a child, but the child is still accountable for his actions. Therefore we pray and pray and pray that God would show his grace to our children. We pray they would walk with wise. We pray they would listen to our instruction. We pray for the strength to lovingly teach and discipline our children. Child rearing is not something we are called to do in our own strength. Whatever we do we do for the glory of God through the strength he provides.  We do what we train our children to do, Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  

The Wise Delight of Child Rearing

There are few greater tasks then rearing a child in the faith. There will be days that you will feel that you are burdened beyond your strength, but God’s grace is sufficient. And the journey is worth it. The delight that comes with laboring with the Lord for wise sons and daughters is a precious gift. I am still in the middle of my journey, but I have seen the joy in a mother’s and father’s face when their children are walking in the truth.

My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad. My inmost being will exult when your lips speak what is right. The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice. (Proverbs 23:15-16; 24-25)

Let us be wise parents and labor for the hearts of our children. I pray in our last days, we will echo words of the Apostle John who said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4)





[ii] Newheiser, J. (2008). Opening up Proverbs (pp. 149–150). Leominster: Day One Publications.
image credit (https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSEEM3OCaRF6yQKlfw4XkVTd9PQ-WluKE2LB9IbTiEcsjz2F8_Q-Q)
Image credit (https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/6e/6b/05/6e6b05ac5456e71750c96cd3203e31fe.jpg)

The Wisdom of Friendships (Proverbs 17:17; Proverbs 18:24 Proverbs 27:6; 9)



Catholic Theologian Thomas Aquinas has said, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” True friendship is a sweet gift, but it is indeed very rare. In our world of hyper-connectivity and a plethora of online friends and followers, many of us are starving for true friendship. We are always connected with one another, but rarely are truly connected to one another.

Friendship is one of the most important and most practical virtues that one can possess to obtain wisdom. The goal of the book of Proverbs is to help people get wisdom. Proverbs 4:5-9,

Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.

Solomon urges us to prize wisdom so highly that we should pursue her with all our might. And yet before we pursue wisdom, we have to see the value of wisdom. True friendship is one of tools that help people live in wisdom. Think of all the decisions that we face that require us to use wisdom: who should we marry, where should I live, should I move closer to my family, how many kids should I have, how often should I vacation, how many activities should I put my kids in, where should I go to church, etc. The list goes on and on. We need wisdom for all of life. And I believe that God in his sovereign, eternal wisdom has given us true friendship to guide us to pursue wisdom.

I remember having a conversation in college with one of my roommates. We were upperclassman and had recently met some freshman. We were astonished at how easy it was to identify which of the freshman had close friends growing up. There was a remarkable difference among those who had close friends. Looking back I would now say that we saw wisdom in people who possessed close friendships. I want to encourage you to be intentional in your friendships. Proverbs believes friendship is paramount to wisdom. We must choose wise friends and be wise friends. We first have to see the power of friendship.

The Wise Power of Friendship

Friendship is important. There is something very sweet about friendships. As Aquinas has said, “There is nothing on this earth to be more prized than true friendship.” We have to prize friendship because society desires to push it out. When life gets busy, the first thing that is often cut out of our lives is friendship. Our society highlights romantic love. I wonder how many friends have been lost when someone enters into a relationship. Someone starts dating someone new and they suddenly do not have time for their friends. Why? Well, our society has trained us to believe that all we really need to romantic love. In his book, The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis writes, “To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it. We admit of course that besides a wife and family a man needs a few ‘friends.[1]’” Lewis goes on to say that one of the reasons people do not pursue friendships is because so few have experienced it.

Our society no longer promotes the value of true friendship because the desires of the individual reign supreme over the community.  It is easy to diminish the value and the importance of true friendship, but we were created for community by a God who values community. Our God has always existed in perfect community. The Father and the Son and the Spirit live in perfect community with one another which is why God has said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” We have an innate longing to live in community with one another. We have a deep desire to live life together with others. We feel lonely when we are not connected to others. The millennial generation has tried to answer that loneliness with online connection, but God has given us bodies so that we would be physically present with one another. God shows how much he believes in face to face contact by coming to us in a body being clothed in flesh. God values face to face, body to body community. He wants us to be with one another.


We would have a lot more happy and content people if they follow some of God’s most basic commands to love one another and to gather together regularly to encourage one another in the faith. Our hyper individualistic society promotes self at the expense of the community. I just want you to be aware of how easy it is for us to push our friendships to the side. I believe one of the most undervalued and an under-utilized tools to create wisdom is friendship. You will see how the practical gifts of friendship, closeness, candor and commonality, are a powerful tool to promote wisdom. And because it is so powerful, the worldly system is against true friendship. The world wants people to be satisfied with superficial acquaintances because true friendship is the way to wisdom. The world promotes folly, and fools despise wisdom and instruction. So the world wants us to ignore that which can bring us wisdom. Be aware of the value of friendship and do not allow the world to lead you to ignore it.

The Wise Picking of Friendship

During our childhood years, the greatest influence on our lives is our parents. Our parents form and shape our direction. They instill our values and our morality. Although parents are the predominate ones who help to create the character of children, friends become the primary influence as we grow into our teenage and young adult years.  Solomon understood this concept. He was primarily addressing teenagers as they were coming of age, and he warns them repeatedly to be careful in choosing their friends. Proverbs 1:10, “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, ‘Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason…my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold aback your foot from their paths.” Solomon warned youths about following in the path of sinners because it was going to bring them to destruction and evil.

Yet following after friends will do much more than merely bringing people in the path of evil, but it will help people become evil. Proverbs 22:24-25, “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.” Proverbs 24:21-22, “My son, fear the LORD and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise, for disaster will arise suddenly from them, and who knows the ruin that will come from them both? The danger of choosing wrong friends is that you will begin to emulate their way of life. Bad company corrupts good character. Friends have an incredible influence on the moral shaping of an individual. I look back at my life and see how my choosing of friends played an important role in shaping my character. Think of your friends. Do they lead you to righteousness or folly?

How many stories have you heard that begin this way? John was a good kid raised in a kid home. He started hanging out with some friends that introduced him to drinking. His drinking quickly turned to smoking marijuana which turned into cocaine. This is, of course, and extreme example, but there are countless more “good kids” who may not become drug addicts under the influence of their friends, but perhaps simply drift away from God. Your greatest danger may not be someone leading you into drug addiction, but subtly away from the Lord. Maybe friends that encourage you hang out late on Saturday night so you are not fresh on Sunday morning or friends whose conversations focus on trivial, earthly things lacking eternal substance. Friends have a powerful, powerful influence on one’s life. You must be careful in choosing your friends because you are going to emulate their ways and you may become entangled in a snare.

The entanglement could be things that are devastating like drugs or alcohol, or as equally devastating as anger or lust. Parents you should be praying right now for your children’s friends.  As they grow, their friends will continue to have a greater influence on their lives. Proverbs 13:20, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Choose your friends carefully, because they will have a greater impact on you than you can possibly imagine.

C.S. Lewis says that all, “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…” Commonality is the very beginning of friendship. I remember walking into my old church. I was filling the pulpit for about six months prior to the new pastor coming. I walked into his office to let him know what I had been teaching and I asked him a question about theology and he smiled and replied, “Indeed.”  Our common love for the local church, sound theology, and good food was the beginning of a friendship. Sharing hobbies, interests and activities (jobs or recreation) may be the beginning of any friendship, but once a friendship starts it must be pursued.

The Wise Pursuit of Friendship

            We know that friendship is powerful for wisdom and our choice of friends will shape our character, but how does one build friendship? We build friendship by pursuing it. Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” A friend loves at all different kind of times. They love when things are going well and they love when things are going poorly. They love in prosperity and they love in poverty. They love in health and love in sickness.  A true friend loves at all times.  A true friend is one you can call at 3 o’clock in the morning because you got a flat tire on the side of the road. A true friend is one who will sit with you and cry after you put your dog to sleep.  A friend loves at all times. How do these kinds of friendships develop? These friendships develop because both friends pursued the relationship. 

            You cannot expect to have real, deep true friendship without spending a considerable amount of time together. It will not happen unless you intentionally spend time with each other. My greatest friends are those who I have spent the most considerable about of time with, and I bet the same could be said for you. Some of my greatest friends are the ones I developed in my childhood and in college. My closest friend growing up was Nick Scalabrino. We became friends in first grade. We were close until 4th grade when he was moved into the gifted and talented track at my elementary school. In God’s providence, we became locker partners again in 8th grade and we have been close ever since. Nick and I lived more like brothers during our high school years. I was either at his house or he was at mine. We live miles apart now, but we will always be close because of the amount of time we spent together during our childhood.

And even though we know each other so well, we still have to continue pursuing a relationship. Some of my greatest friends now are in this church. And this, in large part, is due to the amount of time we spend together. I am around a lot of lonely people. People are desperate for deep friendships, but they do not have them. One of the reasons for their lack of friendships is their lack of pursuit. How can people honestly expect to have deep meaningful friendship without time? I heard someone say this week that he and his wife have refused to use busyness as an excuse to not get together with people. He said claiming busyness was a sign that he believed that his time and activities were more important than people. How great would it be to have friends who believed that we were more important than their busyness? We do not have true friendships because we are too lazy. We fear rejection. And we simply do not put the time into building biblical friendships.

Tim Keller gives two important traits of friendship: closeness and candor. The idea of closeness is that a true friend knows your emotional needs. They have spent so much time with you that they know how to give you exactly the needs of a situation. Listen to these proverbs and see how important it is for someone to answer at the right time and in the right mood.

Proverbs 27:14, “Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.” (The right greeting, at the right time)
Proverbs 25:17, “Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor's house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you.” (The right balance of presence and absence)
Proverbs 25:20, “Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.”

A true friend knows how to meet your emotional needs. Do you have friends that know you that well? And do you try to be that kind of friend? This takes time as well as thoughtfulness. We need more Timothy’s in our world who the Apostle Paul says that, “For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.” (Philippians 2:20)

And yet friendship is not only about closeness, it is about candor. A friend is honest with you. Listen to the honest and candor encouraged in the Proverbs,

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (Proverbs 27:5-6)
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)

A man with many companions may come to ruin, because he does not have friends close enough to him to let him know when he is facing ruin. A true friend will risk losing the friendship if it means saving their friend from disaster. I have met many people whose arrogance has led to their downfall simply because they did not have enough friends to give them an open rebuke. It is never a good thing to have friends that always agree with you. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” If you cannot trust a loving rebuke of those who love you, then who can you trust?

       And if you do not have the courage to tell your “friends” what they need to hear, you may not be the kind of “friend” you need to be? Silence can lead to disaster. A biblical friend speaks truth in love to their friends because they care more about their souls than their own happiness. We use the word friend very casually in our culture. We have friends on Facebook, friends at work, friends at the gym, and friends in the neighborhood. Could it be that the casual use of friendship has destroyed our understanding of biblical friendship? It is better to have 2-3 true friends than hundreds of “companions.” Can we resolve to build true friendships? Give people your time, your attention and your honesty, for true friendship cannot be built without it.

The Wise Perseverance of Friendship

The second half of the Proverbs 18:24 is also important. “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” The Hebrew word for sticks used here is same used for cleaving and clinging too. You should cling to your friends as tightly as you would cling to rope that held you over a cliff. Family is a blessing, but there are friends that become even closer than family. Families will typically be there for you when things are difficult, because they have to be there. A friend does not have to be there for you, but they chose to be there for you. And they chose to stick with you.

True friends will still close to you, but fake friends are only there for their own gain. Listen to how wealth brings fake friends,

 “Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend.” Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts. All a poor man's brothers hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him! He pursues them with words, but does not have them. (Proverbs 19:4; 6-7)

Be wary of fake friends, those who are only around you for gain.

You will come to know your true friends during times of your greatest difficulty. Our greatest difficulty will often be of our own doing, when we fall into sin.  A friend loves at all times and will keep loving at all times even when you are at your worst. The love may take different forms, but a true, biblical friend loves to the end. And we see this most clearly in friendship of the Lord Jesus Christ who demonstrated his love for us in that while we were yet sinners he died for us.

The Wise Picture of Friendship

The best picture of friendship can be seen in how Jesus loves us. Jesus is not a fair weather friend, but one who loves at all times until the very end. John 15:12-17,

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

At the end of Jesus’s life, he wanted to show how much he loved his disciples so he explained to them true friendship. Jesus loved his disciples at all times and loved them to the end. Jesus laid down his life for his friends. Jesus allowed the disciples inner access to his life.

Jesus is a friend to sinners. He laid down his life to rescue us from our sin and damnation. Jesus is our friend, but are we his? The Bible says in our natural state we are a friend of the world. James 4:4, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Just as many think they have true friends only to realize they were fake friends not sticking in love to the end. Jesus will have that same experience. There are many who claim they are friends with Jesus, but they may not be true friends. You cannot love the world as a friend and love Jesus as friend. Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” You are his friend if you turn from your love of the world and walk with Him. “He who walks with wise, becomes wise.” Jesus laid down his life so you could walk with him and become wise. He invites you to walk with him. He invites you to choose wisdom. He invites you to be his friend.

Jesus is the true picture of friendship. If we want to be a true friend, we must first know what a true friend is. A true friend is one who lays down his life for his friends. If we want true friends, be a true friend. Greater love has no one than this: that someone lay down his life for his friends. And yet, our confidence should never be in our ability to be a true friend, but in the friendship God has given us in Christ. Jesus says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” Even when we feel all our friends have abandoned us, we still have Jesus. Paul experienced this when he stood trial for his preaching of the gospel. He writes, “At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me.” Jesus Christ has given us the true picture of friendship. He has promised never to leave us nor forsake us. This is the kind of friend God is calling you to be.

Our friends are God’s gift to us. They are tools to help us become wise. Our friends have been chosen for us by God. C.S. Lewis writes,

But in Friendship, being free of all that, we think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years' difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another, posting to different regiments, the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting—any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you," can truly say to every group of Christian friends "You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another." The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others. They are no greater than the beauties of a thousand other men; by Friendship God opens our eyes to them. They are, like all beauties, derived from Him, and then, in a good Friendship, increased by Him through the Friendship itself, so that it is His instrument for creating as well as for revealing.[2]

God has chosen your friends for you. Your friends are a gift to help make you wise. Do not forsake your friend for, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” Be a true friend by holding fast to the True Friend, Jesus Christ. He has showed us friendship, now let us go and do likewise.





[1] Lewis, C.S. The Four Loves. Harcourt Brace & Company, New York. 1960 pg 58
[2] Lewis, C.S. The Four Loves. Harcourt Brace & Company, New York. 1960 pg 94
image credit (https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQN-mmem9OUaOl_jpKMck3cQEMs29adrYt1aZM83t_7klAefo26Xg)
image credit (https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQcKgAjJfrB0v3Hl9Xp1vjFzx8EI09bAa-s5-njuX-EZQE3zTPH0w)

The Blessings of Wisdom (Proverbs 1:1-7)


  “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” This is how JR Tolkien begins the tale of Bilbo Baggins. Baggins is a respectable, orderly and predictable hobbit. In the first few pages, he is encountered by the great wizard Gandalf. Gandalf looks at this respectable, yet boring hobbit and says, “I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it's very difficult to find anyone.” Bilbo stared back at Gandalf in full agreement. He replied, “I should think so - in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can't think what anybody sees in them. We don't want any adventures here, thank you! You might try over The Hill or across The Water.”[1] Bilbo had no time for adventures because they were ripe with inconveniences, as they were, “nasty disturbing uncomfortable things.”

      Bilbo would go on an adventure and his adventure changed his life forever. We are about to go on an adventure through the book of Proverbs. It may be a disturbing and uncomfortable journey, but it may also change your life forever. Adventures bring excitement and intrigue. They bring challenges and pitfalls. They expose weaknesses and hidden strengths. Adventures are revealing. And I pray that our adventure through the book of Proverbs will be revealing and yet invigorating. Proverbs is a book of wisdom. The book is mostly made of wisdom gathered from King Solomon, although there is a collection of sayings taken from other sources as well. Solomon is the main author of Proverbs, but he is not the one who compiled it together as a book. 

      Solomon became king as a young man. He had his faults, but early in his reign he was given the golden ticket from the Lord. The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream and asked him what He should give to him. Solomon replied,

“You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people? (1 Kings 3:6-9)
And the Lord answer Solomon prayer,

Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.” (1 Kings 3:11-14)

Solomon asked for wisdom and God answered that prayer in abundance. And Solomon’s prayer continues to bless us as we have the treasure trove of wisdom left for us to glean from as we journey through his Proverbs.

      Over the next several weeks, we will examine the wisdom in the Proverbs. Lord willing, we will see the wisdom of work, friendships, parenting, relationships, money, communication, and education, but every adventure must first have a beginning. 

The Beginning of Wisdom

      The first seven verses of Proverbs are known as the preamble. In these seven verses, the goal of the book and encouragement to approach its contents with excitement is laid before us. Proverbs 1:1-7,
The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs is a book of wisdom and the very beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.

      Every Christian should memorize Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Someone may have two PhD’s and tenure at the most prestigious university in nation, but still not have knowledge. True knowledge only begins with the fear of the Lord.  This is very important, because Proverbs primarily is not speaking about intellectual aptitude. Proverbs is focused on the direction of that aptitude. If someone does not have the fear of the Lord, then they do not have true knowledge. Someone may have a tremendous mind to understand the world, but will never use it as it was intended until they fear the Lord.

      When I was four years old, my family lived in Cedar Rapids, IA. The Midwest was known for tornados. I’ll never forget the first tornado that I witnessed as a four year old. I remember going out my front door to see the trees bending with the power of the wind, trash blowing down the street, lightening filling up the sky and the booming of thunder that felt like it was right on top of me. It is hard to grasp the feelings of a four year old, but I knew that I did not want to mess with the power that I witnessed that night. Even though I saw the ferocity of the storm, I was safe from it in the arms of my parents. John Piper says, “The fear of God is what is left of the storm when you have a safe place to watch right in the middle of it. . . . Oh, the thrill of being here in the center of the awful power of God, yet protected by God himself![2]

      The beginning of knowledge is to understand the awesome power of a holy and righteous God and that God’s hatred towards sin. The beginning of knowledge is to fear the Lord as our Judge. It is appointed for a man to die once and then face judgment. We all will be held accountable for our sin.  So how can we be safe in the storm of God’s wrathful judgment? The answer is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ came to be our refuge in the storm by taking our judgment for us on the cross. Jesus has promised us protection from the storm. He died in our place and on the third day rose from the dead and ever lives to intercede for his people to protect us from the wrath to come. The fear of the Lord is “to turn to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thess. 1:9b-10).

      So as we begin this adventure in our search for wisdom through the Proverbs, have you had your beginning with God? Do you fear the Lord? Have you turned from idols to serve the living and true God and wait for His Son to deliver from the wrath to come? Do you recognize the awful power of God, but stand safe in his arms protected from his ferocious power? If you do not fear the Lord, you will never gain true wisdom.

      Of course I say that because I have the assumption that you want wisdom. I believe that everyone wants to be happy. Everyone does things because they believe those things will ultimately make them happy. I eat ice cream at 10 pm because I believe that yummy goodness will bring me a bit of delight. Other times, I chose not to eat ice cream at 10 pm because I believe a favorable number on the scale the next morning will bring me more happiness than a giant bowl of Moose Tracks. My choices are dictated by my own understanding of happiness in that moment. I believe that you should pursue wisdom with all your strength, because I believe that God’s wisdom will ultimately make you the happiest.

The Benefits of Wisdom

      The entire book of Proverbs offers countless examples of the benefits of wisdom, but as Duane Garrett writes in his commentary, the prologue…

Challenges the reader to commit himself to the mastery of this book. It offers the significant benefit of acquiring the key to attaining capability in life. By this book, one can learn the principles that determine success or failure in the major arenas of human activity, including business, personal relationships, family life, and community life. Verses 2–6 describe the purpose of the book, that is, to teach wisdom to the reader.[3]

Garrett also provides four categories of benefits listed in these 5 verses. The categories are: practical, intellectual, moral and life’s mysteries. Let me read the verses again and see if you can see these four categories before we break them down together.

To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. (Proverbs 1:2-6)

I believe it is more beneficial to study this book thematically rather than verse by verse, because the book gives categories that affect every area of my life. One of the reasons people do not read the Bible is because they do not believe the Bible is relevant to their lives. You will see through these four categories just how relevant this book is for our lives.

Practical – the book is to educate people with wisdom and instruction. The meaning of wisdom would include the arena common sense, how to cope with daily problems, and occupational skills. Studying proverbs will help you become a better employee at your job, and instruct you in how to speak to your spouse and how to choose friends. It reminds loud people like me to be quiet in the morning to allow people to wake up. It holds tremendous practical and relevant advice.

Intellectual – It does not give just practical advice, but intellectual knowledge. This is implied with words like understanding and knowledge. This book provides intellectual knowledge not only to the youth which is the primary audience, but to the wise. It says, “Let the wise hear and increase in his learning.” We never outgrow our need to learn. Living with a learning position helps to keep us humble. Young and old should practice the art of learning on their never-ending adventure to gain wisdom.

Moral – The book pushes a biblical morality. There are right and wrong ways to live. The words to learn instruction in righteousness, in justice and equity all apply to morality. In a society that is increasingly becoming more lax in its morality, it would benefit us to give ourselves to examine the specific morality the Bible advocates, especially in our speech and relationships. When Solomon addresses the simple, he is addressing the immoral person. The immoral person is simple because he forgets that he will answer for all his deeds. Someone is simple because they do not have a proper fear of the Lord; therefore they have no knowledge making them simple. It is there lack of morality that makes them simple not their intellect.

Mysteries of life – The one who has wisdom can understand proverbs and wise sayings and riddles. The deep questions of life can be answered as one seeks the wisdom held in the book of Proverbs, but these things can only be understood when one has a proper disposition before God.

      All that is to say, there are tremendous, absolutely tremendous, benefits of seeking the wisdom found in the Proverbs. If you want to be truly happy, you will study the proverbs. If you want to have happy friendships, study the proverbs. If you want to have a happy bank account, study the proverbs. If you want happiness, study the Proverbs and live God’s way, but know there is a battle for your true happiness.

The Battle for Wisdom

      With all the benefits of wisdom built on the beginning of wisdom in the fear of the Lord, it seems like a no-brainer. Why would anyone not choose wisdom? Well the answer is seen at the end of the Prologue in verse 7. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” There is the way of wisdom and the way of folly. Wisdom gives her reasons and folly gives her reasons. There is a battle for what you will believe will ultimately bring you joy. 

      The first nine chapters of Proverbs address your heart, so that you will be prepared for all the nuggets of gold that fall on the following pages. You must to first understand the why before you will ever get to the what. At the end of the opening section Proverbs 9 pits wisdom and folly together again. Notice how wisdom has built her house and calls out to the simple, but so does folly!! Wisdom calls to the simple, Proverbs 9:1-6,

Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars. She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table. She has sent out her young women to call from the highest places in the town, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks sense she says, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”

And folly calls to the simple, Proverbs 9:13-18,

The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing. She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” And to him who lacks sense she says, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol. (Proverbs 9:13-18)

The battle is on.  Wisdom makes her case and folly makes hers. Which will you choose?

      This battle should not surprise us, for it is a battle that the church has always faced. The world thinks the things of God are folly, but we believe Christ is the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:24 refers to Christ as “the power of God and the wisdom of God,” and 1 Corinthians 1:30 says, “And because of him (referring to God) you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” The battle is not new, but it is very real. Jesus Christ is the wisdom of God. He has made his case. Jesus says, “Whoever is simple, let him turn to me.” Jesus invites you to leave your simple ways and to walk in the way of insight. 

      God wants us to live in wisdom. God wants us to live in Christ. Proverbs are really just practical ways we can choose Christ. We choose Christ in our friendships. We choose Christ in our communication. We choose Christ in our money. We choose Christ. To study Proverbs is to study how we can live for Christ. There is a purpose in our lives. God wants to use the lives of his church to display his glory to the nations. Paul writes of his mission as a minister of the gospel in Ephesians, which provides another reason we should battle for wisdom in our adventure through the Proverbs. Paul writes,

Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:7-10)

Beloved, do you see why studying the Proverbs is so powerful? We want to display the manifold wisdom of God to the nations and to the heavenly community. We want to show that we have been crucified with Christ and the lives we now live we live by faith in the Son of God.

      We show we have faith in the day to day activities of our lives. We show our faith in how we treat our spouse, raise our kids, work at our jobs, handle our money, and speak to our neighbor. And we must always remember that we cannot do this in our flesh. We cannot “white-knuckle” our way to obeying the Proverbs. If we are not careful, the study of Proverbs will become just another avenue to create legalists. We heed the Proverbs by the grace of God given through the power of the Holy Spirit as we grow in the fear of the Lord. Growing in wisdom in all the various aspects of our lives is a life-long process as we walk by faith not by sight. The righteous will live by faith. We battle to believe that God’s way is better than the world’s way. We battle to open ourselves to Lady Wisdom and close ourselves off to woman Folly who is loud, seductive, but knows nothing. And we fight this battle in the Spirit, for all who are led by the Spirit are sons and daughters of God.

      If you want to live for Jesus in the day to day, let us choose wisdom, the wisdom of God. Let us choose Jesus Christ. Let the adventure begin. Let our proverbial adventure disrupt our lives so that we can be further transformed into the image of the Son as we live in the blessings of wisdom.
     




[1] Tolkein, J.R.R. The Hobbit. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1973. Pg. 3
[2] Piper, John. The Pleasures of God. Multnomah Books. 2000. Pg 186-187.
[3] Garrett, D. A. (1993). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of songs (Vol. 14, p. 67). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
image credit (https://31.media.tumblr.com/b796ed64eca7b36ebbdcac72ec044eb9/tumblr_mu7f72pn6R1revx3do1_500.gif)
image credit (weather.com)
image credit (http://rivetmerch.com/collections/wisdom-folly)

The Power of the Mind (Exodus 1)



55 Million. 55 million Americans have lost their lives since 1973. 55 million children have been killed through the legal act of abortion. 55 million. That is almost 6 times the number of deaths in the Holocaust. That is an average of 1.2 million children killed every year, which is twice as much as the next leading cause of heart disease. Abortion is the greatest travesty in American History. Over 55 million children have been aborted. 55 million sons and daughters have been killed. The number almost doesn’t seem real. But, beloved, it is very real. It is easy to become numb to a number like that, but we must allow that number to become alive to our hearts. We must know that every one of those 55 million children was fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. Everyone one of those 55 million children has an eternal soul that will never die. Everyone one of those 55 million children were precious in the sight of God. Let the number become real to us, for if the number is not real, we will never be motivated to act.

But no matter what we think of abortion, it is not the unforgivable sin. With the number as high as 55 million, it is safe to say that we or someone we know have been impacted by abortion. The statistics show that one of 3 women in America or 30% have had an abortion before the age of 45. This also means that 30 % of men have had a part of an abortion. Abortion’s reach is vast, so before we even go any further, we need to know that God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. The sin of abortion is not outside the grace of Jesus Christ. For Jesus Christ died to pay for all of your sin; even the sins that you may have a hard time forgiving in yourself or forgiving in others, for even those are forgiven in Christ. Allow the flowing fountain of God’s grace to cover you this morning so you know that all of your past, present, and future sins were paid for in the cross of Calvary. Christian, abortion is not the unforgivable sin for Jesus, himself, asked God to forgive those who crucified and killed him, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).” There is room at the cross for you.

Let us look at the power of the mind. It is hard to underestimate the power of our thoughts. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” Where we set our minds is of utmost importance!! Romans 8:5-6, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Gathered here this morning, there is a variety of people on the political spectrum, but this is not primarily a political conversation; it is a biblical and moral one. My prayer this morning is that you would set your mind on the things of God, for if we do not set our minds on the Lord, it will be on the flesh. And the mind set on the flesh is death, which is our first point this morning; the mind set on the flesh is death.

The Mind Set on the Flesh is Death

Exodus 1:8, “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” We remember how God used Joseph to help Egypt during the famine in the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream. Joseph was eventually promoted to run the Egyptian kingdom under Pharaoh. During the famine, Joseph’s family was brought to the land and lived there under Pharaoh’s blessing. But we see here a new King arose over Egypt that did not know Joseph. In not knowing Joseph, he did not know of Joseph’s God. He did not know of Yahweh and how, through Joseph, Yahweh saved the people of Egypt. So we see a ruler who has his mind set, not on the things of God, but on the things of flesh. Watch the result of the mind focused on the flesh.

Verse 9, “And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.”

Pharaoh’s mind was fixed on self-preservation. He wanted to preserve his kingdom and his rule. The people of Israel were growing in number, but they were living peacefully with the Egyptians. Pharaoh saw their numbers not as a blessing to his kingdom, but as a threat. He was worried that as they grew, they would turn from peace to war and fight against them. So in order to preserve his kingdom and the lifestyle of his people, he changed his relationship toward the Israelites. He began to oppress them, but as he oppressed them, the Israelites continued to grow and expand throughout the kingdom. So we see in verse 12, “The Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel.” Why were the Egyptians in dread of the people of Israel? They were afraid of the change in their lifestyle. We, also, can relate to that fear. Isn’t our anxiety often brought on by the same concern; that we may lose some comfort or face an unwanted and unexpected change?

We are worried about a doctor’s diagnosis because we are concerned with how it is going to affect our lifestyle and our families. We are worried about a new boss because we are concerned with how it is going to affect our lifestyle with a potential job loss. We are worried about our kids living the house or getting married because we are concerned with how it will affect our relationship. We worry because of the potential change to our lifestyle and comfort. This is natural, but it is a mind that is set on the flesh. The Bible says in Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” We have our agenda and our wants for our life, but God is the sovereign ruler over all history. When our minds are fixated on the changes in our future circumstances, we are not putting our trust in God. The Lord allows trials in our lives, the Lord allows difficult circumstances, and the Lord will protect us during those seasons of trial. Romans 5:3-5, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” The Egyptians were living in dread of the future. We are called to live by faith in our loving and gracious Heavenly Father. God has a purpose in our trials.

So we see that the mind set on the flesh produced a fear in the Egyptians and that fear lead them to deal ruthlessly with the Israelites. The mind set on the flesh is death. Their minds were set on the flesh and their well-being which led them to make others serve them. In their fleshly minds, the seeds of death started to take root: seeds of full of anger and fear which would grow and produce a culture of death.

Pharaoh and the Egyptians grew in fear. Their minds were focused on self-preservation. And as the mind is focused on the flesh, it will only grow to bear the seeds that were planted in the heart. Like a snow ball rolling down a hill, the more the mind focuses on the flesh the larger it will grow. So the seeds of anger and
fear towards the Israelites grew from making them servants with heavy burdens to making them slaves. Their fear changed their relationship with Israelites. So we see that the mind that stays on the flesh will only reap more of the flesh. See the progression in verse 15, “Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiprah and the other Puah, “when you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” The king’s mind was focused on the flesh. He was afraid for the future. He was afraid for the self-preservation of his people. So, he believed, the best way to ensure their safety against future military attack was to kill all the future warriors that could grow up to fight against them. So the King ordered the midwives to kill all the male children in order to preserve the kingdom of Egypt.

The mind that is set on the flesh leads to death. It does not start in death, but grows in the direction. The fleshly mind perverts truth and makes decisions that are not for the good others, but for the good of self. Pharaoh’s fear drove him to enslave the Israelite people and eventually seek their destruction. Fear leads to self-preservation, and a fear-driven self-preservation is one of the leading reasons for abortions. In 2004, researchers at the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion organization, asked 1,209 women why they had obtained abortions. Seventy-four percent of the women responded with “having a baby would dramatically change my life” and seventy –three percent said, “I can’t afford a baby now.” The two most prominent reasons given for having an abortion were to preserve one’s current lifestyle. The fear of a dramatic change in life and the fear of financial difficulty were the two dominant reasons why these women chose to end the lives of their babies. The idea of self-preservation is not only seen in woman, but many men encourage their partners to have an abortion because they do not want to take responsibility for a child. Listen to Phil McCombs, a post-abortive father and a writer for the Washington Post,

I feel like a murderer. I was not by her side to support her. I turned my face away. My behavior was in all respects craven, immoral. The child would have inconvenienced me. I’d had my fun. He didn’t fit into my plans. His name, which is carved on my heart, was Thomas. I still grieve for little Thomas. It is an ocean of grief.

And listen to Jeff Bradford, who didn’t fight to preserve his lifestyle, but his reputation.

I hid and suppressed the realization that the only reason our oldest daughter was not alive today was due to my own cowardice. I went to my wedding, pretending to be an upright, moral young man with my bride dressed all in white. She was beautiful, and we looked great on the outside. No one could see the brokenness we were both hiding so well. We had aborted our first child just a few months before.

The reasons that women have abortions are very complex. It is impossible to know what brings people to make the decision to end a life. The mind is very powerful. And we know that when it is set on the flesh it will produce death. The flesh blinds the truth. This is the testimony of Scripture. Our culture perverts truth because the mind of our culture is set on the flesh. Our culture encourages people to fight and to save their
own lives, but in the end they will only to lose it. For Jesus says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”

This is the lie of our culture. Our culture focuses on our individual needs. The American message encourages us to do whatever we can to fulfill our own individual desires. Watch commercials; listen to politicians, so much of their appeal is how your desires can be met. Fear and self-preservation are very powerful tools, but our greatest desires will never be met when we try to preserve our lives. We only can discover true joy when we delight in the Lord. For those who delight in the Lord will get the desires of their hearts.

Those on the other side of abortion see this reality. They sought to save their own lives, only to lose them. The guilt, shame and regret is crippling to men and women who have had abortions. But by God’s grace, he is continuing to call people to lose their lives, to lose their comfort, to lose their reputations, to gain the true life of peace. To set the mind on the Flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is Life. Second point, The Mind set on the Spirit is Life.



 The Mind Set on the Spirit is Life


The only way to change our culture is to turn people from the fear of suffering and losing their lives, to the fear of the Lord. I believe one of the reasons that women pursue abortion is that they are consumed with fear. Fear of change. Fear of loss. Fear of condemnation. Fear of pain. Fear produces hopelessness, and hopelessness produces awful decisions. We have to help people have the right kind of fear; the fear of the Lord. Let’s look at the courage of two young women who demonstrated the right kind of fear. Exodus 1:16, “When you serve as a midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded, but let the male children live.” The women had a choice. They could choose to save their lives, by obeying the highest authority in the land or they could choose to obey the highest authority in the universe. These women made the right choice. They did not seek to save their own lives, but rather chose to fear the Lord. They knew that it could bring suffering into their lives. They knew that it could have even cost them their lives, but they were willing to lose their lives to save the lives of others.

In this way, the Hebrew midwives lived as an example pointing forward to Jesus Christ. For Jesus Christ laid down his life for his friends. He chose to die that others may live, and because Jesus obeyed the Father, God raised him from the dead. God showed favor to Jesus in the resurrection making him (as it says in Romans 8:29) the first-born of many brothers. God honored Jesus’s willingness to die in that if anyone would call upon the name of Jesus and trust him as Lord then they would be saved. Jesus chose to suffer and die so others could live. This is exactly what the Hebrew midwives did. They knew the cost, but feared God. So they chose obedience even in the face of potential death so that others could live, and God honored them for it.

Listen to verse 18, “So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the
Egyptian woman, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.” The very thing Pharaoh was concerned about was happening. The people multiplied and grew very strong. The actions of two Hebrew midwives helped the people of God grow. God also specifically honored the women by giving them families. They made a decision that should have cost them their lives, but God showed them favor and actually gave them the desires of their hearts.

The arguments put forward from the pro-abortion side are centered on individualism and self-preservation. The world says the decision to keep or take the life of a child belongs to the woman or with the woman and her doctor, but all life belongs to God. “None of us lives to himself or dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, if we die, we die to the Lord. So then whether we live or die, we are the Lords (Rom 14:7-8). The reasons that women have abortions may be complex, but it is always wrong. Choosing to keep a child will change one’s life dramatically, it will bring financial hardships, and it will costs you, it may even bring judgment from others, but choosing life honors God. And God honors those who chooses life, but brings judgment on those who chose murder. This is grounded in our faith in God. Our faith that He exists and rewards those who love him. Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” So we cannot please God, if we do not acknowledge Him. And when we do not acknowledge Him, we are given over to do things that are unspeakably awful, like the killing of unborn children. Romans 1:28, “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done…They were are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness.”

The only way to change the direction of the culture is to change their acknowledgement of God, to set the mind on the Spirit of God which brings life. It is not enough to stand on the sidelines. By standing on the sidelines, we are giving approval. Romans 1:32 goes on to say, “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them, but give approval to those who practice them.” There is no middle ground. You either fear God, like the Hebrew midwives, and choose life, or you choose to give approval to what God hates. And if we give approval for what God hates, we are storing up wrath for ourselves on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. We must set our minds on the Spirit and find life. We must help others turn from self-preservation to lose their lives for the sake of God and the sake of the unborn children made in his image, and you cannot help others until you set your mind on the Spirit.

My prayer is that through this message that you would become advocates for life. My prayer is that your
lives are so filled with grace and mercy that when a woman is contemplating this decision that she would be drawn to you because of your grace, and you give her the word of life. I pray that everyone here today would be an advocate for the Spirit. Set your mind on the Spirit, for the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. Help others find life and peace.

For if we do not turn people from a mind set on the flesh it will only continue to escalate to death. Look at verse 22, “Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.” The mind set on the flesh will only produce death. For the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God, but we know there is hope, for the next thing God reveals, after the pronouncement of the killing of children, is the birth of the deliverer, Moses. Let me close by quoting Pastor John Piper who says it so well:

   In the very darkest season of the worst child-killing, Moses was born. Moses,.. the deliverer. Moses, the ,    rescuer, the savior of the people. And then the prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22)—the   Son of God, Jesus Christ, the final decisive Rescuer, Savior, Deliverer—was born, and barely escaped the   slaughter of the babies in Bethlehem. He lived a perfect life and died for sinners and rose again. And here’s   one of the great differences between him and Moses. Moses delivered the people who were being      oppressed. Jesus delivers oppressed and oppressor. Moses delivered the hated race. Jesus delivers the        hated and the hater. Moses couldn't deliver the strangled babies or babies thrown into the Nile, but Jesus    delivers the babies, the mothers, the abortion providers, the irresponsible boyfriends. He loves and saves  every sinner who trusts in him. So let us join hands and say with a clear voice as one in Christ: there is a  better way to freedom than killing the babies. And that way is Jesus Christ.