Friday, April 27, 2012

Get Wisdom -- Post 7

Proverbs -- Chapter 7

I spent less time perusing this chapter than any of the previous six. I spent less time not because the chapter is less important, but I think because its message is more readily plain to me -- Stay away from loose women.

Solomon reminds us in vs1-2 that we must treasure the truth for it is our life. The truth he has in mind on this occasion is the truth regarding the relationship between men and easy women. The remedy for us men is not found in resisting their enticements. The remedy is found in not being around to be enticed. This is exactly what we see in the New Testament in regard to such situations. The way we fight sexual temptation is not to resist, but to flee (1 Co 6:12-20). This is quite a startling picture. The idea of sin-fighting is normally of a warrior standing fast and fighting with all his might against the enemy of his soul (The Apostle Peter says our fleshly lusts wage war against our souls --1 Pe 2:11. That sounds a lot like Pr 7:27). The fight is often waged by prayer (See Ep 6:10-20 and Mt 26:36-46, for examples). But when the issue is sexual temptation, the idea is of the warrior running for his life. This is how God means for us to battle this particular enemy, like Joseph did (See Ge 39).

The simple truth is that the strongest most mature Christian man, if he repeatedly puts himself under the influence of seductive women, will lose that battle. Some men, if even in the situation once, will lose. You know yourself. Act accordingly, and er on the side of safety.

The picture of the victim in Proverbs 7 is of a man who tries to resist but refuses to flee. The woman continues to pursue him (v10-20). She is persistent, and so wears him down, which she could not have done if he were not occupying her space (v6-9). Now weak and worn, he breaks -- "All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter" (v22).

I believe that the seductress is alluring because of powerful desires residing within men, and because of the craftiness of some women. The truth is that men want to be loved on and made to believe that we are physically desirable. Steve Camp wrote a song years ago that says, "When you're crying for love, you're crying for God". True. But our corrupt and twisted hearts, when they won't find rest in Him, will seek for it elsewhere, most often in the arms of a woman.

In addition, seductive women are seductive for a reason. Solomon says they are "wily of heart" (v10). They prey on our weaknesses. And they have powerful weapons that appeal to all of our five natural senses. We see their beauty (v10). We taste their kisses (v13). We smell their perfume (v17). We hear their words (v21). Then we touch their bodies (v22).

Make no mistake men, these women are often "compelling" and "persuasive" (21). They are crafty, and work to cause our senses to overwhelm our minds. So what's the answer? Stay away from them. Do not hang around and so become impressed with them. Flee. Avoid them. They war against your soul.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Get Wisdom -- Post 6

Proverbs -- Chapter 6

This chapter contains many warnings and instructions leading to deliverance and safety. It is meant, among other things, to protect us from debt (v1-5), laziness (v6-11), perversity (v12-15), arrogance (v16-19), and adultery (v20-35). Let's take a few moments to think about verses 16-19 in particular, which is a list of seven things God hates. They are: "haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers".

In the New Testament (See Mt 5 for example), Jesus and the Apostles give us the full meaning of the Law, showing that it includes not only the prohibition (the "do not"), but also the commandment (be like this instead). In other words, it's not enough not to steal, we should actually be givers, be those who share, be generous (Mt 5:42 & 6:1-4; 2 Co 8-9; Ep 4:28; 1 Jn 3:17-18, etc). 

Applying that to the text in view, if we are to be those whose ways are valued and not hated by God, it is not enough that we are not arrogant, not liars, not murderers, not schemers, not rushing into evil, not deceptive and not sowing discord. In addition, to please Father by keeping the Law as Jesus taught it (which has everything to do with loving people as we are loved by God -- See Ga 5:14; Jn 13:34, 15:12), we must, with the help of God the Holy Spirit, cultivate and practice humility, truthfulness, protection of others, good deeds, sin fighting, accurate speech, and the promotion of biblical unity (which is unity rooted in truth, not unity at all costs). This is so like what is often called "The Golden Rule" -- "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. For this is the Law and the Prophets" (Mt 7:12). Not having wrong attitudes and not committing wrong acts is not all there is to the ways of Jesus. His ways include active obedience to the Law of Love. Not only "Don't do wrong", but "Do right" (Ro 12:9), and so image your Heavenly Father (See Mt 5:43-48).

By the way, some of those things God hates are people ("a false witness" and "one who sows discord"). We could argue that all of these hatreds in Proverbs 6 have to do with a righteous hatred for sinners (people), but for today let's just go with the most obvious -- the last two items on the list. I was recently privy to a conversation in which someone was asking how it is that God, who is so loving, would, or even could, condemn unbelievers to hell. I think the answer to this is quite simple, He doesn't damn those He loves. He damns those He hates, i.e., the unregenerate, non-elect who continually "trample the Son of God underfoot" by their unbelief, treating their own Maker and Sustainer as if He is of no consequence (Ps 5:4-6; He 10:28-30; etc). God loves His Son, and will eternally punish all those who do not take refuge in Him.

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until His enemies should be made a footstool for His feet.
He 10:12-13

Monday, April 23, 2012

Get Wisdom -- Post 5

Proverbs -- Chapter 5

We should notice again, from v1, that we receive wisdom from outside ourselves. We do not become wise by looking within. This is also true in salvation. Our problem is not outside of us so that we can solve it by looking within ourselves. Our problem is within (sin) and the solution is without (Jesus). This runs contrary to popular ways of thinking.

We also realize that humility is required to become wise or to be saved from God's wrath. To receive what comes from outside of us includes our acknowledging that we are missing something that we cannot produce. God gives wisdom (See 2:6); and God grants salvation (Jon 2:9; Ep 1-2:10; Ja 1:18, etc).

Much of this chapter is a warning against sexual immorality. God speaks to us of its causes, consequences, and cures. I want to mention only one of the cures because of it's prevalence throughout Scripture, and that is the recognition of the final judgment of God (v21). Later, in Ec 12:13 -14, Solomon puts it this way, ". . .Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. Jesus spoke regularly of this (See Mt 10-12 for examples).

As I think of the warnings of Father given in Proverbs 5 my mind turns to the weakness of men, the power of sluts, and the cost of giving in. But I also think of the provision of God (vs18-21; See also Mt 5:27-30 & 1 Co 10:12-14). Being attentive (vs7-8), being disciplined (v23), loving our spouses (vs15-19), and fearing God (v21) are all required for a successful battle against temptation.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Get Wisdom -- Post 4

Proverbs -- Chapter 4

Again God comes to us as His children and urges us to give Him our attention (Cf He 2:1 where "we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard" about Jesus). We see the command repeated in v20. This is reflective of 3:1-3. The reason we should pay attention is given in the next verse (4:2), "for I give you good precepts", so "don't forsake them". In v13 this reality is expanded when we are told that God's instruction "is our life"; and then in v22 where we read that God's words are "life to those who find them and healing to all their flesh".

Beginning with v3 we see a pattern for generational holiness and wisdom. Solomon says that his father David taught him. Solomon now passes down the teaching (v10-11). This teaching is deliberate. It is not enough to give our children right commands. We must give them right instruction, understanding, and explanation (Ep 6:1-4). A part of this teaching is telling our children the stories of God's dealings with us (Dt 6). By the way, it is mothers, and not just fathers, who teach the children (Cf 1:8).

Along this path to holiness and the good life, wisdom and insight are required (v7), along with heart vigilance (v23). So are sound thinking, proper evaluative skills, and diligent planning (v26). Biblical parenting, i.e., parenting that works, is itself hard work. I simply assert here that our children are worth the effort.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Get Wisdom -- Post 3, And a Bit More

First, thanks to my friends in SC for a good week of fellowship. Men growing in Christ-likeness who are willing to spend time with me are inestimable gifts from God. Second, extra thanks to JB for the mild rebuke regarding my sporadic blogging practices and for introducing me to The Trappe Door -- a better than great bar in downtown Greenville (I recommend the Chimay Burger). Third, thank you to my youngest brother Chris who always knows how to show me a good time. We are so different in temperament (that's good for him!), but so similar in interests. And thanks to my sister Tami and her eldest son Gabe who went out of their way to meet me for dinner. It was good to see you both. And finally to my old and loyal friend Toby and to the other pastors of Renewal Church who made the whole trip happen -- you have my sincere gratitude.

One of the things I often pray for myself and have asked my wife to pray for me is that I will be made into one who often refreshes the saints (2 Ti 1:16; Phm 1:7; etc).  Praise to God for this most recent trip in which He had others refresh me. Grace & peace to you all. 

It is fitting that I save the final mention for my grandmother Clara who is always entertaining and very kind to me. Even in that wheelchair you look great. 

Now, to the Proverbs.
Proverbs -- Chapter 3

This might be the most popular chapter of Proverbs, because of the often quoted verses 5-6. There is, however, much more to this text than those two wonderful verses. I wish, for example, there was more attention given to the next verse (7), "Be not wise in your own eyes. . ." We're told to trust the LORD (v5), and now we're told not to trust ourselves. This is the way of wisdom.

God again comes to us as the good Father (v1; See also vs11 & 21) and urges us to remember His words. Then He tells us why -- "For length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you" (v2). Good parents will normally give their children the "why" behind their commands. The thoughtless parent does the "because I said so" routine. Useless. Even God is humble enough to explain Himself; that is, make sense for us of His reasons when we are able to understand Him. Of course there are times when we cannot understand Him and our children cannot understand us, no matter how we try to explain. There's a lesson there also.

I notice also from verse 1 that God desires a heart-keeping of His word (cf v3), not just an external adherence. This is a theme throughout Scripture (Dt 4:8-10; Is 6:9-11; Ho 7; Mt 22:35-39).

In verses 5-8 we discover that trusting God leads to direction, healing, and refreshment. Other of His benefits are named and/or implied, including favor, honor, longer life, peace, success, plenty, blessing, riches, pleasantness, security, soul life, steadiness, courage, rest, and confidence. Having mentioned these, I also mention that the Proverbs are general truisms. The manifestations of God's blessings are varied. He governs their disbursement and all that has to do with it. Don't read the Proverbs as God's get rich quick scheme and/or guarantee of such things as good health and a problem-free existence. We know this is not what Solomon is teaching us as we look, for example, at vs11-12 in which we are told to trust God with our pain; and not just some generic pain, but the pain that God Himself brings upon us to produce holiness (Ja 1:2-4, 12; 1 Pe 1:3-9).

Finally, we're shown the source and worth of wisdom in v19-20, and some astounding warnings and promises in v32-35.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Get Wisdom -- Post 2

Proverbs -- Chapter 2

God is the supplier of real practical holiness (v1-8). He is the means and the end. He is the dispenser of transforming power, for both character and practice. This is why the writer of Hebrews, after preaching to himself and his readers on growing up spiritually, finishes by saying, "And this we will do, if God permits" (6:3).

Notice also the promises attached to the command to get wise -- all of the "if then" statements in the early part of Proverbs 2. God says that those who come to Him on His terms will "understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God" (v5); because it is "the LORD who gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding" (v6). There is more to true life-altering learning than diligent study. There is God, rewarding our right but flawed diligence with gifts eternal. The world has many Bible scholars who don't know the first thing about what the Bible means by what it says. They study and study for a lifetime but still can't see Jesus as God's sent Savior (cf Jn 5:37-42). Knowledge, apart from God's grace, makes a person arrogant, not holy (1 Co 8:1).

Related to this is the reality that apart from God's Word we know nothing rightly. That is, we know not the thing's connection to God and therefore know not it's true purpose. Since it is God that created all things and so gives them their proper meaning, we remain blind to the greater realities apart from God's written revelation. There are at least two ways for Christians to see the world: 1) As God's creation that He employs in His revelation as a thing happens to fit the lesson currently being taught. 2) As God's creation designed to be employed in eternally valuable lessons God is teaching. I believe the second understanding is the sound one. For example, when we see in the Scriptures that Jesus, by using children, teaches us how we come into His kingdom, I assume He designed children to teach that lesson, and not simply makes use of them secondarily (Mt 18:1-6). When the Apostle Paul wants us to understand the meaning of marriage he connects it to God's eternal purposes for the church (Ep 5:22-33). I take from this that God designed the marriage union to teach us about the union between Himself and His bride (Is 54:5). When Jesus wants to teach us not to worry He points us to the way birds feed and the way flowers grow (Mt 6:25-34). When He wants to teach us about how He cares for us He makes use of a flock of sheep and their shepherd (Jn 10). And of course the Old Testament is filled with particular designs with their full meanings known only much later when the New Testament is being penned -- things like the tabernacle, the temple, the sacrificial system, the priesthood, the Sabbath, the Law of Moses, feast days, particular characters (Melchizedek, for example), etc -- things which were only shadows and types and pointers to the coming Substance (Col 2:16-23; Ga 3; He 8-9).

I notice too in Proverbs 2 that God is shown to be active. He is storing up sound wisdom for the upright and shielding those with integrity and guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of His saints (v7-8). Deism is wrong. God is not passive. He's the most active of all beings. His activity is the foundation of all activity. Without it, there would be nothing else (Col 1:17; He 1:3). The second two-thirds of the chapter reveal His activity of preservation, deliverance, blessing, and judgment. Yes, God is busy; busy with us, among other things. What a wonderfully comforting thought. And His Son said that He would always be with us, even until the end of the age (Mt 28:20).

Monday, April 9, 2012

Get Wisdom

Today I begin an ever so brief look at Proverbs, to make observations according to what I am able to see in a read through each chapter. I am an expert in nothing, including the Wisdom Books of Holy Scripture. But I do want to be wise. The only other option is to be foolish. And if my effort may help anyone else also seeking to gain wisdom, then I give thanks. I'll try to give some New Testament cross references for those interested in seeing Old Testament truth in New Testament texts.

Proverbs -- Chapter 1

What I notice right away is that God speaks to us as children (v8-10). This is a recurring theme throughout Proverbs, from chapter 1 to 31. God comes to us as a Father, as the Perfect Parent, much like I think He approached Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. You can see this in Genesis 3 when He comes to correct them following their rebellion. He comes to counsel and correct and hold out grace and truth (cf Jn 1:14-17). He also punishes, as any loving parent will (cf He 12:3-11). There is much here for Christian parents to see. Our parenting is to image God's care for His children. It's important that we raise our children in the fear of God, and in the instruction of the Lord (cf Ep 6). It's foolish to expect from our children what we have not deliberately taught them and modeled for them. And it's foolish to believe that our children are the exceptions that need no punishment. "He who withholds his rod hates his son. But he who loves him disciplines him diligently" (Pr 13:24). "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. The rod of discipline will remove it far from him" (Pr 22:15). I find it quite difficult to deliberately hurt my children, even for their own long term good. But I remember that faith in God's ways is required for all of life, the discipline of our children included. I can trust my feelings or I can trust God's Word. Trusting my feelings damages my children.

Also, it seems clear to me that our Heavenly Father means for us to live full lives; that is, lives full of good things. The best things may be immaterial, like those held out to us in v2-7; things such as wisdom, instruction, insight, understanding, prudence, discretion, learning, guidance, and the fear of the LORD. Other of the good things include the good warnings of Scripture, such as those found in v24-32. God loudly, clearly, and repeatedly calls out to His creatures to listen to Him and kindly but sternly warns us of the consequences of ignoring Him (cf He 2:1-4).

Finally, God is the designer of life. So it only makes sense to learn of Him and trust Him and heed Him (cf Mt 11:27-30). This is wisdom. It is the fool that "refuses to listen" when God has "stretched out His hand" (v24). It is the fool that ignores His counsel and reproof (v25); that hates knowledge and refuses to fear its Source (v29). It should be taken to heart that the wisdom God offers is a wisdom learned. Work is required -- the work of thought and prayer. It is not the mentally stupid who miss the wisdom of God. It is the mentally lazy and/or distracted (v32; cf He 2:1-4 & 5:11-6:3).