413:  The Importance of Baptism

413: The Importance of Baptism

Baptism has fallen out of favor in the church today.  Many people are confused about baptism. And since there seems to be such a wide diversity of opinion about what baptism means and how important it is, many in the church have relegated it to an archaic, antiquated ritual and not much more.  And that is a grave mistake.  Why?  Because baptism is your first act of obedience as a Christian.

Many in the church who call themselves Christians have not been baptized according to the New Testament baptism.  That may include some of you who are listening to this podcast.  But think, if we are unfaithful to the first command of obedience to our Lord who saved us, it makes it much easier to disobey His other commands.  Does this describe you?

The question we ask today is why don’t people get baptized?  And there are at least five reasons: ignorance, pride, indifference, rebellion, or because they are simply lost.  In this message we will look at each of these in detail.

Are you confused about baptism and why it seemed so important in New Testament times but not so much today?  If that describes you, then keep listening.

The following is a study on baptism.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

364:  Why Did God Choose to Save You?

364: Why Did God Choose to Save You?

Great question.  Why did God choose to save each of us?  Was it because He wanted to make our life better?  And, if so, what does “better” mean?  And “better” from whose perspective?  His?  Or ours?  Maybe He chose to save us to give our life purpose and meaning.  And what would that purpose be?  And whose purpose are we talking about?  God’s?  Or ours?

See the problem?  When we view the purpose of our salvation from how it affects us, we tend to become self-centered and inner-focused.  But it’s not about us, it’s all about Him.  Totally for Him and Him alone.

Want to discover the true reason God chose to save you?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on total surrender.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

No Equality in Heaven

No Equality in Heaven

For they will be a graceful ornament on your head,
and chains about your neck.
Proverbs 1:9

We live in a time where people fight for equal rights.  The right to vote, the right to work, the right to say what we want, marry who we want, do what we want, the right to live, and the right to die.  It seems like we all want to be equal in our own eyes with everybody else with no one standing out among the crowd and no one having more than another.

This drive for equality has now invaded almost every facet of our lives.  We don’t give trophies to the winners in Little League Baseball anymore.  Why?  Because everyone must be equal, which means no winners and no losers.  So everyone gets a trophy for just participating, for simply showing up, for buying a glove and a pair of cleats.  And by not honoring the winners, the ones who deserve the honor, who earned the recognition, it’s somehow supposed to make us all feel special.

We have to dumb down the tests in school because some students work harder than others and are more concerned about their grades and future.  And others… well, not so much.  So we make the tests easier and more generic for the less motivated students so they won’t feel bad or marginalized when others are rewarded for their diligence and study.  After all, everyone should get an A.  Everyone should feel good about themselves and no one should do any better than anyone else.  Why?  Because we’re all striving for equality.  And equality always tends to settle at the lowest common denominator.

But that’s not how life functions in the real world.  It’s the best and brightest, the ones who work the hardest, the ones who put in the long hours, and the ones who continually strive to learn more who are rewarded with the raise, the promotion, and the corner office.  It’s not the sluggard, the lazy, the half-hearted that’s honored in our society for their accomplishments.  The rewards and accolades go to the few who work diligently for them, and not to the many who don’t.

And as sobering as it may sound, the Kingdom of Heaven functions in much the same way.


The Rewards for Obedience

The father and mother in this Proverb have implored their young son to stay the course and keep focused on the things in life that really matter.  They know that he is about to enter into the fallen world of sin and deceit and deception and they are giving him their final words of affirmation to keep him strong whatever he may face.

The father tells him: “My son, hear (or, listen and obey) the instruction (or, discipline, correction, chastening) of your father, and do not forsake (or, abandon, walk away from, to ignore) the law (or, direction) of your mother” (Prov. 1:8).  In other words, remember how we’ve raised you.  Remember what you’ve been taught.  Remember the truth and do not walk away from it chasing other idols the world will try to tempt you with.

Remember and stay strong.

But why?  Why should the son listen to the “instruction” of his father and follow the “law” of his mother?  What will he gain from placing himself in a position that is sure to bring about ridicule and rejection from his peers?  What’s the pay-off for this young man?  What’s the upside from living a sin-free, committed life in Christ?

Proverbs 1:9 – For they (the “instruction of your father” and the “law of your mother”) will be a graceful ornament (or, a garland, wreath, a decorative headpiece worn as a sign of approval, honor, favor and acceptance) on your head (as a crown), and chains about your neck (or, a necklace of remembrance).

The graceful ornament symbolizes wisdom and prosperity coming from the father to the son and are his for the asking, if he obeys.  It is, in a sense, the son’s reward for listening, heeding and obeying the words of his father.

Which leads us to draw a few conclusions about rewards and also raise a few questions.

But note first, we are not talking about salvation, which is given as a gift, freely, based on faith in the completed work of Christ on the cross as the payment for the penalty of our sins.  No, in that we are all equal.  We are simply one hopeless beggar telling another beggar where we found bread.  What we are talking about are the rewards based on what we have done with the gift given us by Christ.  How faithful have we been in Him while living on this side of eternity?  And in regards to that, we can surmise the following:

One, the reward is conditional.  If the son listens and obeys, the reward is his.  And if he does not, does he still receive the reward?  And if so, on what basis?  Maybe for just participating?  For simply being a member of the family?  For being on the team?  The context would say, no.

Two, the reward is for him alone.  Nowhere is the promise given to the lost or disobedient or to those who are not the father’s sons.  Does that mean that not everyone is entitled to this reward?  Is it exclusive, reserved for some but not all and given only to the ones who meet the requirements of obedience?  The context would say, yes.

Three, equality is not the issue.  The reward makes the son special in the eyes of the father.  It’s a recognition of his grace, favor, love and acceptance of the son based on the son’s faithful adherence to the instructions of the father.  Does this mean not everyone is equal in the eyes of the father?  Does it mean there will be some who receive rewards and some who do not?  And, if that is true, is the granting of rewards primarily based, like in this verse, on obedience to the father?  The context would say, yes.


The Stephanos

In the New Testament we discover there are five crowns that the Believer can receive.  But note, the operative word is can.  These crowns are not guaranteed for just showing up.  In fact, the word used for “crown” is stephanos and doesn’t refer to a Kingly crown as a Monarch would wear, but a “crown or wreath or garland that was given to the victor in the public games.”  This is more of an overcoming crown given to those who have trained, fought well, and won.  In Scripture we find what is called the “imperishable crown” in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25.  Next, there is the “crown of rejoicing” in 1 Thessalonians 2:19.  Then the “crown of righteousness” in 2 Timothy 4:8, the “crown of glory” in 1 Peter 5:4 and finally the “crown of life” in James 1:12 and Revelation 2:10.

These crowns are not guaranteed for just participating, they are given to those who have met some sort of requirement.  They are rewarded to those who have distinguished themselves among others.  They are not for everyone, but for the few, those who have earned them.  For example:

1 Corinthians 9:24 – Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but (who) one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may obtain it.

This verse implies there are some who will not run the race heartily and will not obtain the prize or crown.  The admonition is for you to be different, to not be like the crowd, to run to win.

2 Timothy 4:8 – Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to (who) all who have loved His appearing.

But what if you don’t love the reality of His appearing?  What if you’re so enamored with this world you are of no good to the Kingdom?  What if you love this world (1 John 2:15) and not the certainty of His appearing?  Do you still qualify for the crown?

James 1:12 – Blessed is the man who (what) endures temptation; for when (what) he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

And what if you do not endure temptation, what happens then?  Are you still given the crown?  Or have you, by your own actions, disqualified yourself for the prize, the promised crown, by not meeting the requirements?  And what are the requirements of being “approved’?  Is it simply our love for Him?  And, if so, how is that manifested daily to make us approved or accepted in Him?


Casting Crowns

Many of us who have been brought up in the “everyone is equal so there’s no need to try too hard” morass of our fallen culture have come to believe that working for crowns or rewards is a futile effort since we don’t get to keep them anyway.  After all, Revelation 4:10-11 shows the twenty-four elders, which represent the church, the redeemed, you and I, actually “casting their crowns before the throne” in a profound act of worship.

We then reason, “So if I’m going to cast my crown, my reward that I worked real hard for at the feet of Jesus, geez, like what’s the point?  Then I’ll be just like everyone else who doesn’t have a crown.  So why try?  Why should I work for something I can’t keep?  Seems like a big waste of time to me.”

But that only shows the depravity of our love and commitment to our Lord.  We give Him the glory with our lips as long as we can keep the rewards to make us feel special and important among our friends.  And how selfish is that?

But don’t be deceived.  Salvation is a gift given freely by grace through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus.  In this, we are all equal.  But what we do with that gift, how we live our lives in Christ and for His glory, is another matter indeed.  And to this fact, the Scriptures have much to say about how truly unequal we may be in His Kingdom.  Consider these passages:

Matthew 5:12 – “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, (why) for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

But “great” is a relative term.  Great is compared to something less than great.  Those who are persecuted for the name of Christ will have a “great” reward in heaven compared to other rewards or compared to those who receive no rewards.  In other words, their reward will be greater than others.  Otherwise, why the admonition to be “exceedingly glad” in the face of horrific persecution and even death?

1 Corinthians 3:14 – If anyone’s work which he has built on it (what) endures, he will receive a reward.

And if it doesn’t endure?  Exactly.

Matthew 16:27 – “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each (how) according to his works.”

And that reward is applied “according to his works” in differing degrees based on differing degrees of works.  Just like it is in the real world.

You also have Jesus rewarding the faithful steward of ten coins with “being over ten cities” and the faithful steward with five coins of “being over five cities” and the unfaithful steward entrusted with one coin with nothing (Luke 19:15-26).  Jesus even went so far as to reward the steward with ten cities even more by giving him the one coin from the unfaithful servant.  Was that unfair?  Was Jesus playing favorites?  What about the faithful steward who was given five coins?  Was there something wrong with him?  Or was Jesus simply rewarding the most faithful with more?

And so it is with you and I in His Kingdom.


Jesus is Coming Soon

Jesus is coming soon and He is bringing His rewards with Him.  He says so in Revelation 22:12: “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to (who) every one (how) according to his work.”

That’s “everyone according to his work.”

To those who “hear” and are faithful to listen and obey “the instruction of your father” and not “forsake the law of your mother” (Prov. 1:8), the reward for their obedience will be a “graceful ornament on your head, and chains about your neck” (Prov. 1:9).  Why?  Because our Lord is a “rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).  He rewards the diligent, the committed, the single-focused, the sold-out, the passionate, the faithful, the devoted, those that seek Him “as the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God” (Psalm 42:1).  But He never promises to reward the slack, half-hearted, lazy, slothful, indifferent, or the apathetic.  Never.  And neither would you.

Those that put heaven first and this life last will see great reward.  And those that don’t, will suffer shame.

As C.S Lewis said, “If you read history, you will find that Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.  Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”

Let’s strive to be so heavenly minded we are of no earthly good.

Will you join with me?


big_lines

Getting Serious

1.  What are you committed to?  What’s the driving passion of your life?  Be honest with yourself.  You don’t have to give the Sunday School answer.  Do you know what you’re committed to?  And, if so, how do you know?

2.  How much time do you spend on what you’re committed to?  How much of your life is tied up in that pursuit?  Can others see your commitment?  And are you known to others by that very commitment?  How has that passion impacted the other areas of your life?

3.  Have you received any rewards for your passions?  Have you received any notoriety or recognition because of what you’re committed to?  How did that make you feel?  Was the feeling lasting?  Was the end result worth the time you spent to get that special recognition?  Was it all worth it?

4.  Have you thought about how temporal and short-lived all the things we’re committed to in this world, either good or bad, truly are?  Our jobs, our degrees, money, fame, a good-looking physique, a new car, stylish clothes, a fat retirement account, a second or third vacation home?  Even if those things are noble causes like ending world hunger or bringing about world peace, it will still all pass away.  Have you considered the only wise thing to commit your life to is the reality of the next world, the eternal world, and your life in Christ?  And, if so, what are you waiting for?

5.  On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life right now and in your decision making process?  What was it yesterday?  Are you growing in the wisdom of God?  And, if not, why?


Next Step Challenge

Take your Bible and look up the five crowns listed in the New Testament and read them in context. You will find them below.

1 Corinthians 9:24-25
1 Thessalonians 2:19
2 Timothy 4:8
1 Peter 5:4
James 1:12 and Revelation 2:10

What are they saying?  Can you obtain these crowns for yourself?  And, if so, how? What would you have to do or not do to meet their requirements?  Are you interested?  Does this seem like something to commit some time and introspecting to?

And, if not, why?  What is more important to you than receiving a reward from the Lord Jesus and joyously, as an act of worship, giving it back to Him?  Won’t you feel embarrassed to have nothing to cast at His feet?

And if so, what are you prepared to do about it?

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

338:  Take this Job and Love It!

338: Take this Job and Love It!

In Colossians 3 we find the hands-on practical teaching of Paul that hits us right where it hurts: in our job, our profession, and in our sense of value and self-worth.  No area of our life is more open to hurt and confusion for a man that what he does for a living.  In fact, most men identify themselves by their jobs and not by their families or heritage or faith.

Colossians 3:22 reads:

Bondservants (doulos – a slave, one who is in a permanent relation of servitude to another, his will being altogether consumed in the will of the other), obey (or, to listen, to be obedient, to submit, to conform) in (what) all things (who) your masters (defined as) according to the flesh, (in what way) not with eyeservice (or, service performed only under the master’s eyes, for appearance sake), as men-pleasers, but in sincerity (or, singleness, faithfulness, purity) of heart, fearing (or, being terrified or frightened) God.

Intrigued?  Want to find out more?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Colossians 3:22-4:1.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

The Lost Art of Listening

The Lost Art of Listening

My son, hear the instruction of your father,
and do not forsake the law of your mother.
Proverbs 1:8

We live in a world that was birthed in the bed of rebellion.  From Eve’s rebellion in the Garden to the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, we see the sin of rebellion, the open, hostile, rejection of authority, as one of the bedrocks of human existence.

But it’s beginning is far older than the book of Genesis.  For it was rebellion that caused the Lord to banish Satan and his followers from heaven and cast them down to the earth (Isaiah 14:13-15).  That’s why Satan is known as the “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4) and the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2).  In fact, Satan even boasted of this when he tried to tempt Jesus by offering to give Him “all the kingdoms of the world” if He would just “worship before me” (Luke 4:5-6).

And what is at the root of all rebellion?  Pride.

It was pride that brought low mighty King Nebuchadnezzar and drove him out into the fields, living on all fours and eating grass, humbled like an animal (Dan. 4:33).  It was pride that led Pharaoh to vainly fight against the Lord and not only see the destruction of all Egypt, but of his own house and family as well. It was pride that almost kept Naaman from being healed of leprosy (2 Kings 5;11) and pride that saw Haman hanged on the gallows he prepared for Mordecai (Esther 7:10).  And it was the sin of pride that led Peter to foolishly exalt his commitment to Jesus as greater than the other disciples when he said, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be” (Mark 14:29).

But the Lord says He hates “pride and arrogance and the evil way” (Prov. 8:13) and that the prideful are so enamored with themselves they do not “seek God” nor is God “in any of their thoughts” (Psalm 10:4).  They are clueless, self-deceived, and so inward-focused they can see nothing but themselves.  They have themselves become the center of their self-created universe, the most valued and important thing in their lives, and their personal happiness and pleasure is the all-consuming passion of their short, sad lives.  But the Lord promises to humble the man who exalts himself (Matt. 23:12) and to bring to nothing the one who arrogantly smirks at both God and others (Isaiah 2:11).

The future of the proud and rebellious is indeed bleak.


Rebellion and Our DNA

But we are a people that see pride and rebellion as one of the core values of our society.  We spend countless hours watching movies and sitcoms that are saturated with the theme of pride.  Our popular music exalts self to the point that we have elevated self-indulgence and narcissism to an art form.  Even in our churches we find the worship leader, our own version of a personal Christian rock star, gets more face time and notoriety than the Lord Jesus.

But it gets worse.

We, as a people, rebel against anything and everything.  Why?  Because rebellion is cool and popular and pride, the source of our rebellion, is deemed a virtue in our culture.  Just think, we rebel against our government and refuse to be “subject to the governing authorities” as commanded in Scripture (Rom. 13:1-4).  In fact, our nation was founded on rebellion and we wear that rebellion as a badge of honor and celebrate it each July 4th as a national holiday.  We rebel against our employers, miserly giving as little as possible yet demanding they pay us all the more, always grumbling and never content with our wages.  And we do this in direct contradiction to the Word of God (Col. 3:22-25).  We even rebel against the authorities placed over us for our own good: our teachers, law enforcement personnel, older siblings, and even pastors and ministers.

And, most importantly, we rebel against our parents, or any person who loves us yet dares to place upon us expectations or standards we disagree with or that stifles our drive for independence.  And this rebellion begins almost as soon as we learn to walk.

It seems like everywhere in our culture parents are portrayed as “out of touch old fogies” or “old fashioned geezers” or “ignorant killjoys” that won’t let their children do anything they want to do.  And the children are often seen as the ones who have it all together, the ones who alone can think rationally and have their emotions in check, and the ones who can see the big picture and not get sidetracked on issues that don’t really matter— like respect, obedience, diligence, commitment, honesty and hard work.

After all, the last thing our children want to do today is ask their parents for advice or follow their instructions.  But that’s the exact admonition the Lord gives us in the Proverbs.


Learning How to Listen and Obey

Consider the words from a loving father to his naive, impressionable son:

Proverbs 1:8 – My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother.

In this Proverb we find the father, as head of his home and family, imploring his young son to listen and hear the law and wisdom of his parents in order to protect him from the evil and hurts in this world that want to ruin the young man’s life.  And how do we know this? Because all fathers want to keep their children from stepping on the same land mines they did.  All fathers want to protect their children from suffering the same hurts or making the same mistakes they did when they were young and simple-minded and thought they knew everything.  All fathers want their sons to learn from their own mistakes and not have to repeat them over and over again.

Remember?

So here we have the father speaking to his son, to “My son”— and pleading with him to “hear the instruction of your father” and not to “forsake the law of your mother” (Prov. 1:8).  This plea is not generic, but a deeply personal and passionate plea coming from the lips of a loving father to his naive, gullible young son.  So much so the phrase “My son” is used almost twenty times in the Proverbs alone. 1

And what’s at the core of the plea?  To “hear” or “listen” to someone wiser than yourself.

The word translated “hear” is shama and means more than just letting sounds bounce off your ear drums to cause a recognizable vibration.  It means to “listen” or “hearken” and to “obey” what has been heard. It’s a two-fold definition.  It means to both listen and obey.  Not one or the other.  But both.

But to “listen and obey” what?  The “instruction (or, discipline, chastening, and correction, with the imagery of a father disciplining his son that he loves) of your father.”  The command is to “listen and obey” what the father has to say.  The word for instruction is the same word we find in Proverbs 1:2, 3, 7.  It’s the same instruction that “fools despise” in Proverbs 1:7.  It’s the same instruction God promised the book of Proverbs to reveal (Prov. 1:2).  And it’s the same instruction given us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

But note this, listening without obedience is still disobedience.  For the son to listen to the instruction of the father and not obey that instruction is the same as not listening at all. It’s nothing more than pride and rebellion and a forsaking of the “law of your mother” (Prov. 1:8).


To Forsake is to Abandon

The word “forsake” means to “leave alone, ignore, or abandon.”  And the word for “law” is torah and is a general term for “instruction and direction” either from God or man.  So the command is to listen and obey the instruction and discipline of your father and not to ignore or forsake the directions of your mother.  Both parents are in play here.  Both are important.  Both are involved in shaping the character of the young man.

And the son’s only job in all of this is to not play the fool but “listen and obey” the words of the two people who’ve loved him more than anyone else on the face of the earth.  He’s to embrace and not forsake the directions given him by his parents, the very ones who have sacrificed their lives to give him life and a future.  And part of their instruction is to impart the wisdom they have accumulated over the years making many of the same mistakes they are hoping to keep their son from repeating.

It’s classic Parenting 101.


The Lost Art of Listening

But one of the great tragedies facing the young son is that there is so much noise surrounding him that it makes it difficult, if not impossible, for him to hear the needed words of wisdom.  And it’s the same for us today.  Everywhere we go we’re surrounded by noise.  The radio is constantly playing in the car even when we’re not conscious of it. It’s a natural force of habit when we drive.  We have the sound of the television playing in the background even when we’re not watching it or know what’s on.  It’s just there.  Always.  Just a constant hum of music and dialogue.  And when we walk, run, sit, or wait in line, we instinctively cram in our earbuds to drown out the sounds of reality for the noise of our own choosing— as if the latest song is more important than people and the activities of life all around us.

Listening and hearing is rapidly becoming a lost art and the consequences for the Church and the Believer are horrific.  Consider the importance of being able to hear and listen and ultimately obey the Word of God:

Proverbs 2:1-2, 5 – My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom (to listen and hear), and apply your heart to understanding (to obey)… then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.

Romans 10:17 – So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

John 10:27-28 – “My sheep hear My voice (to listen), and I know them, and they follow Me (to obey).  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”

What does this say about those who don’t hear His voice?  What about those whose lives are so filled with the noise and chaos of this life the very voice of Jesus is drowned out?  What about them?

And then over and over again we find this admonition from the Lord Jesus, in both the Gospels and the Revelation:

“He who has an ear to hear, let him hear!” 2

Remember finally, the Lord is not One who is loud, brash, boisterous or pushy and demands to be heard.  He’s actually quite the opposite.  After the Mount Carmel experience, He revealed Himself to Elijah at the mouth of cave, not in the “great and strong wind” that “tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces” (1 Kings 19:11).  Nor was He found in the mighty “earthquake” or even in the consuming “fire” that passed in front of Elijah— but in a “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) that refused to compete with any of these things.  A voice so small and so still that you could easily miss it if you weren’t listening closely.  A voice that still speaks today if we would only take the time to shut out the noise of the temporal and listen intently to the voice of the eternal.

And when we hear Him, when we hear Him unmistakably break through the noise and clatter of our lives and speak to us today, our only response is to obey.  To listen and obey.  Just like the wise and loving father implored his young son to do.

Proverbs 1:8 – My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother.

After all, nothing else really matters, does it?

big_lines


Getting Serious

1.   Has God ever spoken to you?  And, if so, what was that like?  How did that happen?  What did God tell you when He spoke into your life?  And what have you done in response to that event?

2.   Has God ever convicted you of something in your life that you’ve refused to change or correct or surrender to Him?  If so, what was that?  How did He communicate His will to you and why have you refused to obey Him?

3.   Are there areas in your life that reek of rebellion?  Are there areas that you have defiantly refused to give over to Him?  If so, why?  What are you waiting for?  And if not, is it because you view your disobedience in much softer, generic, PC terms than rebellion?  But does your terminology slight-of-hand make your rebellion less of a sin?

4.   Do you obey your parents in all things?  How about your husband?  Your employer?  The government?  How do you view the authority of the church, your pastor, elders and ministers?  Is the Lord trying to speak to you in any of these areas?

5.   On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life right now and in your decision making process?  What was it yesterday?  Are you growing in the wisdom of God?  And, if not, why?


Next Step Challenge

Take your Bible and look up the following phrase “He who has an ear, let Him hear” in the Gospel accounts.  Read them in context to determine what Jesus was speaking about when He made that all-important, yet somewhat cryptic statement.

What does “He who has an ear, let him hear” really mean?  Was Jesus speaking to everyone?  And, if not, who was He speaking to?  And what was He saying to them?  What was He trying to emphasize?  Can you see a pattern in any of this?  And, if so, what is that pattern?

And what does it mean for you today?  Do you have “ears to hear”?  Are you listening?  And if so, what is He saying and what are you prepared to do about it?

big_lines

Notes:

1. Proverbs 1:8, 10, 15; 2:1; 3:1, 11, 4:10, 20, 5:1, 5:20; 6:1, 9, 20; 7:1; 19:27; 23:15, 19, 26; 24:13, 21; 27:11; 31:2.

2. Matthew 11:15; 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23; 7:16; Luke 7:8, 14:35; Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22.

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

The Life of a Fool

The Life of a Fool

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:7

In the Proverbs we are presented with the contrast between two types of individuals: the wise man and the fool.  We’ve already seen how the “wise man will hear and increase learning” and how a “man of understanding will attain wise counsel” (Prov. 1:5).  And now we’re introduced to the man who lives at the other end of the spectrum— the fool.

But what is a fool?  And what is it about a fool that compels him to “despise wisdom and instruction?” (Prov. 1:7).


The Fool Defined

When we use the term fool today we think of someone who acts unwisely or imprudently, maybe a silly person who tries to dupe, trick or prank us.  We often equate the term with being stupid, simple or naive.  But the word, as used in the Proverbs, has a much sinister meaning.

In Proverbs 1:7 the Hebrew word for fool is eviyl and means “foolish in the sense of one who hates wisdom and walks in folly by despising wisdom and morality.”  It describes one who “mocks when found guilty, one who is continually quarrelsome and one who is licentious in his behavior.”

After all, the Proverbs say that “fools hate knowledge” (Prov. 1:22) and “fools die for lack of wisdom” (Prov. 10:21).  The heart of a fool, the very center of their being “proclaims foolishness” (Prov. 12:23) and it’s against their very nature, in fact, “it is an abomination to fools to depart from evil” and do what is right (Prov. 13:19).  Fools “mock at sin” (Prov. 14:9), and their mouth not only “feeds on foolishness” but “pours forth foolishness” like a flood (Prov. 15:2, 14).

Therefore, one who lives and thinks this way would naturally despise any “wisdom and instruction” that points out the errors in their actions or lifestyle.  Why?  Because “the foolishness of a man twists (or, perverts) his way, and his heart frets (or, is enraged) against the Lord” (Prov. 19:3) and the “way of a fool is right in his own eyes” (Prov. 12:15).  Plus, you can “grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his foolishness will not depart from him” (Prov. 27:22).  Their foolishness is embedded in their nature, it’s part of their DNA, it’s in the marrow of their bones.

But there’s more to a fool than just a rejection of the truth found in the Scriptures.  The verse also states that fools “despise” both the “wisdom and instruction” of God.  And despise is a strong word.  It means to “hold in contempt, to deem insignificant, to show scorn or disrespect for someone or something.”  So putting this all together, Proverbs 1:7 reads like this:

The fear (or, awe, profound reverence, terror and dread) of the LORD is the beginning (or, starting point, inception, genesis) of knowledge (or, discernment and insight into the things of God), but (the contrast) fools (or, those who mock when they are found guilty in their sin, those who are licentious or who are promiscuous and unprincipled in sexual matters and live immoral lives) despise (or, scorn, disrespect, ridicule and view as insignificant and worthless) wisdom (or, the ability to discern and judge what is right, true, and lasting) and instruction (or, discipline, chastening, and correction, with the imagery of a father disciplining his son that he loves).

In fact, this truth is so important that Proverbs 23:9 restates it as such: “Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, (why) for he will despise the wisdom of your words.”


The Fool More Clearly Defined

But the Scriptures, especially the Proverbs, have much more to say about the fool.  In fact, the Lord gives us almost an entire chapter to show us, in graphic detail, the life and future of a fool.  Look what He says in Proverbs 26:1-12 and note the contrast between the wise and the fool:

As snow in summer and rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool.
Like a flitting sparrow, like a flying swallow, so a curse without cause shall not alight.
A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the fool’s back.
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, (why) lest you also be like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.
He who sends a message by the hand of a fool cuts off his own feet and drinks violence.
Like the legs of the lame that hang limp is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
Like one who binds a stone in a sling is he who gives honor to a fool.
Like a thorn that goes into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
The great God who formed everything gives the fool his hire and the transgressor his wages.
As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.
Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?  There is more hope for a fool than for him.

And there’s so much more.


The Fool’s Pay-Off

Which brings us to the pressing question, Why?  Why would anyone willingly choose the life of what the Scripture calls a fool?  Why would anyone foolishly run down the path that leads to only hardship, suffering, and destruction?  What’s the upside, the advantage, the benefit, the payoff for choosing to live and think as a fool?  And since most of our culture has embraced foolishness, what makes the life of a fool so obviously appealing?

And this is where the problem lies.  It’s a problem of perspective and belief.

You see, our culture calls a “self-made man” a hero.  We applaud the antics of someone who calls his own shots, who’s a leader among leaders, who refuses to take “no” as an answer and cannot be deterred in his passionate quest for what he truly wants.  We want to emulate the person who bows down to no one, who can “give better than he gets” and who is committed and single-focused on his own agenda and way of seeing things.

These are the attributes that create the celebrated icons of our society.  These are the character traits that lead to success in this world.  And if you desire to live like your heroes, then these are the types of people you must become.

Yet these are also the traits and convictions that make someone a fool in the eyes of Scripture.  Just think about it.  Our fallen, prideful culture says that the most important thing in this world is “me”.  It’s my wants, my rights, my desires, my opinions, my future, my calling, my future, my happiness, my importance… or simply “me.”  And so the mantra goes: “If I can’t love myself then I can’t love others. I have to love me first.” Or, as Shakespeare put it, “To thine own self be true.”  But to think like that and especially to live like that makes you a fool in the eyes of the Lord.


The Heart of the Cross is Sacrifice

Why?  Because the heart of the Christian life, the essence of the Christian message, is about love displayed in sacrifice and service to others.  After all, didn’t Jesus say “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13)?

Then, if all this is true, why is the world almost irresistibly drawn to the lifestyle deemed as foolish by the Lord?  Why can they not see the error of their ways, the inevitable damning consequences of their selfish choices?  Why is the world so blind to the truth and why do they not only reject, but literally detest, the “wisdom and instruction” of the Lord?

The answer is found in the cross of Christ.

The greatest act of self-sacrifice known to humanity was displayed by Christ on the cross where He willingly died for the sins of others.  But this act of sacrifice and love, the agony of the ages, is considered to the lost, the unregenerate, the world, to those the Scripture calls fools, as foolishness to them.  In other words, the world calls the cross of Christ “foolishness” and therefore becomes a “fool” by despising the “instruction and wisdom” of the Lord. This is a tragic case of verbal gymnastics at its very best.

1 Corinthians 1:18 – For the message (or, preaching, power, wisdom and instruction) of the cross is foolishness (or, moronic, absurdity, folly) to (who) those who are perishing (the lost, the unredeemed, the world), but to us (the elect, the redeemed, the children of God) who are being saved it is the power of God.

But there’s more. Read on.

1 Corinthians 1:19-31 – For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”  Where is the wise?  Where is the scribe?  Where is the disputer of this age?  Has not God made (what) foolish the wisdom of this world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the (what) foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.  For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.  But God has chosen (His action) the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen (His action) the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen (His action), and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, (why) that no flesh should glory in His presence.  But of Him you are (what) in Christ Jesus, who became for us (1) wisdom from God—and (2) righteousness and (3) sanctification and (4) redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”


It’s More than Mere Semantics

But this is much more than mere semantics.  These words have eternal consequences.  If you live in the world and believe this is your Best Life Now!, you will see the wisdom of God and the sacrifice of Christ as foolish or moronic.  But if you live in the Kingdom of God, you will understand that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom but fools”, those who reject the gospel and all it entails, by their very nature, “despise knowledge and instruction” of the Lord (Prov. 1:7)

So which are you?  A fool in the eyes of the world for believing in the cross of Christ or a fool in the eyes of Scripture who rejects the very truths of God?  The choice is yours.  And the consequences of your choice are eternal.

So choose wisely.

big_lines


Getting Serious

1. Do you remember the time when you played the fool for the world and all it promised you?  What was that like?  Did the world deliver on its promises?  Or were you left disappointed and empty-handed?

2. What was it like for you when you began to understand the cross of Christ for what it truly is?  How did you pass from viewing it as mere foolishness to understanding and embracing it as the power and wisdom of God? (1 Cor. 1:18).  Can you describe that experience?  Have you had that experience?

3. Can you list a few examples from your own life when you despised the “knowledge and instruction” of the Lord? (Prov. 1:7).  Are their things in His Word that you disagree with or refuse to accept and obey? And, if so, what are they?  Do you see these instances as areas where you are despising God’s knowledge and instruction?  And if so, does that make you a fool?

4. What changes are you committed to make to align your life with the eternal, infallible wisdom of God?  Have you identified areas that need addressing?  And are you fervent enough in your faith to address those areas in your life, no matter the costs?  And if not, does that also make you a fool?

5. On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life right now and in your decision making process?  What was it yesterday?  Are you growing in the wisdom of God? And, if not, why?


Next Step Challenge

Take your Bible and look up the following verses in the Proverbs that deal with the contrast between the wise and the fool.  Do a word study and define some of the terms used to make sure you have a complete understanding of what the Lord is saying in these passages.  Then ask yourself a few questions.

Proverbs 14:33 – Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding, but what is in the heart of fools is made known.

Proverbs 17:16 – Why is there in the hand of a fool the purchase price of wisdom, since he has no heart for it?

Proverbs 18:2 – A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart.

What do these verses mean to you?  Can you see yourself in any of these warnings and contrasts?  And if so, in what way?  What does it mean when it says, “he has no heart for it” (Prov. 17:16).  Do you have a heart for God’s wisdom?

And what does it mean to be a fool today?  Do you know anyone the Scripture would deem a fool?  Do you have any of those traits in your own life?  And if so, what are you prepared to do about it?

big_lines

            podcast-25-25