Wise beyond words

Have you ever heard of Ed Faubert? Faubert is what you call a “cupper.” In layman’s terms, he’s a coffee-taster. The man is so gifted that his astute taste buds are actually certified by the state of New York! So refined is Faubert’s sense of taste for coffee that even while blindfolded, he can take one sip of coffee and tell you not just that it is from Guatemala, but from what state it comes, at what altitude it was grown, and on what mountain.

If you like a good cup of coffee, you’re impressed with this man’s uncanny taste buds. His coffee wisdom is incomparable. But I have to ask this question: Why is it that so many Americans know so much about so many things that don’t really matter? Take me for example: I know a lot about sports. I know various athlete’s height, weight, strength, 40-yard dash times, and alma maters. I also know quite a bit about music. Growing up in the 1980s, I could tell you a few things about glam, metal bands, boy bands, and country acts. I even know many of their lyrics. But I ask you this: Who really cares about my pearls of wisdom? I know I don’t. I want to be wise where it really matters.

The legendary Mister Rogers once said, “Life is deep and simple, and what our society gives us is shallow and complicated.” Fred Rogers was right. In Eccl 9:13-10:20, we will see that life may indeed be deep, but it is also rather simple. Yet, in order to experience life as God intends, we need to follow His Word. In this passage, Solomon tells us that “wisdom helps make a life.” He then gives three challenges for us to implement as we navigate through life.

  1. Appreciate wisdom in others (9:13-18).

Solomon emphasizes the worth of wisdom. In 9:13-15, he begins with an intriguing parable. He writes, “Also this I came to see as wisdom under the sun, and it impressed me. There was a small city with few men in it and a great king came to it, surrounded it and constructed large siegeworks against it. But there was found in it a poor wise man and he delivered the city by his wisdom. Yet no one remembered that poor man.” In this parable, a poor, wise man outsmarts a great king. He saves the day, yet he is unrewarded with wealth or social esteem. Whether the poor man delivered the city by diplomacy or military strategy is not the issue. The point is that the city owed its survival to him, but he received no reward or lasting respect. The sad truth is: wisdom is sought out only in desperate times; otherwise, only those who have wealth or power are in a position to demand public attention. Although the wise man failed to personally profit from his labors, his wisdom was not profitless for others or for his world. In fact, this poor man’s wisdom impressed Solomon (9:13) so much that he draws three conclusions from this parable (9:16-18):

  • Godly wisdom is greater than strength.In 9:16a Solomon writes,“Wisdom is better than strength.”If you want to understand the truth of these words, go to your high school reunion. The students who were boring nerds look great and are successful. The cool party-animal jocks are all burned out. You see, even though our society glorifies strength it is short-lived. We lose strength as we advance in years, but the wonderful truth is that we can gain wisdom as we grow older. Wisdom works. It is based on eternal principles. Plug into wisdom and your life will be a success.
  • A strong young man at a construction site was bragging that he could outdo anyone in a feat of strength. He made a special case of making fun of one of the older workmen. After several minutes, the older worker had had enough. “Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is?” he said. “I’ll bet a week’s wages that I can haul something in a wheelbarrow over to that building that you won’t be able to wheel back.” “You’re on, old man,” the young worker replied. The old man reached out and grabbed the wheelbarrow by the handles. Then he turned to the young man and said, “All right. Get in.”
  • This older man outsmarted the younger, stronger man with his wisdom. Wisdom may not bring accolades and popularity, but it tends to win the day. This is especially true in the church. Although our church has outstanding ministries for children and teens led by many younger adults, we need to continue to appreciate those who are older and wiser and who have laid the foundation for these ministries. The prayers and faithful service of many older and wiser saints who have remained committed to our church have made our present ministries possible. We must never forget the debt that we owe those who have served behind the scenes for many years and in many ways. We need to express appreciation for the wisdom that God has placed in our midst.
  • Godly wisdom is not always heeded.In 9:16b-17 Solomon said,“But the wisdom of the poor man is despised and his words are not heeded. The words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools.”Sadly, wisdom frequently goes unrewarded. We have all heard the expression, “Give credit where credit is due.” Well, unfortunately, in our fallen world this does not always happen. Often, godly wisdom and counsel falls upon deaf ears, or at best, goes in one ear and out the other. Therefore, when people do heed godly wisdom we ought to get excited. When a husband/father says, “I will not take that promotion because my family and church will suffer,” we should express our appreciation. When a spouse says, “I will not file for divorce even though I may have biblical grounds,” we ought to express our appreciation. When a high school student walks with God and is obedient to his or her parents, we ought to express our appreciation.
  • Godly wisdom can be overcome by sheer folly.In 9:18 Solomon writes,“Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.”As effective as godly wisdom is, a single person—“one sinner”—can cancel much good. This phrase “one sinner destroys much good” is like our, “one rotten apple ruins the whole barrel” or “one bad egg spoils the omelette.” Throughout the Bible, there is an abiding principle: “A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough” (1 Cor 5:6). We must guard ourselves from being contaminated by sin which will destroy godly wisdom. Television is not wicked in and of itself. But I know this: Many of us are being influenced by sinners through the tube. Moreover, our children are being influenced by sinners. The average American watches 1,680 minutes of television per week. The average parent spends 38.5 minutes per week in good conversation with their kids. Who do you think has more influence on our kids? The answer is obvious. May we not be overcome by foolishness.

[Solomon states that we should appreciate wisdom in others. Why is this so important? The answer is: God’s wisdom is greater than man’s strength. Solomon now goes on to exhort you and me to…]

  1. Avoid foolishness at any expense (10:1-7).

In the midst of a passage praising wisdom, Solomon warns us of the dangers of foolish behavior. In Ecclesiastes 10, he uses the word “fool” nine times. In Solomon’s three books (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon), he uses the words “fool, fools, foolish, and folly” a staggering total of 128 times. We could call him a “fool buster.” Consequently, he writes an entire chapter replete with proverbs that will help us to behave with wisdom instead of foolishness. In 10:1 he shares a most unusual proverb: “Dead flies make a perfumer’s oil stink, so a little foolishness is weightier than wisdom and honor.” This particular proverb may not be a terribly pleasant thought, especially if you are wearing perfume. It is Solomon’s vivid way of illustrating how a tiny bit of foolishness can destroy the powerful fragrance of a person’s dignity and reputation. This is the source of the well-known phrase “a fly in the ointment.” Notice, this comes right after the statement in 9:18 that “one sinner destroys much good.” The point being made is that it takes far less effort to ruin something than it does to create it. Or perhaps another way to put it is that it’s easier to make a stink than to create sweetness. Flies are insignificant creatures in the overall scheme of things. A perfumer’s oil, on the other hand, is a very costly substance created with care and skill. Still the insignificant can spoil the valuable. We must always remember that wisdom helps make a life.

Although there are probably many legitimate applications of this proverb, there are two I’d like to zero in on. First, the fly may be a person. One person who is out of sorts with God can lead a whole group into sin. One person who is negative can put a wet blanket on everyone’s hope. One person who is

super-critical can create single-handedly an atmosphere of discouragement. Are you a fly in the ointment at your home, at work, or at church? Second, the fly may be a flaw in character. One fault unchecked or one secret sin cherished can poison a person’s entire character. May I suggest that you choose to swat one fly before it lands in your perfume. Perhaps it is a bad attitude; maybe a bad habit; perhaps a tendency toward being irresponsible or unreliable; maybe an omission of something we should be doing that if not corrected could lead to spiritual deterioration. It’s easy to think, “It’s just a little thing:” a “little” relationship, a “little” flirtation at the office,” a “little” edge in a tone of voice, a “little” padding on the expense account,” a “little” experimentation in the wrong area—just a little thing. But we must remember that a little thing can ruin everything. Wisdom helps make a life.

In 10:2 Solomon writes, “A wise man’s heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man’s heart directs him toward the left.” First of all, this is not a political statement! God is not a Republican or a Democrat. He is a Theocrat—He alone rules His kingdom. We could call Him a benevolent dictator. Even though it is a campaign season, I will leave this alone. In Israel the right hand was the place of strength, skill, favor, and blessing. The left hand was considered the place of weakness. That’s why you hear people say, “I can beat you left-handed.” It means I can beat you with my unskilled hand. Solomon is saying that a wise man typically does the “right” thing while the fool does the “left” or wrong thing. My condolences to you if you are a lefty and you find this offensive.

In 10:3, Solomon continues his theme of foolishness with another proverb: “Even when the fool walks along the road, his sense is lacking and he demonstrates to everyone that he is a fool.” The “road” is not a literal highway but the fool’s metaphorical way of life. The Scriptures are portrayed as a well-worn, clearly marked path. Deviation from the path (in any direction) meant sin and rebellion. The fool doesn’t have to do a lot to demonstrate his foolishness. It is easily manifested in how he lives his life.

In 10:4-7, Solomon discusses our response to various leaders. In 10:4 he writes, “If the ruler’s temper rises against you, do not abandon your position, because composure allays great offenses.” This is an extremely practical verse. Solomon says, “When your boss gets angry at you, let it go. Never let another person’s actions determine your reaction. Just hang in there and deal with the person. Keep your cool and maintain your composure. In doing so, you may one day gain a hearing with your superior. It is important to note the phrase “do not abandon your position.” I have worked for difficult people before, and my tendency has always been to want to quit. Yet, what I have learned is that difficult people are everywhere. This is why Solomon says, “Calm down. Breathe. Don’t quit and run to a new place trying to run away from a broken world.” We must all recognize that there will always be some people that we just can’t stand. These individuals may be in your family, work, school, neighborhood, or church. It’s easy to get angry and frustrated with these people. It’s natural to wish they weren’t a part of our life. Life without them would be so much easier but we would be spiritually flabby. Because of them, we are forced to grow in areas that would otherwise remain undeveloped for God.

Solomon closes out this section in 10:5-7 by saying, “There is an evil I have seen under the sun, like an error which goes forth from the ruler—folly is set in many exalted places while rich men sit in humble places. I have seen slaves riding on horses and princes walking like slaves on the land.” In life, role reversal occurs. Often those who work hard or are successful lose their positions to less competent and qualified people. This is especially true in our society. A hundred years ago, the famous people were doctors and scientists. I know it may be hard to believe but even lawyers and pastors were respected. And now, you can’t turn on the TV without finding out what’s new with Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton. With all due respect to these ladies, I have no idea how they keep getting on television. It baffles my mind. These ladies need to recognize that wisdom helps make a life.

[Solomon urges us to avoid foolishness at any expense. Why does he harp on this? Ultimately, because he knows that foolishness can destroy our lives. Solomon now goes on to exhort us to…]

  1. Apply wisdom to life (10:8-20).

In this final section, we will clearly see that wisdom is “skill for living.” Solomon provides four concrete ways that we can make wisdom work for us.

First, apply wisdom in getting a job done (10:8-10). Solomon writes, “He who digs a pit may fall into it, and a serpent may bite him who breaks through a wall. He who quarries stones may be hurt by them, and he who splits logs may be endangered by them. If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success.” These five illustrations make the point: Think before you act. You can have incredible energy, gusto, and perseverance. You can go out and dig a massive pit. But stay away from the edge or you might fall in and break your neck. Avoid the perils of your own work. Be wise as well as energetic. If you are clearing the stones from an old wall, be careful. All your strength could get you killed if there is a copperhead on the other side of that wall. It’s not enough to have energy; you better have wisdom to go with it. If you are an excavator, be careful when you cut out a piece of rock because it has to fall somewhere. Don’t let it hit you on the head. Be smart with your energy, diligence, and talent. If you’re cutting trees the same advice holds true. The tree has to fall somewhere, so be careful. And if you don’t have enough wisdom to sharpen your axe you are going to make your work a lot harder. Stop and sharpen that edge. If it’s dull you will have to strike harder and harder until you get out of control, miss the log, and hit yourself. It’s typically better to work smart instead of harder. If you exercise wisdom, you will have success.

Second, apply wisdom in controlling your words (10:11-15). In 10:11 Solomon writes,“If the serpent bites before being charmed, there is no profit for the charmer.” This verse first looks like a random thought, but actually is the key to this entire section. You’ve probably seen a snake charmer on television. It’s quite a talent to be able to charm a snake, isn’t it? But if the charmer gets bitten, his talent didn’t do him any good. The charmer had the skill but he didn’t use it. Solomon’s point is that you need to use the wisdom you have. Otherwise, you may as well not have that sense, for it is of no service to you. It’s not enough to know how to charm the serpent; you have to actually apply your knowledge before you’re bitten. Let’s apply this idea to life. You probably have many areas in life where you know the right things to do. You could give a list of wonderful principles for marriage, parenting, money management, sexuality, friendships, and work. You know all the right answers in your head. But that’s not the most important part, is it? If the serpent bites, the person who knows how to charm a snake is no better off than one who doesn’t. So the important thing is not just that you have the knowledge but that you actually use it in marriage, parenting, and so on. You have to use your wisdom. Our churches are filled with Bible-believing people who have mangled their lives because they were bitten by the snake. They didn’t put their wisdom to use. What about you? Are there areas of your life where you know the right thing to do but just aren’t doing it? Are you praying with your spouse? Are you reading the Bible with your kids? Are you out of debt and using your money wisely to fulfill the Lord’s calling on your life? If the answer to any of these questions is no, you need to put your wisdom into practice. Wisdom helps make a life.

In 10:12-15, it becomes clearer that Solomon’s focus is on controlling our words. He writes,“Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, while the lips of a fool consume him; the beginning of his talking is folly and the end of it is wicked madness. Yet the fool multiplies words. No man knows what will happen, and who can tell him what will come after him? The toil of a fool so wearies him that he does not even know how to go to a city.” It is sad to say but both the foolish and wise alike can multiply their words. Yet, consider the following benefits to silence or at least to talking less: (1) you can listen carefully to what others say; (2) you have time to frame your thoughts; (3) your companions will value your words because you have listened to them; and (4) you run a much lower risk of saying something foolish. A wise person once remarked that it’s better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Third, apply wisdom in leading others (10:16-19). In 10:16-17Solomon writes, “Woe to you, O land, whose king is a lad and whose princes feast in the morning. Blessed are you, O land, whose king is of nobility and whose princes eat at the appropriate time—for strength and not for drunkenness.” In these verses, Solomon informs us that some leaders try to solve problems with pleasure—food and drink. Food is for activity, not for inactivity. We eat to live; we do not live to eat!! One who controls the base appetite to eat probably can control other areas where self takes control. Self discipline is crucial in a leader! We are affected by the tone set by those at the top of any organization. This is true of both good and bad leaders. Laziness, incompetence, or moral failure in any organization will cause it to collapse. This is true from the White House all the way to your house. So Solomon gives us some guidance. An image of bad rulers is compared to good ones. The first priority for bad rulers is to fulfill their own appetites and desires. Good rulers, on the other hand, are disciplined. They enjoy good things in moderation, so they can concentrate on governing well.

In 10:18, Solomon shares another memorable proverb: “Through indolence the rafters sag, and through slackness the house leaks.” Picture a guy sitting at home with a bottle of beer in his hand, watching television. He’s supposed to be doing work, taking care of things, providing for those for whom he is responsible. He’s supposed to be a steward of the tasks entrusted to him. But the house is falling down. The roof is leaking. The bills are stacking up. The beer belly is growing larger. Solomon says that this is not an appropriate response. While effort alone will not guarantee success, lack of effort will almost certainly guarantee failure.

What is it that you know you need to do this week that is not done in your life? It will take you less than three seconds to answer that question. I already know what it is in my life. Now that you know what it is, name it. Plan it. Schedule it. Do it. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; because in the grave where you are going there is no planning, no foresight, and no work. You want to rest? You will have plenty of time to rest in the grave. Until then, stay busy doing what needs to be done.

In 10:19 he writes, “Men prepare a meal for enjoyment, and wine makes life merry, and money is the answer to everything.” There may be a hint of sarcasm in Solomon’s voice. Throughout this book, he has taught that there is no answer for anything. On the other hand, lots of money would help anyone searching for pleasure in an attempt to escape life’s harsh realities. Yet, only wisdom matters.

Lastly, apply wisdom in withholding criticism (10:20). Solomon states that the wise person should not even criticize someone in the privacy of their bedroom. Listen to these words: “Furthermore, in your bedchamber do not curse a king, and in your sleeping rooms do not curse a rich man, for a bird of the heavens will carry the sound and the winged creature will make the matter known.” Many will ask the question, “What shall I do when those in authority over me are fools?” Solomon says, “Be careful what you say about those in authority over you. Loose lips sink ships. They also sink careers and friendships.” Of course, it is hard to keep reckless words a secret, but we must realize that words can travel like the speed of light. Those who hear juicy gossip and slander often use them for self interest (i.e., tell the king in order to gain favor). This is the origin of the little expression: “A little bird told me.” Birds don’t talk, of course, but Solomon is reminding us with this illustration that a wise person doesn’t say something in private that he wouldn’t want someone to hear in public. We should watch what we say because we never know who is listening. Remember, “The walls have ears!” We should always utilize discretion, caution, and control. Sam Rayburn (1882-1961), democratic politician from Texas, said, “Among my most prized possessions are words that I have never spoken.” Today, will you recommit yourself to holding your tongue? Will you strive to believe the best about people? Will you refuse to participate in gossip? If someone wants to talk to you about another person, will you shut him or her down? The truth is: gossip and slander can destroy churches. May you and I see gossip and slander in the same repulsive light as we do child molestation. We would never want to be party to this because it is sinful and we know the damage that it does. The same is true with gossip. It is utter foolishness.

A man walked into a convenience store, put a $20 bill on the counter, and asked for change. When the clerk opened the drawer, the man pulled a gun and asked for all the cash in the register. The man took the cash from the clerk and fled, leaving his $20 bill on the counter. So how much did he get from the drawer? Fifteen bucks. Go figure. We read this story and we think, “What a fool!” Yet, we often exchange God’s wisdom for man’s foolishness and don’t think anything of it.

How should you respond to God’s Word today? I would suggest memorizing James 1:5: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” If you and I humbly come to the Lord and ask to exchange our foolishness for His wisdom, He will grant this prayer every time. He will also change your life in the process.

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Wise words about wisdom

A young man loaned an acquaintance $500, but failed to get the borrower’s signature on a receipt. When the guy hadn’t paid him back a year later, he realized he had probably lost the money due to lack of proof. He asked his father what to do. “The answer is simple,” his father said. “Just write him and say you need the $1,000 you loaned him.” “You mean $500,” his son replied. “No, you need to say $1,000. He’ll immediately write back that he only owes you $500, and then you’ll have it in writing!”

 

This father provided wise counsel and his son was able to receive profitable words in writing. Similarly, our heavenly Father provides wise counsel and we can read His profitable words in the writings of the Bible. And who can’t benefit from a bit more wisdom? In Eccl 7:15-29 Solomon says, “Wise up by going low.” By this he means biblical wisdom comes through humility. In this passage, Solomon offers three provisions of wisdom.

 

  1. Wisdom provides humility (7:15-18).

In these first four verses, Solomon discusses one of the most prevalent questions of human history: Why do good people suffer and bad people prosper? In 7:15 he writes, “I have seen everything during my lifetime of futility; there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his wickedness.”

 

The phrase “I have seen everything” is akin to the contemporary expression of disgust, “Now, I’ve seen it all.” Solomon is a bit miffed that there doesn’t seem to be any correlation between one’s goodness and one’s lifespan. We see this principle alive and well today. We see righteous people die abruptly, and we see wicked fools living for what seems too long. Think about it…Jesus lived to be 33 and Hugh Heffner seems as if he’s going to outlive all of us. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, does it?

 

It’s easy to agonize over these hazy areas of the faith, like those spots on a sparkling car window that simply won’t come clean. Yet, these hazy areas tell me that God is real, dynamic, and too great for my conception.

 

His ways are higher than mine. Isa 55:8-9 states, “‘for My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’”

 

If there were no hazy areas, Christianity would be too neat, too trite. If I can fully understand God’s thoughts, He would be no more God than I am. Others approach this theological puzzle (and others) with an ultimatum: solve it or God is not real. This is like approaching a 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzle and saying, “If I can’t assemble this in five minutes, I will deny that it’s a picture.” That’s unfair, isn’t it? It’s also irrational. Our inability to work out an answer reflects only on our limitations, not God’s. Therefore, it makes sense to trust our loving and powerful God even when He does not think and act like we might want Him to. After all, He sees the end from the beginning. With this in mind, today will you give the Lord whatever intellectual issues that you are struggling with? It’s as simple as saying, “God, I don’t understand what you are doing or why you are doing it, but you are God and I am not so I will trust You.”

 

Since we can’t possibly understand God’s decisions, Solomon’s conclusion in 7:16-17 is, “Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself? Do not be excessively wicked and do not be a fool. Why should you die before your time?” These verses have been terribly misunderstood. Some have dubbed these verses “the golden mean,” which suggests we should not be too righteous or too wicked. Rather, we should strike a balance and achieve a happy medium. Instead of saying, “Do not be overly foolish,” Solomon merely declares: “do not be a fool.” By doing so, he seems to be suggesting that a person is either a fool or he/she is not a fool (i.e., there are no degrees of being a fool). Furthermore, trying too hard to become something—whether “good” or “bad”—does not accomplish lasting success. “Trying too hard” merely breeds frustration and an emptiness because the effort takes place “under the sun” and, for the most part, the success of such an effort is short-lived, perhaps “benefiting” the person only in his/her life “under the sun” and not in his/her eternal life.

 

Yet, if Solomon is telling us to be moderately godly, he is contradicting the Bible which clearly teaches us to seek righteousness and holiness with all that is within us. 2 Cor 7:1; Phil 3:13-14; Heb 12:14. I believe, therefore, Solomon’s concern is not with godly character, but with godly character in one’s own eyes. His point is that we should not depend on our righteousness or wisdom to guarantee God’s blessing in our lives. In other words, if you are a particularly righteous person don’t be too confident that you will live to see your 120th birthday. The verb translated “ruin yourself” is better rendered to “be appalled, astounded.”

Solomon is saying, “Don’t assume that God owes you anything for your righteousness.” If you do, you might be confounded or disappointed like the righteous person who dies at a young age.

 

The truth is, no matter how righteous or wise we attempt to be we are still sinners in need of God’s mercy and grace. The apostle Paul understood this. Early in his ministry, he called himself the least of the apostles. Later on he said he was the least of all Christians. Then he said he was the chief of sinners. The older he got, the more he saw of God, the lower he became in his own estimation.

 

In the same vein, John Newton, the former slave trader and author of “Amazing Grace,” said, “When I get to heaven, I will be amazed at three things. I will be amazed at those I thought would be there who are not there, those I did not think would be there who are there, and the fact that I am there at all.”

 

The Chinese are reported to have a saying, “The shoot that grows tall is the first to be cut.” Biblically and practically, it makes sense to be humble. There is just too much we don’t understand. There are too many questions, too many tragedies, and too much sin. Humility is always the best option. But what does this look like practically? It means you take a close look at how you think, speak, and act. When you think of Christian self-righteousness, you most likely think of a person who sees the faults of others, but is oblivious to his or her own condition. Tragically, this may be the most frequently used reason for not becoming a Christian. In the past, I used to dismiss this by saying, “There are hypocrites in every profession and sphere of life.” But now I agree with statements relating to hypocrisy among Christians. I will even acknowledge that I have been guilty of hypocrisy as well. I empathize with people who quote the common bumper sticker, “Jesus, save me from your followers.” Don’t get me wrong, we need to be authentically righteous, but we also need to be especially humble.

 

Not only is Solomon opposed to self-righteousness, he is also opposed to wickedness. Although we are sinful and will always have remains of hypocrisy and self-righteousness, we need to be careful not to use our sinfulness as an excuse to sin even more. The fact that we aren’t perfect should spur us on toward holiness, not toward moral compromise. It’s easy to see how this line of reasoning might work. “I’ve already told one lie. What difference will another make?” Or “I know I shouldn’t have used foul language, but why stop now?” All such reasoning is evil. Why compound your troubles by continuing to sin? When you’re in a hole, stop digging. If you can’t make things better, at least make sure you don’t make them worse. This applies to all of us because everyone struggles with sin to one degree or another. You don’t have to take another drink, you don’t have to cheat a second time, you don’t have to keep on swearing, and you don’t have to lose your temper over and over again. By the power of God, and with the help of a few good friends, you can stop the patterns of sin and replace them with habits of holiness.

 

If we choose to disregard God’s Word and play the fool we may die before our time. The truth is, God does sometimes punish the wicked in this life. There have been times over the course of my life when I have wondered what would happen if I attempted to steer off a cliff while driving my car. I have thought to myself, “Would God send an angel to steer my car away from imminent danger? Would God Himself slam on the brakes before I drove off the cliff? Would He keep my steering wheel from turning in the direction of the cliff?” The answer to these questions is, “NO, NO, NO!” This is not to say that the Lord would not work a miracle, but the odds are against it. If I make a foolish decision, I may pay for it with my life. This is the message we should be trying to get our young people to understand: please don’t play the fool. One experiment with drugs could end your life. One sexual encounter could cost you dearly. One suicidal attempt could be your last. It’s not worth it. Live in light of eternity. Exercise wisdom and self-control.

 

The final verse of this section is rather interesting. Solomon writes in 7:18, “It is good that you grasp one thing and also not let go of the other; for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them.” The “one thing” that you are to grasp is the teaching of 7:17. The “other thing” that you are not to let go of is the wisdom of 7:16. In other words, it is good in life to grasp 7:17—don’t be wicked and foolish and blow life; be holy and wise. But at the same time, remember 7:16—you are a finite sinner who can’t control God or even understand what He’s up to. Obey God and what you know. Trust Him in what you don’t.

[Wisdom provides humility. We will now see…]

  1. Wisdom provides strength (7:19-22).

In this section, Solomon says, “Wisdom is a strong ally in this fallen world, but it cannot shield believers from pain, injustice, and bad circumstances.” In 7:19 Solomon writes, “Wisdom strengthens a wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city.” The Hebrew word for “wisdom” (hokmah) refers to “the skill of living.” This involves both a godly perspective and a godly power to live life. Perspective and power are like the two wings on a bird, the two blades of a pair of scissors, or the two sides of a coin. The whole of wisdom doesn’t exist without both perspective and power. In 7:19, Solomon states that the wisdom of God is better than surrounding yourself with the ten best men you can find. It’s been said that a man with a Bible could stay in a cave for a year, and at the end of that time, he could know from his reading what everybody else in the world was doing. There is no greater blessing than wisdom. There is no greater activity than walking with God and revering Him. But watch out that you don’t let your good behavior go to your head.

 

The reason for such humility is found in 7:20 where Solomon writes, “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” In our fallen state, our entire wills are oriented against God. We are bent on our own ways of evil from the get-go. Augustine said the only reason you think a baby is good is that he hasn’t got the power enough to show you how evil he is. He said, “If a baby had the strength when he emerged from the mother’s womb, he would seize the mother by the throat and demand his milk.” The only way any of us can be saved is if God makes radical change in us from the inside out. So Jesus gave Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. Then the Spirit of God changes our nature by abiding with us, keeping us, sanctifying us, and raising us by His power.

 

In 7:21-22 we come to some especially relevant and practical words. Solomon is going to tell us that sometimes it pays to be a little hard of hearing. He writes, “Also, do not take seriously all words which are spoken, so that you will not hear your servant cursing you. For you also have realized that you likewise have many times cursed others.” Here Solomon says, “Don’t eavesdrop; don’t listen in on every conversation. Don’t go out of your way to listen to what is being said about you—sooner or later you’ll be disappointed. You’ll hear someone cursing you.” Of course, this is particularly distressing when you hear people in the church that you know and love cursing you. In my own life, I have been grieved and shocked by those who have intentionally or unintentionally sought to damage me. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience with other Christians. It hurts, doesn’t it? The truth is it doesn’t matter where you are, who you are, or what you do, people will fail you. Your best friends will fail you. Your coworkers will fail you. Your pastors will fail you. Your brothers and sisters will fail you. Your parents will fail you. Your spouse will fail you. Your children will fail you. If you live long enough, every one you count on in this life will fail you sooner or later.

 

How can you cope with the hurtful words that others have said about you? Solomon’s advice to the wise is not to listen to the gossip people say about you, because you know in your heart you have said unkind things about others as well. Let’s be honest. If we get upset when people talk about us, we are holding them to a higher standard than we hold ourselves to, because we are prone to do the same thing. With that said, sometimes a rebuke is in order if the comments are especially divisive. We need to be prepared to lovingly drill a fellow believer between the eyes and say, “Don’t talk about my brother or sister like that.” The reason that gossip and slander continue to go in most churches is that Christians tolerate it. No one ever wants to stick their neck out and call sin “SIN.” Turn away the next time someone starts with, “Bless her heart…”

My prayer is that you and I will stand up for others and sit down for ourselves. I am learning to take the destructive words of others toward me with a grain of salt. One man said, “I never worry about people who say evil things about me because I know a lot more stuff about me than they do, and it’s worse than what they are saying.” Seriously, the key to defusing gossip and slander is to humble yourself and not take yourself too seriously. Remember Jesus’ words, “Woe unto you when all men speak well of you” (Luke 6:26). Elsewhere He said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me” (Matt 5:11).

[Wisdom provides humility and strength. Now we will see that…]

  1. Wisdom provides insight (7:23-8:1).

In this final section, Solomon warns of the danger of foolishness. Yet, the implication is that wisdom can win the day through humility. In 7:23-24 Solomon writes, “I tested all this with wisdom, and I said, ‘I will be wise,’ but it was far from me. What has been is remote and exceedingly mysterious. Who can discover it?” In these two verses, Solomon discovered that he could not discover. Although he sought after wisdom with all diligence, he acknowledged that true wisdom was far beyond him. He continued in 7:25 by writing, “I directed my mind to know, to investigate and to seek wisdom and an explanation, and to know the evil of folly and the foolishness of madness.” Literally this is, “I myself turned my heart.” The ancients thought “the heart” was the center of thinking, reasoning, and feeling. The search was sincere, thorough, and intensive. God has put in our hearts the desire “to know,” but it is beyond our current fallen ability. The desire probably comes from our being made in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26-27), but sin has damaged our ability (cf. Gen 3). Yet, we still seek, search, yearn, and strive! This is to be commended, but it must be acknowledged that we are incredibly limited. We desperately need the Lord to reveal His thoughts and ways to us. Today, will you ask the Lord for His mind and heart? Will you ask for His insight?

 

So did Solomon discover anything? In 7:26 he writes, “And I discovered more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets, whose hands are chains. One who is pleasing to God will escape from her, but the sinner will be captured by her.” There is some mystery surrounding the identity of this woman. Some understand this woman to be a prostitute or an adulterer. The application then is to avoid sexual sin. I believe, however, that this woman is the personification of that wickedness which is folly itself. She is the “strange woman” of Proverbs 1-9. The antecedent of “the woman” is folly (7:25), a Hebrew feminine noun that also has an article. This conclusion seems corroborated by the allusions in 7:26 to the tactics of folly who tries to lure one away from wisdom’s embrace. The point is: Foolishness is like a seductive PERSON, so beware for she will lead you to your demise. Be like a wise person who refuses to be captured by her. Use discretion as you travel this life. Choose your friends wisely. Bad company corrupts good morals. I Corinthians 15:33. Guard your intake of television and movies. Don’t watch programming that will tear you down in your walk with Christ.

 

The mysterious words continue in 7:27-29 where Solomon writes, “Behold, I have discovered this,’ says the Preacher, ‘adding one thing to another to find an explanation, which I am still seeking but have not found. I have found one man among a thousand, but I have not found a woman among all these. Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices.’” These verses lead us to ask whether Solomon was a chauvinist. Yet, when we read Proverbs and the Song of Solomon, we know that this is not the case. In fact, in Proverbs, Solomon often personifies wisdom as a woman. So let’s get one thing out of the way immediately: Solomon isn’t making a relative comparison as to the worth of men and women in general. That wouldn’t be fair and his conclusion wouldn’t be right. Furthermore, remember that with 1,000 women Solomon was the consummate ladies man. He’s not going to jeopardize his relationship with women, right?

 

The “man” in view in 7:28 is the “one who is pleasing to God” in 7:26. The Hebrew word for “man” here (adam) is generic and refers to people rather than males in contrast to females. Solomon meant in 7:28b that a person who is pleasing to God is extremely rare (cf. Job 9:3; 33:23). The reference to “woman” (7:28c) is a way of expressing in parallelism (with “man”) that no one really pleases God completely. A paraphrase of 7:28b-c is, “I have found very few people who please God, no one at all really.” This interpretation is confirmed by 7:29 where Solomon demonstrates the scarcity—even nonexistence—of good people, whether man or woman. That the parallelism of man and woman in 7:28 describes all humankind is corroborated by 7:29—a probable reference to the creation and fall of “mankind.”

Verse 29 asserts two truths from Genesis: Initially, all of God’s creation was good. Humans can understand and implement God’s will. Fallen humans are creative and energetic in the area of evil and rebellion. Though morally capable, humans turn from God’s will to self-will at every opportunity! Even though we seek righteousness, we need to remember that no matter how good we get, we are still sinful—every last one of us—men and women both. We need to remember that no matter how good we get, the only reason people tolerate us is that we have learned how to tame our public evil as opposed to our private evil. Does that disturb you about yourself? Here it is again: The only reason that you’re a likable person is that you have learned to distinguish between your public and private obnoxiousness, and you are smart enough to keep your lustful, hateful, wicked thoughts contained in your brain. In your public treatment of people, you have remained basically hygienic and nonviolent.  I know this is a hard word, but don’t get mad at me; I’m just the mailman. I just deliver the mail.

 

So who is responsible for the universal failure to please God? Solomon said people are, not God. God made us upright in the sense of being able to choose to please or not please God. Nevertheless, in 7:29 we have all gone our own way in pursuit of “many devices.” The point is not that people have turned aside to sin, but that they have sought out many explanations. They have sought many explanations of what? In the context Solomon was talking about God’s plan. Failing to understand fully God’s scheme of things, people have turned aside to their own explanations of these things.

 

Solomon closes out this section in 8:1 with a transitional verse: “Who is like the wise man and who knows the interpretation of a matter? A man’s wisdom illumines him and causes his stern face to beam.” Wisdom provides insight. Wisdom will bring illumination and a smile to your face. How can you get wisdom? The primary way is by reading and heeding God’s Word. This is what I read in Proverbs 6:16-19: “There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.” The first item that God hates is “haughty eyes.” God hates pride and self-righteousness. The fourth item is “a heart that devises wicked plans.” This summarizes the whole of foolishness and wickedness. The last item on this list is God hates it when “one spreads strife among brothers.” This ties back into Eccl 7:21-22. If you and I want to be wise ones, we will study God’s Word and then apply it to our lives. As Solomon said in Prov 1:7: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” May we heed these words and choose to be humble in all things?

Being Heavenly minded

There is an old expression that states, “Don’t be so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good.” Clever and catchy cliché, isn’t it? The only problem is that these words are unbiblical. The Bible says, “Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col 3:2). Contrary to popular opinion, being heavenly minded always inspires us to be more earthly good. Thus, our goal as Christians must be to set our minds on things above and faithfully serve the Lord.

Paul is going to teach us that God’s approval is better than man’s applause. In 1 Cor 3:18-4:5, he will instruct us how to regard ourselves and others. He will do so by sharing two prohibitions: (1) Do not adopt the world’s wisdom and (2) do not judge God’s servants.

  1. Do not adopt the world’s wisdom(3:18-23). This section refers back to 1:18-2:16 where Paul contrasts the wisdom of the world with the foolishness of God. In the following six verses Paul carefully contrasts the wisdom of this world (3:18-20) with the wisdom of God (3:21-23). He is going to answer the question: How can we be truly wise? The answer he gives is simple—by trusting in the foolishness of God’s wisdom. In 3:18, Paul writes, “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise.” For the first time in his book, Paul calls upon his readers to do something, to change something. The key word is the word “let” (3:18). Paul will use this command two more times in this section (3:21; 4:1).

In 3:18 Paul’s readers are commanded to stop deceiving themselves with worldly wisdom. Apparently, Paul believed that it was possible for Christians to be deceived because he warns each person against falling victim to self-deception. This means no one can stand before God and claim to have been inadvertently swept along in the fast-flowing current of false wisdom. Rather, one chooses to follow either “the wisdom of this world” or the wisdom of God. And each person must accept the consequences of the choice made. Additionally, Paul informs us that the danger is “among you” and does not come from outsiders who might deceive them. This section (3:18-23), like our previous section (3:16-17), demonstrates the tendency of Christians to be deceived and to be deceivers. Therefore, Paul urges his readers to turn away from attitudes the world regards as wise and to adopt God’s viewpoint so they would be truly wise. He argues that in order to become wise the Corinthians must give up their own “wisdom.” The bottom line: It is better to be God’s fool than man’s genius.

So how does a Christian become wise? By having theology and practice centered on the cross of Jesus Christ! After all, this is the fountain of wisdom. If we are consumed with the cross of Christ, we will be sacrificial servants who will die to our spouse, children, employer, and fellow believers. We will fall in love with Christ and be out of step with the world.

A church becomes wise in the same way an individual can become wise—by depending upon God’s wisdom. The world depends on promotion, prestige, and the influence of money and important people. The church depends on prayer, the power of the Spirit, humility, sacrifice, and service. The church that imitates the world may seem to succeed in time, but it will turn to ashes in eternity. The church in the book of Acts had none of the “secrets of success” that seem to be important today. They owned no property; they had no influence in government; they had no treasury (“Silver and gold have I none,” said Peter); their leaders were ordinary men without special education in the accepted schools; they held no attendance contests; they brought in no celebrities; and yet they turned the world upside down!

Now will you be mocked and scorned for being God’s fool? Yes, you will! Peter Lord once said, “If you are living in a world where everyone limps, a person who walks normally is considered abnormal.” Our world will consider you a lunatic who is out of your mind. Yet, God insists that His worldview is the only one that will satisfy you. He will teach you the true meaning of wisdom as you depend upon Him.

The reason (“for”) that world’s wisdom must be forsaken is given in 3:19-20: “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, ‘He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS;’ and again, ‘THE LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS.’” Paul bolsters his argument in 3:19 by citing two Old Testament passages. The first, from Job 5:13, pictures a hunter stalking prey and capturing it. God catches the crafty with their own craftiness. The second quote Paul employs comes from Ps 94:11. It is interesting that the Psalm actually reads: “The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are a mere breath.” Paul’s citation is significant in that it varies slightly at two points. First, Paul exchanges the word “wise” for the word “man.” In the context of the Psalm, it becomes clear that the unbelieving man thinks himself wise when he is really foolish (see 94:2, 4, 8). The psalmist thunders against the intellectually elite and politically powerful. He calls these people, who pride themselves on their intellectual prowess, “stupid” and “senseless.” Second, Paul uses the rendering “useless,” while the translators of the Psalm use the expression “mere breath.” The point being: The wisdom of the world won’t endure the test of time. The thoughts of arrogant (wise) men are futile, or useless, because they are temporal rather than eternal. Man’s thoughts are restricted to “this age” and God’s thoughts are eternal. Man’s thoughts, even if true in this age, are not true in the next. They pass away. Merely temporal truths are thus “useless” truths, so far as eternity is concerned.

How can we recognize the self-deceived, self-important wisdom of this age where it has crept into our church? We see it in people who feel the need to express their opinion on virtually everything, and in those who aren’t happy unless they stand in opposition to the majority. Intellectual pride isn’t content to listen gratefully and appreciatively. It always needs to criticize. Its very nature requires it to win on any issue. It can’t stand opposition or contradiction. It responds to disagreement with condescension. Worldly wisdom also makes rash decisions without consulting God. The majority of us do not enthrone God, we enthrone common sense. We make our decisions and then ask the real God to bless our god’s decisions. We must be careful that we are not guilty of these patterns, and when we are that we confess our reliance upon worldly wisdom.

[In the first three verses (3:18-20) Paul has critiqued the wisdom of this world. Now in 3:21-23, he affirms the wisdom of God.]

In 3:21-23, Paul brings out his second command with the word “let.” “So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.” “So then” marks the apostle’s conclusion to this paragraph. In light of all that he has said, Paul concludes this section by forbidding boasting in men. One of the overarching problems in Corinth was that the church was caught up in personalities. So Paul doesn’t want the church to reject God’s good gifts by not appreciating all the people God had sent to help them. All of God’s servants were God’s gifts to them. Nevertheless, we must recognize that as wonderful as many servants are, they are mere men and women whom ultimately belong to God.

In 3:22-23, Paul rattles off a list of things that can enslave us and hold us in bondage: people, the world, life and death, and the present and future. Yet, Paul states twice that “all things belong to you” (3:21-22). As Christians we have all been given all of these things for our benefit. Though all things belong to us, they are not centered on us, for all things actually and finally belong to God. Thus, in Him we possess all things, but it is only in Him that we do. This leads to the natural question: Why would we want to be limited to the wisdom of men when we have at our disposal the wisdom and resources of God Himself? God has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness. It is all at our disposal, but we must seek to reject the world’s wisdom and appropriate God’s wisdom.

Paul says that all things belong to us because we belong to Christ! We don’t have to miss out on anything. We don’t need the world’s wisdom…we have everything we need in God’s wisdom. And God’s approval is better than man’s applause.

[Paul has told us that we must not adopt the world’s wisdom. But a question still lingers: How should we regard God’s servants?]

  1. Do not judge God’s servants(4:1-5). In this section, Paul challenges us to hold off on judging one another. Instead, we ought to let Jesus Christ judge His servants. Paul begins 4:1 with his third command, using the word “let:” “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” The Corinthians are to regard one another as “servants” and “stewards.” These two terms are very important, so we will look at them one at a time. First, this is not the common word for “servant” (huperetes) that is usually used in the New Testament. As a matter of fact, this is the only place in Paul’s writings where this specific word is used. It’s a word that literally means “under-rower.” It originally referred to the galley slaves who were chained to the rowing benches in the bottom tier of the Roman war ships. By the first century the term had developed from “under-rowers” to “assistants of physicians and courts,” and so came to mean those in secondary service to persons of official position.

The apostle Paul says that he and other teachers are servants who are responsible to their Master, Jesus Christ. That’s what all of us are who are in leadership—subject to Christ and to His revealed word. How do you know if you are a godly servant? Servanthood begins where gratitude and applause ends. Are you willing to serve in thankless jobs? Are you willing to serve with a joyful attitude? Do you serve with excellence? If so, you are following in Paul’s footsteps.

The second significant term is “steward.” A steward is a servant who manages everything for his master, but who himself owns nothing. The word “steward” is very common, and everyone in the church in Corinth would have known what that word meant. In a Greek household the steward was a slave who administered all the affairs of the family. He directed the staff, and he was in charge of all the material resources that the household needed in order to function. In effect, he ran the entire household for his master. It was a position of great responsibility, and he had to be completely trusted by the master of the house. We still use that term today to refer to the men and women who serve us on airplanes—stewards and stewardesses. They have similar areas of responsibility while we’re with them on the flight.

Teaching leaders in the church are not stewards of the church. Paul isn’t saying that we manage the household of faith. The phrase is very clear: We are stewards of the provisions that the household needs to be fed; that is, the mysteries of God. We’ve been entrusted with these important provisions, and we’re to communicate them. The mysteries of God refer to the truths of the Christian faith.

Most people would be especially careful with an expensive piece of equipment that was borrowed from the owner and had to be returned in the same condition. The fact is, this is the way God wants us to treat the resources He has given us. And since it all belongs to Him anyway, we don’t need to hang on tight to our time or money or anything else when God asks us to give part of it to Him. Today, ask yourself whether you’re living like the owner or like a manager.

In 4:2, Paul informs servants and stewards that they are responsible to be faithful to God. Paul writes, “In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.” The responsibility of the steward is to be faithful to his master. A steward may not please the members of the household; he may not even please some of the other servants; but if he pleases his own master, he is a good steward. So the main issue is not, “Is Paul popular?” or, “Is Apollos a better preacher than Paul?” The main issue is, “Have Paul, Apollos, and Peter been faithful to do the work God assigned to them?” How we manage little things indicates what we would do if we had more. After all, why would God give dynamite to someone who can’t handle a firecracker?

What does faithfulness mean?

Faithfulness means excellence. Faithfulness doesn’t necessarily mean doing more, but doing things better. Doing our best in every situation is one proof of faithfulness. It includes our financial stewardship, family responsibilities, job assignments, and ministry opportunities. God is primarily concerned with how we handle the unnoticed, everyday deeds that don’t make the newspaper headlines on earth. In God’s eyes little things truly are big.

Faithfulness means integrity. Faithfulness means that we are above moral reproach at all times. Remember: God still sees us, even when no one else is watching. A store owner interviewed a young man for a job and he asked, “If I hire you to work in my store, will you be honest and truthful?” The young man answered, “I will be honest and truthful whether you hire me or not.”

Faithfulness means dependability. A lazy worker retired and a dinner was given in his honor, to present him an award. The Toastmaster said, “As a token of our appreciation, we would like to give you this watch to serve as a constant reminder of your faithfulness to our company. It has to be wound frequently, it’s always a little late, and it quits working every day at a quarter till four.” Does that describe you? Faithful people can be relied upon to fulfill their commitments. When a job is delegated to a faithful worker the boss never has to worry if the job will get done.

Faithfulness means perseverance. Vance Havner once said, “Too many people go up like rockets and come down like rocks.” Lots of people start running the race of life with a flash, but few finish well. Others might get sidetracked or drop out of the race, but we must keep running with our eyes fixed on Jesus. Faithfulness means that we persevere to the finish line.

It is important for us to recognize that God is concerned with faithfulness, not fruitfulness. Sometimes we are so preoccupied with counting our spiritual apples and oranges that we forget to spend time watering our roots, by just serving Jesus. Try forgetting about being fruitful for a while. It will happen naturally if you let His living water soak into the depths of your soul.

In 4:3-4, Paul testifies that he is not terribly concerned about the judgments of others or even his own judgment. Rather, he is supremely concerned about what Jesus Christ has to say about him. Paul writes, “But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.” It mattered little to Paul how well the Corinthians or anyone else thought he was carrying out his stewardship. His personal evaluations of his own performance were irrelevant too. What did matter to him was God’s estimation of his service. Paul did not give much time and attention to introspection, though he sought to live with a good conscience before God. Rather, he concentrated on doing the job God had put before him to the best of his ability.

The reason that Paul does not judge himself is given in 4:4: As far as Paul knew he was serving God faithfully. However, he realized that his conscience might not be as sensitive as it should be. Only his Master had the insight as well as the authority to judge him. Sometimes we do not really know ourselves. There can be a fine line between a clear conscience and a self-righteous attitude, so we must beware. One would hope that every leader could line himself or herself up with Paul’s perspective here. Sometimes we spend too much time worrying about what others might say about how we are doing. On this side of heaven others will either praise us or criticize us. It is all too easy to be encouraged or devastated over the opinions of others. Yet, we must learn not to take ourselves very seriously. Instead, we must fear God and take Him seriously (2 Cor 5:10-11). It is His evaluation that ultimately matters.

God’s approval is better than man’s applause.

In 4:5, Paul concludes our passage with these instructive words: “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” Since only one Person has enough insight and is authoritative enough to pass final judgment, it is unwise for us to try to do so. Let there be no “pre-judgment seat judgment!” Of course we must make judgments from time to time, but we should always do so with the knowledge that our understanding is imperfect. God will judge our lives at the judgment seat of Christ.

In light of this sobering reality, we must strive to have godly motives and intentions. Keep in mind, if the devil can’t get us to do wrong, he will tempt us to do right for the wrong reasons. If you are serving the Lord, why are you doing it? Is it out of obligation? Has someone pressured you to do it? Is it because you’ll feel guilty if you don’t? Do you want others to see you serve so they will admire you? All of these motives are wrong. God wants us to serve out of a heart that burns with love for Him.

As we serve Christ faithfully with the purest motives possible, He promises us “praise” at the judgment seat of Christ. This praise will resound forever. It will mean more to you than anything you’ve ever received in this life. 

In 2008, Hartford Insurance ran a new marketing campaign encouraging Baby Boomers to “Prepare to Live” in retirement. These 15 second spots have a red hart stag that serves as a symbol of stability, strength, and wisdom. The message of these commercials is: You can’t depend on social security benefits, defined pension programs, or retiree health benefits to fund your retirement. Furthermore, you are unsure about your ability to pay for rising health care costs in retirement. Through this campaign Hartford Insurance is encouraging Baby Boomers to understand their personal financial picture and goals, and take control of their financial future. By seeking education and facts about their own situation, they can prepare with confidence for what should be one of the most rewarding times in their lives—their retirement.

Likewise, Jesus says, I too want you to prepare to live, not merely in this life but in the next life! Will you recognize the importance of rejecting the world’s wisdom and refusing to judge my servants? If so, you will be prepared to live, for God’s approval is better than man’s applause.


 

Deep thinking with the Holy Spirit

It has been said, “Any idiot can be complicated; but it takes genius to be simple.” Indeed, the most effective oral and written communicators are those who take profound truths and make them simple. This has bearing on every area of our lives. When we communicate with others either individually or corporately, we must be clear and simple. The well-known acronym K.I.S.S. (“Keep It Simple Stupid”) applies here.

Although the apostle Paul is a deep thinker, he always strives to bring his great learning down to common folks like you and me. However, the passage that we will be looking at has endured a most unfortunate history of application in the church. Almost every form of spiritual elitism, “deeper life movement,” and “second blessing” doctrine has appealed to this text; however, each of these is nearly 180 degrees the opposite of Paul’s intent. Unfortunately, this trend continues today. By appealing to “the deep things of God” and “secret wisdom” all kinds of false doctrines are being perpetuated and widely accepted. Therefore, we must be on the alert against this passage and others like it being abused. Our goal must be to understand why Paul has written this section of 1 Corinthians and how it applies to our lives.

The book of 1 Corinthians expresses Paul’s heart for a dis-unified church to become unified (1:10). Thus far, Paul has humbled everyone including himself. He has said to the Corinthians, “Your message is foolish (1:18-25), you yourselves are foolish (1:26-31), and I am foolish (2:1-5).” Outside of that everyone and everything is just fine. Now in 2:6-16, Paul states that the only way the Corinthians and you and I can live a wise life is by having the right perspective and power. He will argue that without the light of God’s Spirit, we’ll be in the dark. Paul begins by addressing the right perspective in 2:6-9.

  1. True wisdom is cross-centered(2:6-9). In order to be truly wise and to consistently exercise a wise perspective, we must have a proper view of wisdom. Throughout this overarching section (1:18-2:5), Paul has declared that wisdom is found in “the word of the cross.” Thus, in 2:6-9, Paul can write, “Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, ‘THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.’” If you are a Bible student it is worth underlining the word “wisdom.” The word “wisdom” (sophia) is repeated five times in the first three verses. The apostles (“we”) speak the message of the cross to those who are “mature.” The “mature” are those believers who recognize and embrace God’s wisdom in the cross. Since Paul does not divulge who among them is “mature,” the readers must decide for themselves whether they qualify or not. This same principle applies to us today. Are you a mature Christian? If so, how have you arrived at that conclusion? Paul argues that we are only mature if we have the right perspective on the cross. Is the cross your solution to church conflict? Is it the means of unity? Then you are mature. Is the cross your solution to your marriage and family difficulties? Is it the means of reconciliation? Then you are mature. Is the cross your solution to work conflict? Is it the means of getting along with your boss and coworkers? Then you are mature. We never move on from the cross of Christ—only into a more profound understanding of the cross.

Although in the next chapter (3:1-4) Paul will discuss those who are immature and fleshly in their Christian walk, his expectation is that all Christians will live according to the right perspective. We cannot make excuses for ourselves and assume that maturity belongs to the spiritually elite. God’s heart for you is that you press on to a cross-centered life. Will you refuse to settle for stale Christianity?

In these four verses, Paul will tell us three aspects of God’s wisdom:

The wisdom of God is eternal (2:6). The wisdom that Paul declares is “not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away.” It is not like the wisdom that may come from Oprah, Dr. Phil, or influential political officials. The wisdom they utter is here today and gone tomorrow. However, God’s wisdom is eternal. Isaiah the prophet said it best, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isa 40:8). Since God’s wisdom revealed through His Word is eternal, how can we not invest in it?

The wisdom of God is beneficial (2:7). Paul informs us that God’s wisdom is a “mystery.” The word “mystery” refers to truth that God had not revealed previously. The message of the cross is a further unfolding of God’s plan and purpose beyond what He had revealed and what people had known previously. Paul makes this clear when he writes that the cross is “the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory.” This stresses the plan and sovereignty of God. It also demonstrates that God has our good in mind—our glorification.

The wisdom of God is supernatural (2:8-9). The Jewish and Roman rulers responsible for Jesus’ death did not understand the purpose and significance of the cross, so they crucified “the Lord of glory.” The phrase “Lord of glory” implies the divine fullness. It also ties in with the saints’ glory (2:7). It is through union with Him that we will experience glory. Paul explains that the reason these authorities crucified Christ was because they lacked the supernatural wisdom of the Spirit. Paul then cites Isa 64:4. This passage is not about heaven, although it’s often used at funerals. It is clear in the context of Isaiah 64 that it means life, here and now. God wants to reveal these things to us. He has done so out of love. Trusting Him for understanding and cultivating this love relationship with Him means that we will grow in greater and greater understanding of wisdom. Yet, without the light of God’s Spirit, we’ll be in the dark.

[Paul has just said that the right perspective is to recognize that true wisdom is cross-centered. He goes on to share with us the right power in 2:10-16.]

  1. True wisdom is Spirit-directed(2:10-16). Paul will state that it is the Holy Spirit who reveals deep things to Christians. Therefore, if we want to grow to maturity in Christ we must rely upon the Holy Spirit’s power. In 2:10-11 Paul writes, “For to us [the apostles and mature Christians] God revealed them [deep thoughts] through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.” The wonderful mysteries God has prepared for those who love Him are not knowable only by a select group of Christians. Any and every believer can understand and appreciate them because the indwelling Holy Spirit can enlighten us. However, without the light of God’s Spirit, we’ll be in the dark.

Paul informs us that the Holy Spirit searches the very depths of the heart and mind of God. He can do this because He is God—the third member of the Trinity. Paul’s point is that the Holy Spirit functions within the Trinity the way our human spirit functions within us. Our spirit is the innermost part of our being. It’s where our deepest, most private thoughts reside. To put it another way, no one knows you better than you! The reason is that you live with you. I don’t care how well your spouse knows you or how long you have been married, no one knows you like you do. No one knows your private thoughts and those deep internals struggles you keep hidden. Because we have a spirit, we are usually our own best interpreter. That’s why when two people get into an argument, one of them will often say, “Don’t try to tell me what I mean. I know what I am saying!”

Therefore, if you really want to know someone perfectly you would have to tune into his or her spirit. The Holy Spirit is tuned in to the deepest thoughts of God. He has access to the innermost workings of the Godhead. Just as no one knows the deepest thoughts of a person better than his own spirit, no one knows the deepest thoughts of God better than the Holy Spirit.

What is the difference between SCUBA diving and snorkeling? SCUBA divers want to be able to go deep under water to see all that was there. In the same way, the Holy Spirit is like a deep-sea diver who can go down into the depths and find out what’s down there. That’s why the Bible says that even when you don’t know what’s going on, the Spirit can help you because He dives down deep. He gets way down there where the action is. He goes “deep-thought” fishing to connect us to the mind of God.

Since this is true, are you dependent upon the Holy Spirit in your Bible study? In your prayer life, do you ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you God’s wisdom so that you can pray effectively? In your marriage and family, is your prayer, Holy Spirit fill me so that I can be who you want me to be?

In 2:12-13, we learn that God is pleased to reveal His deep thoughts to us. Paul writes, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.” The moment you trusted in Jesus Christ you were given the Holy Spirit as a “pledge” of your salvation (2 Cor 1:22; 5:5; Eph 1:14). One of God’s purposes in giving you the Holy Spirit is so that you may know the things He has “freely given” to us. There is no charge attached to the Holy Spirit’s ministry of illumination. It has been provided to every believer so we can get God’s answers to life realities. We have the Spirit of God, who knows the innermost thoughts of God and can communicate these realities to us. This means we don’t need more of the Spirit; the Spirit needs more of us.

In 2:14, Paul explains why some people do not respond to the Holy Spirit: “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” A “natural man” is a person who does not have a supernatural dimension—he or she is without the Holy Spirit. Their natural values are physical and material. A person like that cannot understand spiritual things. They are controlled by feelings, moods, urges, felt needs, desires…by natural reasoning, logical choices made on the basis of goals centering on this life—success, wealth, power, and pleasure. Such a person does not “accept” the things of God for they are foolishness to him.” The term “accept” literally means “to welcome.” It is a word that was used frequently of the practice of hospitality. Thus, I think 2:14 can best be translated, “The unbeliever does not welcome the things of God.”

Paul also states that the unbeliever cannot understand the things of God. There are two different words in Greek that are translated “to understand” in our English Bibles. One means to understand intellectually, while the other is often used to mean understand experientially, or “discern the true nature and importance of something.” It is the latter word which is used here. Paul is not saying that an unbeliever cannot understand the facts of the Bible or that he cannot grasp basic theology or even that he cannot interpret Scripture correctly. Rather, what he is saying is that he cannot know the things of God experientially—he can’t discern whether those things are true or good or valuable.

The best way I know to illustrate Paul’s point here is with the concept of radio waves. There are many, many radio waves in this room. But we can’t hear them because we don’t have receivers to pick them up. Our ears are not tuned to those frequencies. The same thing is true in the spiritual realm. The unbeliever doesn’t have the spiritual receiver, the Holy Spirit, to enable him to appreciate God’s truth. He is like a deaf critic of Bach or a blind critic of Michelangelo.

Therefore, we should not get angry when unbelievers act like unbelievers. How else are they supposed to act? The deaf cannot hear, the blind cannot see, the lame cannot walk, the dead cannot move, and the natural man cannot understand the things of God. How sad it is that many Christians castigate unbelievers for sinning when sinning is merely a part of their job description. Yet, we allow believers to live any old kind of life without any rebuke, discipline, or accountability. There seems to be a terrible double standard. We should not become angry, irritated, or impatient with unbelievers. On the contrary, we should have a great empathy and love for them. While we should also have love and empathy for believers, we must stop letting believers live like unbelievers. We’ve got it all backwards. We need to understand that the only reason we ourselves aren’t still living as natural men and women is that God miraculously entered our lives. It is a gift of grace that we can now see reality. So we have nothing to be proud of; we’re not superior to natural men and women, just saved. That’s the only difference.

Paul gives a contrasting perspective in 2:15: “But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.” We hear the term “spiritual” being used a lot today, and often very carelessly. People call themselves “spiritual” because they are seeking ultimate answers, whether in the paranormal or in New Age philosophy or in Eastern mysticism or even in their inner self. But the NT uses the term “spiritual” to describe someone who is related to the Spirit of God. Spiritual persons are those Christians in whom the Spirit has really become the fundamental power of life (cf. Gal 6:1). Paul is describing people who consistently obey the teaching of the Holy Spirit. As a result of that consistency, they have great potential for being used of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. Verse 15 says, “He who is spiritual appraises all things…”

The verb “appraise” means to appraise the worth of something. In the art world, there are certain people who are fulltime art appraisers. They can look at a painting and say, “That’s a forgery. It’s worthless.” Or “That’s worth $5,000 at auction.” Or “That’s a Rembrandt. It will fetch at least $7 million.” These appraisers are well paid because they have the ability to spot the real value of a painting. Paul says that because we have the Holy Spirit, we can properly appraise the real value of things.

Contextually, this phrase doesn’t really mean “all things;” it means “all spiritual things.” Being a Christian doesn’t give one any special advantage in understanding calculus or in learning German. (I’m living proof of this.) A person’s I.Q. doesn’t automatically change when he gets saved, but his spiritual “I will” certainly does. The mature believer has a receiver for spiritual radio waves and his receiver is tuned in. He can therefore discern, appreciate, and understand the essence of spiritual truth. That means that we really can exercise moral judgment, because we have thoroughly studied the mind of the Lord in the Old and New Testaments. We have prayed about difficult issues and have examined them from every side; we have put them through the grid of biblical absolutes. Therefore, we have the courage to take a position on values and issues that the natural world is totally confused about. We have the courage to speak out on the wrongness of abortion, the destructiveness of the homosexual lifestyle, and the sins of materialism, racial bigotry, and oppression of the poor and needy.

There is another clause that follows immediately in 2:15: “…yet he himself is appraised by no man.” This phrase has been terribly misunderstood by some Christians. Some have suggested that this verse teaches that the Christian should not be judged by anyone. Yet, later in this very letter Paul will command believers to judge the flagrantly disobedient in their midst (5:3-5), to evaluate those who claim to bring words from the Lord (14:29), and to examine themselves to see if they are behaving appropriately enough to take the Lord’s Supper (11:27-32). Here, therefore, he is thinking primarily of being unjustly evaluated by non-Christians (or by Christians employing worldly standards), who have no authority to criticize believers for their misbehavior, since they themselves do not accept the standards they employ in making their judgments.

In reality, the natural world can’t figure us out. We are an enigma. They can’t understand why someone would volunteer for children’s ministry or youth ministry year after year, or give 10% of their income to the Lord’s work. They can’t appreciate why someone would want to talk about Jesus. Our lifestyle appears strange to the people of this world. We will hold convictions that other people don’t, based on a different set of absolutes. We will be kind and compassionate at times when others are cruel. We will be intolerant when other people are very tolerant. It’s all because we have insight into the mind of God.

Paul closes out this section in 2:16 with these dramatic words: “For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ.” Here Paul quotes Isa 40:13 to remind us that we can’t know the mind of God apart from the Holy Spirit.

Fortunately, Paul writes that “we have the mind of Christ.” Going back to 1 Cor 1:10, Paul urges us to be of the same mind. This means to share the mind of Christ, which is focused on unity and community life (see John 17).

In his epistle to the Philippians, Paul urged his readers to adopt the mind of Christ (Phil 2:5). He then spoke of the death of Christ. To have the mind of Christ is to participate in the pattern of the cross. God’s heart is that we put to death our selfish ambitions and humble ourselves before one another.

In the old television detective series, Columbo, viewers were always told at the beginning of each show who had carried out the crime. Then the fun began as Columbo set about finding the criminal, unearthing information that the viewers already possessed. Watching Columbo was different from the experience of watching other mystery shows. If truth has already been made available to you, that necessarily affects your life experience and the choices and decisions you will make. As Christians, we have the opportunity to live life having been told ahead of time about truths that are hidden from the world. What we believe about life essentially informs and influences how we live and how we make decisions. The information we have about life is the basis on which we make our way in life.

Paul has declared that true wisdom is cross-centered and Spirit-directed. It is available to you today if you will merely adopt the right perspective and the right power.

Being a wise fool

When I was growing up, my parents took my brother and me on two trips across the United States. On one of our six-week trips we visited the Sears Tower in Chicago. I will never forget our awe when we first saw the city’s magnificent skyline. The closer we came, the more the skyscrapers seemed to rise in height. As we headed toward the heart of this impressive city, the imposing buildings ahead of us appeared to grow out of the ground before our very eyes. The famous Sears Tower dwarfed even the tallest of the other superstructures. As we entered downtown Chicago, this massive construction loomed even larger. Standing at its base, we gazed straight up at the 110-story building that soars 1450 feet in the air. Built with 76,400 tons of steel, containing more than 4.5 million square feet, and covered by 16,000 bronze-tinted windows, the Sears Tower is an amazing sight to behold. We were astonished at its greatness and grandeur. The closer we drew, the larger it grew. And the larger it grew, the more we seemed to shrink.

That is what drawing close to something awesome will do. It will make you feel smaller and smaller by comparison. This is precisely the dynamic that occurs in our own hearts when we draw near to the starkest, most awesome display of God’s glory—the cross of Jesus Christ. In 1 Cor 1:18-25, Paul is going to discuss the wisdom and power of the cross. The book of 1 Corinthians is about how to have unity in a divided church. Paul expressed this theme in 1:10-17. Now in 1:18-25, he will take us to the cross, which is the basis of our unity. In these eight verses Paul will answer the question: Why does God use the foolish message of the cross? The answer may be surprising. God uses the foolish message of the cross to show forth His wisdom and power. In other words, God “fools” us to show Himself wise and powerful.

  1. God pronounced the foolishness of the cross(1:18-20). This paragraph begins in 1:18 with a thematic statement. Paul writes, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Paul makes it clear that there are only two categories of people: the “perishing” and the “saved.” Ultimately, all must fall into one of these two classes; there is no other. Paul writes that those who are perishing consider the word of the cross “foolishness.” Five times in eight verses, Paul will use a form of the word “foolishness.” Now it will help you to know the basic Greek word is moria. In 1:25 it appears as an adjective—moros. I probably don’t have to tell you that we get the English word “moron” from this Greek word. It has the idea of something that is ridiculous, ignorant, stupid, and contemptible. If someone were to say, “You moron!” you would be insulted, and properly so. But that is the very word that Paul uses here—and not just once, but five times. What Paul is saying is this: Most people consider the cross to be moronic! Now there are countless reasons for this, but at the top of the list has to be that the cross offends our pride. The word of the cross is that salvation is freely granted by God’s grace, not human merit or intellect. Furthermore, salvation is extended to all people. This levels the ground at the foot of the cross. Everyone comes to God through faith, based upon the work of Jesus Christ. This offends man’s pride.

While the unbeliever considers the cross utter nonsense, the Christian sees it as “the power of God.” Please read 1:18b carefully. The word of the cross is not simply good advice or helpful information…it is the power of God! In other words, our victory in salvation and life can only be attained through the cross. The cross is everything to the Christian.

John Stott shares this brilliant thought: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I turn to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me. He set aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death.” These words provide one of the best arguments for both the existence of God and the power of the cross.

In 1:19 Paul quotes the Old Testament Scriptures, “For it is written, ‘I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.’” This quotation comes from Isa 29:14. The “wisdom of the wise” in Isaiah refers to political shrewdness, and Paul applies it generically to every form of human wisdom that exalts its own cleverness. The point is this: All human schemes that fail to take God into account will run aground (Isa 30:1-2). Isaiah mocks the failed scheming of the worldly-wise Jerusalem politicians who sought to ensure Israel’s safety. Their clever statecraft came to naught, because their alliance with Egypt so alarmed Assyria that it sparked the invasion they sought to avoid. The prophet reminds them that God is the Creator and humans are mere creations, and that God will turn things upside down (Isa 29:16). God’s rescue strategy opts for what appears to be weakness in this situation by allowing Jerusalem to become besieged and crushed before rescuing it. God doesn’t need human help. He set aside the cleverness of the wise. Paul illustrates the word of the cross with this story from the history of the Hebrew people of how God works, especially in terms of human redemption. God does not need anyone but Himself to accomplish His plan of salvation. The reason: He is an all-wise God (Rom 11:33).

In 1:20, Paul launches into four rhetorical questions. He asks, “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” Paul is speaking of the philosopher, the religious scholar, and the debater. What do these three categories of persons have in common? They are all perceived as professional experts. God has not simply disregarded the wisdom of the world or shown it to be foolish. He has “made foolish the wisdom of the world.”

Just think about this: None of us would have ever come up with the plan of salvation that God did. In our “wisdom” we would have made it much more confusing, complex, and inequitable. Earn your way to heaven. We would have devised a “lay-away” salvation plan. But God designed a salvation free for all, available to all, by sending His Son to die for our sins. In the death of Christ, God displayed His own sheer genius in masterminding a plan of salvation whereby He remained both just and the justifier (Rom 3:26). If we had a million lifetimes to think and create a means by which a holy God would accept sinful man, we could never come up with the cross. Only the inscrutable wisdom of God could have thought of it. God designed His plan of salvation in such a way that sinful man could not come to know Him by human wisdom, which could only exalt man. So God purposed to save lost sinners through a means that seemed utter nonsense to a “wise” world—the cross. In the cross, we see the wisdom of God most fully revealed. In His infinite wisdom, God designed a plan that in no way compromised His holiness or left His righteousness unfulfilled. God’s wrath has been poured out on man’s sin; all the while, His righteous demands have been met, and He is now free to receive sinners into His holy presence. This ought to blow our minds. God “fools” us to show Himself wise and powerful.

Now, please understand, Paul is not against knowledge. God created us to be inquisitive, to investigate, and to gather knowledge. The problem with fallen humanity apart from Jesus is that we still don’t have a clue with the knowledge we obtain. The problem isn’t with knowledge but with the wisdom that interprets and applies the knowledge to concerns and struggles. We need to recognize that our knowledge is limited. But God knows everything that can be known or could be known. We need to entrust ourselves to Him and recognize that He loves to cut the wise and powerful down to size.

My grandmother used to amaze me. For decades she did crossword puzzles. I was always amazed at what she knew. Her mind was sharp as a tack. The answers that I would never be able to come up with, she could come up with rather easily. She a crossword puzzle master! In a more profound sense, God has devised the ultimate crossword puzzle. The word of the cross is something that would never enter the thoughts of man. That’s why those who are brilliant often struggle with the notion of the cross. It is God’s ultimate crossword puzzle.

George Washington Carver (1864-1943) had a laboratory he named “God’s little workshop.” One day, Carver prayed, “Dear Mr. Creator, please tell me what the universe was made for.” God responded, “Ask for something more in keeping with that little mind of yours.” So Carver tried again. “Dear Mr. Creator, what was man made for?” Again the Lord replied, “Little man, you ask too much. Cut down the extent of your request and improve the intent.” So the scientist tried once more. “Then Mr. Creator, will you tell me why the peanut was made?” “That’s better,” the Lord said, and beginning that day Carver discovered over 300 uses for the lowly peanut.

The reality is that all believers and unbelievers have peanut-sized minds. We are small and foolish; God is immense and wise. The sooner that we really understand this, the better off we will be! The word of the cross is a foolish message, designed to help us glorify God for His wisdom and power. God “fools” us to show Himself wise and powerful.

[The Bible is clear, God pronounced the foolishness of the cross. But now in 1:21-25, we will see that…]

  1. God planned the foolishness of the cross(1:21-25). In 1:21, Paul writes, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” Paul explains (“for”) that God humbled the world by keeping those who were wise in their own eyes from knowing God. Paul says that God was “well pleased.” By this, Paul means that God was sovereign over His purposes. God doesn’t want to share His glory (Isa 42:8), so He chooses a message that gives Him the most glory possible.

All of this raises the question, “Why did Jesus have to die on the cross?” Why not a heart attack or some other form of death? In Gal 3:13 Paul writes, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’” This verse reflects the theology of Deuteronomy. The Law of Moses had a curse attached to it. If you failed in one point of the Law, you blew the whole thing and came under the Law’s curse (Deut 27:26; Gal 3:10; Jas 2:10). All of us qualify for the curse. That’s very bad, but here’s something that’s very good. Jesus took our curse for us by hanging on a tree (another term used for the cross). In the Old Testament days, a person who committed a capital crime would be executed, usually by stoning. If the crime was particularly hideous, the dead criminal would then be hung from a tree as the ultimate form of disgrace and shame. This also served as a warning to others. But the central idea was to bring shame to the criminal, because for the Jews to be hung up like that was disgraceful. It was obvious to all that a person hung on a tree was cursed.

Now hold that thought and fast-forward to New Testament times. The Romans had a favorite method of execution for criminals they really wanted to punish. It was crucifixion—nailing the criminal to a cross made of wood from a tree. A good example of the kind of criminal the Romans crucified was Barabbas, the thief and revolutionary who was released by Pilate at Jesus’ crucifixion. Barabbas had led a rebellion against Rome, and that was considered the worse kind of offense. So the Romans didn’t just want to execute Barabbas, they wanted to shame him and make him suffer untold agony. Both were accomplished on a cross. First, it was a symbol of shame. You had to be very bad to be crucified. Second, it sometimes took crucifixion victims several days to die. The Romans wanted to make these people suffer so much that they would wish for death, but it wouldn’t come for many hours. So the cross was a curse too, and Jesus came under the curse of the cross. In so doing, He satisfied the curse of the Law and made it possible that you and I would never have to suffer that curse.

Again, in 1:22-24, Paul explains himself further: “For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” These three verses provide three different responses to the cross of Christ: A person can stumble, laugh, or believe.

1) Many people stumble over the cross (1:22a, 23a). The Jews “stumbled” over the cross because most of them were looking for signs of power. (They must be from Missouri—the “show me” state.) They wanted God to prove Himself to them. In a sense, they required God to submit to them before they would consider submitting to Him. Such people don’t want to obey God; they want to order God around. Jewish history is filled with miraculous events, from the Exodus out of Egypt to the days of Elijah and Elisha. When Jesus was ministering on earth, the Jewish leaders repeatedly asked Him to perform a sign from heaven, but He refused. They were looking for a political leader who would deliver them from the heel of the Roman Empire. They simply could not imagine a crucified Messiah.

It is difficult for us to understand what crucifixion meant to the Jews. We’ve sanitized the cross and domesticated it. We gold-plate it and wear it around our necks. We put it on earrings and on our stationery. We hang ornate crosses in our sanctuaries and on our steeples. We build churches in the shape of the cross. All of this would have been unthinkable in the first century. So terrible was crucifixion that the word was not even spoken in polite company. If we want a modern counterpart, we should hang a picture of a gas chamber at Auschwitz in front of our sanctuary. Or put a noose there. Or an electric chair with a man dying in agony—his face covered, smoke coming from his head. The very thought sickens us. But that’s what the cross meant for Jesus. And that is why the Jews were scandalized by the cross.

Because the Jews were looking for power and great glory, they stumbled at the weakness of the cross. How could anybody put faith in an unemployed carpenter from Nazareth who died the shameful death of a common criminal? They looked for a Messiah who would come like a mighty conqueror and defeat all their enemies. He would then set up His kingdom and return the glory to Israel. This was the attitude of the Jews, because their emphasis is on miraculous signs and the cross appears to be weakness.

2) Many people laugh at the cross (1:22b, 23b). Paul identifies with the Greek quest for wisdom. People think that they might submit to God as soon as they can “figure Him out.” They want God to fit into their minds before they will let Him fit into their lives. This was the response of the Greeks. The Greeks didn’t practice crucifixion, so they didn’t have the problems that the Jews did. They looked to philosophy as the answer to the deepest problems of life. The notion of a man hanging on a cross to save the world was utter nonsense to them. To them, the cross was foolishness. The Greeks emphasized wisdom and we still study the profound writings of the Greek philosophers today. But they saw no wisdom in the cross, for they looked at the cross from a human point of view. Had they seen it from God’s viewpoint, they would have discerned the wisdom of God’s great plan of salvation.

3) Some people believe and experience the power and the wisdom of the cross (1:24). “Those who are called” is parallel to “those who believe” (1:21) and “us who are being saved” (1:18). Part of being called is being able to hear God’s call, and being open to it. Those who respond by God’s grace are granted His wisdom and power. It is worth noting that Paul did not alter his message when he turned from a Jewish audience to a Greek one; he preached Christ crucified. This is the simple message that everyone needs to hear and believe. The word of the cross is foolishness to the most intelligent and self-sufficient people in the world. But it is the power of God for those like Jena who will receive it as a child. The phrase “the power of God” in 1:18 and 24 brackets 1:18-24 as a unique literary unity. Verse 25 summarizes this unit and then provides a transition into 1:26-31.

Our passage closes in 1:25 with these glorious words: “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Don’t you just love this verse? This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It is the ultimate “trash-talking, put me in my place” type of statement. Paul is suggesting that IF (and this is a big “if”) it was possible for God to be foolish and weak, His foolishness and weakness would still overwhelm us. This should humble us to dust!

How does the word of the cross relate to our lives? First, we must seek to ponder the wonder of the cross. Not that the cross is not a popular symbol today. We see it in stained glass windows and on top of churches of widely varying beliefs. It is found around the necks of the deeply religious, the thoroughly superstitious, and all shades in between. The sign of the cross is made by baseball players before they bat, by pilots before they take off, and by boxers before they fight. In fact, you may have heard of the gambler at the race track who happened to see a priest making the sign of a cross over a horse, and promptly bet his paycheck, rent money, and car payment on that horse. When the horse came in last he sought out the priest and demanded to know why the horse had done so poorly when he had just blessed it. With surprise the priest responded, “I wasn’t blessing that horse. I was giving it the last rites.”

The story aptly illustrates how the cross has largely been emptied of its content in our society today. We have lost the significance of the cross. Our prayer must be, “Lord, take me back to the cross. Help me to see it anew and afresh.”

Second, as we strive to crossover into our world, we must be sure to crossover with the cross. Popular Christianity has been big business in politics, entertainment, sports, etc., but many have crossed over without the cross. Yet, Christianity without the cross is like music without a tune. When you and I talk about our beliefs, we must make a beeline to the cross of Christ. That is what makes our message both unique and powerful.

Finally, it may take a crucified church to bring a crucified Christ before the eyes of the world. Christ’s cross makes foolish human wisdom. The cross insults our intelligence (too simple), ability (nothing to do), and ambition (not glory for self). Yet, the churches that God is going to do great things through are weak and foolish in the world’s eyes, so that God can fool the world and receive wisdom and power.

Have you seen the movie, A River Runs through It? The movie chronicles two brothers coming of age in early 20th century Missoula, Montana. The boys grow up under the stern tutelage of their minister father. This preacher teaches his sons about life, grace, and love, through the art of fly-fishing. But as the boys mature and follow very different paths (one straight-and-narrow, the other wild) they find that fishing is the one bond that still draws them together as adults. Thus, the title A River Runs through It was not a description of the land as much as it was a description of a recurring theme in their lives. When all else failed, they could always go back to the river and bond around their love of fly-fishing.

If I had to pick a title for the Christian community experience, it might be “A Cross Runs through It.” When all else fails, we can always go back to the cross and bond around our love for the One who died for us there. Ultimately, all that we believe is wrapped up in the cross of Christ. It is the central truth of the Christian faith and the preeminent event of human history. The cross is our message, our hope, our confidence. It is our badge of honor and the emblem of suffering and shame. Though the world despises the cross, we rally to it. In this sign, and this alone, we will conquer. Therefore, let us love the cross, preach the cross, stand by the cross, and never be ashamed of the cross. Hold it high as the banner of our salvation. Lift it up as the hope of the world. There is no power greater than the power of the cross. It is the only power that can lift men and women out of their sins, release them from condemnation, give them new life, and set their feet in a new direction.

Choosing Wisdom in Relationships – 10/6/2013

Choosing Wisdom in Relationships
MBC, October 6, 2013

Who do you consider to be the wisest person you know?

We all have different ways of approaching relationships. We’re influenced by many factors, including our personality and past experiences.

HOW DOES GOD WANT US TO RELATE TO OTHERS? With wisdom – His.

READ James 3:13-18

A successful sports team must develop a “game plan” in order to win. A game plan takes into account the other team’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as their own. Coaches work diligently to develop offensive plays and defensive alignments that will give their team the greatest chance for success against the team they are playing. For the past two weeks, we have been talking about developing a game plan AGAINST the devil and his plans. Today, let’s consider a game plan FOR God.

Each of us has a game plan when it comes to relationships in our lives. According to James, there are two possible plans we can choose from. WHAT ARE THEY? Using earthly wisdom and godly wisdom. All decisions we make will be made from one of these plans. Decisions are critical because of the vast number of personalities we come into contact with every day. Many of the problems we have are related to personality conflicts and strained relationships because of those conflicts. It could be a family member, a neighbor, or a coworker.

How many of you are familiar with the story of Wily Fox and Brer Rabbit? “The fox made a doll out of tar and stuck it on the side of the road. When Rabbit saw the tar baby, he thought it was a person and stopped to visit. It was a one-sided conversation. The tar baby’s silence bothered the rabbit. He couldn’t stand to be next to someone and not communicate with them. So in his frustration, he hit the tar baby and stuck to it. He hit the tar baby again with the other hand and, you guessed it, the other hand got stuck.”

That is how it is with many of our relationships – we get stuck with someone we can’t communicate with.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN THIS HAPPENS? We have a choice. We can approach our relationships with wisdom from the world or with wisdom from God. Let’s use James’ words to help us make the right choice.

Every day we plant seeds in our relationships. These seeds can be good or bad. How often do we sow words of discouragement, anger or criticism and expect to reap good relationships in return? We need to understand the principle of sowing and reaping.

READ Galatians 6:7-8

James tells us in verse 18 that the wise person sows words, behaviors and attitudes that promote peaceful relationships. We do this by focusing on godly wisdom instead of earthly wisdom.

So what is wisdom? James says in verse 13 that wisdom is not knowledge or intelligence. Wisdom, is a lifestyle and is evidenced by the way we live. It is especially evident in the character we display in our relationships and the manner in which we get along with others.

James differentiates the two kinds of wisdom in verse 16. He calls the wisdom that causes untold problems in relationships worldly or earthly wisdom. He might tell us to look at our relationships to determine which wisdom is being used.

In contrast, the other kind is godly wisdom. James shows us six characteristics of this kind of wisdom starting in verse 17.

1. Purity or Integrity – the word pure means uncorrupted or authentic. If we are wise, we will not try to manipulate others, lie to others, practice deceitfulness, cheat others, or use people for selfish gain. Instead, we build our relationships on trust and honesty.

READ Psalm 119:9

At a national spelling contest in Washington an incident occurred that made me feel good–and made me wonder. In the fourth round of the contest, Rosalie Elliot, then an eleven-year-old from South Carolina, was asked to spell avowal. In her soft Southern accent she spelled it. But did the seventh grader use an a or an e as the next to last letter? The judges couldn’t decide. For several minutes they listened to tape recording playbacks, but the critical letter was accent-blurred. Chief Judge John Lloyd finally put the question to the only person who knew the answer, “Was the letter an a or was it an e? he asked Rosalie. Surrounded by whispering young spellers, she knew by now the correct spelling of the word. Without hesitating, she replied she had misspelled it. She walked from the stage.
The entire audience stood and applauded, including half a hundred newspaper reporters, one of whom was heard to remark that Judge Lloyd had put quite a burden on an eleven-year-old. Rosalie rated a hand and it must have been a heartwarming and proud moment for her parents. The thing that makes me wonder, however, was the apparent feeling on the part of so many that the issue might have been in doubt and that honesty might have bowed to temptation. Have we in this age stopped taking honesty for granted, even from our children?

2. Being peace-loving – We are not to be bent on using anger to get our way or win arguments. We all know people who always seem to be looking for a fight. These individuals are not being wise. All of us could probably think of something we have said or done in anger. We need to control our tempers, because when anger is allowed to go unchecked, we make painful mistakes.
Anger is a fire; it catches, destroys, and consumes. Let us quench it by long-suffering and forbearance. For as red hot iron dipped into water loses its fire, so an angry man falling in with a patient one does no harm to the patient man, but rather benefits him and is himself more thoroughly subdued.

READ Proverbs 14:29

3. Showing consideration – how we respond to others. James tells us to be considerate, gentle, courteous and mindful of the feelings of others. When we minimize other’s feelings, we can easily crush their spirit. Wisdom means we take the feelings of others seriously and respond with kind words.

A polite man is one who listens with interest to things he knows about when they are told to him by a person who knows nothing about them. Phillipe de Mornay (1549-1623)

Nothing is ever lost by courtesy. It is the cheapest of the pleasures; costs nothing and conveys much. It pleases him who gives and him who receives, and thus, like mercy, it is twice blessed. Erastus Wiman

READ Proverbs 15:4

4. Being submissive – an openness to new ideas or the opinions of others, open to reason, or open for discussion. Can other people reason with you? Do you get defensive too easily? Are you open to advice and counsel?

In the movie The Poseidon Adventure, the ocean liner S.S. Poseidon is on the open sea when it hits a huge storm. A wall of water crashes through the ballroom chandelier. Men in tuxes and women in evening gowns scream and run. Lights go out, smoke pours into rooms and, amid all the confusion, the ship flips over.
Because of the air trapped inside the ocean liner, it floats upside down. But in the confusion, the passengers can’t figure out what’s going on. They scramble to get out, mostly by climbing the steps to the top deck. The problem is, the top deck is now 100 feet under water. In trying to get to the top of the ship, they drown.
The only survivors are the few who do what doesn’t make sense. They do the opposite of what everyone else is doing and descend into the dark belly of the ship until they reach the hull. By going down, they reach the ocean’s surface. Rescuers hear them banging and cut them free.
In our relationships, it’s as if God has turned the ship over and the only way for us to find freedom is to choose what doesn’t make sense: lay down our lives by serving, supporting, and sacrificing for each other.

READ Proverbs 12:15

5. Being full of mercy and good fruit – how we respond to the mistakes of others. Being full of mercy means that we give others what they need, not what they deserve. We have a choice – we can RUB IT IN and hound others about their past mistakes or we can RUB IT OUT and forgive them.
On the evening of April 25, 1958, a young Korean exchange student, a leader in student Christian affairs in the University of Pennsylvania, left his flat and went to the corner to post a letter to his parents in Pusan. Turning from the mailbox he stepped into the path of eleven leather-jacketed teenage boys. Without a word they attacked him, beating him with a blackjack, a lead pipe and with their shoes and fists. Later, when the police found him in the gutter, he was dead. All Philadelphia cried out for vengeance. The district attorney secured legal authority to try the boys as adults so that those found guilty could be given the death penalty. Then a letter arrived from Korea that made everyone stop and think. It was signed by the parents and by twenty other relatives of the murdered boy. It read in part:
“Our family has met together and we have decided to petition that the most generous treatment possible within the laws of your government be given to those who have committed this criminal action–.In order to give evidence of our sincere hope contained in this petition, we have decided to save money to start a fund to be used for the religious, educational, vocational, and social guidance of the boys when they are released–.We have dared to express our hope with a spirit received from the gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ who died for our sins.”
A. Leonard Griffith, Beneath the Cross of Jesus

READ Proverbs 17:9

6. Being impartial and sincere – treating everyone the same and avoiding showing favorites. We are sincere when we are honest about our weaknesses. This is difficult because we tend to put on our best face before others, especially at church. Earthly wisdom tells us to hide those ugly things in our life that others probably already know about us anyway. We’re not wise when we pretend to be perfect, because everyone else can see through our act! The wise person doesn’t try to be someone they’re not. We are at our best when we focus on being our godly selves. Wisdom is treating everyone the same and being the same person no matter who we’re with.

Honesty has a beautiful and refreshing simplicity about it. No ulterior motives. No hidden meanings. An absence of hypocrisy, duplicity, political games, and verbal superficiality. As honesty and real integrity characterize our lives, there will be no need to manipulate others.
Charles R. Swindoll

READ Proverbs 11:1

Knowing what is right and doing what is right are two different things. Whether you’ve gotten anything out of this message or not will depend on what you do from now on in your relationships. Remember the GIGO principle. What are you approaching your relationships with: godly wisdom or earthly wisdom?

Using the scale, answer the following questions on a 1-10 scale:

I am honest and pure in my motives.
I control my temper.
I am considerate.
I am open to reason and counsel.
I forgive the mistakes of others easily.
I am impartial and genuine with others.
Your answers will determine which wisdom you are using.

2. Seek forgiveness from those who you have hurt because you relied on earthly wisdom. You may be unaware that your behavior has hurt someone’s feeling or harmed a relationship. Is there disorder or a “wall” build up in a relationship? Refusing to forgive, being jealous or being selfish are all aspects of earthly wisdom that can destroy relationships. Go to those whom you have offended and ask for forgiveness. This requires dropping your pride and ego, too.

3. Ask God daily for wisdom in becoming a peacemaker in all your relationships.

READ James 1:5

We need God’s wisdom every day in everything we do. It is what we should pray for now.

Wisdom

Wisdom from James

Small Group, Mobberly Baptist Church, July 15, 2012

Hopefully, with age comes wisdom. What do you have more of – common sense or book sense?

With all the problems we face in the world, it’s good to know that at least the criminals aren’t getting any smarter. Witness these items from news reports:

• A man inJohannesburg,South Africa, shot his 49-year-old friend in the face, seriously wounding him, while the two practiced shooting beer cans off each other’s head.

• A convict broke out of jail inWashingtonD.C., then a few days later accompanied his girlfriend to her trial for robbery. At lunch, he went out for a sandwich. She needed to see him, and thus had him paged. Police officers recognized his name and arrested him as he returned to the courthouse in a car he had stolen over the lunch hour.

• When two service station attendants inIonia,Michigan, refused to hand over the cash to an intoxicated robber, the man threatened to call the police. They still refused, so the robber called the police and was arrested.

• ALos   Angelesman who later said he was “tired of walking,” stole a steamroller and led police on a 5 mph chase until an officer stepped aboard and brought the vehicle to a stop.

• A man went into a hardware store inHomosassa,Florida, to apply for a job. After completing his application he then went to the section of the store that sold guns. He asked to see a couple of guns. The attendant left for a moment and the guy stole the guns. Not only was he videotaped, the police used the address on his application to go to his house and arrest him.

WHICH WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE – WORLDLY EXPERIENCE OR GODLY WISDOM?  WHAT ARE SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF GODLY WISDOM?

We will talk about wisdom today.

The past couple of weeks we defined maturity as a function of how and what we say.  This week we will discuss maturity from the concept of wisdom.  Let’s hear what James has to say about it.

READ James 3:13-18

WHEN SOMEONE GIVES YOU ADVICE, HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHETHER IT IS GOOD OR BAD?  It depends upon who gave it, if it agrees with common sense, if it is unique, if I have heard it before, if it agrees with Scripture, if my best friend likes it, other.

WHAT CHARACTERIZES THE LIFE OF A PERSON WHO HAS GODLY WISDOM?

We might think that those with the best speaking skills might have the most wisdom or understanding.  Many can be swayed by slick words or clever speech, but James says wisdom is demonstrated not by what we say as much as what we do.  In the same way that our faith is shown by our actions, our wisdom is shown by our deeds.

Humility (gentleness) is one demonstration James uses.  Humility was not popular among James’ readers, but that didn’t stop James from stating its importance.  James implies that humble people do not need to make a point of how wise they are, and do not have to defend themselves.  Humility is a powerful evidence of one’s wisdom.

In an interview with the great inventor of the Telegraph, Samuel F.B. Morse, George Hervey inquired, “Professor Morse, when you were making your experiments at the university, did you ever come to a standstill, not knowing what to do next?”

   “Oh, yes, more than once.”  “Then what did you do?”

   “I’ve never discussed this with anyone, so the public knows nothing about it. But now that you ask me, I’ll tell you frankly — I prayed for more light.”

   “And did God give you the wisdom and knowledge you needed?”

   “Yes, He did,” said Morse. “That’s why I never felt I deserved the honors that came to me from America and Europe because of the invention associated with my name. I had made a valuable application of the use of electrical power, but it was all through God’s help. It wasn’t because I was superior to other scientists. When the Lord wanted to bestow this gift on mankind, He had to use someone. I’m just grateful He chose to reveal it to me.”   In view of these facts, it’s not surprising that the inventor’s first message over the telegraph was: “What hath God wrought!”

READ Philippians 1:9-10

WHO HAVE YOU KNOWN THAT SHOWED THESE CHARACTERISTICS IN HIS OR HER LIFE?

A fourth of the Old Testament (almost as large as the entire New Testament) was  all written by one man, Moses. What a man Moses must have been! How intimate with God! What a work he did! What a benefactor to mankind! 40 years in the Palace of Pharaoh, 40 years a refugee in Midian, 40 years leader of Israel in the wilderness. Delivered a nation of some 3,000,000 from servitude; transplanted them from one land to another; organized for them a system of jurisprudence that has been a fountain source of much of the world’s civilization.

WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF WISDOM THAT IS “EARTHLY, SENSUAL, DEMONIC” (VS. 15)?

Earthly wisdom arises out of the world.  It is what WE think is right.

Instead of trusting Christ, modern-day thinkers insist on using human wisdom alone for answers to eternal questions.

   The tragedy of this situation was graphically illustrated in a humorous skit performed by Karl Vallentin, a Munich comedian. Walking on a stage where everything was dark except for a small area under a street lamp, he began to look for something on the ground. He told the policeman who came on the scene that he was trying to find a key, whereupon the two continued the search. Finally the officer asked, “Are you sure you lost it here?” “Oh, no,” said Vallentin as he pointed to a corner, “It was over there, but here is where the light is!”

READ Matthew 6:22-23

READ John 3:19-21

Sensual wisdom comes out of our soul – what feels good.  Demonic wisdom is under the control of evil spirits.  If we are not drawing from the well of God’s Holy Wisdom, we may find ourselves drinking the non-potable water of Satan and not knowing the difference.

WHAT IS THE RESULT OF ENVY AND SELFISH AMBITION?

The result is disorder and every kind of evil.  James is referring to an attitude that leads to working only for what one gets out of it.  “What’s in it for me?”  It’s not what God will do for you – it’s what you will do for God. 

WHERE CAN YOU SEE THE EFFECTS OF THESE IN YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW?

John and Dave were hiking when they spotted a mountain lion staring at them. John froze in his tracks, but Dave sat down on a log, tore off his hiking boots, pulled a pair of running shoes from his backpack and hurriedly began to put them on.

   “For crying out loud, you can’t outrun a mountain lion!” John hissed.

   “I don’t have to,” shrugged Dave. “I just have to outrun you.”

HOW CAN YOU BE SET FREE FROM THESE EFFECTS?

We must draw from God’s well.  We must bathe in His waters.  We must breathe His pure oxygen.

“We cannot possibly flatter the Almighty by hurrying into his presence, flinging a song and prayer at him, and hurrying out of church back into our hassled lifestyles. God is never flattered by our sanctified exhaustion.”

– Calvin Miller in Into the Depths of God (Bethany, 2001)

We must recognize that obtaining wisdom is the ultimate priority.

READ Proverbs 1:1-7

WHAT QUALITIES IN VERSE 17 DO YOU NEED TO DEVELOP IN YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW?

Purity – moral purity

Peace-loving – opposite of envy and ambition, producing right relationships with others

Gentle (or considerate) – being equitable, making allowances rather than insisting

Compliant (or submissive) – willingness to obey God

Full of mercy (compassion) – even to those who caused their own problems

Good fruits – demonstrations in practical ways, not just an emotional response

Without favoritism – undivided, not going back and forth like the waves of the sea

Without hypocrisy – honest and genuine

Automaker Henry Ford asked electrical genius Charlie Steinmetz to build the generators for his factory. One day the generators ground to a halt, and the repairmen couldn’t find the problem. So Ford called Steinmetz who tinkered with the machines for a few hours and then threw the switch. The generators whirred to life — but Ford got a bill for $10,000 from Steinmetz. Flabbergasted, the rather tightfisted carmaker inquired why the bill was so high when it took so little time. Steinmetz’s reply: “For tinkering with the generators, $10. For knowing where to tinker, $9,990.” Ford paid the bill.

David Jeremiah observes that, “Obtaining wisdom and godly advice is priceless and hard to find in today’s society. There are plenty of people who want to give their opinion, but the Bible is the ultimate guidebook on wisdom.” (Turning Point Daily Devotional, 10/14/03)