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How to humble yourself in five easy lessons (Proverbs 30:18-33) February 25, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Character, Humililty, Pride, Proverbs, Religion, Sermons.

(How to humble myself in five easy lessons)
Proverbs 30:18-33

Humility is a tough thing to get. The minute you think you got, you lose it. As Agur explains to his two young listeners about life, one of his themes is the danger of self-exaltation. As we finish this chapter today, I want us to apply Agur’s observations about life to ourselves, specifically in how we can fight self-exaltation.

A. I must take responsibility for my own sin (verses 18-20). Agur says that there are some things that he cannot understand. How can an eagle fly through the air and not leave a path behind him? How can a snake crawl on a rock without leaving, as the snail or the worm does, a hint of his path? How can a ship part the waves without leaving a permanent dent in them? How can a man be with a maiden and leave no hint of his past presence?

We might ask ourselves what this has to do with a life honoring to God so Agur gives us an explanation. This is what we try to do with our sin. We try to leave no hint of our sin behind, no proof of our deeds. He speaks specifically of adultery here but this certainly applies to many sins. We sin and then try to hide it so that we will not lose face before others or so that we will not be punished.

To hide our sin is evidence of our desire for self-exaltation. To not take responsibility for our own wrongdoing is proof of our pride.

a. To hide a sin does not eliminate its reality. Edgar Allan Poe wrote a short story called “The Cask of the Amontillado” in which the main character carries out the perfect crime. He chains his enemy in a wine cellar room and bricks him in to die. How much more would we sin if we though we could get away with it? I do not know but I do know that wiping the cookie crumbs off your lips does not erase the fact that you stole the cookies from the cookie jar. What sin are you hiding? What sin are you pretending does not exist in your life? If you are to humble yourself before God you must acknowledge the reality of your sin.

b. To deny a sin does not eliminate accountability. Do not forget that even if you leave no mark, God will hold you accountable for your sin. Agur has already mentioned this in verse 17. Sin will not go unpunished. Jesus Himself said that every word said in secret will be made public. Think of the most secret sin that you have ever committed, the one sin that you would be most horrified if anyone should find out about it. It is already known and you will be held accountable.

B. If I am to humble myself, I not only must take responsibility for my sin but I must act like God is God and I am not (verses 21-23). Charles Swindoll tells in Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life (“No Place for Pride” on pages 62-65) how that a reporter asked Marian Anderson, the African-American concert soloist to name the greatest moment in her life. She had many great moments in her life. She was the first African-American in 1955 to sing with the Metropolitan Opera in New York. She had given private concerts at the White House with the President as well as the King and Queen of England present. She had sung one Easter Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial for a crowd of 75,000 people including most of our nation’s political leaders. “Which of those big moments did she choose? None of them. Miss Anderson quietly told the reporter that the greatest moment of her life was the day she went home and told her mother she wouldn’t have to take in washing anymore.” She did not forget who she was.

We on the other hand tend to forget who we are. We live as if we were God Himself, determining what we are going to do and when we are going to do it. We act as if we were the determiners of morality and truth. We forget that God is God and we are not.

Our text gives us several examples of people who are in a position that does not fit them. A servant is incapable of being a king. A wicked, fool does not deserve the blessings of God. What can a marriage can mean to a woman who is hated? The slave girl does not kick her mistress out of the house so that she can enjoy her finery. So is it when we act as if we were God.

a. God’s place in the universe is supreme. We need to understand that most of the people who we work with, talk to, and live with do not believe that God’s place in the universe is supreme. The evidence is clear. Every time we sin, we are with our actions denying that God is supreme. We make ourselves king when we sin. Sin is nothing more than an exaltation of man over God.

Is it not ludicrous when we act as if we were God? We are no different than the slave girl who kicks here mistress out of the house so she can take her place. She may sit in her mistress’ chair and eat her mistress’ food but she is still a slave girl. We may do things our way rather than God’s way but He remains God regardless of whether we live like it or not.

b. I am accountable to God because He created me. Will Metzger in “Tell the Truth” tells about asking people two questions on a beach in Florida during spring break. The first was, “Do you believe in God?” Most said, “Yes.” Then he asked, “Does sin separate you from God?” Here are some of their replies: “No, why should it?” or “I don’t believe in that kind of a God”, or “My concept of God is one who loves.” In other words, I am not accountable to God so why should I worry about sin.

We are, however, accountable to God. The writer of Hebrews points out that it is appointed to man once to die and after this, judgment. We, all of us, are accountable to God. Those who believe in Christ have Jesus as the one who takes responsibility for our sin. Those who do not trust Christ as the only way of salvation will stand alone and give an account to God.

C. In addition, if I am going to humble myself before God, I must do what is right, without regard for how insignificant that action or my position may appear (verses 24-28).

The wise man is like the ant, his significance is not found in his great power but rather in doing what he is supposed to do. Like the coney, his security is not found in his own power but in the Rock on which he lives. Like the locust, he does not wait from a mandate from a king but follows the way of God, even though He has never seen God. Like the lizard in the palace, he lives in a great place but not because of his greatness.

God is God and I am not. Therefore, I am accountable to Him. If I am wise, I will walk in His ways without regard for my own ambitions, strength, wisdom, or position. I will be His servant, His disciple. The problem is this. I cannot in my own strength please God. I am a sinner. None of these animals is very capable but outside of the natural order, they would be incapable of survival. When humankind left God’s natural order through the sin of Adam, we set ourselves up for spiritual extinction. That is why we need faith in Christ. He came and died for our sin and our salvation.

D. That is why I can (if I want to) battle self-exaltation, I can live confidently according to my position in Christ (verses 29-31). To be humble does not mean to feel inferior. True, we are not God but the believer in Christ does not need to go around with an inferiority complex.

Another story from Chuck Swindoll, this time from “Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back”: “A man paid a visit to his local psychologist. When the doctor asked him what had prompted the visit, the man said, “I’m suffering from an inferiority complex.” After a long battery of tests, “…the doctor called the man and asked him to return to the clinic. ‘I have some interesting news for you,’ the doctor began.
‘What’s that?’ asked the man.
‘It’s no complex,’ the psychologist retorted, ‘You are inferior.’”

We as believers in Christ, however, are not inferior because we are in Him through our faith in Christ.

a. I am exalted and worthy in Christ. Hebrews 2:9-10 says that Christ brought “…many sons to glory…” through His death for us on the cross. John 1:12 reminds us that we receive the right to become sons of God through faith in Christ. Look at Romans 8:16-17, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs-heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we also may be glorified together.” That is a wonderful position – to be a part of the royal family of the universe – heirs with Christ of God’s throne.

b. I can therefore live confidently because of my position. Like a lion, I can walk through the Serengeti of this world without fear because I belong to the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Jesus Christ. Like the royal greyhound, I can stick my chest out and proudly display the royal decorations that my Master has given me. Like the head goat of the flock, I can confidently walk among the flock because my Savior is my shepherd. When the battle rages, I can go forth as a king because His legions fight for me.

Are you a confident Christian? Not a boastful, proud Christian but a confident Christian? You can be because of your faith in Jesus Christ which has made you one of God’s children.

E. Finally, if I am to battle self-exaltation, if I am to learn humility, I must learn to control my tongue (verses 32-33). The tongue has many uses both positive and negative. No use of the tongue, however, is more evil or more dangerous than the self-exalting tongue.

a. My tongue reveals the pride and sinful foolishness of my heart. Now most of us do not go around telling people how great we are but we use words in many ways to build ourselves up. We are constantly critiquing others, their success or lack thereof, their looks, their children, their lifestyle choices. We need to put our hands over our mouths. We constantly talk about our own accomplishments, our own possessions, our own abilities. We need to put our hands over our mouths. We quote Scripture in a self-justifying way, pass down judgments, pass along gossip, defend our great sin and attack the little sins of others, we grumble and complain, we fuss and fight, all revealing how important we are to ourselves. We need to put our hand over our mouth.

b. My pride uses my tongue to sow discord. Just as the humble man is often a peacemaker, the proud man is a warmonger. The proud man when he is right in his argument will destroy people while the humble man may make a mistake in judgment but will even in his mistake seek to heal those whom he has hurt through his mistake.

Five easy steps to humility was intended tongue in cheek but the reality is this: we know how to become humble but we just do not want to do it. Time after time we refuse to take responsibility for our own sin. We act like we are not accountable to God. We refuse to control our tongue. We refuse to do what is right because it does not seem to matter. We forget that our exaltation is to be found in Christ alone.

You can begin right now to humble yourself. Go to God and confess your sin. You may need to go to someone and confess a sin. They probably already know the sin, you just need to admit to it and stop defending yourself.

You might need to begin controlling your tongue. You will probably need someone to help with this. Men, I recommend your wives. They know exactly what you are going to say before you do anyway.  Write down the ways in which you regularly sin with your tongue and put a stop to self-exalting speech.

Do what is right, no matter how small the matter is. Your deeds as a Christian are great because you are royalty not because they are impressive.

Finally, hold yourself accountable to God. The unbeliever needs Christ to settle the account of His sin. The believer needs to confess and forsake the sin for which Christ has already died.

Take action now. Humble yourself before God and He will lift you up!

Evaluating a Generation February 15, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Character, Contentment, Depravity, Family, Humililty, Hypocrisy, Judgment, Materialism, Proverbs, Religion, Sermons.
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Proverbs 30:10-17

Agur recognized that without dependence on God’s Word (verse 5) he was not only without answers to some of the most important questions of life (verses 2-4) but also that he was defenseless against temptation (verses 7-9). Although Agur prayed for God to protect him from temptation, he did not pray for God to isolate himself from temptation. What he did do, however, is look at the world around him and note those things about the world system of which he did not want to be a part.

Now we should evaluate the generation in which we live, the world system which is all around us but we should not stop there. When we look at the world, when we look at our generation, we must first evaluate ourselves. You see, the world is corrupt, the world sins, a generation becomes evil for the very same reason that we are susceptible to temptation. Our sinful flesh is corrupt and we sin. For that reason, we will evaluate our own hearts first before we look at the generations around us.

A. We can evaluate ourselves by how we treat those above us and below us (verses 9-10, 17). The importance of impartiality in our personal relationships cannot be overemphasized. James 2 says that we are to be impartial as God is impartial and that how we treat those above us and below us is an indication of the reality or the lack of reality to our faith in Christ. “All men are created equal” is not an American concept but rather a heavenly one.

In verse 10 we have a man who is slandering a slave. The slave is defenseless. The master will believe the other free man, not the slave. The slave will be punished unjustly. We all agree that this is unjust but how many times have we bullied someone, slandered someone, or laughed at someone who we feel is inferior to us. This is sin. The Bible points this out repeatedly and yet we continue to do it. Why? We have allowed our desire for importance to follow the way of the world around us.

One of the worst things about this type of sin is its contagiousness. Hans Finzel in his book on leadership, “The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Makes” puts it this way, “[It] can become like a chain reaction. The boss barks orders to the employee. The employee goes home and barks orders at his spouse. The spouse barks orders at the children. The children kick the dog, and the dog chases the neighborhood cat! (page 25)” It is the way of this generation.

a. Mistreatment, however, of those below us will not go unpunished (verse 9). The slave who is slandered as he goes to the whipping post curses the man who slandered him. There is nothing more that the slave can do. It appears that the free man will truly go free. Agur says, “You will be found guilty.” By whom? God Himself.

I know that it appears that we get off free but we should not forget that we will be repaid according to the deeds we have done in our body. Vengeance is the Lord’s. He will repay.

b. Disrespect for those above us will not go unpunished (verses 10, 17). Now specifically Agur is talking about children and their parents. This is so important that it was a part of the original Ten Commandments. It was the first commandment with a promised blessing. A child who knows this and disrespects their parents is described for us in verse 6. They are adding their own viewpoint to God’s Word. They will be exposed by God for what they are. Verse 17, describes for us more specifically the price they will pay for their disrespect. The eye that mocks, that despises, that disobeys the one in authority over them will be picked out by the birds and eaten. The picture here is of someone who is already dead and the ravens and the vultures, birds that primarily eat carrion, will feast on those who turn their back on God’s commandment and disobey their parents. Now this may not be fulfilled literally in your life but there will be a price paid by the one who disrespects authority.

Now it is easy for us as parents to stand up and shout, “Amen!” Are we any better? Do we show respect for those over us? Do we mock our boss at work or the policeman on the street? During the past year I have been greatly embarrassed by believers with whom I am personally acquainted who have taken great liberties in making fun of our President. The believer who makes mock at our President through watermelon jokes is not exempt from verse 17. I do not know how God will act but He will not tolerate such evil from us.

B. Not only can we evaluate ourselves by the way we treat those above us and below us, we can evaluate ourselves by our self-righteousness. Verse 12 says, “There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, yet is not washed from its filthiness.” If ever there was a definition of self-righteousness, this is it. This is where religion and worldliness meet and breed sin. This where self-deception reaches its most dangerous.

When Jesus attacked the self-righteous, religious leaders of his day, he said to them, “…you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27). He called them hypocrites not because they were pretending to be pure when they really were not but because they were truly convinced that they were pure although they were actually full of filth.

Now self-righteousness is a hard thing to evaluate. By its very nature, it avoids self-detection. There are, however, some attitudes and actions that might indicate you are self-righteous:

1. The self-righteous exalt themselves in external religious duties (Luke 18:11-12).
2. The self-righteous seek to justify their own sin (Luke 10:25-29).
3. The self-righteous are more interested in what man thinks of them than in what God thinks of them (Luke 16:113-15).
4. The self-righteous seek God’s righteousness through their own goodness rather than through faith in Christ (Romans 9:31-10:4; Proverbs 20:6, 9).
5. The self-righteous condemn the righteousness of others (Matthew 10:10-12; Luke 7:39).
6. The self-righteous despise and slander others (Luke 18:9-11; Proverbs 30:10).
7. The self-righteous walk in their own way (Isaiah 65:2-5; Proverbs 21:2; 30:6).

Self-righteousness is also contagious. In Luke 11:46 and 52, Jesus said to the self-righteous lawyers of religion, “…you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers…you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.”

Will the self-righteous escape the awful justice described in verse 17? No, Jesus said to those same self-righteous lawyers, “…‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,’ so that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation” (Luke 11:49-51).

C. We can evaluate ourselves by our arrogance. Verse 13, “There is a generation-oh, how lofty are their eyes! And their eyelids are lifted up.” Certainly, this is an extension of the previous verse. The emphasis here is on their pride rather than their self-deception.

Paul in Romans 12:1-2 begs believers to “…present [their] bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God…and [to] not be conformed to this world…” Is pride and arrogance an indication that someone is worldly? Absolutely! Paul commands the same believers in the next verse “…not to think of [themselves] more highly than [they] ought to think, but to think soberly…” Pride and arrogance are characteristic of worldliness. We, however, are not of this world and should think soberly, that is, in our right mind. At the end of Proverbs 30 in verse 32, Agur states this similarly but in a negative manner, “If you have been foolish in exalting yourself…put your hand on your mouth.” Now foolishness is not only an unwise type of thinking but in it is a sinful type of thinking. When I am arrogant and proud, I am foolish and sinful.

Many of us have quoted and almost all of us have heard Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Commonly, we soft-pedal the emphasis of this verse. We use this verse to mean that embarrassment will follow the proud person. That is not the emphasis of this proverb. Solomon is speaking of judgment. The proud will be judged. Our pride, our arrogance, our self-righteousness will not escape. We will be judged accordingly.

D. Finally, we can evaluate ourselves by the selfish destruction caused by our insatiable greed (verses 14-16). It is easy to read this and say, “Well, that isn’t me!” Are you sure? Let me ask the question this way, “What are you willing to do to get ahead?” “Who are you willing to hurt, so that you might reach your goals?” Certainly, economic greed is in view here but there are many other types of greed. Do you care more for your interests, your ways, and your ideals or do you care for others?

a. You see, greed does not care who it hurts (verse 14). James 4:1-4 describes the worldly attitude of those who in their greed for their own pleasure, for more money or power or prestige. They war and fight, they murder and covet, they are friends of the world and enemies of God.

b. Greed is never satisfied (verses 15-16). Agur uses five examples to show us the emptiness of greed and the futility of discontentment. The blood-sucking leech drinks and drinks and drinks. It does not concern itself for the health of its victim. It wants what it wants. It is never satisfied.

Then there is the grave. Death never fills its quote. It never takes a holiday. The grave never says, “I have enough.” It is never satisfied.

Then there is the barren womb. Some of you ladies know exactly what is being described here. The woman who cannot have a child will go to extreme lengths to have one. We have whole industries built on the yearning of women to bear or to have a child. Hannah’s husband said to his wife, “Am I not better to you than ten sons?” The Bible does not tell us how she answered but what it does tell us is that she went to God and began to bargain with Him for a son. The answer apparently was, “No.”

Then there is the earth that is not satisfied with water. The earth needs rain every planting season in order to produce crops? If we have abundant rain this year and no rain next year, the rain of this year will not satisfy the need of the earth for water. It will become in one year without rain barren and desertlike.

Finally, there is fire. There are three things that a fire needs to burn: heat, air, and fuel. The thing about fuel is this. The fire never says, “I’ve got enough.” It is insatiable.

Is that a picture of your life? Are you driven by greed? Are you driven by your ego? Are you driven by the acclaim and recognition of men? If so, then you are an enemy of God and His enemies will be destroyed and left for the birds to pick over. That is the judgment of God against this generation and against every generation that follows the way of this world.

What then should we do? If you are believer, then obey James command in James 4:7-10, submit yourself to God. Humble yourself before your Lord. If you have not trusted Christ, the answer is found in Romans 5:8-10, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” You need to confess that you are God’s enemy, deserving of damnation, and you need to trust Christ as the only way to make things right between you and God.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation February 7, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Contentment, Honesty, Materialism, Prayer, Proverbs, Religion, Sermons, Temptation.
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Proverbs 30:5-9

In Sunday School, our five year olds are learning what is known as the Lord’s Prayer or the Model Prayer. They are not yet to this part but eventually they will learn, “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” The prayer we are looking at today is similar. It is a prayer for protection against temptation.

I do not know if you pray for God to deliver you from temptation but you probably should. If you do, however, pray for protection from temptation, you should know more about this type of praying.

A. Our prayers for protection from temptation should be motivated by our faith in God (verses 5-7). Seneca, the Roman philosopher, said, “All my life I have been seeking to climb out of the pit of my besetting sins and I cannot do it and I never will unless a hand is let down to draw me up.” He understood that he needed help against sin. Now certainly it is good when someone can help us out of the pit but would it not be better to have someone protect us from falling in the pit in the first place?

Agur recognizes in verse 5 of our text that God is a shield for those who put their trust in Him. Now if God can protect us from death and hell, from sickness and Satan, why should we not trust Him to protect us from temptation?

a. Our prayer of faith for protection from temptation is dependent on God’s goodness and wisdom (verses 5b, 8b). Agur requests in verse 8b, “Feed me with the food allotted to me.” He is saying, I do not want any special treatment, nor do I want to go through trials. Just give me what I need and that will be enough. Agur believed that God was good and wise. In his prayer He is dependent on God’s goodness and wisdom to give him exactly what he needs.

b. Now why would Agur want to pray that way? – Because the prayer of faith for protection from temptation desires a lifestyle of truth (verse 6-8). Truth is a rare quality and always has been. Since Satan lied to Eve in the garden, mankind has been serving the Father of lies and has been busy deceiving and being deceived. (Proverbs 12:17-22 describe for us the difference between the lifestyle of truth and the lifestyle of destruction.) You see, Agur, wanted the Lord to delight in him and he knew that a life of honesty was necessary to gain the Lord’s delight.

Often, when people are struggling with sin, they pray for protection from temptation. I know that I have. The difference, often, is in the motive. Most of us pray to be protected from temptation because we do not want to suffer the consequences of the sin which we keep committing. There is nothing wrong with fearing the consequences of sin. Agur went beyond that. He wanted to please God and He knew that only a life of honesty could please the Lord.

c. Our prayer for protection from temptation recognizes our inner weaknesses (verses 8-9). He recognized how difficult it is to be honest. Most of us make a habit of being honest except when it appears that honesty just does not pay. The one who prays for protection from temptation recognizes his or her weakness and remembers that the final pain will erase the temporary pleasure.

Paul Harvey told a story (It has been repeated in print several times; I got it from a Charles Swindoll book) that illustrates what happens when you fail to recognize your inner weakness. When an Eskimo wants to kill a wolf, he coats his knife blade with animal blood and allows it to freeze. The he adds another lay and another until the blade is completely concealed by frozen blood.

Then the hunter fixes his knife in the ground with the blade up. When a wolf follows his sensitive nose to the source and discovers the bait he licks it, tasting the fresh-frozen blood. He licks faster, lapping the blade until the keen edge is bare. Still, he licks the blade harder and harder not noticing the sharp sting of the blade on his tongue. The animal does not recognize that his appetite is being satisfied by his own blood. His inner weakness just craves more until it is too late.

Agur recognized the danger of his own inner weakness and prayed for God to protect Agur from Agur.

B. We can flee the temptations of this world through prayer (verses 8-9). There are a number of things that we can and should do but developing a prayer life that is serious about combating temptation is a vital and essential tool in our arsenal against sin.

When I was growing up, there were certain temptations that were constantly pulling me into the pit. With maturity, looking back, I can see that one of the weapons against sin that I neglected was prayer. I memorized Scripture and confessed my sin often but I did not enlist someone to help me to pray in my struggles against sin. There was also a lack of seriousness in my own prayer life. I only prayed about my sinfulness when I felt guilty. There was not a real recognition of what my inner weakness was.

Agur, however, recognized his inner weaknesses. He knew that honesty had to be put at the top of his priority list. He also knew that his economic condition would make him susceptible to certain sins. Not every disease prospers in the same climate. Tropical diseases are not a big problem in Alaska. The reason we have flu season is because certain conditions are conducive to catching the flu. Sin acts in much the same way.

a. The rich are tempted by sins of self-sufficiency and arrogance (verse 9a). Unfortunately, money and the tangible things that money can buy as well as the security and significance that we feel money can provide are the things by which we evaluate our self-worth. It is how we determine whether our lives are worth living. It is no wonder that those with wealth are susceptible to the sins of self-sufficiency and arrogance.

Patrick Morley relates the following example of this truth. In 1976 the “I Found It” Campaign…saturated communities nationwide…The “I Found It!” bumper stickers were everywhere! People who asked what had been found learned the answer: “New life in Jesus Christ.” Sandy, the local director (in a wealthy Florida coastal town), found a correlation between interest in the Gospel message and the distance people lived from the ocean. In other words, the closer people lived to the water, the less interested. The farther from the water they went, the greater the interest. The wealthy people lived in the condominiums closest to the water, while the service help, who worked in the hotels along the coast, lived in the mobile home parks farthest from the water.”

In other words, they do not feel they need new life in Jesus Christ. They have their best life now!

b. The poor are tempted by sins of desperation and hopelessness (verse 9b). Certainly, the truly poor are not susceptible to self-sufficiency. They need help.

If we have learned anything from the crisis in Haiti, it is that desperation will cause people to do the unimaginable. I was listening to NPR radio this week about a mother in Haiti who had born four or five children. A couple of years ago, she gave two of her children away and believes they were taken overseas because she is desperate for a better life for her children.

Agur prays, do not let me be so poor that I steal and profane your name. It is interesting that he does not say, do not let me be poor, I do not want to suffer, I could not stand the shame of poverty. No, his prayer is focused on God.

Believer, do you pray for protection from temptation? Why? Because you want to glorify God? How seriously do you take your inner weakness? Would you be willing for God to give you a different lifestyle if that would make you less susceptible to sin and more honoring to God? As believers we will never be condemned to hell for our sin but that does not mean there are no consequences. Are you like a moth drawn to the light of sin? Get into the Word, memorize Scripture, get you an accountability partner but do not neglect daily pleading to God for help and strength against the weaknesses of your flesh.

If you have never trusted Christ, you need to know that Jesus Christ died for your sin. You can be forgiven. You do not have to be condemned. Turn to Jesus for salvation and forgiveness today. Come to me after the service and I or one of our people will take you to a quiet place where you can ask questions and understand from God’s Word how to be saved from your sin. Would you do that today?

With heads bowed and eyes closed, I am going to ask you a question and I want you to think about it. Are you going to take temptation seriously? What are you going to do about it? You need a plan. You need a partner, a believer to help you in your fight against temptation. You need a prayer plan. You need a Scripture memory plan. We can help you with all of those things. We can pray for you and with you. Just let us know.

Next Week: Proverbs 30:10-17 “Evaluating a Generation”

Sermon blog: roberttalley.wordpress.com
Church website: http://www.gracelansing.com
Church email: GraceLans@aol.com

New Sermon Series from Proverbs 30 February 5, 2010

Posted by roberttalley in Bible, Proverbs, Religion, Sermons.
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Proverbs 30:1-6

We live in an age of speculation and cynicism. The experts are proven wrong often enough that it is not surprising when people refuse to believe them.

Experts are finite. They are sometimes dishonest. They can also be blinded by their own arrogance. Although there is nothing wrong with respecting an expert, his or her statements must be evaluated for accuracy. We all understand this. This, however, destroys the confidence that we would like to have in our experts. For example, there are many parents of autistic children who recognize this and for that reason, refuse to accept the pronouncements of the medical community concerning the causes and cures of autism. It is easy to attribute their refusal to the emotion to which they come to this issue.

Yet we often hear of reversals in earlier medical opinions. Last year a panel of doctors suggested raising the recommended age for breast examinations from forty to fifty. It became a battle of the experts. One of the biggest worries was that women would no longer be confident in their doctors recommendations.

Another example is that of W.C. Heuper of the National Cancer Institute who was supposedly quoted by the New York Times in 1954 as saying, “If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one.”

Such examples cause us to lack confidence in the experts. The lack of confidence in politicians, journalists, authors, and even pastors is not surprising. Too often we have found to be fallible, blind to the truth, or even dishonest and self-seeking.

It is possible to have confidence in life. Our confidence in life, however, should not rest on human experts but rather on divine truth. That is the message that Agur the son of Jakeh has for Ithiel and Ucal. We know nothing of these men but we do know the purpose of the book of Proverbs. The book of Proverbs was written so that young men, particularly young men of the royal family, would understand that wisdom begins in God and is expressed in life through our actions. This certainly applies to all of us but many of the dangers addressed in this book are uniquely dangerous to young men of some means. They had in those days temptations to face that were not common for the poor or for women.

Agur wants these two men to understand that even though there are many temptations in this world, one can through life with confidence if his confidence is placed in the truth.

A. First of all, Agur illustrates for them that confidence in life comes with an understanding of the nature of God (verses 1-4). Agur is a wise man but he makes it clear in verses 2-3 that he is unable through his own wisdom to obtain knowledge of God.

a. That does not mean that God cannot be known. He is knowable by man through the Word of God (verses 2-3, 4b-5). There is much that we do not know about God but He has not kept Himself secret from us. He has revealed Himself to us through His Word.

Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 2:20-21 says, “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”

We can have confidence in this life because we understand that God wants us to know Him.

b. He is all-powerful in maintaining creation (verse 4a). God has gathered the wind in His fists, bound the waters in a cloth, and fixed the position and rotation of the earth. God determines where and when storms hit and where the oceans are located. He controls creation.

Yet this God who controls the creation wants us to know Him for it is in knowing Him that we can have confidence in life. In Ecclesiastes 12:1, 7 Solomon wrote, “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come…[for] then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” Young person, do not wait until your old to seek God. Look at the wind and the waves and the horizon and seek the face of the Creator and Controller of those things now!

Where should you look? Not in creation. The creation reveals God’s power and judgment according to Romans 1 but if you really want to seek God, then you must go to His Word. In Romans 10:6-9, Paul echoes Agur’s first question in Proverbs 30:4, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or “ ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

c. He is the protector (the shield) of those who trust in Him (verse 5). That is why you can have confidence through God’s Word. In it you will understand that you are protected through faith in Him.

Warren Wiersbe tells in his book, “Walking with the Giants” how that G. Campbell Morgan was beginning to lose confidence in his faith. “In desperation, he locked all his books in a cupboard, secured a new Bible, and began to read it. ‘If it be the Word of God, and if I come to it with an unprejudiced and open mind, it will bring assurance to my soul of itself,’ he said. He canceled all his preaching engagements and devoted himself to the Bible. The result?” Wiersbe quotes Morgan as saying, “That Bible found me!”

Let me add my testimony to Morgan’s. It was not until I put total confidence in God’s Word rather than in my own ability to be righteous that I was about to confidence in this life. When you are afraid then look to God’s Word. When you are plagued by doubts then look to God’s Word. When you are ridden with guilt then look to God’s Word. When you are burdened with sin then look to God’s Word. When you are facing the unknown look to God’s Word.

d. He will correct those who reject Him (verse 6). Know you might say, “Nah! I know better!” Like Pinocchio on Pleasure Island, you will one day be corrected in your ways. The question is not if God will correct your ways but rather when, before or after it is too late.

B. Confidence in life comes with dependence on God as revealed in His Word (verse 5). The word “pure” means “refined.” There are no impurities in God’s Word.

a. God’s Word is dependable because it was pure when written. 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God…” God’s Word is God breathed. It is as pure as the breath of God. Was it not, you ask, written by men? Peter answers in 2 Peter 2:21, “…prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” It is God’s Word not man’s word. Men were merely the tools used by God to give us His pure word.

b. God’s Word is dependable because it is pure in its preservation. Did you realize that the book of Proverbs was not put into its final form until at least two hundred years after Solomon’s death. Look at Proverbs 25:1, “These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied.” What if they miscopied something. God preserves His Word. Now that does not mean that there were never mistakes made in the copying. Mistakes were made. Nor does that mean that mistakes were never made in translation. Mistakes have been made. What it does mean is that God preserves His Word. None of God’s Word has been lost. The form may not be on tablets of stone as given to Moses or on scrolls as used by Jeremiah but we have God’s Word today.

My son and I were talking the other day about drawing a 90 degree angle. He said it was impossible to draw a perfectly accurate 90 degree angle because we have no tools that can do that perfectly. We can, however, with a very close degree of accuracy draw a 90 degree angle and have confidence that an angle measures 90 degrees but we are limited.

In the same way, God has miraculously preserved His Word through multiple manuscripts and through careful study of those manuscripts and through careful translation of the resulting texts we can have confidence that we have the pure Word of God despite the fact that our understanding of all the issues and our solving of all textual issues is limited. We have God’s Word and it is pure.

c. God’s Word is dependable because it is pure in its teaching. Now teachers make mistakes. I sometimes make mistakes in my preaching and teaching of the Word of God but when I teach God’s Word as God intended it to be understood and apply it appropriately to my life then I am applying the pure Word of God and I can depend on it. I can be confident in life because I am confident in God’s Word.

C. A false confidence in life comes when we add our wisdom to God’s wisdom (verse 6). When some person, whether with the spoken word or with the verbal word claims to have additional revelation from God, that is a dangerous thing. It gives one a false confidence. The Mormon has a false confidence because he believes Joseph Smith’s addition to God’s Word. The Muslim has a false confidence because he believes Mohammed’s addition to God’s Word.

This applies to more than religious organizations. Some try to correct God’s Word through psychology or science. Others try to add to God’s Word through visions and dreams. Some claim to speak directly for God. All of these things add to a false confidence.

The IRS has a government website. There are, however, websites that claim to give help that are not from the IRS. You may follow their advice. When, however, the IRS makes a ruling, it does not matter how anyone else interprets the rules. The IRS has spoken and must be followed. Following anyone else will lead to false confidence.

a. Our additional wisdom is undependable when it contradicts God’s Word.

Have you ever tried to make a decision based on something of which you were not sure if it was true? Have you ever tried to use a map in which you had already found errors? You have no confidence. The map may be lovely to look at but if it is wrong, it will lead you the wrong way.

b. Our additional wisdom is undependable because it is not based in truth. Lies, sooner or later, lead to a day of reckoning.

You determine where to place your confidence by comparing what man says to God’s Word. If man contradicts God’s Word then place no confidence in what that man has said. Look at Deuteronomy 4:2-4, “You shall not add to the word which I command you, not take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. Your eyes have seen what the LORD did at Baal Peor; for the LORD your God has destroyed from among you all the men who followed Baal of Peor. But you who held fast to the LORD your God are alive today, every one of you.” Balaam had been given God’s Word and had given it out in its purity but he then called the king of Moab and said, “I couldn’t curse these people. God wouldn’t let me do it but if you will follow my advice and intermingle and intermarry with these people, God will destroy them” God did destroy those who intermarried but He also destroyed the king of Moab and his advisor, Balaam, the man who added to God’s Word.

Will you trust God’s Word today? In the coming weeks we will learn from Agur some of the things that he has learned from God’s Word. Today, I want to ask you if you will believe Jesus Christ. We saw in Romans 10 that faith in Christ is learned from God’s Word. Will you obey God’s Word today and put your faith in Jesus Christ, who died for your sins and rose again so that you might be saved.

Next Week: Proverbs 30:7-9 “Lead Me Not into Temptation”

What Lemuel learned from his mother (part 2) Another Mother’s Day Sermon May 9, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Mother's Day, Proverbs, Religion, Sermons.
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Theme: A man is considered wise when he finds a future-seeking, spiritual woman.
Introduction: Earlier in this chapter we have the instructions of King Lemuel’s mother. Although it is not absolutely certain that this acrostic poem is also from King Lemuel and his mother, the poem follows naturally her instructions.
One of her instructions in verse 3 is not to give your strength to women. The word “strength” is not necessarily speaking of physical strength but rather can refer to military strength, financial strength, administrative strength, in other words that which gives you the ability to accomplish a task.
The word “virtuous” in verses 10 is the exact same word as that in verse 3. In other words, this chapter is saying to young men, do not give your strength to women in riotous living but rather find and marry a woman of strength, a woman who enhances your ability to accomplish what a wise man attempts.
When a man finds such a woman, he can treasure her and trust her because she gladly brings good things into his life (verses 10-13).
He can treasure because she is his most valuable possession. Now I do not mean to use the word “possession” in a demeaning way. What I want us to understand is this: there is nothing that a man has that is more valuable than a strong woman.
The first part of Proverbs 12:4 puts it this way, “An excellent (by the way, this is that word “strong” again) wife is the crown of her husband…” In other words, she brings, through her worth, recognition of his worth. Young men, do want to be admired? Find an excellent wife.
Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds something good, And obtains favor from the LORD.” Young men, do you want God to favor you? Find a good wife.
Now how do you find a good wife? First, you find out the characteristics of a good wife and look for them in every young lady who catches your eye. That is part of the purpose of this Mother’s Day sermon, to help young men know what God wants them to be looking for in a wife.
Secondly, seek your wife from God. Proverbs 19:14 says, “Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers, But a prudent wife is from the LORD.” Young men and young women, if ever there is a reason for you not to date the unsaved, this is it. Just as you cannot expect God to give you clean water out of the sewer, you cannot expect God to give you the spouse you need from an unsaved person. I know that God does miracles and I praise Him for every case that has ever worked out and I continue to pray that God will bring the spouses of some of our ladies to the Lord. If, however, you want God to give you a wife or a husband who will enhance your ability to please God and accomplish what he wants you to in this life, you need to narrow the playing field to people who are saved and are serving the Lord.
Not only can a man treasure a strong woman but he can trust her. There are two reasons:
One (verse 12), she only does good to him. She never attempts to hurt him, to cut him down, to manipulate him, to get even with him. By the way, girls, this is also true in finding a strong husband. If that person you are dating continues to hurt or abuse you in some way, break it off. Find someone who only wants to do you good.
Also, her responsibilities as wife and mother bring her pleasure. If you are interested in someone who is always complaining about whatever task they are given, whether it be schoolwork or chores or a job, be kind to them, pray for them, but do not consider them as a partner. Grudging labor will poison your relationship. Find a positive person for your life’s partner.
Now how is it that a strong woman brings good things into the life of her husband? She can do this because she is diligent in her vision for the long-term security of those she loves (verses 14-18).
A strong woman dreams for the future. Many a young lady has a dream for her life. There are ladies who dream of being a princess but a strong woman’s dream go beyond that. There are ladies who dream of being in a safe environment. Young men, look for a young lady whose dreams go beyond a fairy tale wedding day and the protection of her husband, which protection, men you owe to your wife. Look for a lady who dreams for the future of others.
She prepares for the future. Dreams without plans and preparations remain just that dreams. Dreams without plans and preparations are often forgotten. Dreams with plans and preparations have a chance to be fulfilled. You need to talk with your future wife about the future. Find out not only what her dreams our and tell her what your dreams are but discuss how you might bring those dreams to fruition.
She acts for the future. When a merchant wants to make money through shipping, he plans a trip and then he actually carries out his plans. When a farmer buys a farm, he works the land and invests right back into his farm. When a vendor goes to the market, he or she checks their wares for quality and then rises early so that they will not miss one sell. That is the kind of strong woman you young men need to be seeking for.
Her husband is considered wise on her merits because her future-seeking value is evident everywhere (verses 19-24). There is not an area of life where her value is not recognized. Within her family, behind closed doors, the strong woman’s future-seeking value is recognized. The poor are not only aware of it but are cared for by her because her value has given her abundance. The neighborhood sees the evidence of her successful planning. The merchants at the marketplace know all about her value. Verse 23, however, is the kicker. Her husband is esteemed among men of responsibility because of his wife. He is judged on her merit.
Earlier I read the first part of Proverbs 12:4, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,” but the second part is also revealing, “…she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones.” Young men, it does matter what kind of a wife you choose. Your choice of wife shows something about your character and if you choose a short-sighted lady, a lady who does not fear God, a lady who is negative, a lady who cannot be trusted, a lady who is manipulative, a lady who nags to get her way, a lady who fusses and fumes when things do not go her way, you can blame her all you want but your choice reveals your lack of wisdom at the time that you made that choice.
Some think that Paul was too hard to expect that the wives of elders and deacons also be held to a high standard but this is one reason why it is not unreasonable. The actions of the wife reveals the level of spiritual leadership in the husband.
Her future-seeking, spiritual character is praised because it bears fruit (verses 25-31).
Verses 25-27 list the spiritual fruit of a strong woman as if they were a string of jewels hung around her neck, each one glistening in all its glory, reflecting off the others and emanating a beauty as a whole that is much greater than the individual parts.
Now this word for strength is closer to what we normally think of as strength. This woman’s character is seen as spiritually, mentally, emotionally, strong and honorable.
Her end is joy. She may go through tough times but she will rejoice at the end of her life because of the way she lived it.
Her words are wisdom. Her words would reflect the truth of the book of Proverbs. The book is written for young men but young women should learn it also, that they might be able to teach others wisdom.
Her words are kind, merciful, loving according to the law (see 2 Chronicles 35:26). What is the law of kindness? Jesus explained it this way, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.” This woman forgives. This woman cares for others, especially those who are her enemies. This woman reflects the love of God.
She is attentive to those under her. She does not ignore her children or her husband or her servants, should she have servants but attends to their needs.
She is not lazy. This certainly has been alluded to throughout this whole passage. This woman does not see life as a vacation to be lived.
She is praised but not for her beauty and charm. Those things can deceive and will not last. No, she is praised because she fears the LORD and her character and the fruit of her life reflects that fear. This is a woman of God, a strong woman, a woman of eternal significance in God’s kingdom, a woman whose spiritual character is an honor to her husband.
Do you fear the LORD? That is really the foundation. We began this series reminding ourselves that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. That means that you are trusting in a God who could and should snuff you out but chooses instead to show you mercy through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus rose from the dead that you might fear Him, that you might trust Him, that you might be saved from your sin. Will you begin your walk in the fear of the LORD today? Will you trust Jesus for forgiveness of sins and begin a new life in Him, a fruitful life and an eternal life, a life who end is guaranteed joy. Be wise today and trust Christ!
NEXT WEEK: Psalm 78:1-11: Why Should We Memorize Scripture?

What Lemuel learned from his mother (A Mother’s Day Sermon) May 2, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Alcohol, Proverbs, Religion, Sermons.
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Every responsibility is God-given (verses 1-2). The name “Lemuel” means “for God”. From verse two it is apparent that Lemuel’s mother, like Samuel’s mother, Hannah, had made a vow, asking for a son, and when God answered her prayer, she gave her son to the Lord.
This mother took seriously her God-given responsibility by instructing her son. Now this was the theme of last weeks message so I do not want to belabor the point except to ask this. What did you with last week’s message? Did you think about what you should change? Did your heart say, yes, I need to train my child and others more faithfully? Did you then do it? Or perhaps, you heard the words but you said, how dare he tell me how to raise my children? And that is a legitimate question. But it is the wrong question for you to ask. You need and I need to ask myself if I am truly fulfilling my God-given responsibility to train my children in the ways of the Lord. I beg of you not to shirk your responsibilities but to start today training your child to serve the Lord.
This mother not only took seriously her God-given responsibility by instructing her son but expected her son to take his God-given responsibility seriously by prioritizing responsibility over pleasure. Why? Because…
…giving ourselves to pleasure destroys our opportunity to fulfill our responsibilities (verses 3-5). There are two specific pleasures mentioned in these verses, women and wine. They are certainly not the only pleasures that have destructive qualities but they are certainly among the most common. These things are beyond culture.
Certain pleasures cost us greatly (compare verse 3 with Proverbs 5:8-11; 7:26-27). Most of this poem is directed against the pleasure of drinking but Lemuel’s mother begins by pointing out the cost of sexual pleasures outside the bounds of marriage. There is a trade-off. “Strength” here speaks of ability and the power that comes from that ability. It is in other contexts translated “army” or “wealth.” Lemuel’s mother says that if you indulge yourself in sexual pleasures you will trade in your ability to king. You might as well trade in the armies and treasuries of your kingdom. That is the cost of this pleasure.
Also, you will trade your ways for destruction. This is a specific type of destruction. The word means to wipe out, in this case, to erase from memory. You may be a king now but no one will remember you, your place in history will be forgotten if you trade your God-give responsibility as king for the pleasures of this world.
I think it is appropriate at this time to remind ourselves that we are not just talking about adultery and pre-marital affairs. This warning is also appropriate to everyone of us who is tempted to view pornography on our computer or to entertain lustful thoughts towards someone who is not our spouse. We are to guard our hearts and minds. That may mean not watching some of your favorite TV shows or switching channels when certain commercials come on. That may mean stepping back from someone in your workplace and saying, “No! The emotions that I am feeling are not worth the cost.” It may mean that you need to recommit yourself to building a strong relationship to your spouse. Whatever, it may mean, count the cost of doing nothing. You will lose your ability to exercise your God-given responsibilities and will pass into eternity, forgotten!
Certain pleasures are inappropriate in conjunction with responsibility (verse 4).
Dr. Jack Hayford once wrote that he felt there was a different standard for church leaders like pastors and the other church members. I do not know if he bases that on this passage that deals with leadership and drunkenness but this subject does present us with some difficulties. The book of Proverbs, consistent with the rest of Scriptures, seems in some passages at least to recommend total abstinence and in other passages seems to allow the drinking of wine in moderation.
Certain pleasures cloud our judgment (verse 5).
Addictions make a fool out of a person. Proverbs 23:33-35 describe the foolishness of intoxication. You will say perverse things (verse 33). You will lose touch with reality, even to the point of putting yourself unknowingly in danger (verses 34-35a). You will as an addict do it again and again and again (verse 35b). Proverbs 20:1, “…whoever is led astray by (their addiction) is not wise.”
I was speaking to one of our local state troopers recently. He mentioned how that he is finishing up his last year of running the D.A.R.E. program at Castleton Elementary School. What is sadder is that no more will there be a Vermont State Trooper anywhere in this state running a D.A.R.E. program. I am sure that there are a number of reasons for that but I wonder if this is representative of us, Christians included, who have decided as a society that fighting dangerous pleasures really does not matter.
I knew a man once who had gone to a party with his wife. He had drank a beer, had left the party with his wife, became involved in an auto accident in which his wife was killed, tested as D.U.I., and served time for vehicular homicide. Those are the facts as he told them to me. Perhaps there is more to the story, I do not know. But I saw the guilt that man lived under. I saw those three little boys without a mother. I saw the regrets of a man who traded responsibility for pleasure.
Do not ignore those for whom you have responsibility (verses 6-9)! This passage is written to kings, so there is a specific application to kings. But we also carry responsibility and there are some principles that we can apply from these verses to our lives.
Comfort the helpless (verses 6-7). Notice the contrast between verses 4-5 and verses 6-7! It is not the responsible person who needs alcohol but the man and woman who is beyond responsibility, on their death bed. We are talking about people with no hope. There is nothing left for them but to ease their pain.
Now I am not recommending that we start accompanying the hospice workers with liquor. The picture painted here is this, there are some who are beyond help. Do not ignore them. Comfort them. Paul put it this way, “Weep with those who weep!” Certainly we do not bear the exact same responsibility as our government in this area yet we do bear responsibility. When we come in contact with people who are beyond hope and beyond our help, let us not ignore them but rather love them and make them comfortable and look for some way to help.
Defend the defenseless (verses 8-9).
Kings had the power to defend the defenseless. Usually, we do not but we do have one power that is ours. It is the power of the tongue. When you hear a lie about a neighbor, gossip about that one, do you rise to defend them. As one who has listened to gossip, one who has himself gossiped and criticized, and as one who has been the subject of gossip and personal attacks, I am afraid that we as a church stand in the balances and are found wanting.
Remember the ninth commandment? Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Zechariah 8:16-17 tells us in detail how to keep this commandment.
16 These are the things you shall do: Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace;
17 Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; And do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate,’ Says the LORD.”
There is at least one other way in which we can defend the defenseless. Do you know the purpose of the benevolence fund? It is to help those who have need. We try to be careful and be wise stewards of those funds. We take pains to determine if the need is real. What we do not do is hold those funds over someone’s head. We do not demand that people attend service in exchange for financial help. We do not demand or even expect a thank you. What we do is this, help, no strings attached. Yes, we have priorities and policies and we follow those but the spirit of our benevolence is this, “Can we help?”
Why? Because there are almost always others who end up with a heavier load if we do not do our part to help. We do try to hold people accountable but we try to find ways to help those who cannot help themselves. We are not in the business of enabling but we are in the business of helping. After this sermon, we will again give to the benevolence fund. We will do it because we are thankful to God but if we are truly thankful, we will also do it because someone is going to need our help and we need to be there when it is time to help.
Next week: Part 2 – What Lemuel’s mother said about finding a wife.

An Early Father’s Day Sermon from Proverbs 4 April 26, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Father's Day, Proverbs, Religion, Sermons, Spiritual Leadership.
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INTRODUCTION: We are treading into an area of some controversy and we need at this time to deal with it in a way that is helpful and not hurtful. The subject of child rearing is one of those subjects around which there tends to be a lot of heat and not much light. There is a great danger of spiritual pride in our attitudes toward the ways others rear their children. What we want to understand today, however, are some general principles concerning child rearing. As demanded by the text, we will attempt to make some personal application of these principles.
The passages that we are looking at during the next three weeks come from the book of Proverbs. There are a couple of facts you need to recognize about the book of Proverbs. It is meant to be preventative. It is specifically written to keep young people from making disastrous choices. It is not intended to help them once they are in trouble but to keep them from getting into trouble in the first place.
Also, it does not guarantee that the young people will accept the guidance being offered. In fact, the very existence of the book is proof that young people raised in God fearing homes are in danger of rejecting the very truth they have been taught.
One final note before we look into the text. You may not have young children. That does not mean that the passage says nothing to you. Remember that just as a father is responsible to rear his children, this church is responsible to rear the believers in it and those who come to faith in the ways of the LORD. If you are a believer, you are responsible to do your part in bringing others to maturity in Christ and the principles in this passage apply to you also.
I. The goodness of a father’s instruction is the reason to abide in it (verses 1-2). One of the things that strikes me in this passage is the lack of emphasis on being a good example. It is just assumed that the father is living what he teaches and that he is a good example before his children. The reason I believe is this: there is a huge difference between doing something and expecting someone to follow you and training someone to do something. The first has its place but an example without instruction is in the long run senseless.
It is an old illustration but very appropriate. There was a young lady who baked cornbread in a small skillet. The cornbread was delicious. Her husband asked why she made cornbread in a small skillet. She answered, “Because that’s the way my mother does it.” Later that day she called up her mother and asked why she made cornbread in a small skillet. Her mother answered, “Because that’s the way my mother does it.” The girl called her grandmother and asked the same question and received the same answer. Finally, she called her great-grandmother, asked the same question, but received a different answer. Because when I was young, my oven was not big enough to hold a large skillet. Decades of small skillet use because someone followed an example without receiving instruction.
So we have a father who does more than serves as an example but rather is training his children in good instruction. To understand what good instruction is, you need to understand the underlying assumption, the foundation of the book of Proverbs. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). The passage we are looking at today is tells us the importance of good doctrine or teaching and the result of good doctrine. It is true that you will find no mention of God in this passage. However, there is no meaning to the instructions given here unless you acknowledge Christ in all your ways, trusting His understanding and His direction rather than your own. Proverbs says, if you follow the LORD, if you choose the good way, this is how you should raise your children but if you do not there are real dangers that your children will find themselves in.
II. The priority of a father’s instruction is the reason he gives it (verses 3-9).
A. His instruction is his children’s inheritance (verses 3-4a). Notice how the writer identifies himself. He is the only son. In Genesis 22:2 (see also verses 12 and 16 as well as Judges 11:34; Jeremiah 6:26; Amos 8:10; and Zechariah 12:10), when God commanded Abraham to take his only son, Isaac, to be sacrificed; God was not ignorant that Abraham had another, older son named Ishmael. God was emphasizing the fact that Isaac was the receiver of both the physical and more importantly the spiritual inheritance of his father. This is the same usage that we have here in these verses.
We may have the opportunity to pass down some measure of wealth or at least a few precious belongings to our children. What we must give them is instruction in the ways of wisdom, in the ways of God. When the children of Israel came out of Egypt, God gave them the feasts so that they might not only celebrate God’s deliverance for them but also that they might teach their children about the power of God. David in Psalm 71:18 says that even in his old age, he still had something valuable to pass down to the next generation, his knowledge of the power of God.
“The poem, “My Father’s Hands Held Mine”, by Norman H. Russell is extremely moving. The speaker talks about his childhood experiences with his father…The next phrase, “The deer that dies falls from both our hands,” suggests that perhaps his father may still be there somehow in spirit if not in body. He also gives adequate credit to his father for each deer that he kills because his father was the one who taught him how to make arrows. Drawing from the Native American culture that this man seems to come from, the father probably also taught him to hunt. The speaker is thanking his father and praising him because he knows that if his father hadn’t taught him how to him how to do these things, that he would be having some serious issues providing for his family. That’s probably why the father chose for them to do this together. He knew it would have a practical impact on his son. This would leave his son with not only a way to do things but the reason and ability to teach his sons so that they’ll remember him.” (from Phil Talley’s analysis of “My Father’s Hands Held Mine.”
This is why we as father’s and mother’s and leaders within this church must give priority to training our young people. Our example is not enough. They must be taught by us the power of God and the wisdom of God or else they will starve spiritually.
Wisdom has priority above all else (verses 4b-7).
If the way of wisdom is kept, it enables the man or woman who keeps God’s way to live (verse 4b). This means more than simply to be breathing but to have true spiritual life. If you desire to be spiritually alive, then you must believe and observe God’s Word. All other spirituality, apart from God’s Word is no more than a readjusting of the corpse of our spiritual deadness.
If wisdom is acquired, it will preserve and protect the one who acquires it (verses 5-6). This is a scary world. There are many dangers in it. The person who is trained in wisdom, in God’s ways and makes it a priority in his life above all else will be protected when the dangers comes. Fathers, mothers, leaders in this church, if we do not train our children in the ways of wisdom they will be exposed to danger.
Often there is a lot of debate as to how much we should isolate our children or expose our children to the things of this world. This is a legitimate question that every parent should deal with but not everyone comes to the same conclusion. There is obviously a line that must be drawn somewhere but it is not always clear where we should draw that line.
If, however, we do not take steps to train our children in the ways of God, the debate becomes meaningless. It does not matter where I draw the line, if the my child is not trained, verbally taught and shown by example, the ways of God, he or she is exposed unnecessarily to danger. That is why we emphasize Scripture memory in Awana. That is why we have the past three years challenged you as a church to memorize a specific passage of Scripture. We will do that again this year. That is why you need to lead your family in devotions, with at least Bible reading and prayer. That is why some of you parents need to bring your children to our Sunday morning prayer meeting, so that they may learn through our prayers, how to talk to God. That is why some of you need to have your children in Sunday School, as inconvenient as it may be to get up on the only day you can sleep in. We are not talking about building up numbers but rather about building up an inheritance for our children. That is why you need to bring your children with you to every service that this church offers. That is why we as a church offer a nursery. It is the first steps that this church takes in providing protection for our children.
The state has not, never has, and never will protect our children from the destruction of this world. It is left up to us as a church and as Christian fathers and mothers within the church to provide the protective training and instruction that our children need to live and that our children need to be preserved and protected from destruction.
Wisdom can do this because it is the principle thing (verse 8). In other words, it is more important than food and clothing. It is more important than education. It is more important than a good career. It is more important than anything else that this world has to offer. There is nothing, nothing, …nothing more important than training our children in the wisdom of God.
Treasuring discernment above all else results in exaltation above others (verses 8-9). You can teach your child self-esteem but if you do not teach him or her wisdom, they will simply exalt themselves but it will not be real. They will simply be proud. The wisdom from God, when treasured above all that this world has to offer, will exalt that person above everyone around him or her. Do you want your life to be important. Treasure wisdom. That may not impress your neighbors. Your senators and congressman will probably not take notice but God will exalt you. You will be honored with permanent, eternal honor. Honor that only God Himself can give out. You will be eternally significant. You will be important in God’s kingdom if you treasure wisdom.
The coercion of a father’s instruction can result in God’s blessing, if the children abide in it (verses 10-13).
Verse 11 has two very interesting words in it: taught and led. They do not simply mean the act of teaching and the act of leading. There is force implied. I have caused you to learn. I have caused you to follow this path. I have made you to learn. I have forced you to follow in this way.
Quite often, I hear someone say, we do not want our children to be forced to follow the right path. We want them to investigate the various religions and choose the one that they find is right. Solomon would have laughed at such an idea. If you want your child to follow the way of wisdom, if you want your child to choose the path of blessing (as verse 10 teaches) you must force your child to learn and to walk in the right path. If you do not, if you let your child go in the way he wants, he will follow the way he wants and will never come near the path of blessing which God has laid before him.
Even believers fall into this trap. “We should not force our young people to pray in youth group. We should not force our children to go to church with us.” Yet Solomon says that is exactly what we must do. Basic training has a reputation of being unpleasant because suddenly young men and women are forced to do things that go against their natural inclination. They are forced into a certain path. They are made to learn certain things. If they do not then they cannot serve. If we refuse to take that type of attitude in training our young people, how can we expect them to follow the path of wisdom.
Verse 12 tells us actually what will happen if we do not force our children onto the right path, if we do not force them to learn the ways of wisdom, the ways of God, the ways of this word. They will come to a dead end. That is what hindered means. No where to go. Trapped. How many times have we seen people say, “I do not know where to go, what to do, where to turn?” Yet in hindsight it is easy to see what happened. They either were not taught or refused to learn the ways of wisdom and they made foolish decision after foolish decision until finally there was no way out. They stumble, they fall, they can go no further for they have chosen the wrong path.
During the next couple of weeks we will talk about some of those things that we should teach but let me emphasize again that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. If you want your child, if we want people to go in the way of wisdom, we must teach them the gospel of Christ. Jesus was God in heaven and became man to be punished for your and my sins. He died, was buried, and rose again. Will you fear Him? Will you bow before Him as the only God and Savior Jesus Christ? Will you trust Him alone for forgiveness of sins? That is the beginning to the path of wisdom. Teach it today to your children. Tell it to your families. And if you have not followed it yourself, begin today on the path of wisdom through faith in Christ as your Savior.
NEXT WEEK: Proverbs 31:1-9 – What My Mother Taught Me – Part One: The Three Dangers