Saturday, October 21, 2006

Wisdom, Understanding, and Discretion

Wisdom, Understanding, and Discretion

Proverbs 2
1 My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you,
2 making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding;
3 yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding,
4 if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures,

5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
8 guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.

9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path;
10 for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
11 discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you,
12 delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech,
13 who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness,
14 who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil,
15 men whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways.

16 So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words,
17 who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God;
18 for her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the departed;
19 none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life.

20 So you will walk in the way of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous.
21 For the upright will inhabit the land, and those with integrity will remain in it,
22 but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.

Reading through this, I noticed a pattern I’d not noticed before. Buried within this proverb pertaining to the increase of wisdom was an, “if, then, so” statement.
If (the condition)
Then (the result)
So (the reason; the “so what”)

Reading through this section (v. 1-4), meditating on what these statements are really saying, I realize how: 1) how intentional my pursuit must be, and 2) how difficult the pursuit is. Intentional, because of how I must search for it as a hidden treasure. It is not easily found, and not accidentally stumbled upon. Wisdom, insight, and understanding are gifts of the Lord’s grace, and He chooses to impart these riches of His grace through man’s relentless pursuit of them, and through persistent crying out for them in prayer (James 1:5). I say this pursuit is difficult, not because they are difficult to obtain, for the Lord freely gives to those who ask in faith (James 1:6), but rather because it is difficult for me to ask in faith, without doubting. My pride prevents me from petitioning the Lord with a sincere heart. You see, most days I believe I am already wise, making it impossible for me to pray for something I am convinced I already have (Proverbs 3:7; Proverbs 12:15; Proverbs 26:12; Isaiah 5:21). My only recourse is to cry out to God continually to overcome my pride (as only He is able) and impart to me true wisdom; a wisdom vastly different from what the world calls wisdom. Indeed, it must be different than what this world calls wisdom (James 3:13-18)!

In v.5-15, I see the direct result of an increase in my wisdom. The foundation for all of this is a proper fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). This fear is a reverent fear, not a cowering fear (concerned with punishment). It is a profoundly respectful fear. With this fear comes an increase in all of the things pertaining to right living, according to the Lord. The Lord is faithful to increase my understanding, righteousness, equity, and knowledge of the right path (which few find, by the way – Matthew 7:14). The rest that I find in the rich promises of God are only obtainable through the “if” portion of Proverbs 2, and this “if” condition is only met by God’s grace through faith. It may seem, on the surface, that I am espousing a view of works that merit grace, but read deeper and understand that I am not! Understanding that I am unable to perform any of these works, I cry out to God, knowing that it is only Him who works through me for His pleasure…it is His doing, not mine, not mine, not mine (Philippians 2:13,14)!

Who cares? So what? The nature of these things requires that I intentionally pursue them, and through great difficulty. Although I know God’s grace empowers me to obey in this pursuit, why would I be interested in that? God commands these things for my own good (Deuteronomy 10:13)! The “so what” is because He cares for me, and desires that I enter the rest only He provides! The Lord imputes righteousness to me, but He also commands me to conduct myself in obedience, in holiness, so I may join Him on His holy hill (Psalm 15). There is most certainly a command, a responsibility to obey; to believe otherwise is to believe in something other than the Gospel that Jesus taught.

How wonderful are the graces of the Lord! Thanks be to God that He chooses to pour them out on one such as myself. Knowing I am unable to will or to work for good apart from Him (John15:5), I cry out to Him for the accomplishment of the things that please Him. How incredible is the salvation He has designed? So simple and so effortless, yet paradoxically requiring my total surrender, my very life – His yoke being called “easy,” and His burden, “light,” and at the same time calling me to struggle, to persevere, to bear with burdens, to lay down my life.

True Christianity
Lord of Heaven,
Thy goodness is inexpressible and inconceivable.
In thy works of creation thou art almighty,
In the dispensations of providence all-wise,
In the gospel of grace all love,
And in thy Son thou hast provided for
our deliverance from the effects of sin,
the justification of our persons,
the sanctification of our natures,
the perseverance of our souls in the path of life.
Though exposed to the terrors of thy law,
we have a refuge from the storm;
Though compelled to cry, ‘Unclean’,
we have a fountain for sin;
Though creature-cells of emptiness
we have a fullness accessible to all,
and incapable of reduction.
Grant us always to know that to walk with Jesus
makes other interests a shadow and a dream.
Keep us from intermittent attention
to eternal things;
Save us from the delusion of those
who fail to go far in religion,
who are concerned but not converted,
who have another heart but not a new one,
who have light, zeal, confidence, but not Christ.
Let us judge our Christianity;
not only by our dependence upon Jesus,
but by our love to him,
our conformity to him,
our knowledge of him.
Give us a religion that is both real and progressive,
that holds on its way and grows stronger,
that lives and works in the Spirit,
that profits by every correction,
and is injured by no carnal indulgence.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

and now, a musical break...

While visiting one of my favorite websites Taylor Guitars, I stumbled upon this treat of a video, featuring Jason Mraz playing his song, "the Remedy." It is awesome! I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

the Wimpy Gospel

the Wimpy Gospel

When did our society transform the Gospel of Christ into such an impotent, non-life-changing message? “Ask Jesus into your heart”; “invite Christ into your life”; “accept Jesus as your personal Savior”; “make a decision for Christ.” They sound great, but are they biblical? The call of Christ is one of discipleship, a call to obedience, not merely a call to make a decision for, or to pray a prayer to Him. It is a call that demands repentance in the life of a sinner. This offer of amazing grace is tempered with warnings to those who lived outwardly religious lives, without an inward change associated with true righteousness (Matthew 7:13-23).

“Contemporary Christians have been conditioned to believe that because they recited a prayer, signed on a dotted line, walked an aisle, or had some other experience, they are saved and should never question their salvation. I have attended evangelism training seminars where counselors were taught to tell ‘converts’ that any doubt about their salvation is satanic and should be dismissed. It is a widely held misconception that anyone who questions whether he or she is saved is challenging the integrity of God’s Word.” [The Gospel According to Jesus, by John F. Macarthur, page 29]

Although the Bible calls believers to have confidence in their justification, many churches have distorted this exhortation, basing the confidence instead on the extra-biblical philosophies of man, noted in the above paragraph. This has led many to falsely trust in an eternal justification before God that simply is not there. After “signing the dotted line,” or “praying the sinner’s prayer” at the request of their pastor, they continue about their daily lives without evidence of a changed life. In their eyes, the offer of grace is viewed as an eternal insurance policy, rather than as an instrument intended to lead them to repentance (Romans 2:4). In writing all of this, I do not mean to imply that we cannot be certain of our salvation, because the Bible emphatically says, both directly and indirectly, that we can be, in numerous verses (Nehemiah 9:16-19; Psalm 31:23; Jeremiah 32:38-42; John 6:37-40; John 17:11; Ephesians 1:11-14; Philippians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:3-5; 2 Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 7:25; Hebrews 10:14; 1 Peter 1:3-5).

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

2 Peter 1:10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

Luke 6:44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.

1 John 3:10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

James 2:14-17 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

1 John 2:4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him…

“The Lord will not save those whom He cannot command. He will not divide His offices. You cannot believe on half-Christ. We take Him for what He is—the anointed Savior and Lord who is King of kings and Lord of all lords! He would not be Who He is if He saved us and called us and chose us without the understanding that He can also guide and control our lives.” [I Call it Heresy, by A.W. Tozer, pages 18-19].

Concerning the theology that attempts to separate salvation from discipleship, James Boice writes, “This [theology] is a common defect in times of prosperity. In days of hardship, particularly persecution, those who are in the process of becoming Christians count the cost of discipleship carefully before taking up the cross of the Nazarene. Preachers do not beguile them with false promises of an easy life or indulgence of sins. But in good times, the cost does not seem so high, and people take the name of Christ without undergoing the radical transformation of life that true conversion implies.” [Christ’s Call to Discipleship, page 14).

Ephesians 2:10 says that we were created for good works, which the Lord prepared beforehand. As part of the saving work that the Lord does within each true believer, He will produce: repentance, faith, sanctification, and obedience. Since the Lord is not dependent on humans to produce these fruits, any “salvation” experience that lacks them cannot be the saving work of God.