Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"The path to wisdom leads through listening to godly instruction!"

Day #181

Scripture Reading:  Proverbs 5 - 6 …

Have you ever heard the old saying, "Some people never learn!"?  That is usually said after someone repeats a mistake or sin that they have committed before, perhaps more than once.  We expect that when teaching young children we will need to repeat ourselves and that wrong choices or "innocent mistakes" will be repeated, but as we grow older and supposedly wiser, this pattern should change.  Wisdom should replace youthful folly and should lead to appropriate behavior.  Sadly, however, wisdom doesn't necessarily come with age!  In fact, it seems that people are being encouraged NOT to “grow up,” but rather, to continue living in youthful ignorance and arrogance, thinking they “know-it-all” and need no further instruction.  Such, however, is not the case!

Wisdom is gained through LISTENING to godly instruction.  "My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight" (5:1).  We have already seen that the wisdom of the world is foolishness because it leaves people in their sinful rebellion against God and leads only to destruction, sooner or later.  People without godly wisdom (that received from God through His Word) are caught in an endless cycle of self-destructive choices and actions that leave them stranded on a sea of “relativism,” making it up as they go.  In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul writes, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4).  Young children and teenagers don't always want instruction, but they always NEED instruction, and love requires giving them wisdom from God's Word.  How frustrating to grow up without godly instruction.

Parents often say, "You have to learn some things the hard way!"  That's a lie.  You don't HAVE to learn anything the hard way … you CHOOSE to learn the hard way when you refuse to listen to godly instruction.  The same is true for people of all ages.  True wisdom comes from godly instruction from God’s Word from those who know the one true God through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.  In these the very Spirit of God is at work to TEACH them all they need to know for life and godliness through their knowledge of the God who created them (II Peter 1:3-4).  Solomon writes in these chapters about being tempted by the voice of the adulteress.  Of course, we think immediately of sexual immorality and seduction and temptation, and Solomon does warn against that.  But there is also something deeper here.

Those who claim to believe in God are called to be devoted to Him, to be committed to following His ways.  When they turn aside to other things and listen to other voices, they "commit adultery."  God spoke about the people of Israel through the prophet Jeremiah when He said, "'The time is coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.  It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,' declares the Lord"  (Jeremiah 31:31-32).  Spiritual adultery is even worse than physical adultery in terms of the consequences!  Spiritual adultery leads to separation from GOD!!

There is, however, a way to avoid the consequences of adultery:  DON'T DO IT!!  Devote yourself to the Lord by listening to HIS instruction and being willing to learn, to be disciplined and to be corrected.  We saw in Chapter 3, verses 11-12:  "Do not despise the LORD's discipline and do not resent His rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those He loves, as a father the son He delights in."  And the writer of Hebrews quotes those words (Hebrews 12:5-6) and adds, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11).  God knows what He’s doing!

God gives us all we need to grow and mature in our love for Him and our devotion to Him through faith in Christ and the work of His Spirit through His Word.  "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man (and woman) of  God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (II Timothy 3:16-17).  Solomon rightly says, "The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast.  He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly" (5:22-23).

He goes on in Chapter 6 to warn further against folly and adultery.  He warns against being "trapped" by your own words when you make promises too quickly.  "Free yourself" quickly, he advises.  Admit your error, humble yourself and plea for forgiveness.  Honesty goes a long way toward wisdom. Then he warns against laziness and points to the ant as an example of hard labor:  "Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! …  A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest - and poverty will come on you like a bandit" (6:6,10-11).  It seems that many people today work harder at getting out of work than they do simply doing the job at hand.

God hates pride, lies, taking advantage of the helpless, devising wicked schemes, all kinds of evil, bearing false witness and stirring up arguments (6:16-19).  In other words, living for yourself is foolishness.  Read Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew 5-7 and you will find wisdom. Remember Jesus' words to "do to others as you would have them do to you" (Matthew 7:12).  Putting yourself first is adultery; it is rejecting God's instruction and going your own way and Jesus says it leads to destruction - always!

But there is a better way, which all who know Christ as their Savior and Lord will follow:  "Keep your father's commands and do not forsake your mother's teaching.  Bind them upon your heart forever ...  For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life" (6:20-21, 23).  When the Holy Spirit is at work in your heart God's Word is your guide, your light.  Jesus came to save us and through His Spirit and Word God conforms us to the image of Christ!

Don't learn things the hard way, by facing the consequences.  Trust in Jesus for forgiveness and life and listen to the voice of His Spirit speaking through His Word.  He will never lead you astray!

"Father in heaven, I thank You for Your warnings and praise You for Your grace.  Continue to give me ears to hear and finish the work You have begun in me, that my life may reflect Your holiness and be an instrument to lead others to place their hope in You.  Help me always to listen to instruction, to accept discipline and to rejoice in Your love to me in Christ.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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