The Mind of Christ.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV

The wisdom of God is foolishness to men. The idea that a divine being sent His Son to live as a human being and die on a cross in order to pay for the sins of mankind is ludicrous to them. It is a delusional fable at best, a diabolical lie at worst. But Paul would argue that the problem lies not with the message or with the intent of the messenger. It is that those to whom the message is shared are incapable of receiving it. They can’t understand it. It would be like an American trying to understand a message spoken to him in a foreign language. The message and the messenger could both be accurate, but the meaning would be lost because the one to whom the message is being given doesn’t speak the language. The message of the cross is heavenly in nature. It is a spiritually based message that requires interpretation by the Spirit of God. Natural man, as Paul describes him, cannot understand the words and wisdom of God. Paul refers to him as “natural” simply to say that he is not spiritual or of the spirit. Anyone who has not placed their faith in Christ ia a natural man or woman. They lack the presence of the indwelling Spirit of God. And as Paul writes, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV). The Spirit of God speaks wisdom from God. He reveals the mind of God. “For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10-11 ESV).

It is impossible for natural man, under the control of his own sin nature, to comprehend the mind of God. Even those who have placed their faith in Christ as their Savior had to have help from God’s Spirit in order to believe. They had to have their eyes opened and their hearts regenerated by the Spirit in order to comprehend the life-changing nature of the gospel message. “The natural person can, of course, understand the gospel and experience salvation but only because the Holy Spirit illuminates his or her understanding” (Robert A. Pyne, “The Role of the Holy Spirit in Conversion,” Bibliotheca Sacra 150:598 (April-June 1993):204-5).

And the second the Spirit illumines the eyes of the natural person so that they can see and accept the wonderful message of God’s gracious gift of salvation through Christ, He comes to dwell within them. They go from being natural to spiritual. The word Paul uses is πνευματικός (pneumatikos) and it means “one who is filled with and governed by the Spirit of God” (“G4152 – pneumatikos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible). Because of the Spirit’s presence within them, they have the capacity to understand the things of the Spirit, or as Paul refers to them, spiritual truths. It is not the wisdom or eloquence of men that make the things of God accessible and understandable. It is the Spirit of God. It is not human wisdom that makes spiritual truths discernible to men, but the Spirit of God. Even Paul admits, “When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths” (1 Corinthians 2:13 NLT). Even a spiritual person who attempts to speak spiritual truth without the Spirit’s help will end up relying upon human wisdom and his or her message will fall on deaf ears. It will lack power. It will be devoid of truth. It may be eloquent, impressive, even well-received, but it will not communicate the wisdom of God or contain the power of God.

One of the primary benefits of having the Spirit of God within us is the ability He provides to discern and evaluate all things. We have been given the Word of God and the Spirit of God in order that we might understand the will of God. Jesus told His disciples, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13 NLT). With the Spirit’s help, we can accurately evaluate and determine God’s will for any given circumstance. The Spirit guides and directs. He comforts and consoles. He provides strength when needed and patience when waiting is necessary. We have a supernatural source of wisdom that allows us to know the mind of God. In fact, Paul simply says, “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16b ESV). With the Spirit’s help, we can know what Christ knows. We can see life as He does. We can live as He did. In other words, we can live Christ-like lives here and now. We have the capacity to live holy, righteous lives even though we still have our old sin natures and live in a fallen, sinful world. And the world will not understand us. Natural men and women will be incapable of discerning our ways. They will misunderstand us and be turned off by us. Our lives will make them uncomfortable. Our pursuit of holiness will leave them baffled. Our set-apartness will make them feel judged and so they will attempt to judge us in return. But because they are natural and not spiritual, they will never be able to understand what motivates and drives us. Our love for the Word of God will make no sense to them. Our trust in the will of God will seem naive to them. Our hope in our future salvation by God will come across as little more than wishful thinking to them. But we have the Spirit of God and, as a result, we have the mind of Christ.

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The Message of Righteousness.

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. – Hebrews 5:11-14 ESV

The author of Hebrews admits that what he has been writing about is difficult to explain and just a difficult to understand. But it doesn’t help that his audience has “become dull hearing.” The Greek word the author used literally means “slow” and was used in the figurative sense to refer to someone as “stupid”. The Hebrew believers to whom he wrote had become unaccustomed to hearing difficult doctrine and deeper truths. And the topic he has been trying to explain is the message of righteousness. All of his talk about the Jesus’ sonship, deity, priesthood, suffering, sacrifice and glory have been designed to remind his readers of the righteousness that is found in Christ alone. He does not want them to fall back into their old habits of trying to gain a right standing with God through the keeping of the law. Their heritage as Hebrews, while a blessing, could become a curse, if they let it lead them back into a works-based form of righteousness. Paul made it clear that this path was futile and a waste of time. “For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are” (Romans 3:20 NLT). The fear the author of Hebrews had was that his readers had regressed. He told them, “you have gone back to needing milk” (Hebrews 5:12 NET). Their lack of knowledge regarding the things about which he has been writing reveals that they were “unskilled in the word of righteousness.” They were tempted to fall back on the old truths associated with Moses, the Law, temple worship, and all that was associated with their old way of life.

Their problem was that they had not moved on to solid food. They had become stuck, stagnant. And their lack of progression had led to regression. For the Christian, there really is no middle ground. You are either growing in maturity or you are going backwards. These people, who had evidently known the Lord long enough that the author believed they should have been ready to teach others, were unprepared and unequipped for the job. They were stuck on the basics and unskilled when it came to the word or message regarding the righteousness found in Christ alone. They knew the elementary truths of the faith, such as how one is saved, but they had failed to go deeper in their knowledge. Peter provided his readers with this word of encouragement: “Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment” (1 Peter 2:2 NLT). In his second letter, Peter tells us we “must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18 NLT). There is no place for stagnancy or complacency in the life of the believer. As we grow in Christ, we become increasingly aware of just what He has done for us. We become more and more cognizant of our sin and just how great a salvation we have received. Spiritual growth requires spiritual food. We must develop a hunger for the deeper things of God found in His Word and explained by the help of His Spirit. We can’t stay on spiritual pablum and expect to grow in maturity. “Jesus love me this I know for the Bible tells me so” is true, but not a sufficient source of spiritual sustenance for the growing Christian.

There comes a time in all of our lives when we must become givers, not just receivers. The author told his audience “by this time you ought to be teachers” (Hebrews 5:12 ESV), but they were still having to be spoon fed themselves. They had become comfortably content with their current status as believers in Christ. But one of the non-negotiable realities regarding faith in Christ was the fact that God expects His children to grow. Again, the apostle Peter had some strong words regarding this matter:

Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins. – 2 Peter 1:5-9 NLT

Coming to faith in Christ should result in our coming to be increasingly more like Him in character. The apostle Paul told the believers in Ephesus that God had given the church leaders whose responsibility it was to equip the body of Christ so that they could build one another up. And then he told them…

This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. – Ephesians 4:13-15 NLT

Spiritual maturity is not a solo sport. It is a group activity. We grow in Christ-likeness as we share with one another, as we encourage one another, as we use our spiritual gifts on behalf of one another. As we grow in our knowledge of God’s Word, we receive insight into God’s will. As we share what we are learning with others, they are encouraged and our faith is strengthened. Growth requires interaction with others. Isolation is deadly to spiritual maturity. Complacency is as well. The message of righteousness is not just that we have been made right with God through faith in Christ, but that we are being made righteous in our attitudes and actions as we grow up in our salvation and in our dependence upon the body of Christ.

The Mind of Christ.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV

Those who have placed their faith in Christ, accepting Him as their Savior from sin, have been given the Holy Spirit. His presence within us gives the capacity to think and act as Jesus did. We can live holy lives. We can discern the will of God and live according to it. We can hear the inner promptings of the Spirit of God and respond to them. But the natural or lost individual cannot. He or she lacks the Holy Spirit in their lives, so they are incapable of discerning spiritual truth. In fact, they come across as little more than foolishness to them. The message of the gospel seems silly and absurd. The idea of the resurrection is far-fetched and borders of fantasy. The concept of eternal punishment for sin is something they have a hard time grasping and accepting. All because they are non-spiritual. They lack the Spirit.

Paul tells us that “the spiritual person judges all things.” The Greek word he uses for “judges” is anakrinō and it means “to discern, evaluate, examine.” Those who have the Holy Spirit within them are able to discern or understand what He is doing in and around them. They have a spiritual perspective. The lost or non-spiritual individual does not have that capacity. When they look at a Christ-follower who is living in the power of the Holy Spirit, they cannot discern or understand his actions. They can’t comprehend the life of faith. It makes no sense to them. The paraphrase of this verse found in The Message puts it well. “Spiritually alive, we have access to everything God’s Spirit is doing, and can’t be judged by unspiritual critics.” In fact, they can and do judge us, but they cannot understand us. They think our actions are illogical. They see faith as a weakness or a crutch. They label Christians as unintelligent and the idea of a Savior for mankind as wishful thinking. They place all their hopes in this life. The physical, tangible world becomes their sole reality.

But we have the mind of Christ. Paul, quoting from Isaiah 40:13, writes, “Who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?” It is a rhetorical question and the answer is “no one.” And yet, while we cannot teach God anything and we cannot fully know the mind of God, we have been given the ability to comprehend and know His will. The apostle John writes, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (John 1:18 NIV). Jesus revealed God to man when He took on human flesh. But men refused to accept Him. They were incapable of recognizing who He was. Now the Holy Spirit reveals God to those in whom His dwells. His presence within us allows us to know God, to discern spiritual truths, and to think and act as Jesus did.

When we live under the influence of the Holy Spirit, we will be misunderstood. Our actions and attitudes will make no sense to those who are unsaved. Our joy in the midst of sorrow will seem strange to them. Our humility will come across as weakness. Our selflessness will appear as little more than lack of initiative. Jesus said that the world would hate us just as it hated Him. In spite of all the good that Jesus did, the world ended up despising Him because they could not understand Him. They were stuck with a natural, earthly perspective. They could not see Jesus for who He really was. In fact, a perfect illustration of this is found in the gospel of John. Jesus had fed thousands of people by miraculously multiplying five loaves of bread and two small fish. The people were blown away by what Jesus did. Because their physical needs were met in such an incredible way, they were ready to make Jesus their king. But John writes, “Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself” (John 6:15 ESV). The next day, these same people came to Jesus expecting to be fed again. But Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (John 6:26-27 ESV). Jesus began to teach them about the “bread of life.” He claimed to be the bread that came out of heaven to give life to the world, but they simply wanted physical bread. They wanted their physical appetites fed. But Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 14:35-37 ESV). As hard as it may be for some to accept, Jesus indicates that without the Father’s help, it is impossible for men to accept Jesus for who He is. They are blinded by their own sin. The Jews who heard Jesus speak that day only saw Him as the son of Mary and Joseph. They could not understand what He meant when He said He was the bread that came down from heaven. So Jesus explained to them, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44 ESV). It is the Spirit of God that makes possible our salvation. He must open our eyes and provide us with the capacity to see Jesus as Savior. But He is also the one who makes it possible for us to experience sanctification. He gives us the capacity to live in obedience to God’s will, providing us with the mind of Christ and a discernment to understand spiritual things. We have the mind of Christ in the form of the Spirit of Christ. So we can live like Christ.

Love, Knowledge and Discernment.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. – Philippians 1:9-11 ESV

It was Paul’s desire that the love of the believers in Philippi would grow more and more. He knew how important love was in the life of the believer. He fully understood that, because God has loved us, we are obligated to love others. God is love, and as His children, we are to express His nature. But Paul also qualified His request for increasing love by requesting that it be accompanied by knowledge and discernment. He was not asking for a sentimental sort of love, but a well-reasoned and Christ-like love founded on an understanding of the truth of God. Our love is not to be without discrimination or discernment. The psalmist writes, “You who love the Lord, hate evil!” (Psalm 97:10 NLT). Paul himself wrote to the believers in Rome, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” (Romans 12:9 ESV). In his prayer for the Philippian believers Paul gives his reason for requesting love accompanied by knowledge and discernment – “so that you may approve what is excellent.” The NET Bible translates that phrase as “so that you can decide what is best.” Our love, as it grows, if accompanied by knowledge and discernment, will help us establish right priorities and enable us to focus on what really matters. The problem today is that love has become non-discerning and indiscriminate. We love without thought or priority. We love food, cars,  entertainment, pleasure and people all equally and without considering what it is that God loves. What does His heart beat fast for?

There are things in life that we are NOT to love. God hates pride. So should we. God hates injustice. So should we. But there are also things that are not immoral or unethical, that we have made priorities or “loves” in our lives, that have taken the place of God. We love convenience more than God or others. We love our own comfort more than we love God or others. We love acceptance, the praise of men, the things of this world, our own agendas, and a host of other things more than we love God or others. But Paul prays that our love will be marked by knowledge of the truth and a Spirit-provided discernment that will allow us to see what really matters. True love can be costly. God showed His love for mankind by sending His own Son to die. It cost Him dearly. God knew what needed to be done and He did it. His love was driven by what was best. Jesus’ love for us was also driven by what was best – what His Father wanted. We are to love, but always on God’s terms. Sometimes, our brand of love can do more harm than good. In our day and age, we have confused tolerance with love. We are told to love everybody. But what we are really being told to do is approve of what everyone is doing. Our love is to be all-accepting and non-discriminatory. We are not to judge. We are not free to disapprove. But the Word of God would have us love – within reason and with truth as our standard. In the Proverbs we read, “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers” (Proverbs 6:16-19 ESV). God will not overlook sin. He can’t. So neither should we. That does not mean that we should refrain from showing grace. But at no point are we to show love without discernment. Sometimes the greatest form of love is that which points out the sin in another person’s life. If sin separates us from God, then letting someone know that what they are doing is putting a barrier between them and God is the most loving thing you could do for them. Telling them you love them while knowing that their behavior is an affront to God is anything but loving.

What if we prayed this prayer for one another today? Can you imagine what it might be like if each of us, as believers, were more knowledgeable and discerning in our love? What would it be like if we truly learned to love as God loves? Peter tells us, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8 ESV). But notice that he says, love covers a multitude of sins, not accepts or ignores them. Yes, we need to love more. But we need love that is based on knowledge and discernment. We need love that approves of and agrees with what is best – God’s best. How did God love us? While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. God loved us at our worst, but He was not wiling to leave us that way. The apostle John reminds us, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8 ESV). “You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5 ESV). God’s love was based on redeeming us and renewing us into the likeness of His Son. He didn’t love us by leaving us just like we were. He loved us so that He might justify and sanctify us. And we are to love in that very same way.

2 Chronicles 1-2, 1 Thessalonians 5

Smart Enough To Know Better.

2 Chronicles 1-2, 1 Thessalonians 5

Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can govern this people of yours, which is so great?2 Chronicles 1:10 ESV

Solomon was a bright young man. In fact, he was smart enough to know that, when God offered him a chance to ask for anything he wanted, what he really needed were wisdom and knowledge. And God granted both. So Solomon wasn’t just book-smart, he was God-ordained, off-the-charts intelligent. But he was going to learn that all the wisdom in the world won’t stop you from doing some pretty unintelligent things. It’s interesting to note that the chronicler takes special care to follow up the story of Solomon’s anointing by God with wisdom and knowledge with a very telling side story. It seems that Solomon had an appetite for fast wheels, precious metals, and, eventually, foreign women. “Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen. He had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem. And the king made silver and gold as common in Jerusalem as stone, and he made cedar as plentiful as the sycamore of the Shephelah” (2 Chronicles 1:14-15 ESV).

So what’s the problem? Everything listed here is in direct violation of the will of God. Over in Deuteronomy 17, we read, “Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold” (Deuteronomy 17:16-17 ESV). Solomon failed his first aptitude test. He flunked Obedience 101. And it would prove to be a pattern in his life.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God expected His king to be obedient. He had made it perfectly clear and had commanded that each king was to keep a copy of the Law close at hand at all times. “And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel” (Deuteronomy 17:19-20 ESV). God’s Law was to be a constant companion to the king, guiding him, teaching him to fear God, and helping him to remain faithful to God’s will. The wisdom Solomon received from God was not to have replaced or substituted from his knowledge of God’s will as revealed in His Law.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Solomon was just a man – a very smart man, but a man nonetheless. Like all men, he suffered with a sin nature that caused him to listen more to his passions than to his God. For Solomon, the trappings of kingship were highly attractive. Chariots and horses, gold and silver, wives and concubines were all symbols of a successful reign in his day and age. Even when Solomon got around to building a house for God, he would be sure and build an even bigger one for himself. Materialism and the trappings of sovereign success were constant temptations to him. In his letter to the Thessalonian believers, Paul writes, “Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22 ESV). it seems odd that he would have to say this to a group of Christ followers, but evidently, this was much-needed information for some of them. They needed some basic instruction in how to live godly lives in the midst of an ungodly world. Paul went on to say, “may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23 ESV). He wanted them to know that a faithful walk with God was more important than anything else. Their greatest need was for God to finish His sanctifying, life-transforming work in their lives.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

God gave Solomon exactly what he had asked for: wisdom and knowledge. But it didn’t prevent Solomon from doing something stupid. It would appear that Solomon had not yet taken God’s command seriously and made the Law of God a part of his daily reading schedule. Perhaps he thought he could survive off his intelligence. But it could have been a case of Solomon knowing what to do, but simply failing to do it. How often have I been guilty of the same thing? Real wisdom shows up in faithful obedience to the will of God. And because I have the Spirit of God living in me and the Word of God available to me, I should be smart enough to know better than to disobey God.

Father, I want to be faithful. I want my wisdom to be lived out in practical ways that impact the everyday nature of my life. I have no excuse not to live wisely and obediently. May I not overlook Your will in an effort to satisfy my own desires. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Proverbs 8b

The Danger of Simplicity.

“You simple people, use good judgment. You foolish people, show some understanding.” – Proverbs 8:5 NLT

Simple Simon met a pieman,
Going to the fair;
Says Simple Simon to the pieman,
Let me taste your ware.
Says the pieman to Simple Simon,
Show me first your penny;
Says Simple Simon to the pieman,
Indeed I have not any.
Simple Simon went a-fishing,
For to catch a whale;
All the water he had got,
Was in his mother’s pail.
Simple Simon went to look
If plums grew on a thistle;
He pricked his fingers very much,
Which made poor Simon whistle.

Kids are simple. Their thinking is simple. The world in which they live is simple – at least from their perspective. They are simple creatures driven by very simplistic emotions and urges. A hungry child knows no better than to want to eat. A sad child cries. A happy child laughs. They are inherently trusting of just about everyone, to a fault. If given the right motivation, like candy or the promise of a toy, they will follow a stranger – gladly, willingly, confidently. Children lack discernment and good judgment. They are pleasantly open-minded and easily deceived. But the sad thing is that many adults have these same child-like characteristics. They never grow out of their innocence and simplistic way of thinking. Forty year olds can be just as guilty as four-year olds of being naive, simpleminded and lacking in good judgment.

Then there’s the fool, who is slightly different than the simple person. He’s actually another form of fool, a more advanced version you might say. The Hebrew word is kecîyl and it refers to a sensual fool, that individual who is driven by his passions. Like a child, he tends to focus on whatever brings him immediate gratification. He glories in that of which he should be ashamed. He’s learned to justify his actions and defend his choices as right. This is no longer a case of simple thinking, but willful disobedience. He rejects the instruction and discipline of parents and all other authorities in his life. So Solomon pleads with this person, “Show some understanding!” Live your life like you know better. Have some common sense.

But here’s the problem for both the simpleminded and the fool. They both lack the ability to show good judgment or display understanding. They don’t have it within them to do what they need to do. They are deficient. They are operating at a disadvantage. Which is exactly why God offers His help. He says, “My advice is wholesome. There is nothing devious or crooked in it. My words are plain to anyone with understanding, clear to those with knowledge. Choose my instruction rather than silver, and knowledge rather than pure gold” (Proverbs 8:8-10 NLT). God offers them both wisdom, good judgment, knowledge, discernment, and common sense. In other words, He offers them exactly what they need. He says, “Whoever fins me finds life and receives favor from the Lord. But those who miss me injure themselves. All who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:35-36 NLT). This is serious business. Simplicity in a child is expected. But we also expect them to grow out of it. Continued simplicity in an adult can be deadly. A life devoid of good judgment and understanding is ultimately a dangerous one. It will not end well. A life marked by foolishness, driven by immediate gratification and sensual pleasures is one that lacks a clear understanding of what we were made for and where true joy comes from. That person will never find fulfillment and lasting joy. But when we turn to God, we find all that we need. We discover an endless source of wisdom, good judgment, knowledge, discernment, common sense, insight and understanding. We find what it means to walk in righteousness and justice. making good choices, living lives that are honoring to God and a source of blessing to our fellow man. But it all begins with acknowledgment of our insufficiencies and inadequacies. We have to admit our simplicity and confess our foolishness. We have to recognize our need for God, humbly coming to Him for His assistance. When we do, we will find life and favor. It’s as simple as that.

Father, continue to open my eyes to the simplicity in my life and the foolish behavior that threatens to destroy me if I leave it unchecked. I need You more and more each day. I want to grow in my recognition of that need as I see the characteristics of simplicity and foolishness in my own life. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Proverbs 3c

The Fantastic Four.

“Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! … don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment. Hang on to them.” – Proverbs 3:3, 21 NLT

From reading the Proverbs we know that wisdom is beyond value. It is priceless. It is more profitable than silver and pay better dividends than gold. Wisdom is more precious than rubies and there is nothing in the world you could pursue that can even remotely compare. But Solomon gives us a few other “treasures” worth getting our hands on. But these commodities tend to get overlooked and undervalued. They seem cheap and pedestrian, common place and easy to come by. But like wisdom, they are actually in short supply. The first is loyalty and the second is kindness. The Hebrew words are checed and emeth, and while they are two separate words, in the Hebrew language they form one idea or concept. They could actually be translated “faithful covenant love” or “loyal [covenant] love and faithfulness.” The word “faithful” acts as an adjective helping to describe the kind of covenant love we are to exhibit. It is to be faithful, consistent, loyal, steadfast, unchanging, reliable, and trustworthy. Why is that so important? Solomon tells us. If we tie them around our neck for safekeeping, like a valuable ring, and write them on the tablet of our heart, we will “find favor with both God and people…and earn a good reputation.” These two things will result in grace and favor with not only those around us, but with God Himself. The word translated “reputation” in the New Living Translation is actually “understanding or insight” in the Hebrew. But it conveys the idea that both God and men will have a good understanding of who you really are, they will see and understand you clearly. As a result, you will have a good reputation. All because you practice faithful covenant love. What does that look like? Well, with God is appears as trust, as Solomon explains in verses 5-8. It is loving God enough to trust Him and rely on His wisdom instead of your own. It is doing His will and not your own. It is honoring Him with your earthly income and accepting His loving discipline. With people, it is being a loyal, faithful friend regardless of the circumstances. It is not giving up on someone just because it appears they have given up on you. It is what will keep a struggling marriage together. It is what will help a friendship survive hardship. Faithful covenant love.

The second two things Solomon encourages us to pursue seem even more ordinary and common place. He says, “don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment. Hang on to them” (Proverbs 3:21 NLT). Why? Because they will refresh your soul. They are like the jewels on an expensive necklace – small, but the very things that give the necklace its value. They will protect us as we live life. They will keep us from stumbling along the way. They will let us sleep without fear, not having to worry about ever having to face the disaster and destruction coming upon those who do evil. The first of these two is “sound wisdom” or wisdom that is effective. It applies to everyday life and makes a difference. The second word has to do with discernment or discretion. It is craftiness, or the ability to navigate the ups and downs of life successfully. Both come from God. They are an extension of the wisdom we receive from Him. God’s wisdom is not ethereal and useless. It is practical and applicable to everyday life. These things will keep us out of the ditch, helping us make wise choices, and showing us how to stay on the path that God has prescribed for us. Loyalty, kindness, common sense and discernment. Four things we can’t live without. Priceless, precious, treasures from the very hand of God.

Father, continue to show me my need for these four things in my life. May I continue to grow in my estimation of and appreciation for them. Thank You for making them available to me. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Proverbs 23b

Don’t!

“Get the truth and never sell it; also get wisdom, discipline, and good judgment.” – Proverbs 23:23 NLT

When our children are young, one of the most common words they hear come out of our mouths as their parents is “don’t!” It seems like we are constantly having to tell them what NOT to do. Why? Because they are young and lack the ability to know right from wrong. They are self-centered and live in a world that they think consists only of them. Their desires come first. If they see something they want, they simply take it, regardless if someone else is using it at that moment. If they desire something and someone denies them access to it, they find a way to get it anyway, even if it means disobeying the authorities in their life. Kids have to hear the word, “don’t” because they don’t know any better.

In chapters 22 and 23 of Proverbs we have a list of 30 wise sayings, most of which are prohibitions or restrictions against particular behaviors or attitudes. They address everything from drinking to the dangers of gluttony. We’re told not to cheat our neighbors and not to make friends with someone who has an anger problem. But why do we need to hear all these warnings and commands? Because many of us still lack the ability to make wise decisions on our own. Remember, the book of Proverbs is very practical, providing divinely inspired input for daily living. This is Monday-morning relevant stuff. No religious mumbo-jumbo or spiritual speak here. This is relevant counsel for real life. But if we try and apply these principles to our lives like self-help tips, we are going to be highly disappointed. Oh, they might work for a while, because they are truths from the very throne of God. But we will be incapable of keeping them long-term because we really don’t understand their value and we lack the convictions necessary to stick with them. We will be like a child who knows all the rules, but fails to keep them because he doesn’t understand the reasons behind them.

The key to all of this is understanding the truth. If we look at these wise sayings without an understanding of the truth behind them, we will simply see them as restrictions that keep us from doing the things we want to do. We will see them as road blocks to our self-satisfaction. We may keep them for a time, because someone bigger and stronger than us told us to, but as soon as we have the chance, we will rebel and reject them. That’s why we are told to “get the truth and never sell it; also get wisdom, discipline, and good judgment.” The 30 wise sayings are not wisdom in and of themselves. They are the byproduct of wisdom. They are wise because they have come from a wise God and through the life experiences of wise men and women. We are told to get discipline, because without it we will never be able to follow the counsel in this book. We need good judgment, because without it we will never understand or appreciate the value of following the advice found on the pages of the book of Proverbs, or anywhere else in the Bible for that matter.

There comes a time when we no longer have to say, “don’t!” to our children as much as used to. Why? Because they have grown in wisdom, discipline and understanding. They have reached a point where they understand the reason behind the restriction. They have grown wise in the ways of the world. For some of us, reading this list of 30 wise sayings leaves us nodding our head in agreement because we already know the truth found in them. Others of us may read them and think, “This is hard stuff, I don’t know if I can pull it off or if I even agree with it.” They sound restrictive and unattractive to many of us. Because we lack wisdom. We need understanding. We are short on discernment. And all these things come from God. We need to get to know Him better. We need to know His heart so that we can see the truth contained in His Word. When our children are young and we tell them “don’t!,” they think we’re mean. But as they grow older and get to know us better, they realize just how much we love them and have their best interest in mind. The same is true with God.

Father, at the end of the day, I need to understand just how much You love me. I need to see life through Your eyes, with the help of Your wisdom, with Your understanding, and assisted by Your discernment. While so much of what this world offers up seems attractive and appealing, it is dangerous and could do me harm. I need to trust You when You say, “don’t!” I need wisdom, understanding and discernment to see life and your rules for living life in the right way. I need to know Your heart. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Proverbs 17b

 

Set Your Sights On Wisdom.

“Sensible people keep their eyes glued on wisdom, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.” – Proverbs 17:24 NLT

When reading the Proverbs it sometimes helps if you replace the word, “Wisdom” with Christ. Christ is the epitome, the personification, the embodiment of wisdom. Paul tells us, “It is because of him [God] that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30 NLT). Christ, because He is God, doesn’t just have wisdom, He IS wisdom. It is His very nature. So when we look at verse 24 with this in mind, it gives us a new perspective. “Sensible people keep their eyes glued on Christ.” This verse is talking about a person who has understanding, insight or discernment. It is NOT because they have these qualities that they keep their eyes glued on Christ. It is BECAUSE they keep their eyes glued on Christ that they have these qualities. Those who keep Christ “in front of” themselves or right in their faces are the ones who will receive understanding, insight and discernment. They will grow wiser because they have fellowship with the one who is the very wisdom of God.

The idea here is one of focus and expectation. While the godly keep Christ clearly in their sights, the foolish “wander to the ends of the earth.” The fool does not seek Christ. He doesn’t turn to Him for understanding, insight or discernment. Instead, he searches anywhere and everywhere hoping to find what he can only find in Christ. And the sad part is, Christ is available to the fool at any time. He is always there. He is readily findable and accessible – to anyone and everyone. He is no respecter of persons. In fact, look at verse two. It contains a subtle, yet significant message. It describes “a wise servant.” That may not jump out to us, but in their day to call a servant wise would be ridiculous. It would be like an oxymoron. Wise and servant just don’t seem to go together. But a common, household servant who comes to Christ would be just that. He would be wise. In Solomon’s day, a servant who served Yahweh first and foremost would have been wise. He would have gained wisdom from seeking and serving God, and would have been an even better servant to his earthly master.

Christ is available, yet fools seek for understanding, insight and discernment anywhere and everywhere else. But what they discover is more foolishness. They may gain intelligence, but “eloquent words are not fitting for a fool” (Proverbs 17:7 NLT). Fools never really learn. They continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. They become easy prey for the enemy. They are prone to gossip and slander. They are attracted to evil. They use poor judgment. They bring heartbreak to their parents and are constant disappointments to their friends. All because they refuse to look to Christ. They will not focus their attention on Him. And the can be said for so many of us who call ourselves Christ-followers. We can easily take our eyes off of the one who saved us, and decide that we can now save ourselves from all that the world, the enemy and our own sinful flesh throw at us. We turn to the world for wisdom instead of Christ. And we become fools in the process. The New American Standard Bible translates verse 24, “Wisdom is in the presence of the one who has understanding.” The person of understanding is the one who has made Christ his close and intimate companion. He spends a great deal of time with Christ. The wisdom of Christ has rubbed off on him. The prophet Isaiah said it this way: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”

Father, I want to keep my mind and my eyes fixed on Your Son, the one who contains all the wisdom of heaven and makes it available to me. Forgive me for taking my eyes off of Him at times, for looking to the world for understanding, insight and discernment. I know the world can’t deliver. Help me to keep my thoughts fixed on Him. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

 

Proverbs 8

 

All You Need.

“I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment. I know where to discover knowledge and discernment.” – Proverbs 8:12 NLT

Wisdom, the very personification of God, calls out indiscriminately to anyone and everyone who will listen. Wisdom stands at the very crossroads of life, calling out to everyone who passes by. The simple and foolish get special attention. Their very nature prevents them from having good judgment and making wise choices. They are naive, incapable of seeing their own inadequacies and their vulnerability to danger because of their lack of wisdom. They pride themselves on their open-mindedness, unaware that this trait leaves them susceptible to all kinds of lies and deception. Wisdom offers them truth in place of falsehood, wholesome advice instead of the unhealthy counsel of this world. The benefits of God’s wisdom are priceless and far more valuable in the end than any kind of earthly treasure man could pursue. And wisdom comes with a bonus offer. Get wisdom and you also get good judgment, knowledge, discernment, common sense and insight – all at no extra cost!

Wisdom is far more than just some kind of knowledge or ability we receive from God so we can live more successfully. It is the very essence of God. It is part of His nature. God used His wisdom to create the world. The wisdom of God was instrumental in forming the oceans, heavens, mountains, and even mankind. “I was the architect by his side. I was his constant delight, rejoicing always in his presence” (Proverbs 8:30 NLT). Wisdom and God are inseparable. One does not exist without the other. The wisdom talked about in these Proverbs is the very wisdom of God – eternal, divine, endless, complete, inexhaustible, and unavailable anywhere else. God is offering us His wisdom – the same wisdom He used to form the world and the universe. Find it and you have everything you need for life. “For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 8:35 NLT). God’s wisdom calls to us from the pages of Scripture every day of our lives. He offers His divine wisdom through His inspired Word. As believers we have His Holy Spirit living within us, helping us understand and apply the wisdom of God to our everyday lives. But receiving the wisdom of God begins with a healthy awe for God and a willing obedience to do what He says simply because of who He is. If His wisdom resulted in the universe and all that’s within it, surely it can help us navigate the affairs of everyday life. The wisdom of God is all we need. But are we truly convinced of that fact? Until we are, we will really never seek it or value it in our lives.

Father, Your wisdom is all I need, but I confess that there are far too many times when I think I need other things more. Whether it’s pleasure, or money, or popularity, I can find a lot of things I value more than Your wisdom. I can find a lot of things to do rather than spend time in Your Word searching for Your truth and seeking Your wisdom. Help me understand that there is nothing else I need in this world than what I can get from You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org