Bow low to reach high …

I hope the outline of chapter two set the tone for your exploration of it. There are riches of truth in it. But one must bend low to grasp them.

A quote by the great Bible teacher of yesterday, F.B. Meyer, points to this:

“I used to think that God’s gifts were on shelves one above the other, and that the taller we grew in Christian character the more easily we could reach them. I now find that God’s gifts are on shelves one beneath the other and that it is not a question of growing taller but of stooping lower.”

Following our outline for this chapter we see that being like Christ requires:

Looking out for others – verses 1-11

“Therefore” in verse one links the beginning of chapter two to the end of chapter one. Rewind a few verses into the end of chapter one to see the point that Paul is making in the beginning of chapter two.

There is an interesting series of similar statements in succession in verses 3, 4, and 5. Notice the three “let” statements in these verses:

  • Let nothing be done in selfish ambition or conceit – verse 3
  • Let each look out for him/herself AND for others – verse 4
  • Let the mind of Christ be in each believer – verse 5

In coming to live and die for our sins, Jesus, our Lord, took the role of bondservant or slave. Jesus showed His grace and glory through humility, not force or self-exaltation. Exaltation should come from others, and it follows humility; it does not precede it.

Verse 8 shows us that Jesus did not hold on to being exalted as the Son of God in Heaven. Rather, He emptied Himself of exaltation, took on the form of a servant (even though He is a ruler and King of Kings), became like us (a radical, un-get-a-hold-able truth), and humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross (the most horrible and humiliating way to die). He is our example.

Surrendering to God’s work in us – verses 12-16

Verse 12b can easily be misread, misinterpreted, and misapplied. To be clear: we DO NOT work for our salvation, we work because we have been saved. Our “works” do not save us or contribute to saving us from our sins and sinfulness. If one good work of ours contributed to us being saved then Christ, His death, and resurrection were not enough to redeem us. Re-read that, slowly. If we ever think that we did anything to contribute to us being saved, then we are demonstrating that we think that Jesus isn’t enough. Period.

Here is one — of the many — passages that drive this home for us:

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:4-9

Any good works from us are produced by the new birth in Christ and the Holy Spirit, now a resident in us. The working is the outflow of inward change caused by His grace and sanctifying work.

Verse 13 contains a precious truth, one that encourages and stabilizes us: God is the one willing and working in us. He changes the heart, mind, and will to align with HIs work and purposes. He is working in us to His own satisfaction. This stings our pride. We like to think that we generate and complete good works. No, He does. This verse shows that He continues his sanctifying work out to the finish, and for His pleasure and satisfaction. He does not work in us for our satisfaction, He does so to His. His work is effective work, it always accomplishes the goal, for His glory.

Verse 13 is a great memory verse! Tuck that one away for later.

Verse 14 hurts. Youch! Bite down and chew on it. Insert the opposite of what is stated for further impact: when we are complaining and disputing (that one really hits me) we are harmful to others and blame-laden.

The original word for “crooked” is the root word for scoliosis. The word for “perverse” refers to twisted, abnormal character that is at the point of being twisted in two.

Pouring ourselves out for Him and others – verses 17-30

We are to pour out our lives for others. Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus model this for us.

Take note of verse 21 and how it is the opposite of verse 4.

Paul writes of pouring his life out, like a drink offering. He also commends two fellow Christ-followers for living for others:

  • Timothy was one whose character had been proven through service, he was a fellow servant in Christ and like a son to Paul.
  • Epaphroditus was like a brother and fellow servant — even fellow “soldier” during hard times — to Paul.

Paul modeled sacrificing his life for others. Those who learned from him did the same. What are others learning from our lives? Service and sacrifice, or selfishness and self-preservation?

Some application points from chapter two are on their way to you on Thursday night.

Moving beyond ourselves, or away from ourselves.

Penetrating. Humbling. Although those words do not usually reside side-by-side, they reveal the tone and direction of Philippians chapter two. In this chapter, Paul describes a way of life — the Christ life — that directly contradicts the one promoted by our society nowadays.

As you saunter into chapter two — whistling, hands in your pockets, content from chapter one’s truths of joy and God at work in your life — you enter, unaware, into a small chamber. As your pupils dilate and pulse increases you realize that you are no longer in the comfy, couch-laden parlor of chapter one. You have meandered into a hall that seems to be shrinking with each step. Soon, the hall seems to be constricting, suffocating. As you move toward the room at the end you have to bend at the waist, then take to your hands and knees, and then resort to a belly-crawl. You finally make it to a small opening that allows you to peek through a portal. Through the pane-less opening you find yourself looking into the past. You are looking into the upper room scene from John 13. Jesus is on His knees, towel-draped, wash basin in front of him; He is washing the feet of His disciples, and of His betrayer.

As I pecked out those words on the keyboard a lump formed in my throat. The image in my mind of Jesus on His knees, taking on the task of the lowliest servant in a household, placing His hands on the feet of His followers, to teach them, and to serve as the Model for them, moistens my eyes. I do not know why. But, it does. Every time.

With that scene of Jesus as foot-washing servant dialed into our minds. We are ready to settle into chapter two. Here is a working outline for breaking it down into manageable bits.

Being like Christ requires:

  • Looking out for others – verses 1-11
    • Surrendering to God’s work in us – verses 12-16
    • Pouring ourselves out for Him and others – verses 17-30
  • There is little else to say here. Go ahead and ease into chapter two. Go unhurriedly. May I offer a suggestion? Read the entire chapter slowly, perhaps out loud. Then, read verses 1-11 slowly a few times, take some notes, ponder, let it seep in. Do the same for the second section in verses 12-16, then the same for verses 17-30. There is much to marvel at there. There is much to learn. There is much truth to take in down deep, and allow it to do its work of sparking repentance, scraping away pride and selfishness, then developing humility and a focus on others.

    This chapter of Philippians cuts my feet out of from under each time that I read it. It might yours as well, unless, you breeze through it and miss what is being whispered.

    Where spark touches paper …

    One of the many benefits of reading the Bible chapter by chapter — as we did in Proverbs and are now doing in Philippians — is that you are teaching yourself to read the Bible better. How is it better? Glad you asked.

    1. Reading the Bible chapter by chapter through an entire book gives logical and rhythmic view of the book. Most books of the Bible — including Philippians, but not as much Proverbs, is written in a logical form. It has a message, along with subtopics, that unfold as you read. You are training yourself to pick up that message as you read chapter by chapter. This cannot be done by reading portions of a chapter or book, or random places in the Bible.
    2. Reading the Bible chapter by chapter places what you read in the proper context. The message is framed by the book, not by random or topical readings of it.
    3. Reading the Bible chapter by chapter, several times over, helps you to discern what is being said, and how it is being said. This can provide historical and grammatical (or syntactical) context that can yield insights that might have otherwise remained out of reach of casual reading.
    4. Reading the Bible chapter by chapter, perhaps several times over, can coax application points out of their warm resting places within the text.

    With those things in mind, here are some application points, and things to pray about from, chapter one:

    • Verse 3 – Which fellow believers are you thankful for? Hopefully, some will come to mind. If not, wow, you must be a crusty old … (insert uncouth noun of your choice here). When fellow believers that are dear to you come to mind jot their names down, send them a card or email of encouragement, or call them. Let them know that you are thankful for them. Be specific. Generic encouragement means little. It might be a bit awkward at first. But, their pounds of joy from it will outweigh your ounces of nervousness about it.
    • Verse 5 – Who are you currently “partnering with” in the gospel? You can support folks serving Christ with prayer, encouragement, and money. Consider taking your pastor out for coffee, or lunch. Send a small donation to a mission organization, or go volunteer at a Christian ministry. Consider sharing some spare hundred dollar bills with your favorite Bible study blogger. Hehe. On second thought, twenty dollar bills will do. Seriously, make it a point this week to encourage someone working hard for the Lord.
    • Verse 6 – Trust God to complete His sanctifying work in you and cooperate with Him. As He is doing the work in us, we must cooperate by submitting to His Word and Holy Spirit through Bible study and prayer.
    • Verse 7 – We are all in Christ because of God’s grace, there is no status or hierarchy among believers. Treat your fellow believers as better than yourself.
    • Verses 9-11 – Pray to grow in love (an informed and wise love), to learn to approve and follow what is excellent (see Philippians 4:8), to foster purity and blamelessness, and to bear fruit for Christ.
    • Verses 12-14 – View your situation through the wide angle lens of God’s vantage point and purposes, not through your keyhole-sized point of view.
    • Verse 21 – What/who are you living for? What needs to be thinned out or removed to unclutter your spiritual life?
    • Verse 27 – Pray for a life and walk worthy of the Gospel and Christ.
    • Verse 29 – As you grow in Christ anticipate hardship as the norm from today’s world — it does not honor or want to follow God — expect some persecution.

    As you prayerfully consider these points of application God will show you areas of your life for living them out more faithfully. Take some time. Sit still. Re-read the verses listed above. Listen. God takes delight in nudging and directing His children through His Word.

    Adding muscle to bone …

    Having read the chapter we can begin to add muscle to the skeleton of the outline. A tip for reading your Bible is to read a chapter with an outline of it close at hand. Many good study Bibles have an outline for the book and its chapters at the beginning of it. Having an outline for the chapter serves as a road map for you reading; it keeps you between the ditches. Once you have read through the chapter with an outline in mind, you can then go back and read the chapter again and allow the text to emerge. This is where you begin to gather meaning from the text. So, let’s do it.

     

    Paul’s fellow believers: 1-11

    A key to Bible study is letting the text show you what is there, not you inserting your meaning or thoughts into the text. Knowing the context of what is being said  — an outline helps this — keeps you from getting off the road and into the weeds with odd interpretations or applications.

    So, remember that the context for these verses is Paul writing to fellow believers. Let’s see what he had to say to them.

    In verse one he makes a distinction in the officers of the church. He addressed two different types of church offices: overseers/bishops and deacons. Overseers are also referred to as elders and bishops in some translations. The idea is that they are the leaders in the church set apart for leading and teaching. The second group was “deacons.” In the original language of the New Testament the word deacon means “servant” or “table-waiter.” (See Acts 6:1-7 for background on how deacons came to exist in the church.) This differentiation is one of office and role. Overseers lead and teach; deacons serve and assist. For you dyed-in-wool Baptists this might come as a shock, but, deacons are not the leaders or overseers of the church. They are to be servants.

    Verse two is a greeting used often by Paul. You see it in most of his letters. Notice that “grace” and “peace” are linked. Apart from grace in Christ we cannot know the peace of God.

    Verse six contains a great promise to us. Once a person has been born again in Christ, God initiates and continues the work of making him/her more like Christ. This is an ongoing process, not a series of singular events. This process is called sanctification. This process is God at work in our lives through His Word and Spirit to develop Christ-likeness and Christ-like character in us. It is not dependent upon us, it is dependent upon Him, but we must cooperate with Him for it to bear the proper fruit.

    In verse six the security of our salvation in Christ is heartily implied here.

    Paul prays for the believers of Philippi in verses 9-11. He specifically prayed for

    • Their love to grow and abound. How would it? Through knowledge and discernment. Biblical love is not sentimentalism or emotion, it is affection anchored in truth.
    • Their discernment to grow. He wanted them to discern and approve and hold to what is excellent (no room for a negative or fussy attitude here). He wanted them to grow in testing and determining what is right, and then following it.
    • The genuineness of their faith to grow. We wanted them to become more sincere and genuine. The word for sincere here comes from two words in the original language. In Paul’s day shady pottery merchants would fill in cracks in the pottery with wax. Wise customers would hold the clay pots up to the sunlight to check for wax filling. The pots that were solid and honestly made were called “sine cera” — without wax. Do you have wax-filled cracks in your life and faith. Or, are you sine cera?
    • Their lives to be bearing fruit for Christ. See also Galatians 5:22-23 and John 15:1-5

     

    Paul’s circumstances: 12-18

    We must keep in mind that every detail of life is ordained and directed by God. He is overseeing all things. Whatever situation you find yourself in does not surprise God. He allowed or directed it. We cannot let the short-sightedness of our perspective — often selfish or self-sustaining — to shape us, we must look at our situation from God’s wide-angle, eternal viewpoint. A lesson here is that hard times can produce great things — greater faith, growth, etc.

    Paul hadn’t experienced the best of times in Philippi, and he didn’t complain. See Acts 16 for more details.

     

    Paul’s future: 19-26

    From verses 19-20 we see that Paul believed that he would be delivered from the Roman prison.

    Verse 21 is a great statement of faith, and of Paul’s life focus. Knowing and serving Christ was his reason for living. His love for and service for Christ was his singular purpose. What are you living for? Are you singular in your life or spread out across many lanes?

     

    Paul’s advice: 27-30

    Paul issues a set of exhortations in these verses. He longs for the Philippians to

    • Have conduct worthy of the gospel. Likewise we are to have integrity with what we belief, teach, and live. This. Is. Hard. All of us trip and fall. The idea is not a life of perfection, but a life of increasing growth in grace in Christ.
    • Stand in unity for the truth of the gospel. They were to be united together and in their defense of the gospel against false teachers (more on this in later chapters).
    • Be courageous.
    • Believing in Christ will lead to challenges, some hardship, and perhaps, persecution.

    I hope that this fuels your reading and studying of chapter one. It’s a great chapter. Soak in it, splash around and see what all is there.

    On Thursday, I will post some points for application and prayer from chapter one. Happy Reading!

    A letter for living with joy …

    When was the last time that you wrote a letter? A real letter, one that involved a pen and paper. Do you recall the last letter that you received a letter?

    Not so many years ago, receiving a letter in the mail sparked excitement. Once you identified who had sent it — a relative, friend, or a prison pen pal — you were likely eager to see what they had to say. Letters connected people. Letters shared thoughts, affections, news, and well-wishes.

    The same is true of the letters of Paul, John, Peter, and others in the New Testament to believers and churches of their day. The primary difference between the letters written to the early church and those you and I have received was the cost and effort involved in sending them. The letters that you and I received had been composed, sealed, stamped, and dropped in a mail box. The paltry price of a stamp — what was the cost of a stamp when you were young? — assured delivery of the letter. In Paul’s day, many common folks did not have enough money to purchase the supplies for writing or have a servant who could deliver it — by foot — to someone. Sending or receiving a letter in Paul’s day demanded a good bit of money and much effort. A letter was a big deal.

    With that context in mind we will begin to study one of Paul’s letters: the Book of Philippians. It’s a short book of four chapters. Our pace for surveying it will be less hectic than our study of Proverbs. Here is how we will approach Philippians. On Saturdays I will post an outline along with some basic notes for the chapter to serve as a skeleton for your reading of it. On Mondays I will highlight a few key verses from the chapter, provide some supplemental information for your reading, and offer a comment of explanation or two. On Thursdays I will post a handful of practical applications from that week’s chapter. By covering only a chapter each week we will be able to read the it several times over, marinate in it, and get a good feel for what is being said and how it can be applied. Sound good?

    As a supplement to the blog posts please join the Bearded Acorn Facebook forum. It will function as a place for you to post about your are reading, your thoughts, or questions. It gives us all an opportunity to interact as we study the chapter together. Go ahead, take a moment and join it.

     

    Background on the Book of Philippians:

    Paul started the church at Philippi on his second missionary journey (this is recorded in Acts 16:12-40). The Book of Philippians was written years later while Paul was imprisoned in Rome for his faith.

    He wrote to the Philippians for four reasons:

    1. To express his thanks to them for their support of him.
    2. To explain why he had sent Epaphroditus (who had delivered the letter to him) back to them.
    3. To inform them of his current circumstances in Rome.
    4. To warn against false teachers who might mislead them.

    The Book of Philippians has two primary themes: living out the Gospel and joy in doing so. With that in mind, here’s a reader-friendly, dirt-under-the-fingernails breakdown of chapter one:

    • Paul’s fellow believers: 1-11
    • Paul’s circumstances: 12-18
    • Paul’s future: 19-26
    • Paul’s advice: 27-30

    The book of Philippians will both encourage and challenge us. Along the way we will see many practical applications and points to pray about. I’m glad you decided to join in. Jump into chapter one. Check out the Facebook Forum. I am eager to see what God will teach us as we study this potent and practical book together.

    Beauty is soul deep … Proverbs 31

    You have made it! Congratulations! You studied through the entire Book of Proverbs in one month. That is quite a feat. Well done!

    Chapter 31 is a climatic conclusion to the Book of Proverbs. It is divided into two sections of Hebrew poetry (kind of hard to see in English, but it’s there nonetheless): Wisdom for a King/Leader and A Wise, Excellent Wife/Mother. As a technical note, the King Lemuel referred to in this chapter is likely a different name for King Solomon.

    Today I will present a basic breakdown of the chapter to aid your reading. I will offer a comment or two, but this chapter is so rich with truth and pictures of wisdom I do not want to get in the way.

    Wisdom for a King/Leader: verses 2-9

    A wise leader lives honorably and is holy (3), lives soberly (4-7), and shows compassion (8,9).

    There are a number of temptations and pitfalls common to leaders listed in verses 2-9. A king/leader should steer wide of overindulgence, ruling over others unjustly/unrighteously, and being indifferent to the needs of others.

    An Excellent Wife/Mother: verses 10-31

    On to the beautiful part of this chapter. The lady portrayed here does exist (verse 10); she is not imaginary. And, ladies, you can be her. She is a lady of spiritual wisdom, practicality, and moral virtue.

    What are some things that make her exemplary?

    • Her husband has great trust in her (11). Why? She does “him good.” (Verse 12). She seeks to build him up and not undermine him. She speaks well of him, not harshly to him or about him.
    • She is a diligent worker (13) who seeks the best for her family, and goes to great lengths for their wellbeing (14).
    • She is a person of discipline and determination (15).
    • She is a good steward and wise planner (16)
    • She is a woman of virtuous, God-honoring strength (17). This strength comes from her character, compassion, and faith in God. The strength described here is not self-exalting or harsh toward others.
    • She is wise and kind (26). She is the source of kindness and character for her children. They learn godliness from her example.
    • She is observant and diligent (27). She is not lazy, asking to be pampered, or demanding to be served. Ladies, there is no mention of “self-care” in this chapter, or the entire Book of Proverbs, or in the Bible. I say this to point out that what society promotes to you is often the opposite of what God desires for you. In fact, what God values and prescribes for His children is usually in direct opposition to what our society and culture tout. Our culture recommends focusing on self, being served, and exalting and expressing “self.” I gently ask, do you find any of these things recommend in Proverbs, or this chapter? God offers blessing, honor, peace, joy, and abundant life in following His ways; they are not easy though. Society offers cheap trinkets that feel good for a moment; they are usually appeal to our selfish nature and are readily available. Do not settle for less than God’s best, regardless of who promotes it, how enticing it sounds, or who else is chasing after it.

    What is the result of this excellent lady in chapter 31 following God’s ways and living in the wisdom that He provides? Earnest and consistent praise from her family. What greater honor, and blessing, and reward is there? I can’t think of one.

    True Beauty: verse 30

    Verse 30 closes out this remarkable chapter with a description of true beauty. A godly, wise women is a beautiful one. She is beautiful because of her virtue, wisdom, and character, not because of her charm, wardrobe, face, or form. Soak in that ladies, it will set you free. Also, consider 1 Timothy 2:9-10 and 1 Peter 3:1-6. Along with those verses Proverbs 31 will liberate you from trying to conform to society’s guidelines for attractiveness — which are temporary and often change. They will also aid you in seeking God’s description of beauty, which never changes and is eternal.

    Next up …

    In closing, thank you so much for your participation in this study and your feedback. If you are interested, we will begin our next study on Saturday, February 2. Together we will study the short New Testament book of Philippians. It is four chapters long. So, we will slow our pace considerably and soak in one chapter per week.

    I think that you will enjoy the pace and the format that we will use. Each Saturday I will post an introduction to and outline of the chapter for that week. Each Tuesday I will post some supplemental material and explanation of the chapter. Each Thursday I will post some application points for you to consider and pray about. Sound good? Then join in with us. Also, please join the Bearded Acorn Facebook forum. It is a public forum that anyone can join. The BA Facebook forum will be a place for you to share your insights, thoughts, and post questions for our reading. It’s up and running. Go ahead and join in.

    Once again, great job on studying through Proverbs. It’s a great book with a multitude of practical truths in each chapter. Way to go!

    Wisdom from a guy with a weird name …

    In this chapter there is a shift from the wisdom of Solomon to the sayings of Agur. Most likely, Agur — what mother names her son “Agur?” —  was a student or understudy of Solomon.

     

    Here are some things we learn about him in chapter 30:

    • We see that he is humble: verses 1-4
    • We see that he had a keen understanding of God and His creation: 5-6
    • We see that he hates arrogance: 7-9

     

    In my mind, the best way for this chapter to be get-a-hold-able is to provide an outline for your reading of it.

     

    God’s Word and His People: Verses 5-14

    • The purity and surety of God’s Word: Verse 5
    • The perfection of God’s Word: Verse 6
    • The prayer of the godly — seeking humility and contentment: Verses 7-9
    • Ungodly times are described: Verses 11-14

    Verses 11-14 seem to describe our society nowadays. The truth is that it describes all societies throughout time that ignore God and His Word.

     

    Learning from God’s Creation: 15-31

    • The wonder of how creation works. Verses 18-19

    Wonder precedes worship; there can be no worship where wonder isn’t present. Unless we see majesty or beauty or glory, we will not have wonder in our hearts and minds, without it we will not worship anything except ourselves. Let us be people who in humility look beyond ourselves to God expressing His glory through His Word and creation in Christ. Let us be people entranced in the wonder of God and His glory and grace.

    • The wonder of when things are awry. Verses 21-23
    • The wonder of small, wise creatures. Verses 24-28
    • The wonder of majestic things. Verses 29-31
    • A call to humility and righteousness. Verse 32

    It might help to provide a definition here. When Proverbs refers to the “righteous,” it does not mean the hyper-religious or those who are perfect. It refers to those who are saved by God’s grace, pursuing Him in His Word, and growing in wisdom and godliness.

    Our only true right-ness and righteousness is provided by and found in Jesus.

    Tomorrow is the final day of the Proverbs Challenge. Great job in making it this far. Chapter 31 is a fantastic one, especially for the ladies.

    As an aside, please check out the Bearded Acorn forum on Facebook. It is a public group. Please join it. Next month I will lead a study through Philippians. We will do one chapter per week, a much slower pace. The Facebook forum will serve as a place for discussion, questions, and to hear your thoughts as we study Philippians together.

    Verses that make you feel like a crash test dummy …

     

    The post on this chapter will focus on two things: what/who we listen to and what we say/do not say. Steady yourself. The impact of these five verses might cause the airbags might deploy.

     

    Verse 1: When we resist instruction and correction we welcome destruction. A stern warning indeed. Shying away from, or deliberately avoiding, instruction might appear to make things easier for now, but without fail it will make things hard later.

     

    Verse 5: Flattery deceives, and can destroy, others. For the weak-minded or weak-willed flattery can first snare, then enslave them to the approval others. This is why we must develop our identity from God’s word and in Christ, not allow it to be shaped by our culture or others around us.

    Verse 11: Let’s stop and stare at this one for a while. It’s an excellent memory verse that packs a wallop.

    “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” Proverbs 29:11

    I do not have a clever summary statement for this verse. If I did have one it would take away from its pointed and poignant truth. It says much with few words. This kind of truth is easy to read but hard to live out. Take a moment and think about all the applications from this verse — social media, “venting to others,” speaking without thinking it through, etc. Ouch!

    Those who “vent their feelings” often are unwise, by God’s standard, but affirmed and applauded by our culture. To be wise we must exercise discernment and determine what we should and should not say.

     

    Verse 18: When God’s teaching is absent, or ignored, people lose restraint, then harm follows.

    The New King James Version translates this nicely:

    Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law.

    God’s Word being put aside, or rejected, people casting off restraint … does this sound like a country you know? That country’s name rhymes with Erica …

     

    Verse 20: Hasty words erupt from foolish hearts. See “fools with leaky mouths” in verse 11.

     

    Verse 25: Seeking the approval of and relying upon others en-shackles; seeking God brings safety and surety.

     

    In summary, our ears should bend toward the truth and shut around those who flatter; our tongues should be governed by discernment, and our path should be directed by God’s Word. Simple truths. Difficult truths to live out consistently. Thankfully, God comes to us and empowers us by His Holy Spirit to live them out.

    Chew on this …

     

    Yesterday’s post was a bit long. Today we will be more brief. Let’s jump in. Or, knowing that the topics include the conscience, confessing sin, and the corruption of our own hearts, maybe we should ease in …

     

    Verse 1: A guilty conscience causes one to do odd things; a God-honoring conscience builds boldness.

     

    Verse 9: Disobedience disrupts answer to prayer.

     

    Verse 13: Un-confessed sin will bird-dog you, and run you up a tree. Why run from it. Confess it, deal with it, God desires to and is eager to forgive you in Christ.

    “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

    Remember, confessing our sins to God does not improve or restore our relationship with Him, it restores and renews our fellowship with Him. Our relationship with Him is always secure in Christ.

     

    Verse 23: We are to seek truth and correction from our friends, even when it hurts. Honest correction builds us up. Flattery deceives and derails. Sound familiar from yesterday?

     

    Verse 26: The Bible says that only a fool “trusts” in his own heart! Our culture today prompts us to trust our “heart” or “feelings.” The Bible says, “Heck no! That’s crazy!” Actually, it doesn’t say that. It implies it though. Jeremiah 17:9-10 tells us why we shouldn’t trust our own “hearts.”

    “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” 

    This verse, and other verses, show us that our sinful hearts will deceive us. We have listen to God’s Word, not ourselves.

    This chapter isn’t easy to chew, swallow, or digest. But, it is good for us. It has been said that strong teaching makes soft hearts. Very true …

    Does this Bible verse make my butt look fat?

    Has your spouse, or a friend, ever asked you this question: “Do these pants make my butt look … ?” Now, the correct answer to that question is, “the pants are a neutral party in this situation and innocent of all charges, they cannot make your butt look bigger than it is, or smaller than it is.” At least, that is the logical answer.

    What do you say when someone you are close to asks a question that seeks an unvarnished answer? Unless you are both committed — and, you might want this in writing — to being absolutely truthful with each other, you will soon find yourself in a snare. Although the person appears to be after an honest answer, he/she will likely get mad if given one. Let’s peer into Proverbs 27 and see what says about this.

    In Proverbs 27 the Bible outlines two things that a true friend does: a true friend wants the truth from you and will share the truth with you, even when it is arduous. This teaching swims upstream against how modern thought portrays what friendship, or a deep relationship, is like. We have been trained to think that we should always be encouraging, supportive, and uplifting to our friends. Those things are mostly true, most of the time.

    However, a biblical friendship balances two elements on the fulcrum of God’s Word. Let’s examine those two elements:

     

    “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” Ephesians 4:15

    In this verse we learn that our growth in Christ is dependent upon two conditions: loving one another and speaking/teaching the truth to one another. Full stop here. This is critical. Love alone will not do it; speaking the truth alone won’t either. It demands both. For you and I to grow in Christ others must love us enough to teach us hard things, correct us, and hold us accountable (all functions of the truth).

    Loving others and teaching/telling the truth to the might seem like two separate component, but they are not, they are intertwined. Ephesians 4:15 states them in a way that shows them working together. We are to speak/teach the truth lovingly, and love truthfully. We see this demonstrated over and over in the character, work, and teachings of Jesus:

     

    “And the Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

    John exclaims he saw the glory of God manifested in the Son of God. What did that glory look like: full of grace and truth. Both. Both balanced and fused in all that Jesus did and said. With Jesus it was not grace or truth. It was both, all the time.

    That is a wordy intro, I know. But, it prepares us for what Proverbs 27 will teach us about the nitty-gritty of true friendship. Here are three verses in this chapter that instruct us on this:

     

    “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Proverbs 27:5-6

    “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

    These verses teach us vital truths about true friendship. They are contrary to today’s ideas of accepting and affirming each other as we are. These verses teach us that at times friendship invovles teeth-clenching and gut-churning actions. These verses teach us that genuine friendship requires pointed honesty, correction, and rebuke. If we do not care for each other enough to do those things then we are avoiding the kind of friendship that the Bible prescribes.

    The reason type of friendship is necessary for Christians is because we cannot become more Christ-like through affirmation and encouragement alone. It requires the sort of sharpening described in verse 17. If you have ever sharpened a knife you know that the knife must be pressed against the file, or sharpening stone, for a sharp edge to be formed, then honed. It demands pressure and friction. Healthy friendships require the same, and welcome it.

    In summary, for us to grow in Christ and aid others in doing so we must offer and receive honest and loving accountability, correction, and rebuke. The entire process of sharing the truth must be done so in love. These two elements enable us to help one another toward Christ-likeness.

    By the way, there are other solid truths to lay hold of in chapter 27. Here are some of them, briefly stated:

    • Verse 1: Remember, we are to walk in humble faith because we are not in control.
    • Verse 2: We all want good things said about us, but let others say them.
    • Verse 4: Some reactions (anger, frustration) fade with time; the embers of jealousy glow redder every day.
    • Verse 19: What we think and plan on the inside is who we actually are. A handsome veneer can only cover an cracked board for so long.
    • Verse 22: You cannot beat wisdom into a fool, or grind it into him over time. So, don’t try to.
    • Verses 23-27: Pay attention, do you work, be content.

    As you exit chapter 27 please be sure and pick up one, or all, of the three great memory verses found in it:

    “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Proverbs 27:6

    “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” Proverbs 27:12

    “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

    As you can tell, chapter 27 contains more truths that we can cover in one blog post. Please go back and review the chapter several times. It will be worth your time.

    And yes, those pants do make you look … just right, for your size.