So, we have been learning about the wisdom that descends from above over the past couple of months. We have learned that God’s wisdom is the principal thing. This means that it is the top thing, the first thing, and, therefore, the best thing. So, we’ve learned that wisdom is “higher” than even some of those other virtues that we know are so vitally important to our lives. Therefore, wisdom is to be at the top of man’s desires and what we should strive to get more than anything else. Amen!
And we’ve seen several reasons why wisdom should be the most prized virtue that we acquire in our lives:
The first thing we looked at were all the myriad of benefits that wisdom yields in our lives. And, church, there are a lot of them! Then we began to define wisdom and saw various definitions such as that it is being “skilled” or an “expert” in life. In other words, wisdom is knowing how to live rightly according to God’s perspective. Then we began to look at one of wisdom’s primary characteristics, which the Scriptures call the beginning of wisdom - the fear of the Lord. In essence, the fear of the Lord is respecting and reverencing the Lord, which also includes respecting and reverencing His things and His people. So, as we begin to respect the things of God more and more, our wisdom begins to increase more and more.
Then we began looking at some of the practical elements of wisdom: First, we looked at “wisdom for holiness” by looking at the passages in Proverbs that talk about the utter foolishness of sin and how to overcome the “seductresses’” temptations. Then we looked at “wisdom in the Word” by looking at all of the proverbs that talk about the absolute importance of listening to our Heavenly Father’s instructions. Now at the casual observance of these verses, one could simply read them as Solomon talking to his physical children, but we know that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God. Therefore, these are appeals given to us – God’s children – by our Father in heaven.
Then, last week, we talked about the “wisdom of our own words.” We learned that there are so many verses in the Book of wisdom that talk about the importance of our mouth, tongue and words:
We began by looking at Proverbs 18:20-21 which says, “A man’s stomach shall be satisfied from the fruit of his mouth; From the produce of his lips he shall be filled. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
So, since there is both “death” and “life” in the power of our tongues, we looked at some of the specific examples contained in the Book of Proverbs. We saw that some of the ways that our tongue has the power to bring “death” is through lying – which we saw is one of those abominations in the sight of God, gossiping – which Proverbs describes as being a “talebearer,” and through simply talking too much – which ends up resulting in an abundance of sin as Proverbs
So, we saw that the saying that we’ve all heard – “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” – is totally false! Words do hurt, and they do cause great damage!
But on the flipside, we saw how there is also “life” in the power of the tongue! We can actually minister life, health, light, etc. to others and to our own selves.
We saw that in Proverbs 18:20-21 that the other saying the world has – “You will eat your words” – is actually true! Yes, we actually are satisfied and filled by the fruit of our lips according to several Scriptures in the Book of Wisdom.
So, we learned that when things get tough and our flesh wants to say, “Oh, it’s just so hard! I can’t do it!” we need to not say what we feel; we need to say what heals! In other words, when things aren’t going well, do not speak how unhappy and dissatisfied you are! Why? Because you will not “eat good” that way! It will only produce death in your soul and will attract more of that discontentment. Rather, what should you say when you are tempted to get down in the “mully-grubs”? Say, “I am an overcomer! Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world! I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! My God will satisfy me! He satisfies my mouth with good things! Etc., etc., etc.” In other words, don’t talk about what you can’t do, what you don’t know, and what you don’t have. This will only minister darkness to your heart! Reverse what you feel like saying by saying - “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! I have the Anointing and I know all things! I have the mind of Christ! In Christ, I have everything I need! I am blessed, I am anointed, I am strong! Amen!” Yes, when you are feeling weak in a particular area, don’t say, “Oh, I am just so weak!” Rather say, “I am strong!” (see Joel 3:10).
Church, our words are indeed powerful! They can build up and they can tear down - both others and our own selves. Therefore, wisdom will love this power that is in the tongue - that is, it will respect it and utilize it the appropriate way. So, let’s appropriate this wisdom pertaining to our words today and become wise in our words. Yes, as James said, our words have the power to start a fire and destroy things around us, but they also have the power to start the good kind of fire too! Let’s use our tongue wisely, church!
So, this week, I want us to move into another practical area of wisdom. Today, I want us to look at “Wisdom in our Bodies.” In other words, I want us to look at what both the Book of Proverbs and the Bible itself has to say about what God’s will is concerning our physical bodies.
So, let’s begin by looking over at Romans chapter 12:
THE TEMPLE OF GOD
Romans 12:1 teaches us the following – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
Now when most read this, they automatically apply this presentation of our bodies as a living sacrifice to putting the flesh under in regards to holiness and righteousness. But I also believe that one of the ways in which we are called to offer up our bodies unto Him is in the simple, everyday putting under of the flesh and its appetites.
You know, our flesh has a voice and its own cravings, and I believe that we are to let our spirit man run the show, not letting our body get everything it wants. But what we need to be mindful of is that our bodies are living sacrifices, not dead ones. That means it is going to try and get off that altar and will kick and scream if you try to keep it there.
Have you ever noticed this when you have decided to fast? Man, our flesh will throw a fit and throw up a big fuss when the term “fast” is even used. Well, that is because our flesh has a voice and it does not want to be crucified. However, if we want to truly live in the spirit, then we are going to need to die in the flesh. It is that simple.
But many in our circles devalue the importance of our body, thinking that the only thing that is important is the spirit-man. We emphasize the importance of being born again and place all of the importance on who we have become spiritually. But the body is evidently important to God too, or else He would not have made provision for the redemption and glorification of our bodies, right?
Let’s look at 1 Corinthians chapter 6: 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
You know, a temple does not do its own thing, does it? It was built simply for the use of the one who built it. Well, our body here is called the temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, our body is not our own any longer. We were bought at a price - the high price of the precious blood of the Lamb! So, we ought to glorify God in both our spirit and our body because they are both His purchased possession!
In 1 Corinthians 10:23, the Apostle Paul, in reference to eating meat that is sacrificed to idols, made the following statements: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify…” In 1 Corinthians 6:12, he made reference to “not being brought under the power of any.” What this means is that there is nothing that is “unlawful” for us to eat any longer. So, we can have all the bacon & pork chops we want now, praise God! 😊 But is it helpful to our bodies to eat just anything our flesh wants? Of course not. Not everything will build our bodies up. Not everything helps our bodies. Our bodies should not be under the power of having to fulfill cravings or addictions. Therefore, while we are not bound to any dietary laws, we also must consider this: are the things we are putting in our body helping us or hurting us, are they contributing towards building our bodies up or tearing them down? Now I understand that the primary focus in these statements is us helping and edifying others through our actions, but I believe we can apply them to our own physical health as well. We see this in the following verses:
Notice verse 31: He goes on to say, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
So here is just a great summarization of the matter, which also answers a lot of other doctrinal questions: Whatever we do – including what we eat and drink – we are to do it all to the glory of God. In other words, everything we do with our body needs to be done to glorify the Lord. And as Warren Wiersbe once was quoted as saying - “If something cannot be done for the glory of God, then you can be sure it is not the will of God.”
You see, the bottom line is - are we glorifying the Lord in our actions and our decisions? This is the real question, and this certainly applies to the decisions we make concerning our bodies. Are we glorifying God in our bodies? So, a good question that we should all ask the Lord is - Lord, how can I better glorify you through this, Your temple? - and then listen to what He might tell you. For some of us, He might say, “Get up a little earlier and worship me for bit.” To others, He might say, “Miss a couple of meals this week.” Still others, He might encourage us to start walking a couple of miles a day. The possibilities are endless, but I believe this what we are all called to do: live a Spirit-filled, Spirit-empowered and Spirit-led life, to where the Holy Ghost is calling the shots with what we do with these temples. (We will get more into this in a moment)
So now, let’s look at some things that He has already told us. In other words, let’s look in the Scriptures and see where He has already given us God’s wisdom regarding our bodies. In doing so, we will learn how He has instructed us to truly glorify God in our temples. Amen?
FROM THE INSIDE TO THE OUTSIDE
I believe that one of the most important aspects of wisdom concerning our physical bodies is that the condition of the outward man is reflected by the condition of the inward man. What I mean by this is that a healthy life internally tends towards a healthy life externally.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible teaches us this. So, let’s look at 3 John 2: It says, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”
This is a verse that I include on my signature, but what I want you to see is that this verse does not just express my will for you, nor does it just refer to the Apostle John’s will for his original recipient of this letter that we call “Third John”; this passage expresses God’s will for all of our lives!
Let me explain: Some have commented on this verse, saying that the truth contained in it was simply the Apostle John’s desire for Gaius, to whom this short letter was written. Therefore, they say that this verse does not express the will of the Lord for all believers for all time, but this is simply incorrect. For who are we to determine what parts of the Bible are intended only for the original recipients of the letters and what parts are applicable to us? If this were so, how would we know if what was written to the Romans were just promises applicable to the believers in Rome? Or how would we know if what was written to the Ephesians was just meant for the select church in Ephesus? How then would we know what parts of the Holy Scriptures were written to us?
The truth is that all of the Bible was written for our admonition and instruction! All Scripture is given by inspiration of God - being God-breathed so that we can know and understand God’s will for all of our lives. He is no respecter of persons! Therefore, what He moved the Apostle John to say to Gaius is what God wills for all of His children along with Gaius to receive and embrace. So, 3 John 2 is God’s will for all of His children, for all time!
So, what is God’s will for us: Notice that divine “health” is specifically mentioned here. Therefore, this verse alone should dispel the popular Christian doctrine that sometimes God sends sickness into our lives to teach us something. No, God’s will is that we are healthy, not sick. To live in sickness, disease, and infirmity is no more God’s will for our lives than for us to live in sin, transgression, and iniquity! And this is exactly what you see in Jesus’ ministry, which was a perfect reflection of God’s will (see John 14:7&9 and Hebrews 1:3)! Acts 10:38 says that Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil! Why did He go about doing good and healing everyone who responded to Him in faith? It was because this was (and always will be) God’s will!
But as great as healing is, I want you to notice that 3 John 2 does not say that God wants us to prosper in all things and be “healed”; it says that God wills that we be in “health!” In other words, this verse tells us that God not only wills that we experience healing, but that we experience divine health. For example, God’s perfect will is for our bodies to be so charged with His resurrection power that when germs or viruses touch our bodies, they die immediately. His perfect plan for our lives is that everything from our eyesight, hearing, and overall health is strong and living well above the norm.
And this not only includes wholeness in our physical bodies but also health in our mind and emotions. The prophet Isaiah said that the chastisement needful to obtain our peace was laid upon Him. The Apostle Paul said that the Holy Spirit has been given to us so that we can have a “sound mind.” This describes a soul that is whole, not weak and sick. Jesus purchased not only wholeness in our bodies, but also wholeness in our mind, will, and emotions! He wants us sharp and strong in our soul too. Thank you, Jesus!
So, God evidently has a greater vision for our lives than most people do themselves. He wants us to be whole and strong in every area of our bodies as well - which includes being healthy physically, healthy mentally, and healthy emotionally!
Someone then might say, “Trey, if this is truly God’s will for everyone’s life, then why do we see so little of it fulfilled in our lives?” That is a good question; I’m glad you asked: The reason God’s will is not automatically experienced in a person’s life is because we have a part to play in God’s will coming to pass! It is true! Contrary to popular belief, just because something is God’s will doesn’t mean that it automatically will come to pass.
For instance, it is God’s will to save everyone, is it not? Sure, God wills that none perish but all be saved and come into the knowledge of His Beloved Son (see 2 Peter 3:9). But not everyone gets saved, do they? Why? It is because each and every person born on this earth must respond in faith to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sure, the grace needful to obtain God’s will has already been provided, but in order for us to obtain this grace, we must receive God’s will by faith! This is the only way to salvation! Likewise, the only way to receive every other part of God’s will - which is briefly listed here in 3 John 2 - is also by faith.
And this is exactly what the Apostle John said at the very end of this powerful verse: 3 John 2 ends by saying that God wants you to prosper in all things and be in health “just as your soul prospers.”
Now, first of all, we don’t have any problem believing that God wills for our soul to prosper, right? Sure, we all believe God wants us to grow up spiritually, for our hearts to be clean and hungry for God, and for our minds to be filled with thoughts of good and not of evil. We have no problem believing that do we? Well, if we believe that, we also need to believe that God wills for us to prosper in all things and be in health as well, based on this Scripture. Amen?
Now the two words “just as” are extremely important because they show us how God’s will of health is going to come to pass in our lives: These two words literally mean “according to”, or better yet “in proportion to.” So, what the Holy Spirit was saying was that our health is “in proportion” to our soul prospering. In other words, our health outwardly is in proportion to our health inwardly!
So, I suppose we better find out what it means for our soul to prosper if every other area of our prosperity is tied to that, don’t you? In other words, if our experiencing God’s will for living in divine health is according to our soul thriving and flourishing, then I for one want to discover how my soul can prosper!
Let’s look at a couple of Proverbs that describe this “prosperous soul” and see how this truth from 3 John 2 is reflected in the Book of Wisdom:
Proverbs 14:30 says that “A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones.”
The Hebrew word that is used for “sound” here literally describes “healthy.” So, a “sound heart” would describe a healthy and whole heart within us, correct? Therefore, what the Holy Spirit is telling us here is that a healthy heart within us is what gives life to our physical bodies. In other words, sometimes when our physical bodies are not experiencing the life that they should, it is a result of an unhealthy heart. Of course, this is true naturally, but it is also true spiritually.
We see an example of this in the second half of this proverb when Solomon goes on to say that envy is rottenness to the bones. In other words, when one allows envy in their heart, it yields death and decay in their bones. Now to be envious or jealous is an indication that one’s heart is not whole, that it is discontent and incomplete. This is why things like unforgiveness, bitterness, etc. open us up to illness.
Therefore, we see the absolute importance of having a heart that is whole, complete, satisfied and in good health. This goes a long way in producing life, health and wholeness in our bodies.
In fact, we see that it is the strong and healthy spirit within us that will actually sustain one through and fight off sickness in our bodies, but if we have a “broken spirit”… (Well, you know the rest)
Look over at Proverbs 18:14. In this verse, we are told, The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, but who can bear a broken spirit?
The Good News Translation says, “Your will to live can sustain you when you are sick, but if you lose it, your last hope is gone.” I also like the Contemporary English Version here. It says, “Being cheerful helps when you are sick, but nothing helps when you give up.” In other words, when one quits on the inside, it’s over. But having resolve and being strong on the inside can bring you through. And this positive attitude is a part of having a prosperous soul. Amen?
You see, the condition of our inner man has so much to do with the condition of the outer man. Many of us are familiar with Proverbs 17:22. It says, “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” What this proverb is saying is that being happy, joyful and light-hearted works good in our bodies like medicine does.
You see, we need to lighten up and not be so stuffy. We need to learn to enjoy life, being happy and joyful in our salvation. Simply laughing will add so many years to our lives. I have heard testimonies of people who had cancer and had been written off as good as dead. Then they got a hold of this principle and were completely healed. In one situation, I heard of a woman who had stage-4 cancer. Then she and her husband got some Three Stooges videos and watched them for several hours a day and she ended up getting completely healed. Now how many of you know that this was not a “spiritual” thing she did? But she did operate according to this natural law that says laughing works like medicine in our bodies. It has been well said that if the devil can’t steal your joy, he can’t steal your goods.
Notice that a “merry heart” is differentiated by a “broken spirit” here, and it is a broken spirit that dries up the bones. Again, we see our physical bodies affected by the condition of the inward man.
Saints, Nehemiah 8:10 says that the joy of the Lord is our strength. And, as we have seen, rejoicing and having a happy heart goes a long way in experiencing life in our body. This is wisdom for the body!
But do you know what else goes a long way to bringing health to the body and acts as medicine to all of our flesh? The Word of God! Let’s go over to Proverbs chapter 4:
Proverbs 4:20-23 says, “My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.”
Now, again, the words “My son” should be read as our Heavenly Father giving instructions to His children. So, let’s read this that way - not just as black letters on white pages but as it is in truth, God speaking to us His sons and daughters.
Now exhortations like these to give attention to His Words, incline our ears to His saying, etc., are done solely in love just like we tell our children things like, “Now make sure you brush your teeth, take your vitamins, etc.” Now why do you tell them things like that? Because you understand things they don’t yet - that doing certain things are for their own good and you are trying to help them not get sick, have cavities, etc. Amen? Well, this is why God tells you and I things too. Jesus said that if we, being evil, know how to give good gifts (including instruction) to our children, how much more does our Father in heaven know how to give good gifts (including instruction) to His children? Amen! Yes, saints, God is not trying to get something through you; He is trying to get something to you. He loves you so much that He gives you specific instructions like this to make your life better. Thank you, Lord!
So, again, what did He say to us, His children? Verse 22 specifically tells us what His Words and His Sayings will do for us when it says, “For they (They what? They - His Words and His Sayings) are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.”
But notice that the latter part of verse 22 does not say that God’s Word is “healing” for all our flesh. No, it says that His Words are “health” for all our flesh. Again, while healing is certainly good to experience, it is actually better to live in divine health because if we are not ever having to focus on our own healing and getting ourselves well, we can devote more of our focus and energies on others on the outside who need healing. We need to be so crammed full of the Word that it expels any sickness out of us. God’s Word is preventive medicine, Hallelujah!
Now, of course, this does not mean that we won’t ever need healing or have something try to come against us. But it does mean that we can hear God’s Word to the point where our body will actually repel many of the things that plague this world. But the truth is, so many Christians are trying to live off miracles and supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Again, don’t get me wrong; we certainly need to see signs and wonders following us wherever we go, but these miracles are mainly to be for the world we come in contact with, not for God’s children to constantly be depending on.
You see, why does God manifest these various gifts of the Spirit like gifts of healings and working of miracles and then only a few out of many receive? It’s to get our attention and to get us in His Word for ourselves. We cannot determine when God’s power gifts operate. Gifts of the Spirit like the gift of special faith, gifts of healings and working of miracles are given as the Spirit wills, but God’s Word is always present and available. Therefore, we don’t have to wait for one of these manifestations of the Spirit to get healed; we can give attention to His Words and incline our ears to His sayings anytime we want, as much as we want, and receive God’s healing power in our bodies by faith! Amen!
Now if you look in the margin of your Bible, you will likely see that the word “health” literally describes “medicine.” This word comes from the Hebrew word marpe which is defined as “restoration of health, remedy, cure, medicine.” This word occurs 13 times in the Old Testament, coming from the verb rapha which means to heal, cure, or repair. This is obviously the word where we get God’s name “Jehovah Raphe” from, meaning the Lord who heals. (We will see this in a moment) So, God’s Word is medicine, a remedy and a cure to all of our flesh! Amen! This is why Psalm 107:20 says that He sent His Word and healed us.
We see this principle of God’s Word working like medicine in our bodies in a couple of other places in the Book of Wisdom. Let’s quickly look at them:
Proverbs 15:30 says, “The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and a good report makes the bones healthy.”
Notice that this proverb says that a “good report” makes the bones healthy. Well, the Gospel is the good report! The Prophet Isaiah says in Isaiah 53:1, “Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed.” Then he goes on to describe what Jesus would accomplish on the Cross! Amen.
So, while I am sure there is truth that any good report can tend towards a healthy life, there is no greater “good report” than the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and God’s Word concerning it! Therefore, what part of God’s Word that we hear plays an important factor in healing, because we need to hear the good news of what Jesus did for us on Cross when He Himself bore all of our sicknesses and carried our pains! We need to hear the gospel that by His stripes we are and were healed! We need to hear the Gospel of our Salvation! According to this Scripture, it makes our bones healthy!
Then, in Proverbs 16:24 we are told, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.”
As we learned last week, these “pleasant” words describe beautiful, kind, and gracious words. And while this can certainly describe any pleasant words that are spoken, are there any more beautiful, kind and gracious words than the Words that have proceeded from the mouth of God? I think not! So, if our words hold this kind of power – sweetness to our souls and health to our bones – then what do you imagine God’s Words would do for one’s soul and body!?!
And one major point we can see from this truth is that if God’s Words and Sayings will heal you and bring health to your body, then how could it not be God’s will for everyone to be healed? Let me ask it this way, if God told us here how to get health to all our flesh (and He did), then shouldn’t this be clear that God’s will is to heal?
Someone will say, “How does this prove to us that it is God’s will to heal, Trey?” Well, aren’t God’s Words for everybody? Would you say that it is not God’s will for you receive any of His Words? Of course not! What if a preacher told you, “Sure, the Book of Romans is for you. You can follow that Roman’s road, but the road ends there. Ephesians is not for you, Colossians is not for you, etc.” If anyone said that, you would call them a heretic, right? No, church, God tells us how to receive health and healing to all our flesh and it is through receiving His Words. So, if His Words are for everyone, then healing and health must be for everyone, for His Words are life to those who find them and health to all their flesh. Amen! On top of that, why would God tell you how to get something like life and health and it not be His will for you? No, if He tells you how to get it, then it most certainly is available to be “gotten.” Amen?
Now medicine does not always produce an instant cure, right? Sometimes you have to take it for days before it takes effect. Take antibiotics, for instance: They tell you to take them for 10 days and make sure you finish the full prescription even if you start feeling better before that. Well, God’s Word is a lot like that. But here is the great part: It will work every time because it is a spiritual law and His Word is packed full of life and healing remedies like a capsule or pill has contained within it what you need to be healed.
So, if God’s Words and Sayings are medicine to all our flesh, then do you reckon God has a prescribed formula of how to take His medicine? In other words, if His Word is our medicine, then does God’s Word also give us directions on how to take it?
You see, our Great Physician has given us a prescription - which is an instruction written that authorizes us to be provided a medicine or treatment. Well, that would most certainly be God’s Word - It contains the prescription that authorizes you and I to obtain His medicine. Hallelujah! So, we already have the prescription! It’s waiting at the pharmacy, with our name on it! Our health insurance - the stripes of Jesus - have already paid for our prescription. Amen! No, in God’s kingdom, there is no co-pay. There is no deductible that needs to be met. It’s already been paid for 100% by our Great Physician!
So, it’s not God’s fault if we aren’t taking our medicine - He’s already made available what to take and He’s already paid for it! Therefore, there are no more excuses. We don’t have to wait for the gifts of the Spirit to be in operation to receive healing and health. C’mon somebody! All we have to do is follow His directions for taking His medicine, and those directions are listed right here, in Proverbs 4:20-21. Yes, God’s directions for taking His medicine - which is health to all our flesh- is listed here in Proverbs 4:20-21. Amen!
THE PRESCRIPTION FROM OUR PHYSICIAN
So, let’s look at these verses in more detail: He begins instructing us, His children, by saying, “My Son, give attention to my words.”
Now these instructions of “giving attention” describes the giving of one’s undivided attention to something. Another way of saying this is that you are honoring and respecting God’s Words through paying attention and listening attentively.
Next he says, “incline your ear to my sayings.” This phrase describes putting yourself in a better position to hear like tilting your head towards the one speaking. Do you know what this phrase denotes? It denotes that there must be distractions present because if we have to put ourselves in a better position to hear, there must be a lot of commotion going on around us. And this commotion comes from the world:
You know, in our society today, this is a bigger problem than it ever has been before now… We are a generation that is inundated with all kinds of things that vie for our attention - cell phones, tablets, television, radio, music, etc. We are the information age. Well, while many of these things are good and helpful for promoting God’s kingdom, they can also be a vice, because too much information can be a distraction.
So, in the world that we live in, there are many things that will vie for our attention. Therefore, we have to discipline ourselves to shut out the distractions - give attention to God’s Word and put ourselves in a better position to hear what the voice of truth is saying. Yes, we must train ourselves to give full attention to God’s Word and incline ourselves to hear His Sayings.
Then, in verse 21, He says, “Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart…”
So, we must first give attention to His Words and incline our ears to His sayings, but then we must not let them (His Words and His Sayings) depart from our eyes. Let’s look at an example from the Scriptures: In both Joshua 1 & Psalm 1, we are told to meditate on His Word day and night.
Now most would see that as an impossible admonition. How can one meditate on God’s Word all day and all night? Well, again, he is not talking about physically keeping the Bible in front of your eyes 24/7. No, he is talking about constantly seeing it on the inside.
You see, you are meditating on something constantly - whether you know it or not. Your mind is constantly thinking on something. If I were to tell you not to think on anything for a minute, you couldn’t do it because then you would be thinking about not thinking anything. No, all the Lord is saying in these two Scriptures is for us to put our focus - our mind’s eye - on the things of God. This is not letting God’s Word depart from your eyes! He’s talking about the eyes of your heart.
So, Solomon is not talking about not letting God’s Words and Sayings depart from our physical eyes. That would be an impossible admonition. We have daily responsibilities and activities that would keep us from being able to keep our nose in this book 24/7. But the truth is that you can keep God’s Words and Sayings ever before the eyes of your heart. And you do this by keeping the things of God as your constant spiritual focus.
But, again, let me remind you of the order in which the Holy Spirit inspired Solomon to write this: First, He said “give attention to My words.” Second, He said, “incline your ears to My sayings.” And, third, He said, “Do not let them depart from your eyes.” So, the first admonition was to pay attention - which would involve both the ears and the eyes - for if you are not both inclining your ear to listen and focusing on someone with your eyes, you are not really giving them your full attention. That’s just the way it is.
I know we like to think we are good multitaskers but we will never fully assimilate God’s Words if we are not fully attentive, fully inclined and fully looking at His Words.
The order here is so important to understand because it leads into Solomon giving us the last and final direction for how to take God’s medicine where he says, “Keep them in the midst of your heart.”
Now someone might ask, “Why is it important to understand the order in verses 20-21?” It is important for us to recognize the order God gives us in these directions because, in order to get God’s Words in the midst of our heart where it can do its work, we must first receive God’s Word in through our ear gate and through our eye gate. This is how you take God’s medicine - through the ears and the eyes - because this is the mouth to our heart which is where His medicine can truly take effect. Amen!
But in order for God’s Words and His Sayings to get in the midst of your heart, you must follow the directions preceding. This is how you get the medicine into the midst (or, middle) of your heart - that is, the central place of priority and importance in our lives. This is why “the midst of your heart” is so important. Just like with some medicines, in order for them to take effect, the medicine must go directly into the blood stream through the heart. Why is this so important? It is because the heart is where the blood flows from and throughout the whole body.
So, these are the directions for taking God’s medicine so that it can take full effect in our body: We, first, need to give our full attention to His Words - that is, using both our ears and our eyes. Secondly, we need to incline our ears to His Words - that is, putting ourselves in the best position to hear. Thirdly, we need to keep God’s Word ever before our eyes by meditating on them day and night. And, last but not least, by following these first three directions - His Words will enter into the midst of our heart. Then it is our job to keep them there. And we do this through giving even the more earnest heed to the things we have heard. Amen!
If you follow these four directions that are on God’s medicine bottle, it will be impossible for any sickness, weakness, disease, etc. to remain in your body - because this is some potent medicine! It will work for everyone, regardless of who you are or what you’ve done. Amen! If you, following these specific directions, will take enough of God’s Word for long enough, you will be healed! Amen and amen!
And this is why Solomon went on to say in verse 23, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” In other words, “above all, keeping” (lit. “with all diligence”), we need to keep our heart! Why? Because out of it spring the issues of life. In other words, just like the heart is the well spring of blood for the whole body and the blood is the life of the body, likewise the spiritual heart pumps the life to the rest our spiritual body. Amen! Therefore, out of the heart spring the issues of life!
NOURISHED IN THE WORDS OF FAITH
So, evidently learning to guard our hearts is very important. So, how do we do this? The answer is simple: we guard our spiritual hearts, the same way we guard our physical hearts:
We see this specifically referred to in 1 Timothy 4:6-8 which teaches us, “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. But reject profane and old wives fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”
In these verses, Paul shows us the two keys to developing a strong spirit - nourishment and exercise. These are the two keys, as well, to developing a strong physical body. So, let’s talk about the first key mentioned - nourishment.
An important truth that we need to understand is that your inner man needs nourishment just as your outer man needs nourishment. In other words, your spirit has an appetite and needs to be fed constantly just like your body does. The reason this is so important to understand is because, just as in the natural, if you don’t eat every day, you will get weaker. This is what Paul actually implied when he used the word “nourished” here in 1 Timothy 4:6: The New American Standard more correctly translates the word “nourished” as “constantly nourished.” You see, we have to be constantly nourished spiritually just as we have to be constantly nourished physically. In other words, our spirits must be fed healthy spiritual food everyday so that we can be spiritually nourished.
So, the question now is: What is healthy spiritual food?
Paul specifically said in this passage of Scripture that we are to be “nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine.” You see, the Word of God is our healthy spiritual food! Let me put it this way… The Word of God is to our spirit what meat, milk, potatoes, and green beans are to our physical bodies. The Word of God is the only real “soul food.”
Let me give you a few Scriptures that further verify this:
Through these verses we can see how the Word of God is likened to “food” but notice again what Paul specifically told Timothy will “nourish” us in the Word of God: It is constantly indulging our spirits “in the words of faith and of the good doctrine.”
Let’s look at what Paul mentioned first: “the words of faith.” This would be better translated “the words of the faith” because there is a definite article in front of the word “faith” in the original text. “What’s the difference?” someone might ask. Well, while “faith” by itself would be referring to the subject of “faith” alone, “the faith” refers to the Christian faith altogether. And “the faith” can be summed up best as “the belief in the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel of the kingdom of God.” So what Paul was basically describing was being constantly nourished in the New Testament teachings.
The second thing that Paul said would nourish us is, “the good doctrine.” The word “good” means “what is right and correct” and the word “doctrine” simply means “teaching.” So “good doctrine” literally means “correct and right teaching.”
So according to Paul, there are two ways to get nourished through the Word of God:
1. through the written Word of God (primarily the New Testament)
2. through teaching of the Word of God that is good and right.
I want to talk a little further about these words - “good doctrine.” You see, we can hear teaching of the Word of God and not necessarily be nourished. The reasons can be similar to the reasons we aren’t nourished in the natural…
Like for instance, one reason can be how it is prepared. That is how preachers put together their messages. If it is not prepared well it won’t taste too good. Some preachers need to learn how to cook! Another example could be what it is served with. If a preacher always puts a little condemnation in with the Word of God then it won’t be too tasty.
Then, on the other hand, some preachers only serve up desserts. 2 Timothy 4:3 says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers.” The word for “sound” is the same Greek word that is translated “health” in 3 John 2. These believers that Paul describes in 2 Timothy 4:3 are like little kids who only want to eat the “sweets.” They only want to hear the preachers that will give them what they want to hear and what makes their flesh comfortable. I call these kinds of sermons “cotton candy sermons.” That’s because they seem great, they are colorful, and they will make people swing from the chandeliers from a temporary “sugar high,” but there is no substance or nourishment in them.
I have heard it said that it would be great if teaching tapes, Christian books, and even preachers themselves would have nutrition labels attached to them. Just think about it: What if there were these labels that said things like, “10 grams of faith, 60% hype, 2 grams of filler, 100% love, 2,000 milligrams of grace, etc.”? 😊 Although this is not possible, there is one thing you can be assured of… The Word of God in itself has no added preservatives and no artificial additives. That’s why “the words of the faith” was mentioned first because the first and foremost way we are to be nourished is straight from the Word of God itself. You see, while we all need to listen to good doctrine (i.e. correct teaching), and God gave the Body of Christ these teachers for the purpose of nourishing us, they are not to be a substitute for our personal time in “the words of the faith.” We are not supposed to completely live off “vitamin supplements” and I can assure you all teaching tapes, Christian books, and preachers have at least a little bit of preservatives and artificial additives contained in them. The key is found in the word “balance”- add some good teaching together with your personal study time in God’s Word.
So, remember, every day - try and make time to nourish your spirit through the Word of God. Take some time to get quiet, pull out your Bible and feed on some “Matthew” and then have “Philippians” for dessert. This is how we become spiritually nourished. His Words are indeed medicine to all of our flesh!
EXERCISING OURSELF TOWARD GODLINESS
Then in this passage of Scripture, Paul doesn’t just refer to nourishing ourselves with God’s Word; He then refers to the importance of exercise in the following verses:
Notice again, verses 7-8: “But reject profane and old wives fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”
First of all, notice that in verse 8, he makes a comparison between exercising physically and exercising spiritually. Now I want to make a quick point about what Paul did not say here: He did not say that physical exercise is non-important and profits nothing. The point he was making was that, in comparison to the exercise and condition of our inner-man, the exercise and condition of our outer-man profits little. In other words, our spiritual well-being is by far more important than our physical well-being.
So how do we exercise ourselves towards godliness? The same way we exercise ourselves physically! You see, our spirit is complete with nothing missing and nothing broken. It is born (again) with all that it will ever need like a baby is born with every bone, muscle, and organ that it will ever need, but there is a growth and development that needs to take place. And this growth and development is accomplished, number one, through grace. You see, we do not know why the body grows and changes like it does. This is a product of the grace of God working in us. But in order for the body to reach its full potential, exercise must accompany that grace.
Early in my Christian life I was on a fast and the Lord asked me a question: He asked me, “Do you want to know what the muscles of your spirit are?” Of course, I said “yes.” Then He told me that our spiritual muscles are the fruit of the Spirit. You see, our fruit is the indication of how strong and in-shape we are spiritually. And after He gave me the answer, He gave me the Scripture “you will know them by their fruit.” You see, just as we can recognize people by their physical shape, we can recognize the godliness of people by their spiritual fruit.
So how do we exercise these spiritual muscles that we have? The answer is - the same way we exercise the physical muscles we have - through using them! Hebrews 5:14 verifies this by saying, “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age (i.e. grown up), that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Notice that it is by doing what we hear that we are exercising ourselves.
Now we know that we can exercise with no weights at all, but the best way to develop our physical muscles is through weight training. It is no different in our spiritual exercise. But what are the spiritual weights? They are the adverse circumstances that come into our lives. Let me explain… When we have trials and tribulations come into our lives, aren’t those the hardest times to walk in peace, love, patience, and faith? Of course, they are! It is easy to love people when there are no enemies coming against you. It is easy to have peace when there are no waves of life crashing against your boat. It is easy to have faith in God when you are not walking through a trial of your faith. You see, it is easy to walk in the fruit of the Spirit when your fruit is not being squeezed, but squeezing is the real test to find out what your fruit is made of. It has been well said that you will find out what your fruit is made of when it gets squeezed.
But, you see, we should actually view these weights (i.e. trials and tribulations) as opportunities and not just as obstacles. The reason is because they are opportunities to exercise our spiritual muscles. As a matter of fact, the word “tribulation” that is used oftentimes in the Bible literally describes a heavy, tight, and pressure situation. You see, these “tribulations” are our spiritual weights! When these circumstances come up that tempt us to become unloving, impatient, or not so joyful, this is when we should make the most of the opportunity and resist those temptations - thus exercising ourselves to develop the love, patience, and joy on the inside of us. I guarantee you that, just as it is with natural exercise, when you start off “lifting those spiritual weights” it will be hard at the beginning, but if you keep at it those spiritual muscles will begin to develop and it will become easier and easier as you resist those temptations. So, in short, use those weights the enemy deals you and don’t become bitter, become better! Exercise yourself!
But I believe that the Book of Proverbs gives us some good practical wisdom on how we “exercise” in the spirit:
Proverbs 3:7-8 says, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.”
Notice the phrase “Do not be wise in your own eyes.” I think sometimes we err in this respect regarding our physical health. So many “lean” to this diet and that exercise plan and totally rely on their own understanding. But what does wisdom say concerning this? Do not lean to your own understanding, but trust in the Lord with all your heart. This certainly pertains to our health - for our health ultimately comes from the Lord. You can tell what you have more trust in by how much time you spend either in the Word and prayer or in researching and pursuing healthy living. Now it’s okay to do the various diets that are out there and to do various exercise routines, just be Spirit-led. Make Him your “personal trainer.” If He tells you put down certain foods, then by all means, do it! If He leads you to exercise a little every day, then follow His guidance. This is how one puts their trust for their own physical health in the Lord.
But then notice that these verses go on to describe the importance of “fear(ing) the Lord and depart(ing) from evil” in regard to us having health in our flesh and strength to our bones. Now as we’ve seen, the fear of the Lord is simply us respecting and reverencing Him, His people and His things, which results in us departing from evil. Again, if we honor the Lord, we will not yield to the things that He says are wrong. It is that simple.
And the fruit of this healthy, reverential fear of the Lord is what? Proverbs 10:27 says it this way - “The fear of the Lord prolongs days, but the years of the wicked will be shortened.” Well, in order for us to have our days prolonged as opposed to shortened, we are going to have to walk in some semblance of health and healing, amen?
So what I see here is this: As we are both being nourished by God’s Word and are taking it like medicine, then it is imperative that we take the truth we are learning and apply it to our lives out of respect for the Lord. So, it is like exercise! As we do what is right in God’s sight even when we do not feel like it, it is “fearing” the Lord. Our flesh might not want to do it, but hey, does our flesh like to exercise either? I think not!
Well, one of the other ways in which we “exercise” the Word that we are feeding on is by speaking it! And make no mistake about it - this is one of the primary ways that we walk in the health God has for us to walk in. Again, Proverbs 12:18 says, “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health.” In the original language, the latter half of this proverb simply says that the tongue of the wise is or brings health. So, as we learn to speak what God says, declaring out of our mouth God’s medicine, it will both promote and bring healing in our bodies! Amen!
This is why Proverbs 13:17 says, “A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a faithful ambassador brings health.”
We are called “ambassadors” for Christ, aren’t we? So, a faithful ambassador for Him will do what? He or she will bring health! And an ambassador does this through his or her words, amen?
So, what we can see is that God certainly wants us to live long and healthy lives. He has sent His Word to both serve as nourishment for our souls and medicine to our flesh! So, just as it is important that we eat good, healthy food in the natural, it is also important for us to eat good, healthy food in the spiritual as well.
But, as it is in the natural, there is more to living a healthy and whole life than just eating right. We must also exercise. Yes, we need to cooperate with these natural laws by doing certain cardiovascular and physical exercises, but there are ways in which we are to exercise ourselves toward godliness - that is, by truly “fearing the Lord” which is actually doing the things that He says in His Word. We also exercise the Word by speaking it. Amen.
I am a firm believer that if we cooperate with both the natural laws of physically eating right and exercising as we are led by the Spirit of God, and also eat right and exercise in these spiritual ways, then we will walk in the physical health that God says is ours and accomplish glorifying God in our temples in another way. This is wisdom for our bodies. Amen.
Well, we have been learning about the wisdom of God over the past several weeks and we have found out that this wisdom that descends from above is the principal thing. That means it is the “top, first and best” thing. Yes, even above some of those other virtues that we know are so vitally important to our lives. So, evidently, wisdom should be at the top of man’s desires.
And we’ve seen two reasons why wisdom should be the most prized virtue that we acquire in our lives: because, number one, the benefits that she yields in our lives, and, number two, because she teaches us how to live rightly. So, we’ve both defined wisdom and talked about her proceeds.
We then spent the next couple of weeks looking at the over-arching principle of wisdom – which is things that pertain to the spiritual, eternal realm. So, we talked about how the fear of the Lord is how wisdom begins in our lives and how this reverence and respect for the things of God is the very heart of wisdom. We talked about the utter foolishness of sin and how to overcome this seductresses’ temptations in order to walk in the wisdom of holiness. Both of these spiritual elements of wisdom look ahead into eternity and beyond the natural, carnal elements of this world. Yes, they live for what is not seen and for “spiritual investments” as opposed to a life of “spiritual debt.”
Then, last week, we talked about the important role that the Word of God plays in our lives. I made the statement that there is no wise person who is not a “Word person,” and we saw how this is obviously true by the myriad of instructions given to us in the Book of Proverbs to heed our Father’s instructions.
Yes, we went through all of these verses and learned how listening to the words of our parents is, naturally speaking, the first opportunity we should have to gain wisdom in our lives. But if we either did not have parents who poured wisdom into our lives or ignored the wise counsel they gave us, we can still become wise today by heeding the Words of our Heavenly Father.
That’s right- we need to take all these passages in Proverbs that begin with “My son,” and not read them as just Solomon’s words to his children. Since all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, we need to read these passages of Scripture as they are in truth, God speaking to you, His child, pleading with you to listen to Him.
But oh, how so many of God’s children fail to do this. They forget the Word of God and move on to the deeper, “spiritual” things. Yes, they turn away from His Word and put their attention on natural, carnal things that appeal to the senses. Saints, this is foolish! God’s Word should not be disesteemed or disrespected. We should place the utmost value on the Holy Scriptures - knowing that they are what are able to make us wise and to fully equip us for whatever God has called us to walk into.
But we did learn that, like the Book of Proverbs has much to say about correction, this is one very important attitude that we must hear God with - a spirit of meekness. But the truth is that many Christians are foolish in this respect in that they do not let God’s Word get in the way of what they believe. They only use the Word to read what they believe instead of believing what they read. Church, this should not be so! We need to be willing to be corrected, and if God’s Word says something that rubs us cross-wise, we receive it as it is in truth, the Word of our Wise Father.
Now since this week we are celebrating Father’s Day, let’s take a moment to thank our Heavenly Father for being the “best daddy” one could ever have and for giving us all this opportunity to acquire His wisdom through His wonderful Words. Amen?
So, since we covered “Wisdom in the Word” last week, it seems good to me and the Holy Spirit to look this week at the “Wisdom in our Words.” Amen?
THE POWER OF THE TONGUE
As you study the Book of Proverbs, you will find that there is a lot in this book of wisdom on our mouths, the tongue and the power of words. Yes, Proverbs has a lot to say about the words of the wise versus the words of the foolish, the words of the righteous versus the words of the wicked, etc. In fact, throughout the Bible, we have Scripture after Scripture that teaches us the importance and power of our tongue. So, that is why we are going to camp on the subject of our words - because evidently our mouth and tongue have much to do with walking in the wisdom of God. Amen?
So, let’s begin in Proverbs 18:20-21 because it is likely the most popular passage in Proverbs on the power of our tongue: Proverbs 18:20-21 says, “A man’s stomach shall be satisfied from the fruit of his mouth; From the produce of his lips he shall be filled. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
First of all, notice that this verse specifically says that those who love it will eat of its fruit. Love what? Well, this could refer to the power that is in the tongue or the life that our tongue has the power to produce. Either way, embracing this truth that our words are powerful is an important part of seeing the fruit of it.
You see, some who have gotten a revelation on the power of words have gotten what I call “spiritually superstitious” regarding them. But it is not just the frivolous words that come up from time to time that hold the power; it is the words that we really mean and that come out of our hearts (i.e. love) that hold the power of life and death. It is those words that we “love” that we will eat the fruit of.
But the truth is, our tongues hold more power than most realize - the power to produce both life and death. No, not just life and not just death; our tongues hold the power to accomplish both.
I had the Lord correct me one time on this because when I first got the revelation of the power of our words, I only gravitated to the negative. It set in me a holy fear of not saying anything that I did not want to see in my life. I would avoid saying anything about how I felt in my body, what I was experiencing negatively in my life, etc. I knew that I did not want to say what I didn’t want to see. And while there is certainly truth to this, there was something I had not put into practice yet:
You see, although I knew that there was death in the power of the tongue, I had not put as much importance on the fact that there is also life in the power of the tongue. Therefore, I needed to adopt the principal of calling things that be not as though they were instead of just not calling things that be as though they were not. Both are truths that we need to learn, church - because words can be both extremely destructive and extremely constructive.
So, let’s begin to go through some proverbs and see the power that our tongue has. And since Proverbs 18:21 begins with the death that the tongue has the power to yield, I want us to begin by looking at it first (Not to mention, there is far more on the death our words can produce in this Book than there is on the life part).
THE ABOMINATION OF THE MOUTH
Let’s begin in Proverbs chapter 6: Proverbs 6:16-19 - These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.
Now this is a very sobering passage of Scripture in that it shows us seven things that the Lord said are “abominable” to Him. Now that is a strong word, church. These are not just things that He “dislikes” or are “displeasing” to Him. These are things that He “abhors.”
You see, when we think of things that would be “abominations” to God, we would think of “wicked” things such as idolatry, homosexuality, adultery, etc. But here in this passage, we see that three out of the four abominations that are mentioned revolve around things we say. For example, the very last “abomination” listed is sowing discord among the brethren. In other words, this describes the person who runs around the church speaking things that promote disunity (i.e. gossiping, slandering, etc.). But notice that Solomon chose to put lying in this list twice! Now that is something we should take heed of, saints! Lying is evidently big on God’s naughty list! In fact, Solomon reiterates this in Proverbs 12:22 by saying, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.”
Now we don’t talk too much about this in church because we assume everyone knows this. But why did the Apostle Paul have to write to the Church of Ephesus in Ephesians 4:25 to put away lying? It is because that even in a Spirit-filled, tongue-talking church, there will still be folks who are going around lying. But it should not be this way! Lying should be one of those things that we absolutely do not tolerate! Yes, we should have zero tolerance for lying, first in ourselves - meaning, we do not ever tolerate telling a lie ourselves. Why? Because we see how God evidently feels about it! It is an abomination to Him!
And do you know why He is so serious about lying? It is because He AM the Truth! He cannot lie! All of His promises are “Yes” and “Amen!” On the contrary, Satan is called the father of all lies. Therefore, for us to lie is to imitate, not our Heavenly Father, but the devil himself. It is a serious thing, saints!
Here are some other references to “lying” in the Book of Proverbs:
SPEAKING THE TRUTH
Now “lying” is not always done overtly or maliciously. Sometimes we fail to speak the truth by not being a person of our word. For example, didn’t Jesus warn us to simply let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no” (see Matthew 5:37)? This means that if you say you are going to do something, bless God, you are going to do it - even if it turns out to be inconvenient, even if a better opportunity comes along, etc. This is called “swearing to our own hurt” (see Psalm 15:4) - meaning that we do what we say we are going to do even if it hurts to do so.
For example, if I say, “I’ll be there at eight in the morning,” I shouldn’t show up at 8:30, right? How many of you are thankful that God is always on time, that He’s never late? What if you needed Him there to help at a certain time and He said, “Oh, I’ll be there by then” but what He meant was He wasn’t going to leave until then. Simply stated - be faithful! And part of being a faithful person is being a person of your word.
But do you know why most people fall short at doing what they say they are going to do? It is because of a lack of wisdom. That’s right - they commit to doing things without ever thinking about what they are committing to, whether or not they can actually do what they are saying they will do. For example, they say they will help with such and such, but they never thought that they had already committed to do something else, and it was going to really push them to do both. That’s where wisdom comes in - because we should think about things before we say, “Yes, we will do it.” And for some of us, we should simply know ourselves, knowing what our own tendencies are and making provision for that. Like for instance, if we tend to be late to things, start getting ready earlier than your tendency. This is wisdom.
Proverbs 6:2 says, that we “are snared by the words of your mouth; You are taken by the words of your mouth.” This is why it is so important that we think before making commitments, saying what we are going to do. It is because if we live according to this standard of truth, we are obligating ourselves to keep our word.
Now we don’t need to become legalistic about these things and start being the Holy Ghost police every time someone doesn’t do what they say they are going to do. We all have fallen short of this. All I believe the Lord wants us to be cognizant of is that we need to be more aware of what we are committing to and then doing all that we should to be faithful to our words. Amen?
THE WICKED MOUTH
Well, the perverse, wicked and foolish mouth goes well beyond lying though. There are many other ways in which our tongue can be “wicked.” So, let’s look at some of them:
Proverbs 10:19 says, In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.
What these verses are saying is that the one who is always talking, is always sinning. But what does wisdom do? It restrains its lips. In other words, a wise person is “slow to speak” (Seems like that’s in the Bible somewhere😊).
You know, when people run their mouth all the time they are usually either:
Therefore, we can see how Proverbs 10:19 is true - because if this is what dominates the conversations of those who are extremely talkative, then sin is certainly “not lacking.”
We will get more into the pride aspect of this in future weeks but let me camp on this subject of gossip for a moment: You know the Bible has a lot of negative things about the “talebearer.” In fact, several of them are listed in Proverbs. Let’s look at a couple of them:
Proverbs 11:13 - A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.
Wouldn’t we all want to be considered someone with a “faithful spirit?” Well, this Scripture tells us that one with a faithful spirit is one who “conceals a matter.” In other words, they are not one who is quick to reveal secrets that people confided in them. If we want to be considered a faithful person, it begins with our tongue.
Just look at this from the opposite point of view: if you told someone that you were struggling in a particular area and confided that potentially embarrassing information to them, and then they went and told someone else, would you consider that “friend,” a faithful friend? Even if they told the other person under the guise of “prayer” (i.e. “Please pray for so and so, they are struggling with…”)? No, that would still be considered a betrayal to most of us.
Proverbs 18:6-8 says, A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calls for blows. (i.e. the mouth of a fool loves to enter into strife, and when he opens his mouth, he calls out for punishment) A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body. (Also, Proverbs 26:22)
Let’s look at a couple of other versions of Proverbs 18:8:
Have you ever noticed how our flesh just loves to both be the bearer of gossip, and also a hearer of it? It is, like this verse says, like the tastiest of foods - like your favorite sweet. But the truth is - gossip is even more deadly than your favorite dessert. It has killed more people than sugar!
But the fact is - in many words, sin is likely present. Let’s look at another verse:
Proverbs 14:33 echoes this truth. It says, Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding, but what is in the heart of fools is made known. In other words, the fool’s heart will always be revealed. By what? By what comes out of his or her mouth. In other words, a characteristic of an unwise person is they verbally divulge everything that is in their heart. Evidently, wisdom doesn’t say everything that it knows and operates in both humility and self-control.
Proverbs 17:27-28 says, He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. A “calm spirit” is a person who keeps their cool. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive. In other words, if we didn’t always run our mouth, people wouldn’t know how ignorant we are! How many of you have ever been in a group and someone just had to contribute, and it made them look really stupid? If they would just have shut their mouth, no one would have known how ignorant they really were. Amen?
But the fact is, we shouldn’t just spare our words, hold our peace, and shut our lips in order to not air our foolishness; we should be slow to speak and also quick to hear. In other words, this is a great way to become wiser than we are: just be a listener. I mean, you already know what you know, right? So, if you just listen to others, you might learn something. Amen?
As you can see, there is a lot in the Book of Wisdom about the tongue of the foolish & wicked versus the mouth of the wise. Here are some more verses that we won’t take time to cover:
WORDS OF DEATH VERSUS WORDS OF LIFE
So, yes, there is a lot in Proverbs of foolishness as it pertains to words, and we need to understand that these “wicked words” are extremely harmful. Many do not understand this; they do not see how words can do so much damage. We say things like, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That is so untrue, church! The truth is - words can hurt!
Proverbs 12:18 says, There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword… In other places, words are described as swords, arrows, snake bites, fire (see Psalm 57:4, 64:3, 120:2-4, 140:3; Proverbs 16:27, 25:18, 26:21 & James 3:2-12). So, yes, words can be used as weapons!
But as Proverbs 12:18 goes on to say, words are not just instruments of death, they are also instruments of life. Notice what the 2nd half of this Proverb says, …but the tongue of the wise promotes health.
So, just as our words can be weapons and be used to hurt people and things, our words can also be agents of healing and health! Amen! We are God’s healing technicians! We are not called to go around talking “sickness”- how “sick” the church is, how “unhealthy” that person is, or even how we ourselves are not “whole.” We are to promote health and healing, talking about what the church excels in, what God has created that other person to be, and what God’s Word says about us. Don’t “preach” what you don’t want to see; major on “preaching” what you do want to see.
Let’s look at some other Proverbs that talk about the important effects of our words:
Here are some more Proverbs that talk about the life and death that our tongue has the power to produce:
EATING YOUR WORDS
Finally, I want to draw our attention back to the last half of Proverbs 18:21, which says, “and those who love it shall eat the fruit of it.”
What fruit do you want in your life? What do you desire to partake of? Well, according to Proverbs 18:21, we see that we will eat the fruit of the words that we speak. “Eating our words” is a much truer statement than we realized, huh?
Well, we have three verses in Proverbs that speak along these same lines. Let’s look at one of them that is coincidently located one verse before Proverbs 18:21. Quickly, the other two say:
Notice now that Proverbs 18:20 says, A man’s stomach shall be satisfied from the fruit of his mouth; From the produce of his lips he shall be filled.
So, this is three witnesses that establish us in the importance of only speaking of the fruit we desire to partake of. But what is the temptation that we all have? It is to speak the negative - how we currently feel, what we are now seeing, the fears, the death, etc., etc., etc.
For example, when things get tough, our flesh likes to say, “Oh, it’s just so hard! I can’t do it!” No, when things are at their worst, don’t say what you feel; say what heals! In other words, when things aren’t going well, do not speak how unhappy and dissatisfied you are! Why? Because you will not “eat good” that way! It will only produce death in your soul and will attract more of that discontentment. Rather, what should you say when you are tempted to get down in the “mully-grubs”? Say, “I am an overcomer! Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world! I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! My God will satisfy me! He satisfies my mouth with good things! Etc., etc., etc.” In other words, don’t talk about what you can’t do, what you don’t know, and what you don’t have. This will only minister darkness to your heart! Reverse what you feel like saying by saying - “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! I have the Anointing and I know all things! I have the mind of Christ! In Christ, I have everything I need! I am blessed, I am anointed, I am strong! Amen!” You see, the Bible doesn’t say, “Let the weak say, ‘Oh, I’m just so weak!’” No, it says, “Let the weak say, ‘I am strong!’” (see Joel 3:10)
THE KEY TO STAYING FULL
But I want you to notice that in Proverbs 18:20, it specifically refers to our stomach being filled by our words. Now, of course, this doesn’t mean that we physically are eating what we are saying. What it is saying, however, is that our words are one of the vital keys to experiencing God’s fullness in your belly where the Holy Spirit resides - like being fulfilled and even filled with the Holy Spirit.
Let’s look over at Ephesians chapter 4: Ephesians 4:29-31 says, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.”
Now the word “corrupt” in verse 29 describes words that are “rotten, decayed, bad, worthless, unfit for use, and of poor quality”- kind of like fruit that is rotten. It was actually used that way in Matthew 7:17-18, 12:33, & Luke 6:43. In Luke 6:43 Jesus used this Greek word sapros to describe the “bad” tree that produces “bad” fruit. But then He goes on to describe the fruit as being our words! He says at the end of verse 45, “For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” So we can learn from this passage of Scripture that “corrupt words” come out of the abundance of “corrupt hearts.”
But then Paul says, “but” which denotes, “Now, don’t just quit the corrupt talk, but start to speak healthy words because death is not the only power in the tongue; life is in it as well!” (Proverbs 18:21). Then he goes on to describe words that are both “good” and which produce “edification.” The word “edification” literally means “building up” or “developing.”
But Paul said that these edifying words are “for necessary edification.” The word “necessary” denotes “in respect to the need.” This means that our good and edifying words should be in conjunction to the need that is present. Sometimes we can speak words with the purpose of benefiting the person but they are spoken at the wrong time. When that happens we can be doing more harm than good. The key is being led by the prompting of the Holy Spirit and just using our head by thinking before we speak. Colossians 4:6 says that our words should be “seasoned with salt.” I believe this means that our words should be flavored in a way that would be most appealing to the taste of the hearers. For example, if I am ministering to a teenager it would be “necessary” for me to season my words with what they could relate to in order to reach them more affectively.
Then he goes on to say, “that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Our words are to impart grace to the hearers! Grace means unmerited favor or free blessings. Sometimes people try and edify another individual and they do it without grace. In other words, they are very insensitive and condemning. Our words should not be like that. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be with grace…” Our words should always be with an attitude of grace - that is, that they are considerate, sympathetic, and life-giving. Our words should be free, life-giving words.
We must understand that words are what our souls feed on. So when we let rotten and decaying words come out of our mouth in the presence of others we are feeding them bad food, but when we let wholesome and nutritious words come out of our mouth we are feeding them good and healthy food that will nourish and build them up. If the good words are words that build up and impart grace, then the corrupt words must be words that tear down and impart death.
Then, notice in verse 32, that he continues with the subject of corrupt words by telling us to put away all these wrong attitudes (that are most often manifested in our mouths) like “bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking.” So, is it a coincidence that “grieving the Holy Spirit” is sandwiched in between verses 29&31 - verses that speak of heart attitudes that are manifested in our words? I think not!
Church, the words we speak greatly determine how much of the Holy Spirit we are experientially full of. Yes, He is grieved and quenched when we speak words that are unbecoming. Therefore, our stomachs are filled by the produce of our lips! Someone will say, “Oh, I want more of you Holy Spirit! Fill me up!” And He says, “Fix that leak beneath your nose!” Amen!
Church, our words are indeed powerful! They can build up and they can tear down - both others and our own selves. Therefore, wisdom will love this power that is in the tongue - that is, it will respect it and utilize it the appropriate way.
So, let’s appropriate this wisdom pertaining to our words today and become wise in our words. Yes, as James said, our words have the power to start a fire and destroy things around us, but they also have the power to start the good kind of fire too! Let’s use our tongue wisely, church!
So, our series on wisdom began several weeks ago, and we have learned many important truths:
We began by looking at what the benefits of wisdom are, and we saw that with wisdom comes life, honor, riches, favor, promotion, long life, etc. Therefore, we saw that if all of these blessings come with wisdom then we all must still have a need for more wisdom in our lives.
Then, we began defining wisdom by both looking at what wisdom is and what wisdom is not. We saw that wisdom is the ability to judge correctly and to follow the best course of action, based on knowledge and understanding. In other words, it is the ability to use knowledge and understanding in order to think and act in such a way that common sense prevails and choices are beneficial and productive. So, we learned that a good definition of wisdom is being skilled and an expert in the arena of life.
So, we’ve spent the past couple of weeks looking at the over-arching principle of wisdom – that it is about living rightly, based on God’s perspective and His standards. It is love! It is faith! It is hope! Wisdom looks at things from His perspective and acts accordingly.
Therefore, we looked at the heart of wisdom, which is that wisdom always looks ahead. It lives for its “retirement” in eternity and does not spend all of its time, energy and resources on today. This is called living for spiritual and eternal “investments” as opposed to living in spiritual, eternal “debt.”
Now we are going to get into many of the different practical things of this life, but it would be irresponsible of me to not spend some time on the spiritual, eternal things - for this is the epitome of wisdom. So, last week, we looked at something that you will find threaded throughout the Book of Wisdom (i.e. Proverbs) – the subject of foolishness.
You know, if you have become more familiar with the Book of Proverbs recently, you will see that the Holy Spirit likes to differentiate between the wise person and the fool. In other words, a fool is the exact opposite of a wise person according to the Scriptures.
And without going into a lot of detail of how a fool is described in the Bible, if there was one way to summarize foolishness according to Solomon is would be that a fool SINS. That’s right! The most foolish thing one could do according to the Bible is SIN! My friends, sin is stupid! Yes, sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and pay you what you definitely don’t want to be paid. You will live bankrupt of the life of God!
So, this is what we looked at last week, and we delved into several Scriptures in the Book of Proverbs that describe the “harlot” or the “seductress.” But we saw that even though the specific reference to sexual sin is used, the Holy Spirit was giving us the ways that sin in general tempts everyone.
We looked at James chapter one and saw how the same analogy is used in the New Testament to describe the process of temptation. We learned from these verses that temptation does not occur because “the devil made me do it.” No, temptation only occurs as we have a “desire” for that wrong thing. In other words, if we did not have the desire within us, then there would be no chance for us being tempted. But we also learned that just because we are tempted, does not mean that we have sinned. No, we only sin when the desire conceives in our heart.
So, we learned how to use spiritual “birth control” and take those thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. But we also learned that the best form of birth control is “abstinence”- that is, steering clear of what would cause one to even have the chance of conceiving sin. We looked at several examples of this in the Scriptures: namely, David & Bathsheba and righteous Lot. We saw how not being in the wrong place at the wrong time and not playing around the mud puddle is what will keep us in the place of holiness.
So, this week, I want us to move on into a subject regarding wisdom that is very near and dear to my heart - for we all have the tendency to “magnify our ministry.”
OUR FIRST OPPORTUNITY FOR WISDOM
I want you to first notice that after Solomon begins his Book of Proverbs by explaining the book’s intent (see verses 1-6), he says in verse 7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
So, do you see the one of the primary characteristics of a foolish person is that they “despise wisdom and instruction.” In others words, they are foolish and remain foolish because they do not esteem wisdom nor do they appreciate instruction.
Notice we see back in verse 5 that a wise person hears, increases learning and attains wise counsel, but a fool despises this wisdom and instruction. Being a teacher, I’ve seen this far too often. While they will not necessarily say it, so many people feel like they don’t need to be taught and that it’s time to move on from sound biblical teaching. Church, that is foolishness. No, wisdom is always a student. Never does true, unadulterated wisdom stop learning. The moment it does, it has begun its journey towards being a fool. That is the simple truth!
And do you know when this despising of wisdom and instruction usually starts? Just look down at the next two verses and you will get your answer:
Proverbs 1:8-9 say, “My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother. For they will be a graceful ornament on your head, and chains about your neck.”
I want you to notice that one of the first things that Solomon exhorts us with in Proverbs is for the children to listen to their parents. And why do you suppose that this is at the beginning of the Book of Wisdom? It is because this is generally the first opportunity that we have to acquire wisdom - from our parents at a young age. Now I know that some of our experiences might be different, but the bottom line is that this should be every child’s first opportunity to get wisdom - from parents who train their children well, both loving and disciplining them.
But what do most sons and daughter who were exposed to parents who desired to instruct their children do? They reject it! They think, “Aw, pops don’t know what he’s talking about!”- and they go ahead and do what they want.
How many of us did this with our parents? And how many of us wish we would have listened to some of that counsel they gave us?
Well, if you did not have parents who imparted wisdom into you, or are a part of the majority of us who did not heed the wisdom of our parents when we were younger, I have good news for you today: You have a Heavenly Father who is crying out to you like Solomon obviously was to his children here, and He desires for you to listen to His words, counsel and instruction!
So, let’s go back over to our golden text in Proverbs 4:5-9 and I want you to notice one statement that Solomon made in these verses. Again, he said, “Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore, get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; She will bring you honor when you embrace her. She will place on your head an ornament of grace; A crown of glory she will deliver to you.”
Notice that he said after he told us to “Get wisdom!” and “Get understanding” to specifically “…not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.” So, this shows us one of the ways in which we “get wisdom” - by not forgetting what wisdom has said to us and not turning away from the words of her mouth.
Now as we’ve already made the point of - one can read this literally as Solomon exhorting his children to not forget the instructions he has given to them and for them not to turn away from His instructions. But it can also be the inspired words of our Heavenly Father exhorting us not to forget nor turn away from the Words He has spoken to us.
So, like I told you last week, don’t read the portions of Proverbs that begin with “My Son…” as just Solomon’s words to his kids; Since all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, read these passages of Scripture as they are in truth, God speaking to you, His child, pleading with you to listen to Him.
So, let’s look at these Scriptures today and see what our Heavenly Father is saying to us in this Book of Wisdom. First of all, let’s back up to the beginning of this chapter and see one of these exhortations:
Proverbs 4:1-4 says, Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding; For I give you good doctrine: Do not forsake my law. When I was my father’s son, tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, He also taught me, and said to me: ‘Let your heart retain my words; Keep my commands, and live.’”
You see, this describes the process of wisdom - to pass on what you have learned. This is God’s best! For one generation to teach another generation, and every time we do this, we are always increasing - line upon line, precept upon precept.
For example, did you know that today we are benefiting from some great teaching that has been imparted to us over the past Century? Yes, revelation has been coming fast in the Church and now we are blessed to have heard so many wonderful truths from God’s Word! Thank God for the teaching we have received in the Body of Christ!
Let’s look down at another section of Scriptures here in Proverbs chapter 4: Proverbs 4:10-13 says, “Hear, my son, and receive my sayings, and the years of your life will be many. I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, and when you run, you will not stumble. Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; Keep her, for she is your life.”
Isn’t it interesting that the first commandment with promise is to honor your father and mother that it might be well with you and you will live long on the earth? Well, how does one honor his or her father and mother? It begins with heeding their instructions.
Well, here we see the same promises given to those who honor the Words of their parents - “and the years of your life will be many.” This is where life is, and this is where it is good with us! And I can guarantee you that this also applies to our Heavenly Father’s words and sayings too!
On down in Proverbs chapter 4, we have another more familiar passage: Proverbs 4:20-23 says, “My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”
Here, we see the prescribed formula for receiving the words of the wise - by giving attention to them (refusing to be distracted), inclining our ear to hear them (being intently focused on what is being said), not letting them depart from our eyes (continuing to focus on them), and keeping them in the middle of our heart (valuing them). When we follow these directions for “taking” God’s Word, it’s acts as medicine in our lives and makes us full of life and health. Amen!
Now let’s skip back to Proverbs chapter 2 and look another powerful passage in Proverbs: Proverbs 2:1-6 says, “My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding…”
These verses show us how we receive this wisdom from the Father: it is by truly cherishing and valuing His words and commands.
In Proverbs chapter 3, Solomon gives us even more benefits to receiving His words of wisdom: Proverbs 3:1-4 says, “My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands; For length of days and long life and peace they will add to you. Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.”
On an interesting side note - we see even the Master Himself heeding the promises contained in these verses: Again, they encourage us not to forget His law but let our heart keep His commandments so that (for one) we can “find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.” Well, if you look at Luke 2:41-51, you will see how the Lord Jesus, when He was a boy, lingered behind in Jerusalem. What was He doing? He was in the midst of the teachers in the Temple both “listening to them and asking them questions.”
Isn’t that amazing that the Word Himself was not teaching them Himself, but was listening and asking questions? But as you are learning today, this is how wisdom comes, amen?
But notice what Luke 2:52 immediately says on the heels of Jesus’ humble desire to learn His Father’s law and commandments. It says, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” So, He increased in wisdom, right? But notice what else He increased in: in favor with God and man. Sounds a lot like Proverbs 3:4, doesn’t it?
So, my question then is this: if the Lord needed to listen and ask questions, if the Lord desired the Words of His Father like this, if the Lord needs to increase in wisdom, what makes you and I feel like we don’t need to? Amen?
On another side note, obeying what you agree with is not submitting - that is called doing. Submitting is obeying when you DON’T agree with what is being taught or said - choosing to do it even when you don’t agree with it or don’t like it.
Moving on in Proverbs: Proverbs 6:20-23 says, “My son, keep your father’s command, and do not forsake the law of your mother. Bind them continually upon your heart; Tie them around your neck. When you roam, they will lead you; When you sleep, they will keep you; And when you awake, they will speak with you. For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; Reproofs of instruction are the way of life…”
Proverbs 7:1-5 says, “My son, keep my words, and treasure my commands within you. Keep my commands and live, and my law as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; Write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” And call understanding your nearest kin, that they may keep you from the immoral woman, from the seductress who flatters with her words.”
Notice in this passage that keeping God’s words and His law as the apple of your eye is what will keep you from the seductress of sin. The Scriptures actually teach us that about themselves. Psalm 119:11 says, “Your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
Here are a few more passages in Proverbs that talk about the importance of God’s Word in our lives:
Proverbs 13:13-14 says, “He who despises the word will be destroyed, but he who fears the commandment will be rewarded. The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.”
Proverbs 16:20 says, “He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he.”
Proverbs 22:17-21 says, “Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise and apply your heart to my knowledge; For it is a pleasant thing if you keep them within you; Let them all be fixed upon your lips, so that your trust may be in the Lord; I have instructed you today, even you. Have I not written to you excellent things of counsels and knowledge, that I may make you know the certainty of the words of truth, that you may answer words of truth to those who send to you?”
But oh how so many of God’s children fail to do this. They forget the Word of God and move on to the deeper, “spiritual” things. Yes, they turn away from His Word and put their attention on natural, carnal things that appeal to the senses. Saints, this is foolish! The truth is, there is no wise person who is not a Word person!
WHAT MAKES ONE WISE
In 2 Timothy chapter 3, we have an important section of Scriptures that teach us the importance of God’s Word in our lives:
2 Timothy 3:13-17 says, “But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
First of all, notice that the Apostle Paul states that evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. Now Paul had just made the point in the beginning of this chapter that in the last days perilous times will come and then he goes on to describe the characteristics of these last of the last days (2 Timothy 3:1-9).
So, what keeps us from these deceptive and evil times and these deceptive and evil people? Notice verse 14: “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of…” Sounds a lot like that phrase we just looked at in Proverbs 4:5, doesn’t it?
Then he goes on to say in verse 14: “…knowing from whom you have learned them.” Well, this is likely a reference to Paul himself as he described in verses 10-11 how Timothy had carefully followed his doctrine, manner of life, etc. Did you know that this is not just applicable to Timothy? We too can “carefully follow the Apostle Paul’s doctrine too! How? By esteeming the truths contained in his epistles! Amen!
But Paul goes on to say in verse 15: “and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures…” You see, Timothy was also raised well. He was at least a 3rd generation believer in that both His grandmother and mother had strong faith (see 2 Timothy 1:5). So not only did Timothy have the good instruction given to him by his parents, but his father in the faith imparted even more wisdom into his life.
But again, do not despair if you didn’t have the spiritual guidance of your parents or if you have not had a spiritual mentor; you have the WORD of your Heavenly Father, and that is more than enough to make you WISE!
Notice what Paul said in verse 15: “and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” So, what makes you and I wise? It’s the Holy Scriptures! You see, it is the Word that imparts God’s wisdom to us, and this is how we get wisdom - through the Holy Scriptures!
THE PROFIT OF THE SCRIPTURES
Notice that Paul then goes on to give us the many wonderful benefits of the Word of God: He says in verse 16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…”
First of all, notice that these benefits come from “all Scripture”- not just the portions of Scripture that you like the best or the Books of the Bible that you think are the most beneficial. No, all Scripture is profitable and necessary for us to be completely wise.
For example, there are those who think that the Pauline Epistles (i.e. the letters Paul wrote) are really all that is profitable. Well, there are certainly things that the Apostle Paul wrote that you will not find elsewhere in Scripture and it is vital that we glean from His wisdom. However, if that is all of the Scriptures that you feed on, you will be malnourished spiritually.
Deuteronomy 8:3 said, as Jesus quoted in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Therefore, in order for us to truly “live” in sound wisdom, we must feed on every word that has come out of God’s mouth. Amen?
You see, we need all 66 books of the Bible in order to truly be wise in every area of life. Now there are some Books that I haven’t discovered the true purpose of yet, just like I haven’t discovered the purpose of some foods available to us, but that doesn’t mean there is not some profit that comes from them. Wisdom will acknowledge that.
But Paul said that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is “profitable” for four things: “doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness.”
Now “doctrine” is not necessarily a bad thing. It just simply means “teaching” or you could say “instruction.” So, God’s Word is profitable for teaching and instruction. What a novel idea! To actually use God’s Word when one teaches and instructs others. Sadly, this is not practiced from many pulpits, but it should be. We should “preach the Word” (see 2 Timothy 4:2).
Next, God’s Word is profitable for “reproof.” While the translators used this word that describes being rebuked or corrected, this word literally describes “proof or evidence.” Did you know God’s Word is to be the only evidence you need? Many err in seeking after signs instead of simply taking God at His Word. Wisdom does not do that. Wisdom believes God and takes His Word at face value. It doesn’t need to see signs and wonders or to have any other emotional stimulation; God’s Word is all the evidence wisdom needs!
Paul goes on to say that God’s Word is profitable for “correction and instruction in righteousness.” This word “correction” describes being restored to an upright, correct or right state. In other words, God’s Word will set you straight again. It will also instruct you in the ways of righteousness. In other words, it will teach you what is right and how to stay on the right path. What wonderful benefits of God’s Word - to offer us correction, to set us straight, and to instruct us in what is right.
Now many do not embrace correction and instruction. We will receive God’s Word alright - at least the parts of it that don’t mess with our lives too much and don’t mess with our little pet doctrines. But saints, one of the most important parts of acquiring wisdom is learning to receive correction and instruction. In fact, there are a lot of Scriptures in the Book of Proverbs that talk about the importance of receiving correction and how this is what a wise person does. Let’s look at a few of them:
Proverbs 12:1 says, “Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” Now you don’t get any more in your face than that, do you? So, if we do not love instruction and correction, then we do not love knowledge and we are stupid.
Proverbs 13:1 says, “A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.” So, if we are a wise son or daughter of God, what will we do? We will listen to our Heavenly Father’s instruction. And if we do not listen to “rebuke” then we are what the Bible calls a “scoffer.”
Proverbs 15:5 says something similar: It says, “A fool despises his father’s instruction, but he who receives correction is prudent.” To “despise” something doesn’t necessarily mean that we hate something outwardly. It can simply mean that we don’t value or esteem it. Church, we need to esteem our Heavenly Father’s instruction and readily receive correction. It shows we are wise, because true wisdom knows how much more it has to learn.
Proverbs 19:27 says, “Cease listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.” However, if we stop listening to instruction, we will stray from the words of knowledge, and by default, will turn to other things that are “foolish.”
So, yes, there are many references to receiving correction and instruction in Proverbs. Others are: 13:19, 15:10, 15:12, 15:31-32, 21:11, & 22:15.
HOW TO BE THOROUGHLY WISE
But the bottom line is that God’s Word is what offers us all of these opportunities to become wise. And we are “fooling” ourselves if we think that we are going to be a mature, complete and fully equipped Christian without it. In fact, this is exactly what the Apostle Paul went on to say in 2 Timothy 3:17. He said, “that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
The word “complete” describes something or someone who has come to perfection or you could say maturity. So, how is a child of God going to grow up and become mature? Not apart from the Word of God, we won’t. The Holy Scriptures alone can make us mature.
Not only that, but the Word of God is what will thoroughly equip us for every good work. So, if we want to be completely equipped, totally prepared and thoroughly armed for every good work the Lord has called us to do, then we need God’s Word.
So, saints, I hope you can now see just how important the Bible is to our lives! Without the truth of God’s Word, we cannot be made free. Without the way of God’s Word, we will stray from the way of righteousness. Without the life of God’s Word, we will never reach our full potential. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and Jesus is the Word. Apart from Him and it, we can do nothing. This is the voice of wisdom. Amen.
So, we started our series on wisdom a few weeks back, and we have learned some good, foundational things:
We began by looking at what the benefits of wisdom are, and we saw that with wisdom comes life, honor, riches, favor, promotion, long life, etc. Therefore, we saw that if all of these blessings come with wisdom then we all must still have a need for more wisdom in our lives.
Then, we began defining wisdom by both looking at what wisdom is and what wisdom is not. We saw that wisdom is the ability to judge correctly and to follow the best course of action, based on knowledge and understanding. In other words, it is the ability to use knowledge and understanding in order to think and act in such a way that common sense prevails and choices are beneficial and productive. So, we learned that a good definition of wisdom is being skilled and an expert in the arena of life.
So, we’ve spent the past couple of weeks looking at the over-arching principle of wisdom - that it is about living rightly, based on God’s perspective and His standards. It is love! It is faith! It is hope! Wisdom looks at things from His perspective and acts accordingly.
Therefore, we looked at the heart of wisdom last week, which is this: wisdom always looks ahead. It lives for its “retirement” in eternity and does not spend all of its time, energy and resources on today. This is called living for spiritual and eternal “investments” as opposed to living in spiritual, eternal “debt.”
Now we are going to get into many of the different practical things of this life, but it would be irresponsible of me to not spend some time on the spiritual, eternal things - for this is the epitome of wisdom.
THE FOOLISHNESS OF SIN
So, this week, I would like for us to look at something that you will find threaded throughout the Book of Wisdom (i.e. Proverbs) – the subject of foolishness.
You know, if you have become more familiar with the Book of Proverbs recently, you will see that the Holy Spirit likes to differentiate between the wise person and the fool. In other words, a fool is the exact opposite of a wise person according to the Scriptures.
And without going into a lot of detail of how a fool is described in the Bible, if there was one way to summarize foolishness according to Solomon is would be that a fool SINS. That’s right! The most foolish thing one could do according to the Bible is SIN! My friends, sin is stupid!
Indulging in sin is one of the most stupid things one could do! How can I say this so pointedly? It is because the wages of sin is death (see Romans 6:23). It takes the life of its owners. Yes, sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and pay you what you definitely don’t want to be paid. You will live bankrupt of the life of God!
Now, yes, the Lord has paid the price for us to be free from sin. Yes, He is a loving and forgiving God. And, yes, thank God, we do not get what we deserve! But that does not mean that we persist to live sinful lifestyles. I mean, why would we continue to live in the thing that cost Jesus so much? I like to say it this way: for a Christian to willingly continue in sin would be like us proudly displaying the weapon on our mantle that a serial killer used to murder someone we loved! Now that is foolish, amen?
So, no, even though God’s grace has made provision for the sin problem, that doesn’t mean we should not abhor it! In fact, God’s grace has not only freed us from the penalty of sin, it has also freed us from the dominion of sin. So, we don’t have to live in it, any longer! We are freed from sin - past, present and future!
But the fact is, sin is still very enticing, and even the best of us have succumbed to its allurement from time to time. There is a reason it is characterized by “temptation.”
WISDOM FOR TEMPTATION
So, let’s look over at the Book of Proverbs and see how we have several sections of this Book of Wisdom that are devoted to this “seductress” called sin.
Now in these passages, you will see a certain reoccurring analogy - a seductress and a foolish boy.
However, even though we will see the sin of adultery and fornication often being used in these passages of Scripture, this is simply the common analogy that the Bible uses to describe the temptation to sin in general. So, don’t just read these literally; read them as symbolic of how any sin seduces man. Amen?
Now this needs to be said as well, but when we talk about “sin,” please understand that we are not just talking about that category of sins that most people think are the “big sins.” Sin can certainly be the analogy that is commonly being used here in these Scriptures we have just looked at like sexual sins, but it can also be the temptation to fear or worry, to gossip and slander, to be offended and unforgiving. Sin is sin, saints! And there is no such thing as different degrees of sin.
Let’s first look at Proverbs 1:10-19: In it, Solomon says, “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait to shed blood; let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause; let us swallow them alive like Sheol, and whole, like those who go down to the Pit; we shall find all kinds of precious possessions, we shall fill our houses with spoil; cast in your lot among us, let us all have one purse”- My son, do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path; for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. Notice in these verses that we see the power of “peer-pressure” when it comes to temptation and sin. Church, this is one avenue the enemy loves to use to sway us away from the path God has for us - through the pressures of other people. He will use every trick in the book to pressure you into making poor choices. Don’t do it! Slow down! Don’t act hastily. Consider the ramifications of what you’re being tempted to do. Think it through. Surely, in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird; but they lie in wait for their own blood, they lurk secretly for their own lives. So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; It takes away the life of its owners.” Again, know that yielding to the temptation to live selfishly and to run rough-shod over others only takes your life away. You will be empty. You will not have peace. Joy only comes when you live like so: Jesus, Others and then yourself.
Proverbs 2:10-22 says, “When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you, to deliver you from the way of evil from the man who speaks perverse things, from those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness; who rejoice in doing evil, and delight in the perversity of the wicked; whose ways are crooked, and who are devious in their paths; to deliver you from the immoral woman, from the seductress who flatters with her words… Notice that sin likes to flatter - feeding the pride that is in us. “You deserve better,” she says. “This is your right. You’ve worked hard and they shouldn’t take advantage of you like that.” I’m reminded of how Satan tried to use Peter to tempt Jesus to think of Himself when the Cross was coming. He said, “Be it far from you Lord. This shall not be.” (Matthew 16:22) What Satan was trying to do here is get Jesus to start considering Himself. But He, being aware of it, immediately responded with - Get behind me, Satan!...” And these “flattering words” will not always come out of people’s mouths. Sometimes those words will come in our heads. So, we have to be sober and vigilant to know when these words are temptations.), who forsakes the companion of her youth, and forgets the covenant of her God. For her house leads down to death, and her paths to the dead; none who go to her return, nor do they regain the paths of life- Oh, how this has happened to so many! They have yielded to the temptations and have forfeited the grace and anointing. Sure, the gifts and callings of God are without repentance. Therefore, we can regain the path of life if we truly repent, but the fact is, most never recover from their mistakes. Don’t be one of these. Stay on the path of life by never overstepping your conscience. So you may walk in the way of goodness and keep to the paths of righteousness. For the upright will dwell in the land, and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the earth, and the unfaithful will be uprooted from it.”
Proverbs 5:1-20 says, “My son, pay attention to my wisdom; lend your ear to my understanding, that you may preserve discretion, and your lips may keep knowledge. For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, Her steps lay hold of hell. Lest you ponder her path of life-- Her ways are unstable; you do not know them. The Bible speaks of “the passing pleasures of sin” (i.e. that sin has pleasure for a season). Always know that it might be fun today but notice how you will feel tomorrow. Therefore hear me now, my children, And do not depart from the words of my mouth. Remove your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others, and your years to the cruel one; lest aliens be filled with your wealth, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner; and you mourn at last, when your flesh and your body are consumed, and say: "How I have hated instruction, And my heart despised correction! I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined my ear to those who instructed me! I was on the verge of total ruin, In the midst of the assembly and congregation." Drink water from your own cistern, and running water from your own well. Should your fountains be dispersed abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be only your own, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love. For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman, and be embraced in the arms of a seductress?”
Proverbs 6:24-29 says, “… To keep you from the evil woman, from the flattering tongue of a seductress. Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, nor let her allure you with her eyelids. For by means of a harlot a man is reduced to a crust of bread; and an adulteress will prey upon his precious life. Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared? This is a word of wisdom to those who think, “Oh, I’ll be alright” or “Oh, it won’t hurt to just have a little.” The truth I,- playing around the mud puddle will get you dirty and getting too close to the fire will burn you. So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; whoever touches her shall not be innocent.”
Proverbs 7:6-27 says, “For at the window of my house I looked through my lattice, and saw among the simple, I perceived among the youths, a young man devoid of understanding, passing along the street near her corner; and he took the path to her house in the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night. And there a woman met him, with the attire of a harlot, and a crafty heart. She was loud and rebellious, her feet would not stay at home. At times she was outside, at times in the open square, lurking at every corner. So she caught him and kissed him; with an impudent face she said to him: “I have peace offerings with me; today I have paid my vows. So I came out to meet you, diligently to seek your face, and I have found you. I have spread my bed with tapestry, colored coverings of Egyptian linen. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love until morning; let us delight ourselves with love. For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he has taken a bag of money with him, and will come home on the appointed day.” With her enticing speech she caused him to yield, with her flattering lips she seduced him. Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks, till an arrow struck his liver. As a bird hastens to the snare, he did not know it would cost his life. Now therefore, listen to me, my children; pay attention to the words of my mouth: Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, do not stray into her paths; for she has cast down many wounded, and all who were slain by her were strong men. Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death.”
And finally, Proverbs 9:13-18 says, “A foolish woman is clamorous; she is simple and knows nothing. For she sits at the door of her house, on a seat by the highest places of the city, to call to those who pass by, who go straight on their way: “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here”; and as for him who lacks understanding, she says to him, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of hell.”
Now that is lot of Scripture that is devoted to the subject of sin and temptation, is it not!?! And again, when you see so many references to the same subject, you do well to take heed to it – particularly when it is repeated so many times in the Book of Wisdom itself. That teaches us that a big part of walking in wisdom is walking, with our eyes open, cognizant of this seductress called sin.
WHEN IS EACH ONE TEMPTED?
Let’s look at a New Testament passage of Scripture that describes this same process:
James 1:14-15- “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”
Now we know that satan is the one doing the tempting and enticing. Of this, we have no doubt. But does this mean that satan is the source of temptation? No, he is not!
You know, we like to say things like, “The devil made me do it!” Have you ever heard that? Well, the devil can’t make you do anything. The truth is - you and I choose to take the bait that he sends our way.
Friends, in regard to temptation, we have adopted a lot of the same mentality that the world has - I call it “no fault religion.” What do I mean by this? I mean that just as modern-day psychology teaches - we are a product of our environment - the church has a similar philosophy that does not take responsibility for anything. They say it is either God doing everything - sovereignly causing every circumstance and situation in our lives to work His will - or they say it is the devil - doing whatever he wants - and therefore they are blaming him for everything.
Friends, there is so much wrong with that philosophy. No, we live broken down, defeated lives because we choose to! Now, of course, that does not mean that we wish bad things will happen to us, but we choose how we let these bad things affect us and dictate our lives. No, contrary to popular opinion, you are not a product of your circumstances, situations, or environment; you are a product of how you choose to respond to these things. We choose whether we are going to be “bitter” or “better.”
So, no, the devil is not the source of all temptation. Even though the devil is called “the tempter,” this passage here in James chapter 1 teaches us that it is not really him that causes us to be tempted.
Notice that James says that each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires. So, what can we conclude from this? It is that while satan is the tempter; he is not the source of the temptation; we are! What do I mean by that? Just look at this Scripture - it says that we are only drawn away because of our own desires. In other words, if we did not desire it in the first place, it would not be a temptation to us. For instance, I am not tempted to eat too much chocolate because chocolate is not a big temptation for me. Now it is for others, and that would make them easier to be enticed. And it works this way for all of us. Some of us are tempted with certain things and others are tempted with other things. It is all based on our own desires.
And these desires of the heart and flesh are the root cause of every temptation. Temptation for what? To be “drawn away.” So, a good question here would be: Drawn away from what? Drawn away from the ways of the kingdom. Romans 14:17 says that the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. So, to be drawn away from the kingdom of God would be to be drawn away from righteousness, peace, and joy. So, when we are tempted to practice unrighteousness - which could be any moral failure, etc. - we are being drawn away from the kingdom. When we are tempted to lose our peace, we are being drawn away from the kingdom. When we are tempted to lose our joy, we are being drawn away from the kingdom.
TEMPTATION IS NOT SIN
Then notice what happens next in this process that James describes: “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin…”
There is an extremely important lesson we can learn through this statement, and it is this - Temptation is not sin. Why do I say this? Consider that many Christians have a thought pass through our mind that is impure and then they let the enemy plague them with the accusation that either they have sinned by that thought or something is wrong with them because they had that thought.
Let me tell you something: Just because you are tempted by wrong desires and unholy thoughts that pass through your mind does not mean you have sinned. It has been well said that you cannot keep a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from building a nest there. And that nest is what James was referring to here when he said, “when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin.”
Notice the terminology James is using here - referring to conception and then to giving birth. What James is doing here is likening the process that sin takes in our lives to the process of the conception and birth of human life. In other words, the way that life is formed within a woman and then how she gives birth to that baby is how sin begins in our lives.
Notice, first of all, that James refers to those desires conceiving within us. This is a reference to our own desires that he just mentioned.
You see, the issue is not that we have these desires for wrong things that would draw us away from the Lord and His kingdom. The issue is when we allow those desires of the flesh to “conceive” in our heart.
This is why the Scriptures teach about the importance of guarding our heart with all diligence. It is because out of the heart flow the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23). In other words, the heart is the well-spring of life and our life is a product of what we have treasured up in our heart. Therefore, what we allow to conceive in our heart is the direction our life will try to go.
Just as it is with the conception of life in the natural, sin is given birth to in the same way. The lusts of our flesh must be conceived in our heart. This happens as we think on those lusts - constantly pondering, considering, and visualizing those things in our minds. If you mull those things over in your mind enough, it will conceive in your heart. And that is when the acting on those lusts becomes very likely. This is why James says that when those desires have conceived, they give birth to sin. That is the manifestation of those sins of the heart. This is why Jesus taught during the Sermon on the Mount that to lust in your heart is equal to following through with the lust. It is because the conception almost assures the action.
SPIRITUAL BIRTH CONTROL
Well, let us consider this illustration further: If giving birth to sin is a similar process to giving birth in the natural, then couldn’t we learn from how we prevent having babies in the natural? We sure can! Let’s look at it:
First of all, what do the majority of people do to avoid conceiving children? They use birth control. Well, how would this apply to the conception of sin in our hearts? There are certain things that we can practice to keep those temptations that come into our minds from conceiving in our hearts. For example, 2 Corinthians chapter 10 teaches us to cast down imaginations and to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. So, when we have those haughty thoughts come into our head we must use the “weapons of our warfare”, namely the Word of God, to bring our thoughts back in line with God’s thoughts. For example, if you have a subtle temptation to pass through your mind then you need to immediately speak to that thought (out of your mouth) what God’s Word says concerning that situation.
You see, the phrase “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” describes how we cast down these imaginations, arguments, etc. It describes us putting a spear in the back of these renegade thoughts and leading them into a place of control to our will and His Word. The decision that we make to “pull down strongholds” and “cast down imaginations” must be made with aggressive authority. We must understand that we are the possessor of our minds and, therefore, are the authority over all thoughts that enter it. So, when unwanted thoughts enter we are to exert that authority over them aggressively. Therefore, the primary way we keep sin from conceiving within us is by speaking the Word of God.
You know, we can’t do any better than the Master who, when He was tempted in the wilderness, simply spoke the Word saying, “It is written, It is written, It is written…” This is what resists the devil, and this is what resists the temptation and causes it to flee from you!
But let me ask you this: What is the best form of birth control? Abstinence! Simply not having the relations is a 100% guaranteed way of not conceiving, right? Well, what if we practiced “spiritual abstinence”?
Did you know that the Bible does not really emphasize overcoming temptations? It doesn’t! What the Bible actually teaches us is to not even enter into temptations (see Matthew 26:14)! For example, in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:13), Jesus taught us to pray that we would not enter into temptation. What Jesus is describing here is not even putting ourselves in the position to conceive sin in our hearts, or you could say, “abstinence.” What a radical concept!
Did you know that there are many believers who commit abortion every day? Now I am obviously not talking about physical abortion; I am talking about spiritual abortion. What I mean is that they live their life having intimacy with the ungodliness on television, the internet, etc., and then - when they are confronted with a temptation - they have to “white knuckle it” to keep themselves from giving in to that desire. Of course, there are certain temptations that are unavoidable because we live in an ungodly society, but the truth is that there are many temptations that can simply be avoided by living holy lifestyles. And what I mean by “holy lifestyles” is living separate from the ways of the world.
It is sad to say, but you could not tell most professing Christians from “Joe-blow sinner” down the road. In other words, if they did not tell you that they were a Christian, you likely would never presume that they are. And then these same Christians do not understand why they struggle with a lust for sin in their hearts.
Saints, that is really no different than the female who goes around being intimate with boys, keeps getting pregnant, and then has to keep getting abortions to keep from having a bunch of babies. How would you admonish that girl who continuously slept around and kept getting pregnant? Of course, you would tell her to stop sleeping around, wouldn’t you? Well, that is exactly what the Bible teaches us about temptations: quit being intimate with the temptation! Or, as we would say in the natural, quit putting yourself in the position to get pregnant!
The Apostle Peter makes my point best when he says, “…Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” (1 Peter 2:11) You see, the best form of birth control from those fleshly lusts is spiritual abstinence - that is, keeping away from the ungodliness that you do not want to conceive in your heart.
Do you remember what the Bible says about Lot regarding his time in Sodom & Gomorrah - how it says that when he departed from his uncle Abram that he “pitched his tent towards Sodom” (see Genesis 13:12)? Well, 2 Peter 2:7-8 teaches us that this vexed righteous Lot’s soul by hearing and seeing their lawless deeds. So, do you see 1 Peter 2:11 being fulfilled in Lot’s life? Because he didn’t “abstain” from Sodom, the sin warred against his soul.
I believe Romans 13:14 gives us a great example of how we avoid temptation: In this verse, the Apostle Paul gives a wonderful cure for the lusts of the flesh and of the eyes when he says, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts.”
The word “provision” here comes from the Greek word pronoia - the word pro meaning “before” and the word noeo describing the mind, our thoughts, etc. So, when you combine these words together, you get the word pronoia which means “premeditate or forethought.” But actually, the Greek sentence structure is somewhat different: This word for “provision”, pronoia, comes before the word “make.” Now what is interesting about this is the word “make” comes from the Greek word poeio and means to create or produce something. It is where we get our words “poet, poem, or poetry” from. So, with the sentence structure here, it should read - “premeditation produces into lusts.” In other words, to give forethought to the things of the flesh will create the lusts for the things of the flesh. So, what can we learn from this? Our thinking will result in what we desire. This is why my father in the faith likes to say that you cannot be tempted by what you don’t think on.
Let’s look at Hebrews 11:15: It says, “And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.” This is such a powerful verse! It is telling us that if those like Abraham would have recalled in their thinking the country that they came from, they would have had a chance of going back - indicating that because they never let their mind go there, they did not have the opportunity of going there in person. Wow!
Saints, you cannot physically go somewhere you did not mentally go first. Likewise, you cannot physically do something that you have not thought on first. I don’t know if you understand just how powerful that is! That means that all temptation is tied to thought!
You see, our thinking is what generates our feelings. This is why in Romans chapter 8 (the solution to Romans chapter 7), Paul exhorts us not to be carnally minded, but to be spiritually minded. For to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Yes, you become what you behold. Where the mind goes, the man will follow. Therefore, your thought life is super important towards living the God kind of life.
HOW TO NOT ENTER INTO TEMPTATION
And back to Romans 13:14, what did the verse begin with? It exhorted us to first “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ. The questions that should be raised then are: What does it mean to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and How do we put Him on?
Well, in short, to put on Christ and all of His virtues means to exemplify and act like who you already are and what you already have been given. The words “put on” actually mean to wear or be dressed in clothing. So, it means to wear the clothes that you already possess by acting like who we already are.
But as we have been saying, what determines those actions? What dictates our behavior? We choose what we “put on” by choosing our attitude and mindset! Therefore, we put on Christ by choosing to think and focus on the things of Christ! Glory!
But I think it is of extreme significance that Paul first said that we are to put on Christ before he said to not make provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts. Why? Because it is not just about trying to quit thinking on the wrong thing. The best way to overcome wrong thinking is by exchanging our thoughts for God’s thoughts - letting the light drive out the darkness. I am a strong proponent that the best way to get rid of darkness is by letting light in - not trying to shovel out darkness.
We can do this by claiming and walking in the armor of God and all of the “I am” promises in His Word. Galatians 5: 16 says, “Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” (It really says you will ABSOLUTELY not fulfill the lust of the flesh) The key is relationship with God, in communion with the Holy Spirit. We need to cultivate our desires to look on Christ rather than the things of the world. In Romans chapters 1 thru 7 the Holy Spirit is only mentioned a few times; in Romans 8, He is mentioned over a dozen times. This is the chapter where Paul definitively shows that the Christian life is to be lived in the Spirit. Seek the Lord, seek fellowship with the Holy Spirit. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Focus on the Lord and build up your inner man so that it is stronger than the flesh by praying in the Spirit!
We see this in the original temptation of man in the Garden of Eden:
Let me ask you a question: What would have been the cure for this whole temptation in the Garden? Well, the problem was that they were even over there considering the tree in the first place. Where should they have been? How about walking with the Lord? It says right after they partook of the fruit of the tree that the Lord was walking through the Garden, ready for His time to walk with them in the cool of the day.
You see, the best way to avoid temptation altogether is to not hang out too close to the line. In other words, we shouldn’t spend our time looking at and feeding ourselves on the things that will fuel those desires. If we would just walk with God - that is, enjoy our personal relationship with Him and spend our day in constant communication with Him - we would not leave a lot of room for temptation.
This is why I whole-heartedly believe that one of the benefits of seeking first the kingdom of God and putting our hand to the plow doing God’s will is that we will keep ourselves from falling into most temptations.
Case in point- King David… Do you remember the account with Bathsheba where David went out on the roof of his house and saw her, which caused a terrible series of circumstances in his life? Well, it is important to notice in 2 Samuel 11:1-2 the details of this situation that led to his demise.
Notice, first of all, in verse 1 how we are told that it happened during the spring of the year, at the time when the kings go out to battle, that David stayed in Jerusalem. Now who was the king of Israel? David! So why was he not out at the battle like the rest of the kings? Well, I think we get a clue in verse 2:
Notice how verse 2 says that David arose from his bed one “evening”… Now while naps are sometimes necessary, I think we have a picture painted here of why David fell like he did... You see, he was not where he should have been.
I have seen countless times where people are tempted to not go to a meeting, whether it be at church or Bible study, and they come anyway and it was exactly what they needed. God had an answer for them at that specific time and place. Well, don’t you think the devil knows these times and places of provision? So, don’t you think he might tempt us to miss those times and places? I guarantee you he will.
For instance, on a particular time I have taught on this very subject of temptation, an individual who was supposed to be there wasn’t. And guess what happened? They fell into temptation! Do you think perhaps if we would be faithful to where God wants us to be and with what he wants us to be doing that we could avoid a lot of unnecessary temptations? Sure!
This is why the Lord taught us to pray that we would be led out of temptation - that is, to be led by the Holy Spirit, around the temptations and traps that the enemy has laid for us. This is going to happen as we are led and are faithful to where God has placed us and with what He has told us to be doing. So, the lesson we should learn from this is - if we are not where we are supposed to be and doing what we are supposed to be doing, we are all the more in danger of falling into temptation.
What if we began to exchange our thoughts for God’s thoughts? What if we simply fasted the things that we are looking at, watching, reading, etc., that fuel the tempting thoughts?
You see, I would hope that we could all agree that abortion is not an acceptable form of birth control. Consider a young woman who just laid with every man she wanted to and then every time she conceived, she just had an abortion. How many of you know that is completely unacceptable? But how many Christians do that with temptation? They feed those desires and they fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness - not giving any heed to what they hear and what they see. And then when their flesh is ready to give birth to that sin - meaning, they are being severely tempted to act on those temptations - they just try to abort it.
How many of you know this is not the best way to live? No, we should practice spiritual abstinence and not fuel the temptations by watching what we watch and listening to what we listen to! In fact, I would take this a step further and say, What if we reversed this whole process altogether?!?! What if we began to desire the things of God like our flesh desires wrong things? What if we began to desire God? You can!
You can begin to desire God more and more! How? By relationship with Him. As you begin to spend intimate time with Him through prayer and the Word, you can begin to conceive truth, righteousness, light, etc. in your heart. And as this occurs, the next step in James chapter 1 occurs: Just as sin (when it is full grown) brings forth death, righteousness (when it is full grown) brings forth life!
Saints, you can give birth to righteousness, and then when it comes to maturity, it produces the God kind of life! Amen! So why don’t we just start seeking God so much that the temptations are not as loud and strong? This is the quickest and best way to stifle temptations! Amen!