The Beginning of the Beginning

The Beginning of the Beginning

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:7

Everything has a beginning, a first start, a genesis. Everything begins somewhere.  And according to the Proverbs, there’s a beginning to knowledge, wisdom and instruction— and that glorious beginning is called “the fear of the Lord” (Prov. 1:7).

But what does it mean to “fear the Lord”?  What does that look like in real life?  If “God is love” as the Scriptures say (1 John 4:8), how are we to fear His love?  Or His mercy?  Or His grace?  Or any other aspect of His character?  How can the fear of the Lord be the beginning of anything but a dysfunctional relationship with Someone whom we’re frightened of and cower in His presence?  Fear is not a pleasant emotion that draws us closer to the one we fear.  So why would the Lord tell us that the fear of Him is the very starting point of knowledge and wisdom?  It would seem to me that love would be the beginning of our relationship with the Lord— not fear.


What Does Fear Really Mean?

And that’s the main question, isn’t it?  What do we mean by “fear”?

Our English definition of fear reads like this: “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or is a threat.”  Fear is also described as the “anticipation of the possibility that something unpleasant will occur.”  You know, the fear of financial ruin, the fear of heights, the fear for one’s safety, or the fear of speaking in public.  There are countless ways to describe fear as an unpleasant emotion caused by the possibility of something bad happening to us.

But in the Scriptures, fear has an additional connotation.  To “fear the Lord” means to “honor, respect, and be in awe” of Him in addition to the idea of God Himself being “an awesome, terrifying and fearful thing.”  In other words, the “fear of the Lord” means to show profound respect while recognizing that the object of our fear is “awesome and terrifying and fearful” and can bless or crush us at any time, for any reason, at His own whim, without recourse.  He is, after all, the Creator, the Highest Authority, the Sovereign One, and we are mere mortals, just dust and ashes.

Having a healthy “fear of the Lord” should motivate us to please Him in all we do.  Why?  Because we will someday have to give an account to Him for what we’ve done, good or bad or indifferent, while living our lives on this earth (2 Cor. 5:10).  He will be our Judge, the final Arbiter of our fate, and He will judge us according to His infallible standard of righteousness and holiness and not by our lukewarm platitudes designed to excuse our apathy.

And this, my friend, should give us great pause.


The First Door Opened

If you remember, the final promise made to us in the preamble to the Proverbs reads:

A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, (why) to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles (or, dark, hidden sayings)” (Prov. 1:5-6).

And what’s the first enigma, the first strange, dark saying we are to understand?  What door has the promise of wisdom opened to us first?  Simply this, it’s the importance of the “fear of the Lord”— or more literally, “the fear of Jehovah” (Prov. 1:7).  But why?  Because this “fear of the Lord” is the foundation upon which our future relationship with God is formed.

Remember, the word fear is like a two-edged sword.  On one side of the blade is engraved the words “Respect, Honor, Awe, and Reverence” while the other side reads “Fright, Terror, Dread, and Great Fear.”  They’re both part of the same sword, and they’re both key attributes of the character of God.  And they’re not contradictory in nature nor mutually exclusive.  God is both merciful and just.  He is ever forgiving yet ultimately holds us accountable for our sins.  And He is loving, gracious and good and incredibly fearful and terrifying at the same time.

So the first enigma we’re to understand is the seemingly illogical one that states the fear, both defined as profound reverence and terrifying dread, of the Lord is the beginning, the inception, the starting place of knowledge, discernment and insight into the things of God.

And that’s a good thing.

You see, we have this nagging tendency to view the God revealed in the Old Testament and Jesus as two totally different beings.  The Old Testament God seems fearful, terrifying, capricious and often unapproachable.  We see Him coming with fire, thunder and lightning on Mt. Sinai to the point the Jews quaked in fear like the cowardly lion did when meeting the Wizard of Oz.  The Old Testament God is seen as the God of curses, judgment, plagues, and wrath while the New Testament God, Jesus, is viewed as loving, patient, forgiving, and full of mercy and grace.  Jesus understands us and He’s like us in many ways, or so we’d like to think.  He’s approachable and not judgmental, like a close friend or a best buddy.  We can do anything we want and He will just smile and wink and turn a blind eye because He loves us and only wants to make us happy.

The Old Testament God?  Not so much.


See One, See All

But they’re actually one and the same. “He who has seen Me,” Jesus said, “has seen the Father” (John 14:9).  Or, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30).  So for us to create our view of Jesus as some cosmic sidekick or good buddy and ignore the very fact that He is God, Sovereign over all, the Creator (John 1:3) and Sustainer (Heb. 1:3) of everything, is to open a door that will lead us away from wisdom and into the murky waters of self-deception.  Why?  Because we tend to love the Jesus we’ve created in our own image and fear the God of the Old Testament who we don’t fully understand, nor really want to.  Why? Because we don’t like fear.  Not one bit.

Fear causes us to have to watch what we say, to guard our hearts, and to constantly be aware of the sin in our lives.  Fear makes us feel uncomfortable, troubled, because of the object of our fear.  We fear the Law Enforcement Officer when we see his blue lights in our rear view mirror because of what pain we know he could cause us by writing a speeding ticket.  We fear our boss when we stand outside his office door, nervously knocking, knowing he wants to see us immediately and we haven’t a clue as to why.  We fear the IRS when we open their letter that questions some fuzzy deduction on our tax return we didn’t really feel so good about when we filed it last April.  And why?  Because these objects of our fear have some element of power over our lives, some control, that can bring us some pain.  And there’s not much we can do about it but complain.

And because we fear what the officer or our boss or the IRS can do to us for our non-compliance to what is required, we give them great respect and honor their authority.  Why?  Because we don’t want to make things worse for ourselves, we don’t want to make them mad.  We fear their authority and the power they have over our lives.  So we put on our Sunday smile and treat them as nice as humanly possible, careful to never defend ourselves or demean them for doing their job.

“Oh, excuse me officer.  I’m so sorry I was speeding.  Thank you for the ticket.  Have a great day.”
“Sir, is there something you wanted to see me about?  Is there something I can do to help you?”

And we answer all their questions and suffer through all their demands with a polite, “Sir” and “Yes, Sir” regardless of how we feel.  Why?  Because they have the power, for that moment at least, to cause us happiness or pain, to make us rejoice or suffer.  And it’s their power, by virtue of their position and authority that we respect and fear, even if we don’t respect the individual person holding that position.


Fear is the Beginning

If that is true of a simple highway cop and a $60 speeding ticket, how much more so if the object of our fear is the Lord Himself?  There’s no “Jesus we like because He cuts us slack for our sin” and “God we don’t like because He’s such a stickler for right and wrong.”  Or, “Jesus we love because He loves us but God we don’t like to hang around Him much because He’s always reminding us of how poor we are doing in this life of holiness.”  There’s not a choice.  You can’t be on one team and not on the other.  Jesus and the Father, the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament, are one and the same.  Identical.  Of the same essence.  And we are to love, not just the Son but the Father also, and we are to fear both Father and Son.  It’s a two way street.  Love and fear flow both ways.

Jesus is not only forgiving, but also commands us unquestionably, just like the Father.  His words to the woman caught in the act of adultery were first forgiving: “Woman, where are those accusers of yours?  Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.”  And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you.”  And then commanding: “Go and sin no more” (John 8:10-11).  Again, love and fear flow both ways.

One final thought.  For those who still see Jesus as always loving and God as always judgmental, consider this from the Revelation:

And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!  For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Rev. 6:15-17).

Did you catch that?  They were begging the rocks and mountains to fall on them in a vain attempt to hid from the “wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:17).  That’s Jesus, by the way.  The wrath of Jesus.


Fear Only One

Which brings us back to the Proverbs.

The fear of the Lord, and not of anything else, is the beginning, the source, the starting place of all knowledge, wisdom, insight and discernment.  It’s our profound respect and honor, based on Who He is as our Sovereign Creator and Lord, that opens the doors of deeper understanding into the things of God.  And it’s our fear and terrifying dread of His authority and judgment that prompts us to live a life worthy of being called His children and joint heirs with His Son (Rom. 8:16-17).

Believe me, fear is a healthy emotion to have towards the Lord.  Why?  Just look how Jesus addressed the subject of fear in the life of a Believer.

“And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:4-5).

And who do you think Jesus was talking about?  Who has the power to cast one into hell?  Satan?  Nope.  It’s only God Himself.  And it’s a fear of Him alone that opens the door to the deeper truths of the things of God.

Remember, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7).

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Getting Serious

1.  Have you ever thought of Jesus as Someone you could trust, Someone you wanted near you but not God the Father?
2.  When you pray, do you pray to the Father or to the Son?  Or do you pray to the Holy Spirit?  Or do you simply use the generic phrase, Lord?  And why do you think you choose to pray to the One that you do?
3.  Does the thought of having fear for the Lord make you feel uncomfortable?  Does is seem unnatural, maybe out-of-character?  If so, why do you think you feel that way?
4.  When you read the statement, “the fear of the Lord” is your first thought of profound respect and honor or do you think more of dread and terror?  Does the phrase “fear of the Lord” have a positive meaning to you or a negative one?  And why is that?  What about your perception of God leads you to that conclusion, either positive or negative?
5.  On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life right now and in your decision making process?  What was it yesterday?  Are you growing in the wisdom of God?  And, if not, why?


Next Step Challenge

Take your Bible and do a search of the Proverbs and pick out all the times the phrase “fear of the Lord” is used and write down the references.  What is the Lord trying to say to you in these passages?  What definition of “fear” is being used?  Is it terror and dread or profound respect and honor?  Or is it both?  And how does each passage now read once you understand the meaning of the word?

Now do look at the following passages and try to determine, in context, the definition of fear?  How does that change, if at all, the meaning of what is being said?

1 Samuel 11:7 – So he took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, “Whoever does not go out with Saul and Samuel to battle, so it shall be done to his oxen.” And the fear of the LORD fell on the people, and they came out with one consent.

2 Chronicles 17:10 – And the fear of the LORD fell on all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, so that they did not make war against Jehoshaphat.

2 Chronicles 19:19 – And he commanded them, saying, “Thus you shall act in the fear of the LORD, faithfully and with a loyal heart.”

Isaiah 33:6 – Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times, and the strength of salvation; the fear of the LORD is His treasure.

Acts 9:31 – Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified.  And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.

Do you have the fear of the Lord?  If so, what is that like? How has it changed your life and your understanding and love of the Lord?  And if you don’t, why?  Doesn’t not having the fear of the Lord bring you fear?

It should, you know. It really should.

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I’m No Longer a Slave to Fear

I’m No Longer a Slave to Fear

This is one of the most powerful videos I’ve seen in a long time.  For some reason, it moves me everytime I watch it.  And I hope it will do the same for you.

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Enjoy and be blessed.

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Four Verbs, Part Two

Four Verbs, Part Two

To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,
To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity;
To give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.
Proverbs 1:2-4

As we discussed yesterday, in digging deep into the preamble of Proverbs 1, we came across a few intriguing verbs: know, perceive, receive, and give and also the nouns associated with those verbs: wisdom, instruction, understanding, justice, judgment, equity, knowledge and discretion.

In Proverbs 1:2-4 we again find:

To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,
To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity
To give prudence to the simple (and to give) to the young man knowledge and discretion.

As a reminder, notice again the natural progression of action.  To know, then to perceive something, then to choose to personally receive and embrace what we now know and perceive, and finally to share, to give what we have now received to someone else.

We’ve already looked at the first three verbs.  Now let’s spend some time trying to see and understand what the Lord expects us to do with what we’ve now received from Him, in Christ, by grace.

And the answer to that question is found in one simple word: give.

But a few questions remain.  What are we to give to others?  And who are the others we are to give something to?


To Give

So what are we to do with what we have received from Him?  We are to give it away, we are to give our very lives to others.  This is the meaning of: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39).

Question:  But what are we to actually give to others?
Answer:  What we have received from Him: grace, love, understanding, hope, and wisdom.

Question:  And who are we to share and give His wisdom to?
Answer:  Everyone. But specially the “simple” and the “young man.”

Look again at Proverbs 1:4:  To give prudence to (who) the simple, to the (who) young man knowledge and discretion.

Four words stand out in this verse: prudence, simple, knowledge and discretion.  We are to give prudence, or shrewdness, cautiousness to the simple.  In fact, prudence can also be translated as common sense, care, or good judgment.  The word simple means naive, foolish, gullible, inexperienced, or simpleminded— pretty much the opposite of prudence.  It describes someone not firing on all cylinders, or someone who doesn’t have it all together, or someone lacking wisdom and common sense.

The Proverbs speak much about the simpleminded person.  For example:

Proverbs 1:22 – “How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?” For scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge.

Proverbs 7:7 – And saw among the simple, I perceived among the youths, a young man devoid of understanding.

Proverbs 8:5 – O you simple ones, understand prudence, and you fools, be of an understanding heart.

Proverbs 14:15 – The simple believes every word, but the prudent considers well his steps.

Proverbs 14:18 – The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.

Proverbs 22:3 – A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.

Therefore, we are to give, or place before, the simple, the naive, the gullible, those lacking common sense, good judgment and discipline, prudence.  We are to give to those lacking wisdom the very wisdom from God that we possess in order to help them make good, God-honoring choices with their lives and not be led astray into sin and its consequences.  And we can only do that by opening our mouth and speaking truth to those who may, or may not, appreciate what we’re about to say.  But that doesn’t matter, does it?  All we should be concerned with is our obedience to give what we know and perceive and have received, by grace, from Him.

Again, note the progression:  First, we know God’s truth by experience and acceptance.  Next, we perceive by our senses the impact of this profound truth concerning God’s wisdom.  Our eyes are now opened to the truth in a new and unmistakable way.  Then, we must make it personal by choosing to receive what we know and now see into our lives.  This demands obedience, an all-or-nothing commitment to what we know to be true.  And finally, we are to be willingly spent on others, as Oswald Chambers would say, “like broken bread and poured out wine.”  We are to give to others what we have received by grace, especially the most vulnerable of all people, the “simple” and the “young men.”


The Young Men

Why did Solomon single out the “young men”?  Because they tend to be the most zealous, the strongest, the easiest swayed, and the people who need the most guidance.  When we use the phrase, “He went off half-cocked” we are not usually referring to an older man or any woman or a child.  It’s the young man, the punk, the headstrong, the “better get out of my way” man.  It’s “zeal without knowledge” on steroids.  “Don’t try to confuse me with the truth, I’ve already made up my mind.”  Remember?

Also it is not good for a soul to be without knowledge, and he sins who (zeal) hastens with his feet (Proverbs 19:2).

For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God (Romans 10:2-3).

So what are we to give these excited, passionate, yet sometimes misguided young men?  The Proverbs say knowledge and discretion.  Or, understanding, insight, wisdom and a purpose or a plan in which to apply what they now understand.  It’s the antidote of going off half-cocked, or saying, “I’ve just got to do something, even if it’s wrong!”  It’s the opposite of “calling your own shots” or “doing what seems best in your own eyes” (Jud. 21:25).  Having “knowledge and discretion” is being able to think clearly, without being overwhelmed by strong, confusing emotions, and then following the truth and the facts to a course of action that is “true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy” (Phil. 4:8).  It’s being “in Christ” and living in the wisdom of God.

It’s also the one thing that can save our younger generation today:  wisdom, an understanding of life and the things of God, and a purpose or plan in Him, God ordained, that gives life meaning. After all, Proverbs 7:7 says, “And (I) saw among the simple, I perceived among the youths, a young man devoid of (what) understanding.”  Yes, understanding.  And it’s up to us to give to these He loves what we’ve already received in Him, by His grace.

Would you join with me in this?


The Four Verbs

Having wisdom, having the “mind of Christ” (2 Cor. 2:16), and having Christ Himself, who “became for us the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:30) involves responsibility.  It’s not for us to hoard or keep selfishly, miserly to ourselves.  We are not independent contractors, free agents or lone wolves.  Remember, we are the “light of the world” and a “city that is set on a hill.”  So “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16).  We are, like our Lord, to live for others and not ourselves.

The Proverbs reveal to us the process of receiving the wisdom of God and then show us how to give it lovingly to others.  We first know, then perceive inwardly, then choose to receive on His terms, and finally determine to give, no matter how uncomfortable that might make us feel.  And in doing so, we imitate the life of Christ to others (Eph. 5:1) and bring the Father glory.

Which is the main point, isn’t it? Bringing God glory. It’s what Jesus lived for and it should be our passion, the driving, pulsating purpose of our existence. Will you join with me in this lifelong endeavor of receiving wisdom from God and then gladly, joyously giving it all away? Will you spend your life, like our Lord, serving others?

Adveho quis may.
Come what may.

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Getting Serious

1.  How would you describe your ministry to others?
2.  How would you describe your ministry to others that are not family members or friends or members of your own church?
3.  Is there a difference between your answer to Question 1 and Question 2? And, if so, why?
4.  Do you believe the Lord has given you His wisdom? And again, if so, why? Did He bless you with His wisdom for you to be wise only to yourself or those you love? Or, could there be something more He has in mind?
5.  On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life right now and in your decision making process? What was it yesterday? Are you growing in the wisdom of God? And, if not, why?


Next Step Challenge

Take your Bible and look up the following verses, in order to read them in context, and see what you can learn about your responsibilities to others as a Christian. Do any of these apply to you?

Mark 16:15 – And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”

Does this mean you?

Psalm 96:3 – “Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.” Again, does this verse apply to you?

Are you to declare His glory and wonders among the people?

Revelation 14:6-8 – “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth— to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people— saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.'”

If God proclaims His Word by angels in the future, how will He use you today to do the same?

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Four Verbs, Part One

Four Verbs, Part One

To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,
To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity;
To give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.
Proverbs 1:2-4

As we dig deeper into the Proverbs we quickly come across a few arresting verbs: know, perceive, receive, and give.  And, of course, we see the corresponding nouns associated with each of these verbs. In Proverbs 1:2-4 we find:

To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,
To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity
To give prudence to the simple (and to give) to the young man knowledge and discretion.

Notice, if you will, the natural progression of action.  To know, then to perceive something, then to choose to personally receive and embrace what we now know and perceive, and finally to share, to give what we have now received to someone else.

But what does it mean to perceive something or someone, maybe a new truth or a deeper understanding of a known truth?  And how does someone then receive that true or understanding to themselves that they have just perceived?  What does that process look like?  And how does that exchange actually happen?  And finally, ultimately, to whom do we give what we have received? And what specifically do we give them?

The answer is found in the nouns connected with our actions, our verbs.

But let’s begin by looking at the four verbs.


To Know

From our previous studies we determined that to “know” (yada) means we are “to know something in a completed sense, to know everything and to know fully, to learn to know; it means to know by intimate experience or expression; to choose, to approve, to love, to embrace, to desire, to place one’s favor upon.”  It’s a deeply personal kind of knowledge forged by one’s choice, affection, conviction and experience.  And Proverbs 1:2 says we are to “know” (yada) in an intimate, personal way, both “wisdom and instruction”— wisdom being more than the raw accumulation of facts but the ability to properly apply those facts and convictions, reinforced by our choices and experiences, in order to determine what is the right and God-honoring course of action.  And instruction is defined as “correction, discipline, and chastening, as a loving father disciplines his own son.”

In essence, God has provided for us in His Son both the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:30) and the steady hand of correction and discipline to make sure we know (yada) God’s Word and how to apply what we know (yada) in our everyday choices that will either bring Him glory or disrepute.  Therefore, if you find yourself convicted and troubled by the words you read, rejoice!— for that’s God’s very intention.  After all, the Lord only chastises those He loves as a father disciplines his own son.

My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor detest His correction; (why) for whom the LORD loves He corrects, (to what extent) just as a father the son in whom he delights (Prov. 3:11-12).


To Perceive

Next, we are to “the words of understanding” (Prov. 1:2).  To perceive (biyn) is “to discern, to observe, to have insight into, to consider diligently.”  It involves more than mere head knowledge.  To perceive is to have a truth suddenly become alive and real to you.  It’s like our blinders are removed or the fog clears and we can see God’s Word, the “words of understanding” clearly, and then exclaim, “Geez, it was right before my eyes all the time and I just didn’t see it.  How could I have been so blind?”

And what do we now see with 20/20 vision?  The “words of understanding” or literally the “words of comprehension, discernment, righteous actions with a strong moral and religious connotation.”  In other words, we now see clearly the holiness of God.  We comprehend our sinfulness and God’s perfection and His wonderful gift of grace.  By virtue of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we now have discernment to be able to choose what is “true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy” (Phil. 4:8) and not follow our lusts or waste our lives living for the things that won’t last.  And we can now clearly choose to ” walk in the Spirit, and not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).

What a blessing it is to be able to perceive the things of God and then have the freedom and ability to choose to follow Him, no matter what.


To Receive

But knowing, even to the point of having an “a-ha” moment when you perceive, deep down, something overwhelming and potentially life-changing, is not enough.  You have to then choose to receive, or “to take in, to lay hold of, to seize, to get or fetch, to acquire by any means possible” what you now comprehend in a deeper fashion.  Just knowing truth won’t cut it, you have to voluntarily choose to move from where you are to where the truth takes you.  You have to open up yourself, make yourself vulnerable, humble yourself, and receive the “instruction (or, discipline, correction, chastening) of wisdom” (Prov. 1:3).

It’s like salvation.  Just knowing facts about Jesus won’t bring you into eternal fellowship with Him.  You must receive Him into your life on His terms, which are all or nothing.  You must die, you must be crucified with Him, and He must live within you and through you (Gal. 2:20).  You must follow His path, the narrow gate, and not the wide road of your own choosing (Matt. 7:13-14).  He must be Lord, and not just your personal Savior that you can call on whenever you need Him to get you out of a jam (Rom. 10:9).  He is not your co-pilot, He is God Almighty, Creator of all, and Sovereign in all things.

If just knowing were enough Satan would spend eternity in heaven.  After all, he knows as fact what we believe on faith.  He knows Jesus died and was raised from the dead.  He was there, he saw, and trembled.  But Satan refuses to do the one thing that comes with receiving Jesus on His terms, and that is to bow his knee in submission to Christ and declare Him as Lord (Phil. 2:9-11).  And this is all part of receiving Christ on His terms.

But what do we receive when we receive the “instruction of wisdom”?  Solomon begins to expand our understanding of all that comes with God’s wisdom by using the terms, “justice, judgment, and equity.”

Justice is defined as “righteousness, or what is right, just or normal” with God.  It means having a “right relation to an ethical or legal standard, to be right or straight.”  In essence, it’s understanding the commands and laws of God and then choosing to align our life, both internal and external, to be in obedience to the Word of God.  It’s the desire, and the ability to now choose to serve Christ and not our flesh or the god of this fallen world.  And this ability to live according to our new nature found in Christ is just another gift given us by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 5:17).

Remember the words of Jesus: “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).  Great question.  Because now, through the Holy Spirit we have the ability, the freedom, and the power to choose to obey Christ.  We can live, as the Proverbs promise, a life of justice, being in a “right relation” to the commands and person of Christ.  All we have to do is choose what is right, choose the straight and narrow path.  And it’s just that simple.

Hard?  You bet.  But simple, nonetheless.

Next, we choose to receive in our lives the instruction, correction, and discipline of judgment.  This word denotes the “act of deciding a legal case in a court or in litigation before judges.”  It deals with the “ability to make a correct judgment on human actions.”

Whoa.  Hold on right there.  One of the sincerely held convictions of our fallen, politically correct culture is to not judge.  You don’t judge me and I won’t judge you.  It’s the old “don’t ask, don’t tell” mantra”  In fact, these words of Jesus, taken totally out of context, are proclaimed as absolute truth by those who reject the rest of His words as truth: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1).

So how can a Believer receive the “instruction of judgment” and still find favor in the eyes of the world?  You can’t.  Get used to it and resolve yourself to a life of turmoil and tribulation and persecution if you choose to live in the center of His will.  In fact, embrace the trials you’ll face.  Why?  Because Jesus promised great blessings to those who suffer persecution for His name sake.  Remember?  “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:12).

Plus, we’re promised “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).  There’s no way around it.  It’s a given.  Done deal.  The only way to escape persecution is to not desire to live Godly in Christ, which produces it’s own set of horrific consequences.  Trust me, you don’t want to go down that path.

So with wisdom comes the ability to see what is right and wrong, good and evil, true and false.  The “instruction of judgment” means being able to discern genuineness from hypocrisy, good fruit from bad fruit, true prophets from false prophets, in others as well as within ourselves (Matt. 7:15-20).  And, as you would imagine, this aspect of wisdom can bring with it the unintended consequences of being called judgmental, unloving, a hater, bigoted, narrow-minded, and much more.  Hence, the warning from Jesus about suffering persecution for His name’s sake.

Finally, we receive in wisdom, in Christ, the “instruction of equity.” But what does equity mean?  Equity is defined as “evenness, fairness, uprightness, straightness, smoothness, and points to what is just, correct, right and fair in speech or actions” (Isa. 33:15).  It’s dealing with others as you would have them deal with you (Luke 6:21).  It’s being fair, honest, noble, and upright in everything. In a word, it’s the overflow of a life found “in Christ”.


To Give

But what about the fourth verb?  What about the command to give?

That’s a rather complex subject dealing with what we’re to give and to whom?  And that’s a topic we’ll look at next time in Four Verbs, Part Two.

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Getting Serious

1.  Where are you in the process of obtaining wisdom?
2.  Have you passed from simply knowing (yada) to now perceiving something deeper in the Word of God?
3.  Has God begun to speak to you in a personal, profound way through His Word and the Holy Spirit?  Have you ever had a rhema, a word from Him meant only for you?  And if so, when was that?  And what did He say?
4.  Do you remember when you received Jesus as Lord?  What was that like?  And what has your life with Him been like since that momentous day?
5.  On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life right now and in your decision making process? What was it yesterday? Are you growing in the wisdom of God? Is He more real to you today than in the past? And, if not, why not?


Next Step Challenge

Since receiving the wisdom of God is tied to receiving Christ Jesus as Lord and the Holy Spirit coming as the guarantee of your future inheritance in Him (Eph. 1:3-4), write down your salvation experience.  Include the time when you knew regeneration took place and your life was now hid in Him (Col. 3:3).  Include also your spiritual journey since salvation.

What have you learned from your walk with Him about wisdom?  Have you personally experienced the process outlined in Proverbs 1:1-4 about knowing, perceiving, and receiving?  What was that like?  What was the actual context in which God revealed to you His wisdom?  What was the outcome of that encounter?

And if you haven’t experienced any of this with the Lord, why?  Is the problem with Him?  Does He show favoritism or partiality and is withholding something from you that He’s freely giving to others?

Or is the problem you?  And, if so, that’s a sobering thought, isn’t it?

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Wisdom is a Choice, So Choose Wisely

Wisdom is a Choice, So Choose Wisely

To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding,
To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity.
Proverbs 1:2-3

The question often asked is how Solomon received the wisdom of God?  How did all that come about?  What was the experience like?  What was the process?

From the account in 1 Kings we find little to shed light on the specific details of that momentous event.  What we do see is Solomon overwhelmed with the responsibility of leading the kingdom he inherited from his father David and recognizing he is but “a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in” (1 Kings 3:7).  Then, in a marvelous way, God grants his request and gives him, not only a “wise and understanding heart” (1 Kings 3:12), but also throws in what Solomon didn’t ask for, “both riches and honor” (1 Kings 3:13) simply because He wanted to.

And from then on we see Solomon acting, sometimes, in the wisdom God gave him and, at other times, living like a rich, spoiled brat making “dumb as a brick” decisions for himself, his family, and the nation God trusted him to lead.

But how is that possible?  How can a man given the very wisdom of God make dumb, lousy, selfish decisions?  Didn’t God make Solomon a wise man when He gave him His wisdom?  Didn’t God just zap him, like He did Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road, and turn him into something he wasn’t before?  Or maybe God simply enhanced the wisdom Solomon already possessed?  Maybe Solomon was already a wise man and God just gave him the 2.0 update?  Plus, when God gives you or me His wisdom, does that mean everything we do or say is wise and from God?  And if not, why?  How can we, like Solomon, be given the wisdom of God and then go around making lame, stupid decisions?  How is that even possible?


Solomon Was Not a Wise Man

Let’s nip this one in the bud right out of the gate.  Solomon was not an inherently wise man.  He was not one whose very nature oozed wisdom.  How could he be?  The decisions and choices he made as a father, husband and king are anything but wise and they reflect his true nature.  When Solomon relied on the wisdom of God, he made incredibly wise decisions— some of which we still marvel at today.  But when left to himself Solomon, like you and me, made decisions and choices according to his own nature, according to what he was made of on the inside.  And for Solomon, his nature was anything but wise.

Just think, how wise was it as a husband to have 300 wives and 700 concubines?  How wise was that?  Think of the infighting within his own family.  Think of how used and rejected his wives felt, not to mention the concubines.  And this selfish, unwise decision to marry so many women wasn’t a momentary lapse of reason for Solomon.  It wasn’t something he did and regretted later, vowing to never make the same mistake again.  This pattern of thinking was habitual, ingrained, and occurred over a 1,000 times.

Then you have the children.  Hatred, jealousy, bigotry, and bitterness was the rule of the day, so much so that the kingdom was irreparably torn in two after Solomon’s death by two of his own children.  What does this show us about Solomon’s nature and core values regarding his responsibilities of being a father?  Where’s the wisdom in any of this?

Finally, how did Solomon the spiritual leader do?  Horrible.  He allowed his many wives to desecrate the sanctity of his own home, the holiness of the Temple of God and the very nation by building altars to their foreign gods and bringing idolatry into the land.  How could Solomon allow this to take place under his watch?  How can one man be so wise and yet fail so miserably?  Solomon’s true nature reveals the carnality, apathy, and weakness of Solomon the man, and not the inherent wisdom often attributed to him.


Wisdom is a Choice

The wisdom Solomon received from the Lord is the same thing you and I receive in Christ.  Solomon received wisdom but you and I receive Christ into our lives, “who became for us wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30).  And then, once we’ve received Christ, it’s up to us to live and “walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).  Like with Solomon, it becomes a choice.  A simple, but difficult choice.

When we choose to live according to the new nature within us, according to the wisdom given to us by Christ and administered by the Holy Spirit, we will naturally make wise decisions.  Why?  Because we are “walking in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16) and have the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).  But when we choose to go our own way, to call the shots as we see fit, or to live according to the flesh, we can expect our end to be the same as Solomon’s.  Remember, it’s a choice, the exercise of our free will: to choose either the blessings of a life of submission to Christ or the heartache of a life brought on by the rebellion of our flesh.

It’s a choice— your choice.  So choose wisely.

And once you’ve chosen wisely, your job’s not done.  You still have to act on that choice.  Look at the transition about wisdom in Proverbs 1:2-3.

To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding,
To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity.

First we are “to know” wisdom in Proverbs 1:2 and then “to receive the instruction of wisdom” in the next verse.  We go from knowing to receiving in the space of 20 words.  One is an understanding of something and the other is a choice, literally an action based on that choice— the receiving of something found only in Him.  We can “know” wisdom, or Christ, truth, right from wrong, good and evil, up from down, and all sorts of wonderful things, and yet still choose to live contrary to what we “know” and suffer, like Solomon, the horrific consequences of that choice.  Or, we can know the truth and choose the truth and be set free by the truth (John 8:32).  It’s really that simple.

Easy?  No.  Simple?  Absolutely.


Wisdom is a Gift

In other words, the wisdom Solomon received from the Lord is the same wisdom available to each of us today by the residing presence of the Holy Spirit.  And we already have in us, available to us, the same wisdom of God given to Solomon.  How?  By virtue of being “in Christ” who “became for us wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30).  The key to living in the gift of wisdom already given us boils down to what we do with that gift?  Do we “receive (or choose to receive) the instruction (or, discipline, correction, chastisement) of wisdom” (Prov. 1:3) or do we hide it away and let it die from inactivity and lack of use?  Jesus said we are the “light of the world” and He commands us to place that light, our lives, including His wisdom and redeeming power and grace in us, like a lamp on the table for the whole world to see (Matt. 5:14-16).

Remember, it’s more than just “knowing”— it’s “receiving” and having the discipline (instruction) to obey what we’ve received.


It Comes in One Package

Plus, it all comes in one package.  Consider, for example, the passage in Galatians where it says the “works (plural) of the flesh are evident” (Gal. 5:19-21) and then goes on to list them, one by one: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, and the like.  But these “works” or “deeds” of the flesh are freestanding, independent, and are not part of a combined package.  You can have one or more of these but not necessarily all.  You can commit, for example, adultery but not murder.  Have hatred and selfish ambition, but not idolatry or sorcery.  Why?  Because the word “works” or “deeds” is plural, meaning many— that’s many individual works and not one work made up of many individual parts.  Do you see the difference?

But the “fruit” of the Spirit is just the opposite.  It’s singular, just one fruit, made up of a combination of nine different attributes: love (agape), joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).  You get one, you get them all.  They come in a package.  It’s all or nothing.

And this is how we receive wisdom from the Lord.  We receive Jesus, the one fruit, and all the attributes or the fullness of the Godhead that dwell in Him bodily.  And we, being “in Christ” are complete in Him (Col. 2:9-10).

So you and I have the same Spirit, the same wisdom, made available and given to Solomon.  All we have to do is rely on that wisdom, who is the residing presence of the Holy Spirit, for God’s wisdom to manifest itself in us.

Again, it’s just that simple.  Difficult?  Yes.  But simple, nonetheless.


So What Happened to Solomon?

The same things that happened to each of us when we received Christ as Lord and the Holy Spirit came to make us His home, or to abide, in us.  When He came, so did His wisdom.  It’s always there, always available, always ready.  Solomon received what we’ve received, but in part.  He received wisdom.  But we, on the other hand, have received Christ, who became for us “the wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30)— but also so much more.

We just need, maybe even more than Solomon did, to rest in His wisdom and to “walk (think, live, and choose) according to the Spirit, (why) and you shall not fulfill (like Solomon) the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).

Are you ready?  Then let’s get started living in the inheritance and wisdom God has already provided us as “joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17).

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Getting Serious

1.  Did you ever wonder how Solomon was given the wisdom from God?  And, did you ever want to know how that same wisdom could be given to you?
2.  Did you ever think the wisdom given to Solomon was something only given to special saints and not to ordinary, everyday people like you and me?  And, if so, why did you think that?
3.  How does it make you feel to know, or at least to entertain the thought, that you already possess the wisdom Solomon had by virtue of the Holy Spirit living in you?  In fact, by being “in Christ” you possess much more than Solomon.  How does that make you feel?
4.  Let me ask this again: When was the last time God spoke to you through His Word?  What was that experience like?  How often does it happen?
5.  On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life right now and in your decision making process?  What was it yesterday?  Are you growing in the wisdom of God?  And, if not, why?


Next Step Challenge

Take your Bible and look up at least 25 passages where the term “in Christ” is used.  What do they say about your life right now?  For starters, you can begin with four verses from Romans provided below.

Romans 6:11 – Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God (how) in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life (how) in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are (what) in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Romans 12:5 – So we, being many, are one body (how) in Christ, and individually members of one another.

And how will you let what you’ve learned change your life from this point forward?

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To “Know” What? – Part 1

To “Know” What? – Part 1

To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding.
Proverbs 1:2

Our culture is fascinated with four-letter words.

And believe it or not, the same can be said of the Scriptures.  The Word of God places an incredible amount of significance on some simple, four-letter words.

Let me give you a quick example.


Show Me the Love

There are some four-letter words that will transform your entire life once you understand their meaning.  “Love” is one of these words.  In our culture you can love your wife, love your children, love your job, love pizza and ice cream, you can love Fluffy your new pet cat, you can love the way you look in a pair of jeans, you can love the meal you’ve just eaten at Cheddars, you can love the Carolina Panthers, you can love Johnny Depp movies, you can even love the deal you got on your new car.  And in the English, all we know is that you have a really strong and intense feeling of affection for whatever phrase comes after the word love— even if that phrase ranges from your love for your children to your love of ice cream.

But in the New Testament we find several different Greek words used to describe different kinds of love.  For example, you have the word agape which describes the highest form of love, the kind of love the Father has for the Son and the Son for the Father (John 5:20).  It’s the altruistic, self-sacrificing, accepting, benevolent, gracious, all-encompassing and all-giving love that is used in Scripture to communicate the love God has for His creation and for His children.

Next you have phileo which is defined as “brotherly love” or the love between friends.  It means to have affection for someone, or to befriend someone.  As a side note, God calls us to agape our enemies, to love them like Christ loves us in order to win them to Him.  But He never encourages us to phileo our enemies, to befriend them.  Why?  Because “bad company corrupts good character” every time (1 Cor. 15:33).  Remember?

Then you have eros, the intimate, physical, sexual love a man has for his wife.  This is the root of our word, erotic.  It expresses feelings of arousal shared between people who are physically attracted to each other.

We have three different Greek words used to describe in great detail the meaning of a simple, four-letter word.  We enjoy and rejoice in, for example, the agape of God yet we would never agape pizza.  We phileo our best friend, our college roommate, but would never use eros to describe that relationship.  See the difference?  Can you see how important it is to define and understand even our simple, overused, familiar four-letter words?

Let me show you how this plays out in real time.


Do You Love Me?

In the last chapter of John we find Jesus restoring His disciples, specifically Peter, and we have recorded a conversation where Jesus asks Peter, three times, “Do you love Me?”  The conversation goes like this:

Jesus:  “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”
Peter:  “Yes Lord; You know that I love You.” (John 21:15).

Jesus:  “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”
Peter:  “Yes Lord; You know that I love You.” (John 21:16).

Jesus:  “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”
Peter:  “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” (John 21:17).

The third time Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him the Scriptures say: Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” (John 21:17).  Why?  Why was Peter grieved?  Was it because Peter didn’t think Jesus was paying attention to what he was saying?  Or was it because Peter didn’t like getting grilled in front of his friends?  Or maybe Peter wasn’t grieved, maybe he was just annoyed Jesus kept asking him the same question over and over again and didn’t seem to accept his answer?

Maybe.  But maybe not.

Unless we understand the meaning of one, simple, four-letter word, we can come up with all sorts of reasons for Peter being grieved that are not true.  But once we take the time to see what Greek words for love are used in this conversation, everything changes.  Everything becomes crystal clear.  There’s no longer any reason to guess or to assume, now we know.  Here is their conversation in the Greek:

Jesus:  “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love (agape) Me more than these?”
Peter:  “Yes Lord; You know that I love (phileo) You.” (John 21:15).

Jesus:  “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love (agape) Me?”
Peter:  “Yes Lord; You know that I love (phileo) You.” (John 21:16).

Jesus:  “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love (phileo) Me?”
Peter:  “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love (phileo) You.” (John 21:17).

Or, to put it in our language:

Jesus:  “Peter, do you love (agape) Me like I love (agape) you?  Do you love (agape) me  with an unselfish and self-sacrificing love (agape) like I love (agape) you?”
Peter:  “Uh, Lord.  I love (phileo) you like a friend.”

Jesus:  “Peter, do you love (agape) Me like I love (agape) You?  Do you love (agape) Me with the highest form of love (agape)?”
Peter:  “Lord, like I said, I love (phileo) you like a friend, like my best friend.”

Jesus:  “Peter, do you really just love (phileo) Me like a friend?”
Peter:  “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love (phileo) You like my best bud, like my pal, my buddy, my homeboy, my BFF.”

Can you see now why Peter was grieved the third time Jesus spoke?  The true meaning of some small, four-letter words can change our entire understanding of what the Scriptures truly say.  And this is just the beginning.


Yada and Ginosko

Which brings us to another vital, four-letter word.  And this word is know.  To know how.  To know what.  To know something.  To be in the know.  To have knowledge.  To acknowledge someone.

Again, there are several Greek and Hebrew words used to describe and define a clear and concise picture of what our single word know actually means.  And until we unpack these words we’ll never understand the glorious depth of what the Lord is revealing to us in His Word.  We’ll get lazy and let our English definition of what we think the word means cloud what truth He may be telling us today.  And that would be a great shame.

In Proverbs 1:2 we read that one of the purposes of this great book is:  To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding.

But what does the word, know (yada in the Hebrew and ginosko in the Greek) really mean?  And does it matter?

Hang on, my friend.  For tomorrow we’ll look at this powerful four-letter word and see exactly how the Lord uses it to give us a lasting understanding of what it means to “know wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:2) and also what it means when Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own” (John 10:14).

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Getting Serious

  1. What does the word love mean to you?
  2. Can you use agape, phileo and eros to describe the different kinds of love in your life?  Do you see the difference?
  3. Will you, from now on, circle the word love each time you read a passage and indicate for yourself what Greek word is used?
  4. What do you think it means to “know wisdom”?  And how would you define wisdom?
  5. Can you describe a time when you felt God had given you His wisdom?  What was that like?  And if you have never had that experience, why not?  Can you think of a reason God hasn’t given you His wisdom in a particular situation?  And do you want that to change?

Next Step Challenge

Go grab a Word Study, like Vines or Zodhiates, or go to www.blueletterbible.com and do a simple, online word search for “know” in both the Old and New Testament.  Notice the different ways the word is translated in the English.  What does that say to you?

Then go to John 21:17 (see below) and notice the two different words translated “know” in this passage.  What is the Lord trying to tell us?

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”  Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know (eido) all things; You know (ginosko) that I love You.”  Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.”

Finally, look up the meaning of eido (1492 in Strong’s) and ginosko (1097 in Strong’s) and write this verse again using the proper meaning of the Greek words for love and for know.

Does this statement by the Lord seem clearer to you?  Good.

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