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A skilled life begins with the right understanding of God and His character - described in Proverbs 1:7 as "the fear of the Lord".
Be Thirsty: Where the Sherpas Drink
Kindness: Never Random and Far Too Rare
How to be a Prude and Like It: Living a Life of Discernment
The Tamed Tongue: Controlling the Uncontrollable [Wise Speech]
Purity and the King of Candy Selection
A Generous Dozen, part 2 [Generosity]
A Generous Dozen, part 1 [Generosity]
Integrity: Sleeping Well, Living Better
If You Don't Get the 'God' Question Right, It Doesn't Matter What You Get [The Fear of God]
Who Needs a Dragon When You Have a Father Like This? (Introduction to 'This is the Life!')
We're going to talk today about the first of 36 different life attributes that really make the life we're in the greatest life you can possibly have. A life that others would look at and go, "Man, that is a great life! That is a life that, if I could have a life like any life, I'd want a life like that one." In the little book we're using as our key to do that, it tells us the beginning of getting that life, the beginning of a life that is skilled, comes with having a right understanding of God. But that's not what it says. It says the beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord.
I'm here to tell you today that is not what it means. When it says the beginning of the kind of life others look at and go, "Man, that is an awesome life," it is not talking about a life that is running away from this ominous, already-present force. Some people think that's what it means. Some folks grew up in homes where they were told if they didn't get everything just exactly right with God before they walked out that door a meteor was going to drop on them in the front yard. They live in this sense of foreboding, lurking, ever-present fear.
The English language does us a disservice sometimes. We hear certain words, and although we accept that they have different definitions, we lock in on one definition. If fact, there's a very important verse in the New Testament that, because of what we're prone to do with the English, which is use our favorite understanding of that word and then apply that word that way no matter what context it's used in, it creates a lot of confusion and pain in the church.
The verse I'm going to talk about is in Ephesians, chapter 5, verse 18, in this illustration where it says you are to "…be filled with the Spirit." Now because of the way we use the word filled 90 percent of the time, we want to apply that definition to that sentence. We think of something that needs to be filled as something that is lacking content. When you fill something, you make it full, which is to say you take that which is empty and you occupy it.
When you hear "…be filled with the Spirit," a lot of people go, "Okay, that's a command to believers. They have to go search for something they don't have so they can have a content they are currently lacking," but that's not at all what is going on in Ephesians 5:18. That is not the use of the word filled that is intended there.
We use filled another way in our language all the time. We use it this way: "That guy was so out of control, he was so over the top, he was so unreasonable, because he was just filled with anger." Right? Perfectly acceptable English usage. Everybody understands what we mean. It means they are completely controlled by, yielded to, the emotion of anger in that moment.
In fact, in the New Testament, it says the people were filled with fear. They were filled with awe, meaning they were controlled by this overwhelming emotion that affected them in every physical and emotional way possible, so that their actions were predetermined. What Ephesians 5:18 is saying is, "Listen. Always be controlled by the Spirit of God." We know that because of what it says right after that. "Don't be controlled by wine." In other words, don't be drunk with wine. That's dissipation. It makes you less of a man than you're supposed to be.
Likewise, the word fear. When we think of the word fear, we think of an overwhelming sense of dread or terror that controls you so you can't do anything. You're paralyzed. Fear is a great motivator, but too much fear paralyzes us, doesn't it? We think, "Okay, I want to have a great life, and you're telling me the beginning of a great life is to live in dread and terror?" No.
First of all, it would be very interesting if there were only one use of the word fear. When God came, he said Jesus is the exact representation of the nature of God. So, Jesus is the one who has come to tell us how we are to live. He is the perfect man because he always lived a yielded, controlled life by the Spirit.
Now the most often spoken words of Jesus were these two: Fear not. How in the world could Jesus, who is the embodiment of a skilled life of all that is good, tell us to not do what is the beginning of a skilled life? Unless, possibly, the word fear is meant one way here and another way there.
What Jesus is saying when he says, "Fear not," is, "You don't need to live in dread, even though I am a consuming fire, even though I am a God of perfect righteousness and justice and wrath." In other words, "I have no tolerance for evil." We kinda go, "Dadgum, man. I may not be as evil as that guy, but I'm not as good as you just said I need to be." That would fill you with fear and terror and dread, unless the one who is to be dreaded and feared tells us, "Fear not, because I want to deal with that chasm between us. I want to deal with the justice due you."
When Jesus is saying, "Fear not," he's not saying, "Look, man. Be stupid. Don't even start down the wisdom road." That's not his exhortation. What he's saying is, "The one whom you are correctly to dread is going to give you an olive branch and is going to do something that is too wonderful for you to even attain to on your own."
There are all kinds of solutions out there for how you deal with fear. I want to tell you… I said last week that even if you have friends who have no desire to have a relationship with God, no desire to figure out who Jesus is and to connect with Christ, these next 36-some-odd weeks are going to be great for them, because everybody wants to live a skilled life. I'm going to tell them what a skilled life looks like.
I'm going to tell you these are the attributes that, if they were in your life, people would look at you and go, "Hey, that dude has it going on. That life right there is what life should look like and be all about." But this first one is the one I'm going to tell you about that you might go, "Well, you know what? It's a little jury-rigged because you're telling me, Todd, to have that kind of life I have to deal with God to begin with."
That is correct, but just in case you're here and you don't want to deal with what I'm saying, I do need to be honest enough with you to tell you there is, in the Scripture, the use of the word fear the way the movies talk about. In other words, if you don't want anything to do with God, God is going to say, "You're going to have to deal with me one day."
Let me show you the two uses of the word fear in the same verse. In Exodus, chapter 20, verse 20, this is what it says: "Moses said to the people, 'Do not be [filled with terror or dread; don't be overwhelmed in fear] ; for God has come…'" In this particular instance, to you, the people he wants to make himself famous through, in order to verify that you know him correctly."…in order that the fear of Him…" Different use than the word afraid."…may remain with you, so that you may not sin."
Let me show you that it's possible to have the dread and terror of God and not the beginning of wisdom. James, chapter 2, verse 19 says, "You believe that God is one…" That there is a God who is out there. Good. Awesome. Good for you. "… [the Devil] the demons also believe* [there is a God] …". They know that intellectually and with certainty, because they've seen him, and they are filled with fear or dread. They shudder at who he is, but they don't have the first lick of sense.
A little bit later, in Revelation, chapter 6, verses 15-17, the writer in the book of Revelation is going to share with you what Paul said a little bit earlier. If you don't deal with God when he comes to you and says, "Fear not," as a Lamb, who longs to welcome you into his presence by the shedding of his own blood, there's going to be a day when you're going to deal with him as a Lion.
In fact, what God says is simply that everybody is going to have wisdom one day. In other words, everybody is going to have a right understanding of who God is. This is what Paul says. There will be a day when everybody bows, every knee bends, every tongue confesses what the simplest skilled life on earth already knows: That is that God is there. He is good. He is just. He is holy. He is worthy of all reverence, respect, awe, tribute. To have a relationship with him is everything you could want. He is worthy of being the only thing you love.
That's what it says in Philippians, chapter 2, when he says every knee will one day acknowledge that. Revelation 6 says the same thing. "Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb…'"
You hear that, and you kind of go, "Now wait a minute. The wrath of Mr. Rogers? What kind of wrath can a lamb have?" Well, you need to understand that Lamb has a dual nature. He can be a Lamb who can offer himself as a sacrifice, but he is a Lion who is the King. "…for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" None.
There are two kinds of people on this earth. There are folks who are going to be skilled right now. In all wisdom they're going to CLEP ahead, and by grace understand today what one day all men will graduate to understand: that is that he is King, that there is a God who is there, and that he must be dealt with.
Then there are those who one day God will say, "Look. I am not going to force myself on you. I am not a rapist who makes you have relations with me, but I call you into relationship with me. If you say to me, 'I want, God, what you want. Thy will be done.' We will come together, and you will fear not. You will take the provision I've had for you so we can relate."
There are those to whom God will one day say, "Hey, thy will be done. You don't want anything to do with me? I will give you what you have always desired. I will allow you a place you will have nothing that will remotely remind you of who I am. I will give you eternity that you can live in a place where there is nothing that is good. Everything that comes from me is good, and so I can't have anything that might suggest I am there. I will give you a place where there is no friendship, because friends are a gift from me.
I will give you a place where there is no hope. I will give you a place where there is no light. I will give you a place where there is no death, because in a place like that, even death will be good. You want nothing to do with me? I will give you that which doesn't even echo of the fact that I existed, because I will let you have what you want, if that's what you choose." Now that, folks, is something that should create in you that sense of dread and terror, but that's not what the beginning of wisdom is. That's just the reality of what we all know.
I'll tell you. I will serve my friends who came today and go, "Wait a minute. I didn't want to come here today and have somebody tell me I need to deal with God." I'm going to give you another alternative. There are those who are out there who are not going to offer you what I'm going to offer you today, so that you might have a skilled life. I'm going to give you another set of tools that will allow you to escape Zeusophobia. Zeusophobia is the fear of God or gods, and it is a commonly held fear that is out there.
I was having some fun this week. I jumped on a website, and I will tell you some symptoms of Zeusophobia. Dizziness, breathlessness, excessive sweating, dry mouth, feeling sick, shaking, heart palpitations, inability to speak or think clearly, a fear of dying, becoming mad or losing control, a sensation of detachment from reality, or a full-blown breakdown. Who wants to live like if you don't get it all figured out…? No one wants to live with that kind of pain. No one wants to live with that kind of insecurity. So, here's an option for you.
This particular website offers that, "I want you to be encouraged that you are not the only one to suffer from the fear of the Lord. Most sufferers are surprised to learn they are far from alone in this surprisingly common, although often unspoken, phobia. Fear of the Lord is an intense fear of something that possesses little or no actual danger. It's an illusion. While adults with fear of the Lord realize these fears are irrational, they often find that facing, or even thinking about facing, the feared situation brings on a panic attack or severe anxiety. But there is a way out."
Again, I'm serving those of you who came today and didn't want what I'm going to offer you in a moment. Here's your alternative. He would go on to say, "Imagine what your life will be like when you know that you are not defective. Imagine what you will find out when you're an individual who can be confident and at ease in situations where you used to feel your fear of the Lord, and when you can talk about your former fear of the Lord as symptoms as though you are describing a movie where the character is someone else, not you. All this through my amazing discovery."
It says, "Several years ago a psychologist specializing in phobias, like fear of the Lord, made an amazing discovery." Here it is, and it's called the discovery statement. Again, I am giving you what I told your friend to tell you we would give you, which is, even if you don't want anything to do with Jesus, these things we're going to talk about are something everybody wants in their life. If you don't want Jesus, here is one of your alternatives. You can latch on to this brother's discovery statement, which is…
"The cause of all negative emotions is simply a disruption in your body's energy system." There you have it. Go to this man's website, and it will tell you how to deal with this disruption in your body's energy system. Watch what he goes on to say, because I agree with something he says here in a minute. Note what he didn't say, the psychologist who found this. He didn't say it was in your thoughts, habits, beliefs, strategies, or any other thing, although they do play a factor. Those are the branches.
This is where I could not agree with him more, and this is why I'm going this series. He says, "Fear of the Lord, dread and terror and all these things, if you don't have it can severely disrupt normal life, interfering with school, work, or social relationships. Don't suffer needlessly. Don't wait any longer to eliminate the unnecessary suffering from your life." Let me throw this out at you. What we have, folks, is in ourselves a sense that there is somebody to whom we're accountable.
I want to speak for a second to people who go, "You know what? The whole God thing, Zeusophobia? Get over it." See also the series we did 18 months ago called What If the Skeptics Are Right? George Carlin basically stood up there and mocked the world for having Zeusophobia and told you why he doesn't. God is not surprised by people like that. He's not intimidated by people like that, but he does hurt for people like that in the same way a father hurts for a loving son.
The son says, "Dad, look man. Don't tell me you've been down the road I've been on. It's a very different world I live in. You have nothing to say to me that can help me. I'm going to figure this out on my own. I'm going to go my own way." The Father is going to let you go your own way. He's not going to chain you to the bed so you can't leave, but he hurts for you because he knows the choices you're going to make are going to cause you an immense amount of pain. This is what God's Word says about those people. It's interesting.
In Psalm 14 and Psalm 53, it says, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" The Bible does not say the fool says with his head, with his intellectual calculating, that there is no God. The Bible does not take philosophical atheism and even acknowledge the potential for its existence, because it considers the idea so completely absurd it doesn't even need to go there. The Bible says, "Look. We all know everywhere we look, both without and within, there are things screaming to us that God exists. We all know time plus chance doesn't create order. It creates chaos."
Watch this. In Romans, chapter 1, dealing with this idea that there is only an unreasonable, irrational fear, that if you can just get over it, you'll be fine… In fact, this is very Freudian. It looked New Age-ish, but it's very Freudian. Freud is the one who most famously said God was invented by man to deal with the uncertainty and overwhelming pain of life, so he created this creature to help him. Freud believed if man was educated, if he was enlightened, if he was made less superstitious, he would grow out of his need for God. That's what Freud believed.
I want to tell you that individuals who tell us that believing in God is a crutch have to consider this. There is a possibility that belief in God is not the crutch. It is your commitment to atheism despite objective evidence to the contrary, internally and externally, that is the crutch. They will go to no small end to present thesis after thesis to convince you there is no Zeus you have to worry about. There is no God who is there. It is a creation of insecure, feeble, weak men. It is a crutch, and you lean on it because something is wrong with you.
What I'm going to tell you is every honest intellectual person who will look out there and say, "Look. We all know time plus chance equals chaos, not order…" Explosions in print shops do not create Hamlet. There is an intelligent designer who put those letters together to make a beautiful piece of prose. Anybody who says…no matter how much evidence shows us objectively that the deeper we go into the smallest organisms in our world, we see intense order; the further we go out in the deepest parts of space, we see order…that this is a product of time plus chance…
Even the most liberal of scientists who diagnose the age of the earth will tell you the statistical probability that in that age they deduce our universe to be in, there is not enough time that has passed to make it a statistical possibility, with all the explosions and re-makings and re-shapings, that order would have appeared out of constant time and chance. Enough time hasn't gone by to make that even a remote possibility.
The complexity of our creation screams there is an intelligent Designer, but there are people who go, "I don't want to be accountable to anything. I don't want to be subject to anything. Therefore, I have to imagine and live as if there is no God. That's the only way I can get through life without having an overwhelming sense of accountability and judgment I know is due me because this is not my world. I'm living like it is, and because I'm committed to living like it is, I have to suppress what I know about God." See Romans 1.
For in the goodness and righteousness and perfectness and greatness of God, he revealed this. The righteousness will live with this understanding of me. He says, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them…"
In other words, everywhere we go, we find a consistent nature in man. There is a conscience. There is a moral law that is universal. Why? Because we come from a single Creator. It says, "…for God made it evident to them." We have an imbedded sense of right or wrong. We also have an imbedded sense that there's more to this life than just this life. The Scripture says God set eternity in our hearts.
It says these folks took what God said, and they said, "I'm going to suppress it." "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks…" They don't acknowledge him.
It says, "…but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures." What we do today, though, is we don't really worship animals anymore or too much creation. What we really worship is a creature in creation who we want to make out to be God, which is us.
It says, therefore, what happens when God has people who say, "I don't want anything to do with you. I'm going to create my own god that I can control and that I can manage, that I can set up the rules of how to please him," God says, "Good. You can have what you want." "Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity…" In other words, "You want that? I'll give it to you." Psalm 106 says, "And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul."
Last week I gave an illustration of a guy named Woody Allen. Woody Allen, about 12 years ago, left his starlet Hollywood partner, Mia Farrow. He decided he was done with her, and his heart wanted something else. It happened to be Soon-Yi, his 17-year-old adopted daughter. He left Mia, and he gave himself to Soon-Yi.
They asked him… Even his greatest fans were shocked and were abhorred at what this man had done. They said, "What in the world are you thinking? What are you doing?" Woody Allen said, "The heart wants what it wants." He says, "If I have to leave my long-time partner and marry my daughter, because that's what I want, that's what I'm going to do."
Now people watch Woody Allen, and they go, "This is sickness at the nth degree." But Woody Allen himself, 12 years later… If you think the heart is informed and knows what it wants and what it should get, you would think Woody Allen is doing great. But he has just made this whole media war, because he has a new movie out where he talks about the despair in his life.
The reason he keeps making movies is not because he likes to make movies but because movies distract him from the hopelessness and despair of the futility of his life. The Scriptures tell you, "Yes, your heart wants what it wants, Woody, but the heart is desperately sick. It is deceitful above all else. You are to guard your heart, for from it flow the wellsprings of life."
What's going on right here is he is saying, "Look. I'll give you over to the lusts of your heart instead of an eternally informed, perfectly good, loving, instructive, omniscient Father who cares for you, who doesn't just jerk you around with commands as if he's a guy with a dog to impress his friends. 'Sit down. Over. Stay. Heel. Roll. Fetch.'"
He doesn't do it for his own pleasure. He does it because he loves you, so you're not a victim to being like a dog who has no sense but is only controlled by its physical urges. He says, "I want to inform you so you can live a life everybody looks at and goes, 'That is some life.'" What it does right here is God says he gave to them, "The freedom to pursue what the heart wants, Woody."
It says, "…so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature [themselves] rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen." When you walk with him, you are blessed in it. It's the life. Amen. So be it. May we live that way, but these people who want what they want, God gave them over to degrading passions. I want to skip over this whole little area here that folks love to focus on that talks about what people do when you give them over to their passions.
Let's be honest for a second, especially as men, but there's an application here for women. If you let men… If you go, "I'll tell you what, I'm going to let your little heart run wild. I'm going to let you have what you want, go where you want to go, do what you want to do. No consequences. You are free. It's a riotous world where you are king, and you can do whatever you want whenever you want to do it," the first place most men's hearts go is to some sexual perversion.
If I can just get after it and not have consequences, the first thing I'm going to grab for to find life is over there in the sexual area. That's the first place you see hearts that are let go to follow their own passions. They seek the most intense pleasure they can seek as quickly as they can seek it. They find it there.
Women, who desperately want to be in relationship and love, when they find men aren't there to love, they will not find fulfillment in their God who is still sufficient for them even when men are not present as they should be. They will give themselves to others because they're not going to listen to the God who tells them there is still a better way, but they don't get caught up in that first expression of a heart that goes away from God.
Watch this. Do you want to see other attributes of a life that suppresses the truth of God in unrighteousness? Though many of you don't identify with the first place, see if you can identify with other things that are not the first place rebellious hearts go, but the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth. In other words, it's a lower debasement. Watch this.
It says, "…God gave them over…" Not only to their lust, but, "…to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers…" Have you recognized yourself yet?
"…haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy…" This is like my résumé. "…unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them."
Hey, let me tell you. This is the deal. This is what God says to you. He is desperate for you to listen to him and to know he loves you. The attributes I just read there at the end, those are things people who in that moment are not living in a way that seeks the very first thing you need to get to have a skilled life. You reject it, and so that's where your life goes.
Recently I shared with you that I was talking to a group of people who influence the nation. They said to me, "We're not really sure we want to accept what you're selling us." I said, "Hey, that's fine. You go ahead and keep doing what you're doing, but let's take a look at how that's working out for you. Genocide is not happening all over the world. Poverty and infant mortality and raping creation isn't happening at the level it is all over the world that is happening here.
You want to reject wisdom? You want to reject how to have a skilled leadership for a nation? Go for it, big boy, but before you continue to say you don't need somebody (not me, but somebody who is telling me what is good so I can share with you what is good), then you keep doing what you're doing. I'm going to remind you that if you keep doing what you're doing, you're not going to like what you've got."
I would say that to you out there today. You're free to make whatever choice you want, but you are not free to determine the consequences. Because you have a loving Father, he is begging you to listen to him. This is great because I love the way dads sometimes talk, almost in this cryptic way. That's why it says in Proverbs, chapter 1, verse 6, "Stay here with me. Check this out. I want you to understand the words of the wise and their riddles." Sometimes they speak in these cryptic analogies, and you have to figure out what they mean.
Listen to Proverbs, chapter 4, verses 1 through 9. Watch this. Then we're going to come back and read through chapter 1. I'm going to tell you why God has this thing rigged. I'm going to let you hear from some friends in just a second who can tell you from their own lives, "I tried to find all the life I could in mirages, but I'm telling you now, by the grace of God, I figured out there is no life in mirages. There's life in the spring of eternal water, and you should drink deeply of him."
This is Solomon pleading. "Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding, for I give you sound teaching; do not abandon my instruction." You can see a dad who loves his boy just pleading with him. "When I was a son to my father, tender and the only son in the sight of my mother, then he taught me and said to me, 'Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments and live.'" I've been through kindergarten. I can help you.
"Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding!" Can't you see yourselves in the living room with your dad? "Son, listen. Listen to me." "Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will guard you; love her, and she will watch over you." This is it. This is the moment. Are you ready? This is a dad moment. This makes me laugh when I read this, every time. "Son, here's the deal."
"The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom…" You're like, "Oh, man. Now that didn't help me a lick right there!" "…and with all your acquiring, get understanding. Prize her, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a garland of grace; she will present you with a crown of beauty."
"The beginning of wisdom…" he says in chapter 4 is…what? "Go get her." "Go get what?" Larry the Cable Guy would say, "Get 'er done. Just get 'er done." No, what's going on is God is saying, "Look. Acquire wisdom." "How do you acquire wisdom?!" you should scream. He goes, "I already told you. Get the God question right."
If you don't get the God question right, you are dead meat. You will be victim to all you see that you think is telling you God isn't there. You will be a victim to people giving you ammunition to go the way of your heart, which is the way of death. "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death," unless you protect yourself with the God question.
Proverbs 1. Let's get there. What is this first thing? It's not dread and terror, although there is an appropriate dread and terror of having authority you are offending, knowing you're going to meet up with them one day. But that's not the beginning of wisdom, fear and terror. Let me say it to you this way. The word fear can also mean awe, reverence, love, worship. The beginning of having a skilled life is getting the God question correct.
Let me say that to you again. Getting the God question correct is the beginning of any life you can have, because the way you answer the God question determines everything about you. It determines whether you weep when noncombatants, so-called innocent people, are murdered for just going to work. It depends whether you weep or whether you dance and celebrate in the streets. How you answer the God question determines that.
How you answer the God question determines whether you rob and abuse the vulnerable, or whether you stop and help the vulnerable. How you answer the God question determines whether you bring destruction into your life and into other's lives, or whether you bring restoration into other's lives.
Let me say it to you this way. How you answer the God question determines how you will use power. It determines how you will define purpose. How you answer the God question determines how you will pursue pleasure. In other words, it determines everything about your life. If you want to have a life that isn't filled with insolence, arrogance, boastfulness, and creative evil, then you have to start here. You have to get the God question right.
That's why it's the beginning of wisdom. It is to know God for who he is and know he's not up there as some cosmic killjoy who is looking to rip you off. He is a loving Father who is looking to give you life. That's why the whole idea in this series isthis is the life. You have a loving Father who is telling you, "Over here. Sit now. Let's talk. Let me help you."
Proverbs, chapter 1. "The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel." All right. Who is Solomon? Very quickly, a little sidebar. Solomon is a guy who heard from this father, David, that the reason this nation exists, the reason David himself became king, is because there was this King who was for David. A King not of this world, but a King who was very real. A King who would do things that, frankly, were supernatural, almost as if that King were above the world.
That's what supra means. Supra: above or beyond what is natural. Sometimes, he dips down in a very clear way, into what is natural and accomplishes things for his purposes. "One of the things, young Solomon, this King is apparently doing is he is using us for no good reason other than he wants to, to glorify himself on the face of the earth as we have relationship with him. So, Solomon, lead these people who God wants to declare his goodness to other people through."
Solomon is going, "Dad, that wigs me out. I have no clue how to do that," but he does what a wise man will do. He takes his daddy's advice. He gets down, and he says, "Okay, King. I can't see you. I've heard stories. I've seen you act. I need help." God says, "I'm so pleased with the way you've attacked this problem, that you've come to me in humility. Not only will I give you what you need to lead these people well, but I'll give more toys than any man has ever had, because I'm a loving Father. When I see my son doing well, I want to bless him."
Solomon was blessed like no other guy was ever blessed. Here's the problem. Solomon, in his blessing, forgot the source of that blessing and started to think he was the reason he was so blessed. He had all kinds of problems. I love this. My favorite statement about Solomon is, "Solomon was the very first guy who ran out of mirages before he ran out of money." What does that mean?
This is what it means. A mirage is what happens when you're in a desolate place, and you look ahead to what will give you life. The radiance of heat, what the atmosphere does and what the sun does, is it gives you the illusion that just ahead there is life. There is refreshment. There is water. You run to the top of that hill only to find out it was a mirage. It wasn't what you thought it would be.
The very first mirage Solomon ran to in all of his power and greatness was the very first place Romans says you're going to go when you follow your own understanding. Women. Did he do women? Like nobody has done women. But that didn't quite do it for him, and so he says, "Let's just get more power." So, he increased power. "Let's get more learning." So, more learning. "Let's get more influence." So, more influence. "Let's get more wealth." So, more wealth.
Every time he went, the mirage left him thirsty, so he took the money, the power, and the influence he had to take the next mirage on. He ran out of mirages before he ran out of money. He says, at the very end of his life, "I'm going to write you a story. This is a story that tells you, 'Look, knuckleheads, there are no things in this life that can quench your thirst. There's only one thing that can really make life have meaning.'"
At the very end of that book, called Ecclesiastes, he tells you what he has learned. Guess what he learned? What God told him at the beginning, but he didn't believe him. He wanted to go ahead, and he said, "I'm going to make my life a lab. I'm going to see if God knows what he's talking about." At the end of that lab, this is his thesis.
The conclusion, when all has been heard, every mirage has been attacked, and you still have money left over in case another one comes up is, "Fear God. Get the God questionright." He loves you. He doesn't want you running up hills only to find out you're more thirsty, discouraged, and depressed than you were to begin with. This applies to every person, whether you're slave or free, king or poor. Get it right. See also what the guy knew four generations earlier when he started writing this.
Let me tell you. This is our problem. We all go, "Well, hey. I don't think Solomon really played with those toys he had right, because if I had those toys, I'm telling you. I think I'd be okay." Here's my favorite quote: "The rich are infinitely better off than the poor, because while the poor still think money will buy them happiness, the rich know better."
The beautiful are infinitely better off than the ugly. The athletic are infinitely better off than the unathletic. The popular are infinitely better off than the unpopular. The influential, the powerful, are infinitely better off than the weak. Why? Because while the weak and the suffering still think if they were in power life would be full, the rich and the powerful know better. Do you know what the rich and the weak both need? The poor and the powerful both need? The same thing. That is intimacy with a loving Father who will walk with them through life.
This is what he says in Proverbs, chapter 1. "To know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding, to receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice and equity…" I'm writing this book, "…to give prudence to the naive, to the youth knowledge and discretion…" To give the guys who have not yet gone through the lab of life what I have learned. I'm going to tell you what God told me that I ignored, only to find out he was right.
He says, "…a wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire…" And I love this phrase. "…wise counsel…" That phrase wise counsel. It is the Hebrew word that is also used for the rigging of a ship, that which steers a ship and directs a ship through life.
It is why, when we see a life that is so out of control, so reckless and wild, we say this phrase: "Man, that dude has lost his way," or "That brother has lost his moorings." He is zigzagging everywhere, just being blown here and there by whatever current the culture is in or by whatever wind he gets swept up in. He has no ability to navigate through life. He is a wreck, and he is dangerous. If your ship is sailing in the sea near his, you are in trouble.
That is why he says, "It is better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than some dude who has lost his way," who does not love wise counsel, who has no rigging. They are vulnerable to whatever current society is going to throw at them, and it is not the life. It's quite a ride, but I want to tell you. That ocean is deep.
What you have in the midst of this is Solomon crying out to you. He's saying, "Listen, man. Get some rigging." He tells you a little bit later, "You want to wage war by wise guidance. It is a war, this life. To find meaning, purpose, pleasure in life ain't easy. Get this rigging. It'll take you there." "…no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly."
Psalm 16 says, "…In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever." This is the life. Don't chase the mirage. Walk with him. Now, like any good dad, this is teaching what he knew. He said, "I'm going to start with telling you this. Here we go. Lesson one: to love God."
If I had time, and I don't today, I could show you that the fear of the Lord and the love of the Lord are the exact same thing. Which is why when Jesus is asked, "If there's only one thing you have to do, what do you have to do?" Jesus said, "Watch me. Love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, all your strength." In other words, give him your heart, everything he is due.
Revere him. Pursue him like no other lover. That's what the word fear means right there. Love him. He's not a cosmic killjoy. He cares for you. He wants to set you up for success, not rip you off. Now watch. This is great. "Hear, my son, your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching. Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head and ornaments about your neck."
He says, "Now, sit down, son. Look. You're fixin' to go off to Sodom and Gomorrah. I know what it's like there. I've been there. All right?" "My son, if sinners entice you…" And they will. Don't listen to them. Listen to me, because I'm not trying to rip you off. I'm trying to save you from the horrors of what looks like life. If you don't have any moorings, you're going to learn this through the lab of your own destruction. Listen to me.
"…they are a graceful wreath to your head and ornaments about your neck. My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, 'Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood, let us ambush the innocent without cause; let us swallow them alive like Sheol, even whole, as those who go down to the pit; we will find all kinds of precious wealth, we will fill our houses with spoil; throw in your lot with us…'""We will be one marauding band of pirates together, and it will be good. Cheers. Ha ha ha!"
My son, when MTV makes its pitch, when Undressed runs across your screen, when you go see that movie, and when the world tells you, trying to convince itself this is the life, don't listen to them. When you go to college, and they say, "Hey, guess what? You're free. Daddy ain't here. You're king. Do what you want, and start with a beer. In fact, here's a contraption. You pour five beers in at once, and you can down five in five seconds.
Then go with us, and we will maraud. We will be a band of pirates together who will sail the seas of this campus, spend our weekends in high school away from the dread of this oppressive king and be free on the oceans of life. We will kill together. Come with me." In college they say, "Come with us. Jump in. Let's go to the Kappa house together, and we will enjoy some fresh booty." That's what he says. Booty in the pirate sense, you corrupt minds. I told you, the first place the mind goes. I'm just trying to illustrate the truth of Scripture to you.
Now watch. That's what they say, and it's convincing, is it not? He goes on. Watch. In verse 15, "My son, do not walk in the way with them. keep your feet from their path, for their feet run to evil and they hasten to shed blood. Indeed, it is useless to spread the baited net in the sight of any bird…" A little creature with a brain the size of a peanut, but these guys who are out there in all their certainty telling you they know where life is.
"…but they lie in wait for their own blood; they ambush their own lives." They're ignorant. They're sure. They're loud. They're persuasive. They have an incredible amount of advertising with them, but it ain't good. "So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence; it takes away the life of its possessors." Son, listen.
"Wisdom shouts in the street…" Which is to say God is more desperate for you to know his will than you'll ever be to seek it. He is begging you to track with him. "…she lifts her voice in the square; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings: 'How long, O naive ones…'" How long, freshmen? How long, high school students with a little freedom and a license? How long, 40-year-olds now that you're making some money? How long…? On and on and on it goes.
"…will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing and fools hate knowledge? Turn to my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you. Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; and you neglected all my counsel and did not want my reproof; I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes, when your dread comes like a storm…" Mr. Pirate, and you think it's clear sailing out of nowhere. Something is going to well up and swallow you whole.
I'll tell what's going to be really interesting. This is true with every pirate, every person. A little bit later, Solomon makes this observation. He says in Proverbs 19:2-3, "Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who makes haste with his feet errs. The foolishness [of a pirate] of man subverts his way…" And then guess what Solomon observes? Guess what he says next? "The foolishness** of man subverts his way and his heart rages against the LORD."**
Do you know how many people I've talked to who are living a life that is not skilled? They have made life mate selections that were not skilled. They have worked through conflict in good life mate selections in a way that was not skilled. Sometimes, even though they know God, they don't live as if they're applying what God is trying to tell them. Often people go through life, and they say, "How in the world could God give me this as a husband? All I wanted to do was to be happy, to be loved, and to have a home, and I got this guy. God, why?"
He goes, "Oh. Oh. Remember? Remember the things you did when you were selecting a husband? Remember how you didn't really consult me? You just paid some cultural homage to me by showing up in a building with a cross on top, and now you're blaming me for this marriage? Remember in that marriage that maybe started well when you guys didn't apply the things I told you to apply, and now you're blaming me that your marriage is falling apart?"
He says to the young girl who wakes up next to a guy who swore he loved her the night before, and now is gone and may be with her girlfriend the next weekend whose heart is ravished, whose soul is empty, who is scarred to death, who says, "How could you let this happen to me, God?" God says, "I let this happen to you? I did everything I could to prevent it. I love you. That's not my fault. Don't let your heart rage against me. Listen to me. I gave you what the heart wants, because that's what you wanted even though I put speed bumps and barriers and cliffs in your way. You just dove off them, and now it's my fault?"
This is what he says , "And you neglected all my counsel and did not want my reproof…" Verse 28: "Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but they will not find me…" In other words, you were free to choose, but you're now not free from the consequences.
"…because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD." The love of God. To know he's a heavenly Father who really cares for you, who really wants you to be in relationship with him, because you said, "That's not a big deal to me. I didn't get the God questionright. I made Todd God." "They would not accept my counsel, they spurned all my reproof." Watch this. "So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way and be satiated with their own devices."
Are you here this morning and your soul is lean? Are you wondering where the life is? You got your full of the life you have designed. Do you know that? You got your full of it. How's it working out for you? Some of you go, "Hey, it's going good. I am, right now, the main pirate in the high seas." I'm going to tell you. You are like the guy who has jumped off a hundred-story building.
You pass me on the ninetieth floor and the eightieth floor, and you go, "This is awesome. The rush out here, you wouldn't believe. I have adrenaline like I've never had adrenaline. You're over there walking the steps, Wagner." You get to the fiftieth floor, and you're still telling me, "Hey, idiot! You wouldn't believe." Sooner or later, I'm telling you, the reality of your experience is going to catch up with you, and it's going to come suddenly like a sidewalk when you jump off a tall building.
"For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them. But he who listens to me shall live securely…""And you will be free from dread. Free from fear, because you're at peace with me." It says the wicked have no peace. They live in constant terror, and it's a gift. That pain of dread and anxiety is a gift to make you seek peace. Peace is a person. His name is Jesus.
Isaiah 11. I told you I would tell you what the characteristic is, the benefit of living in it, the cost of not, and why Jesus is always our perfect example. Look at this with me. Isaiah 11, verse 2. It's talking about how there is going to one who is going to come from the shoot of Jesse. There's going to be a Messiah who will provide for you what nobody else can provide for you, and that is hope in the midst of hopelessness.
It says the Spirit of the LORD will rest on this one. "The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge…" It will be on him. It is, "…the fear of the LORD." In other words, there is somebody coming who is going to really help you. He's going to help you because this guy has the God questionnailed.
Jesus was the perfect illustration of a skilled life, because he loved God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, because the Spirit was in him, and he was filled with it. Not full of it. He was controlled by it always, by the love of God. Verse 3 goes on to say, "And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear." He isn't going to do what his heart wants. He's going to say, "Not my will, but the Father's will, because I'm going to live as a wise man lives."
What's God, what's my loving Dad, want? Jesus lived that way, and because of that, we go, "You know what? I may not be sure Jesus is anything, but I'll tell you that you cannot find somebody who will be critical of the life Jesus lived." Everybody says, "That is the life, man." There is purpose. There is pleasure. There is goodness there like nowhere else, because he got the God question right.
Maybe Jesus is too detached. Maybe Solomon was too far back. Listen to my friend Caroline who sits right here. Last week when I was talking about how when we go our own way, we become an illustration of stupidity, brokenness, and pain, but any moment God who says, "Don't dread me. Fear not. Just come to me. If you come to me, I'll take you out of independent study, out of the dunce cap of life, where you're an illustration of being the fool of the school. I'll put you back in the center of the school, and I'll make others long to be like you." Listen to this.
Caroline: Before I respected God, I definitely was in the party scene. I was in the world. I lived with a man before marriage. I did all these things a worldly person would do or someone who doesn't know the Lord would do. My brother had asked me to go on a mission trip, and I was like, "Well, I'll debate on it, and we'll see. I don't know." Finally, I called him one night at like two in the morning. I was like, "Hold me to it. I'm going on a mission trip." So, I left.
From then on, I just felt the Lord holding my hand. I would read my Bible and journal. Different people would encourage me in different ways. They were like, "Let's hear your story," and talk about different life stories. I was kind of like, "Well, I don't really know what to say." They're like, "Well, what do you mean?" I was like, "Well, I'm kind of still in the world. I haven't totally gotten out. I don't know. This is all new to me."
I started telling my story, and people were just amazed. I didn't understand why people were amazed, because I didn't understand what God was doing. Really, I didn't understand what he had saved me from. I didn't see it totally yet. I wake up, and I spend time with him. Before I woke up spending time with the world, spending time with different things that could fill you…a cigarette, beer, or a bowl of pot. I mean, whatever.
I definitely have life now, and life isn't found in any of those things. People say, "Caroline, how did you get to where you are now? What can I do to get to where you are?" All I can say is go to him. It's him. It's not anything on my own effort. Yeah, I pick up the Word. Yeah, I talk to him. That is definitely something I have to do and you have to choose to do, but there's nothing like going to him.
[End of video]
Maybe, just maybe, Solomon is too-distant a creature for you to identify with, but boy, Caroline. You know, she's sitting right here. Beautiful. Right? Pleasure? Partying? Running away from Dad? Living the life. She said, "I was hurting. I was looking for love in all the wrong places. There was leanness to my soul, and so I further numbed it with pleasure, with intoxication, with the next activity. And I hated myself."
Dad kept calling. He just kept calling. He brought her back, and now everybody is looking at her. This is no longer the person who everybody goes, "Man, that is a tragedy. That chick has lost her way. I might use her for my own pleasure, but that chick has lost her way." Now she's the one whom the other girls are coming up to and saying, "How do I get what you have?"
When you go to the one who says, "Fear not. Don't run from me. Come to me. I'm not a Dad who is looking to steal life from you. I am a loving Father who, it kills me to watch you kill yourself. Come. Just listen. Come." When you come, he can take a tramp, he can take a drug addict, he can take an abuser, he can take anything and make it beautiful, including you. Do you know this God? I do, and it is the life. It is the life.
You have to get the God questionright or you're not going to get anything right. It's the beginning of everything. If we can help you, we'll hang here as long as you want to talk. You can come this afternoon and linger with us, but you have to get the God questionright. If you get the God questionright, you start to follow your Father.
He tells you to connect deeply with others, because you shouldn't go through this life on your own. He tells you to be a part of a family. That's why we're calling folks together today to say, "Come on, man. Let's hang out together. Let's love each other." If you're a pirate and you're here today and you think people just want to kill you… You know what? You're probably right. Society hates you, but your Father still loves you. He wants to redeem you. He says, "Don't be afraid to come back home. Don't be afraid to come."
Father, we want to pray together this morning that we would come back to you. There are really two groups of folks today who need to listen. One is the people who are still out there pirating, who think they're not going to ever have an end to the pirating days because they're on a pretty good run right now.
Lord, you know that storm will break in that ocean at any moment or a bigger pirate ship will come sailing along, and they will sink at sea and be crying out. Some of them will sink, Father, in a way they'll never get up to ask for help again. Some, maybe, will survive a lot of pain, get washed up on shore, and by your incredible grace might go walking back into society a different, transformed, and changed person.
You want them to come right now, to turn the ship and sail it back in right now, to come to you and say, "I'm a pirate, and I have really messed this thing up. Can I know you, Dad? Will you forgive me? I have come to my senses, and I deserve nothing but judgment. For some reason, you keep calling out across the sea to me to come back home." Father, thank you that when we do that, it changes everything. Life rushes in where there is death. Hope comes in where there is despair. I pray for friends who are here who are still out there running away from you.
I pray for those of us who are maybe like Solomon, who have heard a "Dad" talk, but we've kinda gotten a little stale. We think we know better than our old man, and so we start to compromise the wisdom that is said to inform our lives. Therefore, we bring pain and folly into our own lives. May we just "hup two" this morning and sit at the feet of our Father. Come to you, as Caroline said, on a regular basis, every day, all the time. Meditate on what you've said to us so we would not, Father, give away the life that comes when we walk and live with you.
Lord, by some grace, those of us who had our rigging right this week, who are sailing well through the storms of life with hope despite the circumstances, we want to thank you. We worship you, and we want to declare that the greatest reward we could ever have is not any provision. It is simply just being with you.
We don't want to listen to the world, Lord. We don't want to be informed by the world. We want to continually be informed by you. Would you help us, wherever we are in those three categories, to celebrate who you are, declare it to others, to re-center our lives and rekindle afresh the relationship we have, or to come back for the first time to you in relationship? Lord, we know walking with you is life. Amen.
It's the ultimate self-help book. Centuries before Drs. Laura, Phil and Benjamin came on the scene to tell us how to live, love and parent wisely, God weighed in on these matters in the Book of Proverbs. Today's "life coaches" have simply repackaged God's wisdom but the concepts are timeless and truly life-changing. In this multi-volume series, Todd Wagner combs through the book's 31 chapters and identifies principles for approaching life with wisdom and skill. Each of the attributes is perfectly embodied in the person of Jesus Christ and guaranteed to bring abundant life to those who apply them - regardless of whether they've chosen to acknowledge Christ as Lord or not. Discover the blessed life God has in store for you in Volume 1 of this practical and applicable series on Proverbs. This is The Life, Volume 1, offers advice on: the fear of God, integrity, generosity, purity, wise words, discernment, kindness, and the thirst for knowledge.