Todd lists out twenty stupid things we do to screw up our lives, and ten biblical prescriptions for discerning God's plan for living well.
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!')
I am really excited about the message I get to share with you this morning. This is one of my favorite areas to teach on. I'm going to rapid-fire give you some stuff that if you just sat down and said, "Todd, tell me what you think," I'm going to lay it out for you this morning. I'm going to give you 20 things people do to screw up their lives, and I'm going to tell you 10 ways to keep you from screwing up your life. So we have to move quickly.
We're in a little series called This Is the Life. God is absolutely passionate for you to not screw up your life. He wants to set you free, not rip you off. The whole impetus of this little series we're in the middle of is whatever you do with the Jesus question is going to affect everything about your life, but at least (and this is almost insane to say this) while you're living this life you're going to make the best of that you can, if this is your only heaven… I've said it a couple of times before.
If you do not restore your relationship with God and if you don't make amends with him through the one provision he said is acceptable for those amends to be made, then this is as good as it's ever going to get. Likewise, if you're rightly related to God through the means through which he gave you to be rightly related to him, through a relationship with Jesus Christ and all God did to validate that that is the man God said can mediate between us and a holy God, then this is as bad as it's ever going to be.
If you know Christ, you ought to begin to display that right now. Eternal life begins now. It's about a life lived in relationship with God, not about living forever, and especially in the perverted view of some angel costume with wings and a harp on a cloud. God forbid that that's eternal life! Just to let you know, it's not. But if you are not going to have a better life later, you'd better make all you can of it right now.
What I'm going to tell you today will make a better life now, and the reason it's going to make a better life now is because I'm going to share with you what the God who loves you, who wants to be in relationship with you, is going to tell you about some things people do to screw up their lives. I'm just going to give you some observations I personally see again and again and again and again in the world we live in today that our friends keep knocking their heads up against.
This is going to be like the Sermon on the Mount, not in terms of its fantastic readability and its worthiness to be studied, and certainly not that it's divine, but I'm going to say it's pretty close, because it isn't me. I'm going to repackage it, but if you were listening to Jesus speak when he was on that mountain, you would have been really frustrated, because in chapters 5-7 in Matthew, where you see that message covered, he is just ripping through material.
If you get frustrated with me giving you water to drink out of a fire hose, you would have said right there, "I'm never coming back to this church again" when you walked off that mount, because Jesus is just rapid-fire telling you great truth and talking about what real righteousness and life with him looks like. Well, today I'm going to do a similar thing. You don't have to go back to Matthew 5-7 to study it, or you don't get to, but if you want to go to our website, they'll all be there. Are you with me?
People need this attribute I'm going to talk about today in their life as much as any of them. I mean, the ones we've already been over. You don't want to go through life without purity. You don't want to go through life without integrity. You don't want to go through life without generosity. You don't want to go through life without getting the God question right. You don't want to go through life without any of these things we've been talking about in weeks past, but today is one of those other ones that is kind of all across. It is prudence. It is discernment.
Prudence is one of those words we kind of go, "Oh man!" Prudence comes from prude. A prude is an overly excessive, neurotic individual who is concerned that they wouldn't taint themselves. We don't like the word prudence, because prude has become a negative word. If you go back and study the origin of the word prude, in about the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in old France, they adopted the Latin word prodo for wisdom and made it prudefemme, a wise woman.
Somewhere along the way, as the Age of Enlightenment and reason rushed into Europe, some men started to say, "These women who act wisely, who will not give of themselves freely to others, are prudes," and it became a negative term, a pejorative term. So prudence today is also not something we love to say other people have, because no one wants to be called a prude. Now discernment is still a very valued gift. They are synonyms.
You want to be a prudent individual. You want to be a discerning individual. You want to be what the original word prude meant: a wise, noble woman or man. I'm going to tell you what people who are not prudent do. They rush in where angels fear to tread. The antonym of prudence is rashness, operating without thinking, or I would say, operating with something other than that which is informed by good thinking…maybe your emotions, maybe the energies of your flesh. We're going to go through all of those together.
Let me start by showing you a classic example from history of individuals who had been given warning like you're going to receive today, who had been given instruction like you're going to receive today, yet were sure that instruction did not apply to them, because in their limited understanding, they did not see the danger. Though they were warned of it, though they had seen evidences of people who were destroyed before them, to them it did not look like danger, so they rushed in in a way that cost them dearly.
This might be difficult for you to watch, when you go back and relive moments like this in history, but I think you're going to find it worth it. "The prudent see evil and hide themselves, but the naïve proceed and pay the penalty for it." Brace yourself and watch this.
Arthur: What manner of man are you that can summon up fire without flint or tinder?
Tim: There are some who call me…Tim.
Arthur: Greetings, Tim the Enchanter.
Tim: Greetings, King Arthur!
Arthur: Yes. We are…we are looking for the Holy Grail. Our quest is to find the Holy Grail.
Knights: Yeah. Yes.
Arthur: Look, um, you're a busy man.
Tim: Yes, I can help you find the Holy Grail. To the north there lies a cave…the cave of Caerbannog.
Arthur: Where could we find this cave, O Tim?
Tim: Follow! But follow only if ye be men of valor, for the entrance to this cave is guarded by a creature so foul, so cruel, that no man yet has fought with it and lived. So, brave knights, if you do doubt your courage or your strength, come no further, for death awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth.
Arthur: What an eccentric performance.
Tim: Behold the cave of Caerbannog! There he is!
Arthur: What, behind the rabbit?
Tim: It is the rabbit.
Arthur: You silly sod! You got us all worked up.
Tim: Well, that's no ordinary rabbit. That's the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on.
Robin : What's he do, nibble your bum?
Tim: He's got huge, sharp… He can leap about… Look at the bones!
Arthur: Go on, Bors. Chop his head off!
Bors: Right! Silly little bleeder. One rabbit stew comin' right up! Oh!
Tim: I warned you! But did you listen to me? Oh, no. You knew it all, didn't you? Oh, it's just a harmless little bunny, isn't it? Well, it's always the same. I always…
Arthur: Oh, shut up!
Tim: But do they listen to me? Oh, no.
Knights: Charge! Run away! Run away! Run away!
[End of video]
I want to confess to you it has taken me seven years just to show that clip with some biblical illustration. All right. Over-the-top, stupid, silly clip, but it has application, and here's the application. I hope you take it away today every time you see a rabbit the rest of your life. It is simply this: We see things all the time that we hear warnings about, admonitions against. We just go, "It's just a rabbit."
"It's just a one-night stand. It's just a fleeting moment. It's just Spring Break. It's just one click. It's just this time." I'm telling you, it isn't. It's much more than you think, but you rush in, "Rabbit stew coming up," and you pay the penalty for it. I'm going to tell you as we start today that there is a tournament of narratives. In other words, there are people out there vying for your life who are begging you to listen.
Proverbs, chapter 9. Let me just read it to you, because it captures what's happening. It says, "Wisdom has built her house…" It's decked out and ready. You can come and abide there. "…she has hewn out her seven pillars…" Meaning, it's perfectly secure and structured. "…she has prepared her food, she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table; she has sent out her maidens [beckoning you to come] , she calls from the tops of the heights of the city…" You don't need to go and wonder where wisdom is. It's clearly marked.
"Whoever is naïve…" Which is to say not prudent, discerning, or wise. "'…let him turn in here!' To him who lacks understanding she says, 'Come, eat of my food and drink of the wine I have mixed. Forsake your folly and live, and proceed in the way of understanding.' He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself…""Why, you silly man! You had us all worked up!" they say.
"…and he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you… Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me [wisdom] your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you. If you are wise…"
Gang, this is the central verse for this whole series. It's Proverbs 9:12. "If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, and if you scoff …" "It's just a rabbit.""…you alone will bear it." Like wisdom is begging you to listen, naïve ones, there is another voice beckoning you. It says,"The woman of folly is boisterous…" In other words, she is loud and sure."…she is naïve and knows nothing. She sits at the doorway of her house, on a seat by the high places of the city, calling to those who pass by, who are making their paths straight…"
Things are going well, but there's somebody begging you to come and listen. "'Whoever is naïve, let him turn in here,' and to him who lacks understanding she says, 'Stolen water is sweet…'" You don't have to work for it. It's just right here. "…and bread eaten in secret is pleasant." No one will ever know. "…but he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are [not experiencing life] ."
All right. "If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, and if you scoff, you alone will bear it." I'm just going to rip through fairly quickly, with maybe some added illustrations or some proverbs to illustrate, 20 stupid things people do to ruin their lives. I'll just give you the very first one. It deals with what's there in Proverbs, chapter 9.
1 . _ You walk, stand, and sit with those who have no fear of God or sense of duty. This is the number-one thing I see people do to screw up their life. They surround themselves with individuals who live foolish lives. Psalm 1 says, "How blessed is the man who does _not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the path of sinners or sit in the seat of scoffers."
If you walk with wicked, if you stand with sinners, if you sit with scoffers, it is going to influence you. "But the one who delights in the law of the Lord…that is a good one." People stand, sit, walk, hang out with individuals who have no sense that God is good and loving and wants to give them life, and it costs them dearly. I'm going to get more specific now. Here we go.
2._ Spending time listening to others celebrating the foolish things they have done. Proverbs, chapter 1. All that is is a raucous celebration of "You're not having the life _I'm having because you're not living like I live in rebellion against God." You start to watch those folks on MTV, and you start to listen to your friends talk about the party last night, folks talk about what they did, friends talk about how they're making it right now by leveraging themselves to the hilt, and you start to go, "Well, maybe they're right. Maybe there is life there."
Well, let me just rip you through. Proverbs 17:19: "He who loves transgression loves strife…" If you love people who are celebrating their sin, then you love strife, and you're going to get what they're going to get. "…he who raises his door seeks destruction." When you open up the door to instruction to your heart by listening to people affirm rebellion and foolishness, you love destruction.
Proverbs 13:20: "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." Proverbs 28:7: "He who keeps the law is a discerning son, but he who is a companion of gluttons humiliates his father." Proverbs 14:7: "Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not discern words of knowledge." These are things I see people do. They walk in the path of sinners, they stand with rebels, they sit with scoffers, and then they listen to them tell their stories, and their heart is seduced.
3 . _ They trust their feelings more than they trust objective counsel_. They do what seems right to them, but in the end, it is the way of death. People appeal to me all the time. "How can this be so wrong when it feels so right?" Do you know what my answer to that is when I hear that? "How much time do you have? Let me tell you about the things that felt right to me that were so wrong. My flesh was screaming, 'This is right.' My emotions were welled up in anger, and to let it out felt so right. Those words felt so good to let them come out. It felt so right."
Do we really need to go through that? "How can this be so wrong when it feels so right?" Do you know if you embrace that as your model for living and standard for good activity that you have to join the pedophile, the abusive father? That's who you stand with when you say that. All right. Now I'm going to give you a group of them that go together. Do you want to know how to screw up your life? I'm saying this to most of my friends in their 20s and teens. Here we go.
4 . You date with no intention of getting married. Just go ahead, form intimacy, form all kinds of plans to spend time together and give your heart to somebody when you have absolutely no plan to bring that relationship to a climax where you commit to each other, covenant with each other, and get to celebrate the appropriate full expression of love for one another.
You just start yoking yourself to another person, but you say, "Let's spend all kinds of time locking our hearts together but do nothing that would ever indicate that we could move forward in all of the other components of a healthy and normal relationship." You will get burnt by that fire. You will. I'm telling you. It is so appropriate that guys and girls learn how to enjoy members of the opposite sex and develop relationships with them, but I want to tell folks who are dating in junior high and high school…
I want to say, "Do you have plans to get married before you graduate? Do you have plans to get married when you graduate at 18? How about when you're in college as a sophomore or junior? Are you getting married in the next six months to a year? Then what are you doing thrusting yourself in a spot where everything normative in your being is begging you to cross lines that will cause you pain?" You might say, "It's just a rabbit. They're just kids. It's just puppy love." I've seen it take their heads off. A corollary to it:
5 . Practice emotional promiscuity. We talk a lot about sexual promiscuity and how it brings scars into your heart. I'll tell you this: be emotionally promiscuous. Just give your heart away again and again and again to other people recklessly, quickly. It drives me nuts when I hear people go, "Man, I had a great date the other night. We went out, and we had dinner, and then we went for coffee. It was 10:00, and then it was 2:00, and then it was 3:00. We had the conversation. We talked. It was unbelievable."
I want to go, "Really? Were there friends there who validated that this is a guy, a girl you ought to continue down the road with? Were there people there who set up appropriate speed bumps and hedges that validated your opinion that giving your heart to this person and starting to yoke with them in that kind of intimate way was full of wisdom and prudence or was it maybe a little reckless?"
The Scripture says, "Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the wellsprings of life." If you're reckless emotionally and giving yourself to other people too quickly, it's going to lead to other kinds of promiscuity that are as damaging as letting your heart be used and absorbed and trampled and let go. You want to ruin your life? Just be an emotionally reckless person.
6 . Spend time alone when there is no opportunity to be interrupted. Let's just say now you do say, "I'm going to date because I'm ready to marry." Well, then you just get together and you hang out together while you're emotionally bonding, and you put yourself in environments where nobody is likely to walk in to where you are, and just see how that works out for you.
7 . Spend time alone together when you are physically touching. "Hey, it's just an innocent little night. We're just watching a movie. How much better could it be? We're just sitting there on the couch with a blanket over us watching Pollyanna." And lo and behold, you adjust. You're not really watching Pollyanna.
You're wondering if it's okay to slide the arm here or she leans that way or that part of the body is softer than the other, and no one is going to walk in that room before a period of time. Let's just say we've watched six movies like that and nothing has happened. Well, you just keep it up. See how that works out for you.
So many times people come in and go, "We have no idea how we've gotten here." I go, "I'm just going to accept that as a rhetorical statement, because if you want me to spell it out for you, draw a life map, I'll tell you exactly how you got there. It's not that hard." You want to screw up your life? Think what I'm talking about is a little rabbit that you can step on its head whenever you want. Oh, no, it's not.
8 . You believe a guy when he says, "I love you" when he is moving his hand in any other direction than toward a box with a ring in it. That will screw up your life. I could not be more serious. I'm telling you, girls, when you hear that, you have to slap his hand if he's reaching for anything other than black velvet containing a gold circle with a precious stone on top.
9 . Believing a guy means "I love you" when the next words out of his mouth are not "I want to serve you the rest of my life, covenant with you, honor the Lord with you, and ask for the privilege of being your husband." Gang, I'm telling you, hold on to those words, and don't let a man say those words unless he has declared to you that with those words he's not hoping you can move forward in the moment. What he's saying to you is, "I am ready to give my life for you like Jesus Christ gave his life for the church."
I told my wife I loved her one time before I asked her to marry me, and she knew when I said this it was me declaring, "I am all in." I said, "I love you," and it was her chance to let me down gently so that I didn't go ask her parents for permission, tell my closest friends, invest some money, go to her, create a big night, ask her, and have her go, "I'm not ready yet." That was her way to go.
If I said, "I love you" and she wasn't ready to say, "Yes, I'll marry you," all she had to do was look back at me and say, "Thank you, Todd. I'm humbled." That would have worked to say, "I probably ought not ask her to marry me." But I told her. I remember where I was. It was broad daylight. A lot of folks were around. It wasn't at the end of a romantic date movie under an afghan with her ear one inch from my mouth.
We were in a park, and I looked at her on a Sunday afternoon and just said, "I love you," and she looked back at me on that little blanket and said, "And I love you." From there, I drove to San Antonio and asked her mom and dad for permission to marry her. I got a ring, and seven days later I said, "I love you" for the second time, reaching for a ring box and telling her I wanted to serve her the rest of my life. You want to ruin your life? Just go ahead and throw that word around and believe it entitles you to whatever comes with a love relationship.
10 . Believing a gal is worth pursuing because her face and her body are worth painting. You want to screw up your life, men? Go get you some of that. This is what it says in Proverbs 11:22: "As a ring of gold in a swine's snout so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion." In other words, it is a misplaced thing of value and beauty. I had a guy say to me one time about a girl, "Hey, pretty house, isn't it? It's a shame no one lives there." Talking about a girl. And he was right.
Girls, you can advertise all you want. If you get a guy because of your body and because of your face, I'm going to predict right now you will lose him for the exact same reason. I never cease to be amazed at the number of women who have had affairs with guys to get them out of a relationship into a relationship with them who sit in my office and cry and say, "How could he do this to me?" I go, "Really? I'm going to take that as a rhetorical question."
If a guy will take off a ring from his hand and look you in the eye and tell you that forever he'll be true, you are absolutely right. He deserves you, and you deserve him if you'll believe that. Believing a gal is worth pursuing because she's beautiful goes against all wisdom. Proverbs 31:30 says, "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised."
Proverbs 19:14 says, "House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is [a gift] from the Lord." So you'd better get a woman who God didn't just make beautiful on the outside but who God has an intimate relationship with and says, "This is in relationship with me; therefore, I contain it and own it and can give it to you." You get a prudent wife. It's a gift from the Lord. Not a beautiful wife, not a charming wife…a prudent wife. That's a gift.
11 . Counting on tomorrow being available to change your behavior. That's a good way to screw up your life. In other words, "I'll just get through my college years. I'll get through my 20s, and then I'm going to get serious." You want to screw up your life? Then you just presume on tomorrow.
Proverbs 27:1 says, "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth." One wise man said it this way: "God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but he has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination." So don't tell me tomorrow is a good day to start to change your life when you're living the life of a rebel and a fool.
12 . Believing what happens in Vegas or Mexico or when you're alone with that special person stays in Vegas or Mexico or with that special person. It doesn't. It's passed right around the locker room, it is put on the Internet, and it is written on the tablet of your heart. You want to screw up your life? You believe that sales pitch.
13 . Believing that the odds will never get you. Oh man. Somebody told me this a long time ago. They said, "Listen. I want to tell you something, Wagner. When they say, 'Odds are it will never happen,' that means it happens," which was some great counsel.
"Odds are the first time you use drugs you won't get addicted. Odds are the first time you have sex you won't get pregnant, you won't get an STD. Maybe you'll overcome it. Maybe it'll be the person you'll marry. Odds are…" "Odds are that it will never happen" means it happens, and you are a fool to think you're going to be the one who never has those odds come to you.
14 . Believing it's a good idea to buy things today you can't afford because you don't have to pay for them until January of '08. That's a good way to screw up your life. Proverbs 22:7 says, "The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender's slave."
15 . Trust in the latest and greatest quick fix instead of the oldest and proven truth. Proverbs 14:18 says, "The naïve inherit foolishness, but the sensible are crowned with knowledge." Do you really think we've just stumbled on the one way you can lose weight without exercising more and eating less? You can spend all kinds of money, put yourself through all kinds of exercises.
Do you really think someone is going to show up today and write a book when upward of 3,000 years ago, the wisest man who ever lived said then, "There's nothing new under the sun"? Do you really think Deepak just figured out the keys to happy living? Go get you some of that. Tune in. Don't miss next week's Oprah, because there's the key to success and living.
16 . Believe something just because you read it on the Internet or in a forwarded email or a newspaper or you heard a friend say it. Proverbs 14:15 lays it out about as clearly as it can. "The naïve believes everything, but the sensible man considers his steps." Or considers his sources.
17 . Ignore the law of the harvest. You want to screw up your life? Ignore it. Galatians 6:7 says, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." One of my favorite little progressive syllogisms is "Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny." The law of the harvest is "You reap what you sow, you reap it later than you sow it, and you reap more than you sowed."
You put one apple seed in, you get an apple tree with bunches of apples, barrels of apples, full of bunches of seeds. It doesn't happen right away. As it says in Ecclesiastes 8:11, "Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil." You want to screw up your life? Mock the law of the harvest.
18 . Live for the immediate. Be all aboutimmediate gratification. That's a good way to screw up your life. Just say, "What would feel good now? What would be best now?"
19 . Believe life is all about you. You want to screw up your life? Do that. It's all about your comfort, your happiness, your pleasure. Make this world all about you today. That's a good way to screw up your life.
20 . Believing that messages like this would be great for someone else to hear. That's a great way to screw up your life. If you're sitting out there going, "Oh my gosh! I so wish she was here today," that's a good way to screw up your life. Proverbs 3:34 says, "Though He scoffs at the scoffers, yet He gives grace to the afflicted." You see, when I was doing this, I wasn't just thinking about you. I go, "Lord, I am so afflicted. I need to hear these things again."
First Peter 5:5 says, "You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." The second part of Proverbs 21:11 says,"…when the wise is instructed, he receives knowledge."** It doesn't say when the wise are instructed he goes and tells other people what he heard.
So, you want to screw up your life? You hear messages like this and go, "Oh man! This would be so good for them to hear" instead of letting God do some soul work on you. Now here's the deal. As I thought about prudence and discernment, which if you don't have you're going to do those 20 things and 100 more or some variation thereof or some grandson of that father law and principles that I gave you. That will screw up your life.
I know that because I've either personally experienced it or I hear and talk to people all the time who are going, "How did I get here?" which I always take as a rhetorical question, because if not, I go, "Do you want me to map it out for you? Because here's how you got here." I want to encourage you with this. Here's how you can not get there.
I'm just going to go through 10 things that if you'll do these things you won't do those 20 things. How do you become a discreet, prudent person and spare yourself the pain of confusing rabbits with things that will take your life away because you're wiser than people whose bones are scattered before you? Here we go. Let's just rip into them. The first one I'll say to you like this. You're going to go, "Oh my gosh. Are you kidding me?"
1 . Don't neglect your Bible. I could honestly stop right there. That's why Proverbs was written. I've talked to you guys about how I think I could ace elementary school. It's such a hysterical statement. What's really funny is do you think God could do your life well? Do you think God could live your life well if he was controlling it? I have to tell you, he'd knock it out of the park. This is what Proverbs 2 says:
"My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment [prudence] , lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom…" Your Father in heaven wants you to do well. Spend time with your Dad.
"…from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course.
For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things; from those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness; who delight in doing evil and rejoice in the perversity of evil; whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways…"
I'm going to give you a living illustration of this. There is a sweet young girl named Katie Gibbens who goes to Watermark. She is a sophomore dance major at SMU, and she is just beautiful. She's a member of a great little sorority over there, and not long ago on that little campus there was a particular fraternity that threw a little party called "Pimps and Hoes." Katie chose not to go. Why? Because of Proverbs 2, because by the grace of God she had been shielded from the ways of perverse and evil men.
You go, "Oh, it's just a party. Are you kidding me?" That's the way even we think sometimes. I want you to read what happened with Katie. She decided to write a letter to her school newspaper when she watched some of her little friends come home from that party. I want to read you her letter. It's published in the SMU Daily Campus with her picture right next to it.
"Enough! Party after party seems primarily driven by the goal of providing an 'appropriate' setting for the beautiful young women of SMU to wear as little as possible. Even so, I do not have a problem with every theme party hosted at SMU. In fact, as a fun-loving and social member of the Greek community, I love the opportunities that mixers provide to dress up in theme and have a fantastic time.
In most cases, I am able to dress in theme while maintaining dignity for myself as a woman of integrity who is worthy of high respect." Where did she get that? "However, this past Thursday night, I was completely unable to justify any way to attend a party that was titled 'Pimps and Hos' while holding on to any respect for myself. No matter how I could have dressed, attending this party would have said, 'Sure, this is fun, I'll be a "ho" tonight—it's only a joke, and it won't make any difference.'" "It's just a rabbit."
"It does make a difference! This is for the girls. To the women of SMU, I want to ask when the last time was that you heard someone being called a 'ho' in a positive way. Probably NEVER! (And, by the way, casually calling someone a 'ho' is just as disgusting as saying it with intention.) Girls call each other 'hos' as a slap in the face, a way to degrade another girl's reputation.
Boys call girls 'hos' as an insult, a way to say that a girl is not worthy of anything other than easy sex or physical intimacy. Boys won't be taking any girl they label as a 'ho' home to the family, will they? Have you ever had a friend that cares about you call you a 'ho'? ['Hey, ho! What's up?'] Then please don't let an entire fraternity label you as one, even if it was only for one party, one night." I'll skip down a couple of paragraphs where she talks about why boys like to be called pimps.
"But being called a 'ho'—that's another thing entirely. Boys smile when they are called 'pimps,' and girls cry when they're called 'hos.' Bear with me on this comparison. Girls, it would be kind of like having a party called 'Masters and Slaves' or 'Princesses and Servant,' any title that shows a huge separation between the value and position of one person in relation to the other. Which one would you want to be—the Princess or the Servant?
If you're like most girls, you want to be the Princess! Ironically, I think that one of the reasons girls are willing to go to parties like this is that girls want to be valued and sought after—they want to be the Princess, and in some way this takes the form of being physically desired. Girls want to play it off as just wanting to have fun and be young, but I believe that in almost every girl's heart this issue goes much deeper." This is a 19-year-old.
"So let me end by saying that being sought after while you're dressed as a 'ho' at a fraternity party doesn't bring you any closer to being treated as the Princess you want to be. That only comes from respecting yourself. I completely understand that when you know that you can very successfully display yourself in a way that captures the attention of men, it can be tempting to do so! But how much more rewarding would it be to capture the attention of one man of honor with your beautiful face and loving heart, rather than capturing the attention of one hundred men by letting them see everything you have to offer them?"
That wouldn't be a bad thing for every woman at this church to read every Sunday before they dress. "I realize that not everyone who attended this party wanted to portray the image of being a 'ho' (but girls, if you dressed in theme, what did you hope to portray?). This party points to a sickening idea that permeates our society; and if just one person who reads this is now able to see the problem behind holding such a disgusting party, then I will be so happy.
I hope that SMU is a little bit better because I refused to display my body and myself as a 'ho' last Thursday night, but even if it's not I know I made the right decision for myself and maybe pointed out an issue that was disregarded or unseen by so many. The reason I have the confidence not to dress provocatively is that I place my faith and trust in my Creator, who wants the very best for all of his children. I have been redeemed by the love of Christ, and I don't need the attention of men to provide the joy in my heart." That will preach.
See? You go, "How in the world…?" I'm having Katie Gibbens over to my house for dinner, and I'm saying, "Girls, this is your hero." She is a young Alex Wagner. This young girl gets it, because she has taken Proverbs 2 and built it into her life. There are so many other women in this room who I could hold up who have done the exact same thing. You are my hero, and guys who wouldn't go as pimps are my heroes. Don't neglect your Bible. Spend time with your Daddy, and you won't screw up your life.
What do you think I would have said if Ally would have called me and said, "Daddy, there's a party here tonight at the college I'm at called 'Pimps and Hoes.' It's $5 to get on a bus, and we go and have fun. What do you think I should do?" I hope I would have spoken with her with the tenderness and love that God speaks to me, and his daughter too, in the Scripture, and she would have left her time with me writing a letter like that, if not publicly, explaining to those in her sorority and dorm why she was going to live that way.
Katie got that from her loving heavenly Father. She wrote me a great email as we talked about this. She said, "I have to tell you, at first I didn't want to write a letter, and there were a lot of things that happened where God kind of forced this to be a public thing." She goes, "I know a lot of girls don't have a daddy who built into them the value and love, but they all have a loving heavenly Father who wants them to have…" And I paraphrase now: "…the life. So I thought I could just echo their Dad's voice."
2 . When you get to a time of decision, don't rush. Don't move until you know if there's already knowledge spoken into this moment. Proverbs 19:2-3. Have I seen this lived out again and again and again? Oh yes. Here's what it says: "Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge…" Therefore, if there's knowledge that speaks into your circumstance, don't do anything until you can go, "Has anybody here who's omniscient, all-knowing, eternal, and wise said something about this moment?" Don't you think you ought to consult that?
"…he who hurries his footsteps errs. The foolishness of man ruins his way, and his heart rages against the Lord." Do you think there were some girls who went to that party and then came home from that party and went somewhere else who woke up the next day only to find out that guy treated them like they dressed that night, and their heart was crushed, their spirit was stepped on again, and they just said, "God, why does this keep happening to me? Why do you let this keep happening to me?" That's Proverbs 19:3. She's mad at God, and all the time her Dad is saying, "I didn't ask you to get on that bus. I told you it was a good way to screw up your life."
3 . Don't ask God what he thinks when he has already spoken on the topic. This is huge. This is so important. One of the things we've done as elders a number of times… People say, "We want you guys to consider this," and we've caught ourselves saying a few times, "We'll pray about it," and I've gone, "No, we will not." That sounds so unspiritual, doesn't it? "We're not going to pray about that." They go, "What do you mean you're not going to pray about that?"
Because God has already spoken on that issue, so we don't need to seek his face. We don't need to consult him if he possibly has changed his mind. We're not going to pray about it. We're just going to do this, because God has already spoken. We stand firm where he is firm. We're flexible where he is flexible, and that's it. There's no flexibility here. This is chapter and verse stuff. So we all look at each other and go, "Let's not pray. Let's move." God loves that.
"O Lord, I've been lonely for so long, and you know I've wanted nothing but a boyfriend, somebody I could share my life with. I know this guy isn't really a follower of Christ. Okay, so he's Islamic. Okay, so he's a professed atheist. Okay, so he says he loves Jesus but everybody knows he doesn't. Lord, I just want to pray. Do you think I should say 'yes' if he asks me out?" Do you really need to pray about that? Do you know how many of you do? It's insane.
4 . Don't forget what you've already learned. Do you know what I do sometimes when people come into my office full of tears and pain? We love them. We say, "Oh man, listen. I know that pain. I have been foolish. I have not been prudent. I have not been discerning. Let me just repair your life, do everything I can, but let me just ask you to do this. I want you to go write down in exquisite detail the depths of your pain. I want you to laminate it. I want you to reread it every six months, because you have to hate this."
You want to tell me you'll never forget? Our whole country… "We will never forget!" We forget. Some fools never learn. Proverbs 17:10 says, "A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding than a hundred blows into a fool." Write it down. Go back over it. Rejoice in the continual provision of forgiveness, but don't forget.
5 . Don't miss what you can learn from others. There are three ways you can learn something. You can learn it from wisdom, which is the best way you can learn it; from the foolishness of others, which is the second best way; or you can experience it yourself. So learn from the mistakes of others. That's Proverbs 24:30-34, where it talks about walking by the field of a sluggard and seeing his life in absolute ruin. The idea there is because I've learned from this guy, I won't do it myself. So learn from the mistakes of others. Just once a year, tune in to Springer.
6 . Don't trust yourself. People go, "That is so counterintuitive. What do you mean don't trust yourself? Who should I trust?" A loving Father who cares about you. You have to surround yourself with other people. Don't live in isolation. Proverbs 18:1: "He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom." Don't just consult yourself. If you're the only person who thinks it's a good idea to date this person or go this road, who cares?
Proverbs 3:5: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding." Don't trust yourself. Proverbs 26:12: "Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him." Proverbs 14:12: "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." Yes, do not trust yourself.
7 . Don't trust others. You hear us talk about community here all the time. I'm telling you don't trust your community if they are not trusting in the one who alone is trustworthy. Community is not sovereign. Community is not the Holy Spirit. Community can be that which God brings around you to direct you to knowledge you may not have so that you don't stand in isolation, but you get a community of idiots, and you are going to just be more confident in your rebellion. Community is not the panacea; Jesus Christ and his Word is. So don't trust in others if they're not trusting in the only one who's trustworthy.
8 . Don't do it in private. Do you want to save your life from some pain? Don't do it in private if you do not delight that it's known in public. Ask yourself, "If this was videotaped and shown in Times Square, would I continue down this road?" Ask yourself, "If Jesus and I were hanging out together, would this be my behavior?" That will give you prudence. Proverbs 10:9: "He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will be found out." So just live your life like you don't care if it's filmed.
9 . Don't buy the lie that others have gotten away with it so you will too. It's a lie. First, because you can't always tell if they really got away with it. You can't tell, can you? It says in the Scripture in Proverbs 14:13, "Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, and the end of joy may be grief." You might have some folks still celebrating their rebellion who have not gotten away with it at all, but they want you to believe they have.
Secondly, the reason you don't want to is because counting on luck is never as good as counting on wisdom. Listen. You have to not buy the lie that he's getting away with that affair, that she got away with divorcing and remarrying. Don't buy the lie that they were sexually promiscuous and didn't get an STD and now have a happy marriage. You don't know the issues they have to climb over. Don't buy the lie that they leveraged themselves to the hilt, hit the big deal, and made it. Don't buy the lie. Live with wisdom.
10 . Just expect to pay for it if you don't do the first nine. Don't be surprised when you don't have options. Proverbs 29:1: "A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy." You go, "How did I get here?" Don't be surprised that it's coming. Now, folks, I told you every week what I would do is lay out for you. "This is what you get if you have this characteristic in your life, this is what it's going to cost you if you don't, and this is how Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of this wisdom."
Do you want a life that is the paragon of virtue and discernment and nobility and wisdom? It is Jesus. People still to this day marvel at his life. You watch the way Jesus interacted with enemies and friends and hurting people when he was here, and you continually marvel. "How did he know to say that? How did he know to respond that way? How did he consistently silence his enemies? How?" Because he spoke in relationship to God, never saying a word unless his Father in heaven led him that way.
You and I can live that way too. It isn't easy. It's like we're dying to ourselves, because we are…the way we feel, the way we think. But we're going to live in a way that is so countercultural, otherworldly that people might say, "Who are you?" and your answer is, "I am a child of the King." You have to know this Jesus. You're not prudent if you don't.
In fact, there's one time Jesus used the word prudent. It's in Matthew, chapter 25, and he mentions what a prudent person is. A prudent person is an individual who is ready to meet him. I have a good friend who says, "Todd, I'm just like you. I just don't believe the same thing about Jesus as you do, and you make way too big of a deal out of Jesus."
My response to him is, "Well, what if Jesus is the only thing that really matters? What if he's right when he says that he is God in the flesh? What if he's right when he says there is no other name under heaven by which men might be saved? What if Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life?" Do you know what he said to me? He goes, "Well, then it would matter." And I said, "Don't you think it would be prudent for you to really spend some time answering that question? Because you haven't." Have you?
Father, I want to pray for my friends this morning. I'll just go back to the very first week we did this crazy little series where we said, "Lord, if we don't get the God question right, it doesn't matter what we get right." It's really what Jesus said. Do you want to be prudent? Then you'd better make sure you have enough oil in your lamp to be ready when Jesus comes, that you're ready to meet him. We have your Spirit in us, your truth. We love you and acknowledge you for who you are.
Father, the only way we're going to get there is by you in your grace breaking through our hardened, scoffing hearts. Lord, I gave 20 things that we do that are stupid. Lord knows, I myself have lived out 2,000 more, which is why I'm so amazed that you in all your goodness have discerned that it would be right to die for one such as me. And not just I, Lord, so that I might be forgiven, but then to preserve your Word and give me your Spirit so that I could make wise decisions and write with my life wise letters to my community that would make others sometimes go, "Wow! That's a life."
Lord, I just want to celebrate that living with you and for you underneath your leadership is the life. Help me to do it with more boldness. Help me to seek you with more energy like silver and gold, for nothing compares to you. Thank you, Lord, that you love me as a Father, love my friends here as a Father, to give us the ability to just knock it out of the park on this journey called life. We seek you now and just agree together that the greatest possible gift we could have is living in relationship with you, amen.
This is the life. When you have God walking you through life, it changes everything. There are two kinds of people in this room: folks who aren't really sure God loves them that much (and I'm begging you to answer the question, "Is he worthy of being sought after, loved, and followed?") and those of us who have already said, "Yes." Are we doing it as attentively as we could so that our lives are letters to the community in the ways that the world just marvels at the strength of us, whether we're 69, 19, 39, or 12? That's our destiny.
If you want to know the one who is discerning and prudent, who has bridged the gap between your rebellion and ignorance and can forgive you for that and hold your hand as you go forward, would you come let us spur you on? If you're here week after week and have not yet yoked yourself with others who trust in the trustworthy one, would you not walk out of here again without saying, "I have to get connected"? Act. Don't wish somebody else was here. Do what you should do because you were, and then worship him by nobly, "prudely" living for him. Have a great week of worship.
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.