Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom, 2

Some people hear that and they think that God wants us to always be afraid that He's going to get us if we don't do right. We hear that and see God standing up in heaven with lightening bolts in His hand and He's going to strike down the evil doer. And so many people avoid God because they are afraid of His judgment and punishment. They fear God like a whipped dog might fear its cruel owner, cowering, fearful to mess up, hoping to not be noticed.

But the fear of God in the Biblical sense is to have a reverential respect for God. It's a respect for God that leads to obedience.

If you've ever had a coach who gave you extra drills to do and you do them because you knew he had a plan to make you a better player, you have an idea of what it is to fear God.

If you've ever had a teacher who demanded your best work and you stayed up a little later to make sure it was right, just because you wanted to please them, you have an idea of what it is to fear God.

If you've ever stopped short of doing something you know was wrong because you heard your grandmother's voice saying, "I taught you better than that," you have an idea of what it is to fear God.

It's a respect that leads to a change of action, of obedience, of following instruction.

But here's the deal: If you say that you fear God but you don’t obey Him, or don’t strive to obey Him more each day, you don't really fear God. You might fear the consequences of getting caught. You might fear a loss of reputation. But you don't fear God.

There are people in my neighborhood who will tell their friends to stop cussing when I come by, or they'll kind of slide their beer behind their back, because the pastor is around. And they might say that they do that because they fear God. But to fear God is to know that He is always around and our lives are to honor Him at all times, not just when the pastor is on the scene. The fear of God shows up when nobody is looking, when you are faced with the choice to obey or to not. If you fear God, you will choose to obey and THEN the wisdom of God will show up in your life. When you and I settle in our hearts and minds to obey God, then the Word of God, the wisdom of Proverbs, can show us what the godly course or path will look like.

Now you and I both know that we are going to sin; I've yet to make it through a day where I haven't sinned. So when we sin, which we will do, to fear God is to repent, to ask forgiveness of God, and to apologize to whoever we sinned against. It's not to hide from God or wallow in guilt or avoid church until we 've done better. To respect God is to face our sin, say we are sorry, and ask God to help us choose Him the next time.

What am I saying to you tonight? I'm saying that if you want to have a life of wisdom, a life built on Godly principles, the first place to start is with the fear of the Lord. And to fear God is to respect God by obeying Him. Not just respecting Him in theory but to show that respect by obeying Him and obeying His word, not just the parts of His word that we find particularly convenient.

The fear of the Lord, the respect or reverence for the Lord shown by obedience, is the beginning of wisdom. Fear God and obey Him, and wisdom will lead you on good paths.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom, 1

    (the following posts are from a message I preached at our Wednesday night Bible dinner for the homeless)

    So a few weeks back, I had the chance to preach about the author of Proverbs, King Solomon, who was the wisest person who ever lived. He was the wisest person who ever lived because God gave him the gift of wisdom. If you remember, God told Solomon to ask Him for anything in the whole world, and Solomon asked for wisdom in order to be the best king possible for God's people.

    And we talked about the difference between wisdom and knowledge. Knowledge, an accumulation of facts or experiences, is not wisdom. There are plenty of old people who have seen a lot, done a lot, and learned a lot, and are still tremendously foolish. Wisdom is knowledge applied.

    If you put your hand on a hot pot of mac and cheese on the stove and you get burnt, you have learned that pots on the stove can be hot - you now have knowledge about hot things. But you have not gained wisdom until the next time you see a pot on the stove and you choose to not touch it or use a pot holder first. If you keep touching that hot pot with your bare hand, burning yourself, you have knowledge but not wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge put into action.

    But even better than learning from experience about that hot pot, what if you had a way of knowing without touching it that the pot was hot, if you had the chance to be warned before you experienced it yourself? Then you could apply that knowledge as wisdom and avoid having to ice down your fingers.

    Reading the Bible, and even more specifically the Book of Proverbs, gives us the chance to have knowledge that we can apply as wisdom without having to make the mistake ourselves. If I can read the warnings about adultery in the book of Proverbs and take them to heart, then I can apply that knowledge as wisdom when temptation comes calling and I can avoid the destruction and heartache that comes from cheating on my wife.

    So tonight we are going to look at the first seven verses of Proverbs and at one of those seven in even closer detail.

    Proverbs 1:1-7

    The first six verses of Proverbs tell us some important things. They tell us that this book is helpful for:

    1. Gaining wisdom and instruction (verse 2)
    1. Receiving instruction in prudent behavior - wise with an eye to the future, doing what is right and just and fair (verse 3)
    1. Giving prudence to those who are simple - simple means gullible without moral direction and inclined to evil (verse 4)

    These verses tell us that this book is for all people, young and old; it's for those who will listen, not matter their age. (verses 4-5)

    And its true, there's a lot of practical advice in Proverbs, things that apply to us right here and now no matter our age or life stage. Whether it's money or relationships or how you work or how you speak, Proverbs has a lot to teach us. And I think that we would all say that if we could have help in finances, in relationships, in parenting, in having a good life, we'd take it.

    But there is one thing we have to know in order to make all these other things work. There's one key from Proverbs, one key to wisdom, that makes every other bit of wisdom in every other area fit together. And we find it in Proverbs 1:7

    "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline."

    If you want to have a life built on God, if you want to have a life of wisdom, if you want direction and help on how to live a Godly life, you have to start with the fear of the Lord. If you do not fear God, you cannot live a Godly life. The reason for this is that you and I will always want to live life our own way, by our own terms. You and I will always want to be our own authority, and if we're being honest, all of our ways are not godly. All of our ideas are not sin-free. And so we have to fear God and His ways and words, in order to put them to work in our lives.

    So if the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, we have to ask the question, "What does it mean to fear God?"