THIS WEEK WE MOVE FROM THE INTRODUCTION (1-9)
INTO PROVERBS PROPER (10-31):
ABSOLUTE TREASURES OF WISDOM THAT WILL LEAD TO A FRUITFUL LIFE.
PROVERBS ARE NUGGETS OF WISDOM
OTHER RELIGIONS HAVE NUGGETS OF WISDOM AS WELL
The other day I was sharing in study that I had not really intentionally witnessed to Vicki’s husband at pickleball, but that instead he kept coming to me with questions as we sat on the sidelines. Vicki quipped: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
Someone asked, “Is that in the Bible?”
“No,” Vicki said, “It was Buddha.”
We laughed. And yet I thought about how I have seen that happen. I thought about the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch! He was ready and God whisked Philip to his side.
Teachers of world religions have wisdom, for there is “common grace.” Sometimes there are similarities between the words of Buddha and the words of the Bible. For example, both Buddha and the Bible applaud a man conquering his own temper over one who conquers a city:
Greater in battle than the man who would conquer a thousand-thousand men, is he who would conquer just one —himself
Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
But here is the question: How does Buddhism tell a man to control his temper, and how does Christianity tell a man to control his temper? Again and again Buddha tells you to strive, to look to your own strength. Jesus tells us we can do nothing good without Him. When we fail as believers, which is often, it is because we are looking to our own strength or our own way of doing things. Why didn’t Eric Liddell, for example, lose his temper if he lost a race or when he heard the qualifying races were going to be held on Sunday? The Lord was truly the most important love of His life, not winning or running.
As a believer, though it was rare for me to have outbursts of temper, I was passive aggressive with my administrative assistants. I was a manipulator. That was my means of control. What set me free? I had to see my idol of control and trust that God would be in control, and do it his way (overlooking an offense or speaking the truth in love.) If I looked within, I failed.
All world religions tell you to look within for strength to do what is right, whereas Christianity is unique. Christianity tells us that in ourselves we are weak and dark, but if we abide in Christ we will find strength and light. This is true for both being delivered from the penalty of sin and also from being delivered from the power of sin. How can we trust Jesus? He died for us and rose again. No leader of a world religion did this. (Religion implies self effort, so Christianity is not technically a religion.)
Buddha died with the words, “Keep striving,” and Jesus with the words, “It is finished.” He paid for our sin at the cross — and He paid in full. We must humble ourselves and admit we cannot save ourselves. Likewise, all the world religions tell you to strive to obey, and to strive to be accepted. Buddha said: No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk that path.
I have tried to walk that path, and I cannot. I cannot save myself from either the penalty or from the power of sin. I desperately need the power of the gospel. If I try, in my pride or rebellion, I fail.
So now, when we move into proverbs proper we need to apply the gospel or we will fail. For example:
The one who conceals hatred has lying lips (10:18)
Oh — this is a litmus test for real forgiveness. How do I get rid of the hatred I sometimes harbor in my heart? Who will deliver me? Only Jesus and the power of the gospel — only pondering the cross so that I can forgive as I have been forgiven.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace (11:2)
Oh it is such a battle to overcome pride! If I am doing poorly, I beat myself up — if I am doing well, pride wells up. Who will deliver me? Only Jesus and the power of the gospel. The cross at once shows me how bad I am (it took a crucifixion to pay for it) and how loved I am (for Jesus was willing to do it.) That strengthens me to be neither proud nor despondent.
Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind (11:29)
This week we took our grandchildren to the beach. There was a little girl, about three, sitting on a step sobbing. Her mother, who was on a cell phone, turned around and screamed, “I hate you!” All I could think was how this little girl would grow up broken. But how do we overcome this bad behavior as parents or spouses? We must look to Jesus to replace our idols of control, comfort, and approval.
Unless we apply the power of the gospel to these nuggets of wisdom, we will not be able to live them out. So together, let’s approach proverbs proper with the power of the gospel.
In the parable of the sower, a man casts seed (the Word, the gospel that permeates the Word) on four kinds of soil. This too is relevant to how fruitful our lives will be.
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
Monday-Wednesday Bible Study
In the optional paid sermon by Keller, he talks about how the heart is always behind what we do. In fact, he says the most accurate translation of Proverbs 11:12 is:
He who belittles his neighbor is a man without a heart…
We don’t want to admit that the reason we fail to love well, or that we fail to truly forgive is because we are heartless, but that is the root problem. And so we conceal our hatred (Proverbs 19:18) even to ourselves.
2. In the ESV, the word “conceals” comes up three times in Proverbs 10.
A. What do the wicked do according to Proverbs 10:6 and 10:11?
B. What does the one who conceals hatred have according to Proverbs 10:18?
C. If you are honest with your own heart, allowing the Lord to search it, (and you don’t need to write this down), with whom, if anyone, in your life are you “concealing hatred?”
D. How would applying the gospel to your feelings of hatred toward someone help you overcome it? Be as specific as possible.
3. What does Proverbs 10:12 say? How does the story of Noah’s sons “covering” their naked father who had had too much wine exemplify this? (Genesis 9:20-27) How does this also exemplify the gospel?
4. Who is your life needs covering rather than concealed hatred?
5. Read Proverbs 10 and stop at any verse that quickens you and comment. Is there a way to apply the gospel to it?
Remember the gospel shows you at once how weak you are (for He had to die) but how loved you are (for He did.) So do not be to proud to admit that a proverb reveals weakness but do not be too fearful to think you cannot live it out, for He can be to you what you need to turn from something.
6. Read Proverbs 11 and stop at any verse that quickens you and comment. Is there a way to apply the gospel to it? Comment also on Proverbs 11:21.
7. Read the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:1-23. This is such a familiar parable, and my hunch is most of you are familiar with the four kinds of soil. I don’t think the first two soils represent believers. Look at them and see if you agree or disagree with me and give your reasons.
8. I would say that most believers fall into the last two kinds of soils, if the third, indeed, is a believer. What do you think and why? Do you see a warning for yourself here? If so, what?
I’m giving you Keller’s free sermon on the sower, but then also suggesting a paid sermon on Proverbs Proper. Choose one or do both!
Optional: Repairing Relationships
9. What are your notes and comments?
10. What is your take-a-way and why?