Downtown Cornerstone Media
Sep 19
2012

The Path of Wisdom

Media, Proverbs: Living Wisdom, Sermons | by Pastor Adam Sinnett

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Introduction

We are on the front end of a new sermon series through the book of Proverbs.Proverbs is an ancient book but it continues to be incredibly relevant because it is, put simply, a book about being human. As we all know, being human can be messy and somewhat complicated, from daily annoyances to major disasters. Proverbs offers us what we all want (and perhaps don’t realize): godly wisdom to live well. It tells us that we’re all on a path and that path is not neutral. In fact, our chosen path is a matter of life and death – and God wants life for us. Throughout the Bible, and within Proverbs, we see that God is a good and powerful God that cares, not only about our future, but about how we live and navigate life today. While many questions in life can be adequately answered with the right information, the vast majority cannot: Who do you marry? How do you handle marriage? Where do you live? How do you rightly handle your emotions? How do you best use your words? How should we make decisions? How do you parent your children? Do you confront your friend or do you wait? How do you handle yourself with difficult people and uncomfortable situations? Proverbs helps us with these, and many other, questions.

Proverbs is for the wise, foolish and simple. That means its for all of us. Roughly speaking this book is divided into two parts: 1-9 and 10-31. Chapters 1-9 serve as the introduction for the book, selling us on the value of wisdom and the folly of foolishness. To rightly understand chapters 10-31 we have to come to terms with the major themes of chapters 1-9: wisdom and folly. So, over the course of the next two weeks (beginning today) we’re going to look at each of these paths: the path of wisdom and the path of folly.

PART I: THE VALUE OF WISDOM

13 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
and the one who gets understanding,
14 for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
and her profit better than gold.
15 She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called blessed.

Here we see that Solomon is painting a big picture regarding the value of wisdom. Wisdom is immeasurably more important than anything else – even great wealth, fame, power. It is far more important to have the ability to skillfully handle the complexities and gray areas of life.

Three ways we attempt to bypass Godly wisdom:

#1 We believe that wealth, beauty, power, fame will fix our problems and fulfill us. Not true.

“The minute a person becomes a celebrity is the same minute he/she becomes a monster. Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Barbara Streisand were once perfectly pleasant human beings with whom you might lunch on a slow Tuesday afternoon. But now they have become supreme beings, and their wrath is awful. It’s not what they had in mind…the night each of them became famous they wanted to shriek with relief. Finally! Now they were adored! … Yet, the morning after the night each of them became famous, they wanted to take an overdose of barbiturates. All their fantasies had been realized, yet the reality was still the same. If they were miserable before, they were twice as miserable now, because that giant thing they were striving for, that fame thing that was going to make everything okay, that was going to make their lives bearable, that was going to prove them with personal fulfillment and happiness had happened. And nothing changed. They were still them.” – Cynthia Heimel (columnist and author)

#2 We believe that we don’t need more money, just a change of location will fix our problems and fulfill us.

#3 We believe that morality and/or just “being nice” will fix our problems and fulfill us. (This does not discount the value of ethical living, which Proverbs upholds, just that it isn’t sufficient to fix or fulfill.)

There are many nice people with power, beauty, location, whose lives are unfulfilled and unraveling. And, there are many people with no money, no location who are content, anchored. What’s the difference? Godly wisdom. Why would that be? Here’s why: Your experience of life is not primarily determined by what you have or where you are – but by how you handle what you have, where you are. To handle life well – with whatever you have, wherever you are – you need God’s wisdom.

So, do you see value of wisdom? It is more valuable than wealth, location or even morality (by itself). Wisdom is the skill of living, particularly in the gray areas of life. But, importantly, it is not primarily a body of knowledge to be mastered but an attitude to be held. Wisdom is a posture (cf 1:7 “fear of the Lord). It also is not incumbent on age, though age can certainly help. For example, we hear the Psalmist saying, “I understand more than the aged, ”text-decoration: underline;”>for I keep your precepts.” Ps 119:99-100 Wisdom is available to all people who embrace a life lived in fear of the Lord. This is why Proverbs tells us to pursue wisdom with such passion:

Receive (x4), treasure (x3), be attentive (x6), incline (x5), call out, raise voice, seek (x4), search, do not forget (x2), keep (x16), do not forsake (x3), bind (x3), write (x3), trust (x5), find (x13), get (x9), lay hold of, hold fast (x2), do not lost sight of, hear (x11), do not turn away from (x9), prize, embrace, keep hold of, do not let go, guard (x9), do not let escape, listen to (x14), do not neglect, watch daily, wait for.

Q: What are the rewards of wisdom? (v2,4,6b,8,10,16)

Proverbs explains that there are many rewards for wisdom – the majority of which tie into our experience of life. (see verses above) Because of this, wisdom is infinitely more important than all of the wealth, power, fame, beauty in world. It is more important to know how to navigate life wwith skill. One commentator noted, “Wisdom will make you richer than money ever will.” OK, so how do we get it?

PART II: THE PATH OF WISDOM

The primary metaphor used for “life” in Proverbs (and throughout the Bible) is comparing life to a “way”, “road”, “path”. It is listed 25x’s in the first nine chapters. Why? Because life is a long set of steady, repeated, mundane steps. Ex. hiking. To go miles along any path, you have to take one step at a time – so it is with life. This is telling. The Bible explains that who you are and who you become is ultimately the product of how you do little things every day (ex. decisions, steps, habits, time-management, etc). Our culture tells us its the big things that define us: degrees, jobs, awards – things we put on our resumes and plaques we hand on our walls. But, what makes us who we are – our character – is not gained through a seminar but via a pathway. What are some of daily steps along that pathway?

#1. Know God’s Love.

3 Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 So you will find favor and good success
in the sight of God and man.
#2. Know Your Folly.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
7 Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

Who’s love and faithfulness is in view here? Ours or Gods? most scholars agree its God’s love that is in view here as this is the standard way by which God’s love is described throughout the scriptures, “steadfast love and faithfulness”. It descrbies having a personal, intimate, real, covenantal relationship with the living God. JSSB “never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love”. Or pastor refers to is as his, “industrial strength love”. God’s faithfulness refers to the fact that, in Christ, God never gives up on you. He is always true, always good, always on our side. So, therefore, this is not an invite to merely believe in God  – “even demons believe in God and shudder” (James 2:19) Rather, this is a call to daily pound the reality of his industrial strength love and faithfulness into your heart.

See those words? Bind and write. They mean to internalize His love and faithfulness. Pound it in. Remind yourself of it. Make it real to your heart. Learn, over and over again, what it means that he loves you. Luther: “beat it into their heads continually…” How? Means of grace: prayer, preaching the gospel, Bible, memorization, meditation, etc. Find verses that are helpful. Read books about the gospel and the cross of Christ to stir your affections. Listen to music. Be in regular Christian fellowship.

We might say that “I know God loves me” BUT at deepest level we all have to find ways of writing it on our hearts. When you do that you will be anchored, with an inner poise and calm that cannot be dislodged.

Western watered-down Christianity: We’re at the center God orbits us VS God being at the center and we orbit him.
Western watered-down Christianity:God exists to make us feel better about who we are w/out changing VS us adjusting to who God is
Western watered-down Christianity: God is ATM, dispensing free hugs, blessings, and pats on back VS sovereign, creator, author of life

So, the first step for us is to let God be God to you. Find ways to make his love/faithfulness real to your heart.

#2. Know Your Folly.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
7 Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

These verses highlight one of the great paradoxes of Proverbs. Wise people are aware of their foolishness and fools think they are wise. if you don’t think you’re a fool, you are. if you recognize your foolishness, you are on path of wisdom. Why is this important to know? Because If we’re not aware of our flaws and foolishness we are going to be making stupid choices all the time.

Importantly, the only way to acknowledge your foolishness is if you know God’s industrial strength love in Christ. (see above). If we don’t have that we’ll tend to do one of two things:

#1: You’ll screen out, suppress, excuse, minimize, deny your flaws. Won’t see them. Won’t admit them. “if you knew my dad…if you knew my background…what happened to me…don’t understand me…”

#2: Or, you’ll obsess, fixate, depressed, despair over your flaws. Sin = to be curved in on yourself

The gospel of Jesus leads us out of both these traps. The phrase “Trust in the Lord” is meant to highlight a position of absolute dependence – belly flop on God w/ all our sin, failures and fears.

So, the second daily step along the path is honest, but non-traumatic self-examination. They go together. Our recognition of our own folly will only be honest and (at the same time) non-traumatic if we have the steadfast love and faithfulness of God written on our heart.

#3. Know and be Known by Others.

3:1 My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments,
2 for length of days and years of life
and peace they will add to you.

This is easy to miss, but it is important to highlight. Much of Proverbs is written from the perspective of a Father to a Son – “My son…” Proverbs was used as a leadership manual for boys and in the famly setting. The principle at work here, and how it applies to us, is that you will never find wisdom by yourself. The idea of a solitary individual going out into the woods in pursuit of wisdom is actually, foolish. You need community, real relationships, know and be known by others.
Throughout Proverbs we learn that the fool is one who isolates himself. Pr 18:1 “Whoever isolates himself breaks out against all sound judgment…” The isolated fool thinks, “Don’t need anyone…know what I need to do…everyone else is dumb…don’t need anyone speaking in” We tend to avoid this level of community because we haven’t been walking out Step 1 and 2. On the other hand, the wise person is so unsure of his wisdom that he knows he needs others – friends, community, advisors.

#4. Know God’s Guide.

3:1 My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments,
2 for length of days and years of life
and peace they will add to you.

Commands. Instruction. Torah. Law. Teaching. These are all the same words for the same idea. God’s people should be mastered by the scriptures. The Bible has all kinds of things to say about what to do with your emotions, work, words, family, relationships. The Bible is God’s guide to us. He is NOT saying “Do this because I say so.” He IS saying “Do this b/c it will help you.” You have to take it into your heart. Chew on it. Consider it. Do it. Carve out a new redeemed reality. He is good. He commands us to obey for our good. Ex. Trying to convince kids to try new kind of candy. Q: Do you merely agree with the Bible or do you obey it? See the difference. Satan agrees, but doesn’t obey. If you only agree w/ Bible but don’t actually attempt/desire to walk it out – it means that your response to God’s Word (when it happens) is not obedience but coincidence. Do you allow God’s words to challenge most cherished thoughts and feelings?

#5. Know God’s Training.

11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
or be weary of his reproof,
12 for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
as a father the son in whom he delights.

God correct us out of love. Does not want his people to continue in life-damaging attitudes and behaviors. But, here it is important to highlight that if you are in Christ, God does not hate you (“there is no condemnation for those in Christ!” Rom 8:1). If he did, he would not bother w/ you. Rather, what we learn here, in diffculty we can trust that He is investing in us and training us. The wise want to correct their mistaken thinking and behavior, only fools reject correction.

#1 We tend to think that life is only making progress when things are going well. Not so.
#2 He doesn’t waste our pain, difficulty. Doesn’t delight him, but he’s powerful enough to use it for good.
#3 We have a choice in learning, trusting, yielding, submitting ourselves to him. “Do not despise…” Ex. Short cut or long cut.

#6. Know God’s Good, but Broken, Order.

19 The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
by understanding he established the heavens;
20 by his knowledge the deeps broke open,
and the clouds drop down the dew.

Here we see that by wisdom, God created the universe. The universe, our world, and our lives are not accidents. There is a pattern, order or flow built into creation. That means there is a direct cause and effect relationship in our daily lives. We see this throughout Proverbs. Work hard = will prosper; If you’re lazy = will be poor; raise a child right = and he will not depart from it.

On the other hand, we live in a fallen, broken world. While there are direct cause/effect, generally true, but not always. We know it is possible to work hard ≠ stay poor; some raise children well ≠ fall off the rails; some moral ≠ suffer (vs Job’s friends)
. Point? The point is that it requires wisdom to navigate life in God’s good, but broken, order. Knowing this prevents us from becoming too mechanical (i.e Job’s friends) or too loose (i.e. “just live however you want”) in our view of reality.

“Wisdom humbly gives into God’s design; it adapts and adjusts. A wise person notices, picks up on the clues, cuts with the grain, tears along the perforated life. Unwise people can be gifted, but they are trying to be healthy on junk food, or run on high RPMs on low-octane gas, or get home by the wrong road, or swim against the stream of the universe. Sin is trying to succeed by ignoring reality.” Ray Ortlund

There is a direct cause – and – effect relationship in the created order. “God is not mocked whatever a man sows, that will he also reap.” Gal 6:7 While somewhat frightening, this verse is incredibly helpful. It tells us there is a cause-and-effect relationship between our actions and the end result. If we sow lives of wisdom, we can expect wisdom. If we sow lives of folly, we can expect folly. If we sow lives of folly, we cannot expect wisdom. The truth is that you’re not going to beat those verses – or any verses. This is God’s created order.

Daily steps on the path of wisdom:
Know God’s love
Know your folly
Know and be known
Know God’s guide
Know God’s training
Know God’s good, but fallen, order.

If you do those things, day by day, week by week, month by month you will become wise.

Q: Do you know what empowers and motivates life on the path of wisdom? Do you know what makes this a relational pathway and not a religious pathway?

Knowing the wisdom of God became man and died for fools — to make us wise. John 1:1 “In the beginning was the ‘wisdom’ The wisdom of God that created the universe was hung on the cross for fools – to make us sons/daughter. Wisdom is not just a principle or poetry. Wisdom is a person you can know and love – Jesus Christ. He is calling you today to trust him with all your heart – to belly flop on God with all your sin, fears, shame. He will never fail anyone who trusts him radically. Q: Are you trusting Jesus to save you or merely hoping he will flatter you? What he deserves and demands is your total trust in the love and grace of Christ.
Trust in Lord with all your heart, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight – now and forever.