Life and Death
This is our last week of our study through the book of Proverbs. Through out our study, we covered numerous topics, including: wisdom, foolishness, the heart, pride, words, emotions, self-control, friendship, husbands, wives, singleness, parenting, planning, working, sexuality, money and justice. Today we’re going to look at our final topic: life and death. What does it mean to create a culture of life in your life? Culture of death? What can we learn about God’s intentions for us?
This is the last week of our study through the book of Proverbs. If you missed a sermon along the way, and would like to get caught up, just visit our Media page atwww.downtowncornerstone.org to download audio and/or notes. Throughout out study, we covered numerous topics, including: wisdom, foolishness, the heart, pride, words, emotions, self-control, friendship, husbands, wives, singleness, parenting, planning, working, sexuality, money and justice. We need wisdom in every area of life and Proverbs helps us to just that. Every week we’ve seen that this wisdom finds its source in the “fear of the Lord” (1:7; 9:10). In other words, by letting God be God to us, in every corner of our life, we become wise people. Today we’re going to look at our final topic: life and death. Typically, when we say that something is a matter of “life and death”, we mean that it matters above all else. That is definitely true today.
Life and death quantitatively.
4:10 Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many.
9:11 For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life.
10:27 The fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short.
One sense in which Proverbs speaks of life and death is quantitatively, as in the number of years of life. Proverbs is not promising long life, but generally, speaking God’s ways lead to long life and keep you out of harms way.
Life and death qualitatively.
It may surprise you to discover that Proverbs speaks of life and death mostly qualitatively, not quantitatively, referring to the quality and experience of the life you live. Life, in this sense, literally means to prosper, to flourish. Not merely exist, but live. Now, when we think of “life” we tend to think of birthdays and when we think of “death” we tend to think of funerals. But, Proverbs helps us see that life is more than having a pulse and death is more than not having a pulse. Life has less to do with your pulse and more to do with a prospering, flourishing and viality that only God can give.
3:18 She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.
6:23 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life…
11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise.
12:28 In the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.
13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
15:24 The path of life leads upward for the prudent, that he may turn away from Sheol beneath.
16:17 The highway of the upright turns aside from evil; whoever guards his way preserves his life.
16:22 Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the instruction of fools is folly.
Here’s the point that God is conveying through the sages of Proverbs: There is a way/path/fountain/spring/highway that increases qualitatively of life and that way/path/fountain/highway are found in God. In Proverbs, God is telling us how to create a culture of life in our lives vs culture of death.
Q: HOW DO WE INCREASE THE QUALITY ANDEXPERIENCE OF OUR LIFE? How do we create a culture of life in our life?
#1. Hold fast to God’s Words (teaching, commandments, words, sayings, instruction, discretion; also 3:1-2; 9:6)
3:21-22 Do not lose sight of these – keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will belife for your soul…
4:4 Let your heart hold fast to my words; keep my commandments, and live.
4:13 Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.
4:20-22 Be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.
7:1-2 Keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live…
10:17 Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.
19:16 Whoever keeps the commandment keeps his life; he who despises his ways willdie.
#2 Use your words to build up, not tear down.
18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
10:11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
13:3 Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.
15:4 A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
#3 Earn your money honesty and use it generously.
10:16 The wage of the righteous leads to life, the gain of the wicked to sin.
10:2 Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers fromdeath.
#4 Listen carefully to – and receive – correction.
15:31 The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.
15:10 There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way; whoever hates reproof willdie.
#5 Be content in God and what he has given you.
14:30 A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.
#6 Submit yourself to God and walk in humble obedience.
Prov 19:16 Whoever keeps the commandment keeps his life; he who despises his ways will die.
Prov 22:4 The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.
#7 Pursue righteousness (right w/ God/others) and kindness (loyalty, faithfulness, goodness, gracios)
21:21 Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor.
11:19 Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die.
Q#2: HOW DO WE DECREASE THE QUALITY ANDEXPERIENCE OF OUR LIFE?
13:14 The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.
14:27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares ofdeath.
Clearly we could say that the opposite of cultivating life (above) would be to cultivate death in your life, even while you live: Don’t hold fast to God’s Words. Use your words to tear down and not build up. Be unteachable and don’t listen to correction. Be discontent in God and with what you have. Be proud and unkind. But there are others that Proverbs speaks of…
#1 Unjust gain and greed.
21:6 The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.
1:19 Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the lifeof its possessors.
#2 Sexual immorality (see also 2:18-19; 5:5-6,11; 7:27)
2:19 …none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life.
5:6 …she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it.
5:11 …and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed,
7:27 …Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.
#3 Taking advantage of the vulnerable.
22:23 Do not rob the poor, because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate, for the Lord will plead their cause and rob of life those who rob them.
#4 Junk drawer: pursuing evil, avoding correction and lacking discipline.
11:19 Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die.
15:10 There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way; whoever hates reproof willdie.
5:23 He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.
10:21 The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense.
Many of these topics received their own sermons over the past four or five months, so we’re not going to go into the list. We’re not going to talk about what is explicit here (already done much of that), but what is implicit. Why read all of that? First, because God cares about what sort of culture we are creating in our life whether for life or death. Second, and what we’ll focus on today, he wants us to see how passionate God is about your flourishing.
Q#3: WHAT DO WE LEARN ABOUT GOD’S INTENTIONSFOR US HERE?
What do we learn from all this? Specifically, what do we learn about God? Why is all this here? Here’s what we learn: God wants you to live, flourish, prosper, deeply satisfied, profoundly content, actually happy. God wants more for you than mere existence, he wants you to live. That’s why all this is here. Do you see it? Over and over again it says “Here is how to flourish…live…this way, this path, here is tree, fountain…here I am.” God, as all-wise and all-good Creator, has designed life and therefore knows how life works best. Here we have Creator telling us how to function in creation as created beings.
God did not make us to be miserable. God has not designed us for a somber, miserable, grimly obedient. God’s intent is not want to squelch our happiness. He is not seeking to remove happiness from earth. He does not give us a main course of rules with some crumbs of blessings on the side.
Just the contrary. We are made to be unshakably happy, in Him and in His ways. He doesn’t merely want us to exist, but live. God redeems us, in Christ, to give us pleasure and make us happy. We are created to be happy – happy in him. All our heart’s desires are found in him. We’re not talking about shallow happy-clappy happiness, but deep satisfaction at the core of our being. Because God made us to be happy in him, we will grow happier and happier as we grow to know God and walk in His ways. In other words, God is the good life. God is the embodiment of goodness. God is eternally happy…and invites us into share in him as the source of all happiness.
All that said, this is not a promise of a life without challenges, rather deep happiness that transcends all situations, good or ill. This is the kind of happiness that lasts beyond a mood or an emotional high or temporary success or temporary set-back.
“Ok, so why don’t more people discover this?”
God made mankind to be happy in him. But, sin entered picture, good life slipped out of our natural reach. In losing fellowship w/ God, mankind lost contact w/ the good life intended for God’s creation. Human beings have a huge capacity for pleasure and joy and happiness – those were given by God. Yet, in wake of the fall, only Holy Spirit’s work in human heart could realign the heart to seek the proper source of that happiness.
Prior to the fall, Jonathan Edwards said that people were made with inferior and superior principles.
Inferior principles: earthly realities, our natural desires, affections for joy, contentment, security, comfort,.
Superior principles: spiritual realities. Higher realities meant to regulate and control inferior principles. But, with the fall, the superior principles left heart of mankind.
Edwards said it this way:
“The inferior principles of self-love and natural appetite, which were given only to serve, being alone, and left to themselves, of course became reigning principles; having no superior principles to regulate or control them, they became absolute masters of the heart. The immediate consequence of which was a fatal catastrophe, a turning of all things upside down, and the succession of a state of the most odious and dreadful confusion. Man did immediately set up himself, and the objects of his private affections and appetites, as supreme; and so they took the place of God.” Edwards, 3, 382
The Apostle Paul said that same thing, though in a different way: “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” Ro1:25
This is why deep satisfaction and happiness and contentment escape us. When first parents sinned ensured for all time inferior principles, not superior, would govern human heart. With fall we did not lose our desires and affection…but they became disordered andconfused. Therefore, by nature and choice we love other things more than God – which is essence of idolatry (loving, valuing, treasuring anything more than God). Scriptures call this condition being alienated from God – that alienation is why we get restless.
“Men are in a restless pursuit after satisfaction in earthly things. They will exhaust themselves in the deceitful delights of sin, and, finding them all to be vanity and emptiness, they will become very perplexed and disappointed. But they will continue their fruitless search. Though wearied, they still stagger forward under the influence of spiritual madness, and though there is no result to be reached except that of everlasting disappointment, yet they press forward. They have no forethought for their eternal state; the present hour absorbs them. They turn to another and another of earth’s broken cisterns, hoping to find water where not a drop was ever discovered yet.” (Spurgeon)
We all seek happiness b/c we’re created for it. God alone can satisfy the heart, now and forever. Apart from Jesus, we’re stuck in our alienated condition without a supernatural intervention. That’s why Jesus came. Only when we understand our natural alienation will we understand Jesus when he says things like:
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Jn 10:10
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jn 14:6
He came to give us our life back. He came to reinstate superior principles, Spirit, andremove alienation. The Gospel is good news that life with God is made available again. The good life. True life. Sin forgiven. Guilt removed. Shame cleansed. Relationship restored. Adopted into God’s family. All this by faith, apart from our works. It’s free to us, but came at an infinite cost to Him. The second we place our faith in Jesus, we receive all these benefits, yet not yet fully transformed.
When you enter into a saving relationship with God, his commandments take on a new meaning. Yes, they convict us and point to our continual need of a savior. But, they also serve as lights shining in the darkness, leading us out of darkness into his happiness and life. Holiness is God calling us to be truly human and truly happy – so that we can truly live.
That is where Proverbs comes back into the picture. Proverbs doesn’t speak to the afterlife. Focused on here and now. Help navigate life now. Their function? To help point God’s people to life (flourish, prosper), like light shining in darkness, leading us on. Though, in Christ, we are forgiven and redeemed…we continue to need help and guidance. That’s what we’ve seen throughout Proverbs, God helping His people to flourish:
Wisdom. Foolishness. Heart. Pride. Words. Emotions. Self-control. Friends. Husbands. Wives. Singles. Parenting. Planning. Working. Sexuality. Money. Justice.
God doesn’t just want us to exist, he wants us to live – now and forever.
#1 Fear of the Lord is cultivated.
1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…
To grow in fear of the Lord is to grow in seeing him rightly, in all of his sovereign power and grace. A small god and small gospel have little ability to change our hearts and minds. Often there’s no hunger for him in our lives b/c there is nothing to feed on. Often there is no awe b/c nothing to be held in awe of. There’s no passion, b/c there nothing to get excited about. That being the case, it is no wonder our that joys are so small and our trialsare so large. But, with the fear of the Lord is wisdom and life. Big view of God ultimately brings happiness and hope.
#2 The Bible creates and sustains the good life.
3:1-2 Do not forget my teaching but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.
If we would experience biblical Christianity, we will need to devote selves to feasting on, learning and breathing Bible. It convicts, cleanses, teaches, rebukes, instructs and gives us an appetite for the things of God – and as that appetite increases, our appetite for the things of the world decrease.
#3 You can trust your God and His good plan for your life.
16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
Rom 8 tells us that every single thing in our life is being used by him to grow us and glorify him. If that is the case, why would we doubt him? Whatever comes, we must remember he has our happiness in mind, not our misery. As we cultivate that understanding aposture of hear it changes uf rom being cynical and self-defeated to courageous, deeply joyful, other-worldly.
#4 Remember your passions and are created to be satisfied in him.
19:23 The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.
The quintessential Christian life is not moralistic, stifling, and life-sucking. the ideal Christian life, the good life that God intends fo us, is joyful and deeply satisfying. Jesus will give you deeper, more meaningful, satisfaction than any sin ever will – or can – ever.
#5 Sin is self-destructive and deceitful.
1:18 but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their ownlives.
8:36 but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.”
11:7 When the wicked dies, his hope will perish, and the expectation of wealth perishes too.
We must be careful of befriending, excusing or becoming too comfortable w/ our sin. Sins purpose in our life is to suck life from our life. To cultivate God-centered happiness is to be wary of sin we are befriending or growing too comfortable with.
#6: Be careful of presuming on God’s grace.
13:4 The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied
Many presume on Gods grace and expect him to drop a bag of maturity and happiness on their doorsteps. God doesn’t send his maturity and satisfaction via Amazon two-day. Rather, we participate with God in our growth, transformation – even our ultimate happiness.
Here’s the beginning, and end, of the matter – Jesus invites us to a better portion, than anything this world can offer. Jesus is of greater comfort, more durable peace, a more sure foundation, a greater protection than anything we could get on our own. He forgives all your sin and blots them out like a cloud and buries them in the depths of the ocean. Not only are you forgiven, but you are an object of God’s delight, made family, adopted as his child. In Jesus you are sealed and filled with the Holy Spirit. In Jesus, we are promised life, immortality, and an inheritance that is undefiled and incorruptible. In Jesus we are promised a crown of glory that will not fade. In Jesus, there is nothing that will be able to prevent us from abundant life, in him and with him, forever. Let your joy in Him begin today, even now.