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You Better Be Right If You Want to Preach

An email showed up in my inbox today that made me sit back and take a long, hard examination of my responsibility in preaching.  I won’t discuss the details but the issue centered around a series I did a few years back on divorce and remarriage.  I hated that series and my stomach still gets tight thinking about it.  It is one of those series you need to do but you realize you better do it right because you are affecting people’s lives in a major way.  And the  series did just that for several in the church.

Now the series is in the background and yet it still lives on because of the internet so a certain man listens to it and now writes to me for counsel.  Hard counsel.  I don’t know him, but I am now accountable for him because I decided to preach.  I will respond to him and I think my counsel will be an encouragement to him.  But it makes me do some serious thinking again about the nature of pastoral ministry, especially in the arena of preaching.

Those who read this blog consistently knows I have strong thoughts about the light and frothy preaching that so many practice in my country these days.  For too many, the Sunday gathering of people is more like an event that is planned out to create an experience rather than the careful proclamation of the Word of God to the People of God as they gather in the name of Jesus Christ their Lord.  My personal desire is to cause the people to hear the Word and be confronted with it in such a way as to force them to make a decision each week, “Is this true or not?”

But if you are going to preach you better be right in what you say.  You better work hard on the text of the bible from which you are preaching.  You better be up there in the pulpit with a confidence that you understand the text and you can teach it to the people.  But you also better remember that those people are not there because of you, at least they better not be.  They are there because they are people purchased from their enslavement to sin by the blood of Jesus.  They are His and not yours.  And therefore you better be careful with that thing you call “the Word of God” because that is what it is, God’s Word and not yours.

Realize that those people listening to you are assuming you worked hard on the passage this week.  They are assuming you know what it means and are convinced that they need to hear it and obey it by the power of the Holy Spirit.  And when you preach through the bible you will have to teach on subjects that will affect people in a major way.  How people raise their children, go to work, view their household, think about marriage, interact with people and countless other things will be affected.

So when you say from the pulpit, preacher, that “the Word says. . . .” you better be right because someone there is going to actually act on what you preach.

Now, perhaps I can get back to the sermon I am finishing right now for this Sunday.

Taming The Tongue

The tongue is a powerful tool given by our Lord to do much good but it is capable of much evil as well.  James writes in the third chapter that from the same mouth comes blessing and cursing.  He then writes, “My brethren, these things ought not to be this way” (James 3:10).  Unfortunately, too often this is exactly how it is in too many cases.  Earlier in the chapter James say, “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.” (James 3:2 ).  Not perfect as in sinless, but perfect as in mature and stable.  Notice that the one who controls the tongue is able to control the entirety of his body.  Think about that a bit and you can begin to see how your mouth is either the gateway toward greater holiness or lack thereof.

I wrote here, here, and here on the nature of the sin of gossip, along with its friends the tale-bearer, the slanderer, and the accuser.  Cheap words flowing from a mouth that is not brought under the control of the person through and by the power of the Holy Spirit.  There is none who have never done these things, but there are some, many perhaps who are known by these things.  That is the basic difference between the one who gossiped and the one who is a gossip.  One has on occasion done so and the other is known for it.

So how do you begin to bring your tongue under control?  What steps do you need to take to finally put this behind you?  The following points are brief but designed to give a reader the essential tools necessary to be known as one who speaks truth and has a tongue that drips with grace rather than accusations.

  1. Pray.  Commit this to the Lord, confessing your tendencies and sparing no punches as you lay out your needs to Him.  Pray for a sensitive spirit and pray to use the fulness of God’s provision that is already yours to its fullest in your battle.
  2. Remember that you are battling forgiven sin.  Don’t allow yourself to be sucked into an up and down emotional state because you did good one week and bad the other.  Remember that your Father is urging you along just as your would urge your little one to keep persevering in taking his first little steps.  You are His delight because you are in His Son.
  3. You must love the unity of the Spirit over the information you may have on a person.  This is evidenced by pursuing humility, gentleness, patience and tolerance all conformed under love (Ephesians 4:1-3).  This means you need to ask before you talk if what you are going to tell someone else will help promote these things or distract.  And if you can’t give a firm “yes” to the positive side then you simply don’t say anything.
  4. You must put it off by putting on a habit of godly speech.  Ephesians 4:29 makes it clear, it is not sufficient to not speak unwholesome words, but instead you are to speak for the goal of building up the other person.  And even then you are to speak about something because you believe it will give grace to them as is needed at that time of hearing.  In other words, the best way to kill it is to fill your mouth with godly, gracious speech.
  5. Stop being around people who have the tendency to gossip.  And stop lying to yourself that they are your friends and that you don’t want to hurt them.  The reality is that a person takes on the qualities of those he associates with.  Take to heart the strong words of God in Psalm 50:16-23 and tremble when you regard those with whom you choose to associate.
  6. Stop thinking you can change a gossip on your own if you just “love” them enough.  Proverbs 22:24-25 is easy to understand but it takes courage to implement, “Do not associate with a man given to anger; Or go with a hot-tempered man,  Or you will learn his ways And find a snare for yourself.”
  7. Decide to read one chapter of Proverbs every day.  Pick one proverb that relates to speech out of that chapter to meditate, review and even memorize each day, but most of all practice it.  In one month’s time you will have a very different outlook on the nature of speech for God is faithful to bring opportunities for you to practice those proverbs each day.
  8. If you find out that you had gossiped then go back to the person you spoke to and seek their forgiveness.  If you believe it is necessary go back to the person about whom you spoke and tell them what you said and seek their forgiveness.
  9. Ask your spouse, parent, or best friend to be ruthless with you as they hear you speak.  Urge them to challenge your words and the value or intent behind them.

I want to have ten points but frankly I am out of time.  At the same time, you devote yourself to these nine points and you will do fine.  OK, here is a tenth one: Have a long view about this whole battle.  Commit your heart to desire to become an older woman or man who draws younger people to you simply because you exude graciousness in spirit and speech.  That means that you must start right away so that in five or ten years you will have earned the reputation of a person of upright speech.

UPDATED:  forgot some links.

That Nasty Business of Letting Go

Perhaps you have heard of helicopter parents.  You know the type, they send their kids off to college and then hover over them trying to keep everything safe and sound so that their child (an adult) doesn’t suffer any problems.  There are many reasons why a parent chooses to do this but two are at the top of the list from my observations.

The first is pride, they have a reputation before others to uphold.  They have made certain comments about their children and the goals and aspirations that those children possess.  They don’t want to tell their friends that their child could not cut it at the school, or that maybe being a successful business person is not in the cards.  And so they work and hover and push the child along so that there is no shame that comes upon any of them.

The second is the issue of fear.  They know the dangers that are lurking.  They know that there are countless ways that a person is harmed and thrown off track in their lives.  They don’t have the confidence that their child has the wisdom to make wise choices, and perhaps they realize that they had never bothered to equip their child with foundational wisdom in the first place.  So they hover, pushing and pressing their child into a path that they are not equipped to walk upon because they lack the basic package of true wisdom to do so.

Yesterday I posted about the need for wise counselors.  Today I want to talk about the time to put wisdom into the life of a child.  I am convinced that parent too often have a child to have a trophy or an experience.  They don’t grasp that they now have a soul for which they are now eternally accountable.  The child is fun at the beginning but as he grows the challenges become greater and greater.  Choices made and words never are spoken that needed to be said.  And then the young adult is off into a world that they have little sense of how to navigate it to the glory of God.

In Proverbs 4:10-13 Solomon tells his son

“Hear, my son, and accept my sayings And the years of your life will be many.  I have directed you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in upright paths.  When you walk, your steps will not be impeded; And if you run, you will not stumble.  Take hold of instruction; do not let go. Guard her, for she is your life.”

Here is a key goal of all parents, to be able to let go, knowing that they have given their sons and daughters the wisdom to walk before God and man in a manner that reflects a true fear of the Lord.  Solomon is not interested in hovering.  He is interested in sending his son off to walk on his own before God.  He gives him warnings to not deviate from this path and go to walk with the wicked (14-17).

And then, in verses 18 and 19 we come to the reasons for his “sending off counsel:”

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know over what they stumble.

If you have done the proper job with your children, when that nasty day of letting them go comes you can walk away in faith.  You can have that sense of certainty that the path they are on is like the breaking of the day.  As they continue on it they shall walk in righteousness as surely as the day grows brighter.  And you warn them that if they step into the path of the sinner that as certain as dusk gives way to full darkness, so shall they descend into folly and sin though at first it may not appear to be true.

So, parents, commit today to be a parent who first fears the Lord yourself that you might begin to walk in wisdom.  Then commit yourself to be a parent who humbly points and models for your children they way that they should walk as well.  Pour the wealth of wisdom that comes through a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ into their hearts and when that nasty day to let go comes, you can do it in faith and not fear.

Youth and Wisdom

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments

(Psalm 111:10 NASB)

The biblical mandate for true wisdom is simple, the fear of the LORD.  To the modern, American ear this sounds quite negative, but it is not at all.  It is simply the idea of orienting yourself under the authority of God in your life.  It is recognizing and delighting in His utter supremacy over all things as Creator.  Therefore, nothing is beyond His reach and nothing can thwart His will.

Simple enough, but that only puts you on the beginning of wisdom, not the end.  I have been a pastor long enough that it is quite a challenge today in getting people to see the infinite value of just fearing God.  Yet, those same people will often think that they possess wisdom for most any event or decision, never considering whether they are a person who has even begun to learn true wisdom by first consistently ordering their life under God. By using the adverb “consistently” I mean longer than a few months.

Worse, it is common to see that when they seek counsel that they gather around themselves men or women of like age and experience.  To call that seeking wisdom is like a glutton asking fellow gluttons whether that extra burger is something they should eat.  It is amazing how often they agree with your assessment.

When you are thinking of seeking counsel ask yourself who in your circle of life possesses wisdom that is beyond merely the “beginning of it?”  Mark these men or women out in your mind ahead of time.  When you go to them lay out your thoughts and your concerns.  Present to them the process by which you are coming to your decision.  Give clear, biblical arguments, or admit that you have none to give (which is OK, that happens more than people like to admit).  And then prepare yourself to not hear a quick verse-quote and a pat on your head.  Come with a spirit that says, “I lack wisdom, he doesn’t so let me come to learn.”

He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm. (Proverbs 13:20 NASB)

Who are you watching?  Who are you consistently going to for counsel or wisdom on a situation?  I am thankful for elders who I can go to anytime and receive advice and warnings.

If you need some additional reminding, here is the video we showed in our church a short time ago.  If don’t have 5 minutes, then just jump to 1:30 and listen.

A Beautiful Woman Too Often Scorned

 20 Wisdom shouts in the street, She lifts her voice in the square;
21 At the head of the noisy streets she cries out; At the entrance of the gates in the city, she utters her sayings:
22 “How long, O naive ones, will you love simplicity? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing, And fools hate knowledge?
23 “Turn to my reproof, Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.
24 “Because I called, and you refused; I stretched out my hand, and no one paid attention;
25 And you neglected all my counsel, And did not want my reproof;
26 I will even laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes,
27 When your dread comes like a storm, And your calamity comes on like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come on you.
28 “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they shall not find me,
29 Because they hated knowledge, And did not choose the fear of the LORD.
30 “They would not accept my counsel, They spurned all my reproof.
31 “So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way, And be satiated with their own devices.
32 “For the waywardness of the naive shall kill them, And the complacency of fools shall destroy them.
33 “But he who listens to me shall live securely, And shall be at ease from the dread of evil.”

 (Proverbs 1:20-1 NASB)

I don’t want to write much here for the lesson is clear but I do want to make a few simple observations that are on my mind.

  1. Calamity and dread in the lives of those who love God are a given.  Following and loving Jesus does not mean that the life you will experience will now be free of trouble.
  2. God’s voice is not silent.  Frankly, it is never silent.  It is crying out daily for us to bend our minds and hearts to hear and heed.
  3. The fool is not the one who does not know, but the fool who hears and does not heed God’s word and wisdom.
  4. The time to learn true wisdom is when the good and peaceful times are present.  But for the fool those times are for play, not work.
  5. There is little sympathy to those who have had ample opportunity to store up wisdom but do not.  When the pain of folly washes their feet from under them, this beautiful woman of wisdom laughs.  This is painful to read, but it is even more painful to experience.
  6. The only thing worse than being a person who has spurned wisdom and now desperately seeks it is the person who, in the midst of calamity hardens their heart even more.  Oh what a broken and contrite heart before the Lord accomplishes.

A Discerning Mother

I have finally started reading a book that I wanted to read a long time ago entitled Memoirs of An Ordinary Pastor, by D. A. Carson.I’m about one third of the way into it and have immensely enjoyed it so far.and it is really about his father Julie Carson also mentions times with his mother he talked about how she had great insight in many various areas both theological and personal. one story that stood out for me was when his sister Joyce had gone out with a friend and then they both came home to continue the conversation once the friend had left Joyce’s mother made this observation:

Mom mentioned to me how interested I can appear when the topic is important to me, but how I obviously tuned out my friend when she spoke of things that matter to her but that I didn’t care about. Although I resented her analysis at the time, I soon took a second look at what she said and realize that it was all too true. The memory of those words have helped me greatly over the years when I see myself reverting to this un-Christlike behavior.

This is an excellent observation that her mother made and was made with the best intentions.  It was not made so as to harm the daughter but to help her. Nonetheless the words hurt yet the daughter wisely considered them and became wiser as a result.I thought about how this is also true in a church. There are those who are older in Christ and a function as the parents, if you will,of those who are younger in Christ. Those who are mature at times must speak words that hurt but if they are done out of love then they are good words. When the one who is younger in Christ receives those words as from a loving mother or father, though they may resent them at first, they will grow to see that they were good words and heed them.

It is a silly memory but I do remember a time as a pastor when we were doing a game night with the teens. One part of the night involved a scavenger hunt based off of riddles. I do not like scavenger hunts and I do not like riddles. Sometime near the end of the evening most of the teams had come together and it was obvious that my team was doing poorly. I made some smart-alec type of comment that these types of games are stupid, classic Matt Henry stupidity. Another man, an elder,look me straight in the eye and said that just because you don’t like these types of games doesn’t mean others find great enjoyment in them. A small rebuke but a good one and I had to go back to my team and a few others to seek forgiveness. It is funny because it has been at least 10 years since that event took place but I still remember it and am thankful for it.

Proverbs and The Wise Man Described

So what does a wise man look like according to the book of Proverbs.  You attend a church and want to be discipled by someone but you are unsure who you might approach. Though you are not wise in a Proverbs sort of way, you would not fit the mold of a fool either.  You are a young man (stick ‘woman’ here anywhere you wish by-the-way) who wants to grow in wisdom.  You seek wisdom from God because he tells you to in James 1:5 and you begin to then cast your observing eye around the church over the next few weeks, watching and listening.  As you watch and listen you hear a lot more comments than you did before when you were busy talking. And as various comments are made by men you start asking them ‘why’ questions.  Questions like, “Why did you decide not to go to that event next weekend, it sounded fun.” Or, “Why do you spend so much time reading those kind of books?”  After a bit of time has passed you decide now to sit and carefully read Proverbs in search of how the Spirit of God describes a wise man so that you can compare it to what you have heard and observed in the lives of those with whom you have been.

Here are some things you begin to note:

  • A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, But a fool is arrogant and careless. (Proverbs 14:16) The wise man respects and fears God.  This means he also knows evil and avoids it for God hates evil.  The fool thinks his is fine and can handle it.  The wise man knows the exact opposite.  He is not the mighty man, Jesus is.  He is a man prone to fall so his walk is cautious and the first hint of evil is enough for him to back away.
  • A wise man knows how to listen and learn from God–Proverbs 8:32-34.  The take-away quote is in vs 33, “Heed instruction and be wise, And do not neglect it”  Note that a person is wise when he hears instruction and does not neglect it or let it go (33).  Both vs. 32 and 34 speak of the promise of blessing that comes from obedience. This is something that will come up over and over in the book of Proverbs. In 1:5 where it is written that a wise man will acquire wisdom. In other words, a wise man is one who is never too wise to learn more from God’s word. He has not arrived, he is on a journey that ends when he is in presence of the source of all wisdom, his Lord and Savior.
  • Closely connected to this is the idea that a wise man will learn from others. He is not one of those spiritual men who only learn from God. He understands that God uses others to teach us many things.  Therefore he seeks the advice of others–Proverbs 24:5,6. The wise man is strengthened in his knowledge by seeking the wise counsel of others.
  • And connected to both of the above points we can even extend it further.  He learns wisdom through creation.  In Proverbs 6:6 Solomon says to go to the ant to learn what hard work and diligence looks like.  If a fool will see it he will become wise. For the wise man, his eyes are always looking and his mind is always thinking about how God has ordered the universe, why things work the way they do.
  • He learns from the mistakes of others–Proverbs 24:30-34. Here he goes by the home of the lazy man and sees the slow destruction of the home. Note that he doesn’t cluck his tongue and walk away, he thinks and considers and concludes. I would do this with my children as I raised them. I would show them those who made foolish choices and the results of those decisions and speak to their heart about it.  I would show them wise people and praise those people, showing my children why they were worthy of imitation. The world is full of people from whom those seeking wisdom can learn.
  •  A wise man will learn from a rebuke.  “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love 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.”  (Proverbs 9:8-10) Notice how a wise man acts when he is shown he is wrong: He shows love to the one who rebukes (9:8). He gains more wisdom (9:9a). And the rebuke teaches him what is really important (9:9b-10).  Also, the motto of the book is repeated here–wisdom begins by fearing God.

There are more to see but this should be more than enough to chew on for the rest of the day.  I have a sermon to work on, a wedding to prepare to officiate, a lawn out of control, and a basement that needed de-cluttering.  Life on the edge.

Proverbs and The Wise Man, An Introduction

Last week I did a short series developing the idea of a fool.  That was primarily drawn from the book of Proverbs.  This week I want to do some posts on the nature of what a wise man looks like in the book of Proverbs.  Obviously this will not be an exhaustive examination of the subject, but it should be one that allows for solid thought, application, and self-examination.

So, what is a wise man? The idea of the wise man occurs 65 times in the book of Proverbs. The word used most frequently has the idea of one with sound judgment, prudence or shrewdness.  Basically a wise man is one who is skilled in living his life.  He has learned how to allow God’s word to control his life so that there is a godly purpose to life.  When I write ‘godly,’ I mean a God-centered perspective.  Along with that, if the fool is one who closes his mind to the Word of God, then the wise man is one who opens his mind to the Word of God. As in the case of the fool, the question is not mental ability but rather obedience.  It is a heart issue that motivates and drives a person in his life. You can do wise actions out of a foolish heart. And a wise man will do foolish things. But the motivation of both as well as the response when the consequences of those actions come about will help reveal the heart of the person.

Here are some biblical examples of a wise man. The preeminent example is Jesus our Lord. Colossians 2:3 says that the treasure of wisdom and knowledge are wrapped up in Christ. One of those fascinating passages about His humanity is that as man he grew in relation to wisdom and knowledge (Luke 2:40, 52).  Aside from our Lord my mind immediately goes to the example of Solomon. It was David, his father, who instructed his son Solomon to obey the Lord  (1 Chronicles 28:8, 9).  To the early life of Solomon was one of obedience to God, but even then you see it was not total wisdom (1 Kings 3:3, 9, 28; 4:32).   Solomon was no longer a wise man when he turned his back on God’s word (1 Kings 11:1-11).  And this is an important point that I will develop in a later post.  Wisdom one day can become folly the next.

Every Christian needs to learn how to be wise.  While much of the book of Proverbs is given over to the subject, I will over the next few posts offer a few principles on what a wise man looks like and how he lives.

The Dangerous Path of A Fool

Being a fool is not a static event; rather it is very active. The Apostle Paul calls our life a ‘walk’ and uses it to refer to our conduct in life, how we live out our life. And for the fool, since he is a fool, his walk is filled with folly. Note that the folly proceeds from the heart and nature of the person.  He is a fool therefore he produces folly.  Last post I gave one key characteristic of a fool, he lacks judgment, which shows up in a multitude of ways. Today I will explore the second characteristic, the fool is set in his ways:

  • He is a man with perverse speech.  “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity Than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool.” (Pro 19:1) The fool can’t keep folly off of his lips, let him speak and it will not be long that  twisted, crooked, or false speech pours forth.
  • He is a man with a perverse life.  “Like a dog that returns to its vomit Is a fool who repeats his folly.” (Pro 26:11) You have to have a dog to understand this. They puke and then treat it like a second meal, every time.  The fool lives out his folly and instead of seeing it for what it is, returns and does it again. He doesn’t learn the basic lessons of life.  It is sad really.
  • He speaks without thinking. “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, But the mouth of fools spouts folly.” (Pro 15:2) The wise man makes his knowledge useful.  Literally it means that he is skillfully using his knowledge.  There is care in his speech. However, the fool has no control on his words, they flow like a spring.  Note that there may be knowledge within the words, but that the words are not delivered properly.  Proverbs 15:28, “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, But the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.” Proverbs 29:11, “A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back.”
  • The fool is in love with his own mind. “A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind.” (Pro 18:2) Remember, the heart of man is filled with foolishness.  It is a traitor and yet the fool does not understand this fact nor does he properly fear his heart. Instead of having a healthy distrust of his own mind, he simply speaks of his opinions and is content.  The task of ordering his mind and thoughts under the Word of God is foreign and drudgery to him.

So we have a person who has twisted words, twisted living, foolish speech and in love with his own opinions. But so what? Fools abound like dandelions in a field, why don’t we just ignore them?  Because the true fool is a very dangerous person in reality:

  • We should fear his influence in our lives more than we often do.  “Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, Rather than a fool in his folly.” (Pro 17:12) What does it mean to meet a fool in his folly? Think the moment a drunken fool says he is fine and takes the car keys into his hand. Think the fool who looks at a dangerous part of town and says that you will be alright. Think, the fool who comes up with an idea and says, “Come on, it will be fun!” As a former cop, I saw it over and over.
  • His mouth gets himself and others into a lot of trouble. “A fool’s lips bring strife, And his mouth calls for blows.  A fool’s mouth is his ruin, And his lips are the snare of his soul.” (Pro 18:6) Again, a police officer knows this first hand. How many times I arrived at a scene only to find a fool who was bleeding. Why? Because he was a fool and opened up his mouth and ended up getting thumped by another. And it was not uncommon to find his friends bleeding too, simply because they were in his presence.
  • He brings burdens into the lives of others. “A stone is heavy and the sand weighty, But the provocation of a fool is heavier than both of them.” (Pro 27:3) Live in a home where the father or mother is a fool and you will understand the weight of a fool’s presence. Have a son or daughter who is a fool and the weight will bear down heavily on the parents’ souls.

Here, then, is the fool. He brings pain upon himself and upon those around him. He is a man heading to destruction and does not even see it. The fool is warned in Proverbs 29:1 that if he hardens his neck against reproof, eventually he will be broken beyond remedy. And live your life for a reasonable length of time and you will find many a broken fool and it is never a pretty sight.

The gospel tells us that Jesus came and took up our folly and became sin on our behalf that we might be saved. The gospel tells us that though we may be heavy-laden with our folly, that in Jesus we will find rest.  The gospel tells us that in Jesus there is life and a new heart with a new desire. When you see the fool, what you see is a man or woman who needs Jesus.

 

 

A Glimpse into The Mind of A Fool

Yesterday I introduced you to the fool.  Today I want to give you the basic characteristics of what makes a person a fool.  Here is where it can get a bit sticky for some because depending on how you are approaching this a person can only be a fool outside of Jesus Christ or a Christian can also be a fool.  Which way you land on this (including in between) is important to work through as you study a subject like this. In the Old Testament (I am primarily using Proverbs to draw out the marks of a fool) you are dealing with a people who are under the Old Covenant. The authors of the proverbs are not looking at “saved”  and “unsaved;” rather they are looking at people who are part of the covenant and how they live under that covenant.

In the New Testament we find the same sort of assumption. The writers repeatedly speak of growing in wisdom, talking wisely, lacking wisdom and distinguishing between the wisdom of this world and the wisdom from God. These men are instructing Christians (people professing to be under the New Covenant) to not be foolish but be wise.

So, drawing from the book of Proverbs what are the characteristics of a fool?  First, he lacks judgment:

  • “The mind of the intelligent seeks knowledge, But the mouth of fools feeds on folly.” (Pro 15:14 ) This speaks to the immature, shortsighted view of the fool. He has not trained himself to desire that which is good and right just as a foolish person fills his stomach with poor, unhealthy food.
  • The fool enjoys foolishness.  “Doing wickedness is like sport to a fool; And so is wisdom to a man of understanding.” (Pro 10:23) Note the contrast here, the fool finds his folly to be fun, but a mark of being wise is finding that same enjoyment in wisdom. This is why addressing a fool is so difficult, they simply don’t see the pleasure and delight in the same things you do.
  • The fool has no capacity for wisdom. “Why is there a price in the hand of a fool to buy wisdom, When he has no sense?” (Pro 17:16) This one shows the fool trying to gain through money what can only be gained through the Lord. The idea is that even if he were able to buy it, he would not know what to do with it.  It is foreign to him.
  • The fool has no idea of a patient search for wisdom. “Wisdom is in the presence of the one who has understanding, But the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.” (Pro 17:24) Here we see the things that capture the minds of the wise and the foolish. Note how the wise man always has wisdom in his sight.  He keeps it close to him. As we come to the New Testament we find it in the gospel bound up in the person of Jesus (1 Cor. 1), therefore we set our eyes up Him and order our lives in that manner–if we are wise.  The fool, however, is constantly wandering about with his mind.  He is captured by silly things.  His best life is just over the horizon or around the corner.
  • The fool trusts in himself. “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But he who walks wisely will be delivered.” (Pro 28:26) This literally says that he relies on his own mind.  The problem is that his heart is a traitor that always leads him astray but he does not know that. This proverb has some implied points to it due to its parallelism.  The idea is that the fool trusts in his heart and as a result will be suddenly destroyed, while the wise man (who does not look to his own heart for direction) will be protected.  This goes so very counter to much counsel of today.  Too often we are told to trust in ourselves and develop self-confidence; but in reality, the wise man looks not to himself, but to the Word of the Lord.

Next post I will layout the characteristic of the fool that he is set in his ways of folly. But right now it is enough that we learn to order our prayers that God would intervene in the heart of a fool that he would be broken and contrite, that he would see that he is set on a dangerous path and that he is in desperate need of the grace of God in his life.

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