Devoted to Good Works

Okay, the echoing bell of repetition is ringing louder as I continue reading in the first half of Titus 3 this morning. I’ve already encountered its peal a couple of times so that when it rings this morning, I’m primed to pay attention. (I look ahead and I’m going to encounter it again for a fourth time before I’m finished reading Titus).

The inescapable message of these repeated words? That the gospel is not just something that tells us how to be saved for a better life someday, but it is the power of God which will radically rewire us for a life of good works today.

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.

The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.

(Titus 2:7-8, 11-14; 3:8, 14 ESV)

Good works. Good works. Good works. Good works. Come on people, tell me we aren’t saved for good works.

Paul told Titus he was to model it. He says grace appeared to redeem us so that we might be zealous for it. That believing in God will make us careful and want to learn how to be devoted to it. It = “good works.”

Beautiful deeds. Honorable actions. Everything our hands produce praiseworthy by reason of a heart which has been made pure and a life which has been declared holy. All that we accomplish having about it an air of other-worldly, enduring quality as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Savior, being transformed by the renewing of our mind, becoming conformed increasingly into His likeness. The aroma of Christ on us impacting everything — yes, everything — done by us.

Modeling good works. Zealous for good works. Devoted to good works. Learning to let the Christ, who lives in us, live through us so that all we do are good works. Thinking that’s some of the fruit of new life in Christ.

If we are not marked by a desire for good works, can we really have confidence that the gospel has authentically left its mark on us?

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? . . . So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

(James 2:14, 17 ESV)

Not that we are to muscle-out good works in order to be saved. Paul’s clear, “He saved us not because of works done by us in righteousness” (Tit. 2:6). Rather according to His mercy and grace, “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit”, He justified us by grace and called us to be heirs according to “the hope of eternal life.”

But Paul is equally clear–and repetitively clear–that when this happens in a person’s life, they will be careful to devote themselves to good works.

Only by His transforming grace. Only for His all-deserving glory.

Amen?

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She Ate the King’s Meat

This morning I read the first couple of chapters of Esther. Hovering over chapter two. And something about Esther strikes me — she ate the king’s meat.

Esther and Daniel were contemporaries. Both Jews. Both taken from their homeland. Both were used of God in mighty ways. And yet, it seems to me, the contrasts far outweigh the similarities.

Daniel seemed to be able to retain his Hebrew identity, rarely is he referred to by his Babylonian name, Belteshazzar. Esther’s Jewish background is swallowed up by her contemporary culture, and Hadassah (Es. 2:7) was to be kept a secret (Es. 2:10). Daniel was quickly recognized for his brains. Esther was notable for her beauty (Es. 2:7). Daniel was trained up to be part of a royal cohort known as “the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans” (Dan. 2:2), men who the king would turn to for advice and counsel. Esther was prettied up to part of a cohort known as concubines, women who the king lustfully used once, taking away their virginity according to his will not theirs, and consigning them to be but objects for future pleasure and removing from them any hope of another relationship.

But the contrast that strikes me this morning is that somehow Daniel was able to resolve “that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank” (Dan. 1:8), while Esther, it would seem, had no such option (nor perhaps, inclination) and, in preparation for inevitable defilement by the king, applied “her cosmetics” and ate her “her portion of food” (Es. 2:9) To use King James language, while Daniel refused the “king’s meat”, she ate the king’s meat.

While Daniel from the onset is set up to be a hero, Esther’s apparent destiny is but that of a harem.

And we’re inclined, I think, to extol Daniel for daring to be a Daniel and keeping himself pure, but don’t really know what to do with an Esther who, because she was Esther, really didn’t have that option open to her. Moreover, how often do we think that because of Daniel’s bold stand he kind of earned the right to be a hero? And yet, Esther the heroine reminds me this morning that the secret sauce to being used of God is favor.

Now Esther was winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her. . . the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen.

(Esther 2:15b, 17 ESV)

Esther won grace and favor. And I think this earthly reality is meant to reveal a heavenly dynamic. That just as the Sovereign God had made Daniel a man of favor (Dan. 1:9), so too He was working behind the scenes to elevate this beloved daughter to being a woman of favor. That what mattered most concerning her impact for the kingdom, was less about who she was and the opportunities she had been afforded, but more about who God is and the purposes He has determined.

I’m thinking it’s easier to want to dare to be a Daniel believing that by our merit we can do much for the kingdom. But what if we are all really more like Esthers? Without position or power, feeling subject too often to the ways of this world? Could God use us too for His glory? Apparently (as I’ll be reminded over the next few mornings).

I’d like to think I’m like an elite Daniel primed for the lion’s den. I’m more likely, however, a dime-a-dozen Esther which the world considers expendable. So, it’s not about whether or not I eat the king’s meat, as much as it is about whether I have known the King’s favor.

And I have.

That’s what grace is all about. That’s why God gets all the glory.

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Walk with the Wise

You are what you eat. What you put in is going to have an impact on what you have available to put out. Good worldly wisdom. And, not without biblical precedent. After all, the law of the harvest says you’re gonna reap what you sow (Gal. 6:7).

This morning hovering over a verse in proverbs reminding me that what’s true about our plate and our planting is also true about prudence.

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

(Proverbs 13:20 ESV)

Wanna be wise? Hang with the wise. Wanna grow in skillful living? Keep company with those who are living skillfully. Makes sense? I’m thinkin’ . . .

Learn from the wise. Imitate the wise. And, eventually you’ll become wise. Wise advice.

However, ours tends towards a foolish culture. We really value going it alone. Marching to the beat of our own drummer. Prizing authentic self over transcendent truth and what we can learn from others. And when we do connect, too often we’re not looking for wise people as much as we are people who think and sound like us. We don’t really want iron that sharpens iron (Prov. 27:17) — after all that involves clashing and friction — instead we tend to prize validation.

But if we believe God’s word — that just like the food we eat and the fields we steward, whoever walks with the wise becomes wise — and if we value wisdom, then wouldn’t we make walking with the wise a priority?

And who are the wise? Well, it starts with knowing who IS the wise and finding others who walk with Him and He in them.

But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. . . And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

(1Corinthians 1:23-24, 30 ESV)

Jesus. The wisdom of God. Wisdom from God.

Wanna become wise. Walk with Jesus. And walk with people who walk with Jesus.

Not complex. But oh, we live in a world and in a time and in an age where for so many it’s also not easy. Too busy. Too suspicious. Too cynical. Too hurt. Too wrapped up in too much stuff which has so little value for eternity. Too many things compromising and competing with walking with the wise. Keeping us from a daily appointment with Wisdom Himself. Keeping us from frequently and regularly gathering with others who are indwelt by Wisdom.

Lord Jesus, be our wisdom even as we purpose to walk with You. And help us to trust You when You say that we also need to walk with others.

Only by Your grace. Always for Your glory.

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A Harsh Command to Obey

Not sure where I’m going with this, but chewing on a command to obey this morning.

Avoid such people.

Doesn’t sound very “Christian” at first blush, does it? Maybe it’s just the translation. Let’s check out others.

Having nothing to do with them (NIV). Stay away from people like that (NLT). From such people turn away (NKJV). And these be constantly shunning (WNT).

Nope. Not just the translation.

Avoid literally means to turn one’s self away from. They’re heading your way? Go another way. They wanna connect for coffee? Start drinking tea only. Avoid them.

Only time this word is used in the NT. So, Paul (moved by the Spirit) grabs a rarely used word in order to make a pretty emphatic point.

So, who are “such people”? Who are “people like that”? Paul identifies them pretty clearly, not sparing detail in describing them.

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

(2Timothy 3:2-5 ESV)

Nineteen. I count nineteen identifying factors in a list which marks “such people.” A lot of them, it seems to me, mark also the spirit of our culture today. Read the list again and see if it doesn’t seem that way to you too.

So, are we to avoid the world? No, that can’t be it. We’ve actually been sent into the world as ambassadors of the King to establish outposts for the kingdom. Well then, who was Timothy (who am I) to turn away from?

I think the key that unlocks the command is in the last identifying factor. Those we are to avoid, who have bought into the brutality of a culture which has rejected God and loves self and pleasure more than the Creator, are those having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Professing Christians, church-going people, who have given themselves over to self and to the world. Those who walk like the world and talk like the world while trying to convince others they are really representing another world. Turn away from them, says Paul. Having nothing to do with them.

Seems harsh. But, if I’m reading it right, it’s still a command to obey.

How zealous we need to be for the purity (not perfection) of God’s people — those called to be a light on a hill and the salt of the earth. How determined, as much as lies in us, to be on guard against the leaven of the world which seeks to infiltrate the church. How great our resolve to live in a counter-cultural manner. How intent to not just have the appearance of godliness but to demonstrate also the reality of its transforming, other-worldly power. Willing to the engage in the world’s games but playing by a set of heavenly rules.

Times of difficulty. That’s what Paul says these last days will be (2Tim. 3:1). Difficult times demanding difficult decisions as we discern and detach from those who say they are of Christ but live in contradiction to the way of Christ.

Oh, how we need wisdom. How we need to discernment. How we need courage.

Only by His grace. Only for His glory.

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The Lord’s Servant and The Public Square

I’m not saying anything new if I point out that the public square of our day is increasingly marked by raging rhetoric and canceling culture. Make your point, make it loud, make it rude, and then shut the door. Goodwill debate valued less and less. Instead, what too often gains applause are drop the mic moments followed by walking off the stage.

But while it may not be a new observation, it’s one that I think we need to constantly be aware of. Because the world has a way of rubbing off on us. That’s why John in his first epistle, is emphatic that we’re not to love the world or the things in it (1Jn. 2:15). We are not to take our cue from the ways of the world or model the world’s approach to matters of public discourse and debate. For, at the heart of the world’s ways are “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life.” And that, says John, “is not from the Father” (1Jn. 2:16).

So, how should a believer engage in the public square, in debate and discourse? Like a slave, says Paul this morning. Like the Lord’s servant.

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

(2Timothy 2:24-26 ESV)

You gotta feel for Timothy. Sent in to contend for the faith (1Tim. 1:3-4). Urged to “fan into flame” his gift (2Tim. 1:6). Told not to succumb to a spirit of fear, but to walk in power (1:7), wage war as soldier (2:3-4) and compete as an athlete (2:5). And yet, amidst such zeal, fervency, and holy determination, to keep his cool.

To not be argumentative, but to be friendly, good-natured and easy to talk to. When things start getting heated and the rhetoric starts getting personal, to forbear and not take offense at the ills and wrongs directed toward him. But also, not shutting down or walking way. Instead, hanging in there with meekness and mildness presenting the truth, holding forth the word, contending for the faith.

How’s that possible? Well, it helps if we’re able to remember that it’s God who in His kindness reveals truth and grants repentance. We’re not called to win the debate. We’re called to represent the truth.

But, as I chew on it a bit more, it REALLY HELPS if I remember that I am just the Lord’s servant. That’s “servant” not as in a server or deacon, but “servant” as in a slave, a bondman, a man or woman of servile condition. I’ve given myself up to Another’s will. Devoted to His cause, jealous for His reputation, disregarding my own interests or need to justify myself.

If I see myself as but a bondservant, shouldn’t humility follow? I’m thinkin’ . . .

To be sure, I should have conviction. I am to contend with courage. But I must not be quarrelsome. Because I’m the Lord’s servant.

Only by His grace. Only as all I want is for Him to receive glory.

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The LORD’s Delight

More and more I find myself reading the last 21 chapters of Proverbs increasingly like the Sermon on the Mount rather than as just a checklist to make sure I’m on the right track. To be sure, the plethora of “to do’s” and “to be’s” in the latter chapters of Proverbs are virtal coaching towards skillful living now and eternal reward in a day yet to come. However, if meeting the standard set by these many exhortations is the basis for my confidence as to God’s acceptance then, to quote a famous prophet speaking in King James language, “Woe is me, for I am undone!” (Isa. 6:5a)

Case in point, something I’m chewing on this morning.

Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the LORD, but those of blameless ways are His delight.

(Proverbs 11:20 ESV)

Okay, bottom line? I wanna be the LORD’s delight. Just sayin’ . . .

And at first, at the most macro processing of this verse, I don’t think I’m an abomination. I don’t think my heart is crooked aka, twisted, distorted, perverse, or perverted — especially if I’ve been given a new heart through conversion (Ezek. 36:26). So, at least initially, feeling pretty good about being on the “His delight” side of the ledger.

But then I start noodling on “blameless ways.” Hmm . . .

Is that some of my ways? Most of my ways? Some of my ways most of the time? Most of my ways some of the time? Most of my ways most of the time? Or, shudder, all of my ways all of the time?

Come on! Whose gonna clear that bar? Not this guy!

And then, James’ words come to mind:

For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.

(James 2:10 ESV)

Did I mention the woe is me part?

So, while I need to read Proverbs as exhortations to keep on the right path, to stay away from the fool’s path and walk in ways that are blameless ways, if I’m being honest with myself, I know how often the old man compromises the new heart, and how the flesh frequently leads me to walk in some old ways. So then, am I not His delight because all my ways are not blameless ways? Or do I fall in and out of delight when I waver in my ways? I don’t think so. I think, just like the Sermon on the Mount, the standards set by the Proverbs for flourishing in life are also meant to lead us to the cross.

Like the Law, the Proverbs can be seen as a “guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24 ESV). Or, as Peterson captures so well the Greek nuances in his paraphrase, the Proverbs are “like those Greek tutors, with which you are familiar, who escort children to school and protect them from danger or distraction, making sure the children will really get to the place they set out for” (Gal. 3:24 MSG).

I’m thinking that the Proverbs, beyond practical advice on how to live as kingdom people, are ultimately tasked with bringing us (again and again and again) to the finished work of the cross as our only basis for being the LORD’s delight. They ready us for justification by faith. They calm us as we rest in justification by faith. The spur us on to obedience in response to justification by faith. And they assure us we are the LORD’s delight only through justification by faith.

We ARE blameless, because Jesus is blameless — and we are in Him. We ARE the LORD’s delight, for the Son is the Father’s delight — and we are in Him.

Rest and rejoice, oh my heart. You are blameless even as you seek to walk in ways that are blameless. For You are in Christ.

And in Him, you are the LORD’s delight.

Because of His grace. Only for His glory.

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Remember and Fight

Hovering over Nehemiah 4 this morning.

First observation, the work of God will be opposed by the enemies of God. Nehemiah & Co. are in the center of God’s will as they rebuild the wall at Jerusalem. They are also in the crosshairs of those who were displeased greatly “that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel” (2:10). And after their foes failed at compromising the work by infiltrating the people of God (2:17-20) and failed at discouraging the work by jeering the people of God (4:1-3), they quit playing games and plotted to end the work by physically attacking the people of God (4:7-8).

Second observation? Prayer and planning are not mutually exclusive. Neither are trusting and taking up the sword. Nor faith and fighting.

And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.

(Nehemiah 4:8-9 ESV)

Our enemies plotted, records Nehemiah, and we prayed. They got ready to fight, we got ready to protect. Petition and preparation went hand-in-hand.

They trusted God for the work so they kept working. But they were not unaware of the reality of an enemy and so they worked smart.

From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built.

(Nehemiah 4:16-18a ESV)

Half working, half watching. Some with one hand put to the task and the other hand holding a sword. Others, while fully engaged in God’s building program and fully trusting in God’s protection, yet fitted with the battle gear of God’s providing.

And what I’m chewing on in particular this morning is Nehemiah’s exhortation to those ready to work and prepared to wage war.

And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”

(Nehemiah 4:14 ESV)

Do not be afraid. Remember and fight.

Remember your God. Bring to mind all that you know concerning Jehovah, that He is great and awesome. Recall that He who has already delivered you from bondage for a great work (Eph. 2:10) has promised to complete that work (Php. 1:6).

And then, knowing that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood”, take up the full armor of God and be prepared to repel the enemy, (Eph. 6:10-18). Stand fast. Pray much. Be ready to engage much with the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit. Confident that greater is He who is in you than He who is the world (1Jn. 4:4).

Prayer and preparation aren’t mutually exclusive. While engaging the enemy directly may not always be needed, we should always be ready.

Ready to remember. Ready to fight.

By His grace. For His glory.

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Where Am I Going to Eat Today?

Noodling on two house parties being put on in Proverbs 9. Meditating on two hostesses, Wisdom and Folly, who have set their tables and sent out their invitations.

Wisdom’s table is filled with organic, free-range food. Triple-A, Prime beef from her own herd. Only the best, hand-tended grapes from her own vineyards used for the wine. A three Michelin star meal for those wanting to experience the full flavor of life. And so, she sends her young women to call “from the highest places in town” (9:3).

“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks sense she says, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.”

(Proverbs 9:4-5 ESV)

But there’s another voice crying out “on the highest places of town” (9:14). She’s serving warmed up takeout from a greasy spoon, fake food restaurant. She really has no idea what’s on her table and care’s little where the food has come from. Serving up a nourishing meal isn’t her concern, her endgame is to serve up herself. She wants to get ’em in with the offer of filling their belly, but in the end what she really wants to do is consume them. Folly’s offer sounds a lot like Wisdom’s, but she’s offering up junk food.

“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” And to him who lacks sense she says, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”

(Proverbs 9:16-17 ESV)

Wisdom’s dining place is well sourced, well lit, and welling up with food that enables the simple to flourish. Her guests are those who want to live life and life it to the full.

Folly’s serving up stolen food, in a dark place. The food but a cheap, coma-inducing appetizer as she offers up herself as the main dish. Her guests? “The dead are there” (9:16a).

Hmm . . . where am I going to eat today?

Sounds like it should be a no-brainer. But we’re talking about the simple here. The naïve. The undiscerning. The seducible. So committed to being “open-minded” that they’re willing to try whatever looks good with little regard to where it comes from or what it might lead to. What they need first is to want to leave their simple-ness and “walk in the way of insight” (9:6b). And what unlocks the desire for insight?

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

(Proverbs 9:10 ESV)

The knowledge of the Holy One, the Creator, will create the palette for the Three-Star table. The fear of the LORD is what will make Wisdom’s invitation compelling and send up red flags when it hears Folly’s call.

With our culture’s increasing rejection of the Divine and the Transcendent, is it any wonder there’s so little interest in insight and we’re gorging ourselves at Folly’s table?

For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools.

(Romans 1:21-22 ESV)

How I need to beware of culture’s influence and Folly’s call. How I need to nurture the insight gifted to me as, through the cross, I once was blind to the things of heaven but now I see the Holy One. How I need to feast at Wisdom’s table on a frequent basis and stay far away from secret places and stolen food.

Only by God’s grace. Only for God’s glory.

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Daily Delight

Proverbs 8 has got to be one of my favorite chapters in all of Scripture. Wisdom’s calling. And if you listen to her voice in this chapter, how do you not come away knowing that Jesus is Wisdom?

And among my favorite verses in this favorite chapter are verses 22 through 31 which connect the Wisdom of Proverbs 8 with the Word of John 1:1-3. You know, the Word that was in the beginning. The Word who was with God, and the Word who was God. The Word who, in the beginning, made all things, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. The Word in whom was life and light.

In Proverbs 8, Wisdom declares without ambiguity that “the LORD possessed Me at the beginning of His work” (8:22). Before the first acts of old, before the beginning of the earth, before there were any depths of the sea, before any hills on the land, before the heavens were established, says Wisdom, “I was there . . . I was beside Him . . . like a master workman.”

Get Wisdom and you get the Creator. Heed Wisdom’s call and you’re gonna hear the voice of the promised Christ.

But here’s what I’m chewing on in particular this morning, the daily delight of Wisdom.

. . . then I was beside [the LORD], like a master workman, and I was daily His delight, rejoicing before Him always, rejoicing in His inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.

(Proverbs 8:30-31 ESV)

Pretty easy to noodle on these verses and just make it about me. That, if Jesus the Creator rejoiced in the world that was inhabited by image-bearers of God and delighted in the children of man, how much more does He delight in those children He has rescued and redeemed from the curse of the fall? A lot, I’m guessing. So, I could just stop there and sit back and bask in the glow that Jesus loves me this I know.

But let our eyes and our thoughts leave the “me” as the object of Wisdom’s delight and let them focus on the “He” who is the object of the Father’s delight and tell me it doesn’t do something to cause your soul to soar.

I was daily His delight

My bible says the word “His” isn’t in the original, so the verse is literally, I was daily delight. So, if Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (and He is according to Hebrews 13:8), then not only was He daily delight, but He will always be daily delight, and this morning He is daily delight. Yes, yes You are, Lord Jesus!

He who has always been “the beloved Son” (Col. 1:13), will always be our beloved Savior. The One in whom the Father is well pleased (Mt. 3:17, 17:5) is the One in whom we are well placed. He who is the delight of God’s soul (Isa. 42:1) is He who is ever the delight of the saved soul.

Jesus can be daily delight if we’ll but pause for a few moments each day and delight in Him. Regardless of the season, despite the daily circumstance, every day we can know enjoyment if we but pause and enjoy Him. The object of our delight. The unchanging source of pleasure.

If Wisdom (aka Jesus) is able to be God’s delight, He’s certainly sufficient to be mine. I just need to take the time to be delighted . . . daily.

By His grace. For His glory.

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Reproof. The Way of Life?

After reading Proverbs 6 this morning, was chewing a bit on the old adage, “Play with fire, you’re gonna get burned.” The fire of temptation, you don’t want to mess with it. Seems I was noodling on the same thing 5 years ago. But back then, I connected some dots that hit me afresh this morning. For me, a good reminder of the value of rebuke and correction, especially if it’s God doing the correcting through His holy Word. Not sure it’s any easier for me to receive such rebuke today than it was five years ago, but I do think reproofs are the way of life. Here are my thoughts from 2017 . . .


She must have been a beauty. Her allure bordering on irresistible. ‘Cause the father keeps warning his son about her, again and again, in these opening chapters of Proverbs. With the batting of her eyelashes, she captures the unsuspecting’s attention (6:25). With her seductive flattery, she draws him near (7:21). Her lips dripping with honey, her speech “smoother than oil” (5:3), she draws him closer and closer to her door, eventually inviting him into her house.

“Keep your way far from her,” warns Wisdom (5:8). For to even give her a second glance is to run the risk of becoming addicted to her intoxicating ways. And it won’t turn out well.

Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?

(Proverbs 6:27-28 ESV)

Who doesn’t know that? Play with fire, you’re gonna get burned. The problem is recognizing the fire. The trick is being on guard against the subtle, disguised call of infidelity. Believing that she’s out there. If not in a person, in the ways of a world which compete for those betrothed to Christ, subtly calling them to ways of unfaithfulness.

So how do we recognize her voice? How do we see the deception–and eventual destruction–that is hers?

My son, keep your fathers commandment, and forsake not your mothers teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress.

(Proverbs 6:20-24 ESV)

We need to heed instruction. To bind the Father’s words on our hearts and tie them around our necks. Not literally, as did the Pharisees with their ostentatious phylacteries tied about their heads and arms, but enveloping our minds and souls with His teaching such that it lead us, watches over us, and speaks to us. So internalizing His commandments that they truly become a lamp and light, preserving us from the seductive calls of darkness.

Makes sense doesn’t it? But why is it so hard to do? Here’s what hit me this morning . . . the last part of verse 23 . . .

. . . and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life . . .

Who likes reproof? Uh, not me.

I might say I value “constructive criticism” and that I won’t become defensive, but not gonna lie, my natural reaction is to bristle at rebuke. As humble as I think I might try to be, something about being chastised that wakes up the pride monster within me (probably because he’s not in that deep of sleep anyhow).

But if I’m gonna stay away from the fire, if I’m serious about avoiding hot coals in my lap, if I really believe that the seductress is really as seductive as the Father says she is, then I’m gonna need to envelope myself with the Word of God and brace myself for it’s reproving work in my life.

And when my failure is exposed, I need to apply again the blood of Christ shed for all my failure. When my fickleness is made evident, I need to put on again the Son of God who Himself is ever faithful. When the flesh’s temptation to heed the seductress’s voice is made manifest, I need to, by the power of the Spirit indwelling me, crucify the flesh which has already died with Christ.

Reproof. It’s the way of life.

It’s the practical path to realizing the fullness promised through the gospel. The nuts and bolts for remaining true to Him who has betrothed me as His own.

The way made possible by His grace. The way made possible for His glory.

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