Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Wise Fear

Sermon was given at Alive Student Ministry on 3/29/15 

The fear of God results in a Godly life that knows God and hates sin. The next few weeks will be six lessons dedicated to living wisely. This lesson focuses on the source of wisdom as the fear of God. The book of Proverbs records much of the practical wisdom that God gave Solomon. He testified that the essence of a holy and righteous life is living out Godly knowledge. In fact, Solomon wrote that the fear of the Lord—reverently seeking God and His ways—is the beginning of wisdom. Unless Christians live daily in the wisdom of God’s precepts, they are not living truly Godly lives. This truth means that we must be continually studying God’s Word so that we know God and His commands and remain sensitive to sin.

Proverbs 1:1-7 (NIV)
Purpose and Theme
The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
for gaining wisdom and instruction;
    for understanding words of insight;
for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,
    doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to those who are simple,
    knowledge and discretion to the young—
let the wise listen and add to their learning,
    and let the discerning get guidance—
for understanding proverbs and parables,
    the sayings and riddles of the wise.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
    but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 8:13 (NIV)
To fear the Lord is to hate evil;
    I hate pride and arrogance,
    evil behavior and perverse speech.

Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Supporting Passages: Proverbs 9:1–6, Job 28:28

A life that truly honors God is one that is spent in right relationship with Him. The author of Proverbs concluded that a Godly life must begin with God. A successful life takes more than right thought; it must have as its foundation a right relation to God. If we desire to honor God, we must first examine our relationship with Him. The most important part of any building might be its foundation. The foundation is the structure that transfers weight of the building to the land underneath. The foundation holds a structure up so that it won't sink to the ground or blow away. It also sets the structure on a level plane. Without a foundation that is level, nothing within the building can truly be level or square. The believer’s relationship with Christ is his foundation. If one is not right with God, nothing else can be right.

1. Fearing God results in knowledge gained from a relationship with God (Prov. 1:1–7).

The stated purpose of Proverbs is to help God’s people develop lives that are marked by wisdom, discipline, prudence, knowledge, and discretion. The author noted that this journey begins with knowledge gained through a relationship with God. The author clearly illustrated that the fear of God, a worshipful respect for His holiness, provides a foundation for true knowledge. He counts those who choose to try to gain knowledge without regard to the wisdom and discipline of the Lord as fools. Look at it this way - In our constantly connected society, information is more accessible than it has ever been. From individual-created content like Twitter and blogs to big news organizations like ESPN and The New York Times, information is being produced at lightning speed. With all of that information at our fingertips 24 hours a day, people can know a lot of information. But without a right relation to God, all of this information is worthless because he or she will not know how to apply it according to God’s standards. - People try to gain knowledge from many sources. Teachers, books, the Internet, and real- life experiences can all provide information, but that doesn’t mean that we know how to apply that knowledge with Godliness. True knowledge is more than the sum of facts and figures. When we “fear” God, we are not afraid of Him but respect Him with awe and reverence. This proper perspective of God allows us to see Him as the author of truth and right knowledge. Also, when we fear God, we seek Him for knowledge in how we act and make decisions every day.

2. Fearing God results in character that imitates God (Prov. 8:13).

The writer of Proverbs is clear: God absolutely hates evil in any form. His very being is the opposite of evil. When believers hold God in the worshipful reverence that He deserves (by fearing Him), they begin to transform into the likeness of God’s character. It is impossible to imitate God’s character and not hate evil and sin. Because fearing God causes a hatred of sin, fearing God leads His people to reject a sinful life and develop into His holy and wise character.  Allow me to illustrate this for you - Have you ever noticed that older couples tend to look alike? Recently, Robert Zajonc, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, along with three graduate students, conducted a study to see if people could identify married couples solely from photographs of faces. Their research showed that couples who had been married for more than 25 years looked more alike than couples who had been married for fewer years. One of the contributing factors to this phenomenon was empathy. Spouses tend to mimic each other’s facial expressions as they experience emotions together. Over time, this creates a similar look to each spouse’s face. As we experience life with God, we will begin to react the same way He does. Over time, we begin to look more like Him. - God hates sin, so we must also. As we are transformed into the image of Jesus Christ, we become like Him in character––our decisions look more like His decisions; our attitude is more like His attitude. But this kind of change only happens when our deep reverence and worship of God grows our relationship with Him and we develop the same hatred for sin that He has. Sin is extremely offensive to God—all sin. To live according to His wisdom, we must see sin for the repulsive nature that it is and commit to rejecting it in our lives.

3. Fearing God is the source of wisdom (Prov. 9:10).

With a Godly foundation of knowledge and character, the man who is in right relation with God begins to develop wisdom. His relationship with God allows Him to gain Godly understanding from the knowledge that he possesses. He can then wisely live in a manner that honors God. Wisdom is the ability to use knowledge, in light of righteous character, to act Godly. Though wisdom is often connected with age, it does not automatically come with it. True wisdom can only come through a relationship with Jesus Christ. When a believer can process Godly knowledge through Godly character, Godly wisdom is produced.

So what's the big idea of these passages of scripture? 

Knowledge, character, and wisdom are only developed through a right relationship with and holy fear of God. A person gains knowledge of reality from a worshipful relationship with God. This relationship then develops character that mirrors the character of God. With a foundation of accurate knowledge and true character, God then produces wisdom within His children that can then be lived out to the glory of God. If a believer desires to be truly wise, primary focus must be given to his daily walk with God. This relationship lays the foundation for a life that honors God.

The book of Proverbs is attributed to King Solomon—known to be the wisest man in the known world. He was the author, collector, and general editor of this collection of sayings. Its goal was to describe and instill wisdom in God's people. This wisdom is founded in the “fear of the Lord” and helps one to work out his or her faith in the practical details of everyday situations and relationships.
Proverbs is the prime example of wisdom literature in the Old Testament. Verses 4–5 of chapter 1 disclose the target audience of the book: the simple, the young, the wise, and the one who seeks understanding. Though very practical, the teaching found in the book cannot be separated from its divine source.
How can we become wise? We first have to know God and His heart. He’s the source of wisdom, good character, and real prosperity. God inspired Solomon to write and collect the contents of Proverbs for the good of His people (1:2–6). As we explore these passages, we find God at the center of each of them. He reveals Himself through His Word, and as we know Him more, we develop His character (8:13) and gain meaningful understanding (9:10).
Proverbs 1:1-7 The author began by introducing the book as the proverbs of Solomon. These short, often parallel, statements were intended to cause the reader to contemplate the concept presented. In verses 2–6, the author gave his purpose in writing. He first explained that the proverbs were designed to help a person gain wisdom, which is displayed in one’s discipline, prudence, knowledge, and discretion (vv.2–5). The author also stated that these verses would help the reader learn to understand proverbs and other hard sayings because sometimes they present themselves as riddles to the foolish.
Anyone can learn from these statements, regardless of their level of experience or age (“the simple” and “the young” in verse 4), as long as they are willing to conform to the absolute laid out in verse 7. The author asserted that the beginning, or foundation, of real knowledge is “the fear of the Lord." The "fear" prescribed here is not simple horror or fright. It is instead a worshipful reverence for who God is in light of who we are. Knowledge does not only require right thought, but it also requires a right relation to the author of all knowledge. Those who choose to try to gain knowledge without regard to the wisdom and discipline of the Lord are counted as fools.
Proverbs 8:13 Fully submitting to God doesn’t only yield a start of knowledge. It also begins to shape the believer into the character of God. As we learn from Him, we tend to think like He would think and act like He would act. God hates evil; therefore, those who have the same character [hate]it too. In this chapter, wisdom is personified as the speaker. He continues to tell the reader that he, like God, hates evil and all its trappings. Pride, arrogance, evil behavior, and perverse speech all dishonor God. It is interesting to note here that wisdom and God have the same opinion of evil because God is the source of all wisdom.
Proverbs 9:10 Worshipful fear of God is also the foundation of wisdom. One cannot truly be wise if he does not give God the honor and respect that He is due. The author went on to state that gaining knowledge of God is, in itself, understanding. So, knowing God is the very definition of understanding, or insight. Only when God is in His proper place in our lives can we truly begin to understand the world around us.
God has offered us an amazing thing in His Son. Not only do we receive salvation from our sins, but we also have the opportunity to develop a relationship with Almighty God. Proverbs teaches us that this relationship is vital for becoming wise. It is the foundation, the starting point, for a life that honors God and turns away from evil. Look back on your life. How has your relationship with God provided a foundation for Godly wisdom? How can you communicate the change that God has made in your life to your students? What are some actions that you can recommend that will help them grow closer to God?
Students need to understand the nature of wisdom—that it is something that comes from God and Him alone. Wisdom is not found in the world or any knowledge or understanding of the world. Students are flooded with messages that seem clever but lead them away from the heart of God instead of to Him. If our students see and note our wisdom, then they need to know who is our source of wisdom, seek Him, and, just like Solomon, ask for God’s wisdom in every aspect of their lives. It’s never too early, and we’re never too young to seek Him out, know His heart and mind, and apply the wisdom that comes only from the relationship that we have with Him.

Small Group Questions:
  • What is wisdom? How is that different from knowledge?
  • What does it mean to fear God? Should we ever stop fearing God? Why or why not?
  • How can we gain understanding of who God is?
  • Is the Bible the only way that we can truly get to know God? What other possibilities are there?

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