Wise Words for the New Year - 1. How to Be a Wise Guy
Proverbs 1: 1 - 7
I’m not judge and jury of what other churches choose to do but I do believe a case could be made that the Western church in general has lost its fear of the Lord. I recently heard a pastor begin his prayer this way: “Yah, hey God…” Romans 3: 18 immediately came to mind, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
God is looking for faithful followers who fear Him and tremble before Him. Philippians 2: 12, 13 “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
God is longing for churches to walk in the fear of the Lord. Acts 9: 31 gives this report about the early church: “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”
A well-known sportsman made this statement after winning: “I’m going to kiss my wife and children. Drink a lot of beer…Then I’m going to say a little prayer and thank the man upstairs...”
Here’s a news flash. He’s not the big guy in the sky, or the man upstairs. He’s the Lord of Hosts, the Most High God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, the King of Kings, the Omnipotent Potentate who is Omniscient and Omnipresent, the Lord of Lords, the God of the Angel Armies who is holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty, God in three persons, blessed Trinity! Hebrews 12: 28, 29 gives us this challenge: “let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”
We’re kicking off a new series this weekend from the Book of Proverbs called, “Wise Words for the New Year.” Here’s a summary of where we’re headed: To be wise in God’s eyes, let’s revere and draw near in the New Year.
The book of Proverbs contains insightful observations with a focus on day-to-day behaviour and personal character. A proverb has been called a “short sentence founded upon long experience.” I’m sure that’s what was behind Proverbs 26: 17 “Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.” That’s wisdom from experience!
Essentially, Proverbs is an instruction manual that covers all of life. The beginning chapters present a series of lessons that a father is teaching his son and the latter chapters emphasize how God’s wisdom applies to changing life situations as the son matures.
Purpose of Proverbs 1: 1 - 6
Proverbs was written so you and I can become wise in God’s eyes. It’s not enough simply to be educated and have knowledge, as important as education is. We also need wisdom, which is the ability to use the knowledge that we have. We’re going to see 5 practical pathways to wisdom. We’ll spend most of our time on the first one because of its importance.
1. Develop the Fear of the Lord 1: 7
This is both the theme of the book and the key that unlocks the way to wisdom.
• The Nature of the Fear of the Lord
When we truly fear the Lord, we will recognize that He is the Creator and we are the created. He is the Sovereign and we are His servants. He is the Father and we are His children.
“When we fear the Lord, there is an element of dread at what His wrath can do, but there is also such a respect for Him and for His will that nothing else matters but doing that which pleases the Lord.” The true fear of God is a child-like fear - a combination of holy reverence and glowing love. To fear God is to have a heart that is sensitive to both His greatness and His graciousness. It means we simultaneously experience great awe and deep joy. To say it another way, we’re called to revere and to rejoice in Him. To be wise in God’s eyes, let’s revere and draw near in the New Year.
• The Necessity of the Fear of the Lord
The fear of the Lord is “…the beginning of knowledge.” Refers to a “starting point” and the ultimate goal. We will never find wisdom by worshipping a god made in our own image. When we fear Him, we are humbled. Until our hearts are right, we are unable to receive the “wisdom that comes from heaven.”
Here’s the bottom line. If we want to know anything, we must grow in our fear of God. Without the fear of God, we know nothing.
• The Neglect of the Fear of the Lord
Ends by showing the contrast between those who fear God and the fools who don’t: “…fools despise wisdom and instruction.” There are really only 2 categories of people in the world – the wise and the wicked, those who revere and those who reject, God-fearers and godless fools.
D.L. Moody was a passionate preacher who boldly proclaimed the gospel. People often heckled him. In one meeting an usher handed Moody a note while he was preaching. Thinking it was an announcement, he quieted the crowd and prepared to read it. Known for his quick wit, Moody looked up and said, “I’ve just been handed a letter which contains the single word – ‘FOOL!’ This is most unusual. I’ve often heard of those who have written letters and forgotten to sign their names, but this is the first time I’ve ever heard of anyone who signed his name and then forgot to write the letter!”
A fool is not just someone who is a couple bricks short of a load, or one whose elevator does not go to the top floor. A fool is not somebody who is a few fries short of a Happy Meal. In Proverbs, the fool is the one who doesn’t follow God’s ways. He’s the one who knows the right thing to do but instead does the opposite, or simply does nothing.
Practical benefits that result from living in the fear of the Lord
One of the best ways to stay away from sin is to fear God. Proverbs 3: 7 “Fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.” Proverbs 8: 13 “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.” If you’re serious about following God, then focus on fearing God.
Fearing God is having the continual awareness that our loving heavenly Father is watching and evaluating everything we think, say and do. “To fear God is to love Him so that His frown would be your greatest dread and His smile would be your greatest delight.”
Cultivating the fear of God can also give us confidence - Proverbs 14: 26 “In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.” Speaking of children, we’re called to bring them up in the fear of the Lord.
Most of us struggle to be content with life so fearing God can help us find satisfaction. Proverbs 15: 16 “Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it.” Fearing God also helps us to not be jealous of what others have. “Only when awe of God rules your heart will you be able to keep the pleasures of the material world in their proper place.”
The primary way to become a wise guy or a wise woman is to live in light of the Almighty’s awesomeness. The second pathway to wisdom –
2. Devote Yourself to the Word of God Psalm 19: 7
“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” There is no way to become wise apart from the Word of God! It doesn’t matter how smart someone is, if he or she does not know the Bible, they are wisdom deficient. Have you devoted yourself to the Word of God?
3. Determine to Get Wisdom 2: 1 - 5
After developing the fear of the Lord and devoting ourselves to the Word of God, the next step is to determine to get wisdom. Here’s the bottom line: One does not get wise without working at it. We need to be proactive, not passive. Look for the 8 action verbs.
3 times Solomon writes: “if you” to show that if we want it, we must go in the right direction, make the decision and then be determined to go and get it - “Then you will understand the fear of the Lord…”
Interestingly, Proverbs 1 teaches fearing God leads to wisdom and chapter 2 says the search for wisdom leads to fearing God. The more we fear, the wiser we become and the more we search for wisdom, the more we will fear God.
4. Decide to Ask For It
If you could ask for only one thing in 2020, what would it be? Fame? Power? Money? Good health? Long life? One night God appeared to Solomon - 1 Kings 3: 5 “Ask what I shall give you.” This was his chance to have anything he wanted! Solomon’s answer was startling in its simplicity. He merely requested a discerning heart and the supernatural ability to distinguish between right and wrong. God was pleased with this kind of request and said - “Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind.”
Solomon became the wise guy simply because he asked for wisdom. Once we want wisdom more than anything else, we must decide to ask God for it.
5. Dedicate Yourself to Jesus Colossians 2: 2, 3
The final pathway to wisdom is found in Jesus Himself. If you don’t yet know Christ, then you need to come to Him in faith. If you are already a believer, then make sure you are fully surrendered to Him. To know and love and follow Jesus is to gain wisdom.
If you want to become a wise guy or a wise girl, then develop the fear of the Lord, devote yourself to the Word of God, determine to get wisdom, decide to ask for it, and dedicate yourself to Jesus.
To be wise in God’s eyes, let’s revere and draw near in the New Year.
Around the turn of the century, 20 years ago, people were so tired of hearing about the wrath of God that preachers started focusing more on the love of God. That was probably necessary but I wonder if we’re out of balance today. We talk so much about God’s love that many times we dilute His hallowed awesomeness and His majestic magnificence.
Scripture never depicts God’s love and His holiness as opposing attributes. Both are fully exhibited without conflict or compromise in the Godhead. God is utterly holy, totally transcendent, and to be revered. He is also unconditionally loving and very close to us.
It’s at the cross where the fear of God and the possibility of friendship with God meet. We can both revere and draw near. God’s justice and His mercy, His truth and His grace are on full display. Have a holy new year!
Psalm 86:11: “Teach us your ways, O Lord, that we may walk in your truth, unite our hearts to fear your name.” Go and be wise in God’s eyes, as you revere and draw near!