Good morning River City!
Well, we are nearing the end of our summer series from the book of Proverbs! Next week, we’ll do a full recap on the book, and make some final observations before we move on to the next series.
Our topic for today is one that every single one of us has trouble with. We’ve talked about sexuality, which some of us struggle with. We’ve talked about finances, opportunities, words – some of us struggle with those. But today, we’re talking about something that is like breathing. 100% of us struggle in this area… but no one thinks they do.
We all think we are the outliers, the ones who know how to manage it properly. You might have texted a friend at one point and said, “I’m experiencing some sexual temptation right now – please pray for me.” You may have called someone and said, “I’m in some financial trouble right now – please pray, or do you know where I can find help with this?” But I can almost guarantee you’ve never sent a text about this subject.
What we’re talking about today is something that sits underneath all of our sexual sin, financial sin, our preferring God to be the way we want him to be – what we’re talking about today is the very thing that makes us enemies of God… and we all think it’s not our problem, it’s someone else’s. Which is exactly why Jesus had to come.
So let’s pray and invite the Lord to help us see what we need to see today from his word
Turn with me to Proverbs chapter 1. We’re not finishing Proverbs until next week, but we’re going to start to wrap things up today starting with going back to the beginning.
Back when we started the series, we hung out on chapter 1:7 for a bit, because this verse is the key to all of Proverbs. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.
So, contrary to the popular message of our current culture, the foundation for true wisdom here in this life is not how we feel about something, or even on what we understand, or what makes sense to us. Scripture warns against that.
Proverbs 3:7 Don’t be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
There is a kind of wisdom that is described here as “in our own eyes.”
Back in the series opener, we defined worldly wisdom as: the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment as it pertains to advancing one’s own position. Acknowledging self, esteeming self, the authority is self, and the highest outcome is being true to self. That’s being wise in your own eyes.
Godly wisdom, we said, is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment that acknowledges God (worship), submits to God, (obedience), and where the highest outcome is to accomplish his will (to live lives that grow and produce fruit that advances HIS kingdom).
That’s what it means to fear the Lord, and that is the calling on everyone who has been saved by and through the blood of Jesus. And part of that calling is our attitude changes toward the way we once lived; our attitude toward being wise in our own eyes changes.
Prov 8:13 gives the answer: To fear the Lord is to hate evil (not to make agreements with it. Not to justify it. Not to celebrate it or be entertained by it). I hate arrogant pride, evil conduct, and perverse speech.
Who do you suppose is speaking there? Who is the “I”? Well, if we were to study Proverbs 8, you’d see that is the voice of Lady Wisdom again. We haven’t heard from her in a couple weeks. She hates arrogant pride. Why? Because God is also opposed to pride! He resists the proud. (James 4:6) You’ve heard of someone resisting arrest. They struggle, they argue, they fight against the person arresting them – to resist is to actively work against something. God resists, actively works against, the proud. (1)
But who is proud? Not me! Right? I can give you a list of some really arrogant, self-centered people that I know. The evil that I’m supposed to hate is the wisdom out there, right? It’s the Taliban, it’s the Liberals or the Conservatives, the evil I’m supposed to hate is human trafficking, right? And yes there is evil in the world.
But check out James 4 again, and let’s start in verse 13: Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit."  Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring-what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes.  Instead, you should say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that."  But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
According to James, if you looked at your co-workers or your classmates on Friday and said “See you Monday!”, you carry arrogant pride, and he says it’s evil. Who hasn’t said that?! We’re guilty of saying that here at church – “see you next week!” Or “we’re moving back to the school next week.”
This meant a lot to me this week as I attended the funeral of an old friend I used to attend church with. 65 years young, healthy, loved Jesus. Went to the hospital for a checkup and never came home. A few weeks ago at work, he had gone into the company break room or whatever and on the calendar where they keep track of days off and vacation, he scratched off three days that he wanted off work. He had no idea that one of those days would be for him to attend his own funeral.
And that is exactly James’ point here in chapter 4. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring. When you sit down to plan a vacation or a business trip, you’re assuming airlines will have an airplane, with a competent pilot and jet fuel available. You’re assuming that your plane or vehicle will work all the way through your journey with no accidents or breakdowns or storms. You’re assuming that food and lodging and electricity and running water will be available once you arrive… all of those things are assuming you don’t have a heart attack or stroke or aneurysm on the way, and every single layer of that is out of your control.
I think sometimes we hear the word “arrogance” and we automatically picture someone bragging about how awesome they are, like the basketball player Lebron James saying on national TV, “I am the best basketball player in the world.”
Yet chapter four of the book of James says if we make your plans for the day, the week, the year and don’t acknowledge God, submit to him, or live lives worthy of him, we are just as arrogant, and wisdom says, back in Proverbs 8, “I hate that. I hate arrogant pride!” And when you fear the Lord, you should too. The evil Proverbs wants us to hate is our own. We love to point fingers at the evil we see in the world, and there is a time and place for that. We’re also called to love justice and mercy. But fearing the LORD starts with first hating the sin inside of US.
What’s true about the world is that If the Lord wills, we will do this or that. It’s simply godly wisdom at work: Acknowledging his Sovereignty over every atom of the universe; Submitting to him in obedience, and living lives that bear fruit. The whole point we're getting after this morning is that godly wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord; it begins with a right view of God and a right view of ourselves. Turn with me now, if you would, to Proverbs 30.
Proverbs 30:1 The words of Agur son of Jakeh. The pronouncement. The man's oration to Ithiel, to Ithiel and Ucal:  I am more stupid than any other person, and I lack a human's ability to understand.  I have not gained wisdom, and I have no knowledge of the Holy One.
Now if you are coaching little league baseball or softball, and your 8 year old third baseman says those words to you, “I’m the stupidest person on the team. I don’t know anything,” what is your first instinct? “NO, NO, no you’re not – we don’t talk like that. You can do this…” or whatever.
I don’t think Agur here is saying he’s not a Christian, when he says he doesn’t know God. I don’t think he’s saying he’s agnostic, and doesn’t know anything about the Lord. The commentators I read said he’s just saying, the more I learn about God the less I know. The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know anything!
And the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians agrees – yeah, that sounds about right.
1 Corinthians 1:26 – Consider your calling: Not many were wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise., and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world – what is viewed as nothing – to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, so that no one may boast in his presence.
You see how God describes those he calls? Not wise. Not powerful. Not born into the right family. Foolish. Weak. Insignificant. Despised. Nothing. God’s not exactly in the business of building our self-esteem. He’s more concerned with building His Kingdom-esteem; with his glory being seen, valued, and delighted in. And the way he shows off his glory is by choosing people the world would never choose and filling them with his own Spirit so they end up giving him all the praise at the end of the day, that the one who boasts, boasts in the Lord.
That’s why he hates pride! Pride says, nah, I got it; I don’t need you. Any of you who have had little children in your home know how it feels when a toddler looks at you and defiantly says “no” to something you’re wanting them to do. I won’t project my reaction onto all of you, but when my little toddlers said no to me, I tended to think, you sorry little snot! You have no clue what’s best for you. You’ve barely been alive on this earth for 10 minutes (which by the way is thanks to me keeping you alive), and I’ve been here for decades, and now you’re going to tell me you’re running the show?
Now the way a parent experiences that scenario is stained by our own selfish pride – how dare a TWO year old tell ME how to live my life – so there is no way we can put ourselves in the shoes of Almighty God, who looks at our rebellion and our arrogance as we are wise in our own eyes, and says, oh really. You, who’ve been on the planet for 20 years; 40 years; 80 years, are telling the Eternal Creator of heaven and earth how things really are? Oh really? Who do you think has been keeping you alive this whole time, by the way? The author of Proverbs 30 invites you to ponder the answer to a couple questions:
 Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his hands? Who has bound up the waters in a cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is the name of his son- if you know?
The answer is obvious, right? What is his name? Not Rodney!
What is the name of his son? His disciple? His student? His apprentice? One who serves him? Well, that sounds more like my role.
Author Derek Kidner in his commentary on Proverbs says, [God’s] aim [in Scripture] is not to show how stupid we are, but to move us toward trusting the God who governs everything, and in love calls us out of the death trap of our pride to follow him to fullness and abundance! (2)
So the goal isn’t that we walk away kicking rocks – it’s that we have a right view of ourselves and a right view of God, and that we are re-filled today with trust in him. And this is what we’re being asked to trust:
5] Every word of God is pure; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.  Don't add to his words, or he will rebuke you, and you will be proved a liar.
He is a shield for the not wise. Not powerful. Not born into the right family. Foolish. Weak. Insignificant. Despised. The ones the world says are Nothing. The whole series we’re headed into next, from the book of Luke, is centered around this exact reality – the kind of people Jesus came for are the ones who know they don’t have it all together. And his promise to you is, “I’ve got you. I’m your shield. I’m the best possible place for you to be.” For him to be a refuge and a shield implies there is a battle. And Agur realizes the battle isn’t against the evil out there — it’s against the evil in here (heart). So, he goes to the Lord in prayer:
 Two things I ask of you; don't deny them to me before I die:  Keep falsehood and deceitful words far from me.
- Lord, help me to keep only what is TRUE in front of me. Your words are pure, not Fox News’ words. Not CNN’s words. Not Hollywood’s. Not even my own understanding. Your words are truth.
- If I were to put this in my own words, it would be, “Lord, give me a desire for your word. Every day I battle against the desire to be entertained, to numb my mind and my heart with the endless nonsense available at my fingertips. Every day I’m tempted to believe that life should go according to my plan, or I’m tempted to compare my sin to everyone else’s and justify the evil in me. Lord, I need your help to rid myself of the arrogance in me!” He goes on…
Give me neither poverty nor wealth; feed me with the food I need.  Otherwise, I might have too much and deny you, saying, "Who is the LORD?" or I might have nothing and steal, profaning the name of my God.
- First of all, Agur realizes God is the one who gives and takes away. He realizes wealth, poverty serve God’s purposes in the world, and he gives them however he chooses.
- I’d like to think I would be a good steward of a lot of money, that if I was rich I’d be one of those who is generous and uses money wisely. I see people who have a lot more than me not using it wisely, and I think I could do it better if God would entrust their wealth to me.
- That’s because I’m arrogant.
- I’d like to think I could be really generous if I had wealth, and Agur says, no, not me. I don’t want to be wealthy because I don’t trust myself. If I had a lot of money, there is a very high probability that I would forget the Lord!
- I’d like to think that if I was really poor, that I would be content with whatever I have. I see poor people blowing the little money they do have, and think I would do a better job of being poor, depending on God to provide for me.
- But again, it’s because I’m arrogant.
- Agur says again, I don’t trust myself. I don’t want to be poor. Most of us would agree – we don’t want to be poor either. But I wouldn’t want to be poor because there’s stuff I enjoy doing that I wouldn’t want to have to give up. I like golfing. I like vacations. I like Yotty’s ice cream, Golden Delight donuts, coffee shops, etc. But that’s not Agur’s line of thought. He doesn’t want to be poor, because he knows it would come with a high probability that in a moment of desperation I would probably try to steal some stuff to feed my family, and doing so would bring reproach to the name of God.
- Agur is onto something here, called humility.
- Jonathan Edwards – “Pride tends to speak of other people’s sins with bitterness or laughter or an air of contempt. But pure Christian humility rather tends either to be silent about these problems or to speak of them with grief and pity. Spiritual pride is very apt to suspect others, but a humble Christian is most guarded about himself. He is as suspicious of nothing in the world as he is of his own heart. The proud person is apt to find fault with other believers, that they are low in grace, and to be quick to note their deficiencies. But the humble Christian has so much to do ‘at home’ and sees so much evil in his own heart and is so concerned about it that he is not apt to be very busy with other hearts. He esteems others as better than himself.” (3)
No doubt Jonathan Edwards is referencing the greatest picture of humility in Scripture: Philippians 2:3 – Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit. In humility consider others as more important than yourselves.
Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death – even to death on a cross.
How do you crush the pride in your life?
- Stare at the cross – See your Savior, bloody, beaten, nailed to a pole. The cross of Christ crushes pride by saying to us, “Even at your best, you are more sinful than you know – so much so, that the Son of God himself had to die for you.” The cross says pride was so deeply rooted in your life, that there was no way out; no other way for you and I to be made right with God, than for God himself to intervene. He wasn’t there to die for sins in general – he took names to the cross. Not a black book of names of people who had wronged him that he was going to get vengeance on, but names of enemies he would make family. Names of arrogant sinners he would bring to the table of his grace. Names of people he loves. We know this is true, not because God comes along and puffs up our self-esteem, but because God, by his own choice and design for human history, hung all of our arrogant pride on the shoulders of his own Son, crushing him instead of us, giving JESUS the punishment our sin deserves… before you were even born!
Look back at 1 Corinthians 1 – It is from him that you are in Christ Jesus,
We literally have nothing to boast about. Everything we have is a gift from God, every breath, every meal, every gas station still open, every blink of your eyes that you can still see. Not even your salvation can be attributed to you! It says it right there: It is from HIM!
Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord
- CJ Mahaney Humility: True Greatness (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2005), 33
- Derek Kidner, Proverbs (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1964), 172
- Quoted by Ray Ortland in Proverbs (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 147