The Inevitability of Temptation

The Inevitability of Temptation

My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.
Proverbs 1:10

In the church today, especially in the West, we peddle the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the “good news” as it is known, yet conspicuously fail to tell our young, trusting converts the “bad news” that comes along with the total package of salvation.  And that “bad news” is that right now, as a believer, as a Christian, as one redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, you have an enemy. And your enemy is powerful, numerous, well-equipped and an experienced, battle-hardened veteran ready to fulfill his evil mission for your life— to “steal, and to kill, and to destroy” you and all Christ has done for you (John 10:10).

And our enemy, Satan, works tirelessly, 24/7 to accomplish his task.

In fact, the neglected truth of the Gospel is that once someone passes from death to life, once they’ve been “delivered from the power of darkness and conveyed into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13), a huge bulls eye is placed on their chest inviting and directing all the evil in the world to come and test this new Man of God.

But this reality should be of no surprise for someone who knows the Scriptures.  For they promise us that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Tim . 3:12) and that we shouldn’t be surprised by or “think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you” (1 Peter 4:12).  Why?  Because Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18) and because “I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). Jesus then continues by assuring us we will face persecution and suffering because “if they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20) and when these times of testing come, we should “rejoice and be exceedingly glad” (Matt. 5:12).

Which raises a few questions for us.  Did the world persecute Jesus?  I think the answer is obvious.  They persecuted Him to His death.  Did the world try to entice Him to sin, to falter, to fail in His mission to offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins (Heb. 7:27)?  Absolutely.  And the world enticed Him to fall continually, daily in fact, from His temptation in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11) to the angry shouts at the cross to save Himself “if You are the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:37).

Jesus was enticed to sin so much that the book of Hebrews states, without question, that He was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).  In other words, whatever you and I face regarding temptation— the allurement, the enticement, the almost irritable draw to sin and lust and pride— Jesus was also tempted in the very same way, and much more so, yet without sin.  And He, as One who walked in our shoes and yet did not consent to sin, He is our perfect example of the life we are to live in Him.


The Inevitability of Temptation

In Proverbs 1:10 we see the loving father again giving his naive, impressionable son sage advice on how to live righteously in the fallen world that is the home of our enemy.  His advice shows the inevitability of temptation and the power behind that temptation as nothing more than the cruel reality of our life in this world we are not part of any longer (John 17:16).  But it also shows us the way through that temptation and the choices we must make to live above the fold of sin.

Proverbs 1:10 – My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.

The advice begins with the personal words we see repeated over and over again in the Proverbs: “My son.”  These words are personal, loving, coming from a father who desperately wants to mature his young son before he faces the temptations and enticement that come to all men living in this world.  The father knows what his son will soon face, the father has been where the son is soon to walk, and the father all the more implores the son he loves to listen to the “instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother” (Prov. 1:8).

And the message of the father is simple and direct. “If sinners entice you, do not consent.”  The message begins with the word, if.  Unlike its usage today, this if does not primarily mean a conditional phrase or clause, something that might happen someday, to somebody, but probably not today and certainly not to you.  It means “since or because” or “when or whenever” and implies a condition that is capable and expected of being fulfilled regularly, at any moment.  And so it is with the temptation to sin.

For the Believer, temptation is a fact of life we face every day.  There’s no escape from temptation and no way around it.  Temptation should be something we expect and embrace, not something we’re to fear.  Why?  For even our Lord was tempted and overcame by the Word of God.  And so can we.

But who is doing the enticing, the tempting?  The word is sinners.  And this doesn’t mean just anyone who occasionally sins.  No, this word refers to those who are “habitual sinners, those abandoned to sin, and especially those in this context who make robbery and bloodshed a profession.”  It describes those who, by their very actions, are under the wrath and judgment of God.

But don’t be mislead.  Sinners are not just creepy old men lurking under a street light, living in the shadows, looking for someone to draw away and entice into sin.  They’re not always the nameless and faceless people behind porn websites that entice you with alluring pictures to simply “click” and enter into their fantasy world of sin.  And they’re not always the strangers, the one you really don’t know, the ones who live in anonymity, that are your biggest threat.

No, your greatest temptation, your greatest enticement to sin can come from the very members of your own family, those in your own home, or from your closest friend.  Why?  Because misery and sin love company and blood is not always thicker than water, as they say.  And even those closest to you can try to lead you astray.  Just ask Abel about his brother Cain.  Or ask Joseph about his jealous brothers and what great harm they did to him, and their father, simply because of their pride.  Then there’s Job and his faithless wife and friends who seemed committed to the task of trying to destroy Job’s faith and trust in God.  And there’s even the family of Jesus who mocked Him by claiming “He is out of His mind” (Mark 3:21) when He spoke the words of God to them and others. Remember?

None of this should surprise us.  After all, Jesus promised a division among friends and family solely because of faith in Him.  He even went so far as to say:

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth.  I did not come to bring peace but a sword. (how) For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matt. 10:34-36).

But as bad as all this sounds, our greatest enticement to sin will often come from within, from where we least expect it, from our own flesh.


Enticement Comes from Within

James reveals to us that often our enticement to sin comes from within and speaks about how we are to respond when we find ourselves suffering in the midst of a great trial or a seemingly irresistible urge to sin.  How do we overcome in the middle of the battle?  And how did we get into this no-man’s land anyway?  Plus, whose fault is it anyway?  Where does the blame lie?

First, note the blessing promised the man who is tried in the fire of temptation and enticement, yet stands strong and is found approved, or whose actions are found pleasing and acceptable to the Lord.

James 1:12 – Blessed is the man who (what) endures (or, remains under, to persevere, sustain, to bear bravely and calmly) temptation (or, a trial of one’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, to put to the test); for when he has been approved (or, tried and found pleasing and acceptable, to be tried as metals by fire and be purified), he will receive (what) the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

Then, notice how our natural tendency is to point the finger and find someone to blame for our trials, someone other than ourselves.  And unfortunately, that Someone is often God.  But God never tempts us to sin and God is never the source of our sinful desires or lusts.  Never.

James 1:13 – Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; (why) for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor (what) does He Himself tempt anyone.

But someone is tempting us to sin, we reason.  It’s got to be someone’s fault when we find ourselves in the midst of a great trial.  Somebody has to take the blame.  Someone did this to us.  And we demand to know just who that someone is.

But the answer to our quest for blame is quite revealing.

James 1:14 – But each one (you and me) is tempted (how) when he is drawn away by (what) his own desires and enticed (or, to bait, entrap, beguile, deceive).

So our temptation also comes from within, from the very core of our fallen nature.  And it’s our flesh, our pride, the insistent demanding of our own rights, our rebellion, our insolence, and our lusts and desires that can plunge us into the darkness and despair of sin.  And just how great is that darkness?

James 1:15 – Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

The Scriptures reveal that desire naturally leads to sin and sin will ultimately bring forth death.  And you know, it really doesn’t get much darker than this.

But since we often think these things will never happen to us, James adds the following admonition:

James 1:16 – Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

That’s right, do not be deceived into believing these verses don’t apply to you and your situation.  Or that maybe you’re too spiritual, too mature to fall for some inward temptation.  After all, you’d never be foolish enough to be “drawn away by your own desires and enticed” (James 1:14).  No, that may happen to some, but never to you.  Right?

Remember, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren” (James 1:16).


To “Entice”

Finally, the Proverbs state that sinners will entice us and, when that most certainly happens, we are told not to consent.  But what does entice mean?  And why did the Lord choose that particular word to describe temptation?

The word translated entice means “to be spacious or wide open, to deceive, to persuade, to seduce.”  The word describes those who are simple, naive, gullible and are overcome easily into sin.  It’s the same word used to describe Delilah as she enticed Samson to explain the source of his great strength (Judges 16:5).  Proverbs 16:29 tells how a “violent man entices his neighbor” in order to lead “him in a way that is not good.”  The word speaks of persuasion and deception in order to get one’s own way among those who are naive and easily manipulated.

And that persuasion and deception can come from others, on the outside, as well as from ourselves, on the inside.  As the comic character Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”  So it is also true with being enticed to sin.

So, My Son, the father implores, if and most certainly when sinners entice and persuade you into sin, your only hope and deliverance in the midst of the temptation is to commit beforehand to do not consent.


Do Not Consent

But how is that done?  What does the father mean when he says to his son, “Do not consent”?  And what does that look like in real life, in practical terms?

That’s something we will look at in the next chapter.

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Getting Serious

1.  What things do you struggle with in your spiritual life?  What sins or carnal mindsets always seem to get the best of you?  Are there some areas in your life you have tried to change and failed so many times that you’ve given up and quit trying to change altogether?

2.  Can you see any common thread in your struggles with temptation?  Is there any particular area in your life that you are more susceptible to sin than in others?

3.  Do you believe it’s possible to have victory over your sin?  Or have you resigned yourself to the roller-coaster life of sin, ask for forgiveness, and then sin again?

4.  And if you believe victory over your sin is possible, are you experiencing that victory today?  If so, what is that like?  How did that happen?  Can you share the steps you’ve taken to achieve your victory?  But if you haven’t experienced victory over your sin, do you know why?  Is the failure with Him?  Or is the failure with you?

5.  On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life right now and in your decision making process?  What was it yesterday?  Are you growing in the wisdom of God? And, if not, why?


Next Step Challenge

The Hebrew word for “entice” is pathah, and means “to deceive, to persuade, to be gullible.  It describes a person who is simple and naive and is, therefore, easy prey to sin.”  Take your Bible and look up the various uses of the word in the Old Testament and see if you can grasp a deeper understanding of what the Lord is saying to us in the Proverbs by seeing how the word is used elsewhere in His Word.  For example:

Exodus 22:16
Deuteronomy 11:16
2 Samuel 3:25
1 Kings 22:20-21
Job 31:27
Proverbs 24:28; 25:15
Jeremiah 20:10
Hosea 2:14

What do the various uses of pathah show regarding its use in Proverbs 1:10?  What does “entice” really mean?  How has your understanding and appreciation of the word changed?

Do you have a deeper desire to study the Word of God word by word?  Do you see the importance of every word given us by our Lord?  Has this compelled you to become a student of His Word, in a much deeper sense, in order to “present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15)?

And if so, what are you prepared to do about it?

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339:  Being Vigilant in Prayer

339: Being Vigilant in Prayer

One of the most convicting statements about prayer is found in the last chapter of Colossians.  Here the Lord, in Colossians 4:2, says:

Continue (or, to persevere and not faint, to endure, to wait or tarry, to be in constant readiness) earnestly (or, to adhere to one, to be devoted to one, to be steadfastly attentive) in prayer, (how) being vigilant (or, to arise, arouse, to watch, to refrain from sleep, to remain fully awake) in it (in prayer) with thanksgiving (or, thankfulness, gratefulness, profound gratitude).

Which raises a few questions:

How is your prayer life?  Do you continue earnestly in prayer?  Are you devoted to prayer?  Vigilant in prayer?  Does your prayer life show you are “redeeming the time” given you by the Lord?  Or does it show just the opposite?  And, if so, what are you prepared to do about it?

Want to know more?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Colossians 4:2-6.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

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No Equality in Heaven

No Equality in Heaven

For they will be a graceful ornament on your head,
and chains about your neck.
Proverbs 1:9

We live in a time where people fight for equal rights.  The right to vote, the right to work, the right to say what we want, marry who we want, do what we want, the right to live, and the right to die.  It seems like we all want to be equal in our own eyes with everybody else with no one standing out among the crowd and no one having more than another.

This drive for equality has now invaded almost every facet of our lives.  We don’t give trophies to the winners in Little League Baseball anymore.  Why?  Because everyone must be equal, which means no winners and no losers.  So everyone gets a trophy for just participating, for simply showing up, for buying a glove and a pair of cleats.  And by not honoring the winners, the ones who deserve the honor, who earned the recognition, it’s somehow supposed to make us all feel special.

We have to dumb down the tests in school because some students work harder than others and are more concerned about their grades and future.  And others… well, not so much.  So we make the tests easier and more generic for the less motivated students so they won’t feel bad or marginalized when others are rewarded for their diligence and study.  After all, everyone should get an A.  Everyone should feel good about themselves and no one should do any better than anyone else.  Why?  Because we’re all striving for equality.  And equality always tends to settle at the lowest common denominator.

But that’s not how life functions in the real world.  It’s the best and brightest, the ones who work the hardest, the ones who put in the long hours, and the ones who continually strive to learn more who are rewarded with the raise, the promotion, and the corner office.  It’s not the sluggard, the lazy, the half-hearted that’s honored in our society for their accomplishments.  The rewards and accolades go to the few who work diligently for them, and not to the many who don’t.

And as sobering as it may sound, the Kingdom of Heaven functions in much the same way.


The Rewards for Obedience

The father and mother in this Proverb have implored their young son to stay the course and keep focused on the things in life that really matter.  They know that he is about to enter into the fallen world of sin and deceit and deception and they are giving him their final words of affirmation to keep him strong whatever he may face.

The father tells him: “My son, hear (or, listen and obey) the instruction (or, discipline, correction, chastening) of your father, and do not forsake (or, abandon, walk away from, to ignore) the law (or, direction) of your mother” (Prov. 1:8).  In other words, remember how we’ve raised you.  Remember what you’ve been taught.  Remember the truth and do not walk away from it chasing other idols the world will try to tempt you with.

Remember and stay strong.

But why?  Why should the son listen to the “instruction” of his father and follow the “law” of his mother?  What will he gain from placing himself in a position that is sure to bring about ridicule and rejection from his peers?  What’s the pay-off for this young man?  What’s the upside from living a sin-free, committed life in Christ?

Proverbs 1:9 – For they (the “instruction of your father” and the “law of your mother”) will be a graceful ornament (or, a garland, wreath, a decorative headpiece worn as a sign of approval, honor, favor and acceptance) on your head (as a crown), and chains about your neck (or, a necklace of remembrance).

The graceful ornament symbolizes wisdom and prosperity coming from the father to the son and are his for the asking, if he obeys.  It is, in a sense, the son’s reward for listening, heeding and obeying the words of his father.

Which leads us to draw a few conclusions about rewards and also raise a few questions.

But note first, we are not talking about salvation, which is given as a gift, freely, based on faith in the completed work of Christ on the cross as the payment for the penalty of our sins.  No, in that we are all equal.  We are simply one hopeless beggar telling another beggar where we found bread.  What we are talking about are the rewards based on what we have done with the gift given us by Christ.  How faithful have we been in Him while living on this side of eternity?  And in regards to that, we can surmise the following:

One, the reward is conditional.  If the son listens and obeys, the reward is his.  And if he does not, does he still receive the reward?  And if so, on what basis?  Maybe for just participating?  For simply being a member of the family?  For being on the team?  The context would say, no.

Two, the reward is for him alone.  Nowhere is the promise given to the lost or disobedient or to those who are not the father’s sons.  Does that mean that not everyone is entitled to this reward?  Is it exclusive, reserved for some but not all and given only to the ones who meet the requirements of obedience?  The context would say, yes.

Three, equality is not the issue.  The reward makes the son special in the eyes of the father.  It’s a recognition of his grace, favor, love and acceptance of the son based on the son’s faithful adherence to the instructions of the father.  Does this mean not everyone is equal in the eyes of the father?  Does it mean there will be some who receive rewards and some who do not?  And, if that is true, is the granting of rewards primarily based, like in this verse, on obedience to the father?  The context would say, yes.


The Stephanos

In the New Testament we discover there are five crowns that the Believer can receive.  But note, the operative word is can.  These crowns are not guaranteed for just showing up.  In fact, the word used for “crown” is stephanos and doesn’t refer to a Kingly crown as a Monarch would wear, but a “crown or wreath or garland that was given to the victor in the public games.”  This is more of an overcoming crown given to those who have trained, fought well, and won.  In Scripture we find what is called the “imperishable crown” in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25.  Next, there is the “crown of rejoicing” in 1 Thessalonians 2:19.  Then the “crown of righteousness” in 2 Timothy 4:8, the “crown of glory” in 1 Peter 5:4 and finally the “crown of life” in James 1:12 and Revelation 2:10.

These crowns are not guaranteed for just participating, they are given to those who have met some sort of requirement.  They are rewarded to those who have distinguished themselves among others.  They are not for everyone, but for the few, those who have earned them.  For example:

1 Corinthians 9:24 – Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but (who) one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may obtain it.

This verse implies there are some who will not run the race heartily and will not obtain the prize or crown.  The admonition is for you to be different, to not be like the crowd, to run to win.

2 Timothy 4:8 – Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to (who) all who have loved His appearing.

But what if you don’t love the reality of His appearing?  What if you’re so enamored with this world you are of no good to the Kingdom?  What if you love this world (1 John 2:15) and not the certainty of His appearing?  Do you still qualify for the crown?

James 1:12 – Blessed is the man who (what) endures temptation; for when (what) he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

And what if you do not endure temptation, what happens then?  Are you still given the crown?  Or have you, by your own actions, disqualified yourself for the prize, the promised crown, by not meeting the requirements?  And what are the requirements of being “approved’?  Is it simply our love for Him?  And, if so, how is that manifested daily to make us approved or accepted in Him?


Casting Crowns

Many of us who have been brought up in the “everyone is equal so there’s no need to try too hard” morass of our fallen culture have come to believe that working for crowns or rewards is a futile effort since we don’t get to keep them anyway.  After all, Revelation 4:10-11 shows the twenty-four elders, which represent the church, the redeemed, you and I, actually “casting their crowns before the throne” in a profound act of worship.

We then reason, “So if I’m going to cast my crown, my reward that I worked real hard for at the feet of Jesus, geez, like what’s the point?  Then I’ll be just like everyone else who doesn’t have a crown.  So why try?  Why should I work for something I can’t keep?  Seems like a big waste of time to me.”

But that only shows the depravity of our love and commitment to our Lord.  We give Him the glory with our lips as long as we can keep the rewards to make us feel special and important among our friends.  And how selfish is that?

But don’t be deceived.  Salvation is a gift given freely by grace through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus.  In this, we are all equal.  But what we do with that gift, how we live our lives in Christ and for His glory, is another matter indeed.  And to this fact, the Scriptures have much to say about how truly unequal we may be in His Kingdom.  Consider these passages:

Matthew 5:12 – “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, (why) for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

But “great” is a relative term.  Great is compared to something less than great.  Those who are persecuted for the name of Christ will have a “great” reward in heaven compared to other rewards or compared to those who receive no rewards.  In other words, their reward will be greater than others.  Otherwise, why the admonition to be “exceedingly glad” in the face of horrific persecution and even death?

1 Corinthians 3:14 – If anyone’s work which he has built on it (what) endures, he will receive a reward.

And if it doesn’t endure?  Exactly.

Matthew 16:27 – “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each (how) according to his works.”

And that reward is applied “according to his works” in differing degrees based on differing degrees of works.  Just like it is in the real world.

You also have Jesus rewarding the faithful steward of ten coins with “being over ten cities” and the faithful steward with five coins of “being over five cities” and the unfaithful steward entrusted with one coin with nothing (Luke 19:15-26).  Jesus even went so far as to reward the steward with ten cities even more by giving him the one coin from the unfaithful servant.  Was that unfair?  Was Jesus playing favorites?  What about the faithful steward who was given five coins?  Was there something wrong with him?  Or was Jesus simply rewarding the most faithful with more?

And so it is with you and I in His Kingdom.


Jesus is Coming Soon

Jesus is coming soon and He is bringing His rewards with Him.  He says so in Revelation 22:12: “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to (who) every one (how) according to his work.”

That’s “everyone according to his work.”

To those who “hear” and are faithful to listen and obey “the instruction of your father” and not “forsake the law of your mother” (Prov. 1:8), the reward for their obedience will be a “graceful ornament on your head, and chains about your neck” (Prov. 1:9).  Why?  Because our Lord is a “rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).  He rewards the diligent, the committed, the single-focused, the sold-out, the passionate, the faithful, the devoted, those that seek Him “as the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God” (Psalm 42:1).  But He never promises to reward the slack, half-hearted, lazy, slothful, indifferent, or the apathetic.  Never.  And neither would you.

Those that put heaven first and this life last will see great reward.  And those that don’t, will suffer shame.

As C.S Lewis said, “If you read history, you will find that Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.  Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”

Let’s strive to be so heavenly minded we are of no earthly good.

Will you join with me?


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Getting Serious

1.  What are you committed to?  What’s the driving passion of your life?  Be honest with yourself.  You don’t have to give the Sunday School answer.  Do you know what you’re committed to?  And, if so, how do you know?

2.  How much time do you spend on what you’re committed to?  How much of your life is tied up in that pursuit?  Can others see your commitment?  And are you known to others by that very commitment?  How has that passion impacted the other areas of your life?

3.  Have you received any rewards for your passions?  Have you received any notoriety or recognition because of what you’re committed to?  How did that make you feel?  Was the feeling lasting?  Was the end result worth the time you spent to get that special recognition?  Was it all worth it?

4.  Have you thought about how temporal and short-lived all the things we’re committed to in this world, either good or bad, truly are?  Our jobs, our degrees, money, fame, a good-looking physique, a new car, stylish clothes, a fat retirement account, a second or third vacation home?  Even if those things are noble causes like ending world hunger or bringing about world peace, it will still all pass away.  Have you considered the only wise thing to commit your life to is the reality of the next world, the eternal world, and your life in Christ?  And, if so, what are you waiting for?

5.  On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life right now and in your decision making process?  What was it yesterday?  Are you growing in the wisdom of God?  And, if not, why?


Next Step Challenge

Take your Bible and look up the five crowns listed in the New Testament and read them in context. You will find them below.

1 Corinthians 9:24-25
1 Thessalonians 2:19
2 Timothy 4:8
1 Peter 5:4
James 1:12 and Revelation 2:10

What are they saying?  Can you obtain these crowns for yourself?  And, if so, how? What would you have to do or not do to meet their requirements?  Are you interested?  Does this seem like something to commit some time and introspecting to?

And, if not, why?  What is more important to you than receiving a reward from the Lord Jesus and joyously, as an act of worship, giving it back to Him?  Won’t you feel embarrassed to have nothing to cast at His feet?

And if so, what are you prepared to do about it?

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338:  Take this Job and Love It!

338: Take this Job and Love It!

In Colossians 3 we find the hands-on practical teaching of Paul that hits us right where it hurts: in our job, our profession, and in our sense of value and self-worth.  No area of our life is more open to hurt and confusion for a man that what he does for a living.  In fact, most men identify themselves by their jobs and not by their families or heritage or faith.

Colossians 3:22 reads:

Bondservants (doulos – a slave, one who is in a permanent relation of servitude to another, his will being altogether consumed in the will of the other), obey (or, to listen, to be obedient, to submit, to conform) in (what) all things (who) your masters (defined as) according to the flesh, (in what way) not with eyeservice (or, service performed only under the master’s eyes, for appearance sake), as men-pleasers, but in sincerity (or, singleness, faithfulness, purity) of heart, fearing (or, being terrified or frightened) God.

Intrigued?  Want to find out more?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Colossians 3:22-4:1.

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The Lost Art of Listening

The Lost Art of Listening

My son, hear the instruction of your father,
and do not forsake the law of your mother.
Proverbs 1:8

We live in a world that was birthed in the bed of rebellion.  From Eve’s rebellion in the Garden to the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, we see the sin of rebellion, the open, hostile, rejection of authority, as one of the bedrocks of human existence.

But it’s beginning is far older than the book of Genesis.  For it was rebellion that caused the Lord to banish Satan and his followers from heaven and cast them down to the earth (Isaiah 14:13-15).  That’s why Satan is known as the “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4) and the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2).  In fact, Satan even boasted of this when he tried to tempt Jesus by offering to give Him “all the kingdoms of the world” if He would just “worship before me” (Luke 4:5-6).

And what is at the root of all rebellion?  Pride.

It was pride that brought low mighty King Nebuchadnezzar and drove him out into the fields, living on all fours and eating grass, humbled like an animal (Dan. 4:33).  It was pride that led Pharaoh to vainly fight against the Lord and not only see the destruction of all Egypt, but of his own house and family as well. It was pride that almost kept Naaman from being healed of leprosy (2 Kings 5;11) and pride that saw Haman hanged on the gallows he prepared for Mordecai (Esther 7:10).  And it was the sin of pride that led Peter to foolishly exalt his commitment to Jesus as greater than the other disciples when he said, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be” (Mark 14:29).

But the Lord says He hates “pride and arrogance and the evil way” (Prov. 8:13) and that the prideful are so enamored with themselves they do not “seek God” nor is God “in any of their thoughts” (Psalm 10:4).  They are clueless, self-deceived, and so inward-focused they can see nothing but themselves.  They have themselves become the center of their self-created universe, the most valued and important thing in their lives, and their personal happiness and pleasure is the all-consuming passion of their short, sad lives.  But the Lord promises to humble the man who exalts himself (Matt. 23:12) and to bring to nothing the one who arrogantly smirks at both God and others (Isaiah 2:11).

The future of the proud and rebellious is indeed bleak.


Rebellion and Our DNA

But we are a people that see pride and rebellion as one of the core values of our society.  We spend countless hours watching movies and sitcoms that are saturated with the theme of pride.  Our popular music exalts self to the point that we have elevated self-indulgence and narcissism to an art form.  Even in our churches we find the worship leader, our own version of a personal Christian rock star, gets more face time and notoriety than the Lord Jesus.

But it gets worse.

We, as a people, rebel against anything and everything.  Why?  Because rebellion is cool and popular and pride, the source of our rebellion, is deemed a virtue in our culture.  Just think, we rebel against our government and refuse to be “subject to the governing authorities” as commanded in Scripture (Rom. 13:1-4).  In fact, our nation was founded on rebellion and we wear that rebellion as a badge of honor and celebrate it each July 4th as a national holiday.  We rebel against our employers, miserly giving as little as possible yet demanding they pay us all the more, always grumbling and never content with our wages.  And we do this in direct contradiction to the Word of God (Col. 3:22-25).  We even rebel against the authorities placed over us for our own good: our teachers, law enforcement personnel, older siblings, and even pastors and ministers.

And, most importantly, we rebel against our parents, or any person who loves us yet dares to place upon us expectations or standards we disagree with or that stifles our drive for independence.  And this rebellion begins almost as soon as we learn to walk.

It seems like everywhere in our culture parents are portrayed as “out of touch old fogies” or “old fashioned geezers” or “ignorant killjoys” that won’t let their children do anything they want to do.  And the children are often seen as the ones who have it all together, the ones who alone can think rationally and have their emotions in check, and the ones who can see the big picture and not get sidetracked on issues that don’t really matter— like respect, obedience, diligence, commitment, honesty and hard work.

After all, the last thing our children want to do today is ask their parents for advice or follow their instructions.  But that’s the exact admonition the Lord gives us in the Proverbs.


Learning How to Listen and Obey

Consider the words from a loving father to his naive, impressionable son:

Proverbs 1:8 – My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother.

In this Proverb we find the father, as head of his home and family, imploring his young son to listen and hear the law and wisdom of his parents in order to protect him from the evil and hurts in this world that want to ruin the young man’s life.  And how do we know this? Because all fathers want to keep their children from stepping on the same land mines they did.  All fathers want to protect their children from suffering the same hurts or making the same mistakes they did when they were young and simple-minded and thought they knew everything.  All fathers want their sons to learn from their own mistakes and not have to repeat them over and over again.

Remember?

So here we have the father speaking to his son, to “My son”— and pleading with him to “hear the instruction of your father” and not to “forsake the law of your mother” (Prov. 1:8).  This plea is not generic, but a deeply personal and passionate plea coming from the lips of a loving father to his naive, gullible young son.  So much so the phrase “My son” is used almost twenty times in the Proverbs alone. 1

And what’s at the core of the plea?  To “hear” or “listen” to someone wiser than yourself.

The word translated “hear” is shama and means more than just letting sounds bounce off your ear drums to cause a recognizable vibration.  It means to “listen” or “hearken” and to “obey” what has been heard. It’s a two-fold definition.  It means to both listen and obey.  Not one or the other.  But both.

But to “listen and obey” what?  The “instruction (or, discipline, chastening, and correction, with the imagery of a father disciplining his son that he loves) of your father.”  The command is to “listen and obey” what the father has to say.  The word for instruction is the same word we find in Proverbs 1:2, 3, 7.  It’s the same instruction that “fools despise” in Proverbs 1:7.  It’s the same instruction God promised the book of Proverbs to reveal (Prov. 1:2).  And it’s the same instruction given us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

But note this, listening without obedience is still disobedience.  For the son to listen to the instruction of the father and not obey that instruction is the same as not listening at all. It’s nothing more than pride and rebellion and a forsaking of the “law of your mother” (Prov. 1:8).


To Forsake is to Abandon

The word “forsake” means to “leave alone, ignore, or abandon.”  And the word for “law” is torah and is a general term for “instruction and direction” either from God or man.  So the command is to listen and obey the instruction and discipline of your father and not to ignore or forsake the directions of your mother.  Both parents are in play here.  Both are important.  Both are involved in shaping the character of the young man.

And the son’s only job in all of this is to not play the fool but “listen and obey” the words of the two people who’ve loved him more than anyone else on the face of the earth.  He’s to embrace and not forsake the directions given him by his parents, the very ones who have sacrificed their lives to give him life and a future.  And part of their instruction is to impart the wisdom they have accumulated over the years making many of the same mistakes they are hoping to keep their son from repeating.

It’s classic Parenting 101.


The Lost Art of Listening

But one of the great tragedies facing the young son is that there is so much noise surrounding him that it makes it difficult, if not impossible, for him to hear the needed words of wisdom.  And it’s the same for us today.  Everywhere we go we’re surrounded by noise.  The radio is constantly playing in the car even when we’re not conscious of it. It’s a natural force of habit when we drive.  We have the sound of the television playing in the background even when we’re not watching it or know what’s on.  It’s just there.  Always.  Just a constant hum of music and dialogue.  And when we walk, run, sit, or wait in line, we instinctively cram in our earbuds to drown out the sounds of reality for the noise of our own choosing— as if the latest song is more important than people and the activities of life all around us.

Listening and hearing is rapidly becoming a lost art and the consequences for the Church and the Believer are horrific.  Consider the importance of being able to hear and listen and ultimately obey the Word of God:

Proverbs 2:1-2, 5 – My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom (to listen and hear), and apply your heart to understanding (to obey)… then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.

Romans 10:17 – So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

John 10:27-28 – “My sheep hear My voice (to listen), and I know them, and they follow Me (to obey).  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”

What does this say about those who don’t hear His voice?  What about those whose lives are so filled with the noise and chaos of this life the very voice of Jesus is drowned out?  What about them?

And then over and over again we find this admonition from the Lord Jesus, in both the Gospels and the Revelation:

“He who has an ear to hear, let him hear!” 2

Remember finally, the Lord is not One who is loud, brash, boisterous or pushy and demands to be heard.  He’s actually quite the opposite.  After the Mount Carmel experience, He revealed Himself to Elijah at the mouth of cave, not in the “great and strong wind” that “tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces” (1 Kings 19:11).  Nor was He found in the mighty “earthquake” or even in the consuming “fire” that passed in front of Elijah— but in a “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) that refused to compete with any of these things.  A voice so small and so still that you could easily miss it if you weren’t listening closely.  A voice that still speaks today if we would only take the time to shut out the noise of the temporal and listen intently to the voice of the eternal.

And when we hear Him, when we hear Him unmistakably break through the noise and clatter of our lives and speak to us today, our only response is to obey.  To listen and obey.  Just like the wise and loving father implored his young son to do.

Proverbs 1:8 – My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother.

After all, nothing else really matters, does it?

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Getting Serious

1.   Has God ever spoken to you?  And, if so, what was that like?  How did that happen?  What did God tell you when He spoke into your life?  And what have you done in response to that event?

2.   Has God ever convicted you of something in your life that you’ve refused to change or correct or surrender to Him?  If so, what was that?  How did He communicate His will to you and why have you refused to obey Him?

3.   Are there areas in your life that reek of rebellion?  Are there areas that you have defiantly refused to give over to Him?  If so, why?  What are you waiting for?  And if not, is it because you view your disobedience in much softer, generic, PC terms than rebellion?  But does your terminology slight-of-hand make your rebellion less of a sin?

4.   Do you obey your parents in all things?  How about your husband?  Your employer?  The government?  How do you view the authority of the church, your pastor, elders and ministers?  Is the Lord trying to speak to you in any of these areas?

5.   On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life right now and in your decision making process?  What was it yesterday?  Are you growing in the wisdom of God?  And, if not, why?


Next Step Challenge

Take your Bible and look up the following phrase “He who has an ear, let Him hear” in the Gospel accounts.  Read them in context to determine what Jesus was speaking about when He made that all-important, yet somewhat cryptic statement.

What does “He who has an ear, let him hear” really mean?  Was Jesus speaking to everyone?  And, if not, who was He speaking to?  And what was He saying to them?  What was He trying to emphasize?  Can you see a pattern in any of this?  And, if so, what is that pattern?

And what does it mean for you today?  Do you have “ears to hear”?  Are you listening?  And if so, what is He saying and what are you prepared to do about it?

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Notes:

1. Proverbs 1:8, 10, 15; 2:1; 3:1, 11, 4:10, 20, 5:1, 5:20; 6:1, 9, 20; 7:1; 19:27; 23:15, 19, 26; 24:13, 21; 27:11; 31:2.

2. Matthew 11:15; 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23; 7:16; Luke 7:8, 14:35; Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22.

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