Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pursuing Righteousness

True or False. 
Proverbs promises that God will direct the paths of those who trust Him.  Proverbs 3:6.
True or False.
Proverbs states that God won’t correct those He loves. Proverbs 3:12.

Pursuing Righteousness
Devotional Reading:  Psalm 115:3-11                                                                
Background Scripture:  Proverbs 3
Key verse:  Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. – Proverbs 3:5

Lesson Aim: After participating in this lesson, you will be able to:
1.        Identify principles that lead to a blessed life.
2.       Explain why “the fear of the Lord” is foundational to other proverbial principles.
3.       Identify an area of life that can be aligned more closely with the Lord’s will by application of a proverbial principle and make a plan to do so.

Healthy Fear
Growing up I had a healthy fear of my dad.  I knew that if I pushed the limits, he would not hesitate to spank me.  Fear didn’t always translate into obedience, though.

Can you think of a time when you were disobedient to your dad?

                          There came a point in my life where I determined that I would obey my dad…these are
                          the benefits of discipline that results in wisdom.  

                              I.   Key to successful Living – (Proverbs 3:1,2)

a.        Principle (v.1)
The address to my son begins at Proverbs 1;8 and continues throughout the long prologue.  Most education in ancient Israel is given from father to son, mother to daughter in what we call today a “home schooling” context.

The words law and commandments are often linked in the Old Testament in such a way as to be identical.  The law and commandments are from God – laws that the father interprets and passes along to his son (Proverbs 6:23).

These laws and commandments are firm in the father’s mind, and the son must not forget them!  This is more than just simple advice.  The father desires complete obedience from the son.

The word heart in these tests refers to the core personality of the person being addressed.  Therefore the heart of the son includes his mind, emotions, and will.  Keeping the commandments affects the inner being from which actions flow.

b.      Benefits (v. 2)
A child has the best chance at experiencing a healthy and full life if they obey the Word of God as taught and lived by dedicated parents.

Whoever finds wisdom, finds life (Proverbs 3:16; 8:35).

Exodus 20:12; Job 12:12; and Psalm 91:16.

The alternative side is found in Proverbs 11:19.

What do you think?
What are some benefits you have received by following God’s commands?
·         In the area of health.
·         In the area of peace.
·         In the area of finances.

                 II.  Key to Good Reputation – (Proverbs 3:3,4)
a.       Principle (v.3)
The principle here is an admonition to bind mercy and truth about the neck as if it were a necklace.  The words mercy and truth appear together often in the Old Testament.  

The word mercy can take various shades of meaning, depending on the context.  But mercy is connected so often with the word covenant that many think of it as “covenant loyalty” (Deut. 7:9, 12; 1 Kings 8:23).

The word truth carries the idea of “reliability” (Psalm 71:22; Isaiah 61:8).

Rebellious and disobedient people are often described as being “stiffnecked” (Exodus 32:9; Jeremiah 17:23; Acts 7:51) and having hardened hearts (2 Chronicles 36:13; Matthew 19:8). 

It is appropriate to learn those characteristics that will keep the neck from stiffening and the heart from hardening – namely, mercy and truth.

When we allow such godly characteristics to become a part of our core being, we find ourselves reaping the benefits.

What do you think?
                What will you do today to write mercy and truth on the table of your heart?
·         The biblical practice of mercy and truth that result in the writing.
·         The biblical study of mercy and truth that result in their practice.
·         Negative: Psalm 78:56-58; James 2:13.

b.      Benefits (v.4)
If a person’s character includes the couplet of “mercy/covenant loyalty” and “truth/reliability.” Then the result will be favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.

The word favor implies “acceptance”; good understanding signifies “prudence” or “insight”.   
The combination of these ideas means having a good reputation with both God and people.

                  III.  Key to Right Path – (Proverbs 3:5,6)
a.       Principles (vs. 5, 6a)
To trust in the Lord is a very active concept.  The kind of trust we are talking about demands a commitment of a person’s whole being – mind, emotions, will, and body.

The word heart is prominent throughout the first part of our text.

What do you think?
How will you practice trust in the Lord in the various areas of life?
·         Mind.      ·         Emotions.     ·         Will     ·         Body.

b.      Benefits (v. 6b)
We get into trouble when we begin to trust in our own resources and abilities (Isaiah 5:21).
Life is filled with complexities, and we need the Lord’s help with those.  The next time you think you have something “all figured out,” stop and meditate on what God’s viewpoint might be.

The spiritually mature person allows the word and wisdom of Christ to direct their path (Colossians 3:16).

Do you know someone or are you that person who just won’t stop and ask for directions?  
Now we have these fantastic GPS units to guide and direct us…We can think of the Bible as our Eternal Positioning System.

God has “programmed” it to be perfectly reliable.  Its signal strength never fades.  But we must consult it.

Each of us is tempted at the times to be a “know-it-all.”  But those who pride fully trust in their own understanding will find themselves spiritually lost and, perhaps, not willing to admit that fact.

The simple message here is to know God.  I mean to have such an intimate relationship with Him that we practice the presence of God in all aspects of our lives. (Philippians 3:7-11).

When we humbly seek to know God, then He will make our ways straight or smooth. 
Walking a straight and smooth path directed by God is the only way to go! (Jeremiah 10:23).

                  IV. Key to Healthy Life – (Proverbs 3:7,8)
a.       Principle (v. 7)
We cannot fear God until arrogance and conceit are gone.  The fear of God is the heartbeat of the Proverbs. (Romans 12:16; James 3:13-16)

The Christian is not exempt from the need to fear God (Acts 9:31, 2 Corinthians 5:11; Hebrews 12:28, 29; 1 Peter 2:17)

b.      Benefits (v. 8)
Humility, the fear of God, and turning from evil will bring health spiritually, psychologically, and physically.  There is a clear connection between one’s spiritual well-being and one’s physical and mental well-being.  Each influences the others.

                    V.  Key to Blessings – (Proverbs 3:9,10)
a.       Principle (v. 9)
A generous heart is in imitation of the Lord (Psalm 111:5; 112:5).  The concept of firstfruits comes over into the New Testament in important ways (Romans 8:23; 11:16; 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23; James 1:18)

What do you think?
What specific ways will you honor God with your “firstfruits” in the week ahead?
·         Firstfruits of time.     ·         Firstfruits of money.     ·         Firstfruits of relationships.

b.      Benefits (v. 10)
Malachi records God’s challenge to the ancient Israelites to give the entire tithe so that He might bless them abundantly (Malachi 3:10-12).

God blesses those who are faithful, generous, and sacrificial in their giving (Mark 10:29, 30).
Meditate on Jesus’ parable of the greedy farmer in Luke 12:16-21.

                   VI.  Key to Love – (Proverbs 3:11, 12)
a.        Principle (v. 11)
Only a fool despises discipline (Proverbs 1:7; 15:5)

God’s discipline and correction include suffering.  Even so, we should be careful to understand that not all affliction results from wrongdoing.  Look at Job’s case for an example.

b.      Benefits (v. 12)
The benefit of discipline and correction by the Lord is the assurance that He loves us.  Our human parents also discipline us for our good.

Not all afflictions are discipline for wrongdoing.  But affliction develops our character that we can share in God’s holiness (Romans 5:3-5)

What do you think?
What was a time that you benefited from receiving the discipline and correction of the Lord?
·         In a time of distress (sin, discouragement, etc.)     ·         In a time of plenty.

VII.              Conclusion
a.       Learning to Fear the Lord
i.                     Obey the instructions of your parents and God – that will give you the best shot at a long and successful life!
ii.                   Be committed in your innermost being to God’s truth – you will win a good reputation with God and humanity!
iii.                  Trust only in the Lord and not in yourself – He will make your paths smooth!
iv.                 Have great reverence and awe for God while fleeing evil – you will live a very healthy life indeed!
v.                   Put God first in your giving by giving your most and your best – you will discover more blessings than you can imagine!
vi.                 Accept the sufferings and difficulties in life – you will find behind them a loving Father who desires your best!

Learning to fear God gives meaning and purpose to our lives.  Living a lifestyle that embraces these six principles will produce the best kind of life:  one that pleases God.

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