10 Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many.
11 I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths.
12 When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened (distressed); and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble.
13 Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life.
I want to think of the above scripture as the words of God to His sons through the adoption of Jesus Christ, and follow up with the ideas mentioned so far in this discussion of Proverbs 4, specifically the good doctrine of Jesus verses the doctrines of man.
Jesus provided us with everything we need in order to walk uprightly in this present world through the scriptures and through the Holy Spirit. His ways are wise and lead us in every good path. His ways are narrow, but they remove all the obstacles of iniquity we might face on His narrow way so that we do not stumble.
His ways provide us with life. We find life during this present time as we are made free from the destructive thoughts and actions of this world, first judicially through His blood then tangibly through His work on the inner man by the power of His Spirit. If we continue in the faith, we are raised bodily when the Lord Jesus returns.
The ways of life that work within a believer are vast, but they can be summarized through the commandments of Jesus: love towards God and man. However, this is not love as man loves, but love as God loves.
His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. We must be instructed in what the love of God means—and there is often a fine balance that we are seeking to achieve. “Straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it.” Jesus is the only way to find this path.
For example, it is not love to allow a person to continue in sin, therefore we must first have the ability to judge wickedness from righteousness. Some today like to suggest that morality can exist without God, but that is not so. We can see this today. The more a nation departs from Christianity, the more evil and good are confused.
We must also have the ability to approach a sinner effectively. Does this include personal attacks, accusations, and a holier-than-thou attitude? No. It requires compassion, mercy, humility, and faith in the power of Jesus to forgive and heal.
We must lead people to Jesus so they can be forgiven of their sin and find the power they need to overcome. Do we water down the gospel through prosperity preaching, focusing on forgiveness without sanctification, or create an environment of pride as we claim to be the “real” believers and accuse all others? Do we make our assemblies more exciting through lavish shows and gift shops?
Absolutely not. If Jesus is not in our churches, then our houses are “dens of thieves.” We are robbing people of Jesus, and we make merchandise of their soul.
Are we leading people to Jesus when they see us argue over politics or social ideologies using cruel commentary, vile language, lack of compassion, and unwillingness to hear what a person has to say?
Are we leading people to Jesus when we make an enemy out of all individuals who subscribe to a political party or social ideology that is not our own?
Are we leading people to Jesus when we focus on the sins of our opposition while blindly excusing the sins of our own party or position?
It is true that some parties and some social ideologies cater to an unbelieving mindset, and people within are trapped without the light of Jesus showing them the way. So, be a light of Jesus and show them the way as He would have you to do through righteous judgment, mercy, and faith.
Judge what is right according to His standard, including the way you treat those who are in bondage to sin or damaging ideas. Have mercy through understanding of their position as much as possible, knowing that the grace of God is what keeps you. Have faith that God is in control instead of allowing fear to corrupt your heart, robbing you of patience and peace.
If we as Christians become difficult to distinguish from the world, not just in what we say we believe politically, socially, or in religion—but in how we behave—then why should God do anything about our current situation?
Let’s say we believe that being Right Wing is the Christian way—yet we are rude, mean-spirited, lifted up in verbally slamming others, and feel better than those “stupid sinners,” then our heart is full of murder and not life. Those Left Wingers who are confused and follow bad ideas, but in their daily lives love people better than we do, might be closer to the Kingdom of God than us.
Jesus will free people from bad and deceitful ideas. They will see the fruit of their doings. He will also free the world from murderous Christians and their assemblies of robbery. He will “remove your candlestick out of its place.”
Those who are faithful to Jesus instead of the traditions of man—not just according to the ideas of this world, but most importantly in heart—will not be moved by the world. These will lead the confused to Jesus. These will shine bright amidst the darkness while the darkness consumes all who honor it.
Darkness is not just in what you believe. It is in what you do. It is the substance of what consumes your heart. You can align yourself with the right political party, the right social movements, or the right religion, but if your heart is wicked then there is no love of God in you and your faith is dead. “I know that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.”
However, there are “a few names even in Sardis.” There are faithful and sincere Christians of all denominations, of all political parties, and of all social ideologies. Jesus sees the heart, not us. So, we should be careful in judging others too harshly. Even so, there is fruit to judge. When we see wicked fruit, a wicked heart is the root.
We all struggle with sin, but we should push forward and seek Jesus to change our heart into the likeness of Him. We also remember that Christians are in differing stages of growth and we bring forth differing amounts of fruit. We all need mercy and forgiveness, so we do not condemn other believers. Remember that Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. We are condemned already if we reject His ways.
If we condemn, then we have our own heart issues to work out. We exhort. We rebuke. We bring scripture into remembrance, and though we can make a stand against corruption within the faith, we hope for the best for all believers. We do not “beat our fellow servants.”
What about myself? I once thought having the right ideas was akin to being upright, and the state of my inner-being never came into consideration. I felt justified in tearing people down who held wrong ideas. I felt empowered when others agreed with me. I cared more about being “right” than leading others into a better understanding. I did not love others as I should, and I was blind to my own state of darkness.
I also spent most of my Christian life as someone who viewed the faith as a set of facts instead of a real-to-life mode of being through Jesus. I viewed His blood as a mere judicial mode of freedom rather than a pathway forward to the throne of God wherewith I could seek the Holy Spirit for power to be free from sin in a present-to-live way.
Jesus came teaching us to stop looking at ourselves and this world in a to-the-letter way. Why do we continue to do so? His ways are of the heart. His ways speak to the spirit of the matter. It seems we forsake the spirit and His Spirit. It seems we are still bound to viewing this world and even the Christian faith through carnal eyes, and therewith we justify ourselves. Not good. Our perceptions are death.
We will learn more of the doctrines of Jesus verses the doctrines of man as we continue in Proverbs. The teachings of Jesus and those mentioned in Proverbs are the same—yet Jesus provides even greater detail and depths of wisdom because Solomon was just a man. Jesus is God. However, Proverbs is written in a generic enough sense, that when paired with the teachings of Jesus and applied to our lives, we are reminded of His ways and consider what His teachings might say to us in this time.
I did not realize this when I started studying Proverbs. I just felt like a fool who needed more of the Lord, more consistency in my life and in service, a better heart for hearing the Lord, and something good to focus on instead of the troubles of this life. I now see the working of Jesus in this Proverbs study, and I am thankful for what He teaches us along the way.
I want to be faithful to this work, so if you have a question, comment, concern, perspective, testimony, or whatever, please leave a comment.