Using Your Words For God’s Glory And The Good of Others, Part 1

Grace For The Journey


16Apr  A few weeks ago, we began our current study on the Book of Proverbs, selecting various Proverbs that speak on wisdom.  The tendency of human beings in today’s society is to look to technology for the answers that perplex us most.  As followers of Jesus Christ, perfect wisdom comes from God and His Word.  Today, we are going to address wisdom with our words so that we might bring glory and honor to God, and also bring ourselves and others great blessing.

The Book of Proverbs wasn’t written to remind us of how dumb we are.  Proverbs was written by an earthly father – Solomon – to his son.  Solomon wanted to show his son, whom he loved and cared about, how to live life well.  Though Solomon was the earthly author, he was guided by a heavenly Author.

God is not writing these things to say . . .

“Hey dummy, you’ve really blown it. 

You’ve really messed up.”

He wants to show us

How to live life well.

God has wisdom to share with us about our words.  This wisdom allows us to speak in a way that not only glorifies God, but also blesses us and those around us.  We’re going to be looking at a number of verses, but I want to start by looking at Proverbs 18:21 which says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

Let that sink in just for a moment.  Death and life are in the power of your words.  Did you know that?  Did you know that every word you speak has the potential to bring life or death to others?  Maybe this week you’ve spoken words of life by encouraging another person, by blessing them, and by giving them an extra boost of support.  Or perhaps some of you have spoken words of death by telling people how dumb they are, or by telling people how worthless they are.  Maybe you’ve spoken words of bigotry or words full of judgment with a critical spirit.  Our words have the power of death and life.  If you’re like me, you could use a dose of God’s wisdom concerning the words you use.

We talk a lot,

And the Bible

Has much to say

About our words.

Sometimes a person’s greatest God-given strength can be their worst weakness.  Our desire ought to be that God would our mouths for His Kingdom work and glory.  That everything we say would not only glorify God but would lift others up; that they would encourage others; that they may build up knowing that what we say is good and beneficial.

Let’s look at several truths that God wants us to know from the Book of Proverbs:

  1. Words Play a Huge Part in Our Lives.

I want to stress the word “huge” as much as possible because I cannot overemphasize the power that words play in our lives.  This has occurred throughout human history.  As we consider major events from the beginning of humanity up until today, we see that words played a huge role in shaping those events.

  • A man once wrote on a piece of paper, “It was the best of times and it was the worst of times.” Those words belong to Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities.
  • In a legislating house in Virginia, Patrick Arnold stood up and said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” 
  • Another Virginian wrote on a piece of paper and handed it to a group of his friends and compatriots.  It said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Thomas Jefferson wrote them and they were incorporated into America’s founding documents..
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his inaugural address, said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” 
  • John F. Kennedy, once declared, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
  • Astronaut Neil Armstrong made this statement when he stepped on the moon, “That’s one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind.”
  • Martin Luther King, Jr, declared, “I have a dream.”
  • Ronald Reagan said, “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Words are powerful.

They shape human history.

Words not only shape human history . . .

They also change our lives.

Some of the most memorable events in our lives are encapsulated by words.

  • When applying to college, you desperately look forward to the words, “You’re accepted.”
  • There’s the question every girlfriend wants to hear: “Will you marry me?” If you are married, do you remember how those words felt?
  • How about the words “I do”?
  • People looking for a job hope to hear, “You’re hired!”
  • How about when the doctor tells the couple, “You are pregnant?” Or, “It’s a boy!”  Or, “It’s a girl!”

We remember those words because they impact the very essence of who we are.  Sometimes, words cause us to feel profound sorrow.  Some of us have heard words like, “It’s cancer.”  Or, “It’s terminal.”  I remember when a friend told me, “Your daughter Ashley has died.”

Words can bring us up to the mountaintops,

Or they can bring us down to the pits.

Your words have great power and that power comes from God Himself.  In the beginning, God created this world through the power of His Word.  When Christ came, the Bible tells us in John 1:1 that He became the logos – the Word incarnate.  He was the Word, the living Word of God.  In the Bible you have the written Word of God that leads and guides to holiness and truth.  One day, the Name of Jesus will be spoken by God Himself and at that Name every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is LORD (Philippians 2:10-11).  Words are powerful.  They were present in the beginning; they will be present in the end.

Will you use your words

For God’s glory or

For your own gain?

God has given us

The power of words,

But He’s not the only one

Who wants to use our words.

The devil knows the

Power of words as well.

In World War II, plastered over every military base were posters that said, “Loose Lips Sink Ships.”  These simple slogans told people, “Don’t tell people where our troops are doing.  Don’t tell them when you’re shipping out from or where you’re going.  The enemy has spies all over the place and they could use the information that you casually share with others.  You could die, or it could mean one of your fellow soldiers dies.  So be careful!   Loose lips sink ships.”  The U.S. government wanted to be careful because they knew that information in the wrong hands could lead to disaster.  We can either help the devil by propagating all kinds of disasters through words of envy or hatred, or we can glorify God by speaking words of encouragement and truth.

There are a three initial truths we need to understand about words.

  • Words are plentiful. We talk a lot.  Did you know the average person says about 15,000 words a day?  Men say about 13,000 words a day, and women, on average, say 17-18,000 words a day.  To put that into perspective, if you were to transcribe the words that you speak on a daily basis, you could fill 60 pages.  In a year the average human being could fill sixty-six 800-page books.  For that reason . . .

The Book of Proverbs devotes

More than 150 verses

In 31 chapters

To the use of

Words and the tongue.

It’s something that we need to recognize.  Because of this, we need to be receptive to God’s wisdom regarding our words.

  • Words are able to penetrate

If you think that your words have no consequences, think about the last time someone told you, “I love you,” or, “I’m proud of you,” or, “You did a good job.”  That doesn’t just hit your ears and fall away.  No, those words go deep into the depths of who you are.  Has someone’s encouragement ever made you feel like you could take on the world?  Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, maybe you’ve heard, “You’re worthless.  You’re terrible.  What’s wrong with you?  You’re good for nothing.”  Those words don’t just bounce off of you; they cut deep.

The words we say

Impact other people

In profound ways.

Look at these two passages of Scripture where words penetrate the soul in good ways:

Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”  You can change a person’s morning by speaking encouraging words.  You can lift them up from the ashes.  But you can also tear down with a hurtful word.

Proverbs 12:18 tells us, “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword …”  Some of us have used words this week, whether knowingly or unknowingly, that have wounded deeply the individual to whom we spoke.  We’ve thrust a steely knife into them because we haven’t considered the penetrating quality of our words.

  • Words go places that you can’t

Have you ever noticed that your words have a way of taking on wings and flying away?  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said something and wished that I had a net to catch what just came out of my mouth.  The Bible says in Proverbs 16:27, “A worthless man plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching (or an uncontrolled) fire.”  The Bible tells us in James 3:5-6 that the tongue is like a spark that starts the whole forest on fire. When we say something that we think we have control over, we deceive ourselves.  Like an uncontrolled burn, those words can devastate everyone around us.

After being found guilty one day, a town gossip was given an object lesson by her pastor.  He wanted to teach her about the speed at which words take flight.  He told the town gossip, “I want you to take this bag of feathers and place a feather at each doorstep of the homes in the community.  After an hour, I want you to go out and gather all of the feathers back.”  She came back with only a handful of feathers and told her pastor, “All the other ones have blown away.”  Like feathers, our words get caught up by the wind, going places we never thought they were going to go.  So be careful because your words can take flight.

  1. Words Can be Incredibly Harmful

Before you think, “I better not say anything,” recognize that you have a choice.

You can use words

For good or for bad.

It’s up to you.

The Book of Proverbs talks about both usages.  There are words that are harmful and words that are helpful.

First, let’s look at what the Bible says regarding words that are harmful.

What does the book of Proverbs say about words that hurt?  The Bible clearly tells believers to avoid from any kind of unwholesome words that will tear down the lives of those around them.  Proverbs reminds believers of the harmful ways we can use words against people:


Proverbs 18:8 says, “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.”  The gossip is like a caterer.  He doesn’t set out the full meal, he sets out appetizers.  The gossip walks around with a tray of hors d’oeuvres saying, “Just have a little.”  Gossip whets the appetite for more.  It always says, “Tell me more!  Tell me more!” 

Once a man was gossiping with his friends about the newest scandal, and one of the friends exclaimed with excitement, “Tell me more!  Tell me more!”  To which the gossip said, “I’ve already told you more than I know!” 

When we gossip,

We are telling

More than we

Actually know

And most of it

Is not even true.

We need to be careful because gossip is a major issue within the church.  We cluster around our friends whispering, “Did you hear this?  Did you hear that?  Did you hear about so-and-so?”  We set out half-truths, or maybe even truths that someone doesn’t need to hear.  It only causes a hunger for more.

The gossiper controls the story.

If you are the gossip,

The person who hears

Your sweet and scandalous gossip

Believes what you say.

They don’t know anything else;

There’s no fact checking.

No one says, “Is that really true?”  There are a couple of things you need to say in order to stop gossip:

  1. “Are you sure about that?”
  2. “Should you be talking about that?”

As soon as gossip is heard, human nature says, “Tell me more!” because you want the power of knowing what’s going on.   Remember that gossip is a sin.  The Book of Proverbs says that gossip starts out really good, but it can bring great problems to those who share it as well as to those who hear it.


Proverbs 6:16-19 speaks about the seven detestable sins and lying is one of them.  A lying tongue is detestable to God.  Proverbs 12:19 says, “Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment.”  Have you used your words this week to deceive people?  Have you used your words this week to disguise your real feelings?  When someone asks, “How are you doing?” and you know you’re doing lousy, do you put on a smile and say, “I’m doing great?”  If so, you just lied!  You just deceived!  You disguised your feelings and you’ve spoken a lie.  Have you pointed the finger at someone else in order to escape punishment?  You’re lying.  Understand, lying is the language of the devil and unbecoming for a follower of Christ.  But we do it all the time, don’t we?

Lying is the language of the devil (John 8:44).  It’s not good for us to do, so stop doing it.  No matter how easy it is, no matter how much fun you get out of it, no matter what it is, stop doing it. Your lies will find you out.


A third type of harmful speech is seducing words, or flattery.  Flattery is lying in a garden of beautiful flowers.  Some of us are really good at buttering people up and saying things that aren’t quite true.  Why do we use flattering words?  We think that if we flatter someone, that person will do good things for us in return.  It’s selfish.

The Bible says in Proverbs 29, “A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.”  When we flatter people, we need to be careful.  The most common example in the Book of Proverbs of a person who uses flattery is the prostitute.  Speaking to a young man, Solomon says in Proverbs 5;3, “For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil.”

Usually the people who harm us the most are the people who have praised us the most.  Be careful when a person says, “You’re the greatest.  You’re the most awesome person.  You’re the best.”  Be careful not to define your worth by the flattery of others.


Fuming words and words of anger are also harmful.  The Bible says in Proverbs 29:22, “A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.”  How often have you gotten into trouble because you’ve allowed your anger to make its way into your mouth?  You might not even mean what you say, but those words cause great harm.  How many times have you allowed your anger to get the best of you?  As a result . . .

Relationships are ruined,

Opportunities are lost

And your testimony is soiled

Because you could not

Bridle your tongue.

It’s not a sin to be angry, but Scripture tells us to not let our anger turn to sin: “Be angry and do not sin…” (Ephesians 4:26).  Usually the first place you sin is with your words.

Talking too much

A final way our words can be harmful to others is by talking too much.  The Bible says in Proverbs 10:19, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking …”  It means, “Be careful.  Don’t talk so much because when you do, the probability of sinning increases exponentially.”  The more you talk, the more opportunity you make for sin.  Some of us need to start talking less.  We don’t need to be the one who always has the answer.  We need to allow the Spirit of God to fill our speech with words that benefit, bless, and bring honor to God.

The Bible clearly instructs us that we are not to use our words to hurt people . . . We are to use our words to honor God and help others.  We will look at what the Bible says about this in tomorrow’s blog.  We will look at what the Bible says about this in tomorrow’s blog.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”




Understanding The Pattern and Progression of Sin

Grace For The Journey


15Apr  Warning signs … Alarm bells … All of this and more is what comes to mind every time I read Proverbs 7:6-27.  Solomon is writing about a young man’s giving in to sexual temptation.  This is an important topic to Solomon, as he addresses it frequently in chapters five through seven.  At the same time, however, its application extends beyond sexual immorality and serves as a graphic illustration for any number of sins.

In today’s blog we will examine the progression and pattern of sin, tracing sin from birth to death.

My hope is that this information

Will be more than mere words in a post,

But words written indelibly upon our souls.

When we face temptation of any kind

This week may these truths

“Make some noise” within us,

And may that noise grow increasingly louder

Until we resist temptation and save ourselves

And others from hurt, from despair,

And maybe even from death.

This passage is very similar to a passage in the first chapter of James and it’s virtually impossible to study one passage without studying the other.  James 1:14-16 says, “… each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.  Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.  Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.”

This pattern in James echoes Solomon’s narrative in Proverbs 7.

We see the same pattern and progression:

Desire, Deception, and Death.

Another action is implied here,

That of Disobedience.

So, note these four actions in the text:

1) Sin Begins with Desire.

This teaching in Proverbs 7 is very picturesque.  It is as though Solomon is painting a picture and he turns around his easel, showing us a strikingly brilliant, full-colored image that he has painted for us.  This picture tells the story of the pattern and progression of sin.  He has just said that his proverbs “will keep you from the immoral woman, from the seductress who flatters with her words.”  Then he paints a picture illustrating what he means in verses 6 and 7, “For at the window of my house I looked through my lattice, And saw among the simple, I perceived among the youths, A young man devoid of understanding.”

Solomon looks out his window and he sees “a young man devoid of understanding,” a foolish man, a man “lacking common sense” as some translations have it.  This man is not just meandering down the street, aimlessly wandering along, minding his own business; no, he has something on his mind.  He has desire in his heart.

Verses 8 and 9 tell us about that, “Passing along the street near her corner; And he took the path to her house In the twilight, in the evening, In the black and dark night.”  

This young man was not walking down this path by accident.  The context suggests he is looking for trouble.  He’s walking in the cover of darkness, “in the black and dark night,” heading in the direction of a well-known loose woman’s house.  He intentionally takes “the path to her house.”  He knows where he is going.   There’s a stir within him.  It is the stir of lustful desire.   Intentionally he heads down the path to her house.

Remember the last couple posts?  Remember the six things that God hates?  Two of those things are illustrated here: “A heart that devises wicked plans” and “feet that are swift in running to evil.”  You see both of those things in this “simple” young man, “a young man devoid of understanding.”

Verses 10 to 12 tells us about the woman he is meeting, “And there a woman met him, (How convenient, right?) With the attire of a harlot, and a crafty heart.  She was loud and rebellious, Her feet would not stay at home.  At times she was outside, at times in the open square, Lurking at every corner.”  (She gets around, doesn’t she?)

This young man’s desire led him to her house.  Now, maybe he’s thinking, “If I see the woman, I won’t talk to her.  I won’t get too close.  I just want to catch a glimpse of her.  Maybe she’ll see me.  I’ll just smile.  Maybe she’ll smile back.  But that will be the end of it.”

The Bible says this woman has “the attire of a harlot.”  She is dressed inappropriately.  She is showing too much.  But he thinks to himself, “Nothing wrong with looking, you know.”  But watch what happens in verses 13 to 15, “So she caught him and kissed him; With an impudent face (a bold and brazenly immodest look) she said to him: ‘I have peace offerings with me; today I have paid my vows.’  So I came out to meet you, diligently to seek your face, and I have found you.”  

The “peace offerings” refers to meat that was left over after religious sacrifices were made.  According to Leviticus 7:15, the meat left over from the sacrifice was to be eaten the same day. This woman even sounds a bit religious.  She says, “I’ve worshiped and I’ve got some fine food at home that needs to be eaten.”  

When you are

Looking for sin,

Sin will find you.

She knows how to entice a man by appealing to his senses.  She begins with his stomach, ”I’ve got some food for  you.”  She also appeals to his sight, smell, and sexuality.  Look at the colors and fragrances she lays out before him in verses 16 through 20, “I have spread my bed with tapestry, colored coverings of Egyptian linen.  I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.  Come, let us take our fill of love until morning; Let us delight ourselves with love.  For my husband is not at home; He has gone on a long journey; He has taken a bag of money with him,  And will come home on the appointed day.”  

The young fool is utterly overwhelmed by her charm.  His eyes spin.  His brain turns to mush.  He is all but ready to collapse before her, falling like a rag doll.

Sin begins with desire.  Consider the alcoholic: “I will never drink again!”  And he means that but one day he finds himself thinking: “You know, I miss the atmosphere of that place.  I miss my buddies.  I’ll just go with the guys and have a soft drink, no big deal.”  And he goes inside that old, familiar place.  There again are the familiar sights, smells, and sounds.  He feels good.  Watching his buddies drink, he thinks to himself, “What’s one beer?  Just one.  I can handle it.”

2) He’s no different from the other person sitting on the couch watching the movie.  He sees the commercial for something sweet and thinks, “There’s that bag of M&Ms in the pantry!  I can smell them now.  I’ll just go look at the bag.  Alright, I’ll just take one.  I’ll savor it for a few minutes.”  One M&M becomes, “Okay, just one handful.”  And before the movie is over, he has devoured the entire bag of M&Ms (I write from experience here).

And he’s no different from any other man, woman, boy, or girl, flirting with danger, attempting to get as close to the line as possible, trying one’s level best to serve two masters.  You think to yourself, “I’m okay.  I’m in control.  I won’t sin.”

No matter the sin, it begins with desire, wrong desire, ungodly desire.  Sin begins with desire.

2) Desire Leads to Deception.

Verse 21 says, “With her enticing speech she caused him to yield, with her flattering lips she seduced him.”  He shouldn’t have been anywhere around her.  Even if he were there by accident, he should have turned around when he saw her at a distance.  He should have run when she kissed him.  But you see, now it was way too late.  He can smell the intoxicating fragrance of myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon and verse 21 says she continues to entice him with her speech and flatter him with her lips.

Incredibly, what she is suggesting starts making sense to him now.  He thinks, “The husband’s away.  She has everything set-up at the house.  She even has peace offerings left over from a recent religious experience.  It all seems as though it’s all meant to be…almost as though God has ordained it.”

Often a disgruntled spouse seeks divorce on the grounds that God surely does not want him to be unhappy.  How unhappy he is with this wife of his!  And look, here is this other woman!  “She really appreciates me.  She really loves me.  I am so happy with her.  God must have led her my way.”

You see how we are deceived by sin?  We begin to rationalize and justify our behavior.  We even bring God into the equation, thinking, “Well, He must want this or He would have done that,” and so forth.  Deception.  With her enticing speech she caused him to yield.  He should have run, but it’s too late.  He yields.  He is deceived.  Sin begins with desire and desire leads to deception.

3) Deception Leads to Disobedience.

Verses 22 to 23 states, “Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks, Till an arrow struck his liver. As a bird hastens to the snare, He did not know it would cost his life.”  Do you think the ox has any idea it is going to be slaughtered?  The ox just wanders along, unknowingly walking right into death.  Solomon says that’s just like this foolish young man.

What a picture!  Immediately he went after her.  He is deceived.   He went after her, how?  The Bible gives the answer, “As an ox goes to the slaughter.”  Do you think the ox has any idea it is going to be slaughtered?  Do you think the ox wanders alongside the farmer knowing that these are the last few moments of its life?  Of course not!  The ox just wanders along, unknowingly walking right into death.  Solomon says that’s just like this foolish young man.  He just goes right on after sin as an ox goes to the slaughter.

Or like verse 23 says, “as a bird hastens to the snare.”  The bird flies right into the net, totally unaware that someone plans to have him for dinner that evening.  It will cost him his life.

4) Disobedience Leads to Death.

Verse 24 declares, “Now therefore, listen to me, my children; Pay attention to the words of my mouth:  

You see here in these last few verses

Solomon’s application of the whole thing.

He says, “Here are the lessons to learn.”

Look at the verbs.  You’ll find instruction in the verbs.

Look again at verse 24, “Listen to me, my children; Pay attention to the words of my mouth.”  Two things to do: Listen and Pay attention.  Don’t just sit there and think, “Well, this is all well and good for someone else” or, “This is the crazy ranting of an old man who has forgotten what it’s like to be hip and cool.  Listen . . .  Pay attention.

When you’re tempted to sin – whatever the sin – remember this story and remember the progression and pattern of sin.  Sin begins with desire.  Desire leads to deception.  Deception leads to disobedience.  And disobedience leads to death.

If verse 24 gives two things to do . . . Verse 25 gives two things not to do: “Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, Do not stray into her path.”

Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways.  This suggests that you have control over temptation.  You do.  The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you, except that which is common to man; but God is faithful.  He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able to endure, but will with the temptation make a way to escape.”

You cannot be so tempted by sin

That you are simply carried away by it

As though you had no control over it.

You do have control . . . You must turn away.

Do not stray into her paths.  This gets back to what we said earlier.  If you go looking for sin, sin will find you.  Solomon reiterates that in Proverbs 11:27, “Evil comes to the one who searches for it.”

So, don’t go looking for it.  Do not stray into her paths.  This foolish man fell into adultery because he strayed near the path of the loose woman.  He would not have sinned with this woman had he not left his house that evening.  He shouldn’t have been over there and he knows it.

Note another truth in verse 16, For she has cast down many wounded, and all who were slain by her were strong men.”  It doesn’t matter how strong you think you are.  This adulteress has had many men.  And every one of those men thought themselves strong men.  So . . .

Don’t scoff at the

Teaching of Scripture

And shrug off

The straightforward warning

Of Scripture.

We are weak, weaker than we may wish to admit.

Solomon concludes with a serious warning in verses 27, “Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death.”  

Sin begins with desire.

Desire leads to deception.

Deception leads to disobedience.


Disobedience leads to death.

You can trace that pattern – desire, deception, disobedience, and death—in Genesis chapter 3 where we read of the Fall of Man.  Adam and Eve were tempted.  There was desire, deception, disobedience, and then death.  When Adam and Eve sinned, they experienced first spiritual death – separation from God – and then eventually physical death.

Because of the sins of our first parents – Adam and Eve – we enter this world separated from God, already spiritually dead.  If we do nothing about this, we will remain spiritually separated from God when we physically die.

Jesus Christ came to take care of this sin problem.  When we receive Christ into our lives we are saved from spiritual death.  We are born again.  We are made alive spiritually.  And while we will die a physical death, our death is not the end.  We are merely ushered into the presence of God.

Jesus Christ came to give us life, and to give life more abundantly.  Jesus came that we may have life – salvation from the penalty of sin.  And Jesus came that we may have life more abundantly – salvation from the power of sin.

It is in Christ’s power

That the Christian overcomes

Daily struggles with sin.

When we are tempted, we must make a conscience choice, drawing upon the power of God, and we must not sin.  We do that not in our strength, but in His.

This is God Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”



Hating What God Hates, Part 2

Grace For The Journey


13Apr  Today’s post completes the “six things God hates” from Proverbs 6:16-19.  Yesterday’s blog addressed the first thing God hates: “Pride.”   Let’s look at what else is listed in these verses.

2) God Hates “A Lying Tongue; A False Witness.”

Here’s the sin God hates so much He mentions it twice!  A lying tongue; a false witness.   God hates when we misrepresent truth in the community and in the courthouse.  We learn from an early age that lying is wrong.  Little boys and girls learn not to lie.

Maybe you’ve heard about the preacher who came across a small group of boys gathered around a cute, puppy dog.  The minister asked what they were doing and they said, “We’re all taking turns telling lies.  We’ve decided whoever tells the biggest lie wins the dog.”   The minister was shocked to hear this and he launched into a ten minute sermon on the evils of lying.   When he was finished, he chided the boys and said, “When I was your age I never told a lie.”  The boys looked at one another and one of them said, “Okay mister, you win the dog.”

Grown adults can lie, too.  Sometimes lies come in the form of flattery:

  • We “butter people up” in order to get something we want.
  • We say things that really aren’t true.
  • We hope to get a promotion at work so we say to the supervisor, “That was a great presentation!” when we were really so bored we started counting light bulbs in the chandelier; “Oh, that was a wonderful song!” when we really didn’t like it that much; “You look great!” when we think they really don’t.

God hates a lying tongue and a false witness.  We should hate what God hates.  Never lie.  We should always be committed to tell the truth.  If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.  Be honest.

3) God Hates “Hands that shed Innocent Blood.”

This statement refers to the killing of the innocent.  To be clear, the Bible permits the taking of a guilty person’s life when that person maliciously kills another.  Capital punishment is biblically justified for especially heinous murders (Exodus 21).  This is not what Solomon is addressing here.  What God hates is when people shed “innocent” blood.

Murder is rooted in self-centeredness.  We kill someone because we are angry.  We kill to get something we want.  We kill someone because they “get in the way” of our desires.

Tragically, this sin can occur in the womb of a mother.  Who is more innocent, more defenseless, than an unborn baby in its mother’s womb?  God hates the hands of doctors who shed innocent blood.  God said to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations” – When?  Before Jeremiah was born, before he was even formed in his mother’s womb.  The abortion of a child for convenience sake is murder plain and simple.  It is the killing of someone because they “get in the way” of another’s desires and plans.

God hates that and so should we.  Yet, if you have ever had an abortion or you know someone who has had an abortion, you can rejoice that the grace of Jesus Christ is extended to the one who repents of this tragic decision.  God forgives our sin when we turn to Him in repentance and ask for His forgiveness.

4) God Hates “A Heart that Devises Wicked Plans.”

This reminds me of Proverbs 4:14-16, “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil.  Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on.  For they do not sleep unless they have done evil; And their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall.”

The picture this puts in our mind of someone lying awake at night, planning wicked deeds against their enemy.  Have you ever stewed over someone who has hurt you or offended you?  Have you ever thought, “Man, I wish I had said so and so to that person.  I’ll show him.  Just wait.”

God hates that.  God hates a heart that devises wicked plans.  A good memory verse is Romans 12:19, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”  Paul is quoting from Deuteronomy.  God says, “Vengeance is Mine.  I will repay.”

Don’t seek revenge upon those who hurt you.  Leave that to God.

5) God Hates “Feet that are Swift in Running to Evil.”

This statement refers to the rushing on toward sin with eyes wide open.  The Puritans often spoke of sins of commission and sins of omission.  The sin of omission occurs when we fail to do something God has told us to do.  It is a passive sin.  God has impressed upon our heart, for example, to witness to that person seated next to us.  We do not do it.  That is a sin.  We have omitted the doing of something God has impressed upon us to do.

Sins of commission, on the other hand, are the doing of things that we know are wrong, but we rush right into them, doing them anyway.  These are active sins and it seems to be these sins that Solomon has in view in this statement.  God hates “feet that are swift in running to evil.”  We know it is wrong, but we do it anyway, like feet running in a race as fast as possible.

Proverbs 1:15-16, tells us that the company we keep can lead us to sin in this way: “My son, do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path; for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood.

Or, as Solomon says later in Proverbs 13:20, “He who walks with the wise will himself become wise; but a companion of fools suffers harm.”

We must not fraternize and hang out with those whose feet are swift in running to evil or we will find our own feet becoming swifter in running to evil, as well.

6) God Hates “One Who Sows Discord among Brethren.”

God hates it when people are divisive.  This statement is tied closely to the sin of gossip.  We’ll deal with that in a future post as we examine the importance of carefully choosing the words that come out of our mouths.

The specific sin mentioned here has to do with one who gossips in such a way as to divide the body of Christ, bringing disharmony and disunity upon the fellowship.

The agrarian imagery of sowing is helpful here.  Solomon writes that a person who gossips is like a farmer who “sows.”  Think about it: a farmer sows seed in order to yield a harvest, a crop, to benefit others.  This man, the man that God hates in verse 19 is a man who “sows” the seed of discord, hoping to yield his own harvest, caring nothing for how his words affect others, wishing only to get his own way.

God hates a person who sows the seed of discord.  God help us watch our mouths!  As Paul writes in Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt.”  The idea is that when you open your mouth only graceful and gracious things should come out, a wonderful seasoning of words that serve to build up your brothers and sisters.  O,r as Jesus says in Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

God hates these six things and so should we.  But remember: It is not that we follow these commands as a means to gain approval with God.  We can’t!  We are sinners. The only way we can have God’s approval is through Jesus Christ.  Jesus lived for us, died for us, and rose from the dead for us.

Christians hate what God hates because they have new hearts.  And when Christians walk by the Spirit they love what God loves.

This is God Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”





What God Hates, Part 1

Grace For The Journey


13Apr  It’s easy to talk about the love of God, but talking about the hatred of God raises a few eyebrows.  Indeed, we often speak of the love of God as though He could hate nothing at all.  But philosophically, we know that in order for God to really love He must equally be able to really hate.  More importantly, we know from Scripture that the Bible does in fact speak of God’s hating certain things.

  • God says in Malachi 2:16, for example, “I hate divorce.”
  • In Revelation 2:6, Jesus commends the church at Ephesus by saying, “You hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans which I also hate.”

God does hate certain things.  In our survey of the Book of Proverbs we have come to a list of six things in particular that God hates. Here is what the Bible says in Proverbs 6:16-19, “These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:  A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.”

This is not an exhaustive list of the things that God hates, but it is a list of some of the more heinous sins that provoke the wrath of God.  In fact, verse 16 includes the word “abomination.” Solomon writes, “seven are an abomination.”

This formula, “Six…seven” is similar to the prophet Amos’ style in Amos 1:3, “For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment . . . for three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment.”  This was a way of stressing the severity of the sin.  It’s as if Solomon is saying. “Here there are six things here that God hates – really seven,” the number of wholeness.

These six things God hates are, of course, things that we should hate as well.  As I studied the list, I thought about how guilty I was of doing some of these very things that God hates.

It is at this point that we remember why Jesus Christ died for our sins.  Reading the Proverbs is an exercise in grace.  We read of things that displease God and we are reminded of our inability to really please Him, if left to ourselves.  Who among us has never been guilty of one of these six things?

Our failures point us to the Lord Jesus Christ who Himself perfectly lived a righteous life that we could not live ourselves.  By faith in Christ God imputes Christ’s righteousness to us and we are declared “not guilty” of our failures.  That truth, then, spurs us on to live out these commands in the strength and power of our Lord Jesus Christ who is always with us.  We want to please God.

So . . .

It’s not legalism,

It is grace.

We really want to live out what the Bible teaches because, for the Christian, even if we fail to live out these commands, we’re still forgiven in God’s sight!  In the words of Isaac Watts:

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my life, my soul, my all!

Today, let’s consider just the first “thing” that God hates.  We’ll look at the other five in future posts.

1) God Hates “A Proud Look.” 

Pride may well be considered the mother of all sins.  It seems that most sins are rooted in pride, an unhealthy focus upon self.  When we focus upon the self, we will sin.  Unforgiveness, for example, is nothing less than pride.  I have been hurt and offended.  My “pride” has been hurt and I wrongly believe that the offender should come crawling to me, begging me for forgiveness.

  • Sexual immorality is an over-focus upon gratifying the self.  It is rooted in pride.
  • Lying, when done to make ourselves look better, is rooted in pride.
  • Stealing is rooted in the idea of believing our needs to be more important than another’s.

Pride is the first sin mentioned in the Bible.  Our theology of Satan is rooted in the belief that it was Satan’s desire to be like God that caused him to be cast down from the glories of heaven (Isaiah 14:12-13; Ezekiel 28:13-19; cf. Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:9).

The pride God often condemns in Scripture is the sin of having an arrogant, conceited, boastful, vain, full-of-ourselves, self-important spirit.  God hates that.

Yet so much of Christianity smacks of pride.  Churches boast of large church rolls and the “numbers” reported on denominational reports.  Christians often mask their pride in a sort of “false humility” that really draws attention to the self, seeking the approval and applause of men – just look at the daily Twitter feed!

Young Christians are especially vulnerable to pride.  For this reason, Paul says that pastors should not be new Christians “lest they become puffed-up with pride and fall into the same condemnation as the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6).

Pride comes too easily for many new believers.  A person gets saved and is so excited and begins studying the Bible for the first time and really discovering all the wonderful new truths.  Many of the truths are new to him, but not new to others.  He goes around as though no one else has discovered what he has discovered.  He boasts of his knowledge.  He lectures others.  His pride makes him an offense to others.  God hates that.  Don’t we all

The Bible teaches that the change that Christ brings when we accept Him as Savior, it completely opposite of this.

  • Be a person of humility.
  • Jesus taught this time and again.  Don’t be judgmental (Matthew 7:1-2).
  • When we are invited to a get-together of some kind, we are to take the lowest seat at the table (Lke 14:10).
  • He who desires to be greatest among you, let him be a servant to all (Matthew 20:25-26).

We must exercise grace and love towards those who offend us this way.

This is God Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”




Do You Acknowledge God?

Grace For The Journey


10Ar  I want to start off my blog today with a fictitious story.  Pretend you are a teenager (for you teenagers, that shouldn’t be much of a stretch).  You are navigating your first week of High School.  One of your friends, a friend you’ve know all throughout elementary school and middle school, is hanging out with you and some older students at lunch.

This older group of students loves spreading gossip and making fun of other students, especially if a student is the subject of their gossip.  In spite of this behavior, you and your friend both like these older students and are hoping to be accepted into their circle.

But suddenly, as everyone is having a good laugh at someone else’s expense, your friend tells them an embarrassing story about you, and then begins to mock you front of them.  The older students burst out laughing as they point at you and add more ridicule.

You are horrified and frozen.  Within seconds, embarrassing stories about your friend begin to pop into your mind and a swirling mixture of different emotions begins to rise up inside you. The others, including your friend, notice you are about to say something. You begin to speak.  So . . . What would you say? What would you do?

Keep that scenario in mind as we continue to look for wisdom to live by from the Book of Proverbs.   We are going to look a Proverbs 3 verses 5 to 7.  As you read these words of Solomon, the son of King David, think about that the above story.  Think about how these truths would help … how they should direct that teenager. This is what Solomon says to his son about how to live life well. He writes, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and depart from evil.”

In those three simple verses we find an incredible amount of guidance from God.  Let’s use our role playing scenario to think through what God, through Solomon, is telling us here.

  1. Acknowledging My Lack.

Solomon reminds his son that “your own understanding” (verse 5) is not strong enough to support the weighty situations in life.  He is telling his son not to “lean on your own understanding”.  It will break. It will fail you.

We see the same thing in God’s indictment against Egypt, given by the prophet in Ezekiel 296b-7. “Because you have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel, when they grasped you with the hand, you broke and tore all their shoulders; and when they leaned on you, you broke and made all their loins to shake.”

This is what happens when we lean on something as flimsy as our “own understanding.”  This same warning is repeated in Proverbs 3:7.  Solomon restates his point in different words: “Be not wise in your own eyes.”  If I see myself as wise, then I will have no reason to search for wisdom.  And that is precisely the danger Solomon is warning us about.

If you are that teenager in the fictitious story I began my blog with, what kind of things will be running through your mind in that moment of crisis?  What will “your own understanding” be telling you?  I’m guessing things like this:

  • You better do something quick, or your going to have zero friends.
  • Two can play at that game. If they liked that story, they’re going to love mine.
  • How could he? How could she? I’ll show them all.
  • I’m never coming to this school again. I just want to go home and die.

But think for a minute . . . where will those idea lead if not checked in some way?  If we’re honest, we know they will only lead to more pain.

Living life well, living the life you were designed to live . . .

Begins with acknowledging

The frailty of your own understanding


The foolishness of your own wisdom.

It starts with acknowledging the fact that,

Left to your own devices, you cannot live life well,

That is, life as God designed it to be lived.

You see, the brokenness of our world, of our lives, is the direct result of men and women leaning on their own understanding . . . Of you and me being ‘wise’ in our own eyes (Isaiah 53:6).  But if we can acknowledge our lack, we can also acknowledge God’s riches.  That’s our second point . . .

  1. Acknowledging His Light.

We don’t have the answers.  But God does.  I believe that is what verse 6 is saying. Look at it again:” In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”  I think this verse can be easily misunderstood.  Again, the keyword here is “acknowledge.” What does Solomon mean by acknowledging God?  I think he simply means acknowledging that God is God. You see, this stands in contrast to “leaning on your own understanding.”

As you live your life, who will you turn to as the authoritative expert on all things you?  Solomon calls us to acknowledge that God is the authoritative expert on all things, including all things you.

The Apostle Paul talks about the same contrast in Romans 1:21-22, where he writes this about our desperate condition in the grip of what the Bible calls sin, “… For although they knew God, they did not glorify [acknowledge!] Him as God, nor were they thankful, but they became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”

Notice how Solomon puts it in Proverbbs 3:6.  He writes “in all your ways…acknowledge Him.”  What does Solomon mean?  He means, in everything you do, in every area of your life, look to God as the authoritative expert.

If you were struggling to teach a class on the Windows operating system and Bill Gates was in the back of the room, would you acknowledge him?  If you were getting trounced in a basketball game and Michael Jordan or LaBron James was on your bench, would you acknowledge them?  If you arrived at the scene of a car accident where people were dying, and you had an experienced EMT asleep in the back of your car, would you wake him or her up?

You would, because those are authoritative experts in their profession.  But . . .

We are not talking about

Any of those scenarios.

We’re talking about your life;

About every day, you living your life

  • In all your ways.
  • In every moment,
  • In every obligation and opportunity,
  • In every relationship, In every decision,
  • In every conversation and purchase

In all your ways, acknowledging God as the authoritative expert on your life.  Do you believe that?  Do you acknowledge God as such?

If you do, then He will direct your paths.  But what does that mean?  Listen to what Solomon would go on to write in Proverbs 11:5, “The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight, but the wicked falls by his own wickedness.  Or again in 15:21, “Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense, but a man of understanding walks straight ahead.”

In Proverbs the “straight” way is the way of wisdom, God’s wisdom.  Consequently, it is the way of blessing.  So, when you acknowledge God as the authoritative expert on your life, He will guide you down the “straight” way “in all your ways.”  Solomon’s father David explained this in Psalm 25:8-9, “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.  He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way.”

And . . .

“His way” WILL support

The weight of life.

It will not snap

Like a flimsy cane

O broken crutch.

His way is






Think about that teenager from the beginning of my blog for minute.  That teenager needs to know that God, the authoritative expert on his life, on her life, can guide them down a straight path, a strong, solid, and sure path. God knows the right response.  And where can that teenager find the right response?  In God’s Word.  In 1 Peter 3:9-12, Peter quotes Psalm 34, when he writes, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.  For ‘Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Our impulse as that teenager may be to lash out or join in their hurtful game.  But God’s wisdom, God’s Word directs us to “bless” and to “seek peace” and to “do good.”

So, acknowledging God as the authoritative expert on your life should always lead us back to the Word of God . . . to the Bible. Did you know in the Bible, God has something to say about “all your ways,” about every part of your life?  The Bible reminds us in 2 Peter 1:3, “As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him, who called us by glory and virtue.”

Have you ever wanted expert advice . . .

  • On your relationship ,
  • On your finances,
  • On your career,
  • On feelings and struggles of the heart and will
  • On conflicts and challenges
  • On love
  • On clothes
  • On food,
  • On belonging,
  • On guilt and forgiveness,
  • On right and wrong,
  • On the meaning and purpose of life?

If you have, look no further than the Bible.

The world has plenty to say about all these things, but if we begin there, we will be leaning “on [our] own understanding” as human beings.  God’s Word should be your starting point “in all your ways.”

But, in addition to this, Solomon tells us we need to be . . .

  1. Acknowledging His Love.

You could hear all this and think, “Ok, the Bible has important things to say about every part of my life.”  You might even dig in and carefully consider what God’s Word tells you about this or that specific topic or this or that challenge in your life.  But as we see in verse 5 . . .

Solomon is calling us to do

More than consider commands

And ponder principles.

It is not enough simply

To recite what the Bible says.

We can’t be content with simply knowing it.

Look again at what the Bible says in verse 5, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart …”  The teenager in our story can know what God’s Word says about using his or her words to bless and seek peace, but if that knowledge is not combined with faith, she will not follow God’s guidance.

This is where acknowledging God’s love comes into play.  When you hear or read God’s Word, you have to believe God cares for you.  You have to trust that what He is telling you, that the road He is showing you, that the commands He is giving you are for your unequivocal good.  If you believe God is simply trying to control you for some dark end or is a cosmic ‘killjoy‘ who loves watching your suffer, you won’t acknowledge Him “in all your ways” or ‘Trust in the Lord.”

Just look at the next five verses (8-12) and see if you can feel the love of God in these words.  Solomon tells his son, if you acknowledge God and allow Him to direct your path, “It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.  Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so you barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.  My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor detest His correction; For whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.”

What does God want for that teenager?  He wants him or her to trust Him.  He wants her to believe He really does care; that He knows how hurt he or she feels, how alone he or she feels.  He wants him or her to trust Him with the future, that he or she will have friends; that he or she will be okay.  And He wants him or her to trust that the path of forgiveness really is the path of life.

In love, He will direct his or her paths.  Do you believe that God cares about you personally?  If you don’t, why would you acknowledge Him?

Now, in a study like this about God’s love, some might stumble over the middle of verse 7.  Do you see what it says there?  Solomon calls us to “fear the LORD.”  They might argue that statement is antithetical to what we were just talking about?  If God loves us, why would we fear Him?

But there is a false dichotomy here.  Love and fear are not mutually exclusive, especially when we understand that “fear” here does not mean terror before an unhinged tyrant.  This “fear” is that proper respect, reverence, and response to God.  It is the kind of respect, reverence, and response that leads to rule-keeping and not rebellion.  I’m sure those of us who grew up in healthy households can confirm a healthy “fear” of mom and dad, while at the same time, never doubting their love for us.

Did you know God wants us to feel the same way?  The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 7:1 that we are called to “perfect(i)ng holiness int the fear of God,” while at the same time, not doubting God’s unrivaled and unconditional love for us.  Trusting God in this way, as Proverbs 3 prescribes, begins with seeing God as trustworthy.  So how does that happen?

When our daughters we little, they loved to play a game where they would fall backward into my arms.  It is really a game that is all about trust.  This kind of trust is connected to two things: 1) my girls had to trust I am strong enough to catch them.  But equally important, 2) they had to believe I was good enough to catch them.  And their trust in that fun game was built on what I showed them about my strength and goodness in every other circumstance.  They were able to see my trustworthy in how I dealt with them every day.

When Solomon wrote to his son, and to all who would hear and study this Book of Proverbs, he knew the ways God had shown Himself trustworthy.  He could think way back to stories of Abraham going to Canaan or Israel leaving Egypt, and he could think back to his father’s life and his own life to see the strength and goodness of God.  Without a doubt, God had shown Himself to be completely trustworthy.

But what about you?  Can you, do you trust in the Lord because YOU have found Him to be trustworthy?  Listen to these words in 1 John 4:9-10, and consider what they tell us about the trustworthiness of God and the love of God: “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

It was there on the cross where Jesus died that God demonstrated His strength and goodness in a radically unique way.  Strength to conquer sin.  Goodness to forgive sin.  Through Christ, God paid the debt you owed so you could enjoy the riches of a relationship with Him forever.  All that you have and are through Jesus.  What more could He do to show Himself trustworthy?

What we all need is to trust in the Lord with all our heart, to fall back into His arms. He will help hurting heart; and He will heal sinful heart.

This is God Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”





Growing Wise

Grace For The Journey


9AprThere are a lot of “wise people” in the world.  We tend to think that this ability is granted to just a few elite people.  Many think they could never get into such a high and noble group.  But . . .

God wants all

Of His faith-children

To be “wise.”

And the Bible tells us

In James 1:5 that wisdom

Is ours for the asking.

In the next few blogs, I want us see what God teaches about wisdom in the Book of Proverbs.  We’ll do a short survey of the book, gleaning some of the bigger pictures painted throughout.

I don’t know about you, but I like witty sayings.  I like the short little one-liners you read in fortune cookies like, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”  And I’ve always enjoyed the sayings of the New York Yankees baseball legend Yogi Berra.  Yogi said things like:

  • You can observe a lot by watching.” 
  • “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
  • “It gets late early out there” 
  • “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.” 
  • “It’s deja vu all over again.”
  • “Nobody goes to that restaurant anymore, it’s too crowded.” 

The book of Proverbs is much more than that.  It is very important that we interpret Proverbs correctly.

The Book of Proverbs

Is best understood as

Principles rather than promises.

They are “general truths” about

Life from a divine perspective.

That is exactly what makes the Proverbs in the Bible different from any other proverb – they are literally God’s Word.

God gives them to us

So that we will be wise.

One example that illustrates that Proverbs are best understood as principles, rather than promises is Proverbs 26:4-5.  Verse 4 says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly or you will be like him.”  If understood as an unconditional promise, then I should never respond to a fool’s charge or I will become a fool myself. But in the very next verse, we read: “Answer a fool according to his folly or he will think himself wise in his own eyes.”

So which is it?  Do I respond to a fool’s charge or not?  Well, it depends on the fool.  Some fools can be helped and some fools are helpless!  Respond to some and walk away from the others. It depends on the fool.  So again, proverbs are best understood as principles rather than promises.  They are not laws.  They are general truths.

King Solomon is the author of most of the proverbs.  You remember the story of Solomon in his early days.  The book of 2 Chronicles records that fateful evening when Solomon was getting ready to follow David as king of Israel.  God appeared to Solomon and said, “Ask!  What shall I give you?”   How would you have answered that question?  Most would probably say, “God, pay off my home.  Get me out of debt!”  “God, make me healthy.  Give me a lot of money.”  

In 2 Chronicles 1:8-10, Solomon responds by saying: “You have shown great mercy to David my father, and have made me king in his place.  Now, O LORD God, let Your promise to David my father be established, for You have made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude.  Now give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this great people of Yours?”

And God replies in 2 Chronicles 1:11-12,“Then God said to Solomon; ‘Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor have you asked for long life – but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself, that you may judge My people over whom I have made you king – wisdom and knowledge are granted to you; and I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like.”

Predictably, the key word in the Book of Proverbs is the word “wisdom.”  The word “wisdom” literally means a knowing of one’s heart through an intimate relationship that leads one to have skill to live as God wants.”  Wisdom in the Bible involves a growing, personal relationship with the one true God which leads us to have skill and ability to live in a way that honors and glorifies Him.  That is the underlying focus as Solomon talks to his children about how to live in the world.

You see this word used six times in the first seven verses of Chapter One.  Proverbs 1:1-7 says, “The proverbs of Solomon, the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, Justice, judgment, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion; a wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.

There are three truths I want to identify from these verses today.

1) The Purpose of Proverbs.

Verses one through four introduce the many purposes of Proverbs.  The verses really don’t require any explanation or illustration.  They are fairly straightforward.  We do see the purpose of the book of Proverbs: “The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel To know wisdom and instruction, To perceive the words of understanding, To receive the instruction of wisdom, Justice, judgment, and equity; To give prudence to the simple, To the young man knowledge and discretion.”  

That last verse especially helps us in our short survey of this book as we’ll be making our way through select passages.  Verse 4 says, “To give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.”

Think of the Book of Proverbs as a wise, older father sitting down with his young son, giving godly advice that helps that son grow into a godly man.  It really helps to see Proverbs this way.  You see the pattern again in Proverbs 2:1-9, “My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God.  For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, And preserves the way of His saints.  Then you will understand righteousness and justice, Equity and every good path.

Here’s a father passing on wisdom for living to his son.  We see it again in Proverbs 3:1-2, “My son, do not forget my law, But let your heart keep my commands; For length of days and long life And peace they will add to you.”

We again in Proverbs 4:1-9, “Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, And give attention to know understanding; For I give you good doctrine: Do not forsake my law.  When I was my father’s son, Tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, He also taught me, and said to me: “Let your heart retain my words; Keep my commands, and live.  Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.  Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you.  Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.  Exalt her, and she will promote you; She will bring you honor, when you embrace her.  She will place on your head an ornament of grace; A crown of glory she will deliver to you.”

If I were to give a succinct paraphrase of these passages it would be this: “My son, seek these things and you will grow in your relationship with God and be able to live as He designed and desires.  You will grow to become a “biblically wise person.”  That’s the purpose of proverbs.”

2) The Benefit of Proverbs.

Anyone and everyone can benefit from the study of Proverbs.  We note that truth in verses 5 and 6: “A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel; to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles.”

The idea here is that

Anyone can benefit

From the study of Proverbs

And will prosper

In attaining true wisdom.

Not just the young person of verse 4, but the wise man of verse 5, too.  Even a man or woman who is already considered biblically wise will hear “and increase” learning.  And a “man of understanding,” that is, a man who already has some measure of understanding these truths will also, “attain wise counsel.” Solomon is saying, “There’s something here for everyone.”  The wise will add to their wisdom and the man or woman of understanding will add to theirs.

The more you

Study the Word of God,

The wiser you become.

And when you become wise,

You  will please God

And know something of

Fully living life God’s way.

The point is that no one is too young or too old to learn and benefit from the study of God’s Word.  God’s Word is limitless in application.

That the study and love of God’s word brings great benefit is David’s point in Psalm 1:1-3 where he writes: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.  And He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.”

Lasting value and a fulfilling life come when we study God’s Word, no matter our age.

3) The Power of Proverbs.

What is that power?  Proverbs 1:7 tells us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Note that carefully what God is saying here: the fear of “the LORD” is the beginning of knowledge.  There is a starting place in finding godly wisdom, and it’s the fear of the Lord.  For the Christ follower, it isn’t a fear of being struck dead or the fear of hell, but . . .

A reverential respect and regard for God

That leads to a proper response

To Him and His Word.

We noted earlier that the proverbs are general truths from a divine perspective.

That’s what sets the proverbs in the Bible

Apart from the proverbs of the world.

The proverbs of the Bible

Are couched in the context

Of “the fear of the LORD.”

That’s what gives these biblical proverbs the power in their punch.  They come from God.  And it is this concept that sets apart the wisdom of God from the wisdom of man.

You can have plenty of worldly wisdom and there’s nothing wrong with that.  I think a person ought to get as much formal education as he or she can.  God wants us to use our minds.  But you can have earned degrees from the most prestigious universities, and post-graduate degrees, and doctoral degrees, and post-doctoral degrees, and still lack the wisdom of God.

I like what Warren Wiersbe said once: “Some men are dying by degrees.”  You can have all the education offered from the finest universities and lack Godly wisdom.  And that’s because true wisdom begins with “the fear of the LORD.”

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul describes Jesus Christ as the embodiment of wisdom.  In Colossians 2:3 he says: “in Him [Jesus] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” 

In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge!  And in verses 8-10 of the same chapter he warns: “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.  For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him.” 

You are “complete” in Christ Jesus.  You may be reading this post as someone who feels “incomplete.”  There’s something missing.  Listen to what the Word of God says: You are complete in Him, in Jesus Christ.  Trust in Him today.

What About You?

A wise man once challenged me to read a chapter of Proverbs as it coincides with the day of the month.  Perhaps this plan will bless you as much it has blessed me.  Pray right now something like this: “God I want to be wise.  Help me to grow in my daily  relationship with You and Your Word so that I might live as You want me to.”

This is God Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”




Wandering From The Truth

Grace For The Journey


8Apr A friend told me once about a family member named Frank.  He would say frequently, “My name is Frank, and that’s what I am.”  This certainly sounds like James, doesn’t it?  If there is one thing we have learned about James in these studies it is that he does not mince words.   He sugarcoats nothing and gets right to the point.  He is frank, direct, straightforward, and real.  He is blunt, bold, and candid.  His approach, while painful at times, is both real and refreshing.

Consistent with his style throughout, these final two verses of James’ letter are succinct, incisively penetrating, and fraught with meaning. Here’s how James puts it in James 5:19-20, “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”

James teaches that Christians are to be involved in the ministry of restoration, bringing back fellow believers who have wandered from the truth, presumably by wandering from the church.

Christians are to go after those

Who have fallen into this error.

They must work to turn

These erring brothers and sisters

Back to the truth.

Doing so, argues James, is tantamount to the saving of their soul from death and the receiving of God’s forgiveness.

There are some discernible, straightforward truths for the church here:

1) It Is Possible For A Believer To Wander From The Truth.

James supposes the real possibility that someone hearing or reading his letter may “wander from the truth.” By this statement he means “wandering from the truth of the gospel, wandering into heresy, or wandering away from living the truth, falling into the sins (some he addressed earlier in the letter – sins of being judgmental, sins of the tongue, sins of worldliness).

It is possible for a believer to wander from the truth.  We often sing of this possibility in a well-known hymn:

Prone to wander,
Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.

We may ask how this is possible given the fact that Christians have a new nature and have the Holy Spirit residing within.

Before we address this question, let us admit that many in the typical church congregation may not be saved.  No one knows with absolute certainty who is saved and who is not.  When we read the New Testament, the writers never pretend to know that every person to whom they are writing is truly saved.

The New Testament writers write the same way we would write if we were writing to our church.  We would write to the “brethren,” not knowing for certain that every brother is in fact a genuine brother.  Sadly, there may be some among our gatherings who will turn away from the church, turn away from spiritual truth, and walk down a path that leads to destruction and hell.  That is simply the reality of the situation.

Recall Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

A person can refer to Jesus as “Lord,” serve in the church, and perform good deeds among the Christian community, but not be a genuine brother or sister in Christ.

In 1 John 2:19, the Apostle John writes of those who left the faith: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”

James addresses the “brethren,” without assuming that every person is, in fact, a brother.  This uncertainty notwithstanding, James’ truth applies to all: turning a sinner from the error of his way saves his soul from death and covers a multitude of sin.

Having addressed the possibility – if not the likelihood – that not all of James’ readers and hearers are genuinely saved, we are comforted knowing that true believers will remain true believers.  Authentic Christians will persevere in their faith.  They will struggle from time to time, but will finally overcome.

Justification describes the very moment God declares us entirely forgiven of all sin.  It happens all at once, at a specific, singular occurrence in time.  But while justification is a precise point in time, sanctification is an ongoing process.  Sanctification takes a lifetime.  So, God changes us, but He does not change us all at once.  Much of the change occurs gradually over time, even through the “various trials” mentioned earlier in James’ opening chapter.

But . . .

While justification is a precise point in time,

Sanctification is an ongoing process.

Because of Christ, Christians are saved, redeemed, and justified forever.  Yet, there is still what we often describe as the “sin that remains,” the daily struggle with temptation, the daily battle of the “old man” or “the flesh.”  When we give-in to the tug of the world and the flesh, we are at that moment “wandering from the truth.”

So, it is possible for a Christian to wander from the truth.  It is interesting that the original word for “wander” is a word from which we get the word “planet.”  That’s helpful as the term conveys “the idea of going off-course, wandering like a planet out of orbit.”

This is why it is vitally important for a Christian to endeavor to walk in righteousness every day, reading the Word, living by and in obedience to the Word, praying to Him, spending time with God’s people, attending worship with other believers, and sharing the gospel with the lost.  These actions are the “working out” of the salvation God has “worked within us (Philippians 2:12-13).

As we endeavor to walk in righteousness, we have the growing assurance that God is growing us in our sanctification, making us more like Jesus, the One with whom we are assured to spend eternity.  As Paul writes to the Corinthians, God “will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ/” (1 Corinthians 1:8; cf Romans 8:30).

Until that day, however, we will battle sin and temptation.  James’ words remind us that it is possible for a believer to wander from the truth.

2) It Is Assumed Another Believer Will Turn Him Back.

For every person who wanders from the truth, James assumes there will be “someone” who “turns him back.”  He assumes the church is actively going after those who wander.

Given the immediate context, this work of restoration includes prayer.  Christians are to “pray for one another” that they “may be healed (James 5:16).”  Certainly the effectual, fervent prayers of many righteous persons, prayers for the turning back of the erring one, increases the likelihood of that soul’s restoration.

In addition to their prayers for a wandering brother, the church will also need to approach the one in error in an effort to “turn him back.”  James assumes “someone” from the congregation will do this.

This truth calls to mind Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep.  He supposes a man has a hundred sheep and one of them “wanders” (same word used by James).  Jesus asks, “Does he (the man) not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying (Matthew 18:12)?”  Jesus concludes the parable with the truth: “It is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish (Matthew 18:14).”

James expresses the same concern for the church.  He assumes that the church has the same love for wandering members as the man does for wandering sheep—as God does for wandering souls.

“A real friend is someone who always ‘gets in your way’ when you are ‘on your way down.’”

Do you love those who have wandered from the truth?  Do you know anyone who has wandered from your Bible study?  Your small group? Your school class?  Your worship service?  Have you called to check on them?

Too often we allow fear or pride to overrule the Spirit’s promptings to reach out to a wandering brother or sister.  You can be sure that Satan wants you to just forget about them or to reason: “They had issues,” or, “They were never really connected anyway.”

Too often we allow fear or pride to overrule the Spirit’s promptings to reach out to a wandering brother or sister.  You can be sure that Satan wants you to just forget about them or to reason: “They had issues,” or, “They were never really connected anyway.”

Fear of confrontation or fear of appearing sanctimonious may also impede the work of the Spirit within us.  But if we truly love others, we will not allow our fears to keep us from doing what the Bible teaches.

Someone said, “A real friend is someone who always ‘gets in your way’ when you are ‘on your way down.’”  Good words!

It is possible for a believer to wander from the truth and it is assumed another believer will turn him back.  Thirdly:

It is a Blessing when a Believer is Restored 

James teaches that the one “who turns a sinner from the error of his way” invites a blessing.  The blessing is the knowledge that God used him to “save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”

James’ teaching raises a poignant question: Do you love others enough to go after them when they wander?

When a sinner is turned back, his soul is saved from death—spiritual death—because his sins are “covered.”  His sins are not covered by the one who turned him back, but by God.  God alone forgives sins.  God uses caring church members–working through them–to bring about the forgiveness of a wanderer’s many sins.

James’ teaching raises a few poignant questions: Do you love others enough to go after them when they wander?  Do you love them as you love yourself?  Are you a real friend—someone who “gets in the way” of another who is “on the way down?”

Since all Christians are to be engaged in the ministry of restoration, let us consider how to live out this truth.

Develop The Necessary Character Of One Who Restores

If we are to be involved in going after those who have wandered from the truth, there are at least two character qualities that are essential to the work.


If it is possible for a believer to wander from the truth, then it is possible that one day we ourselves may be that very believer.  This possibility should give us pause lest we draw boastful conclusions about those who have wandered from the truth.

Recall Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7:3-4, “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?  Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Among other things, Jesus teaches that each of us “has issues.”  We each have some kind of inability to “see clearly.”  So before we make prejudgments about the errors of another brother or sister, let us humbly remember “the plank” in our own eye.

In the words of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians: “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).  Recall also Paul’s teaching on this subject to the churches of Galatia: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).

Never become so critical of a struggling Christian, a downcast, seemingly defeated brother or sister in Christ, believing somehow you are “above all that.”  It could happen to you.  Practice humility.


If we hope to win back those who wander from the truth, having mercy and showing mercy towards others is essential.

Showing mercy is the primary application of the familiar “Parable of the Good Samaritan.”  Read it afresh and consider how it may apply to James’ teaching: “And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”  So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’”  And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”  But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”  Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.  But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.   So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’  So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”  And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37)

Develop necessary character as one who restores: humility, and mercy.  There is something else helpful to us as we apply James’ teaching:

Understand the Ultimate Cause of Wandering

Why is it that people wander from the truth?

What happens to individuals that they begin to lose interest in corporate worship, preaching of the Word, small group study, and private devotion?  Why exactly do they fall away?

To be sure there are many factors involved in the Christian’s going astray.  We noted earlier, for example, the Christian’s ongoing battle with “the flesh” or the “old man.”  We must not underestimate the need for constant vigilance as we endeavor to walk in holiness.

It is also important to remember that most sin stems ultimately from misplaced desire.  A lack of delighting in the all-satisfying relationship with Lord Jesus Christ weakens our defenses and awakens our vulnerability to wrong.

God speaks of misplaced desire through the Prophet Jeremiah: “My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns – broken cisterns that can hold no water”  (Jeremiah 2:13).

When we forsake the Lord, we stop going to Him in prayer, listening to Him in His Word, communing with Him both corporately and privately.  We stop “drinking” from the well of our salvation and we drink from something else.  The prophet says God’s people have made their own cisterns, or wells, wells he describes as “broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

A broken cistern is a container that is cracked, allowing water to seep out slowly while mud slowly seeps in.  To drink from a broken cistern is to drink muddy water.  Who wants to drink muddy water?  A thirsty person will drink from it until he discovers a better, more refreshing, and more satisfyingly healthy source.

As people created in God’s image, we often thirst for our Creator without even realizing it.  As St. Augustine so famously wrote: “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”

Spiritually we may be drinking muddy water without even realizing it, inadvertently trying to satisfy our spiritual yearnings.  It’s like trying to quench our thirst with the wrong water, drinking from the wrong well.

  • When you turn to pornography to make yourself feel better, you are drinking from a broken cistern.
  • When you allow your thoughts to wander into sin and temptation, you are drinking from the wrong well.
  • When you get drunk or use drugs to get high you are substituting living water for muddy water, perhaps without even realizing it.

Jesus said to the woman at the well in John 4, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13-14).

The ultimate cause for wandering from the truth is drinking from the wrong well.

We wander from the truth when we forget that Jesus embodies truth (John 14:6).  Often unintentionally we turn to the lies of the Enemy, the one in whom “there is no truth” (John 8:44).

The ultimate cause for wandering from the truth is drinking from the wrong well.  Take care to drink from the water of life, the only water that can quench the thirsting of our souls, and see that those who wander are turned back to the living water of Jesus Christ.

In conclusion, let us read prayerfully the words of an old hymn that speak to the heart of this ministry of restoration:

Though they are slighting Him, still He is waiting,
Waiting the penitent child to receive;
Plead with them earnestly, plead with them gently;
He will forgive if they only believe.
Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
Touched by a heart, wakened by kindness,
Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.
Rescue the perishing, duty demands it;
Strength for thy labor the Lord will provide;
Back to narrow way patiently win them;
Tell the poor wand’rer a Savior has died.

This is God Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”


Why Being Good And Keeping The 10 Commandments Doesn’t Save Us

Grace For The Journey


5AprWhen we share the gospel we often hear folks saying they believe that getting into heaven is about being as good as you can be, like keeping the 10 Commandments. Turning to James 2:10-11 is helpful when answering this response, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.  For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’  Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 

James says: “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in line point, he is guilty of all.”  Given the examples provided in these verses, it seems clear that James has in mind what we often describe as the “moral law” in the Old Testament.  Much of the “cultic law,” such as dietary laws or other laws of rite and ritual, are no longer binding upon believers today.  But the “moral law” is timeless.  Every culture has some sense of moral law woven into the fabric of their existence, even if that culture fails to understand that their sense of law is rooted in the grace of God.

For Christians, the moral law is aptly summarized in the “Ten Commandments,” (Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21.)  This moral law is a cohesive unit to be obeyed in its entirety.  We are not permitted to ignore any of them.  James says we are to “keep the whole law.”

This raises a necessary clarification: James is writing to Christians.  We’ve noted in previous posts that James’ letter is not about how to become a Christian, but how to behave as a Christian.  He is writing to those who have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  So . . .

James is not teaching here

That the way one is saved

Is by keeping the Old Testament Law,

Keeping the 10 Commandments.

Many people think that that’s what the Bible teaches.  Many people wrongly think that Christianity is about following rules and regulations.  But . . .

Christianity is not so much about

Following principles as it is about

Following a Person, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the only one who obeyed perfectly “the whole” law so that we could be forgiven of our sin.  Once we have trusted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we live out the moral law in obedience to God not as a means by which to be saved – that has been accomplished already through faith in Jesus – but as a means of honoring and glorifying God with our new hearts.

One of the primary functions of the Old Testament law is to convict unbelievers of their sin, forever pointing out their inability to keep the law and pointing to the only one who perfectly has, Jesus Christ (see Romans 3:20; Galatians 3:21-24).

The Bible is a mirror.  As we look into it, we must allow it to show us what we are before we can expect to do what it says.  And we can’t really do what it says until we first see what we are.

We must first

See our sin

Before we can rightly

See our Savior.

Then we turn to Him, trusting Him as Lord.  We are saved by grace through faith in Christ.  Jesus lived for us and died for us.  He kept the law perfectly and thus fulfilled the law on our behalf.  He died, taking our punishment for breaking the law, and He rose from the dead so we could be declared righteous by faith in Him.

So . . .

If we have been saved through faith in Christ,

Then the law is now “lived out” in us,

Not to gain our justification,

But to grow in our sanctification.

Christians live the law

Not in an effort to get saved;

Christians live the moral law

Because they are saved.

James teaches that Christians, then, should be living out this moral law, by “keeping” the whole law.”  Unfortunately, many in James’ day thought of the law as the means of gaining salvation:

The Jew was very apt at regarding the law as a series of detached injunctions.  To keep one was to gain credit; to break one was to incur debt.  A man could add up the ones he kept and subtract the ones he broke and so emerge with a credit or a debit balance.

This is exactly how many today regard the observance of biblical commands.  They think if they keep a biblical command they will gain a credit, and when they break a biblical command they will incur a debt.  They hope that they will have more credits than debts in the end and perhaps tip the scales of justice in their favor.

But one reason it is impossible to be saved by keeping the law (Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16) is precisely because it is a cohesive unit.

A person must obey it in its entirety

And no person does that

Consistently and perfectly.

To break one single command

Is to break all the law,

Much in the way one single crack

On a windshield affects the entire windshield.

If you hope to be saved by keeping the law, you would have to keep all of it consistently and perfectly.

Christians live the law not in an  effort to get saved;

Christians live the moral law because they are saved.

Think about taking a test in school.  Say there are 100 questions worth one point each and you miss 5, you get a 95%.  That’s an A by most calculations.  But imagine if you took that test and there are 100 questions worth one point each and you miss only one and receive an F.  You would argue, “But I got 99 right, I only missed one!”  The teacher replies, “Doesn’t matter.  This test is pass or fail test and because you did not get all of the questions correct, you fail.”

If you’re hoping to keep the Old Testament law as a means of earning salvation, you need to know that God does not grade on a curve.  You’ve got to keep the whole law in its entirety.  Breaking any one of them is to break all of them.  Breaking just one command makes us “a transgressor of the law.”

Imagine you are rushing to catch a plane.  You are hurrying through check-in, moving quickly through the security line, and now running to the gate so you can catch the plane.  But when you finally reach that gate it does not matter whether you are just one minute late or ten minutes late, once that gate is closed you are not getting on that plane.  It doesn’t matter how close you got, you are not allowed to board that flight.

If you are not a Christian, it doesn’t matter how closely you try to follow the 10 Commandments.  It really doesn’t matter how “close” you get, because you are not saved by keeping the law. Nobody keeps the law consistently and perfectly –

Nobody but Jesus.

That’s why

He is the only way to God.

From the standpoint of an unbeliever, “sin is sin,” whether it is murder or adultery or lying.

Just one sin will keep a person

From getting into heaven.

It doesn’t matter if

It’s a so-called “big” sin

Or a so-called “little” sin;

It doesn’t matter whether

You just “thought” it

Or you actually “did” it.

Just one is enough to keep

Anyone from entering heaven.

This raises the need for another important word of clarification. While the phrase “sin is sin” is rightly used when referring to an unbeliever’s ability to earn forgiveness or his hoping somehow to gain entrance to heaven based on an accrued number of “credits” he hopes outnumber his “debts,” it is not always appropriate to use this phrase.

Not all sins are equal in the sense that not all are equally heinous, equally ugly, or equally reprehensible.  The issue is not the degree of the sin but the disobedient that sin causes.  You could be fired from your job for lying to a co-worker or for physically beating a co-worker, but which would you rather have to explain at your next job interview?  Would you rather your daughter be found guilty of driving too fast or for robbing a bank?  One has a greater degree of wrong; but both are definite acts of wrong.

All sin is equally deadly in terms of a lost person’s hope of gaining some sense of favor before God, doing good works in the hopes of becoming more “savable.”

A proper understanding of this is needed when talking with good people who think they are good enough, or are doing enough good things, to satisfy God’s righteous standard and make it to heaven.

This is God Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Hebrews 4:16, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.”


Bible Contradiction?

Grace For The Journey


4Apr  If you open your Bible to James 2:17, and read, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” and go back to Ephesians 2:8-9 and read, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast,” we might conclude that James is teaching a “faith plus works” salvation and that Paul is teaching a “faith minus works” salvation.  Is there a contradiction?

To get at an answer to that question we must understand is that . . .

James and Paul are speaking about

Two different points in the Christian life.

Paul is talking about

The way into the Christian life,

The beginning of Christian living.

James is talking about

A point after one has become a Christian,

The living out of Christian faith.

James does not write his letter to teach how to become a Christian, but how to behave as a Christian.  Paul, in his writings, frequently stresses the way one becomes a Christian and he does so by teaching that the way to God’s approval is not to be found in the way many of his Jewish acquaintances erroneously believed: by keeping the law.

Paul is addressing the entry point into salvation when he writes in Ephesians2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”  That is . . .

You cannot earn your way into heaven.

 You cannot ‘work’ your way

Into favor with God.

You are saved by grace,

Through faith, in Christ, alone.

In that same passage, however, Paul goes on to say that once a person is saved that he or she will live out the Christian faith by doing the good deeds and works that God has prepared for him to do.  To the one who is saved he writes in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

So . . .

Salvation is not a “faith plus works,”

Nor a “faith minus works,”

But a “faith that works.”

Faith alone saves,


The faith that saves

Is never alone.

James stresses that saving faith is more than mere confession.  In verse 18 he suggests: “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’  Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

There has been a lot of discussion about what this verse means? It is helpful to back up a bit and read the text in it’s wider context.  This way we are able to see that the wider point remains: faith and works are inseparable.  As wrong as it is for one person to say, “I have merely faith,” it is equally wrong for the other to say, “I have merely works.”  The two are inseparable.

Again, salvation is not a “faith-plus-works,” nor a “faith-minus-works,” but genuine living faith is a “faith that works.”  Faith alone saves, will be accompanied by works that show this faith to be genuine, saving faith.

Have you ever heard the expression, “Empty suit?”  An empty suit is a derogatory expression, a way to refer to someone who looks good on the outside – they’re dressed nicely – but they are empty on the inside.  If one person merely has good deeds, good works only, but no faith, then this is a person who may be good on the outside but has not been changed on the inside.  What we mean is that this person looks okay on the outside, but there’s a problem on the inside.  They are lacking something.

Applied to James’ teaching on faith, one person may say he is a Christian and another may say he has good works.  Truth is, both are necessary for genuine conversion to have taken place.  Otherwise we are making an empty claim.

We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.  But once we are “born again,” new creatures with new desires, we will live out the truth of our confession by doing the good works God has ordained for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

This is God Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Hebrews 4:16, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.”


The Uncertainty Of Tomorrow

Grace For The Journey


3AprBeginning the early part of March we encountered startling events that caused us to quickly realize that we are not in control of what happens to our lives and even with all the future plans we make we can’t count on carrying them out.  Our lives have been turned upside down.  Many have learned in these days that is God who is sovereign and not us.

Have you ever heard this phrase: “Man proposes, but God disposes?”  The phrase is centuries old, apparently occurring first in Thomas à Kempis’ 15th century classic, The Imitation of Christ.  And you will find it in a number of other places.  In fact, if you do a Google Image search on this phrase you will be directed to a photo, a 19th century oil-on-canvas painting by the English Painter Edwin Landseer.

In the painting Landseer depicts the aftermath of a ship lost in the arctic sea and the ensuing disappearance of 129 men, explorers who had sailed in 1864 in search for the Northwest Passage.  The ship and the men disappeared into the arctic ice.

The idea of this phrase is that man may plan the events or the course of his life, but the God who is sovereign will do as He believes best.  Even the JB Phillips paraphrase of the verses of our study contains this heading above the verses: “It is still true that man proposes, but God disposes.”  Here is how the Bible states it in James 4:13-17, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.  Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that. But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.  Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

God’s sovereignty precludes our presumption.  This really is at the heart of what James is teaching in these verses.  Most pressing on his mind is the presumptuous planning of Christian merchants, but his warning applies universally to all people in all times and in all situations:  God’s sovereignty precludes man’s presumption.  The Bible puts it this way in Proverbs 16:9, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

In today’s blog, let’s look at James’ text and examine it more closely, noting no fewer than three facts about life.

1) Life Consists of Uncertainty 

This first point is unmistakably present in the words of James.  He cautions: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit…”

James has in mind primarily Christian merchants or businessmen, men who travel and trade goods and services for profit.  We may picture a man unfurling a huge map, flattening it out on a table and pointing to various places of interest where he hopes to go in order to “buy and sell, and make a profit.”

On the surface there is nothing wrong with this kind of thinking and planning.  We all plan events and give thought to the days ahead in terms of what we will do or what we hope to accomplish.  There’s nothing wrong with having a day timer or using the calendars on our computers or smartphones.  In fact, because God is an orderly God, there is something of our mirroring our Creator when we plan our days and structure our lives.  Created in God’s image, our orderliness reflects the glory and grandeur of an orderly God.

Planning the future

Is not the problem.

What then is the problem?

Fundamentally, it is

The problem of presumption.

It is the brazen and arrogant way we may plan our days and events as though we were in charge of everything and that everything we plan will come to pass.

A key to understanding

What is wrong in verse 13

Is to consider not so much

What is said but

What is not said.

The key to understanding

What is wrong with

The speaker’s presumptive boast

In verse 13 is to

Consider what he leaves out

– Or better, who he leaves out.

How much of our own lives do we live or plan without giving so much as a thought to God’s plans?

When you read verse 13, do you see any reference at all to the One True and Living God?  No.  There is no mention of Him.  And lest we become too critical, how much of our own lives do we live or plan without giving so much as a thought to God’s plans?

The futility of presumptuous planning is especially proven by the next verse: “whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow…”

James sounds a bit like Solomon, when he writes in Proverbs 27:1, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.”

Who knows what tomorrow holds?  Life is full of uncertainties.  This truth can actually . . .

Liberate us from so much

Fretting about and

Losing our temper

When things don’t go “our” way.

Belief in the sovereignty of God –

That God is absolutely in control

And is overseeing all events

For His glory and our good

– Means we may rest assured

He is doing what is best.

The Christian can rest in knowing that God always does what is right, every single time without exception.

Frankly, the fact that we do not know what tomorrow holds is nothing short of a profound mercy of God.  I’m not sure I want to know the future!

Thankfully, God knows what we can handle and what we can’t handle.  He knows for our own good whether to give or to withhold a happy providence.  He also knows exactly when to unveil a trying or difficult circumstance meant to grow us and conform us to greater Christlikeness (Romans 8:28).  God knows best and always acts rightly.

Life consists of uncertainty.  The second fact of life:

2) Life is Characterized by Frailty.

This is such a humbling truth!  We are not as strong as we may think.  James asks and then answers a question worthy of sober reflection: “…For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a time and then vanishes away.”

The Greek word translated “vapor” here is an old word meaning “mist.”  It’s the word from which we get our English word “atmosphere.”  Our lives are like that misty steam rising from our morning cup of tea or coffee.  We see it but for a moment and then it is gone.

How foolish that we should speak

So presumptuously about

Our plans for the future

When our lives are so

Fragile, so fleeting, so frail.

This does not mean we are to live our lives dejectedly, consigning ourselves to the fatalism of a meaningless existence.  That is not what James is teaching!  Quite the contrary:

Created in God’s image

We have real

Meaning and purpose.

God has designed us

To live our lives

For His glory

And when we

Live for Him

We experience life

On the most

Joyous level possible.

James gives us what we ought to say instead of boasting of our self-made, self-determined plans.  Rather than saying, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit,” James argues, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’”

“If the Lord wills.”  That’s how we are to speak: “If the Lord wills, I will be alive tomorrow.”  This is sounds different than our normal response and it is pretty humbling too!   Someone invites you to go somewhere, imagine you reply: “If the Lord allows me to live.”  Sounds kind of morose, doesn’t it?!

I’m not sure that James actually means we are to say these exact words every time,

But . . .

I do believe He wants us to

Think this way every time.

We are to be thinking this way,

Deep down in our hearts,

Knowing that our lives

Are full of uncertainties.

We will only do this

Or that if the Lord permits.

The Apostle Paul thought this way.  We see evidence of it in his first letter to the Corinthians.  He writes, “I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills” (1 Corinthians 4:19), and, “I hope to stay awhile with you, if the Lord permits” (1 Corinthians 16:7).

This is a healthy and humbling way of thinking: “If the Lord permits” or, “Lord willing.”  Christians of earlier generations would often conclude their letters with something of their plans and then append the Latin phrase, “Deo Volente,” God permitting.

Our lives are characterized by so much uncertainty and frailty.  No one knows for certain what’s going to happen tomorrow or in the next few hours.  This truth takes us to the final fact of life:

3) Life Calls for Humility 

It is the obvious response.  The cure for presumptuous thinking, planning, and living is humility before God. James is saddened to hear of the lack of humility in his hearers: “But now you boast in your arrogance.  All such boasting is evil.”

Rather than saying, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that,” the arrogant, prideful, if even “successful” businessman boasts, “I’m going to go and do this or that and make a profit,” leaving God’s sovereignty entirely out of the equation.

James says in verse 16, “You boast in your arrogance” and, “All such boasting is evil.”  The man who does this is like the popular intinerant medicine peddler portrayed in old Western movies.  You know the character: he’s the fellow who has a cart full of various elixirs, nostrums, and potions.  He jumps up on a soapbox and begins to boast about how he can cure this and fix that.  And he can do nothing of the sort.  He’s a charlatan.

We are no different when we “boast in our arrogance,” and plan the business trip without bathing it in prayer, seeking contacts and profits without seeking God first, or preparing for a career without ever considering how God may be glorified in it.  “All such boasting,” warns James, “is evil.”

James concludes by saying, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”  He is addressing what is frequently called a sin of omission.   Most of us are aware of sins of commission – deliberate sins – doing of something we know to be wrong.

Sins of omission, on the other hand, are those occasions where we remain passive, leaving undone the things we ought to do.  Given the immediate context James is saying, “If you fail to humble yourselves and you continue to speak and act presumptuously, leaving God out of your thinking and planning, you have sinned.”

Life consists of uncertainty and is characterized by frailty.   Therefore, life calls for humility.

Let us conclude my blog by asking a practical question: “Given what James teaches in these verses, how can I practice humility this week?”

Consider three ways:

a) You are weak and fragile, so trust God with your life

Remember that you depend upon Him for everything.   Everything – food, clothing, shelter, rest, etc.

We are not in control

And don’t do the best job

When we are in charge

Our lives are a vapor, a mist, here for a moment and gone.  We must depend upon God for everything.

b) You don’t know everything, so trust God with your plans

Remember James warns: “You do not know what will happen tomorrow.”  Be humble: You don’t know everything. You don’t know the future.

God knows what we ca it.

Never forget that not knowing the future is as much a mercy of God as a mystery of God.  He knows for our own good whether to give or withhold information.  He is always working, growing us and conforming us to greater Christlikeness.  God knows best and always acts rightly.  So, don’t worry about the future and trust God with your plans.

c) You won’t live forever, so trust God with your soul.

This is a clear and blunt conclusion given James’ teaching in these verses.  Because our lives are like the evaporating steam rising from our morning tea or coffee, we ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live…”

Ultimately, God alone keeps us living.  Ultimately, God alone keeps us breathing.  How foolish we are if we do not trust Him with our soul and live for His glory.

I saw an image once in an online article that gripped me.  The story was about efforts to revive someone whose heart had stopped beating.  What struck me was the image: a couple of doctors or nurses standing over a man who was lying motionless on a gurney.  One of the doctors was holding defibrillator paddles above the patient as though he had just tried to shock the patient’s heart into beating again.

What was so gripping about the image was the look on the faces of the doctors as they stood over the patient.  They stood motionless, their eyes fastened to the heart monitor, waiting to see whether the man’s heart would start beating.  Their frozen posture indicated that they had done all that was humanly possible to revive the man.  There was nothing more they could do except watch to see whether the man’s heart would beat again.

That image is a vivid reminder that ultimately God alone keeps our hearts beating.  God alone keeps us living and breathing.

Many of us grew up praying a certain bedtime prayer.  The words have changed a bit over time.  We now teach children to pray it this way:

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep,

Guide me safely through the night,

and wake me with the morning light.

It’s not a bad prayer.  I used it myself when raising our girls. But as I’ve grown older, I have gained a greater appreciation for the prayer I was taught when I was small:

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep,

And If I die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my soul to take.

The purpose for changing the last two lines of the prayer was to make it seem less morbid.  But I think that the purpose for those lines is to remind us of the brevity of life and our accuntibility to God.  I think that prayer is more honest and more humble in its petition.  I believe it conveys a far better understanding of, and appreciation for, the God who is sovereign over the affairs of men – including His sovereignty over our very souls.  It is important to make plans to keep organized to keep us moving forward; but it is more important to understand that we are accountable to God and we must follow the plan in John 3:16 that He has laid out to prepare to stand before Him . . .

  • Realize how much He loves us (“For God so loved the world …”);
  • Recognize what His love caused Him to do (“… that He sent His only begotten Son …”);
  • Repent of our sin and turn to Him (“… that whosoever believes in Him …” – the word “believe” means: (1) To agree with God about your sin; and (2) look to Him as your only source of salvation;
  • Receive Jesus as your Savior and Lord – “… should not perish, but have eternal life” … “To as many as received Him to them gave He power to become children of God.”

That is the first step to trust your soul to God … and that decision will be the fuel to keep you trusting in and surrendering to Him.

This is God Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

 Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

2 Corinthians 4:7, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.”