How to Make Wise Decisions

This is the fourth study in the series about Decisions: Seeking God’s Guidance:

Proverbs 3:1-26, the purpose is to help recognize the factors that make for a wise decision.

Although knowledge will help us in making decisions, it is even more critical that we choose wisely. Wisdom combines good judgment, knowledge, experience and understanding, but it is different than any of these.

What was created even before the world was founded? Proverbs 8:22-31, 3:19-20

What is a definition of wisdom? After listening to each other, how would you now change your answers?

  1. Accumulated philosophic or scientific learning (knowledge)
  2. Ability to discern inner qualities and relationships (insight)
  3. Good sense (judgment)
  4. Generally accepted belief
  5. The ability to see beneath the surface of things
  6. A wise attitude, belief, or course of action
  7. The teachings of the ancient wise men

What is wisdom? What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge?

The dictionary defines wisdom as “the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting.” This is a theme that is recurring throughout the Bible. We know that knowledge, on the other hand, is defined as having information through experience, reasoning or acquaintance. God wants us to have knowledge of him and what he expects of us. But equally important is having wisdom. Knowing facts about God and the Bible is not all there is to having wisdom.

Wisdom is a gift from God. James 1:5 says “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Wisdom is what God will bless us with in order for us to glorify Him with the knowledge we have of Him.

The book of Proverbs is perhaps the best book in the Bible to study when seeking to learn biblical wisdom. Proverbs 1:7 also clearly explains what it means to have biblical knowledge: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” When we fear the Lord, which is the most basic form of knowledge, God can then begin to provide us with wisdom through Jesus, whom the Bible says is wisdom itself. “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Knowledge is what is gathered over time through study of the Scriptures. It can be said that wisdom, in turn, reveals itself by acting upon that knowledge. In other words, knowledge manifesting itself in any given situation through wisdom. If one lacks knowledge, he will also lack wisdom. The two go hand-in-hand.

Who do you consider to be wise? How has his or her wisdom been demonstrated?

The book of Proverbs offers practical advice through poetry; short, pithy sayings; and vivid comparisons. The main point of the book is that we should always seek the wisdom of God.

1. This passage describes many benefits of wisdom. Which of them are most attractive to you?

2. According to Proverbs 3:1-12, what characterizes a wise decision?

Wise decisions consist of following wise teaching, being motivated by love and faithfulness, trusting in the Lord, going God’s way instead of our way, giving to God generously, and submitting to God’s discipline. A decision made on the basis of these criteria is promised to bring great reward.

3. Why is a commitment to “love and faithfulness” (Proverbs 3:3) important to making a wise decision?

A decision that is based on love and faithfulness is given the promise of winning favor with God and humanity. A decision that is NOT motivated by love and faithfulness will allow us to become self-serving.

4. Some people would argue that it is unwise to trust anyone but yourself. How would you answer them after reading Proverbs 3:5-8?

Proverbs 3:5-8 “are to Christ’s disciples what the wedding ceremony is to newlyweds. They spell out what is and is not to be done within the relationship. They set the terms of what it means to live with God at the outset of our commitment to Him and through every step of our pilgrimage. They are the ‘to have and to hold from this day forward’ of our marriage-covenant with God” (David Hubbard).

5. Why is it wise to “honor the Lord with your wealth” (Proverbs 3:9) instead of spending it on yourself? How have you done this?

The principle of firstfruits comes from Deuteronomy 26:1-15. It is the practice of giving God the first produce to ripen and be harvested. To give the firstfruits is an act of trust because the giver has no guarantee that the rest of the crop will actually be harvested. “Prosperity, gratitude, and charity are an indivisible triad of experiences in biblical thought, and notably in Proverbs” (Hubbard).

6. How do people today “despise the Lord’s discipline” (Proverbs 3:11)?

To “despise” and “reject” God’s discipline is the opposite of the trust that is spoken of in Proverbs 3:5-8. People despise discipline when they live in denial, make excuses or pass blame.

7. What role has God’s discipline played in making you wiser (Proverbs 3:11-12)?

8. What makes wisdom so valuable (Proverbs 3:13-17)?

Wisdom is valuable because it provides understanding, brings prosperity, lengthens a person’s life and gives peace.

9. How can you “embrace” wisdom (Proverbs 3:18)?

10. According to Proverbs 3:19-26, what can wisdom accomplish?

We know that our world is a fruit of God’s wisdom (Proverbs 3:19-20). Since we can clearly see what God’s wisdom has already accomplished, the author now assures us of what it can do for each of us personally. Wisdom will give us life, keep us safe, banish fear and build our confidence.

11. In what ways are you like and unlike the person described in Proverbs 3:2l-26?

12. What can you do to become more like the wise person pictured here?

13. What have these proverbs taught you about wisdom and how to find it?

Pray for godly wisdom in the decisions you face.

Now or Later: Read Jesus’ parable about wisdom and foolishness in Matthew 7:24-27.

The wise and foolish man both faced the same decision where and how to build a house-but they made very different choices.

  1. What factors do you think influenced their decision making process?
  2. Why are so many foundations built on sand?
  3. What does this parable teach you about making wise choices and avoiding foolish ones?

Open Bible Notes:

  • Proverbs 3:1-2 – The connection between keeping God’s commands and enjoying long life is supported by the fifth commandment (Exodus 20:12).
  • Proverbs 3:5-6 – These verses, worthy of being memorized, which sum up the biblical approach to life. Wisdom is not the result of mere human insight, but of learning God’s unchanging ways.
  • Proverbs 3:7 – Fear the LORD … depart from evil (see Job 1:1).
  • Proverbs 3:9 – To honor the LORD meant to give Him the portion of material goods that He required (Deuteronomy 26:1-2, 9-13). Firstfruits were the first items harvested, and often the best.
  • Proverbs 3:24-26 – Serving God saves us from many fears.
  • Proverbs 3:27-30 – The wise person does not delay payment. Delay may lead to misunderstanding and strife.

Warren Wiersbe:

Your heart (Proverbs 3:1-8). What you do with your heart determines what you do with your life (Proverbs 4:23).

  • Cultivate an obedient heart (Proverbs 3:1) that
  • Receives God’s Word (Proverbs 3:3, 2 Corinthians 3:1-3) and
  • A trusting heart that obeys (Proverbs 3:5-6).
  • Proverbs 3:5 does not suggest that you ignore your mind or common sense, but that you not lean only on them and reject God’s way.

Your possessions (Proverbs 3:9-20). Put God first in the way you use His wealth (Matthew 6:33) and major on the things that money cannot buy (Proverbs 3:13-18). When God corrects you, accept it as an evidence of His love (Hebrews 12:5-6).

Your conduct (Proverbs 3:21-26). Let every part of your body be controlled by God’s wisdom (Romans 12:1-2). Restful sleep is one of the tests of faith and true surrender to God (Psalm 4:8).

Your neighbors (Proverbs 3:27-35). If you want God’s blessing on your home, be a blessing to those around you. Share what you have and never plan evil against others (Romans 12:9-21).

Related Images:

The Revelation of God

These are notes from my reading John R. W. Stott’s classic book, The Cross of Christ.

Here we are to investigate how the cross was a word and a work. And we ought to listen attentively.

The Glory of God: According to John, Jesus referred to his death as a glorification, and event through which he and the Father would be supremely glorified or manifested. The Bible tells us that heaven and earth are filled with his glory. The flowers in the field had glory exceeding Solomon’s, God showed his glory in delivering the people from Egypt (Ps 19:1, Isaiah 6:3, Matthew 6:29).

We had a glimpse of his glory at the transfiguration, and was manifested in the miracles or signs. John tells us that we have seen his glory. The cross appeared to be shame, but it proved to be glory. The synoptic gospels tell us that suffering is the pathway to glory. His coming death was his hour of glorification:

  1. Some Greeks came to see Jesus, “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” and then talked about his death (John 12:23).
  2. Judas leaves the upper room, Jesus says, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him.” (John 13:31).
  3. In his high priestly prayer, Jesus says, “Father the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you” (John 17:1).

In the cross there is a clear and public demonstration of God’s justice (Romans 3:25-26) and his love (Romans 5:8).

The Justice of God: There is seeming injustice in God’s providence: Abraham’s plea with God over Sodom and Gomorrah, the entire book of Job, and Psalm 73 where evil people prosper.

Romans 3:21-26 – the reformers interpreted “a righteousness” to mean a righteous status which is of God; it is bestowed by him. We read about the sacrifice of atonement was to demonstrate God’s justice.

  1. The first look is to the past (all sins in the past had beforehand been unpunished, Romans 3:25), and it looks to the present and future (so as to be just and the one who justifies the man who has faith in Jesus, Romans 3:26).
  2. Why had he not judged sinners according to their works? Although self-restraint might postpone justice, he could not allow a backlog of sins to mount up indefinitely.
  3. The cross shows both his justice in judging sin and his mercy in justifying the sinner.

The Love of God: How can the horrors of the world be reconciled with the love of God? Why does he allow them?

  1. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us (1 John 3:16). Apart from Jesus, we know nothing about love.
  2. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10). The words, “live” and “propitiation” betray our severe need. Because of sin, we deserve to experience death and to die under the righteous anger of God. But Jesus bore the wrath instead of us.

God poured out his love (Romans 5:5) and he demonstrated his love (Romans 5:8).

  1. God gave his Son for us. He did not send another being or creature, but himself.
  2. God gave his Son to die for us. The incarnation was the beginning of his self-giving, having emptied himself, humbled himself and became obedient to death, on a cross.
  3. God gave his Son to die for us. For underserving sinners who have missed the mark.

Three marks of false love:

  1. Mark of limitation (something is withheld)
  2. Mark of control (someone is manipulated)
  3. Mark of detachment (we remain self-sufficient, unimpaired, and unhurt)

Three marks of authentic love:

  1. Characterized by limitless self-giving.
  2. Characterized by risk-taking with no guarantee of success.
  3. Characterized by vulnerability that is easily hurt.

Both the Father and the Son suffer the cost of their surrender, though differently:

  1. The Son suffers dying; the Father suffers the death of the Son.
  2. The grief of the Father is just as important as the death of the Son.
  3. The fatherlessness of the Son is matched by the sonlessness of the Father.

Is there more emphasis on God’s love over the cross? Is there repentance and salvation without the cross? Some stories illustrate God’s forgiving mercy and contain nothing about the need for an atoning sacrifice.

  1. Did Paul corrupt church dogma and make the cross necessary for salvation?
  2. Islam claims that the boy is saved without a Savior. The incarnation, the cross and the resurrection are all unnecessary. If God is truly great, he can forgive without all of these things.
    1. Parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector: one was justified (Luke 18:9-14)
    2. Parable of the unmerciful servant: the king freely forgave and cancelled the debt (Matthew 18:23-35)
    3. Parable of the Prodigal Son: welcomes him back and reinstates him (Luke 15:11-24)

Middle Eastern understanding: the prodigal was returning in disgrace. Punishment was inevitable. The father bears the suffering rather than inflicting it. The father ran (his age ran nowhere under any circumstances), cultural humiliation, taking on the shame. This is the humiliation of the incarnation and the shame of the cross on our behalf.

Wisdom and Foolishness of the Cross: (1 Corinthians 1:17-2:5) – Jews demand miraculous signs and the Greeks demand wisdom. We preach Christ crucified which is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. Paul came without a message of human wisdom, or his own strength. Instead he brought the foolish, revealed message of the cross. He had to overcome his own weakness, fear and trembling and relay on the power of the Holy Spirit.

Related Images:

A Desire to Be Wise

I believe that growing up in spiritual things involves growth in wisdom. It’s not just about being smart, but how your life experiences have taught lessons as well. It might help to define wisdom. The Holman Bible Dictionary tells us this:

Real Wisdom Is the Fear of God: Three basic definitions of wisdom summarize the status of the field of study very well. Note that the first two of these definitions are quite secular in nature while the third is religious.

  1. First, wisdom is considered by many to be simply the art of learning how to succeed in life. Apparently, ancient persons learned very early that there was an orderliness to the world in which they lived. They also learned that success and happiness came from living in accordance with that orderliness (Proverbs 22:17–24:22).
  2. Second, wisdom is considered by some to be a philosophical study of the essence of life. Certainly, much of the Books of Job and Ecclesiastes seem to deal with just such existential issues of life (see particularly Job 30:29-31).
  3. Third, though the other definitions might include this, it seems that the real essence of wisdom is spiritual, for life is more than just living by a set of rules and being rewarded in some physical manner. Undoubtedly, in this sense wisdom comes from God (Proverbs 2:6). Thus, though it will involve observation and instruction, it really begins with God and one’s faith in Him as Lord and Savior (Proverbs 1:7; Job 28:28).

When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. (1 Corinthians 2:13)

Everyone wants to be wise, yet here Paul taught the Corinthians that true wisdom or discernment requires the believer to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Because Satan’s greatest impact on us occurs when he deceives us, we need the Holy Spirit’s help. Spiritual discernment enables us to

  1. Draw conclusions based on God’s perspective
  2. Make wise decisions in difficult circumstances
  3. Recognize the activities of God’s Spirit
  4. Distinguish the correct and incorrect use of Scripture
  5. Identify and expose false teachers

Ask God to give you his discernment and wisdom as you serve him. Let that discernment guide you in your daily walk with Christ.

[print_link] [email_link]

Related Images:

The Wisdom, Goodness and Word of God

This is the first lesson for the New Beginnings Bible study class at King’s Grant Baptist. Our study in the book of James begins this weekend. It is a practical little book about Christianity in blue jeans. It helps us to see what a mature believer looks like and how that person lives in the world.

Here is a brief outline of chapter one:

The Wisdom of God (1–11). You need wisdom in trials so you will not waste your suffering and miss the spiritual growth that should result. When you trust God, trials work for you and not against you; but be sure your heart is wholly yielded to Him. If your heart and mind are divided, trials will tear you apart. I want to show this video in class this Sunday:

The Goodness of God (12–20). When you realize how good God is to you, you will have no interest in the temptations the enemy puts before you. When you are tempted, count your blessings; and you will soon have strength to say no.

Have you ever thought about how to change the world? Sometimes we wonder about any goodness in the world. Why do bad things happen to good people? The better question may be, “Why do any good things happen anybody?” We are the hands and feet of God, so if God is the giver of all good gifts (James 1:17), he can certainly work through us to bring it about. This video clip suggests that if we want to change the world, start with one random act of kindness (goodness):

The Word of God (21–27). The Word gives us spiritual birth (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:22–23). It is like seed planted in the heart that produces spiritual fruit (James 1:21). It is a mirror that helps us examine ourselves (James 1:23–25) and cleanse our lives. We must do the Word of God, not just read it or study it; the blessing is in the doing.

When we encounter God through his Word, lives are forever changed. When we read the words, we must allow them to abide in us and allow Christ to mold us into his image. Grace is the foundation of the gospel, getting something we can never earn and will never deserve. This clip shows how God’s Word, forgiveness and grace changed several generations of a family:

Here are “famous” verses we will encounter in this little book:

  1. “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” James 1:2
  2. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach.” James 1:5
  3. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” James 1:17
  4. “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19–20
  5. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” James 1:22
  6. “Faith without works is dead.” James 2:20
  7. “Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:2–3
  8. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6
  9. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:7
  10. “To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James 4:17
  11. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16

I hope to see you this Sunday in the Welcome Center.

[print_link]  [email_link]

Related Images:

Determining Destiny

One of the chief goals of parents is to help our children make good decisions. If we get that right, the children just might turn out OK. Anyone who is trapped in some sort of vice or addiction probably is not that good at making decisions. When it comes to following God versus walking my own path, while it may come down to commitment, there is also a decision making process that must be utilized.

Quotes:

One of life’s greatest tragedies is a person with a 10-by-12 capacity and a two-by-four soul. — Kenneth Hildebrand

God has created me to do him some definite service; he has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission. — John Henry Newman

Top 10 Ways to Make Good Decisions:

  1. Invite counsel from trusted people within your spiritual community.
  2. Let God reshape or amplify the desires in your heart.
  3. Look for your story inside of God’s story throughout the Bible.
  4. Pay attention to God’s still, small voice.
  5. When unsure or confused, wait for confirmation.
  6. Pursue the vision God has given until more comes.
  7. If God isn’t speaking, go back to # 1.
  8. Look for God to confirm His will in several ways.
  9. Capitalize on both the mistakes and the victories of the past.
  10. Listen constantly, trust unceasingly and act boldly.

Related Images:

Leadership and Wisdom

After the Word of God was growing and prevailing Ephesus (Acts 19:20) Paul decided that he needed to go to Jerusalem and then to Rome (Acts 19:21). While in Ephesus, the Emperor Claudius was poisoned and the Empire fell into the hands of a 16-year-old boy named Nero (in AD 54). It’s almost like Paul needed to witness to the new Emperor; maybe he thought it would be a great opportunity to change the Empire.

Paul was used by God in a mighty way and the enemy would not give up without a fight, so Paul encountered more trouble before he left Ephesus (Acts 19:21, 23). We are also told that Paul was again alone, having sent Erastus and Timothy into Macedonia (Acts 19:22).

It was normally the Jews causing Paul grief, but we read of two Gentile groups rising up against him: in Philippi (Acts 16:16-19) and here in Ephesus (Acts 19:23-41). It seems the gospel was a threat to the local idol making industry (Acts 19:24-25). Paul was hurting their trade and needed to be stopped; reasoning that he was robbing Artemis of her majesty (Acts 19:27). She was believed to be the daughter of Zeus and her temple was in Ephesus (one of the seven ancient wonders of the world). The silversmiths had made little statues in her likeness so I believe that these businessmen cared little about her majesty and more about their profits. The gospel and Paul were bad for business.

There was a town hall gathering in the theater in Ephesus and a couple believers are dragged to the meeting (Acts 19:29). Paul wanted to go there and speak to the crowd but his friends persuaded him not to go (Acts 19:30). Sometimes Paul had more passion and courage than sense. What I like here is that the disciples were not afraid to disagree with the apostle; Paul did not surround himself with yes-men and they had the freedom to speak their minds. Paul let the wisdom of others take priority over his own desires. He was not only a preacher and teacher but Paul was a good discussion leader (Acts 19:9). It is my observation that leaders who are afraid of others disagreeing with them leave little room for discussion. I am encouraged by leaders who do not think they always have to be right.

Not only did the friends of Paul not want him to go tho the theater, the city officials begged him not to go (Acts 19:31). Then the Jews got a man named Alexander to stir up the crowd chanting “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” for about two hours (Acts 19:34), which is an odd thing for the Jews to do… to encourage the practice of idolatry (Exodus 20:3-4).

A little history: the people believed that Artemis had fallen to earth in the form of a meteor, like a multibreasted woman, who was proclaimed as the patron deity of childbirth. After a little research, I discovered she was the goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth, virginity and young girls, bringing and relieving disease in women; often depicted as a huntress carrying a bow and arrows. I am still amazed at what people will believe; sort of like believing that we all evolved from primordial muck by chance over time. It takes more faith to believe this universe just happened by accident than to believe in a divine creation. The universe is way to complex for there not to be an Intelligent Designer behind it all. Paul brought the message that the Messiah came down from the Father who offers everlasting life to those who believe; a much more believable story than a goddess falling as a rock from space.

Application: How many men today have another man beside them to guide them along life’s journey? Men who will speak truth to them, to help them avoid danger and temptation? How many of us are as passionate as Paul, compelled with a mission that must be accomplished? How many of us who are in leadership are humble enough to listen to others? Are we ever strong enough to admit, and even confess, that we were wrong? To our employees, our wives, our children? Do you surround yourself with yes-men or those who will challenge you and speak the truth to you in love?

Related Images:

Run Away or Trust God?

Paul and Barnabas shared quite a lot together. Today I’ll write about two episodes on their journey with different outcomes.

When they arrived at Iconium, as usual, the two would first go to the local synagogue (Acts 14:1), where the norm is that the Jews would begin to poison the minds of the people to prevent the gospel message from entering the hearts of the people (Acts 14:2). But our missionaries were faithful and fearless, proclaiming the gospel boldly and even working miracles among the people (Acts 14:3). Then comes the real trouble.

In their boldness you would think they would make their stand and trust God to protect them, but they did the unexpected, they ran (Acts 14:5, 6). Could not God have done a miracle to protect His witnesses? They were already doing signs and wonders, what’s one more to keep the ministry going? They fled and preached elsewhere.

God made these two smart. They were not running out of fear but responding with wisdom (Proverbs 22:3). Even Jesus would elude people who meant Him harm (John 7:1), and slipped away when the crowd picked up stones to kill Him (John 8:59). No one would mistake what Jesus did for fear or cowardice. Jesus explains that His time had not yet come (John 7:30). There was a purpose for miracles back in the day:

  1. Miracles were more for authenticating the message of the gospel than for divine intervention.
  2. Miracles were often used when natural means were either not available or not conceivable.

When the disciples were hungry Jesus did not do a miracle but usually found something to eat. When they were thirsty they would go to a well and draw water. Today, whether God uses natural or supernatural means to deliver us from danger, both or divine provisions. If you have ever been attacked or injured and wonder why you were not delivered, there’s more to this story of Paul and Barnabas.

On to Lystra for the next episode. Sometimes we think that one good miracle would convince people of the truth and get right with God, but it can also have a negative effect (Acts 14:11). After one miracle the people declared Paul and Barnabas to be gods, which was not their desired outcome. Not only were these two men smart, they were also sincere. They immediately spoke up declaring themselves to be mere men (Acts 14:14, 15). They maintained their integrity and did not allow the crowd to elevate them. A big miracle about now might have been helpful, but the people decided to cast stones at them, leaving Paul for dead (Acts 14:19).

I can imagine that the face of Stephen came into Paul’s mind as he was being stoned to death (Acts 6:15). But Paul endured this hardship and so much more, crediting God for delivering him from them all (2 Timothy 3:10, 11). I would rather be delivered before the first stone rather than after the last one, but Paul describes both situations as God’s divine rescue.

Remember that God did not just want to get Paul out of difficulty or danger; He wanted Paul to draw closer to Himself. That is the point each time we are delivered from a difficult situation.

Application: How many times have you felt that God had abandoned you in your time of need or distress? Your prayers just hit the ceiling and God was so distant. Remember that He promises to walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death, not necessarily to deliver us from that danger (Psalm 23:4). Do you see the miraculous in everyday life? How lives and relationships can come back together? How believers can respond to evil with good? Do you see God’s direction and protection as you walk through this antagonistic world? God gives us His wisdom and His presence. Walking with God may not be easy, but it is definitely worth it.

Related Images:

Salted With Fire

This is part three of my Wednesday evening study on the Words of Jesus. Click on the following link for the first two lessons [ Go ] Remember to go to the bottom of the articles to use the “printer friendly” link if you want to print them.

The Heart of it All Today: Jesus speaks words of warning and comfort to his followers, that the life of faith would lead to persecution. They can find peace if they keep their minds fixed on eternity.

Key Term – World: Cosmos means the world and everything in it. Disciples are part of the kingdom of God so they will face hostility from the sinful world but will overcome.

Key Verse: (John 16:33) In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.

No one could accuse Jesus of sugar-coating the nature of discipleship; he was blunt in telling them what they were up against. “No good deed goes unpunished” will become a reality. This is not all ancient history because it happens all too often in modern times. Religious tolerance is not a reality, especially when it comes to followers of Christ.

Wise Doves (Matthew 10:16):

  1. Sheep – harmless among the harmful. Be wise and gentle. While snakes often symbolize evil, they also symbolize wisdom, shrewdness and cunning. A gentle dove without shrewdness is inadequately equipped, as is a snake without gentleness.
  2. Paul understood what Jesus is saying (1 Corinthians 14:20), “in regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.”
  3. Telling them they would be like sheep among wolves would likely cause many to turn away. His words are not for the crowds but for those seeking a challenge in life.

Eyes Wide Open (Matthew 10:17-20):

  1. Be on your guard: not to instill paranoia but to warn them that the life of faith brings dangers. Jesus warns not only of governmental persecution but from the apostles own religion, which was pretty cruel. Those called heretics were often those with the most devotion to God.
  2. Religious persecution, local councils: For Jews, a town of 120 or more adults would have a tribunal of three judges. Further up the ladder was a council of 23 judges, and the Jewish supreme court, which  had 71 members (the Sanhedrin and the High Priest). Local judges likely had the same hostility as the Sanhedrin had for Jesus.
  3. Secular persecution: These represent opportunities to witness to their faith. Faith grew as the faithful were persecuted.
  4. Don’t worry what you will say: Not that they should not give thought to what they will say, but don’t fret or agonize over it. Worry tears down the faith we seek to proclaim. God give us grace for every situation; but not future grace. He grants the grace in the moment we need it, to depend on him and not on ourselves.
  5. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit will guide them and Peter experienced it (Acts 8:4), which was a fulfillment of the promise in Acts 4:31.

Salted with Fire (Mark 9:49):

  1. Commentators agonize and debate the meaning here. Jesus just warned about leading other people to sin, and removing any causes of sin in our own lives (If you eye offend you, pluck it out – Mark 9:47-48). Since “everyone will be salted with fire” follows a warning about the fires of hell, we are tempted to see both fires as the same place. How can that apply to everyone (unless it means everyone in hell)?
  2. It appears that “everyone” means the followers of Jesus. The Jewish sacrifices were always rubbed with salt as a part of the ritual, salt being a symbol of purity and preservation. The disciples will be offering themselves as living sacrifices to the Lord (Romans 12:1-2) salted with fire, referring to the testing of persecution. Through the fires of suffering, they will emerge as seasoned believers.
  3. Fire is connected with sacrifice (Romans 12:1). Fire will test the quality of the work we leave behind (1 Corinthians 3:13) and Peter spoke of enduring a fiery ordeal (1 Peter 4:12).
  4. Persecution tends to purge the church of its weak and lukewarm members. Those who fell to persecution were not really that committed to begin with. In the Roman Empire, each wave of persecution brought about a stronger church. Indeed the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church (Tertullian, an early church father, AD 160-220).

Rejoicing in the Fire (Matthew 5:10-12):

  1. From the Beatitudes, we don’t like to think much about this one. Being persecuted meant being a part of an elite group of God people; holy men and women of old. There is a long chain of violent deaths. Moses was almost stoned to death on a couple of occasions, Elijah lived much of his life under a death sentence. The “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 is a disturbing yet inspiring list of God’s faithful (Hebrews 11:36-38).
  2. The early church knew that everyone who desired to live a godly life will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). Stephen understood the concept (Acts 7:52). Paul and Silas endured persecution and encouraged others to do the same (Romans 12:14). Even Peter mentions that if you suffer for what is right, you are blessed (1 Peter 3:13-14).
  3. Instead of fear, we are to rejoice and be glad; Luke adds “leap for joy (Luke 6:23). I think the focus is on the eternal reward, rather than the pain of suffering.
  4. Matthew uses the Greek term misthos, meaning reward; it is clear that he does not mean an earthly reward. Great is your reward in heaven can also mean, “great in the eyes of God.” Basically, mud thrown at you by the impure is a pledge of your purity.
  5. This world is not our home; our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20), so compared to heaven, what is the world worth?

Hating the Ambassador (John 15:19-23, Matthew 10:24-25):

  1. Those who hated Jesus will hate his followers, those who accept his teaching will also accept his followers. To hate one is to hate the other.
  2. Share the Master’s glory, they must also share his pain and humiliation. We are part of the same household and sharing is an important concept (Romans 8:17, 2 Corinthians 1:7).

Labor and Joy (John 16:20):

  1. John does not give us any parables, but this passage reveals a concrete situation from everyday life.
  2. John uses thlipsis, meaning more than pain, but great tribulation, where the Spirit is present as a counselor.
  3. No one will take away your joy, a great promise in the Bible. Faith will keep them strong as they carry on the mission of Jesus (2 Corinthians 6:10). Nothing will compare to the joy that is ahead (Romans 8:18, 1 Peter 4:13).

Victors, not Victims (John 16:33):

  1. Irony: Jesus’ suffering is about to take place, and what they will endure will be nothing compared to his. Thlipsis is tremendous suffering, intense anguish. “Trouble” is not a good translation.
  2. “Overcome” is nenikeka, the root being “victory.” The world sees them as victims but that is not true. People of faith are considered “otherworldly.”
  3. These same disciples who ran and hid after the crucifixion became fearless after they received the power of the Holy Spirit. They became more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). They knew the God is greater than anything in the world (1 John 4:4). and they have the promise given to overcomers (Revelation 2:7).

No Peace (Matthew 10:34-37):

  1. While Jesus promises inner peace, outer peace will not be easy to find. “Can’t we all just get along” brings a resounding “No.” Living under God’s rule causes problems with others. The government might leave you alone, but the family would harass the one who had left the Jewish faith. Tolerance is difficult when those in the family begin to think and act differently that the rest of us.
  2. There was the practice of disowning a family member who turned away from the faith (Psalm 55:12-13).
  3. Luke 14:26 seems even more harsh. Hating does not sound right. Disciples must be willing to endure separation from everything they find most dear to them. There is no room for lukewarm discipleship.

Standing Firm (Matthew 10:21-22):

  1. Betrayal by family members was pretty extreme. Faith can cause strife in a family, but Jesus goes farther and says that some will be so repulsed by the faith of a family member that they will be betrayed to death.
  2. “He who endures until the end will be saved” means that faith is about the whole life. Endurance is not easy, but it is worth it (Revelation 2:10, Hebrews 12:3).

Running with the Message (Matthew 10:23):

  1. The Jews had been persecuted for centuries and their teachers suffered greatly, but they did not abandon their faith. Jesus is telling them not to recklessly pursue martyrdom. Moving elsewhere to escape martyrdom is not wrong.
  2. Jesus seemed to run toward it in the crucifixion, but there were times were he avoided conflict (Matthew 12:14-15, John 8:59, 10:39).
  3. The early church understood, they scattered during persecution (Acts 8:1, 11:19).

The Only One Who Matters (Matthew 10:28):

  1. It seems that the “One” is Satan, but believers are instructed to resisted Satan, never to fear him (James 4:7, 1 Peter 5:9). The idea of Satan being the keeper of hell and determines who goes there is not found in the Bible. The One is God and we are not to fear humans, but only God.
  2. Why fear God, should we not love him? We are to do both. Fear is more showing reverence, not forgetting our fate ultimately rests in God’s hands.

Next week we will look at “I have set you an example” mastering the art of serving others.

Related Images: