Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Communicating with Wisdom: Part One

At this time, with the combination of increased stress, increased time at home, and increased distance from others, many of us may be more tempted to sin in the way we speak to each other. Communication is normally an area of great potential and great danger, and this is even more true in our current situation. The book of Proverbs gives a lot of instruction on this area of life. Building on one of my recent sermons (available here), I want to note a few points from Proverbs 15 on speaking and listening wisely.

This post is the first of three parts: (1) how to communicate with God, (2) how to listen to other people, (3) how to speak to other people. The governing principle in all three cases is humility. As Proverbs 15:33 says, “The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” God exalts the humble. Humility, rooted in the fear of the Lord, is the way of wisdom. Humility should govern our ears and tongues.

1. Humility teaches us to unite prayer with reverent attention to God's words
"The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD,
but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.
The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD,
but he loves him who pursues righteousness."
(Proverbs 15:8–9) 
"The LORD is far from the wicked,
but he hears the prayer of the righteous."
(Proverbs 15:29)
God does not listen to all prayers. His blessing is not automatic. Prayer without repentance is vain. Prayer without the fear of the Lord is repugnant to the Lord. To expect God to listen to you while refusing to listen to him is a perversion of prayer.

It is hypocritical to honor God with your words, but not with your life. It is disrespectful to expect things from God without listening to his word. It is selfish to pervert this relationship from one of love to one of mere gain. God desires obedience more than sacrifice and prayer (1 Sam. 15:22).

Wisdom warns in Proverbs 1 that those who ignore wisdom will be ignored by wisdom when calamity comes upon them, “Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me” (Proverbs 1:28). God said much the same thing through the prophets to the unrepentant who yet offered sacrifice and prayer. “When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood” (Isaiah 1:15). Several times in his first epistle, the apostle Peter even warned Christians that their prayers could be hindered by sin, such as the sins of reviling others and of mistreating one’s wife (1 Peter 3:7, 9-12; 4:7).

Acceptable prayer is united with the fear of the Lord in the heart. Acceptable prayer is united with careful attention to God’s written word and a pursuit of righteousness. Acceptable prayer is humble, with acknowledge of sin and gratitude for mercy.

Humility comes before honor. The Lord hears those who repent, that is, those who confess their sins, who seek pardon through Jesus Christ, and who pursue righteousness. Repentance does not atone for your sins, but God grants forgiveness for Christ’s sake to those who believe and repent.

So be reconciled with God through Jesus so that you and your prayers may be accepted. These proverbs contain a warning against presumption, but they also contain comfort to those who by God’s grace are the righteous. God looks to the humble and contrite in spirit. He is close to them and hears them. Their sacrifice of praise and prayers are acceptable to him through the intercession of Jesus Christ the righteous. God loves you and hears you!

Even if our whole country called out for God’s protection, if it was done without the fear of God, it would be an abomination to him. We all should call out for God’s protection, personally and corporately, but let us seek it with hearts that are responsive to his word, with humility, repentance, and renewed obedience.

Continued in parts two and three:
Communicating with Wisdom: Part Two
Communicating with Wisdom: Part Three

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