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Reverend Anthony R. Locke January 16th, 2010 www.FirstPresTucker.org
at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker
Our Christian Commitments
English Standard Version
1 My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, 2 for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. 3 Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. 7 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. 8 It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. 9 Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; 10 then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. 11 My son, do not despise the LORD‟s discipline or be weary of his reproof, 1 12 for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. This last week there was an article in the Wall Street Journal which described the sort of life that Chinese parents require of their children. The story has a long title, Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior -- Can a regimen of no playdates, no TV, no computer games and hours of music practice create happy kids? And what happens when they fight back? American Ivy League schools have to put limits on the number of Chinese students they will accept because the Chinese applicants can run rings around everybody else. What are these Chinese parents doing to produce math whizzes and music prodigies? “Well”, writes Amy Chua, "I can tell you because I've done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do: attend a sleepover, have a playdate, be in a school play, complain about not being in a school play, watch TV or play computer games, choose their own extracurricular activities, get any grade less than an A, not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama, play any instrument other than the piano or violin, not play the piano or violin. Each society establishes a culture in which children are raised. Right now the Chinese culture is very regimented and disciplined which is turning out one success story after another. Most American parents feel the need to get back to strong disciplines, within the home, that will put our children back on the pathway to academic success. We need to strengthen our home culture for the sake of the next generation. As Christians we need to strengthen our church culture too. The Ten Commandments are not the Ten Suggestions. God‟s holiness is more than a nice moral example for people to consider. If we are to excel in our faith then we must become more disciplined.
1 The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
This world is not helping us feel the need to be strongly committed. From the world‟s point of view, being good is good enough to get us into the pearly gates. We may not be perfect, but we are probably better than most. If we follow our heart and try to live by the Golden Rule, then certainly we will be good enough to get into a blessed afterlife. And God is waving His arms to get our attention. God allows earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, economic and political turmoil to force society to consider more sober things.
God wants us to listen to His Superior Parenting counsel. God desires for us to adopt His family culture and live a rigorous Christian Life that will guarantee our success.
Proverbs 3:1 opens with, “my Son . . .” God is not sending commandments from a distance. God is taking us up in His arms, He is holding us close, kissing our neck, and with a heart that only wants our best God explains how to live for His glory. And every time God speaks we need to listen. If we hear a word from God about how to live then we need to never forget it. We have got to remember what God tell us. Better yet, we need to become like the person who spoke these divine words. We need to become holy as God is holy. We should let God‟s word enter our heart and transform our soul to reflect God Himself. I remember some quotes my dad said. One of my favorites is that, “I can‟t feel my way into a new set of thinking, but I can think my way into a new set of feelings.” Good advise for a young man. But the goodness of the person who gave me that counsel has affected me so much more. We need to get to know God on that level so that His person can transform our soul. Verse 2 is the intentions of God‟s heart. It is a promise. Promises always follow commands. God will bless us with many years. We will see our children‟s - children‟s children. Jenn has a wonderful picture from last year‟s Mother-Daughter banquet with her grandmother, her mom, herself and Madison. Four generations. But seeing our children grow up isn‟t always a joyful experience. But if we saturate our life with God‟s counsel, then we are promised that we will be at peace regardless of our circumstances. Proverbs 3:3 is another divine command to help us establish God‟s Christian culture. The virtues of steadfast love and faithfulness which come from God are to become apart of us— outwardly in our behavior for all to see as an adornment of spiritual beauty, and inwardly as the subject of our meditation. This is the foundation for our relationship with God as outlined in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. And if these virtues of steadfast love and faithfulness are part of our life then we gain the confidence that we are in the New Covenant and have salvation.
Jeremiah 31:33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, „Know the LORD,‟ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. Proverbs says that we need to bind God‟s commandments around your neck and write them on the tablet of your heart. Verse 4 is another promise. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. The Triune God is the society which creates a culture of holiness and then explains how we can become apart of it. Jesus lived in human flesh and showed us how to take God‟s words and live by them to our greatest enjoyment of the creation and the creator. Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. You see, Godliness is profitable for all things. Like submitting to the strong parenting of a Chinese mom, we need to agree to let God tell us how to live so that we can excel like Jesus. 1 Timothy 4:8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. Holiness will keep us out of danger in our career, will keep our marriage healthy, will keep our finances straight and will keep our soul safe from Hell itself. Matthew 16:26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Don‟t trust the lies from this world about how to get ahead, how to prioritize your time, how to invest your talents or spend your treasure. Even when the counsel sounds good it‟s coming out of the mouth of a serpent. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Do you believe this? Really? Does this ring true in your soul? Can you see the benefits that will beautify your life if you let God be your coach, your guide, and your loving parent? Maybe you can‟t see the benefits of obeying God like most young people can‟t see the benefits of obeying a strict parent. But over time you will reap the rewards if you will trust Him. Your culture will not encourage you to listen to God‟s counsel. American culture teaches that the center of all knowledge and wisdom for life comes from your own heart. “You have to follow your heart. Listen to your heart. Obey your heart. Let your heart take you where you need to go.” There are some satirical YouTube videos that poke fun at this ubiquitous worldly counsel. Fallen humanity can be convinced so easily that we can guide our life into eternal bliss by listening to our own counsel coming out of our heart. Psychologists call this self-talk. It‟s Jiminy Cricket telling us to let our conscience be our guide.
This is the false Gospel of the Golden Rule. The world tells us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. So who informs us how treated others? We do. Our heart instructs us how to love. Sound good enough? The world thinks so. But the Bible has a higher standard. We must treat others as Jesus did with sacrificial love that turns the other check, walks the second mile, and gives up our coat also. The world will pat you on the back and say, “The Golden Rule is good enough.” Well, not in the culture God sets for the Christian Life. God has higher standards with amazing promises! Said succinctly in verse 7, Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. Diminish the respect you have for your own counsel. Your conscience is not your guide for a holy life. Your heart is not the rudder to steer the ship. Fix your eyes on Jesus who is the author of life itself. Have respect for His opinions. Be in awe of His commandments. Show by your actions that you place a high value on God‟s words for life. Verse 8 is another promise. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Many people feel like their bones are waxing old because they followed their heart and entered into sinful life choices that are eating them up on the inside. King David wrote a Psalm that explains how heartbreak follows sinful choices. Psalm 32 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. 3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. King David offers the solution to life regrets. 5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. God is not asking us to fix ourselves. God is calling us to submit our life to His culture of Christian disciplines and commitments which will lead us into His blessings. Verse 9 is more instruction from God about how to live. Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; Verse 10 we get another promise. 10 then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. Our heavenly Father is speaking soft words of love. God says, My son, do not despise the LORD‟s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. God sets a culture of godliness and holiness to lead us on a path to spiritual success, to attain the promises and heavenly glory with Jesus. We need to submit to God‟s culture for the Christian Life. We need to listen to His counsel and obey His commands. The Christian Life isn‟t a set of rule to beat others over the head. It isn‟t a call to perfection. It is an invitation to know the Father through Jesus the Son and be transformed. God delights in His children and only wants what‟s best for us. Let‟s trust Him and recommit our hearts to the Lord in 2011 for the glory of God. Thanks be to God.