• Introduction: Epistle reading for today from Ephesians 5:6-21 provided contrasts between wisdom and foolishness.  We want to be the people whom God inspired the Apostle Paul to write about.  In contrast, we don’t want to partner with the “sons of disobedience” as we heard from vv6-7.
    • We must have wisdom in order to not be deceived by empty words of deceivers who show up everywhere.  Believe it or not, there are more & more deceivers even in the pulpits of churches, and so it is harder for people to not get sucked into a deception that will rob them of eternal life with Christ.  How can we discern wisdom from foolishness, so that we are not deceived with empty words?
    • There were some very neat and coordinated readings appointed for this, the 12th Sunday after Pentecost.  Let’s take a look at some of the contrasts Paul made in Eph ch#5 in view of Pro 9:10.  I repeat v10 here from an original translation from the Greek - 10 A beginning of wisdom [is] fear of the Lord, and counsel of saints [is] understanding[1].
  • Let Us Pray:  Lord God, Heavenly Father, You exhorted us through the Apostle Paul us to not be deceived by empty words.  But Lord, how can we know empty words from truth?  You inspired King Solomon to write, a beginning of wisdom starts with a fear of the Lord, and counsel of the saints is understanding.  We ask that You send the Holy Spirit to open our ears to hear Your Word in its truth and purity, and then apply this word to our daily life.  We pray this, Heavenly Father, through Your Son Christ, and by the aid of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.  Amen.
  • Contrast #1: We start out with the first of three contrasts with the following - 6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
    • I hate being deceived by anyone at any time.  And yet, more experts in public seem to be downright fools! A person can be book-smart, but an absolute fool when it comes to discerning, for instance, whether there are only two biological sexes. Only a fool would deny there are differences between the two sexes.  God had His reasons for creating male and female, and specializing each for specific purposes.  Wisdom would tell us just by looking at each person here on today there are differences between us despite us being one in Christ.  We don’t have to read that out of a book to figure that out.  But believers in Christ have a fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom as our text from the OT Book of Proverbs instructed us.
      • We probably know people who feared their dad.  I’ve read stories where a person grew up with a dad in the household who was just plain mean.  It was tough to tell if there was any love in the man.  With that sort of reality about an earthly father, it is easy to see why it would be tough for a person with that background to perceive a Heavenly Father differently.  That person would fear God in the way they feared their earthly dad.  Please don’t leave here today perceiving your Heavenly Father is waiting to zap you the moment you screw something up.  That is not the kind of fear King Solomon was inspired to write about.  We should *not* fear our Heavenly Father to the point where we do not want to be in His presence.  We are His beloved children through the work of His one and only Son.  When we were baptized, we became a part of Jesus.  We also received the Holy Spirit who continues to work faith in our soul.  We therefore received a spirit of adoption as sons and daughters.  We aren’t sons and daughters who run away from our dad though. We are sons and daughters who respectfully call him “Father”.  The Holy Spirit continuously reminds us we are children of God.  And if we are His children, we are fellow heirs with Jesus. (Rom 8:12-17)
      • Now that it is sinking in about being one of the King’s kids, we should remember that we can screw up this perfect gift given to us by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  We shouldn’t fear God being mean to us, even when we are being disciplined.  Proper disciplining is to teach a lesson on right from wrong. Otherwise, how would anyone ever learn the difference between these two?  However, we should fear His authority over where we spend eternity.  Jesus was quoted by Matthew, one of His 12 disciples, 28And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (γεέννῃ)[2].  It is this sort of fear of God that we should have.  This fact that God has the power over sin, death, and the devil should be a constant and sobering reminder that, while Jesus did all of the work of salvation to save us from hell, we do hold the power of rejecting this gracious gift. We can sin against the Holy Spirit by telling Him to get lost when He testifies into our soul we need to knock off whatever sin we like doing.  Do you recall what happens when we sin against the Holy Spirit?  That is the *only* sin which we could commit that did not get nailed to the cross when Jesus shed His innocent blood for us.
      • God’s word is a balance between the Law which identifies what a sin is, and the Gospel, which reassures us those sins were pardoned through the sacrifice made by Jesus.  So, keep in mind our Heavenly Father considers us precious even though He could easily snuff out our life.  Just three verses later, after Jesus told us to fear He who can destroy both body and soul, we have these words from Jesus - 31 So do not fear; you are more valuable than a great number of sparrows[3].  Sparrows?! What does God’s love have to do with sparrows?  I sometimes confuse a sparrow with a hummingbird when looking out in our backyard, because the sparrows are so small.  And yet, Jesus made the point that even the sparrows do not fall to the ground apart from our Father in heaven.  The implication is if there is that much care and concern for a tiny sparrow, imagine the care and concern the Lord has for you and for me!
    • Getting back to the contrast in Eph 5:6, how are any of us supposed to know empty words when we see and hear them? 
  • The Apostle Paul provided a simple answer to this question in another of his inspired writings.  The question we should always ask of anything we read or hear: are the words in accordance with Jesus?  Listen to Paul’s words from Col 2:8-10 - See to it that there is no one who takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception in accordance with human tradition, in accordance with the elementary principles of the world, rather than in accordance with Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over every ruler and authority[4].  The entire 66 books of the Bible from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 is all about Jesus. How is it I can say that? Because, Jesus *is* the Word as the Apostle John pointed out at the beginning of his Gospel account.
  • Even so, the words of the Bible can become empty in our soul if those words are not put into practice (Mat 7:24-27).  Let me provide an example of empty words with which we can all identify. Politicians on both sides of the aisle come around each election cycle saying they are going to work towards the goals spelled out in their campaign, but once elected, we don’t see results. It would be fair to say those words communicated during a campaign are empty, because there are no actions behind them.  Let’s not make that same mistake in our relationship with our Lord.  If we say we love the Lord, let’s put His words into practice in our life.
  • Contrast #2: Our second contrast from Ephesians ch#5 is - 15So then, be careful how you walk, not as unwise people but as wise[5].  We walk carefully throughout our time in this Age by staying in the Word and putting the Word into practice as was just said.
    • Here’s something from the Septuagint version of Pro 9:6 – Forsake foolishness, and you shall live.  And seek discernment so that you spend life straight in understanding with knowledge[6].  Solomon was exhorting us by God’s inspiration to forsake our foolish ways, and then don’t deviate to the right or to the left from the discernment that the Lord provides in His Word.  Staying straight on course as provided by the Word will keep us from making foolish decisions, such as falling for the empty words of a get rich quick scheme that only leads to losing money.
      • We can be vulnerable to get rich quick schemes when we fall for the greed of being rich instead of being well provided for.  There are a lot of people chasing after things which do not last – pure foolishness!  Jesus cautioned us to store up treasures in heaven and not in this Age.  The treasures of this Age are subject to decay or theft (Mat 6:19-21).  The day is coming when everything of this Age will literally disintegrate on the Last Day; nothing will be left!  Why put all energy and effort into something that won’t last?
  • Contrast #3: Our last contrast from Ephesians ch#5 - 17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is[7].
    • Foolishness is to live as if there is no life after death.  We all had a beginning when we were conceived by our parents.  In contrast, we will have no end.  Yes, our body will die, but our soul will live on – forever!  The question that gets resolved in our time in this Age is where we will spend eternity.
    • Last week, we heard from Pastor Zill about eating the bread of life that came down from heaven and not dying.  The Word of God makes clear the bread Jesus referred to is faith in Him. We will eternally live with Him by having faith in Him given to us by the Holy Spirit.  It is the will of the Lord that we live with Him for eternity, and not perish in hell eternally with no way out of that torture.  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit came up with a plan even before the foundations of the earth were laid, to find a way for us to be reconciled to the Father.  They knew our first parents would screw up the perfection of creation.  That is why Jesus referred to Himself as the bread from heaven (John 6:51,57-58).  He provided the path to reconciliation with the Father through the redemption provided in Jesus’ flesh and blood.  It is faith in Jesus which makes true the words from our Gospel reading of today – the one who eats this bread will live forever.
      • In that plan drafted before anything of this Age was created, the Father was pleased that His entire essence dwelt in Jesus, and therefore through Jesus, the reconciliation of everything corrupted by sin would be accomplished. This reconciliation cost Jesus His life on the cross (Col 1:19-20).  There was no other way for us to have the hope of spending eternity with God.  It would take an action of God to redeem us from eternity in hell.
      • It therefore would be foolish to forsake the gift of redemption. Trust me, we do not want to hear the Lord ever say to us, “I never knew you; leave Me, you who practice lawlessness.[8]” The beginning of wisdom is a healthy fear of the Lord possibly saying that on Judgement Day.  Equally healthy is knowing that He went through a lot to assure that doesn’t happen to those who fear, love, and trust in Him above all things.
  • Call to Action: Our last quote from Ephesians ch#5 is not a contrast, but an exhortation - 19speak[ing] to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your hearts to the Lord[9].
    • Speaking to one another in this way is working at the second half of Pro 9:10 which I repeat here - A beginning of wisdom [is] fear of the Lord, and counsel of saints [is] understanding[10]. We have counsel of the saints each Sunday here at Christus Rex.  We share with one another the faith in the reading together a Psalm and singing of hymns.  I don’t know how to be routinely in the counsel of the saints unless regularly attending church and bible class.  It is in church where souls are most likely to be refreshed. Pro 9:10 doesn’t diminish the importance of personal, daily devotions.  We grow in the Word by doing that.  But, it is important to also be in the assembly of the saints.
      • Paul addressed this concept again in Col 3:16 - 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God[11].  How does that wisdom grow without being in God’s word regularly?  We all need to ask ourselves whether we would be thankful to God if we didn’t regularly hear about the gifts He has provided for us.
  • James, half-brother of Jesus, wrote by inspiration - But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him[12].  We ask for wisdom, and the Lord in His word of Jas 1:5 promised to provide it.  It is that simple, but if we ask, we shouldn’t doubt whether God will provide or not.  If something is in God’s word like this, it’s as good as guaranteed to happen. 
    • As a child of God, we should speak like a child of God. Speaking like one of the King’s kids will sound like words not taught from human wisdom, but words taught by the Holy Spirit (1Co 2:13).  Contrast that wisdom with listening, for example, to news reports in various media.  As a child of God, I’m sure it is clear when someone is merely blowing smoke (ie. speaking human wisdom) versus actually saying something of substance.  If that turns you off when new anchors do that to you, it’s a good idea to stop blowing smoke to others.  Nobody who listens to the Lord in wisdom is fooled by cheap talk.
    • Let’s turn ourselves away from cheap talk and conduct ourselves as children of God.  Remember something said earlier in this message?  It’s not just the hearing of the Word; it’s also putting the Word into practice.  Later in James’ Epistle, he exhorted us to - …show by his good behavior [our] deeds in the gentleness of wisdom[13].  10A beginning of wisdom [is] fear of the Lord, and counsel of saints [is] understanding.  Ask the Lord for this wisdom and He will grant a measure of His wisdom.  I can assure you there will be plenty of wisdom for you to share with others in both your words and deeds. Amen.


 


[1] Original translation from the Greek of the Septuagint as presented at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/pro/9/1/s_637001

[2] Mat 10:28 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+10&version=NASB

[3] Mat 10:31, IBID

[4] Col 2:8-10 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=col+2&version=NASB

[5] Eph 5:15 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=eph+5&version=NASB

[6] Original translation from the Greek as found at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/pro/9/1/t_conc_637006

[7] Eph 5:17 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=eph+5&version=NASB

[8] Mat 7:23b from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+7&version=NASB

[9] Eph 5:19 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=eph+5&version=NASB

[10] Pro 9:10 from an original translation as noted earlier; emphasis is that of the translator

[11] Col 3:16 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=col+3&version=NASB

[12] Jas 1:5 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=james+1&version=NASB

[13] Jas 3:13b from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=james+3&version=NASB