Closing the Gap – Week 46 Notes

By November 18, 2018 Sermon Notes
  1. Intro:

In Proverbs wisdom is personified as a woman…she stands on the corners calling out to people who pass by but the market is noisy and crowded and there are many competing voices…who to believe? Who to listen to?

Many heed the loud voices of folly and some the voice of wisdom.

And the consequences are huge for which choice is made.

Because the consequences of the choices made in the marketplace of wisdom and folly impact the very courses of our lives.

So…A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy. Prov. 29:1

There are not unlimited chances to heed the voice of wisdom.

Its a frightening verse, but one that has proven true over and over.

But then there is the promise of heeding the voice of wisdom…

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. (Prov. 2:1-11)

That sounds really good…but there is a conditional “if”.

If you accept, store up, apply your heart, call out, cry out, search for wisdom like treasure…then…you will experience all the abundance that wisdom brings into your life.

This contrast between heeding the voice of wisdom or the voice of folly and the results that follow each of these…tells the story of human history.

And they will largely tell each of our own individual stories as well.

How your life and mine turns out is not mostly dependent on forces outside our control.

Yes God is sovereign over human affairs, including our individual lives…but he has said over and over to people everywhere…”Choose…to hear, obey and love…my will and my ways.”

If you do, he says, then the results will be “my kind of life…my blessings.”

The Bible and human history begin with life as it was intended.

Abundant and fulfilling life with one another and with God…a garden existence…that became a desert existence…because the first couple did not heed to wisdom.

After the first couple were wise in their own eyes rather than listen to God…disaster quickly followed and the first main section of Genesis ends with humanity broken and scattered by God at Babylon.

The second part of Genesis is the story of God selecting a single man, Abraham through whom he promises to bless the world.

God renews his promise to each generation…Isaac, Jacob, and then sons…most prominent among them was Joseph.

The book of Exodus picks up with the people of God in Egypt and a murderous tyrant enslaving the people and killing children.

God rescues the people through Moses and takes them to Sinai where Moses encounters God and receives the Law covenant…here they truly become a nation, with laws.

Eventually they will become a nation with land.

“If” (this is a conditional promise) the people of God follow the will and ways of God(listen and obey)…then they will experience him in abundance as will the entire world through them…they were to be a missional people.

The people do not hear & obey…over and over they go their own way…refusing to heed the warnings of God and his representative, Moses.

An entire generation dies in the wilderness, including eventually Moses himself…who before he dies gives them a final speech (found in Deuteronomy) that tells the people to hear and love and obey God.

The centerpiece of his speech is called the “Shema”

Shema: (Hebrew word for “listen” “hear”)

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Deut. 6:4,5

Jewish people have prayed this prayer morning and evening for thousands of years

We recognize in it, what Jesus said is the greatest commandment.

“Hear” shema…is more than merely “let sound waves vibrate your eardrums”

*Pay attention, focus on, and then respond to.

…Because loving God with all your being shows up in obedience to God’s will and ways.

*Many Psalms begin with asking God to “listen” “Shema”…but they want God to respond…not just to hear.

“Hear my prayer” means we are asking God to take action…not just to listen to our words.

At Mt. Sinai God told his people

Now if you (shema) translated=obey, me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. (Ex. 19:5)

In the Hebrew it is “shema, shema” “If you listen closely”

Here, “listen” is translated “obey” because they are flip sides of the same coin.

“Listen is the same as keeping the covenant…listen and obey”

In ancient Hebrew there was no separate word for “obey”…it was included in “hear”

I will listen and do what you say because I respect and love you…so you use the single word “Shema”

So the prophets would say “They have ears but they are not listening…or they would act differently.”

To hear is to obey…to obey is to love…to love is to hear and obey.

So there is a circle

Let’s press on and see how they do not “hear” and obey…and what the cost was.

Joshua, the new Moses leads the people into Canaan, a land filled with vile practices including the widespread evil of child sacrifice.

Joshua’s final words after leading them for so long was in the form of two speeches:

  1. Obey the will and ways of God and you will the experience life and blessing of God.
  2. If not, then you will experience the judgment of the Canaanites…loss of nation, loss of land.

They did not hear ad obey and what followed was a terrible time of becoming just like the people around them…and experiencing anything but the abundant life of God.

After a terrible series of sin/repent/recovery cycles the people cry out for a King…which is a bad idea but God tells Samuel…”Let them have one.”

They collectively are still refusing to “listen”…they are wise in their own eyes…with no reason to be.

In fact the central point of the book of Judges is that “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”…this did not go well for them.

When you already believe you are “right” why would you listen to God or anyone else?

They get a king named Saul who begins with promise, God’s spirit moved on him early on and he spoke like a prophet with God’s unction.

But he has deep character flaws.

-Dishonest

-Insecure

-He trusts himself…not like a good leader does…but as in, a bad leader who doesn’t receive wisdom from others.

He will not listen to Samuel (the very one God used to select him)…if he had, he would have thrived as a King and his people would have thrived under his leadership.

Finally after continually doing things his own way…being wise in his own eyes…not listening.

He descends into madness and eventually is wounded in battle and kills himself with his own sword.

Horrible end to a once promising life.

This story of refusing to heed God’s warning and encouragement continues all the way through the OT eventually leading to the widespread destruction and dispersal of the people.

The unconditional Covenant promise of God given to Abraham remains intact through all this…God intends to reach people…in spite of people.

He brings his people back to the land and more importantly brings the Messiah, Jesus from the line of Abraham.

But the people consistently failed to experience the conditional promises of God…his blessed life. A life of human thriving under God’s blessings

Because they would not listen (hear and obey) and love God.

1Cor. 10:11 These things happened(speaking about Moses and Israel…but has wider application to all the OT) to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.

Saul is a warning story: it’s crucial that we reflect on our own flaws and we must listen to others as God tries to help us and speak to us through them.

That as we humble ourselves and deal with the truth of who we are…we can experience the blessing of living in wisdom.

Believer: you will experience the unconditional promise of God…you will experience eternal life.

 *But you may or may not experience the conditional blessings of God now…you and I must seek to close the gap on faith and love…we must listen and obey.

You might say…”I listen to God just not to others.”

Well God has said…we are to listen to others…so to not listen to others, it to not listen to God.

To say you only need God not others is not confidence in God’s ability to speak, it is over confidence in your ability to hear.

Indeed when you read the Scriptures you are listening to others, others who heard and wrote down the word of God.

Today we are in the 7th and final week of the essential biblical heart attitudes that shape our church. 

Today we are looking at “Give and Receive Scriptural Correction.”

This week we start with “Hear and Love God”…before we go to “giving and receiving scriptural correction.”

Because this is a heart attitude that is to flow from faith and love in God and love for others.

What makes this “give and receive correction” a heart attitude and not merely a series of actions…is that in order for the acts of doing this to have transformational impact on us and others.

…It must flow from transformed relationships…with God first and then others.

It flows from a heart that is relationship with God and with others…relationships changed by the gospel.

From this place of relationship and love…we are positioned to give and receive correction that is experienced as blessings not beatings.

Listen to wisdom calling out to us…listen specifically for the role of giving and receiving correction…listen as she calls out to us.

READERS:

Matt. 18:15   “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.

Prov. 27:6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

Prov. 19:8 He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who cherishes understanding prospers.

Heb. 3:12-13   See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

Prov. 13:18 He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.

Prov. 15:10 Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path; he who hates correction will die.

Prov. 15:32 He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.

Eph. 4:14-15   Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

Prov. 12:1   Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.

God speaks to us directly from his word…and very, very often through his word (directly or in principle) spoken and lived through his people.

Since hearing and heeding the voice of wisdom is crucial to a well-lived life, a life of thriving…then we must close the gap on becoming people who love wisdom…even when it doesn’t feel good…or is hard to hear…ESPECIALLY THEN.

We want to be people who make it easy for others to tell us the truth and easy for others to hear the truth from us.

We are going to proceed by asking and answering three Questions (personalize these)

  1. Will I (am I) move decisively and consistently towards what is actually real and true about me and my life?

Do I more and more love truth regardless of what it says?

*A 69 year old professional motivational speaker from the Netherlands has petitioned the courts to change his legal age to 49:

-He says he has trouble getting younger women to want to give him a chance on online dating services…because he lists his age.

-He says he feels younger…and the doctor says he has the health of a 49 year old. (whatever that means, many 49 year olds are very unhealthy, so which 49 year old does he have the health of…actually he has the health of a specific 69 year old…himself.)

-The judge is going to hear the case.

We could get diverted talking about this and similar situations…my point in bringing it up is that we live in an age (world-wide culture) that believes you can create your own reality.

The Greatest Showman: The song “A Million Dreams” could be the theme song for our time: “We can live in a world that we design”

If this were about (and in the show it largely is) effort, vision, and perseverance leading to good results…I would concur

…but in human culture it largely means people would rather live in a pleasant unreality than an unpleasant reality.

However unreality will always and forever prove to be unpleasant in the end…reality always wins in the end.

God has designed reality and he only lives there…we want to live there as well.

Prov. 19:8 He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who cherishes understanding prospers.

Prov. 13:18 He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.

Prov. 15:32 He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.

The problem with the question “Will I move towards what is true”…is that it is sort of like…”So if you really don’t want to know what is true about your life, would you want to know that?”

People who are not open to correction are, of course, not open to correction about not being open to correction.

But I am assuming that all of us…at least at some level…want to know truth, even difficult truth or we would not be here.

So…the point of the question is really to try and move us together in our hearts from a sort of grudging acceptance of truth…

…To being people with hearts like the “”wisdom treasure seeker of Proverbs…we want to close the gap on this.

That we go about seeking truth in our lives…with the kind of vigor and enthusiasm of someone on the hunt for treasure.

Not truth as mere information…but real truth about where we are and where we need to be.

This is not unrealistic but it does require ongoing perspective alignment…for most of us…a transformation of our internal orientations.

Our orientation is very often towards image management and self-protection.

God wants to orient us away from image management and self-protection to “his glory” and “love and trust” as or life orientation.

Maurice: Friend who had clear symptoms of a physical illness, in fact when I saw him after some months of not seeing him I was shocked by his appearance.

By the time he finally went to a doctor, it was too late…he died soon after.

If he had gone and embraced the reality of his condition earlier he would have very likely survived and lived a long life.

I know this is a negative example…but another way of expressing it is:

“My friend had the opportunity to literally experience life…physically life…if he had pursued truth about his life.”

So…Question again…What needs to happen inside you…to move you from image management and self-protection to closing the gap on being a wisdom/truth treasure seeker?

  1. Do I see this movement towards truth as a movement toward faith and love?

Last week I met with the man who is my new “boss” in the Air National Guard. I asked him my list of questions and then I said, “Okay now my most important one.”

“Tell me the questions I would be asking if I knew enough to ask them, them answer them for me.”

The information that followed was really important…in fact it will likely keep me from making some crucial mistakes .

But more importantly, I needed to know this information in order to actually help people…my assumptions were wrong before he gave me wisdom.

That correction wasn’t hard to hear…because it wasn’t a correction of my attitude or my choices(more personal things)…it was a knowledge correction…information.

The same week Christy offered me a perspective and action correction (much more personal in nature)

I disagreed with her perspective…and I argued persuasively (so I thought) in favor of my position. (She wasn’t persuaded, but she remained kind)

About an hour later…I decided I should practice what I am going to preach and trust her not myself on this…though I did think I was right.

I really didn’t do this to get a good story for this morning….I was under conviction about my heart.

I made a phone call, had a conversation in line with Christy’s perspective(not mine)…and wait for it…she was right, I was wrong.

But I had argued persuasively in favor of a faulty position.

Truth is independent of who can verbally win the argument…don’t think because you have a quick tongue…it means you are right.

Also don’t think because you are very emotionally charged about something you are right…truth is also independent of the amount of emotions you feel.

I don’t love to be corrected…I do love the results of having been corrected (and responding) and them experiencing life inside the realm of truth.

What followed “Christy being right and me being wrong”…was pleasant, it was good for me…and for the other person involved.

Whether it is going to a doctor to correct my health.

-Or a friend helping me see things in my life that need to be corrected that result in being better positioned to love God and others…it is a good thing

When I am corrected I can feel defensive and sometimes act that way as well.

Correction can initiate the fight or flight response…we can feel it physically (adrenaline, cortisol, epinephrine flowing in our blood)…we get hot, face flushes, heartbeat rises

For some it brings back bad memories of having been corrected (maybe in harmful ways) as a child or by boss of spouse…these memories flood the brain and make it hard to respond well.

But we are not animals; we bear the image of God.

We can train our minds, hearts, over time…even our physical responses to “hear” what God might be saying to us through one another.

If it is wrong, or mostly wrong…OK, let it go…if it is right, or partially right…then thanks be to God for helping me close the gap.

Prov. 12:1  Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.

Discipline here, is specifically Instruction aimed at correcting behavior.

And stupid is not a derogatory term it is a descriptive one…a word used to describe an animal.

The mule hates correction…but eventually it will do what you want because of a hatred of being disciplined…not because it learns to love you.

The mule never comes to the conclusion “My owner really just wants me to be a better mule…close the gap on where I am and where I could be.”

The mule just hates correction so they respond accordingly.

They are brute beasts…we are image bearers of God.

In his great mercy he does not leave us alone…he loves me so he corrects me…he loves me so he corrects me through others.

We should conclude…that correction is love…and learn to respond accordingly.

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? (Hebrews 12:7)

The implication is that the wise son knows that discipline/correction is love.

The writer goes on in verse 8 to say “If God doesn’t correct you, then you are not his child”

The wise person…learns to love discipline because they know it leads to truth, understanding about myself and my life.

It is critical that in order to love God and others well…we must grow, we must change.

To close the gap on faith and love…we must understand that there is a gap between where we are now and where God wants us.

We may “freak” out when someone points out areas that reveal we are not perfect…this is because we are proud and insecure.

But of course we aren’t perfect…we are all closing the gap…so we want to learn to love truth.

The people of God who prospered…heard God and his spokespeople…even when it was “bad news”

To hear what you do not want to hear and to respond…that is wisdom.

Loving correction means that we love God and truth and others so we respond to it…it doesn’t mean we have to become people for whom correction “feels good.”

That’s not the goal.

Will I see God’s correction…whomever he brings it through…as an invitation to his good life?

Not as a threat but as a gift.

  1. Will I become a person (am I becoming) who makes it easy for people to hear truth from me?

Eph. 4:14-15   Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

Prov. 27:6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

This doesn’t mean that a friend intends to wound you or enjoys wounding you.

But that the friend loves enough to tell the truth when it is in your best interests to do so.

The enemy, tells you what you want them to tell you…they have an agenda for you…a selfish one.

The friend tells you what is good for you to hear…even when it is hard for them to do so…they have a love for you.

*Important: Do not require that others are perfect in their presentation or words…we are responsible to make it easy for others to hear…we are also responsible to make it easy for others to speak truth to us.

Hear their hearts…even if they are not perfect in their words or presentation.

Its not easy to offer correction…or at least it should not be.

True prophets tended to hate their jobs…they did not enjoy speaking of God’s correction on his people…but they did it…out of love for God and others.

*Jeremiah is the best but not only example of this.

False prophets loved their jobs…they told people what they wanted to hear and were rewarded and celebrated for it…never mind that it harmed the lives of people.

*See the book of Jeremiah for this as well.

If you enjoy correcting others…then please don’t.

Let God use someone else do it.

It is our responsibility to make it easy for people to receive correction from us.

In fact, most often when friends have corrected me…they have done so in a way that barely feels like correction.

Last week I said something that was “honest but kind of dumb” to my friend Earnest…he smiled at me, expressed his love for me and said some kind, understanding and visionary words.

I did not feel beat up…but in fact…I desired his perspective over mine…his seemed better to me because it was better.

Did he correct me?

Yes…but how?

By communicating and demonstrating a better way…

I was driving in the ditch in my thinking, his thinking was on the road…it looked better, it was better.

Heb. 3:12-13   See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

To encourage others…to pour courage into them…at times involves correction.

It need not feel like a beating…it should most often be in the form of a compelling vision…we want something better for others.

We want them to live God’s blessed life…this requires living in the truth.

Conclusion:

There are many questions and angles this topic could take us to.

But I think we get the point…It is a heart attitude, something that we are to spend our lives closing the gap on.

Wrap up with this…some ongoing heart diagnostics:

  1. Am I becoming over time a person who makes it easy for people to tell me the truth?
  2. Am I becoming over time a person who makes it easy for people to hear the truth from me?
  3. Am I becoming over time a person who genuinely loves truth about myself…even it I don’t like the way it feels?

Some say they love truth, but they mean cognitive information: Bible facts…because this is no threat to their pride and insecurity.

*Not always, but often when people want “more in depth bible study”

-They mean more information not more application.

-It doesn’t take much Bible to give plenty of opportunity for application.

-I could spend my life applying just a couple of passages…related to faith and love.

We need the truth about our perspective, the impact of our attitudes, words, and actions on others, our heart direction and affections….

Things we can be emotionally charged about.

The very personal things that actually shape our lives.

What happens when I am convinced I am right and the people who love me think otherwise…this is the real test of whether we will love wisdom or simply live “wise in our own eyes.”

Hear (listen and obey), O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Deut. 6:4,5

Jesus added: “Love your neighbor as yourself” Matt. 12:31

Love God, Love Others…love truth so we are better positioned to love God and others.

Shema: We must Listen, hear, so we can obey and love.

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