William Barr is under consideration as our next Attorney General of the United States. Asked if he would allow pressure from outside sources to affect how he carried out his job, he said, "I’m in a position in life to provide the leadership necessary to protect the independence of this department, I won’t do anything that I think is wrong; I won’t be bullied into doing anything I think is wrong." He said his judgment would be based on the rule of law.
Having a rule upon which we can base decisions takes the strain out of deciding what’s right and what’s wrong – what’s best and what’s not best. The forces that try to influence our decisions can easily be trumped by how they line up to that rule.
Kid came into his dad: “Dad, I’m 6’ tall.” “Oh, really?” “Yeah. You know how a ruler is a foot? Well, I made my own ruler with my foot.” “But your foot is only 6”. “I know, but look how tall I am now.”
Paul wrote to Timothy: 2Tim 1:13 Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
Retain – to hold as a possession. He is to hold sound words like he would a possession given to Him by Jesus, which gives that possession more value than any other. Possessions have special importance to us. We treasure them.
Prov 7:1-3 My son, keep my words and treasure my commandments within you. Keep my commandments and live, and my teaching as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.
What is the apple of our eye? The Hebrew literally says, "dark part of the eye." The term apple of my eye came from an English expression in use when the King James Version was translated in 1611. It refers to something or someone that we cherish above all others – the dark part of the eye being the vital part.
We treasure God’s Word. It is valuable to our lives because it instructs us as to what direction our lives should go for us to experience the fulfilled life Jesus promised.
2Tim 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
This wasn’t just an ideal or over-stated importance, it was a reality. Paul had seen what the Word of God could do and how lives could change according to that Word.
He saw in Thessalonica: 1Thess 2:13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.
The Word of God isn’t comprised of stagnant statements in an ancient book. It is Heb 4:12 living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
The words God has expressed go into our hearts and heal, restore, change, comfort, cleanse, direct. They lead us to the good.
Prov 16:20 He who gives attention to the word will find good, and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.
For Solomon, the word is the words of wisdom. The source of those words is God Himself. By giving attention to the word, granting it value over all other words, he says we will trust God and not lean on our own understanding. Why? Because we are convinced God’s Word is the standard for our lives.
How does Solomon know this? Perhaps it’s from something his dad wrote: Ps 119:9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.
We can maintain our lives in a pure way – unpolluted, untainted, uncontaminated – by comparing what we want with what God says, contrasting the way we want to go with the way God wants us to go.
Prov 16:2-3 All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the LORD weighs the motives. Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established.
What I want must be buffered by God’s Word. Otherwise my wants may get in the way of God’s best. When we live as though we’re the final authority on what’s best for us – or lean on our own understanding – we will find ourselves clashing with God’s Word.
Should God change His Word to fit our desires or should we change our desires to fit His Word?
Last week we talked about the heart as the control center where we make our choices. At times it can be like a battlefield of conflicting forces with opposing plans for our lives. Our selfish desires vs. God’s best. If we set up the standard of God’s word in our hearts, we will be able to determine which force is suggesting which way to go. We will have a standard by which we can measure our desires. What fits? What doesn’t?
So, let’s focus on desire. Desire is a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen. That can be either good or bad. I can have evil desires, selfish desires, sensual desires, as well as honorable desires, godly desires, healthful desires.
Desire is simply the want behind having something I don’t have at present.
When desire is translated lust, that desire describes us wanting something God forbids. Lust is the precursor to adultery, obesity or addiction.
It’s the same with the word covet. Coveting is sin because it is associated with wanting something someone else has – the desire is to take it away from them and possess it for ourselves.
Ex 20:17 You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor. Coveting is the prelude to stealing.
These two words – lust and covet – are misdirected desires that compel us to want what we shouldn’t have.
Desire is simply the motivation to have. It is a conscious impulse toward something that promises enjoyment, satisfaction or completion. We place value on it. When that value is high enough, we want it in our lives.
Prov 3:13-15 How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold. She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her.
So, how do we aim that desire toward the priceless value of God’s wisdom? By training our hearts to want what’s best. Paul calls it the clash between our flesh and the Spirit.
Oreo and Scooter have natural desire to scratch and sharpen their claws. I understand that, but where they scratch isn’t always acceptable. We’ve had to train those desires toward the scratching post not the furniture.
Gal 5:17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.
Why can’t I just go with the flow? Prov 21:2 Every man's way is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts.
Just because I can justify the way my life is going, it doesn’t mean I’m going the right direction. We have this expression: I’m turned around. Meaning, in my mind I think going right is the correct direction, but actually left is the correct way. I can argue all day thinking I’m correct but that doesn’t change which way is the right way to go.
What my flesh wants will often be opposite to what the Spirit wants. And if I’m used to giving in to my flesh, I will argue all day what it wants is good and right. But it can very well be wrong, so I can’t just go with my desires. My desires may not be God’s desires for me.
Prov 4:14-16 Do not enter the path of the wicked and do not proceed in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not pass by it; turn away from it and pass on. For they cannot sleep unless they do evil; and they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble.
Solomon characterizes the wicked as those who have committed to a certain path in life where they give in to any and all desires with no discretion. That path is their lifestyle.
Their lifestyle is defined as wicked because they make evil choices – choices contrary to God’s best.
Solomon says: Prov 15:9 The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but He loves one who pursues righteousness. So he warns: Prov 3:21-24 My son, let them not vanish from your sight; keep sound wisdom and discretion, so they will be life to your soul and adornment to your neck. Then you will walk in your way securely and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
You are familiar with Prov 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Actually, this isn’t a promise but a warning. The word – even – carries a unique quality in Hebrew grammar. In its form, it says what follows is more important than what precedes it – as the answer is more important than the question. The second part explains the first part which means the second part is the why for investing time in training them. Train up a child in the way he should go, because when he is old he will not depart from it.
A child without godly influence will instinctively follow his own way.
Solomon says since the way he will go will be a fixed way, he will follow that way throughout his life, unless something changes it. That’s where the training comes in. Training can shape a child’s heart so that the way he goes will be on a different path than the one he would have naturally followed.
Sign in Alaska: Pick your rut carefully. You’ll be in it for quite a while.
Reasons young adults give for dropping out of church:
· Church members seemed judgmental or hypocritical.
· I didn’t feel connected to any people in the church.
· I disagreed on the church stance on political and social issues.
· Other things I wanted to do were more important.
To them, it’s the church and the people, not the Lord as the reason they attend or not attend.
If we want our kids to remain faithful to the Lord as they grow older, we need to help shape their hearts to want to follow God’s way which includes but is bigger than just going to church. They must be convinced God’s way is best. When that happens, they will keep coming back to that way.
How do we do that? We show them how important God is in our lives. Ps 73:25-26 Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
When a person knows there is nothing or no one who can provide what God provides, he will limit his choices to the ones going God’s way.
1. Unless I intentionally choose God’s way, I will default to my own way.
2. Since we are told to trust in the Lord and not lean to our own understanding, we should realize that not leaning will be an on-going challenge.
3. If I want to bend my life toward God’s way, I must resist the urges against doing so.
4. The moment I realize there is nothing or no one who can provide what God provides, I will commit my ways to the Lord.
5. The best way to help shape my children’s or grandchildren’s desire toward God is to show them why He is important to me.