January 25

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ” (Ephesians 1:7-9)

Mysteries have always captured our attention. There is something seductive about the thought that we might be given some special knowledge that remains hidden from others. Our sin nature is attracted to the idea that we are superior in our intelligence or that there is some quality in us that makes us deserving to know a secret. But the biblical definition of the “mystery” to which Paul refers, in his writing in Ephesians, is the gospel, which was revealed in full through Jesus, the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. For some of us it’s actually hard for us to believe that this is the “mystery” that Paul describes, as if it were too easy. But this mystery, that is given to us in all wisdom, and is beyond our human reasoning, is a supernatural work of God in the hearts of His enemies.

Perhaps that is why Paul wrote, in Romans 11:25, “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” Did the Gentiles in Rome think they had God all figured out? Do we? God has not given up on the Jews, or any other people group, be they religious, tribal, racial, educational, or economic. This is the mystery that was hidden in the Old Testament, but revealed in the New Testament—that Christ is the Messiah, the Redeemer who brings every elect, lost child into God’s kingdom. “God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (Colossians 1:27-28)

Would we deny the gospel to anyone because we want to be superior? Then we are condemned by our pride. Would we want to keep the mystery of forgiveness and reconciliation with God hidden, while it has been revealed to us? Then we are doomed by our selfishness and hard-heartedness. Would we want only particular people to be given this revelation and others to remain without the riches and wisdom of Christ? Then we are judged for our partiality. What foolishness! We are to teach “everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”

January 24

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5)

“And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15)

Proverbs 3:5 is one of the most beloved verses in the Bible for Christians. I find this very interesting, because it’s so hard to do—it’s downright impossible! It’s much easier to obey one of the new-age and eastern philosophies that are so popular today. Steve Jobs wrote (about being successful), “You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”1 I guess, to be fair, I should write to Jobs and ask him to explain his quotation, rather than take it out of context, which is exactly what I am warned against in Proverbs 3:5—leaning on my own understanding—the “whatever.”

 

I admit that my heart is an enigma to me, physically and spiritually. Physically I know that it beats about eighty times every minute, pumping blood to my organs and keeping me alive. We can have part of our brains removed and still live on, with an unexpectedly high level of functioning, and this boggles my mind. But I cannot live with part of a heart, or one that been “divided.” How much less can I live spiritually with a divided heart? My inability to know what to do drives me to Scripture. “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls” (Luke 11:17).

John Gill, who preached in Spurgeon’s church, wrote in his exposition on Proverbs 3:5, “The understanding of man is darkened by sin; yea, is darkness itself; it is like the first earth, covered with darkness, till light is let into it, and therefore not to be leaned unto and depended on.”2 I long to know the truth, but I find that my unrighteous biases, opinions, preconceptions, and self-justifications are always there, affecting every aspect of my life, including my Bible study. I am driven to Jeremiah, who assures me that God will give us shepherds with His heart to teach us. Who are these shepherds? They are Jesus, first and foremost, along with the Holy Spirit. They include Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, and Peter—the writers of the New Testament, God’s apostles. They are Moses, David, Solomon, and the prophets—the writers of the Old Testament. They are the fathers, brothers, and sisters of the faith who rule and preach to us, give us creeds, catechisms, and hymns.

We have strong shepherds today who will guide us into biblical truth. The question is, will you and I seek to follow God with our hearts, willing to be challenged and rebuked by Scripture, or will we revert to what we think we already know because it’s just easier to follow the “whatever”?

  1. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/steve_jobs_416875?src=t_trust
  2. https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/

January 23

“The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” (Proverbs 20:5)

“A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left.” (Ecclesiastes 10:2)

Now that Christmas and New Year’s is behind us, stores and public places are filled with hearts to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The heart has become a symbol for emotional affection, sentimentality, and the idea of loving something (as in, I “heart” puppies). What a contrast to Scripture’s concept of the heart! In the Bible, the heart is often referred to as the center of belief, the seat of truth, and the window to the soul. Our hearts contain our purposes and control our behavior. A wise person, who has knowledge and understanding, has buried biblical wisdom deep in the heart and can bring it out to made wise choices. This is the heart that trusts in Christs, and has discernment by the power of the Holy Spirit.

A good example of biblical wisdom, through Christ, is found in Acts Chapter 8. Simon, the magician wanted to purchase the power to grant the Holy Spirit from Peter and John. Peter wisely discerned that Simon’s heart was “not right before God” (8:21). Peter rebuked Simon for considering God’s gift of grace as something to be purchased, and called for him to repent, seeking God’s forgiveness (8:22). The apostle specifically named the sinful intent of Simon’s heart, which was “in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” In other words, Simon’s heart was under the control of Satan in spite of his profession of faith (8:23). Peter’s heart moved him to the right (toward righteousness and wisdom), while Simon’s foolish, unbelieving heart pulled him to the left, away from righteousness.

Here is a reminder that our behavior originates in our hearts. No wonder Christ spoke so clearly on this matter. (See Luke 12:34; 24:25, and other passages.) Two applications may be drawn. Believers have been given the Holy Spirit, by God’s grace at regeneration, to discern right from wrong and wisdom from foolishness, even when it is deeply embedded in our hearts. On the other hand, we should not expect our children or other unbelievers to be able to act wisely or faithfully, as God’s defines wisdom, because they do not have the Spirit’s help. It is our responsibility, as believers, to use the graces of God to bring our wisdom to maturity in the hopes that we will become Christ’s ambassadors as He works in the hearts of the elect.

Do you have wisdom buried in your heart? If not, will you get it by immersing yourself in Scripture? If you do have this buried treasure, will you put it to use, for Christ’s sake?

January 22

“The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge.” (Proverbs 15:14a)

“As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.” (Proverbs 27:19)

Physically, “the human heart is an organ that pumps blood throughout the body via the circulatory system, supplying oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and removing carbon dioxide and other wastes. The tissues of the body need a constant supply of nutrition in order to be active,” said Dr. Lawrence Phillips, a cardiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. “If [the heart] is not able to supply blood to the organs and tissues, they’ll die.”

Most of us know that there are many physical diseases of the heart, but the only way to know if there is something is truly wrong with our hearts is the appearance of symptoms. Hopefully problems such as shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, or another symptom associated with heart disease will catch a person’s attention before a catastrophic event, like as a heart attack. If we are concerned and want to know the condition of our heart organs, we talk to a cardiologist, who may order a stress test for a complete examination of the heart.

Just as our hearts are essential to physical life, they are the center of our spiritual life and growth. But how can we know the condition of our other heart, the one where our emotions, affections, will, and love reside? The most obvious, and sometimes the most painful way to know what is in our hearts is through our choices, actions, reactions, and words. Solomon declared that from our hearts “flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Jesus said that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21) and “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

What are some of the symptoms of a diseased spiritual heart? There are many, but some are discontent, envy, gluttony, lustfulness, denial of sin, anxiety, vanity, hypocrisy, greediness, bitterness, boastfulness, and selfishness.  Symptoms of a healthy heart, one that is able to learn wisdom are contentment, peace, patience, humility, sincerity, and honesty. Which of these symptoms do you see in yourself? If we have want to embrace godly wisdom we must seek God’s help through self-examination, confession, repentance.

  1. Lawrence Phillips, “LivesScience” https://www.livescience.com/34655-human-heart.html

January 21

“…among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.” (1 Corinthians 2:6ff)

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul prays for the church to worship with the “Spirit of wisdom and of revelation” of Christ (Eph. 1:17). The Holy Spirit works in us individually, and in our congregations corporately, to “teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all” that Jesus spoke to the disciples (John 14:26). There is only one true Spirit of wisdom, and He is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the trinity. By Him “the eyes of our hearts” are enlightened (Eph. 1:18).  We are supplied with a greater understanding and appreciation of the doctrines included in our eternal salvation. Some of these basic, vital doctrines are: repentance, regeneration, imputation, propitiation, justification, and adoption.

If I don’t understand repentance, I cannot be wise about regeneration, since they are intimately interconnected. If I do not believe that Christ has satisfied God’s wrath for sin by His sacrificial, atoning work on the cross, I cannot appreciate the legal justification I have in God’s sight in Christ, or my adoption into God’s family. If God’s wrath is not satisfied by Christ’s work, why would He declare me “Not guilty?” If Christ’s work is incomplete in this regard, what good would it do for Him to give me His righteousness and take upon Himself my sin, through imputation? But God works all this “secret and hidden wisdom,” in believers, resulting in our eternal life, His glory, and the growth of the kingdom, the Body of Christ.

I might get dressed in the morning, hop in my car, and arrive at church, convinced that I am ready to worship. I may sing the hymns, pray the prayers, listen to the sermon, participate in communion, give financially, and even serve the congregation without actively thinking about who I am in Christ, or about the amazing wisdom Christ has revealed to us as a body. I propose to you that merely speaking words of a creed is not the same as considering their import, and singing is not the same as adoring Jesus.

How will your worship this Lord’s day reflect your appreciation for Christ, the secret, divine wisdom of God? If you have the mind of Christ, is it enough that your mind doesn’t wander?  “Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord.” (Proverbs 8:33-35)

For further consideration: The 2012 Ligonier Conference talks on “The Christian Mind:” https://www.ligonier.org/learn/conferences/the-christian-mind-2012-national-conference/

January 20

Proverbs 4:5-9: “Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her.  She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”

Yesterday I spent an enormous amount of time booking airline flights in and out of a capital city to spend a precious four hours with family members. As I worked on the booking for the flights, I prayed, asking God for wisdom. After about six hours of Internet searches, I “found” a credit I had completely forgotten about, that paid for one of my flights, and which would have expired in twenty days. Why did it take so long for me to remember it?

God gives us insight and wisdom in innumerable ways when we ask with a humble heart and an open mind. His guidance is uniquely wise, and always glorifies Him, often bringing others into His presence with thanksgiving. When we embrace God’s wisdom, He guards us from taking the wrong path or giving up entirely. “…walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Galatians 5:16-17)

Seeking and asking for wisdom involves loving and embracing God. It requires personal affection for God and valuing your relationship with Him. If you or I expect to become wise through the “right” Internet search engine, approach to success, or financial management, we will get exactly what we ask for—intellectual knowledge based on worldly standards. But if we grip Christ, with sincere devotion to be used by Him, He will place a garland and beautiful crown of wisdom on our heads.

Perhaps it took six hours for me to truly embrace Christ, since I had about given up. Emptying ourselves of the “I can do this” attitude is an excellent precursor to godly wisdom.

 

January 19

“Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister,’ and call insight your intimate friend, to keep you from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words.” (Proverbs 7:4-5)

“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

In Proverbs, we are exhorted to befriend knowledge, understanding, and wisdom as the antidote for forbidden temptations. James rebukes us for trying to be friends with the “world,” since it is Satan’s kingdom and hates God. Understanding these exhortations properly requires examination of our definition of friendship. Does friendship conjure up the idea of casual association with someone who shares our interests, beliefs, and tastes? Or, does friendship bring to mind a life-long companion or mate for whom you would sacrifice everything? This is the friend with whom we have shared very personal experiences over long time and walked through trials. This description is closer to the biblical concept of a friend in these passages. Going even further, David reminds us that friendship with God includes fearing and submitting to Him (Psalm 25:12-14).

In James 4:7-10, James offers seven specific characterizations for true friendship with God. It is crucial, though, to remember that these prescriptions will not make us a friend of God, but will encourage our already established friendship with Him. Only by regeneration in Christ, through the Holy Spirit can we be transformed from enemies of God to His friends by reconciliation with Him (Rom. 5:10) So what do God’s friends do? They submit to God, resist the devil, draw near to God, cleanse their hands, and purify their hearts. God’s friends in Christ become wretched and mourn and weep over their sin letting their laughter be turned to mourning and their joy to gloom. They humble themselves. (James 4:6-10) When we demonstrate these characteristics, God gives grace, the devil flees, God draws near to us, and He will exalt us (James 4:6-8, 10). On the other hand, when we align ourselves with the world, we will fight and quarrel with each other, have conflicted passions, covet, and pray ineffectively (James 4:1-3).

Have you made insight your friend? Is wisdom your sister? With whom are you more “friendly,” God or the world?