January 2012

A Wise Son Is The Reflection of God

 

The book of Proverbs is a book that is written very clearly for the sake of parenting. No doubt parents often think, “If only there was a guidebook to parenting!” Well, whether they know it or not, Proverbs is that book. However, it is a book that is far from rules and formulas. In fact, it is widely understood that Proverbs is not only a book that gives wisdom, but it is also a book that requires wisdom to understand. So, if we put two-and-two together, we realize that raising children and running a home require supernatural wisdom and that wisdom is available and required by Proverbs.

Parenting, therefore, needs to be understood as demanding the most exacting wisdom. It needs to be understood that the bar for parenting is extremely high in Proverbs, since the tools of raising children require the wisdom that only comes from God. To rely on gut instinct or worldly standards with a Christian twist is not good enough since it cannot produce what God desires. Paul summarizes centuries later what God desires, which is the backdrop of all of Proverbs, indeed all of Scripture. God’s desire is to make people who are conformed to the image of the Son of God (Romans 8:28-29). Whether it was the elect of the time prior to the cross or the elect after the cross, God’s intention is to make sinners into sons/daughters. The only example that we have is the Son, Jesus Christ. His discernment, wisdom, righteousness, understanding, and obedience to the Father is the only example we have. In fact, if you consider all that Scripture says about parenting, what you will eventually realize is that what is the only pattern there is, the only relationship after which parenting was designed to follow by creation, is that relationship between the Father and the Son. The more you comprehend that relationship, the better parent you will become. We are made in the image and likeness of God and God is the relationship between the Father, Son, and the Spirit. Therefore, since God’s original design has never been annulled, we see that the original design is the picture of a son and a Father (cf. Genesis 1:26 w/Genesis 5:3). The gospel of Luke picks up on this by calling Adam a “son” of God (Luke 3:38). He is not only a son by direct creation, but a son because he was made in the image and likeness of God. Likewise, Jesus Christ is the image and likeness of God (2 Corinthians 4:4b; Hebrews 1:3).

With that in mind, it is important, then, that we see parenting as the work, and I mean work, of making sinners into sons. That is, we work in the lives of our children through their hearts to train them toward obedience to their earthly fathers as the Son is to His Father. This is Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 6:1. Children obey your parents. Why? Because parents are to be honored. Why? Because parents are to children as the Father is to the Son. And, obviously, making our children into disciples of Christ is the only goal as that is the only path to making them true sons.

This reality is tremendous. I confess that I have been working through these issues theologically and hope to publish these things in time. But for now, I have found it hard to contain myself. Every time that I hear of some new method of raising good kids, or some new success story of another program, I almost become nauseas. Why? Because, in the end, the product is far lower than what the Scripture demands. The consummate picture of children in the Scripture is that of the Son toward the Father. Proverbs tells us what that relationship looks like in many passages. But one of the more conclusive ones is Proverbs 23:26, “Give me your heart, my son, and let your eyes delight in my ways.” The Son, Jesus Christ, delighted in the ways of the Father which evidenced itself in the life of obedience that Christ exhibited (John 4:34; 5:30). And the heart of Christ was given to the Father (John 14:31). The life of Jesus Christ demonstrated an absolute love for the Father. He clearly loved His God with all of His heart, soul, mind, and strength. And that is the pattern after which a father and son relationship is to be patterned. This is a fundamental concept in the original intra-Trinitarian conversation that occurs as recorded in Genesis 1:26-“Let us make man in our image, according to Our likeness…” That image and likeness most certainly included the relationship of the Father to the Son as pictured (‘imaged’) in a man to his children.

Further, at the completion of all redemptive history there is left a glorious reality that is described in Revelation 21:7. John writes, “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.” That is more than anthropomorphism. That is more than trying to communicate in a way that we will understand. That is an eternal relationship that was God’s original design in the garden and the substance of that shadow is the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son. Thus, Paul writes, “…those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). And earlier, Paul writes that all of creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God (Romans 8:19).

Therefore, because of the profundity of the theology involved, the building and establishment of a household demands the wisdom of God. This wisdom is not intuitive. It is divine. Moreover, it is contained in only one volume, the Scripture, so that we might “know wisdom and instruction, discern the sayings of understanding, receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice and equity;  give prudence to the naive, the youth knowledge and discretion” (Proverbs 1:2-4).

Wisdom-The Replacement for Legalism

In the last post I had discussed the need for wisdom in building a home. I had asserted that wisdom is not learned, but given. This is because wisdom has as its source God. He is the originator of wisdom. He is the embodiment of wisdom. Moreover, wisdom is dispensed by Him as He alone desires. Therefore, when Proverbs 24:3 states matter-of-factly, “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches”, it is saying, “A house is only truly a house when it is established and built with wisdom, God’s wisdom.” Further, this wisdom is a treasure. Thus, being a treasure, it is rare. However, like treasure, it yields itself when sought after with effort, diligence, and determination. Outside of this, a home is not established. But in all our efforts, the reminder remains: wisdom is given, never discovered.

Having said all of that, there is a fundamental issue that I believe needs to be addressed at this early juncture. The topic of legalism in the home is heated and ongoing. Legalism is the cry of those who deny the need for God’s righteousness in the home. The reason, I have found, that some have this perspective is because they cannot rise above their own level of righteousness. Thus, the home becomes a hodge-podge of rules and abstract standards that really have no bearing in God. Thus, children are confused (and so is the other spouse). This especially hits home when this haphazard approach to managing a home causes pain or destruction. For the time-being, a level of righteousness kicks in, but it is not God’s.

Let’s examine a scenario. Little Johnny has thrown a rock through the front window. He was told that he should not pick up rocks and throw them. However, Johnny did not listen and now there is a broken window letting all the cold air in, and hot air out. What does legalism do? Legalism cries, “I told you not to do that! Why did you do that! Why can’t you listen when I tell you something?!” But, wisdom says, “What did daddy tell you? Why did you pick up that rock? Why did you want to do something that I said not to do?” And going through the mind of daddy is that his little Johnny is only exhibiting his true nature-a sinner. Johnny, at heart, is rebellious, foolish, disobedient, and loves unrighteousness. Johnny can’t help but do what he shouldn’t. He is unable to obey fully, think wisely, exhibit distinctions between good and evil. Little Johnny has almost zero discernment. But, that does not let him off the hook. A transgression has been committed. A penalty must be enacted. At the premise level, the legalist is self-righteous and expects others around him to be so also. A wise man, however, has jettisoned his own righteousness for the righteousness of God out of the fear of God. In short, a legalist does not submit to the righteousness of God for fear of letting go of his own righteousness (Romans 10:3). And, since our own righteousness is so low, it allows us to “get away” with things that God does not allow. Yet, wisdom seeks to maintain the high view of God and His righteous character no matter the cost. Thus, he will speak to little Johnny attempting to bring him to the realization of what sin is, and what is the consequence of sin. In doing this, Johnny will learn a little bit about God from the broken window incident.

So, in order to establish a home, it needs to be driven by wisdom, not legalism. A home is a place, most of all, where the glory of God should be on display in the people who live there. Therefore, daddy’s response to that broken window, mommy’s response to losing sleep to a sick child, the children’s response to instructions from their parents that are not at all what they want to do, are all opportunities to put God on display, and not ourselves. It is time to elevate the righteousness of God, and not our own. It is a time to learn wisdom, cry out for it, and be trained to discern between good and evil thus maturing in the Lord (Hebrews 5:13-14).

This is really the direction teaching about parenting and the home should go. Instead, however, you often hear ‘Christianized’ elementary principles of the world along with success stories of the common experiences of life. Anyone can identify with those things. However, what needs to be explained and taught is a fear of God, the need for righteousness, and the wisdom of God that builds a home.

The Fear of The Lord

It is written,

“Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart;
there is no fear of God before his eyes.” (Ps 36:1)

 

The Psalm of David was the foundation of Paul’s words in Romans 3:18. David knew all too well that the wicked (or, “guilty”) have transgression “whispering” deep in his soul urging him on to do evil. The eyes of such a one are darkened. They cannot see the fear of the Lord. In his natural state, the hearts of every person are dark, deceived, wicked (desperately so) and perverse. They cannot fear God, nor do they want to. Rather, they resort to the antics of their father, the devil, and attempt to raise themselves above the throne of God. They believe that they are as good as they need to be to enter the kingdom of heaven, and they, of themselves, will not lift a finger to change that. Absolute inability to please God, and an absolute inability to want to. That is the condition of every person who is not clothed with Christ.

Thus, if wisdom has as its necessary starting point the fear of God, as Proverbs asserts, then it is no wonder that the ungodly are foolish. They lack the wisdom that was gifted them at the creation. They lack divine wisdom that was with God, and in God, at the establishment of the foundations of the earth. They lack the sense, as it were, to choose righteousness over evil. Wisdom cries out all day long to them and they ignore it. At this point, we need to understand that this is not a neutral posture. The ungodly does not simply reject wisdom and the fear of the Lord, he hates it. Paul wrote, “…mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7-8). There is a native hostility between man and God that rages everyday. Their heart, says David, devises evil when it should be sleeping (Psalm 36:4). He is not able to subject himself under the authority of the law of God, nor does he want to. It rebels against the authority of almighty God and revels in that rebellion. It is no wonder that mankind loves darkness rather than light (John 3:19) since, apart from the enlightening work of the Spirit of God under the direction of the Father, he is a slave of darkness. It is his nature!

Thus, with all of this in the heart of every person, religious or not, how is it that we think that any man has any level of wisdom in him? What I mean is, if Paul could not even trust himself (Philippians 3:3) for the wisdom that attains to religious satisfaction but rather died to himself in order to pursue Christ, then why do we believe that we can do better? Wisdom is as rare as gold and jewels. In fact, true wisdom is so rare, that it is only found in 1 part per 7 billion. That is, out of the 7 billion people in this world, only One has true wisdom-Jesus Christ. Paul wrote, “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God” (1 Co 1:30a; cf. 1:24). Further, Paul wrote to the wisdom-loving Colossians, “in [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3). Wisdom is rare because it is truly only embodied in one Person. And in order to know Him, you must fear Him (Matthew 10:28-Jesus, as the appointed Judge for all mankind, is able to destroy both body and soul in Hell by the authority given to Him by the Father). So, says Paul, there is no fear of God in the heart of the wicked, and Jesus Christ is God. He is to be feared. Therefore, for a person to be saved, he must overcome his lack of fear of God, and that cannot happen apart from the working of God in the heart of the person by the extended grace of God.

To fear God, as mentioned in the previous post, is to rightly understand with Whom you are dealing with and, correspondingly, who you are in relation to Him. God is life, we are dead in sins; God is light, we are darkness; God is holy, and we love transgression; God is eternal, and we are temporal; God is a consuming fire, and we are fit to be destroyed; God is love, and we love to hate. Thus, the fear of God is an appropriate heart condition in light of Who He is.

If a person wants wisdom, he must fear God. Unless a person fears God, he will lack God’s wisdom because He only gives wisdom to the upright (Proverbs 2:7).

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