Why do you say yet not obey? That is the penetrating question Jesus asked those who followed Him from place to place during His ministry. Disciples (followers) learn and live the training received from their Master (Luke 6:40; John 8:31). Jesus is not our ‘Lord’ unless we obey Him. Like them, the Master challenges us to investigate our motives for saying He is Lord while disobeying His word. The Scriptures help us examine ourselves to discover and remove obstacles preventing salvation and hindering discipleship. (1) A hard heart (John 12:37-40). An open, receptive, and responsive heart accepts the word of God and is fruitful by doing the Lord’s will (Luke 8:15; Acts 17:11-12). (2) Fear and favor of men (John 12:42-43). Fearing rejection from others, many still prefer men’s favor over God’s approval. (3) Love of the world (1 John 2:15). Genuine love for Jesus obeys His commands (John 14:15). When we misplace our love and disobey Jesus, we deceive ourselves to think we love Jesus. (4) Deceived by false teaching (Luke 8:15). A popular doctrine convinces many souls that Christians cannot fall from grace (be lost). Yet, the gospel warns disciples against falling away (Gal. 5:4; Heb. 3:12-13). This false doctrine opens the door to complacent, neglectful faith (Heb. 6:11-12; 10:39). Jesus said it is foolish to hear His words and do nothing (Luke 6:49; Matt. 7:26-27). But it is wise to hear and do His words (Luke 6:47-48; Matt. 7:24-25). Yes, we must do more than say, “Lord, Lord,” to be a disciple and enter the kingdom of heaven. We must hear and do the words of Christ (Matt. 7:21-23).
24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall”” (Matthew 7:24–27, NKJV).
Wisdom is achieved by hearing and doing the words of Jesus (v. 24). Why? Because He words of the truth of God (John 8:31-32). Like the wise man who built his house on the rock, building your life on hearing and obeying the truth of Jesus Christ is a solid foundation that weathers life’s storm (1 Pet. 1:6-9). “Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord” (Ps. 107:43). Conversely, foolishness follows those who hear His words but do not do them. Life’s uncertainties, sins, and sorrow batter and destroy souls that do not have the solid foundation of hearing and obeying Jesus. God pleads with humanity not to ignore Him. “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Ps. 14:1). And yet, in unbelief, “Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:22). The choice to be wise or foolish comes down to whether we will hear and obey Jesus. From this day forward, may we all “Hear instruction and be wise, and do not disdain it” (Prov. 8:33).
34 “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. 35 For whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord; 36 But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; All those who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:34–36, NKJV).
Wisdom cries out, offering her blessings of prudence, knowledge, discretion, counsel, understanding, and strength to those who will listen to her (Prov. 8:1, 12-14). Consider some necessary traits that help us listen to wisdom’s instructions. (1) We must fear God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). Only when we fear God are we willing to listen to wisdom’s guidance. (2) We must receive the word of God. “For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prov. 2:6). God’s word is the wellspring of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Yet too often, we turn from it to human teachings and counsel (Col. 2:8). By doing so, we sin against our souls, hate wisdom, and love death (Prov. 8:36). (3) We must live as God instructs us. “He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly” (Prov. 2:7). Divine instruction and its wisdom do us no good if we do not apply them. Wisdom calls on us to follow the truth of God. Wisdom says, “My mouth will speak truth,” and “all the worlds of my mouth are with righteousness” (Prov. 8:7). The blessings of wisdom come to those who fear God, receive His word, and obey what He says (James 3:13-18).
In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise (Proverbs 10:19, NKJV).
Unrestrained words lead to foolishness, sin, and sorrow. The wisdom of restraining our tongues is reiterated by James, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). Consider some of the sins that arise when one is captured by “the multitude of words.” (1) The sin of pride in one’s eloquence. Although we are confident the apostle Paul had command of rhetoric and eloquence, he made it a point not to parade such abilities when preaching the gospel (1 Cor. 2:1-5). Likewise, while eloquent, Apollos drew attention to the Scriptures and not himself (Acts 18:24-25). His humility prepared him to learn the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:26). Pride enters in when we try to impress others with many words. (2) The sin of misguided prayers. Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matt. 6:7). God’s attention is not gained by many words but by a contrite heart (Luke 18:13-14). God is not impressed by the multitude of words. After all, He made man’s mouth (Exod. 4:11). (3) The sin of foolishness. Wisdom advances righteousness and avoids evil by knowing when to speak and when to be silent (Eccl. 3:7). Fools spread slanderous insinuations, rushing headlong to their destruction, but “wisdom is found on the lips of him who has understanding” (Prov. 10:18, 14, 13).
6 A scoffer seeks wisdom and does not find it, but knowledge is easy to him who understands. 7 Go from the presence of a foolish man, when you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge. 8 The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit. 9 Fools mock at sin, but among the upright there is favor (Proverbs 14:6–9, NKJV).
The path to hell is paved with the foolishness and self-deception of human wisdom (1 Cor. 1:18-25; 3:18-20). This age’s rhetoric promotes the superiority of human knowledge and insight while demoting faith to a blind leap into the unknown (which is entirely wrong, Heb. 11:1). The truth is, many things people once considered to be true have been proven false. The earth is not flat. The earth is not the center of the universe. Bleeding a patient does not increase health. But the scoffer refuses to be humble. He keeps looking for wisdom, and it keeps eluding him (v. 6). Wise Solomon counsels us to avoid the foolish who mock at sin and deal in lies. Knowledge and wisdom begin with the fear of the Lord (Prov. 1:7; 9:10). When we stop fearing God, we expose ourselves to the world’s foolishness and the sin that deceives and destroys us. God’s word stands the test of things “falsely called knowledge” – do not be deceived (1 Tim. 6:20-21). May we all “Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding” (Prov. 23:23).
Before Jesus sent His apostles into all the world to preach the gospel to every creature, He sent them on a limited commission to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:5-6). Their message then was that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 10:7). They would need the wisdom of serpents and the innocence of doves to accomplish their mission. Both traits are still necessary for Christians who live “in the midst of “a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 2:15). Consider the snake’s wisdom. (1) Snakes are aware of their surroundings. They are artfully in their pursuit of prey. We need to use heavenly wisdom as we try to seek and save the lost with the gospel (James 3:13, 17-18; 2 Tim. 2:23-26). (2) Snakes have heightened senses. The keen senses of a snake alert it to potential danger and its next meal. Christians must be wise about their moral and spiritual surroundings to avoid sin and partake of spiritual nourishment (1 Cor. 15:33; Heb. 5:12-14; 10:24-25). Consider the dove’s harmlessness. (1) Doves signify the innocence of a character. They glide gracefully through the air harming no one. Even so, Christians are to be innocent of guile (1 Pet. 2:21-22). (2) Doves signify the innocence of pure motives. Doves fly without malice; they are not predators. Doves were the humble offering of the poor at the Jewish temple (Lk. 2:22-24). Likewise, let us be pure in heart and humble in spirit toward all (Matt. 5:8). Our spiritual protection as sheep among wolves is wisdom and innocence.
Our attitudes and reactions to sin are strong indicators of either wisdom or foolishness. Some deny the existence of sin because they deny the existence of God. Foolish. The fool says there is no God (Prov. 14:1). Some think they will hide their sins and not be held accountable for them. Foolish. Your sin will find you out (Num. 32:23). Some judge the personal benefits of sin justify mistreating and abusing others. Foolish. Treachery leads to ruin (Prov. 13:15). The person who mocks at sin ignores the judgment of God. Foolish. The day of God’s righteous judgment will bring wrath and eternal anguish (Rom. 2:5-11). On the other hand, favor is the reward of the person who sows righteousness. Wise. “He who sows righteousness will have a sure reward” (Prov. 11:18). Let us choose to be wise and never mock sin. It is a destroyer of lives and souls. “The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, but the unfaithful will be caught by their lust” (Prov. 11:6).
“But wisdom is justified by all her children.” (Luke 7:35, NKJV)
The scribes and Pharisees rejected John the Baptist and Jesus, accusing John of having a demon and Jesus of being a glutton, a winebibber, and a friend of sinners. They rejected John’s baptism, and they crucified Jesus (Lk. 7:28-34). They had their reasons, and they felt justified in them (cf. Lk. 22:66-23:2). But, the people, “even the tax collectors, justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John” (Lk. 7:29). They had their reasons, too, and they felt justified in them. You see, wisdom has children. And, her children will always justify (validate, defend as right) their mother (the wisdom they follow). The wisdom of the world produces children who are darkened in understanding, blinded in heart, and alienated from God in unbelief (Eph. 4:17-18; Rom. 1:20-23). But, they have their reasons for rejecting Jesus and His gospel truth – and they feel justified by them. The gospel of Christ (the wisdom of God) bears children who are faithful, humble, obedient disciples (1 Cor. 1:18-25; 4:14-15; Jas. 3:13, 17-18). In this sense, the call of the gospel is a call to decide which wisdom we will follow. Whichever wisdom you choose, you will have your reasons for following it – right or wrong. Only the power and wisdom from God will save us and secure us in Christ (1 Cor. 1:23-24; 3:18-20). So, choose God’s wisdom. Because truly, “wisdom is justified by all her children.”
97 Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. 98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they are ever with me. (Psalm 119:97–98, NKJV)
It is self-evident from a casual reading of Psalm 119 that this psalmist had a deep relationship with the word of God. He magnifies and extols its virtues and benefits, its blessings and advantages, its supreme authority, and its unwavering reliability. Like the psalmist, we must love God by loving His law (Matt. 7:21-23; Lk. 6:46). At a time when many say “law” and “commandments” are hindrances to grace and liberty, respect for and obedience to the law and commandments of God is the very foundation of loving God and being favored by Him (Jno. 14:15; Acts 10:34-35; 1 John 2:3-6). God’s law is on the mind of the person who loves Him – “all the day.” Let God’s word be your constant companion by reading it, learning it, and pondering it. Without knowing God’s law, we cannot keep it or be made wiser from it. The inspired word of God teaches us, reproves us, corrects us, and instructs us in righteousness, completely furnishing us to do God’s work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). God’s word surpasses the vain wisdom of men, giving insight, discernment, and understanding to withstand sin’s temptations (1 Cor. 1:25). When, O when, will we so love God’s law and commandments that they are our constant meditation? When we do, we will love Jesus the way He says we must, by keeping His commands (John 14:15).
21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, (Romans 1:21–22, NKJV)
The elevation and exaltation of human wisdom comes at the expense of gratefully honoring our Creator. Knowing God exists should compel us to revere Him and thankfully obey His will. After all, it is His power that created us and that now sustains us each day (Rom. 1:20; Acts 14:15-17). Wisdom was the companion and possession of God at the beginning of creation and before (Prov. 8:22-31). How arrogant it is to think wisdom begins and ends with us (Job 12:2)! The apostle calls our attention to the futility of thoughts when void of a faithful recognition of God. The philosophy of humanism – a materialistic, purely humancentric view of life that rejects the divine – does not successfully answer the most basic questions of our existence: “Where did I come from?,” “Why are I here?,” and “Where am I going?” Asserting we are wise does not make it so. In fact, it exposes our foolishness (v. 22). Such prideful conceit darkens the heart and numbs the senses to the evidence of our Creator’s power and deity, and to the faith we should place in Him. Without God’s wisdom to guide us we are left to our own devices and sin’s demise (read wisdom’s plea in Prov. 8:32-36). “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (Jas. 4:10).