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The Christian Mindset: Proverbs 3 Study

November 24, 2020 Comments off

When Christians think of the term ‘worldview’ or ‘mindset,’ it’s common to associate this with the objective truths of the gospel, of a set of Christian truths and their application — possibly encompassing apologetics, a Christian “worldview” conference, or a church class on the errors of CRT or other false teachings infiltrating the evangelical church.  But there is another way to think of this, not in terms of the objective, external doctrines of Scripture, but the inner life, the “orthopraxy” that is manifested outwardly from the inner heart attitude, the fruit of biblical wisdom. 

The general, national evangelical scene of recent years, and the trials that the country and world have faced, have revealed a disconnect, with widespread shallow thinking and lack of discernment among many in professing Christendom. In response to this, the current local church recently taught a 12-part Wednesday night series on “The Christian Mindset.”: a study in Proverbs 3:1-12 and its five key teachings, as a helpful study to improve one’s biblical focus and discernment.

These 12 verses in Proverbs 3 start with an introduction (verses 1-2), the setting of Solomon teaching his son, imploring his son to remember his father’s teaching, for the benefit of keeping his commandments:  long life and peace.  Then, verses 3 through 12 come in five sets, or stanzas, key ideas, such that this scripture passage can be seen as a meta-narrative on the Christian life.

  • REMEMBER God’s steadfast love and faithfulness (verses 3-4)
  • Trust in the LORD, acknowledge God (verses 5-6)
  • Humility:  Fear the LORD, turn from evil, do not be wise in your own eyes (verses 7-8)
  • Honor the LORD with your wealth (verses 9-10)
  • “Kiss the rod” and submit to the LORD’s chastening and pruning (verses 11-12)

Several lessons emphasized the foundation, the significance and importance of remembering God’s great steadfast love (Hesed) and Faithfulness (Emet) to us.  These terms appear in scripture, and frequently together, throughout the Old Testament.  Hesed, which translates to seven different English words including the words mercy and steadfast love, occurs about 250 times total and over 100 times in the Psalms.  God’s love is also compared to a rock — rock-like stability and protection to His people — such as in Deuteronomy 32:4.  Interestingly, the Hebrew word for Love, Ahove, is the term that describes sentimental love, from one person to another, also referring to the human love of things, such as Esau’s food that Isaac loved.  Yet steadfast love is a different word with a much deeper and stronger meaning.  

Other Old Testament texts expand the picture of what is taught in Proverbs 3:3-4, such as the importance of remembering what God has done, as shown in Deuteronomy 26:1-11.  The Israelites were to rehearse before the priest their history and what God had done for them. and to praise God for His goodness and the bounty that God has given—the land flowing with milk and honey. 

The next two verses (5-6) about trusting in the LORD:  additional verses include Isaiah 12:2, Psalm 112:7, and Psalm 125; Those who trust in the Lord are like mount Zion, which cannot be moved.  The study here also referenced John Piper’s “Future Grace” teaching:  gratitude works for past events, but “malfunctions” as a motivator for the future.  Thus, our primary motivation for living Christian life, is confidence in future grace.  Cross-reference also James 4:13-16, “if the Lord wills,” along with “lean not on your own understanding.”

Verses 7 and 8 , on humility: Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking about yourself less. There is a proper fear of the LORD, and even a proper dread (see Isaiah 8:13), as we are to fear God, the one who has power to throw both body and soul into hell.

Then comes the part about money and stewardship, verses 9-10:  honor the LORD with your money.  It’s not a particular quantity or percentage, but the heart attitude and sacrificial giving.  Again, Proverbs 3 is supplemented with many other scripture texts:  1 Timothy 6 about the love of money, Jesus’ words that we cannot serve two masters.  It’s about honoring the LORD in this way, and here we can also reference 1 Samuel 2:30, the LORD’s words to Eli the priest:   for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

The fifth, last stanza is the topic of discipline, also referred to as discipline, chastening, or pruning, a topic I recently explored in this recent post, a look at a Charles Spurgeon devotional and Hebrews 12:7-8.  This truth is likewise addressed in many places, including here in the Proverbs 3 “summary statement.”

The full “hymn” here in Proverbs 3 is a great summary of these five key emphases that we should all aim at in our daily Christian walk, as the Christian mindset.

Proverbs 22:6: A Positive Promise, Or A Threat?

June 29, 2012 3 comments

After getting sidetracked for a while with another book, I’ve returned to finish the last part of Dan Phillips’ God’s Wisdom in Proverbs book (reviewed previously here), including the lengthy section of appendices.  Appendix 3 discusses a rather interesting textual issue, from which I’ve learned that sometimes even when we study a verse in several good English translations, we don’t always have the correct meaning of the original Bible verse.

Proverbs 22:6 in all English translations (at least all the major and not so major ones I’ve checked), conveys a different meaning from the original Hebrew.  Here it is in the ESV:

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

As Phillips points out, that verse has come to be seen as a promise for Christian parents, a verse cherished by many believers.  If the parents bring up the child in the right way, in a good Christian home, the child will grow up in that good way and become a believer.  Some parents even take this as a promise and thus a guarantee; others at least recognize that the Proverbs, including this one, are general principles and not guarantees, but they still interpret the verse in a positive way as expressed in English Bibles.  I have come across a few homeschool Christian parents (with children still fairly young) that indeed have expressed the first view (promise, guarantee) regarding God and their family; when questioned, they have reasoned that if the child turns out bad, the parent must have failed that child in some way.  Elsewhere in God’s Wisdom in Proverbs, Phillips also addresses that error, showing that Proverbs as well as the overall Bible sets blame sometimes on the parents, but sometimes on the wayward child.  After all, if the parents are 100% to blame for the child’s actions, then how could the law of Moses command that a rebellious adult child be stoned?  If parents were always at fault, surely the law would also stipulate that the parents be stoned.

The full chapter of material describes in more detail the actual Hebrew and a DJV-translation (Dan Phillips’ literal translation). In summary, the Hebrew text does not include the modifier of “should go,” and the referent for “way” is not stated but very likely is not “God’s way” but “his,” the child’s, way.  A very literal translation of the Hebrew is: Initiate for (with respect to) the child on the mouth of (according to) his way; even when he is old he will not turn from it. Understood this way, Proverbs 22:6 is really more of a threat of the bad way; a child brought up in his own way (of folly), will never depart from that way.

As I consider from overall principles of interpretation, we should not depend on any single verse for a particular doctrine.  As Spurgeon said so well, the ideas expressed in one place are found elsewhere in the Bible, so that our overall understanding does not rise or fall with a particular verse.  So here I note that my Bible software program, TheWord, cross-references Ephesians 6:4 as a similar  idea to the English-version of Proverbs 22:6:   Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.  Yet the point made in God’s Wisdom in Proverbs is well taken, that we really cannot use Proverbs 22:6 as either a guarantee or general principle regarding bringing up children in a Christian home.  As to why all the English versions have this incorrect translation, the sad but true reality is tradition, going back to the original KJV translation.  Even modern translators have some reluctance to go against the trend when a particular rendering is well known and popular.

I’ve recently been using Google’s Translate service, which appears fairly accurate for at least the Latin and Greek-based languages (though lacking in its ability to translate from Oriental languages to English), and a useful website which includes online Bible text in numerous languages.  From perusal of the foreign-language versions of Proverbs 22:6, the different renderings perhaps point to the history of translation into those various languages.  Interestingly enough, the Latin vulgate has a more accurate rendering.  Here is a sampling of the Google-translations of several foreign-language Bibles, that agree with the original Hebrew meaning:

  •  Train up a child in the way even when he is old he will not depart from it – Latin Vulgate
  • As you get used to a boy, so he does not like when he grows old. – German (Luther) into English
  • Raises the boy under the rule of his way even when he grows old he will not depart from the point. – French Darby
  • Train up a child in the way of his, he will not depart from it, and when old. – Russian
    Train up a child in the way of his, that he, as he is old, does not depart from it – Afrikaans
    Train up a child in the way he, even when old, they will not depart from it. — Hungarian

On the other hand, a few of the European languages follow the KJV example:  Portugese, Norwegian, Bulgarian and Albanian, for instance.

Dan Phillips Books: “The World-Tilting Gospel” and “God’s Wisdom in Proverbs”

February 23, 2012 4 comments

I don’t usually read current, recently-published books.  This is partly due to access (the family member says to use the library and doesn’t believe in spending lots of money on books), as well as limited time beyond my work schedule, plus family, blogging and listening to sermons.  Often, too, I read many classical works available online, including J.C. Ryle and Horatius Bonar, plus the free commentaries with my Bible software, The Word, such as John Gill and H.A. Ironside.  Recently, however, I acquired copies of Dan Phillips’ recent books:  The World-Tilting Gospel (Kindle for PC, one of the free Kindle book specials), and God’s Wisdom in Proverbs (hardcover; through sweepstakes winnings of gift certificates good at Barnes & Noble).

Since the books are in different formats, I’m actually still reading through both.  I’m further along in TWTG, but I don’t read it as often due to the PC’s location.  While both books reflect the author’s easy-to-read style and sense of humor, TWTG covers more basic material: an excellent presentation of the gospel, material well-familiar to mature Christians, yet in the way of “I love to tell the story” and “I love to hear the old, old story” that brings great joy and comfort to the heart, the story of totally dead, lost sinners and our mighty God who provided the redemptive work.  The “Doctrines of Grace,” also referred to as Calvinism, are  presented here in the clear easy-to-understand style, though without the familiar labels. The World Tilting Gospel then gives a good overview of justification and sanctification.  Later, two chapters give very good presentations of several common erroneous  views of sanctification:  antinomian Non-Lordship “Gutless Gracers,” second and higher-level “experience” charismatics, and especially the “Muzzy Mystics”: the Keswick “Let Go, Let God” “Deeper Life” passive approach to holiness.

God’s Wisdom in Proverbs is much more in-depth, a book study through Proverbs.  I haven’t read any other such books on Proverbs, but this one is very interesting.  The early chapters consider the author (Solomon), and the portions of scripture that were available to him, which we can turn to for additional insight into the Proverbs (especially Deuteronomy and the Psalms).  Other considerations include definition of what a Proverb is — a general truth statement packed into a few words, that does not always apply (the exceptions to the rule) – and categorizing the ten types of Proverbs with examples.  God’s Wisdom in Proverbs often considers the original Hebrew language and the parallelism of Hebrew poetry, with thought diagrams visually showing the relationships between the parts of a proverb.

From the first five chapters come several good points about the importance of an active approach to studying God’s word, along with common misconceptions about particular Proverbs such as Proverbs 3:5-7.  Clearly the author has in mind the same concern for active study in contrast with the “Deeper Life” approach so well described in TWTG.  We look also at the true biblical views of wisdom as contrasted with  arrogance, including the meaning of the Hebrew words and other references to the terms elsewhere in the Old Testament including Psalm 119, demonstrating methods of proper biblical hermeneutics: letting scripture interpret scripture, not man’s ideas of these things.

I’m now up to chapter five, and have found some great quotes about the true biblical view of arrogance.  This one especially I can relate to, having experienced this very attitude from a close “professing Christian” family member:

In God’s eyes, there simply is no greater arrogance than rejecting Yahweh’s viewpoint in favor of my own. It is grimly fascinating that some Christians abhor the believer who dares to think that he or she knows something from the Word.  To such folks, claiming certainty on any given issue is the height of arrogance. They are certain that certainty is certainly bad.  By contrast, it is the height of arrogance to have a word from God and refuse to trust it by incorporating it into our way of thinking and living.

How to Keep the Heart: Lessons From Charles Spurgeon

May 9, 2011 Comments off

Proverbs 4:23 is often mentioned as one of the key verses in Proverbs:  Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.  Dan Philips at the Pyromaniacs blog, for instance, has noted that the real issue isn’t necessarily our mouth and our speech, but the heart and what flows out from it.

Some of my recent Spurgeon reading included a set of two sermons delivered on the same day in 1858 (the morning and evening services), “The Great Reservoir” and “How to Keep the Heart.”    In the first of these messages Spurgeon used a metaphor of the city’s waterwork system, a great way to illustrate the important things necessary for London’s 19th century public water system — and needful in our own lives as well.  Following are the ways to keep the heart:

I.  Keep the Heart Full:  continually draw your life and whole being from God, in communion with him:

A full-hearted man is always a powerful man—if he is erroneous, then he is powerful for error. If the thing is in his heart, he is sure to make it notorious even though it may be a downright lie! Let a man be ever so ignorant, still if his heart is full of love to a cause, he becomes a powerful man for that objective because he has got heart-power, heart-force! … Let him have a heart that is right full up to the brim with an objective and that man will do the thing, or else he will die gloriously defeated and will glory in his defeat! HEART IS POWER. It is the emptiness of men’s hearts that makes them so feeble. But the man in business that goes heart and soul into his business is more likely to prosper than anybody else.

How are we to do this?  Spurgeon includes the following advice:

If you continually draw your impulse, your life—the whole of your being from the Holy Spirit, without whom you can do nothing—and if you live in close communion with Christ—there will be no fear of your having a dry heart! He who lives without prayer—he who lives with little prayer—he who seldom reads the Word—he who seldom looks up to Heaven for a fresh influence from on high—he will be the man whose heart will become dry and barren! But he who calls in secret on his God—who spends much time in holy retirement—who delights to meditate on the Words of the Most High—whose soul is given up to Christ—who delights in His fullness, rejoices in His all-sufficiency, prays for His second coming and delights in the thought of His glorious advent—such a man, I say, must have an overflowing heart!

II.  Keep the Heart Pure:  the cross is what keeps our hearts pure.

Love your Savior more! Cry to the Holy Spirit that you may have more affection for Jesus! And then, however terrible may be your sin, you will say with the poet,  “Now for the love I bear His name, What was my gain I count my loss.  My former pride I call my shame, And nail my glory to His Cross.”

III. Keep Your Heart Peaceable and Quiet

Keep your heart in good temper. Do not let that get to fighting with you. Seek that the peace of God which passes all understanding may keep your heart and mind through Christ Jesus. Bend your knees at night and with a full confession of sin express your faith in Christ. Then you may “dread the grave as little as your bed.” Rise in the morning and give your heart to God and put the sweet angels of perfect love and holy faith therein and you may go into the world and were it full of lions and of tigers, you would no more need to dread it than Daniel when he was cast into the lion’s den! Keep the heart peaceable and your life will be happy.

Peaceable:  we must ask the Holy Spirit to pacify the heart. No voice but that which on Galilee’s lake said to the storm, “Be still,” can ever lay the troubled waters of a stormy heart. No strength but Omnipotence can still the tempest of human nature.

IV.  Keep Your Heart Undivided:

You must not give half your love to Christ and the other half to the world. No man can serve God and mammon because there is not enough life in the heart to serve the two. Alas, many people try this and they fail both ways. … Give yourself unreservedly to Him! Keep not back part of the price. Make a full surrender of every motion of your heart—labor to have but one objective and one aim. And for this purpose give God the keeping of your heart. Cry out for more of the Divine influences of the Holy Spirit so that when your soul is preserved and protected by Him, it may be directed into one channel and only one —that your life may run deep and pure and clear and peaceful—its only banks being God’s will, its only channel the love of Christ and a desire to please Him!

V.  Keep Your Heart Full of Rich Things:

Never, never neglect the Word of God that will make your heart rich with precept, rich with understanding! And then your conversation, when it flows from your month, will be like your heart—rich and savory. Make your heart full of rich, generous love and then the stream that flows from your hands will be just as rich and generous as your heart. Above all, get Jesus to live in your heart and then out of your belly shall flow rivers of living water—more rich, more satisfying than the water of the well of Sychar of which Jacob drank. Oh, go, Christian, to the great mine of riches and cry unto the Holy Spirit to make your heart rich unto salvation! So shall your life and conversation be a gift to your fellows.

Bible Reading Discovery: Repetition in the Same Bible Really Works

November 5, 2010 Comments off

Since the beginning of the year I’ve been using the same reading Bible for my modified Horner Bible Reading plan.  Regarding that 10-list plan, Grant Horner noted the importance of having one Bible — to always read from it, as a way to remember where everything is in your Bible.  Until recently, though, I had not observed this extra benefit.

John MacArthur has also emphasized repetition in reading, to achieve the same familiarity with where things are on the page.  As described in several sermons including these (How to Study the Bible and How to Study Scripture), his preferred reading method is to read through the Old Testament once a year, but repeatedly read the same New Testament book, or a set of 7 chapters of one, every day for a month, then on to the next NT book, and so on.

As MacArthur described it:

Now after thirty days, if you’ll just stick with thirty you’ll have a tremendous comprehension of that book. If someone says to you, you know, where in the Bible does it say, if we confess our sins, He’s faithful and just…? You’ll say, oh that’s easy, First John chapter 1 ah, left hand page right hand column halfway down, see. Because you’ll be able to visualize that, you’ll be able to literally see that, in your mind’. People always ask me, why do you still use the King James, why don’t you move to the New American or the New International-? Because I visualize my Bible, I find things by where they are in my vision. In other words, my mind has taken a mental picture of a page and I can tell you … I may not remember the chapter everywhere in the Bible but I can just about tell you where on the page everything is, people give me a new Bible and I am lost. … I can’t find anything in another Bible. So the thing you want to do is to, is to read a book through thirty times, and at the end of that thirty times you will really have that book in your mind.

After having tried MacArthur’s New Testament reading plan for a few months, and now 1 1/2 years of a Grant Horner genre-style reading, I prefer the genre-style which gives emphasis to both Old and New Testament books.  Both reading plans emphasize repetition, but in very different ways:  reading the same thing every day for a month (only in the New Testament) and then not seeing it again for a few years, versus reading straight through (only one reading of each chapter) but repeating the set every 2-3 months.

This weekend I experienced one of those “mental picture of a page” moments.  A friend at church asked me if a certain saying was in Proverbs (the one about a righteous man taking care of his animals).  The regular reading of Proverbs (every 73 days, through Job and Proverbs) gave me confidence to affirm that yes, that verse indeed is there — though at that moment I could not cite the chapter and verse reference.  But soon afterwards, with my reading Bible at hand, I recalled seeing that verse on the bottom, left side of the page, somewhere in Proverbs.  After quickly scanning several pages throughout the Proverbs, I found it where I expected it — left side, second column, near the bottom — on the page for Proverbs 12, and provided her the reference of Proverbs 12:10.   This type of repetition really works, as something far better than a printed  concordance (which I didn’t have with me anyway) — and it’s a good memory aid that cannot be replicated with computer software or portable electronic books.  Yes, anyone with a computer and electronic text search could have found the reference just as easily.  But in a day when most people (all those I know, anyway) are still carrying print Bibles to church, it’s neat to discover a new mental facility within oneself, and to know that good old-fashioned human memory still works.  Besides, it’s always better to be using the brain rather than just relying on the search feature of an electronic device.

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