We’re writing this to you so you’ll know you have life forever. This is for those of you who believe the name of God’s son. We can be confident when we talk to God — if we make a request that aligns with his will, he listens to us. We know he listens whenever we ask, and that he’ll give us what we ask for.
If one of you sees a Christian family member sin (not the kind that causes death), ask God to give them life, and he will. This only applies to the kind of sin that doesn’t cause death. There is a kind of sin that leads to death, and I’m not saying you should pray for someone who commits that kind of sin. Every morally wrong act is sin, but there are sins that don’t lead all the way to death.
We know that no one in God’s family continues to sin. God’s son personally protects us, and evil can’t affect him at all. We know that we belong to God, but evil controls the whole world. We know that when God’s son came to earth, he gave us the ability to understand the true one. We live in truth through his son, Jesus Christ. He is the truth, and he is life forever. Children, keep each other away from idols.
Following the arc featuring the “story” of Lady Wisdom and Ms. Folly, we notice a stylistic change in the book of wisdom, ostensibly collected by King Solomon. Beginning in chapter ten, King Solomon wields a shotgun and pelts us with wisdom’s birdshot. Manufacturers make birdshot by packing numerous steel or tungsten balls into a cartridge. The steel balls scatter when fired. This design increases the likelihood of striking a flying bird and keeps game fowl from being completely obliterated by the shot.
So, beginning with Proverbs 10, the reader is confronted with numerous truths that do not form a cohesive narrative like Lady Wisdom and Miss Folly but are practical words of wisdom that enrich life. As a result, it is often best to approach the rest of Proverbs as a topical study. “The fear of the Lord” is an excellent place to start our topical overview of Proverbs. Solomon defined fear of the Lord as the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Proverbs 1.7; 9.10).
As with the word “fool,” the Biblical definition of “fear” is not what one typically associates with the term. I oft tout Webster’s original 1828 dictionary since it often frames words within a Biblical context. Here is Webster’s subentry for the word “fear.”
“In scripture, fear is used to express a filial or a slavish passion. In good men, the fear of God is a holy awe or reverence of God and his laws, which springs from a just view and real love of the divine character, leading the subjects of it to hate and shun every thing that can offend such a holy being, and inclining them to aim at perfect obedience. This is filial fear
I will put my fear in their hearts. Jeremiah 32.39.
Slavish fear is the effect or consequence of guilt; it is the painful apprehension of merited punishment. Romans 8.15.
Regarding the beginning of knowledge and wisdom, we understand that this is because we respect and revere God. We acknowledge His authority and thus trust His knowledge and judgment. Beyond its role in enlightening us, the fear of the Lord will accomplish other positive things as well.
We will hate evil. (Proverbs 8.13).
One cannot truly despise evil without also cherishing good, and just as an aversion to wrongdoing motivates people to turn away from it, so does a desire to do what is right in God’s eyes. In this context, “fear of the Lord” refers to the essence of religious practice.
We will prolong life. (Proverbs 10.27)
Mature individuals can recall numerous cases of the wicked whose lives were cut short and ended due to their evil actions—fatalities caused by drunk drivers, robbers who police have shot, adulterers killed by cuckolded husbands, etc.
We have strong confidence and a fountain of life. (Proverbs 14.26-27)
The traps of death include not only the pitfalls and dangers of our current lives on Earth but also the unfathomable terrors of the “second death.” James Moffat translated the Scriptures in 1929 and rendered the passage: “Reverence for the Eternal is a fount of life; it shows how to avoid the nets of Death.” He capitalized the “d” in “death” to show that it was eternal condemnation.
The fear of the Lord will prompt us to depart from evil. (Proverbs 16.6)
No matter how well done, mercy and truth cannot save people from sin unless genuine repentance and a change of heart toward God’s will accompany them. People refrain from doing bad things because they are afraid of the Lord, and this fear affects them. Those with holy fear and reverence for God in their hearts will not sin against him.
We will have a satisfying life, spared from much evil. (Proverbs 19.23)
According to this verse, the only way to be “satisfied” is to fear and serve God. On the tomb of William Rockefeller in New York’s Tarrytown Cemetery, there is a quote from Augustine that reads, “Our souls, O God, were made for Thee, and never shall they rest until they rest in Thee.” Men will never find happiness elsewhere, no matter how hard they try. Only in Jesus Christ can we find the fullness of life that God provides.
We will enjoy riches, honor, and life! (Proverbs 22.4)
This verse, which discusses humility and reverence for God, sums up several of the principal lessons of Proverbs. In addition, it provides a concise overview of the fundamental requirements for human survival on this planet.
True religion, as demonstrated by “the fear of the Lord.” is synonymous with humility. The signs of humility are being dependent on God, having a low opinion of oneself, surrendering one’s will, and convincing ourselves of sin. They are all summed up in the phrase “the fear of God,” which is the source of all virtues and blessings: riches, honor, and life.
We deprive ourselves of God’s wisdom and knowledge treasures when we do not fear the Lord. We will tempt fate and let ourselves get corrupted by mingling with evil. Our refusal to listen to God’s word will likely shorten our lives (e.g., suffering sexually transmitted diseases if we do not heed His Word on sexual relationships). We will not come to know God’s love, which provides assurance and confidence in salvation. We are not motivated to repent or turn to God when we sin! We will not be inspired to “work out our salvation.” This outcome from lacking the fear of the Lord sounds dreadful.
To be truly wise, we must first learn to fear the Lord. Let us understand this fear, appreciate it, and incorporate it into our lives as God’s children!
I’ll be repeating the book of I John in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today.
This is not an “essentially literal” translation, and should be read as something of a commentary.
My loved ones, do not love this world or anything in it. If you love the world, God doesn’t love you! There’s nothing good in this world. Unhealthy sexual desire, materialism, and unhealthy pride are not from God. They’re exclusive to the world, which is disappearing along with everything in it. Anyone who does what God wants, though, will live forever.
Little children, the end is coming soon. You’ve already heard that enemies of Christ are coming. Well, many of those enemies are already here. That’s how we know the end is coming soon. They left us, but they were never really with us or they would’ve stayed. They showed their true colors when they left.
But you have been chosen by the holy one, and you know everything you need to know. I’m not writing to you because you don’t know the truth, but because you do know it, unlike those who lie.
The moment evil takes hold, we’re as good as dead. The fall of man is deeper than just the poor decision to eat forbidden fruit. It began when Eve began making multiple poor choices.
She spent time in the presence of the evil snake. There’s nothing inherently sinful taking place at this point. It’s just unwise.
The snake struck when it saw it had an opportunity. It’s victim was in ear shot, so it began to speak. There’s nothing sinful about listening to evil, either. After all, the snake couldn’t override Eve’s freewill.
The snake was crafty. Crafty enough to realize that Eve’s young and poor decisions could potentially develop into a strong and mature sin. He just needed to make a compelling case that was tailored to Eve’s underlying and natural human instincts.
If the snake could manage to redirect her healthy desires in another direction, he would effectively unleash sin on the world. That’s temptation. Temptation is both universal and unique. Most of us share similar wicked proclivities, but those unique temptations that only a portion of society might find intoxicatingly beautiful can be repulsive to you. Eve’s choice to be near sin and to converse with it led her to reach, pluck, and eat.
Now her marriage had been destroyed, whether she knew it or not. Adam and Eve are already incompatible. Eve could ask for forgiveness but living with those consequences would be tough. It might be better to share in the guilt and suffer with someone who understands her. Her misery needed company and If she’s going to die, she didn’t want to die alone.
That drive to have shared experiences and enjoy a commonality with someone has been tainted but she still craves intimacy. Instead of taking responsibility for her own actions alone, she decides to lead her husband into the same mess so that they might clean it up— together.
Soon the two of them would live in a new world of hardship. Their options were,
1. work together and live
2. or die alone.
Fix the problem as a team, or make poor choices that will lead to more sins which will further the destruction of their pure desires. That’s a foundational principle and it applies to every relationship we have. God’s creation wasn’t made better by our selection of evil. Our freewill caused God pain as well. His creation would turn on Him and be the source of terrible grief, anger, and frustration. God’s forgiveness and patience is a testament to His perfect love for us.
Christianity is important to us. Making sure we live the right way is important to us. Because our loyalty to God is important to us, and because our lifestyle is characterized by avoiding evil, many believe that our mission in life is to defeat evil. Some Christians believe that this involves social activism or influencing public opinion. Nothing about this is intrinsically wrong, but it cannot be our primary focus.
Evil exists, period. Humanity introduced evil when we disobeyed God. As we noted last week, evil is on borrowed time thanks to Jesus, but it will exist until the end of time. So, what’s our job if fighting evil isn’t top of the list?
Christians are people who decide to follow God. That means living based on his moral code, not on humanity’s. That means we avoid practicing morally evil things. We recognize the influence that evil has on the world. We understand the consequences of choosing evil over God.
Christians are recruiters! We’re a tight knit group of people with shared goals, views, and struggles. Part of our job is to keep each other strong (Gal. 6.10; I Pet. 1.22; Heb. 3.12,13). The rest of our job is to recruit people to populate heaven (Matt. 28.19; Acts 20.24; Jn.15). God also expects us to be good citizens and live quiet, peaceful lives (Rom. 13; I Pet. 2.13; I Tim. 2.2; I Thess. 4.11).
Jesus defeated evil (I Jn. 3.8, 4.4; Col. 2.15), and he will personally destroy it forever at the end (Rev. 20; II Pet. 3.7). For now, though, evil is inevitable (I Jn. 5.19). Our job is to share God’s hope with those who don’t have it. By avoiding evil ourselves and helping others escape its influence, we help diminish its influence on the world!
One of the most concise and beautiful teachings about God is in John. He plainly states some awesome things, full of impact and depth.
“The Word existed in the beginning…” This, along with other statements made in this context, highlights how tragic it is that the world systemically rejects him. There was only a “beginning” because of him.
“…the Word existed with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God, who created everything through Him. Nothing that exists was created without Him.” God took a demotion to save us (Heb. 2.9). The same one who used the Father’s power to fabricate reality.
“Life came from Him…” Humans only had the power to take life away from the source of life because He let them.
“…and this life was humanity’s light.” His selflessness gave us hope for a better existence.
“This light shined through the darkness, and darkness can’t smother it.” Evil is on borrowed time and it knows it. Jesus put a countdown on the existence of evil. When its time runs out, it’ll never bother His people again (II Pet. 3.13; Rev. 20.12-15).
We deal with real problems thanks to darkness. What Jesus did wasn’t just a nice gesture. He destroyed the very possibility of darkness, creating a reality in which His own – made eternally perfect through His sacrifice – can never mess things up again. I want to live in that kind of reality with that kind of God.
Jesus was teaching around the Sea of Galilee when some Pharisees from Jerusalem saw some of His disciples eating bread with unwashed hands. They considered this ceremonial impurity (Mark 7:1-2). Mark gives a short list of examples of rules the Pharisees inherited from their forefathers and pushed as divine law (3-5). This law-making upsets Jesus considerably. In Mark 7:6-13, Jesus rebukes them for confusing tradition and God’s commandments. They were so in love with their traditions that it actually caused them to violate God’s will.
Then, He uses that episode as a springboard to discuss a related spiritual concern. The central thought was, “The things that proceed out of a man are what defile the man” (15b). The point was probably missed on the crowd because it was missed by the disciples (17). Mark tells us that Jesus was declaring all foods clean (19), but there was a deeper, spiritual point. He makes it plainly when He says, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (20-23).
I wonder how this initially hits the disciples. The Pharisees definitely would not have appreciated it. They considered themselves spiritually superior, but context would suggest they would have been as big offenders as anyone in this. Some of what comes out of the heart that Jesus mentions is “big” enough to make our sin’s “hall of fame” or at least its “all-star” team. Wouldn’t you be quick to put fornication, theft, murder, adultery, and wickedness on the “evil things” list?
But Jesus digs deeper and exposes our hearts further. Look at what makes His “big” list with those other sins: evil thoughts (literally, harmful reasoning), deceit, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness (lack of good judgment). Before we brush these aside, consider some practical application.
What is it when we assume others’ intentions and motives without tangible evidence? What about when we have such a tainted perception of someone that we cannot be civil and peaceable, much less tenderhearted, kind, and forgiving toward them (cf. Eph. 4:32)? What of using opportunities to gossip and slander a brother or sister in Christ? What about the words we say when our pride is wounded or we feel slighted? What about a failure to be discreet about people’s situations we come into the knowledge of?
Scripture tells us how vitally important a good, Christlike attitude is. Philippians uses the word “mind” to admonish proper attitude. A mind fueled by encouragement, love, affection, and compassion lead not only to unity, humility, and high regard for others, but it also reflects the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:1-11). It eliminates grumbling and disputing (Phil. 2:14). It shows us to be above reproach in the middle of a world that lives out the kinds of things Jesus reproves in Mark 7:20-23 (Phil. 2:15).
If I have a heart filled with the kind of “evil things” in Jesus’ Mark seven list, how can I have the right, Christlike attitude He expects me to have? I will likely be biting, sarcastic, bitter, hateful, negative, complaining, and critical. Whatever that says about the object of my bad attitude, it does not excuse me in His eyes. He would tell me I am defiled. That means unclean and unacceptable. To see it that way convicts me to watch my heart so that acidic content does not spill out and hurt my reputation, my relationships, and my Righteous Ruler!
Solomon makes an interesting observation in the book about his grand experiment seeking the meaning of life. In Ecclesiastes 8, he is writing about the “evil man” who is basically living life as he pleases, doing what he wants with no regard for judgment. There seem to be multiple reasons for him to continue living this way:
He’s doing evil and is not suffering immediate consequences for it (11).
He’s repeatedly doing evil and is even living a long life (12; cf. 7:15).
He doesn’t seem to suffer a fate any worse than the righteous, and sometimes seems to do better than the righteous (14).
Frankly, Solomon is making a timeless observation. Perhaps you have sung the song, “Tempted and tried, we’re off made to wonder why it should thus all the day long, while there are others living about us never molested though in the wrong.” Billionaires, movie stars, professional athletes, politicians, and the like provide public examples of this passage and that song. We can produce more local, if lesser known, examples of those who seem prosper, living so wicked year after year.
Solomon does not have the understanding we have this side of Calvary, but he ultimately grasps the principle that should guide our lives today. At the very end of Ecclesiastes, he says, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (12:13-14). This is a vital principle for me to internalize and live by.
When I am tempted to live like this world is my home and the pleasures of earth are what life is about, I need to understand that I may not be struck dead while pursuing life on those terms, not even if I persist in it over a long period of time. I may not die a horrible death as the result of pursuing what God calls “evil.” However, Ecclesiastes 8:11-14 does not describe the end. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 does.
If I drift away from fellowship with God and His people, if I live like the world when I am out of sight of the church, if I put someone or something above my faithfulness to God, I probably won’t suffer immediate consequences. God loves me enough to let me know that. He will let me make whatever choices I want, but He wants me to know the results of my decisions. Solomon rightly says, “Still I know it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly” (Ecc. 8:12; cf. 3:14; 5:7; 7:18; 12:13). There is an appointment for every one to “be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). It is when we appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and Paul says we must all do so. Wisdom is living this life preparing for that moment, understanding that judgment is not now but then. Such knowledge should move us to “fear God and keep His commandments.”
There is one teaching of Buddhism that I have looked upon favorably, that our problems stem from earthly attachment and desire. I cannot argue with principles I also find recorded in the pages of the Bible, after all. Yet, despite the growing popularity of Buddhism in the West, I find Buddhism wholly deficient in addressing the spiritual needs I have. In a nutshell, Buddhism lacks two essential things I believe are needed to save.
First, it does not embrace the only name given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4.12). I recognize this is not an insurmountable obstacle for a nonbeliever. The nonbeliever secularizes the Christ and strips Him of His Divinity. Or he or she might declare Jesus of Nazareth to be a mere fabrication of men. Interestingly enough, though, since I am considering Buddhism, there are those co-opting Jesus as One influenced by the teachings of the Buddha. The theory is that Jesus was in India, learning Buddhism somewhere between the ages of 12 and 30. (That would be a fantastic departure for One Who proved His knowledge of Scripture on par with rabbis many years His senior at the age of 12, wouldn’t it? –Luke 2.46-47. This supposed abandonment of Moses’ Law also ignores His stated purpose of being the living embodiment of the same –Matthew 5.17.)
Second, it foolishly looks within oneself to find salvation. Buddha claimed to be an ordinary man. Thus, Buddha implied anyone could achieve “enlightenment” as he had done. Buddha said that you find salvation looking within yourself. Perhaps it sounds like an oversimplification of a system of faith, but that is a distinct difference. Within Buddhism, one does not need even the existence of gods, let alone the True and Living God, since he or she attains enlightenment all alone. Meanwhile, the great monotheistic religions acknowledge that man is incapable of saving himself. Those traditions maintain that despite being created innocent and pure, we utilized our free moral agency to serve the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life (1 John 2.15-17).
Which of these ideas are more consistent with observation? Outside of the innocence of youth, do people tend to be motivated by selfishness or altruism? There has been a long-standing debate as to whether humans are born inherently good or bad. Few are those attributing good as the default position of the mature heart. Indeed, a child left to his or her own devices, without proper guidance, will become subject to the corrupting influence of those three avenues to sin previously identified above. Thus, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all encourage parents to guide children properly regarding morality, to mold them into the servants of principle.
In contrast, the Holy Bible teaches that there are ways seeming right to us, leading to our destruction (Proverbs 16.25). Jeremiah, the prophet, confesses to God that man cannot even order his steps (Jeremiah 10.23). These two truths ensure as Jesus taught that the vast majority of people are traveling the broad, highway to hell (Matthew 7.13-14).
To allow for such blind groping in the dark, Buddhism has to allow for a continuous system of rebirth. In other words, few, if any, are they who manage to attain enlightenment on their first try through life. He or she will more likely fail only to be reborn and try again and again. And that is the greatest tragedy of the belief that you can look within yourself to find salvation. You get stuck on this Ferris wheel of rebirth. Paul tells the Athenians that even those who are groping can easily discover God since He is not far from us (Acts 17.22-30).
Though I do not wish to be unfair to those embracing the Buddhist belief system, I have to wonder if the attraction of the Western mind to Buddha’s religion has more to do with the mindset implanted by the liberty afforded to citizens of Western democracies. In other words, do Westerners instead prefer the idea of independence from God, telling him or her what to do to be righteous? I am inclined to believe the latter.
I can speak to my own heart. I know its evil. So, I find myself caught up in that same war with my members, as experienced by the apostle Paul (Romans 7.14ff). Like Paul, I ask who can save me from this body of death (Romans 7.24). And like Paul, I find my Savior to be Jesus Christ (Romans 7.25;8.1-2). For that reason, when presented with the choice, I believe in the Son of Man rather than Siddhartha Gautama. My righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64.6). A wretch like me can only be saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2.8-10).
This is a question that has been asked for centuries. If God is all powerful, why doesn’t He just kill Satan? In order to adequately answer this question we will need to look at a few different aspects of the Devil himself, as well as the attributes of God.
It’s not hard to find evidence of a world filled with sin, and logically it would make sense for God to just destroy the source of the problem…or would it? Let’s notice a few things about Satan.
Where did he come from? In Genesis 1:31, God sees His creation and it says, “everything was very good.” All of God’s work was perfect. From this we can conclude that Satan started off as good and became evil. While Scripture doesn’t reveal his exact origin, it says enough for us to draw a logical conclusion. For example, 2 Peter 2:4, Matthew 12:24, and 25:41 point to Satan as the leader of a groups of angels that have abandoned heaven. So we have to ask, why was Satan cast out of Heaven?
Based on the previous verses and what we read in Jude 6, the angels were created with free choice. And Peter explains that the angels sinned (2 Peter 2:4). We read the phrase “The Devil and HIS angels” so Satan was most likely the leader and instigator of this rebellion in heaven. Satan tried to rebel against God and failed miserably and will face the consequences of his actions (Revelation 20:1-3). Since Satan cannot win against God, he now wants to get payback by taking his anger out on God’s creation.
So why doesn’t God destroy Satan? Aside from the fact that he’s an angel and killing him would be different from killing a human, we run into another issue.
Even if Satan were destroyed, man would still sin. James 1:14 tells us that as humans we are carried away by our OWN desires, and these desires lead to spiritual death. Satan doesn’t cause everyone to sin, at every location on earth, because he doesn’t have this kind of power. Even if God destroyed Satan, there would still be sin on earth.
There is one other aspect we must look at in order to answer this question; What is the definition of good? Without evil, how can good exist? If God is good, then evil must exist. Without darkness, how can we recognize light? There is balance and perfection in everything.
We are given free will, and if there were no other choice except faith in God, we would not have faith by choice. We would have faith by force. I think about when I was younger and got in a fight with my siblings. Mom would force us to hug each other. That hug was not done out of love, but by mom telling us to get it done. Do you prefer to be loved by choice or by force?
Satan will get what he deserves, but God is defined as a God of love. If God took away our free choice (either to serve Him or sin) then He would be a God of Force. God has the power to destroy Satan, but in doing so we would still be in a fallen world filled with sin. God loves us enough that He wants us to come to Him by choice. This is something each one of us should strive to do.