Tag Archives: Understanding

Learning the Wisdom of God

“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path.” (Proverbs 2:1-9, ESV)

Many people claim to want the wisdom of God. They claim to desire the direction and understanding of the Lord for their lives. So many times, though, when that wisdom is bestowed it is ignored or refused because it is not the answer that was desired.

When it comes to receiving the wisdom of God, Solomon says there is one key term: “if.” Three times in this text a phrase begins with this key word. “If you receive my words;” “if you call out for insight;” “if you seek it like silver.” Each of these is an aspect of what we must have to receive the wisdom of God. While the wisdom itself is free, its ability to have an impact in our lives has a price. We must be willing to receive it, to listen to what God has to say. We must be willing to ask for it, to make known what it is we are trying to understand. Further, we must be willing to seek it out for ourselves, not wait for someone to bring it to us.

If we truly want it, seek it, and ask for it, we will receive it. We will understand the righteousness, judgment, equity, and paths of God. Then it is up to us to put them into practice. If we do not listen or seek it out, we will miss or ignore what is directly in front of us. Are we truly desiring God’s wisdom, or simply looking for someone to tell us what we want to hear?

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Is there Anything I can Say to Change your Mind?

Any time there is a discussion among individuals in which there is disagreement, the value of the discussion is determined by whether or not both sides believe there is any kind of evidence, argumentation, or proof that could change their mind on their given belief. While it is often the case that people love to have their voices heard and their opinions known, it is far less frequent that people are actually willing to give serious consideration to the idea that they could be wrong.

However, there is one fundamental and devastating flaw to carrying the mentality that there is nothing that could be shown to you to change your mind: it proves that you are not interested in truth. You see, humans are prone to mistakes. They may be mistakes in logic, mistakes in actions, mistakes in information or any of a number of other types. If one refuses to admit the ability of his human understanding to be wrong, or of his own intuition to be misguided, then he has shown that he believes his knowledge to be perfect and incapable of mistake.  In doing so, he has made it impossible to learn anything beyond what he currently thinks he knows. It is only through the acknowledgement that one could be mistaken that growth is possible.

There are many examples in Scripture of men who changed because they recognized their own fallibility, or repented because they made mistakes, even though they carried positions of authority. It is seen in the apostle Paul and his willingness to acknowledge his wrong direction (Acts 9). It is seen in Apollos’ willingness to be instructed by Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18). It is also seen in the conviction of Peter before those in Antioch because of his mistake (Gal. 2). All of these, and many others, made the changes to their beliefs and actions because the evidence stood as proof they were wrong.

Now, before you begin thinking about all of those people in the religious world who have the gall to believe something different from you and not convert to your way of thinking, consider this: could it be you that has that mentality? I have found that members of the church are just as bad as the rest of the religious world when it comes to this approach to Biblical discussion. On innumerable occasions I have discussed things with brethren, sometimes things of great consequence and sometimes nothing more than nuances of Scripture, and have been dismayed at the response received. Instead of showing proof for what they profess, or giving proof to show what I have said is incorrect, they simply respond with a dismissive statement and move on. On other occasions they will quote some other preacher’s belief, as though just because some man believed it one way that should be enough proof for anyone.

Unfortunately, some people get confused about what it means to be willing to consider another person’s point of view or argumentation. It does not mean that you do not have conviction in your own beliefs; in fact, it means exactly the opposite. It shows that you can be even more convicted in your beliefs, you have been willing to put them to the test of truth and have the evidence that shows they have passed the test.

However, when one walks into Bible studies with the attitude that he already knows it all and he is going to show everyone else what truth is, he is no longer studying the Bible, he is dictating it. He will not carry on a conversation about anything, but instead becomes defensive, combative, and vehement. He does not ask questions, or query about what proof may be brought to bear, he begins to impugn the heart and character of the other participants. The worst part is, even if he carries the truth with his beliefs, he has lost because his arrogance and thoughtlessness have closed the doors of communication with others. He is not concerned with whether or not others learn, only that he is considered right.

When we are asked the question that titles this article, our response should always be that if there is adequate and suitable evidence to show that our convictions are wrong we will change our beliefs. If we are completely interested in truth, then what we have believed in the past does not matter, but what has been proven to be true in the present is of the utmost importance.

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Do You Love Ignorance?

“Ignorance is bliss.”

“What I don’t know can’t hurt me.”

“If I don’t know it by now it must not be important.”

These statements and others like them are often used by individuals when they do not want to confront a particular topic or discussion. They will profess a desire for, and even joy in, their ignorance. They will proclaim it makes life simpler and keeps them from having so much about which to worry. But is ignorance something to be loved or relished? Should it be the desire of anyone to be ignorant?

The term “ignorance” is defined as “a lack of knowledge; unawareness of something important.” Therefore, when discussing ignorance, the intent is not to argue the necessity of knowing everything about every topic; nevertheless, it does require delving into whether or not it is acceptable for me to not know, or desire to find out, things of importance.

When individuals are ignorant, it falls into one of two categories: willful or unwitting. One who is unwittingly ignorant is not intentionally so, but is one who does not even know wherein their ignorance lies because they have never been confronted with the topic under consideration. One who is willfully ignorant knows they do not understand or are lacking knowledge in a certain area, but does not care to take the time and effort to find out the truth; or when the truth is presented and accessible before them, they close their ears so as to continue in their ignorance. This individual is not just one who is lacking knowledge, but is intellectually dishonest because he intentionally refuses knowledge at his fingertips. The one who is unwittingly ignorant will take advantage of the opportunities to increase knowledge and understanding wherever possible, the one who is willfully ignorant will look for ways to avoid any knowledge that would be dangerous to current beliefs or practices.

Consider the three statements at the beginning of this article; all of them are signs of one who is willfully ignorant. Ignorance is bliss. This statement is one of the most often used evidences of willful ignorance. The principle behind the statement is: the less I know, the happier I am. Generally, this attitude is taken toward matters of authority and responsibility. The individual feels that if he does not know what it is he is not supposed to do, he can live however he chooses, be happy while doing so and never be held responsible because he “did not know” what he was doing was wrong. This statement fails to take into account one vital factor: lack of knowledge does not negate responsibility. If I am caught breaking the laws of the land, my lack of knowledge about those laws does not in any way alleviate the illegality of my actions. I am still responsible for what I have done. The same holds true spiritually. The Scriptures often discuss sins committed in ignorance (Lev. 4; 1 Tim. 1:13). Ignorance may be bliss for the moment, but in the end ignorance always winds up causing pain and sorrow.

What I don’t know can’t hurt me. Very much akin to the previous statement, this form of willful ignorance cries out that it is safer to not know something than to know and be found responsible. Though many will use this form of burying their heads in the sand to try to absolve them of responsibility, this mentality only condemns one in the long run. It is common for us to hold politicians and leaders to a standard of, not just what they knew in a particular situation, but what they should have known. Many individuals in leadership positions have been sacked because of their ignorance in matters about which they should have been informed. The same holds true with mankind religiously. God has revealed himself and his will to man through his words and deeds (Rom. 1:20-21), but when man ignores God’s revelation, it does not mean he will not be held accountable to it (2 The. 1:7-9). Many of Paul’s statements to the churches are prefaced with a phrase similar to, “I would not have you to be ignorant,” because the things that were being presented were necessary for their understanding and salvation; ignorance of them would not make life easier; it would only make judgment worse.

If I don’t know it by now it must not be important. This brand of willful ignorance may not always be audibly presented but by action or reaction be readily portrayed. This statement of willful ignorance is used by the individual who is highly confident in his own knowledge, one who believes that he knows and has mastered all that he considers important. It is also used by the individual who has been around for many years and does not want to consider something he has not previously believed; nor does he want to be thought wrong or incorrect in his prior applications. Unfortunately, this is a form of ignorance that is often found, not just in the world, but in the church as well. It is submitted when individuals are confronted with biblical truths or applications they have not heard before and would be just as happy if they never heard again. It often rears its ugly head in discussions of dancing, modesty, societal issues, faithfulness, submission, biblical interpretations of passages that “everyone knows” mean something that they never said, and any discussion that goes against what mom and dad or one’s favorite preacher says. This form of ignorance is so dangerous because it states that the individual is willing to rely on personal knowledge and will reject anything that does not already fit into the category of something he/she wants to believe. Paul talked about such an attitude when he states concerning the Jews in Romans 10:3: “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”

Do you love ignorance? Are you willing to place your own pride, ego, desire, and knowledge above truth and obedience to God? It is not healthy, it is not safe, and it does not make for a happy ending. Remember always what Peter wrote: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy'” (1 Pet. 1:14-16 ESV).

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Having the Answer for Everything

Have you ever met that individual who thinks they know everything? It does not matter the topic of discussion or the issue at hand they will always be the first one to insert their opinion and they have full confidence their opinion is the end of the matter. Although on some occasions one actually does seem to have such a wide knowledge base that they can speak authoritatively on many matters without stretching the bounds of reason, most individuals who present themselves thus are no more than blowhards who feel the need to have a say in everything.

Nevertheless, a question persists that encourages an answer: Is it possible to have the answer for everything? With such a question, I am not endeavoring to go into every field of academia to delve into the deepest mysteries of knowledge; but is it possible to have the answer for everything of importance in life? Is it possible for me to know the answer to every situation I face and every choice that must be made?

If the question requires me to rely upon my own knowledge and understanding, the answer will always be no. I do not have the capacity to know the answer to every situation or to comprehend the dynamics of response and repercussion for every decision. Relying on my own understanding it is impossible for me to have the answer for everything.

Thankfully, I do not have to rely solely upon my own intelligence and ingenuity. In order for me to have the answer, it is not required for me to be the origin of the answer. Therefore, I can turn to the full and final authority on everything: God. Peter wrote that God has given us, “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). This means that God has given us everything that is necessary to guide our physical lives (life) and our spiritual lives (godliness). We recognize that God’s thoughts and ways are far superior to our own (Isa. 55:8-9) and as such bear a level of authority that far surpasses our own abilities.

We need to recognize that, though we do not have the ability to create the answer to every problem, we have access to the knowledge that makes it possible to know the answer. Over the last year, I have been working diligently in my own mind to focus attention on allowing and using the Bible to answer the questions and difficulties that arise. This is not to say I did not consider Scripture previously, but oftentimes I would not formulate the answer around the statements of the Word. When my children ask me questions: whether it is why daddy goes to work every day, or why we say prayer before we eat; I try to answer first with Scripture, then with any additional explanation. When my wife and I are discussing decisions for our family, I try to make sure I am not just thinking about Scripture, but mentioning it in our conversations as well.

The difference this has brought about on a personal level has been highly noticeable. Decisions have been made easier, because I can readily answer with confidence what God wants out of the situation. Pressure and stress have been reduced because I know that I do not have to rely on myself and my abilities for things to work out successfully. Confidence has been gained, because I am not leaning on my own understanding but putting my trust in God (Pro. 3:5). It has changed the way I interact with my family, it has changed the way I approach the questions of my brethren, and it has changed the way I think, on a daily basis, about the Bible. Though I have not been perfect in applying this, I have found that the times where I have made mistakes are the occasions where I failed to follow this procedure.

It is possible to have the answers to every situation, but only if we do not rely on our own wisdom. It does not mean that all of the answers will be simple, nor does it imply that every answer will be the one for which we were looking. Nevertheless, the answer is there; it is available for all who will seek it.

Have you ever tried letting God answer the questions instead of you? If you do, you will find the answers are much simpler than you thought; you will also find that the decisions you make will be far better and more beneficial to your life, because you have allowed the ultimate Guide to direct your path (Pro. 3:6); you will also find yourself spending more time in God’s Word so that you can have the answers you are needing.

Do you have the answer for everything?

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Man’s Knowledge Versus God’s Knowledge

Mankind is notorious for believing that he has everything figured. He believes, and has believed through the centuries, that his knowledge is sufficient to give him everything he needs to know and to lack nothing. Because of these beliefs many men have gone through life believing there is no need for God. They believe they have the ability to work things out for themselves, and therefore God is simply a burdensome tale propagated by weak people who do not have the courage to take care of themselves.

However, when one truly considers the contrast between man’s knowledge and the knowledge of God, he quickly comes to recognize how lacking he truly is; for man’s knowledge pales in comparison to the wondrous glory of the knowledge of the Creator. Consider a couple of examples of the differences between man’s knowledge and God’s knowledge.

Man’s knowledge is finite, God’s knowledge is infinite. The knowledge of man is bound by what he has experienced in his life. Those experiences can come through a variety of avenues, whether through the five empirical senses or through knowledge gained from books and literature, etc. When all man has is his own knowledge and understanding on which to depend, his view of life is quite dim and one sided.

God’s knowledge, however, is not finite in any way, shape, or form. Any man who believes his knowledge to be equal to that of the Almighty should take the test offered by God to Job in Job 38-41. This test is the final test distinguishing finite knowledge versus infinite knowledge. Even with all the wonders of science available to us today, we can only answer a few of the questions God gives Job. We cannot even get a passing grade, much less ace the test.

God’s knowledge is in no way finite. God knows the intricacies of man, both physically and mentally, because he created him. God knows the inner workings of the universe, because he put them in place. The list could go on and on. Nevertheless, the knowledge of God does not waver or decay.

Man’s knowledge is of physical origin, God’s knowledge is spiritual. Because of man’s knowledge coming through the realm of experience, combined with the knowledge of others; the knowledge which man, of his own accord, gathers would only pertain to those things physical. Therefore, man’s knowledge and understanding of many aspects of life would be greatly lacking if it were not for God and His word. The greatest problem man faces is the desire to apply only his own knowledge to his decisions and not seek wisdom from an outside source: the Word of God.

On the other side of the coin, God’s knowledge stems from the spiritual realm. It is not bound by the physical things of this earth, but instead surpasses it with a knowledge of that which is beyond these physical things. It is for this reason God spoke, through the prophet Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9).

God’s knowledge far surpasses our own because of his understanding of those things spiritual. Without the revelation of that knowledge in Scripture, man would truly be lost in his quest for knowledge and understanding.

God has revealed the great truths of Scripture from his vast vaults of knowledge. Yet even with these things before us, we have only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the knowledge of God. When considering a comparison of knowledge and understanding, the Creator always beats the created hands down. So it is with the knowledge differential between God and man.

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Are You Teaching Your Children Wisdom AND Understanding?

The Book of Proverbs is the single greatest volume devoted to personal development in the Scriptures. Its 31 chapters bring into focus every aspect of our lives and decision making. It is evident throughout the book that wisdom is the central theme of Proverbs. Solomon will address many of the writings in the book to his son, and he defines the purpose of this book to his son with these words, “To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding” (Pro. 1:2).

We oftentimes use wisdom and understanding interchangeably thinking that they are essentially the same, but such a belief is a flaw that keeps us from understanding to the fullest Solomon’s, and by extension the Lord’s, intent. The term “wisdom” is used 54 times in Proverbs. It is best defined as the knowledge of right action. Wisdom is the ability to make the right decisions in a given situation; to consider a problem and find the right answer; to direct one’s steps down the right path. Wisdom is the principal attribute to obedience. It is for that reason that wisdom is so often compared to foolishness in Proverbs. Wisdom proclaims righteousness, foolishness proclaims selfishness.

However, it must be comprehended that wisdom and understanding are not the same. Understanding means perception or discernment. It centers around, not what the right action is, but why that action is the right one. There is equal emphasis in Proverbs upon both wisdom and understanding, with the word “understanding” also being used 54 times in the book. The importance of recognizing the distinction between these two words is often underestimated.

To many people’s perception, the difference between wisdom and understanding is so small that it is not meaningful. To the contrary, I would contend, it is the lack of comprehension of the difference between these two terms that has the church in such difficulty today.

As parents, we often tell our children to do something and the first word out of their mouth is, “Why?” We have given them wisdom, but not understanding. It is also the case that often the response to that question is – “Because I said so.” Again, we have delivered wisdom, but at the same time we have refused to give understanding. It is recognized that the present circumstance is not always convenient or appropriate for a long diatribe on the reason for the necessity of the action; but how often does the rationale never come? Oftentimes we can be found training our children with wisdom, but at the same time completely neglecting their understanding.

The same holds true in the spiritual arena as well. There are many Christian parents who bring their children to services regularly, teach them the correct actions and beliefs (The plan of salvation, the commands of worship, the foundations of faith, etc.), but they don’t ever answer that question of why those things should be so. Once again, there is wisdom delivered, but it is void of understanding. Therefore, the child grows up and leaves home knowing what Mom and Dad say are the right things to believe and practice, but having no comprehension of why they are right. Then we set back and wonder why we lose so many of our young people. It is because, in practice, we have been raising them as children with an inherited faith. They have all the wisdom of the parents, but none of their understanding, and hence, no true faith of their own.

Solomon is trying to give us the formula to alleviate those issues, but we have to recognize the importance of it. It is far easier to say, “Because I said so,” but it is not nearly as beneficial. As God has seen fit to deliver to us the reasons for his commandments and the explanations of what they should mean to us and why, so we must be willing to do the same for our children. We need to think before answering with a simple, “Because I said so,” and instead begin teaching our children with useful understanding why such decisions and actions are important; and if we don’t know the answers ourselves, it’s time we were better educated.

Solomon wrote, “Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding” (Pro. 4:5-7). May that thought be always before us as we seek to raise faithful servants to God.

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“Vain Jangling”

Paul told Timothy, “Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully” (1 Tim. 1:4-8). He admonishes Timothy to ensure that he is keeping his focus on what is important and not swerving into contentions of no value.

The term translated in the KJV “vain jangling” comes from the Greek word mataiologia meaning “empty talking.” Paul talks about these empty talkers in verse seven when he writes that they want to be teachers of the law, but do not know what they are talking about. These are individuals who want to speak with authority in giving the interpretation of the Scriptures, but they have not studied them and do not know what they mean. Unfortunately, there are many “empty talkers” in the world today, and more than a few in the church. Individuals who want to be the authority on principles and lessons pertaining to the Scriptures, but have never put in the effort to study them and understand what they mean. Instead, they simply interpret them however they feel sounds good, or however someone else told them it should be interpreted. Some preachers fall into this pitfall when they simply recount what someone else wrote or said about a passage instead of studying it for themselves. They state it as a matter of authority when oftentimes it is nothing more than empty talking because they don’t know whether their words are true or not, but they profess them because someone they trust said it.

Paul does not ridicule the empty talker’s intelligence or say that they are too simple to understand the Scriptures. He does, however, put a stipulation on an individual’s ability to understand the Scriptures. He says that the law must be handled lawfully (properly). It is much the same as the admonition in 2 Timothy 2:15 to rightly divide the word of truth.

Anyone can understand the Scriptures; they were given for that very purpose. But in order to do so, one must use them correctly. The approach of the Bereans (Acts 17:11) in searching the Scriptures daily is necessary to using it lawfully. It is also necessary that an individual approach the Scriptures with the desire to learn and understand, not to simply find controversies or areas that we can use to look and sound knowledgeable; but with a desire to know what God has said that we may do it. The Bible is its own best interpreter. If one wants to know what God said and what he meant by it, one must first go to the source itself for the answer.

We must discourage the practice of “empty talking” in the church.  Preachers and teachers need to study the things that they teach with such authority for themselves out of the Scriptures, not relying on what Brother So-and-so said about it. Because as scholarly as Brother So-and-so was, he could be wrong, seeing he is but a fallible man. Preachers and teachers then need to be adamant about the necessity of listeners not taking their word for things, but studying them for themselves that they may understand them fully. Many of the problems with understanding the Scriptures in congregations could be alleviated if we would simply get rid of empty talking. Nevertheless, may we work diligently to present God’s Word with knowledge and conviction, studying and meditating upon it daily “that thy profiting may appear to all” (1 Tim. 4:15).

 

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