************ Sermon on Proverbs 2 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on July 31, 2016

Proverbs 2
Proverbs 2:3
"Nearer to God"

Nearer, my God, to Thee, Nearer to Thee,
E'en though it be a cross That raiseth me!
Still all my song shall be:
Nearer, my God, to Thee;
Nearer, my God, to Thee, Nearer to Thee.
Is this your prayer? Is this your heart's desire? Do you want to be closer/nearer to God?

God wants you to change. God wants you to grow. God wants you to get closer to Him, closer than you have ever been before, closer than you have even dreamed of being. In today's passage God is telling you that wisdom can make this happen. So don't say this cannot happen to you.

Do you know what can stop you from growing in the faith? Do you know what can prevent you from being closer to God? Listen to Proverbs 1:32 and what it says: "The complacency of fools destroys them." It isn't necessary to hate Jesus to waste your life. You don't need to be an atheist or an agnostic. You don't need to become a criminal. All you need do is nothing. That's what it means to be complacent. This means you aren't in a living, loving relationship with God. You don't get excited about Christ and the faith. You don't help out with anything in the church and kingdom. You occupy a comfortable pew for an hour every Sunday and that's all you want. And you are happy with that; you are happy with who you are and what you are and how you are -- a deadbeat Christian.
Wilbur Reese writes about this attitude with biting sarcasm:
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine.
I don't want enough of him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want the warmth of the womb not a new birth.
I want about a pound of the eternal in a paper sack.
I'd like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
How much of God do you want?

If your heart is longing for a closer walk with God, then you need look no further than Proverbs 2. Anyone who is serious about God and Jesus is anything but complacent about the faith. Does this describe your soul today or are you one of the complacent ones, satisfied with $3 worth of God?

I You Can Be Closer to God (vs 1-11)
A Verses 1-4 tell us how to get close to God. Perhaps these verses describe your walk with God. If so, thank Him that He is working this way in your heart. If not, I want to tell you this morning that no matter who you are, God is more than able to shake you out of your complacency and make Jesus real in your life. With this in mind, listen to the first four verses:
(Prov 2:1-4) My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, (2) turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, (3) and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, (4) and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure ...

Do you hear the word that is repeated in verses 1, 3, and 4? The word "if." And, did you catch the word "then" in verses 5 and 9? "If ... then ..." These two words are the key to understanding verses 1-11. "If ... then ..."

Someone might be thinking this call of wisdom contradicts salvation by grace. But we aren't talking about grace. We are talking about living as graceful people, as grace-filled people, as wise people. Verse 1 assumes we are one of God's children in Christ: "My son ..." And, we can add "My daughter ..." God is speaking to us as those who have been elect in Christ, accepted in Christ, washed and cleansed in Christ. It is His fatherly love speaking to us here, calling us to be nearer to Him; calling us to walk with Him in closer, dearer company.

B Look at the verbs in verses 1-4: accept, store up, turn your ear, apply your heart, call out, cry aloud, look, search. Do you see the point? Wisdom is not automatic. It is not our default setting. And, we will never get there by being complacent; we will never get there by drifting along. You cannot have a closer, dearer walk with God unless you pursue a closer, dearer walk with God.

God is offering you a treasure worth seeking -- more of Himself. God is offering to renew your walk with Him. God is offering to make you one of His excited, enthusiastic servants. God is saying to you, "My child, my son, my daughter, I am so available, I want to walk with you." Do you hear His call? Will you give yourself completely to God today? Will you say to Him right now, "God, I want more of You than $3 worth. God, I want to walk with You in closer, dearer company. God, fill me with Yourself." Will you say that?

Do you know who is telling you to stick with the status quo? Do you know who is telling you to remain in the comfortable pew? Do you know who is telling you that it is okay to remain the way you are? Is God saying this to you? Absolutely not! It is Lady Folly who talks this way. It is the Devil who talks this way. It is the world that talks this way.

The status quo is never okay, dear friends. Because then we never gain in our struggle with sin. Because then we just keep drifting along. Because then we remain complacent, happy with a so-so relationship with God.

Look at it this way: God our Father loved us enough to send His one and only Son to die for us upon the cross. Now, how do we respond to that love? Do we turn from our complacency and to God? Do we seek God? Do we confess to God? Do we repent before God? Do we desire God above all else? We should! That's what He wants from you and me.

C Look at God's promise to those who seek a closer walk with Him:
(Prov 2:5-8) then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. (6) For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. (7) He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, (8) for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.
God is not saying, "If you seek Me, I will love you more." He is saying, "If you seek Me, then you will have more of Me. You will know Me in ways you cannot even imagine. You will have knowledge and understanding that will help you and guard you and protect you." "If ... then ..."

What else? We notice the second "then" at the start of verse 9, followed by more promises:
(Prov 2:9-11) Then you will understand what is right and just and fair--every good path. (10) For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. (11) Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.

It comes down to stuff like this: Do you want to be a better husband or wife? Do you want to be a better mother or father? Do you want to do a better job of managing your finances? Do you want to know what to watch on TV? God is not going to beat you down with guilt and pressure. He is not going to give you five easy steps or four important principles. All you need is God. All you need do is seek Him and love Him.

D This takes work. Having a closer walk with God isn’t a once-a-week hobby; it is the daily discipline of a lifetime. But in this age of microwave ovens, fast foods, and numerous ways to find instant gratification, many people are not willing to invest the time and energy into a closer walk with God. Thanks to the TV their attention span is brief; thanks to religious entertainment that passes for worship, their spiritual appetite is feeble. It’s no wonder fewer and fewer people "take time to be holy" and more and more people fall prey to the enemies that lurk along the way. It's no wonder people are satisfied with $3 worth of God.

II You Are Protected by God (vs 12-22)
A "If ... then ..." If you seek God. If you love God. If you pursue God. If you stop being complacent. Then ...

Verses 8 & 11 both spell out the same glorious promise: if you have a close walk with God, wisdom will guard and protect you. You will be guarded and protected like a mother watches over her baby, like a soldier watches over his post, like a guard watches over his prisoner. From what? Guarded and protected from what? From two different temptations that we face in this world.

Understand that we are under attack, dear friends. The devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh never once stop attacking us. They try to lead us astray. They try to keep us drifting along. They try to keep us from being near to God.

The first temptation is described for us in verses 12-15:
(Prov 2:12-15) Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, (13) who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways, (14) who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, (15) whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways.

We are warned about wicked men. Did you hear the word that is repeated, the word that is used twice to describe them? "Perverse." Their words are "perverse." They rejoice in "perverseness." Perverseness is a sin connected mostly with the mouth (Prov 2:12; 10:31–32; 16:30). These wicked men are guilty of perverted speech. Perverted speech is not limited to bad words and dirty jokes. It includes even good words, but for evil purposes. Perverted speech is used to twist meanings, to flip things upside down. Wicked men use good words to fool people, to make evil look good, to make good look evil.

Wisdom gives us discernment. Just as a mother has a trained nose to sniff that the milk in the fridge is spoiled, so wisdom enables us to distinguish between good and evil. We don’t need hundreds of legalistic rules for every situation; all we need is a closer walk with God.

This is the kind of training our children need -- training in wisdom. It is not enough for them to hear Bible stories and memorize verses. Why do many children from Christian families turn from the faith when they leave the home? Because, while they received the Word of God on an external level, they never internalized what they were taught. Education is about training your children’s tastes to discern between good and evil and to love wisdom.

B The God-given wisdom deep in your heart will also protect you from a second temptation, described in verses 16-19:
(Prov 2:16-19) It will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words, (17) who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God. (18) For her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead. (19) None who go to her return or attain the paths of life.

Do you see what this woman has in common with the wicked men of verses 12-15? Again, words are what we must watch for. This wayward wife has "seductive words." This is a churchgoing woman that is being described here. She made a covenant before God. She knows what is right and wrong. And she is offering you her love.

Whether you are married or single, Proverbs warns us there is no such thing as a one-night stand. It isn't that simple. It can't be dismissed that easily. It is wisdom that protects you, that tells you to run away at the moment of temptation. Like Joseph in Potiphar's house, you know your walk with God is more important than the gratification of the flesh. If you are married, go home to your husband or wife, look deeply into their eyes, tell them you love them, and give them your heart completely. If you are single, kneel down in prayer and give yourself -- body and soul -- to the Lord Jesus Christ.

C A closer walk with God is more than avoiding sin. That would be merely negative. Wisdom also directs you into the path of what is desirable and positive and joyful:
(Prov 2:20-22) Thus you will walk in the ways of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous. (21) For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain in it; (22) but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the unfaithful will be torn from it.

Here in the conclusion to Proverbs 2, Jesus speaks good news for weak people, for sinners, for those prone to wander. Good news, in other words, for people like you and me. The key phrase is "the land," which is the place of God's blessing. If you want a new heart of wisdom, a heart that pursues God, God provides you with company: good men, the righteous, the upright, the blameless. In New Testament terms, the land as the place of God's blessing is the church. Here we are encouraged to walk with Christ, to pursue Christ, to be like Christ. Here we live in Christ.

"The complacency of fools will kill them" (Prov 1:32). I hope these words do not describe you. I hope and pray that you are not one of those Christians who simply drift along.

Instead, my hope and my prayer is that the words of verse 3 describe you: someone who calls out for insight and cries aloud for understanding; someone who desires a closer walk with God.
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