Proverbs 29:1-6 – The Willingness to Listen

This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on February 19th, 2012.  To listen to the audio, just click on this link – Prov 29A.

This morning we are going to look at Proverbs one more time before we start Lent.  Coincidentally, this week, we have come to a warning, in Proverbs, against stubborn hearted unrepentance.   I want to look at this passage in the light of the coming weeks, as a kind of pre-lent discussion of repentance – and what the passage calls the snare/ trap of sin. .

TURN FROM WILLFUL SIN

Stiff-Necked Sin Leads to Ruin:  “Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.”     The word “stiff-necked” is used throughout the OT to describe the Israelites in their tendency to disregard the great works and miracles of God – to disregard God’s Law – and to do evil.   To be stiff-necked in this sense, means the refusal to bow to God as our creator and king – the refusal to respond to the call of the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51-52) – the refusal to trust God and continuing rebellion against him (2Kings 17:14).

Rom.2:4 tells us that God is patient with us to lead us to repentance.  However, those who continue to resist God after many calls to repentance, after many promptings of the Holy Spirit – who see their rebellion clearly and yet continue willfully – who refuse to submit to God and humble themselves – finally receive the consequences of sin, and face life altering consequences.

Be Soft Hearted:  Being stiff-necked is the opposite of what we saw in Prov.28:14 – “… the one who always trembles before God…” – having a soft or sensitive heart to sin.   There is a profound difference between those who refuse to repent and those who struggle to repent.  Those who struggle to repent tremble – they have the Spirit of God in them making war against sin within them.  But those who are stiff necked are not at war – they are at peace with their sin.

RECOGNIZE THE ENSNARING NATURE OF WILLFUL SIN

Sin Snares Us by Promising We Can Govern Ourselves and Be Happy.

The Image of the Wicked Rulers:  “when the wicked rule, the people groan.”    One of the lies that feeds a stubborn, stiff-necked determination to continue in our own way (rejecting God’s call to repent), is the belief that we can rule/ govern our own lives better than God can – we don’t always put it that way.   Stubborn sin persists when we are committed to the idea that we know the best way to be happy and fulfilled.  But we are deceived

.  Wisdom is showing us that what looks like freedom (self-governance – the will to go our own way in issues of obedience), is actually a trap that leads to enslavement.  There is an evil figure who influences our self-will, and who turns us towards foolish actions and words and thoughts – which lead to groaning .

For instance:  God tells us not to seek revenge – but we decide revenge is going to make us feel better – so we do it – and we end up in cycles of retaliation and hatred and broken relationships that go farther than we thought they would – and make us unhappy.

Christ the King Wants to Forgive and Rescue Us from Rebellion:   “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice …“   That which keeps us free is the willingness to bow before the rightful king, creator, preserver of our lives.   Jesus the King died for his subjects – paying the penalty for our rebellious self-rule.  Jesus patiently calls us to submit to his authority – to recognize his rule of our lives as healthful and good – to turn from sin and obey his word.

Jesus has shown us the consequences of our self rule and rebellion through his death on the cross.  We need to be aware of the wayward tendency in ourselves.  We need to be asking ourselves, in what ways have we practiced this submission to God – acknowledging him as king and master and ourselves as subject and obedient.

Sin Snares Us with The Promise of Comfort.

the Image of the Companion of Prostitutes:  “a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth.”     Another lie that feeds willful sin is exposed through the image of the companion of prostitutes.  Here is a man who pays so that he can have companionship that is not real.

Willful sin is driven and drawn by the fact that we are shallow enough to pursue comforts even when we know they are not real.   We choose fantasy over our marriages – we exchange busyness for meaningful thought and activity – we choose to put on a face for people rather than letting them know who we are.

And as we escape and avoid, our false comforts leave us with nothing – they are a trap.  We squander and throw away marriages and children and life – chasing comforts.

God Our Father Calls Us to Sonship:  God’s desire is to bless us.  He is the Father who stands outside the door of the brothel and calls us to love wisdom and come home.

God wants interaction.  The Father wants us to know him.  Knowing God means believing his promises and trusting that he will keep them towards us.  Knowing God means hearing instruction and then finding out how to please Him through that instruction.  Wisdom is about being in relationship – interacting – with God through his word – responding to his call – worshipping him.

If we come into the church and never really listen to the word and never really try to find out how to please God – then we are like a man, living in a house, who never speaks to his wife or interacts with his family.  He could be replaced and it might be some time before they noticed – because he has no relationship with his family.

God, who is our Father, wants to bless us, to interact with us through the word and his Spirit.  God wants to be known in a real way – a real and  active relationship.

Sin Snares Us By Looking Like a Solution to Problems.

The Image of the Bribe:  “By justice a king gives a country stability, but those who are greedy for bribes tear it down.”    Another lie that feeds willful sin is our belief that sin is a practical solution to our difficulties.   The Bribe is a shortcut – the easy and practical way to get things done – to cut through the red tape.

Willful sin is carried along by our belief that repentance would not only be difficult – but that it would also be less effective – that, “It’s only going to make things worse/ harder”.   Yet, the bribe/ the spread of corruption, actually destroys the city.  Justice ceases to be done – people rebel – things don’t work.   The same is being said of sin as a practical solution… Practical sin corrupts and destroys what it initially saved and helped.

Christ Our Deliverer Wants to Lead Us to Stability and Peace:   Practical sin is a short term solution that cannot sustain us.  Practical sin leads to hiding and maneuvering and trouble.

But Jesus is willing to lead us out of situations that have become, seemingly, impossible.  There is real help for those who are willing to turn from the mess of their own practical, sinful solutions.  God will honor our repentance and will give us counsel and lead us to peace and stability.

Sin Snares Us By Making Us Feel Smart and Self-Sufficient.

Image of the Flatterer:  “Those who flatter their neighbors are spreading nets for their feet.”   The Flatterer tells us what we want to hear in order to gain our favor – Because he wants something!    Vs.5 is a “sub-summary” of vs. 2-4.   Basically it says – sin is a flatterer that tells us…

~ That we can be happier if we govern ourselves

~ That we can be happier if we comfort ourselves, and

~ That we can be happier if we find our own practical solutions to our problems.

We love to be self-sufficient – not to have to depend on anyone – to decide for ourselves.

The Holy Spirit Leads Us Into All Truth:  This morning, the Spirit of God is speaking to each of us, confronting us with truth about ourselves, our motives, and our willfulness through these scriptures.  Hear the truth.  Examine your heart before God today.  Come and find God’s welcome and grace.

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