The Anatomy of Discipleship

The Anatomy of Discipleship

As we approach the word, let us go before the Lord in prayer. Let’s pray. Father, we have heard your call to worship, and in worship, we have sung Your praise. In worship, we have confessed our sins. In worship, we have heard of your forgiveness. In that worship, we approach your word, you who opens eyes, you who unstoppable ears. Father, we pray that by the power of your Holy Spirit, you would implant your word in our hearts, that it might take root and flourish, bearing the fruit you desire in our lives. Lord, we need your help to listen well. And we ask that you might do that work in our lives as we approach your word. Through Christ, our Lord, we pray. Amen. It’s a delight to continue the Summer Psalms and Proverbs. This morning we’ll be looking at the anatomy of discipleship out of the last eight verses of Proverbs four, Proverbs four, verses 20 to 27. This is the word of God. God. My son, be attentive to my words, incline your ear to my saying, let them not escape from your sight. Keep them within your heart, for they are life to those who find them, and healing to all flesh.

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you, crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet, then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left. Turn your foot away from evil. The word of the Lord, you may be seated in. We pray for the preaching of God’s word. Father, as my words are true to your word, may they be taken to heart. But if my words should stray from your word, may they be quickly forgotten. I pray this in the name and in the power of Jesus Christ. Amen. I spy with my eye something that is blue. With these words, the delightful game begins where the other person looks around and asks, Is it the carpet? No. Is it the view cushions? No. Is it the background of the shields and the windows? No. It’s a game in which we bring several of our sensory receptors together towards a common goal, find the desired object. And do that to successfully guess, we might be wise to think about what would the other person be looking at.

Would they look to a bird or a painting, a flower or some fabric? What might he or she be looking at? We’re thinking intentionally. We’re looking intentionally. And on and on, the question goes until finally, is it Pastor Lloyd’s tie? Yeah, yes. The joy and the delight seen on their faces as the right answer is guest. What if the object I spy with my eyes was wisdom? What if we so hungered for heavenly truth to borrow a phrase that that was the object of our vision? Our hearing, our hunger? If wisdom is our desire, or if we desire that wisdom become, might become something that we truly desire, our text this morning shows us how we can move in that direction. That is to learn to love God with all of our heart, with all of our mind, with all of our soul and strength, which is both the goal and the result of wisdom. If we were to do that, we must intentionally discipline or disciple our eyes, our ears, our heart, our mouth, and our feet. This text before us this morning is the seventh lecture or lesson that a father gives to a son, and it starts in pretty standard fashion.

It doesn’t use the normal, hear my words, but it’s very similar. Here, the father asks for his attention. He asks for his concentration, be attentive or concentrate on my words. In other words, let them be at the center of your gaze and your thoughts. To that end, the father knows what Old Testament scholar Derek Kidner knows, when he wrote, A major part of doggedness, wrong, a major part of godliness lies in the dogged attentiveness to familiar truths. Just the dogged attention to detail of the things we know to be true. And that grows into godliness. This godliness, this cultivation of the heart towards godliness, which we see in verse 23, as the object of this lesson. And that’s given after the relatively normal introduction. The father then begins to impress upon his son ways in which he might pay attention and the ways in which he might learn to be more attentive. And he does this. He accomplishes this by first, in the first half of this poem, giving a quick tour of some of our receptor body parts, the eyes, the ears, and even the heart, the parts of our body, and that brings things in and how we ought to pay attention to those.

And then in the second half of the text, he gives attention to those active parts, and he shows for us a connection between how even our actions can shape our hearts towards or away from godliness and wisdom. He places this lesson, this pursuit, or this call to pursue wisdom in a poem, and he uses the standard proverbial parallels in which that second part or the second line repeats, expands, it enhances, it develops the first line in a couplet. He also uses what some call a kiazom. You build towards something, you pivot, and then you move away from that thing or from the beginning back to the beginning. The pivot is in verse 23, and it happens with our hearts. And he bookends this poem with the Hebrew word to turn. In verse 20, he uses it, and he’s saying to turn or incline, that’s how it’s translated in the ESV anyway, to turn or incline your ears to wisdom. Whereas in verse 27, it is a charge that we are not to turn or to swerve away to the right or to the left. Do not steer towards evil, but rather to wisdom. And if you want to take this journey, the first step is the desire for wisdom.

English pastor Charles Bridges declared, when writing in the early 1800s, he notes that the key is to keep your eye on the treasure of wisdom at all times. Verse 20 and 21 give us, in quick succession, three ways to help that we do not bend, or that we rather bend, or steer, or turn, or incline our ears. And do not let them escape your sight. Preserve, keep, guard them in your heart. And so we have the eyes, the ears and the heart in quick succession. Perhaps before we unpack those three, we might be wise to dump to verse 22, which answers the why. Why attend to wisdom? Why listen for the heavenly truth? Verse 22, rather, answers that question. For they are life to those who find them and healing to all their flesh. And so here then is the prize. Wisdom brings life, wisdom brings healing. And both of these gifts are Lord Jesus Christ, the word made flesh, wisdom, incarnate, attributes to himself in the Gospel of John. In some of the great I am sayings. We hear, for instance, in John 11, I am the resurrection and the life. John 14, I am the way, the truth, and the life.

We hear in John 6, three times Jesus saying, I am the bread of life. I am the living bread. Life and healing is the offer of the Gospel. The good news that our Lord Jesus can bring you life and healing. If you desire wisdom above all things, if that is the great pearl, if you desire Jesus above all things. And so the first question is this, do you desire that? Do you really want life and healing? Do you really want to pursue Jesus? To find him? To find him? To find him? Do you genuinely want to love the Lord, your God with all of your heart, mind, strength, and soul. I’ll tell you that I noticed in my own life, as I continue to struggle with dying to self and living for Christ, as I noticed the remnants of the old nature rearing their ugly head, as I feel attacked and threatened by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life, in times like that, I need to ask myself, What do I desire? Do I want wisdom? Do I really want Jesus to rule my life?

All of it. Do I want to love him well and be loved by him? It’s in those times that we might be wise to admit the state of our heart, that we might be wise to admit that what we really need is to grow in the right desire. Like the father that brought his child to Jesus for healing. And then when he hears Jesus proclaim that hearing is possible for the one who believes. That father cried out, I believe. Help my unbelief. Perhaps, as we read verse 22, we might likewise need to cry out and confess, Lord, I desire help my lack of desire. And how we are to grow in that desire is answered in part by these three charges in verses 20 and 22. We need to turn our ears to hear truth. To do that, we ought to consider boosting our regular diet of truthful words, as well as limiting those voices and words that would pull us from truth. What I’m speaking about here is heavenly truth. The word preach, the scriptures read aloud in family devotions, conversations that you have with your friends in your studies or in your small groups.

English pastor Bridges, he writes, quote, Neglected Bible is melancholy proof of a heart alienated from God. End quote. Is your Bible simply gathering dust? Is the word prominent in your ears? This is one of the ways in which we can grow in our desire for wisdom. In verse 21 is the second charge, and this one has to do with our eyes. The call is to let them not escape from your sight. Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltky seems to suggest that wisdom might, he says, take feet and walk away from you. Don’t let it get away. Wisdom demands seeking. Look for it. Seek it out. And when you see it, keep it. Keeping God’s word in our heart, that’s the third call. And practically speaking, this is a call to develop such a familiarity or even a memorization of God’s word. You’ll find that as you keep it in your heart, it keeps you. The earlier chapters of this verse, wisdom is personified as lady wisdom. Proverbs 4:6 charges us and says, Do not forsake her. She will keep you. Love her, and she will guard you. This is a beautiful picture of Christ’s love for us and the power that His word can have in our life.

I love how Walthie reminds us, as our heavenly commandments were housed in the center of the Holy of Holies. The father’s teaching should be housed right in the middle of a son’s heart. And when you do that, when you grow in that, when you train your heart, you begin to enjoy the benefits of Proverbs 6:22. When you walk, they, God’s word, His truth, Christ’s word, when you walk, they will lead you. When you lie down, they will watch over you. And when you awake, they will talk to you. These are words of life. Again, we ought to think of our Lord Jesus when after speaking challenging truths to his followers in John 6, or reminding his followers that his words and his words alone gave spirit and life. We read in John 6:66, after this, many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. And so Jesus said to the 12, Do you want to go away as well? And you may remember Simon Peter’s beautiful answer, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Is that the truth you believe? The belief that lives itself out in your life?

Do you believe that Christ Jesus alone has the words of eternal life? Well, if you would desire to grow in that to deepen your love for the Lord’s voice, you must keep your heart with all diligence. That’s the message of verse 23. And you can see how it serves as a pivot in this text, moving from how we bring wisdom into our lives to how we live out that wisdom with our heart, with our mouth, and then with our feet. The heart functions here both as a receptor, body part, and as an active member. It both brings in and lives out what it is that we truly believe. And that being the case, the call to keep our heart cannot be overstated. Old Testament scholar, Dielik, remarks, life has not only its fountain in the heart, but also the direction which it takes is determined by the heart. We’d be wise to remember that in Biblical and ancient writings, the heart is the instrument of one’s thinking. It’s the center of one’s will. Dielik notes that it is the seed of knowledge of self, of knowledge of God, of knowledge of our relationship with God, and also the law of God, imposed, or impressed, rather, on our moral nature.

And so he calls the heart the workshop of our individual, spiritual, and ethical lives. This is why we ought to take the guarding of our own hearts to such extremes. We’re told by Jesus plainly in John, or Luke, rather 6:45, that the good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, while the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil. For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. And that leads directly into the second of the five admonitions on how we can live out our wisdom. The first is to keep or guard the heart. And the second is with our to put away crooked speech in verse 24. And the term crooked here presents a picture of speech that distorts or twists, speech that deforms or disfigures what is true, speech that moves away from love and truth, that moves away from building up one another. And we are to keep away from that. We’re charged next to train our eyes. We’ve seen the eyes before in verse 21, it was a picture of training our eyes to seek truth, to look for it, to read it, to learn, and to grow, recognizing that God’s opportunities for learning wisdom, they might be fleeting, they might be only momentary.

So seek those opportunities, and when you see them, take them, learn and grow. Here, the eyes, the charge to our eyes is a different focus. Now here in verse 25, we are to follow the command to look straight ahead to the end. We’re to put into action Jesuss. And he reminds us his words when he delivered on what we call the Sermon on the Mountain, Matthew 6:20, where he reminds us the eyes are the lamp of the body. So if your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light. Ii appreciated Dielich when he reminds us that purposeless, curious, staring about operates on the soul. And he says, It always decentralizes and easily defiles it. Even at times, our idol looking about can be innocent enough, we must always be on our guard. I remember once in my younger days, an older person telling me, The first look is free. I doubt that’s true. At least for myself, I am always wiser when I’m careful to train my gaze to fix my eyes on a goal. Bruce Wulkey once wrote, As long as people have their eyes fixed in heavenly truth, Satan has no advantage over them, end quote.

We ought to be asking the question the serpent asked, did God really say? That’s what we ought to be asking all the time. What did God really say? Waltby notes, Eve fell only after she looked at the fruit. He might have picked David on the rooftop as his example as well. Train our gaze. The fourth and fifth charges have to do with our feet, and so we’ll take them together. But before we do, there’s a dual danger in delivering a sermon like this. You see, on one hand, the danger could be that it would lend towards or tend towards legalism. You could take these charges and put a series of heavy rules or fences around your eyes, blinders, around your ears, around your heart, you could write another law in your heart over God’s law. In an initial effort to protect yourself to achieve godliness. However, invariably, this approach leads time and again to a self-righteous legalism where your heart becomes more and more prideful and you lack in grace. The other danger is essentially doing nothing. You might adapt an attitude that really any devoted or any intentional effort towards godliness would bound to be legalistic.

It would simply be human effort. One would either ignore the problem or attempt to spiritualize it away. And this approach usually leads to a form of licentiousness, a compromising of one’s testimony, a walking away from the gospel. The wiser course is to cultivate a joy towards godly living, avail ourselves to wisdom such that we might grow in our desire for wisdom that we might begin to truly delight in honoring God. That we would understand how well we’ve been loved such that we would naturally love in return, and our lives would look like that love. And so we grow towards godliness, not for the sake of getting anything, but simply and beautifully because we love him. And it’s a joy to honor him. I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go to the house of God. I was glad that it’s the Lord’s Day. I’m glad to spend time in the word. I’m glad to come to the meal. I’m glad to sing his praises. It’s a joy to tell others about him. And we get in the last two verses, our final exhortations, and we’re called to ponder the path of our feet in verse 26 to build a safe path ponder could have been translated level.

One scholar writes, We must remove all that can become a moral hindrance or a dangerous obstacle in our life course in order that we might make the right steps with our feet. If you struggle in your growth and grace, if you find you repeatedly make the same mistakes, you might be able to identify some obstacles you trip on, and a wise one would remove those obstacles to ponder the path of your feet. Anyone who’s cleared a path or served on a trail crew knows the importance of clearing out obstacles. And we ought to do that with our spiritual lives as well. Now, the writer of Hebrews takes this as such an important theme. He uses the athletic image of laying aside every encumbrance, anything that might slow you down or trip you up, Hebrews 12:1, so that you might run the race set before you with endurance. And the next verse tells us how, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, despised the shame, and is seated at the right-hand of the throne of God. Christ set before him the joy of what he was to accomplish for us such that he could undergo those struggles.

Hebrews beautifully weaves the importance of setting our eyes on the right object, as well as carefully navigating or running the course. For when we’re on the right course, verse 27 exhorts us not to swerve from the right or the left. Bridges quotes an even earlier pastor who wrote this, It’s as if the Royal Way was hemmed in by the sea, and to wander off the path from either side would put you in the danger of being drowned. He noted, some people are too greedy, others too esthetic, some too bold, others too diffident. Some neglect the mediator, others seek other mediators. Some flee the cross and others make their own unnecessary crosses. Some tamper with potpour and others from the dread of it, hazard to loss of valuable truth. That earlier pastor illustrates those dual dangers that I’ve mentioned, and the key is in the who or the why. Are we simply trying to be better? Is being godly the end? Or do we desire wisdom? Do we desire Jesus? Do we truly love him and the desire to grow in our love for him? If so, then we will grow in our joy for the means that he has given us.

Disciplines that we ought to engage in will become a joy, and we’ll recognize that they both flow from and lead to a deepening relationship with Jesus. And that when we diligently strive to, we will also benefit from loving the Lord, our God, with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. I spy with my eye something that is wise. Look to Jesus. He, and only He can bring life and healing for our souls. Let’s pray. Father, thank you that you work your will in our lives, and that the only way that we can ever love you is because you have first loved us. And Father, I ask that we would be reminded again, experiencing once again what it’s like to be loved, that we would recognize your great love for us. And so all of our effort would simply be a response to that love. Father, we ask that your spirit would be at work in our lives. That you would help us to understand whether we even want to love you, Father, that you would show us that, and you would begin to work that love into our lives. Father, we thank you for Christ’s perfect work.

We thank you for your Holy Spirit applying that work in our lives. Father, we give you all praise for your word.

Disclaimer: Automated Sermon Transcription