Life in Christ: Right Words, Right Hearts and Right Ways

Proverbs 4:20-27
March 18, 2018
Abraham Hong

 

When faced with the question of what you need in order to live, people come up with many different answers. Some might say that we need food, water, shelter and clothing in order to live. Others might say that human beings need love and happiness or money and achievement. And then a few might say that they cannot live without their cell phone or without coffee or chocolate.

In today’s Scripture text, the father of Proverbs answers the question of what he needs in order to live. In three extraordinary moments, he tells his son what life is and where life comes from. In verse 22, he says that his words and sayings are life. In verse 23, he says that springs of life flow from a heart that is rightly kept. And in verse 26, he says that all of your ways will be sure if there is straightness in your mouth and eyes and feet.

In other words, if the king wanted to have life, he didn’t need food or water. Happiness or achievement. Coffee or chocolate. If the king wanted to have life, he needed to receive the right words, have the right heart, and go the right way.

This is an amazing statement. But it makes a whole lot of sense when you think about the first king - when you think about Adam. Remember? When Adam was put to the test, he had to receive the right words. He had to have the right heart. And he had to go the right way.

But he didn’t.

Instead of receiving right words, Adam received wrong words. Words that were crooked and devious. He was not attentive to God’s words. Instead, he inclined his ear to the sayings of the evil one, whose famous first words were put in the form of a question: “Did God actually say…?” Wrong words.

Instead of having a right heart, Adam had a wrong heart. A heart that was rebellious and covetous and worldly. He struck down God’s divine interpretation of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and replaced it with a human interpretation of his own. Wrong heart.

Instead of going the right way, Adam went the wrong way. The way of evil. With his mouth, Adam was silent and spoke no word against Satan as he seduced his wife. With his eyes, Adam saw what Eve saw: that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desired to make one wise. With his feet, Adam failed to put the serpent underneath his dominion and banish the serpent from the garden. Wrong way.

Adam received wrong words, had a wrong heart, and went the wrong way. And so did every human being that came after him. Romans 3:10-18 solemnly reminds us: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

So, no one has the right words. Nobody has a right heart. None go the right way. Therefore, no one has life.

No one, except Jesus.

The wish that the father had for his son in Proverbs 4 has been fulfilled in the eschatological son, the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus received the right words. Jesus had the right heart. Jesus went the right way.

Praise be to our king! In the spirit of verse 20, Jesus was attentive to the word of God. He inclined his ear to God’s sayings. When our Lord Jesus was a child, a real human being, he grew in wisdom. When his parents lost Jesus in Jerusalem, they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so?” Jesus replied, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Our Savior delighted in the law. On the law he meditated day and night. Jesus was attentive to the word of God. He inclined his ear to God’s sayings. In other words, Jesus had the right words.

Praise be to our king! In the spirit of verses 21 and 23, Jesus kept the word of God within his heart. He kept his heart with all vigilance. He did not let the word of God escape from it. In Matthew 4, Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Jesus kept the word of God within his heart. He kept his heart with all vigilance. He did not let the word of God escape from it. In other words, Jesus had the right heart.

Praise be to our king! Jesus lived out the word of God in his way of life. His mouth did not give crooked speech or devious talk. His eyes were forward and his gaze was straight. His path for his feet was pondered and his foot was turned away from evil. Jesus was the bright morning star who brings the light of dawn that shines brighter and brighter until full day. He was the heritage and the legacy of the wisdom of God perfected. He was the Prince of Peace. He stayed with Lady Wisdom. He earned the garland of righteousness. He was better than Solomon or David. He never sinned. Jesus lived out the word of God in his way of life. His mouth did not give crooked speech or devious talk. His eyes were forward and his gaze was straight. His path for his feet was pondered and his foot was turned away from evil. In other words, Jesus went the right way.

Praise be to our king! Jesus received the right words. Jesus had the right heart. Jesus went the right way.

And because of who he was and what he did, Jesus received in surpassing greatness the father’s promised blessing of life in Proverbs 4. And he gives his blessings to us. Jesus gives to us resurrection life and an eternal healing to all our flesh. Jesus provides for us a flowing spring of life, for he said to the woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14). And Jesus is the sure way and the sure truth and the sure life through whom we can come to the Father (John 14:6).

All of this is by grace. In Numbers 20, the congregation of Israel in the wilderness assembled themselves against Moses and Aaron because there was no water for them and for their cattle. But the Lord spoke to Moses, saying “Take the staff and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” And Moses did just that. Well, kind of. More on that later. Nevertheless, God provided water to a rebellious and complaining and unloving Israel. God sustained their life. And this was all by grace back then. And today we receive God’s grace as well. In Revelation 21:6 and 22:17, we are told that we who are thirsty are invited to come to the spring of the water of life without payment and without price. And in Revelation 7:17, we are told that Christ our shepherd guides us to springs of living water, and that God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

Jesus received the right words for our sake. Jesus had the right heart in substitution to us. Jesus went the right way because we could never go the right way on our own. Jesus did all of this by grace. Jesus did all of this so that we could be saved.

And now, brothers and sisters, we love Jesus by having right words, right hearts, and right ways - not in order to go to heaven, but because we are going to heaven.

Now we are attentive to God’s words and we incline our ears to his wisdom. Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets. But in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let us read the Bible more and more and grow in the grace and knowledge of God’s written word. May we be careful with God’s word. When Moses got water for the congregation of Israel, he did not tell the rock to yield water, as the Lord had commanded him. Instead, with his staff, Moses struck the rock twice for it to yield water. This seemingly small carelessness cost him the Promised Land. Moses was not allowed to enter Canaan. According to 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, it turns out that the rock was Christ himself. It’s not that Jesus was literally the rock. It’s that Jesus was spiritually present in the rock. Moses’ action was therefore not a small careless act. It was a severely devastating act. May we be attentive to God’s words and incline our ears to his wisdom.

Now we keep our hearts with all vigilance and we keep God’s words in them. God’s wisdom is not like naturally remembering how to ride a bike. God’s wisdom requires a lifetime of care and consistency and concentration and commitment. We never stop growing in wisdom. We must never take a break from wisdom. Let us keep at it 100% until Christ returns. And we need to remember that our hearts are central to who we are. Circumcision is a matter of the heart. Let us guard our hearts. May we keep our hearts with all vigilance and keep God’s words in them.

Now we put away crooked speech and devious talk. Let us not lie about ourselves or gossip about other people. We must not allow words to come out of mouths that can hurt others or bring dishonor to our Lord. Let us be careful with our words. May the word of Christ dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:16). May we put away crooked speech and devious talk.

Now our eyes look directly forward and our gaze is set straight. We are focused on Jesus Christ as we wait for his return. We look forward to the promised new heavens and the new earth, acknowledging that we are strangers and exiles on the earth (Hebrews 11). We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18). And in the spirit of Job, we make a covenant with our eyes (Job 31:1) and we do not fall into sexual or earthly temptations. May our eyes look directly forward and may our gaze be set straight.

Now we ponder the path of our feet and do not swerve to the right or left and turn our feet away from evil. We think deeply about our path and what we are really doing in life. We think deeply about our path and the commandments of God. We desire to be holy and be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ. We hate sin and run away from it. We do not run aimlessly, but rather we make it our aim to please the Lord in all things. We know how beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news (Romans 10:15). We walk by the Spirit and we do not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). May we ponder the path of our feet. May we not swerve to the right or left. May we turn our feet from evil.

Brothers and sisters, it is not easy to have right words, right hearts, and right ways. We can often think that are words and hearts and ways are alright. But we can often be totally oblivious to and careless with what comes out of our mouths. Our hearts can often deceive us. And often some ways seem right to us, when they are really not. I encourage us to really stop and think about God’s words, our hearts, and our mouths and eyes and feet. I encourage us to have people in our lives who can be honest with us. I encourage us to have a self-awareness that is fundamentally based on the fear of the Lord.

In closing, remember that the Lord is coming soon. And remember that we have life in him. Food and water is necessary, yes. Love and happiness are nice, indeed. And coffee and chocolate can go a long way. But we need to receive the right words. We need to have the right hearts. And we need to go the right way. Thanks be to God that Christ has all of that for us. Now we receive the right words and have the right hearts and go the right way… all for him.

End


Summary of Sermon

In Proverbs 4:20-27, the father tells the son what he needs in order to have life. In verse 22, he says that his words and sayings are life. In verse 23, he says that springs of life flow from a heart that is rightly kept. And in verse 26, he says that all of one's ways will be sure if there is straightness in one's mouth, eyes and feet.

In other words, for the son to have life, he needed to receive the right words, have the right heart, and go the right way.

Jesus received the right words. He was attentive to the word of God. He delighted in the law and meditated on it day and night.

Jesus had the right heart. He kept his heart with all vigilance. He did not let God's word escape from it.

Jesus went the right way. His mouth did not give crooked speech or devious talk. His eyes were forward and his gaze was straight. His path for his feet was pondered and his foot was turned away from evil.

Jesus fulfilled all of this. And he did it for us. He earned the blessing of life and give it to us. Now his resurrection life and his eternal healing to all flesh is ours. Now his water is a spring of eternal life for us to drink.

Praise the Lord for his grace! Now we love Jesus by having right words, right hearts, and right ways - not in order to go to heaven, but because we are going to heaven.

Let us be attentive to God’s words and incline our ears to his wisdom. Let us keep our hearts with all vigilance and keep God’s words in them. Let us put away crooked speech and devious talk. May our eyes look directly forward and may our gaze be set straight. May we ponder the path of our feet as we swerve not to the right or left and turn our feet away from evil.

Questions for Discussion & Sharing

Fill in the blank: Life is _____. What do you need in order to live?

Jesus never sinned. And yet, for our sake he who knew no sin was made to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). What do you think about the fact that Jesus is without sin? What do you think about the fact that Jesus was made to be sin (he was credited with your sin) so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (you were crecited with his righteousness)?

God sanctifies our hearts and conforms us to the image of Christ as we wait for his return (Romans 8:29). What are some ways in which we do not receive the right words from God? What are some ways in which we do not have a right heart and do not go the right way? Consider: the attention to God's word, the keeping of our hearts with vigilance, the putting away of crooked speech and devious talk, the straightness of our gaze, and the path of our feet.

God loves us and he will never let us go (John 10:27-30). What are some ways in which we can grow to receive the right words from God? What are some ways in which we can grow to have a right heart and go the right way as we wait for Christ's return?

What is grace? How has the Lord been gracious to you in your life?