“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.”
(Proverbs 3:5-7 ESV)
As individuals who confess Christ is Lord, we believe the content of the Bible is truth. Consequently, when we, being Christian, read through the Bible or hear it preached much of what is said is easily swallowed. It goes down like water. Take the above passage as an example. Without thinking too much, or at all, we can all agree that we should trust God with all our heart, that we should acknowledge him, and that we should turn away from evil. To mix metaphors, this is the low hanging fruit we can all easily pick and pocket away. Accepting these truths seems to be a given for those who are called God’s adopted children, but it is one matter to agree with the Word and another matter entirely to put it to active use.
There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom. If we only glance over this passage and take just as frivolous an approach in keeping it we’d be handling the Bible like it was a textbook instead of God’s Word given to us so that we’d be equipped for every good work. Here, when we’re talking about wisdom, we’re talking about wisdom as applying knowledge. Anybody given these verses in Proverbs 3 would be able to summarize it as I have in the opening paragraph. We, as believers, have been given the Holy Spirit. This means when we come to Scripture we have the capability of applying the knowledge we read and turn it into wisdom. We have the capability to grow in Christ-likeness, pursuing our sanctification, when we take Scripture and use it to examine our hearts.
The writer of Hebrews says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account,” (Hebrews 4:12,13 ESV).
Here he is saying that Scripture is able to separate the carnal motivations from our God-glorifying ones. We, as believers, are able to see ourselves for who we are when the Holy Spirit enlightens us through the reading of the Word. Scripture is capable of exposing our sinfulness to us, and by having that sin exposed is how we grow in wisdom and Christ-imitating character, but we have to handle Scripture like it’s life changing. Put another way, we’re not just looking to have passages committed to memory for the sake of memorizing them.
In 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 Paul says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
The memorization of Scripture is for us to meditate on it, and as we meditate on Scripture, allowing the Holy Spirit to enlighten us and convict us of our sinfulness, we grow ever more conscious of our absolute need and dependence on God to deliver us from our sin, and when that happens then knowledge becomes wisdom.
Let’s go back to the opening passage, and allow me to share with you the process I underwent to work through it and how God is allowing me to share with you the wisdom he’s blessed me with to bless you. When I looked at the passage in Proverbs, I had to consider my understanding of trust. I’ve always defined trust as a stock I put in people or ideas, an immaterial currency I could transfer from one account to another at will. Of course, even if that is an acceptable definition, I still needed to figuratively place that immaterial currency into something or someone. Yet, it’s not as simple as throwing money and expecting results. It’s not as simple as saying, “Yes, I trust God with all my heart.
I was born a sinner, and I live in a world that expounds a religion of self-glorification. Without taking the time to give you my testimony, suffice it to say I didn’t really understand what Christ had done for me until I was heading off to college. All that time I had been formulating ideas of how the world works, taking bits of the human experience and mashing them up with my observations to create a worldview that was devoid of Christ. What I’m saying is that, even to this day, within myself are deep-seated beliefs that are founded on my humanist “wisdom” than what God has given me through his Word.
You might be asking yourself why the roundabout way to get to this part of this post. I was well aware of these passages before sitting down and piecing them together. I am abundantly aware of the Word’s power to convict me of my sin and of Paul’s command not to quench the Holy Spirit in 1 Thessalonians 5:19. It is because of my sinfulness that I will divert my attention so I do not meditate on the Word. At times I do not want to be changed by God. I find myself, at times, glossing over the Word and pocketing those low hanging fruits, coming to the Word irreverently. I want to stubbornly hold fast to the “wisdom” I have made for myself. A worldview that is centered on human failure and our inability to love anybody but ourselves, a worldview that denies the hope we have in Christ in rooting out the sinfulness in our hearts. That “wisdom” didn’t fall into my lap. I earned it through heartache and the ensuing loneliness. So you can imagine why I don’t want to let it go at times. I’d identified with my suffering in a perverse way. It had become my identity.
But when I was made new in Christ, I was freed from that identity. Still though, today I have to fight that flesh everyday, putting it off and putting on the new life Christ gave me through his death. There are times when I am seduced by the thought of using Scripture to supplement my old worldview instead of wholly resting my heart on the Word of God. I want to lean on my own understanding, but I have to remind myself of Proverbs 3:6, “In all your ways acknowledge him,/and he will make straight your paths.” To acknowledge God in all my ways means to put him foremost in my thoughts before I act. I really have to submit my life to Him entirely. Yet again, it’s easier said than done.
What I have found in reading and meditating on all these verses and examining my life is that I need to continue delving into Scripture and raising my life up for examination, so I can continue being changed and growing in Christ-likeness. When I became new in Christ, I wasn’t suddenly emptied of all my past experiences and knowledge. What has to happen is that all that I am has to be placed in subjection to God. I must discard what is unprofitable and a hindrance to the kingdom, and replace it with wisdom, God’s wisdom that will inform my actions. What has happened to me; what has happened to you is part of God’s plan. We can’t let our past and our sinfulness dictate how we spend this new life we have in Christ.
Let me leave you with these verses. I’ve found it helps to remember why God has chosen us:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2: 9-10 ESV)