A wise church...

A WISE CHURCH

At last month's AGM, Robin shared seven charecteristics of a wise church, coming out of house groups study of Proverbs. I jotted them down on the day, and thought I'd reproduce and reflect on them here, as they're an excellent summary of the application of Proverbs to our church today.

A wise church...

1. Fears the Lord

The book of Proverbs introduces this theme within the first few verses: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:7)
 
This contrasts with the fear which dominates much of our lives—fear of other people. Proverbs 29:25 encourages us that "the fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe."
 
It is wise to act in harmony with how things really are, and God really is both in control and in authority over his world—those who fear him have nothing else to fear.

2. Flees sexual sin

Proverbs 5, 6, and 7 drive home the need to flee sexual sin in a graphic and poignant way—a father pleads with his son not to make life-destroying mistakes. Proverbs 6:27–29 asks, " Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?... So is he who goes in to his neighbour's wife; none who touches her will go unpunished."
 
We're continuing to apply this in our current series in the Song of Songs, which also emphasises the other side of fleeing sexual sin: "Rejoice in the wife of your youth... be intoxicated always in her love." (Proverbs 5:18–19)
 
Robin recently posted about a selection of good resources for this area of Christian living, which you may find helpful.

3. Pursues Christ

'Get wisdom' (Proverbs 3:13) means 'Get Christ'.
 
As 16:16 puts it, "How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver. And 1 Corinthians 1:24 calls Christ "the wisdom of God". So we are to get after him as a church.

4. Guards its heart

A key verse at the heart of the book of Proverbs is 4:23—"Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life."
 
The Puritan writer John Flavel wrote a classic book expounding this verse, which has recently been republished: Keeping the Heart.

5. Shuts its mouth

Proverbs frequently reflects on the folly of speaking quickly and the wisdom of weighing words carefully. For example, see 21:23—"Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble."
 
In our age, with access to written and spoken word more than any generation before, oinions are everywhere around us. But the book of Proverbs reminds us that our words really matter; they're potent either for good or for ill. As Paul David Tripp puts it,
 
"The book of Proverbs is, in ways, a treatise on talk. I would summarise it this way: words give life; words bring death—you choose. What does this mean? It means you have never spoken a neutral word in your life. Your words have direction to them. If your words are moving in the life direction, they will be words of encouragement, hope, love, peace, unity, instruction, wisdom, and correction. But if your words are moving in a death direction, they will be words of anger, malice, slander, jealousy, gossip, division, contempt, racism, violence, judgment, and condemnation. Your words have direction to them. When you hear the word talk you ought to hear something that is high and holy and significant and important. May God help us never to look at talk as something that doesn't matter."—in The Power of Words and the Wonder of God ed. John Piper and Justin Taylor
 

6. Disciplines children

The discipline of children is not a fashionable idea in 21st century Britain, but Proverbs commends it. Discipline has both a formative (e.g. 22:15) and corrective (e.g. 13:24) function.
 
Proverbs can be seen as one long commentary on the fifth commandment—"Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you". Much of the book is written in terms of a mother or father passing on their wisdom to children, and the book is pervade by the idea that, in general, living wisely leads to prosperity whereas folly leads to ruin. Disciplining children is key to this.
 
Discipline of children is, of course, primarily the job of their parents. But Robin reminded us at the AGM that the formative aspect of discipline in the Proverbs is the reason why we take youth and children's work seriously at Emmanuel—it's part of how we apply God's wisdom revealed in the Bible together.

7. Wins souls

Proverbs 11:30—"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise."
 
Capturing souls is a vivid picture for evangelism. At Emmanuel, this longing is reflected in our financial commitment to fund soul-winners. But this work is not just for professionals, those overseas—it is God's call to all his people.
 
Who are you bursting to 'capture'?
 
Paul Sutton, 23/05/2015

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