Monthly Archives: July 2015

Reid Ferguson

Proverbs 17:1

 

Probers for Living

Series: Digging Deeper into Proverbs

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[learn_more caption=”Proverbs 17 ESV”]

Better is a dry morsel with quiet
than a house full of feasting with strife.
2 A servant who deals wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully
and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers.
3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,
and the Lord tests hearts.
4 An evildoer listens to wicked lips,
and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.
5 Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker;
he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.
6 Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,
and the glory of children is their fathers.
7 Fine speech is not becoming to a fool;
still less is false speech to a prince.
8 A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it;
wherever he turns he prospers.
9 Whoever covers an offense seeks love,
but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
10 A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding
than a hundred blows into a fool.
11 An evil man seeks only rebellion,
and a cruel messenger will be sent against him.
12 Let a man meet a she- bear robbed of her cubs
rather than a fool in his folly.
13 If anyone returns evil for good,
evil will not depart from his house.
14 The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
so quit before the quarrel breaks out.
15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous
are both alike an abomination to the Lord.
16 Why should a fool have money in his hand to buy wisdom
when he has no sense?
17 A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity.
18 One who lacks sense gives a pledge
and puts up security in the presence of his neighbor.
19 Whoever loves transgression loves strife;
he who makes his door high seeks destruction.
20 A man of crooked heart does not discover good,
and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity.
21 He who sires a fool gets himself sorrow,
and the father of a fool has no joy.
22 A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
23 The wicked accepts a bribe in secret
to pervert the ways of justice.
24 The discerning sets his face toward wisdom,
but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.
25 A foolish son is a grief to his father
and bitterness to her who bore him.
26 To impose a fine on a righteous man is not good,
nor to strike the noble for their uprightness.
27 Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
28 Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
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Solomon: Don’t lament the days of small things

 

Proverbs 17:1 Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.

As we saw Sunday, there is a word here for all of us in not “despising” – in terms of either hating, or treating as of no importance – the beginning and struggling days of anything. This is especially true of our spiritual lives. It is so easy to get caught up in the world’s mindset of more is better, bigger is better, and nothing ought to take time to grow and mature. Not our careers, not our families, not the home we live in, the car we drive, the entertainments we indulge in, and certainly not our souls. But this is not God’s way.

Having little is not shameful to Him. Nor ought to be to those who are His. This was part of the scandal of Jesus’ opening words in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit” – or in Luke’s account – simply “the poor”. How can anyone who is “poor” by any human standard, also be “blessed”? To the world, even (or perhaps especially) to the Judaistic world of Jesus’ contemporaries, this was an unthinkable contradiction. But it surely is not a contradiction, to the one sets their eyes on inheriting the Kingdom – and sees this life but the bare budding stage of what is to come in Christ.

Think for a moment Christian – where do you locate your own poverty? What makes you think of yourself as poor because you lack it? What is that gnawing ache in your soul? And to what lengths has it driven you to try and either obtain it, or erase the pain? It can be virtually anything. We are so individual in the specifics, even as the reality of the experience is universal. Relationship? Spouse? Children? Career? Position? Recognition? Some physical attribute? Raw mental acuity? A possession? An achievement? The love of someone who never seems to requite your own, romantically or in the familial sense? Approbation or respect from a parent or someone else? Money? What?

It is to this, these opening 7 verses especially speak. And it is this that the whole of God’s Word addresses in pointing us to Christ and Christ alone. As Romans 11:36 reminds us, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” We came from Him – as do all things. We were created BY Him, thought the personal agency of the second member of the Trinity. And we were made FOR Him. For His pleasure. For His purposes. Thus it is apart from finding our wholeness and our purpose and fulfillment in Him, we always be driven and tormented by the “lack” we place such importance upon, and in the end, become slaves to. Only in Christ is there freedom from this bondage. Only in finding our contentment in that “morsel” the World considers so “dry” – but who is in truth the very Bread of Life – can the soul be truly quiet and at peace. No matter how much “feasting” we imagine would satisfy us, it will only come with the strife that resides in the creature at war with the Creator.

Now there is also a pointed application in all of this for those who venture upon ministry of any kind.

Ministers, don’t lament the days of small things, hoping for your “big break” and throngs of crowds hanging upon your every word. It is a lie. Enjoy the hour. Break your bread in peace in a quiet household. Yes, a full house is more exciting. Yes, it has its pleasures and advantages. But so does this present place. Each in their season. Remember that the time of growth will also bring with it strife. It will bring another set of challenges and difficulties. Enjoy God’s grace in every season and in every place. And never, NEVER see any place of service as some mere stepping stone to something greater. The greatness of our service resides in the greatness of the One we represent, not in ourselves nor our ministries. Seeking “success” in ministry beyond being a faithful herald of God’s Word, and a loving shepherd of the portion of His flock He has providentially place you among, is the way of the World. But it is not the way of Christ.

How are we ministers to be regarded? Paul summed it up in the Spirit most perfectly in 1 Corinthians 4:1 “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” Nothing more. Nothing less. Christ as all.

~ Reid

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Reid Ferguson

Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.

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Fred Zaspel

Leaving Christ

 

hoarding

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us.
For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us;
but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
(1 John 2:19)
False ProfessionsMy first real experience of this sort was in high school. My neighborhood friend Bubba (yes, we lived in the South!) made profession of Christ, was baptized, and was excited to come to church. It was great to see him saved . .. or so we thought. But suddenly one Sunday morning he didn’t want to come to church with us. And in no time his interests had turned entirely. He didn’t want to go to church, and he didn’t want to talk about it. And the fact that I did want these things was a strain on our friendship.You’ve seen the same, I’m sure. From the beginning every church has seen it – those who come in, make profession of Christ, seem for a while to be “one of us, ” and then are gone. Their interest just ran out. They are no longer in church. The things of the Lord are not topics of interest for them. The people of God are not their usual companions. They’re gone – away from Christ and back into the world.

What do we make of them? What is their true spiritual state? For a few generations now Evangelical churches have been told that such people are still saved, even though their lives do not reflect it. Having salvation is one thing, we are told; living it is another. We may be saved even if there is no evidence of it in our lives. And these people who have left us – we may not enjoy their company in Christ here, but we may be sure nonetheless that we will see them again in heaven.

It’s a comforting doctrine. But it is wrong. The inspired apostle John tells us otherwise. Continuance with Christ is the proof of our profession of Christ, and leaving Christ – and his people – is proof that our profession of Christ is false.

There is such a thing as “spurious” faith. It’s a flash in the pan kind of faith. The kind of faith that makes a show for a while and then dies away. It is a kind of faith. But it is not true saving faith, for genuine saving faith has this as its mark – it continues on with Christ. We do no one any favors when we allow them to believe they are saved when in fact they are lost. It makes no difference how many professions of Christ they have made, if there is no evidence of following Christ, no evidence of discipleship, there can be no assurance of salvation. Salvation is free and comes to us apart from our works by faith alone.

But salvation is more than escape from hell. Salvation entails freedom from sin and living for Christ. Simply put, salvation lasts. It sticks. This is why the apostle John can speak with such certainty – those who leave are not Christians, only those who stay. “if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. ”Moreover, this is why it is so important for each of us to finish well. We must pray and strive daily to pursue Christ. This is the “narrow way” that leads to life, and we must make it our aim to have at the end of our lives the testimony of the apostle Paul – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7)

~ Fred

 

Fred Zaspel

Pastor Zaspel holds a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Free University of Amsterdam. He is currently a pastor at the Reformed Baptist Church of Franconia, PA. He is also Adjunct Professor of Systematic Theology at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA. He is the author of The Theology of B.B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary (Crossway, 2010) and Warfield on the Christian Life: Living in Light of the Gospel (Crossway, 2012). In addition Fred is the editor of Books At A Glance.

[button link=”http://www.biblicalstudies.com” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Dr. Fred Zaspel’s Biblical Studies[/button]
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