Proverbs 21 (6-26-21)
In Proverbs 21, we hear Solomon emphasize again and again God-honoring counsel, that we should pursue righteousness and uprightness:
21:3 – To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
21:8 – The way of the guilty is crooked, but the conduct of the pure is upright.
21:12 – The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked; he throws the wicked down to ruin.
21:15 – When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.
21:18 – The wicked is a ransom for the righteous, and the traitor for the upright.
21:21 – Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor.
21:26 – All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back.
21:29 – A wicked man puts on a bold face, but the upright gives thought to his ways.
What a valuable press for the need to live righteously. God is honored when we reject sin and do what is upright in His eyes. He will reward us, and we will be a blessing to others. But I wanted to dig deeper this morning into why the fight for righteousness is so hard and how we actually have success in the lasting practice of it.
God-honoring living is one of the great battles we face every day, because sin wants to serve self ,and it will compromise what is right and God-honoring to get what it wants. Sin will cause us to lie, cheat, steal, hurt, abuse, and manipulate to get what we want.
Our natural inclination in sin is not good; it is evil. On this, the Bible is clear.
Titus 1:15 … to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.
Jeremiah 17:9 the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
In Genesis 6, we see God's evaluation of mankind after the fall and His explanation of mankind's condition due to the fall of Adam:
Genesis 6:5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
One of the more famous Scriptures that speak of our best-laid efforts to do spiritual good is Isaiah 64:6a (NIV): “… all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”
As a consequence of the fall of the first man, Adam, every person born into the world is morally corrupt and spiritually dead. This is total depravity. Let me expand.
Total depravity defined: Because of the fall, every part of natural man has been corrupted by sin: his mind, will, emotions, and flesh. Sin affects the whole person; we sin because we are sinners by nature. All men are conceived in sin, dead in sin, slaves to sin, and deserving of God’s wrath. Total depravity does not mean that man is without a conscience or any sense of right or wrong, nor does it mean that man is as wicked or sinful as he could be. Total depravity recognizes the Bible’s teaching that even the apparent “good” things unregenerate man does are ruined by sin, because they are not done out of faith in Jesus, for the glory of God.
“We are sinners not because we sin; rather, we sin because we are sinners.” -RC Sproul
This understanding is super important because we must understand that we do not pursue, nor do we practice, righteousness unless we are first born again and given a new heart and new desires via the Holy Spirit to honor God and do what is upright and righteous. The good news is that Jesus died in the place of sinners so we could receive His imputed righteousness and be made new creations and adopted sons and daughters of the King. If we have new birth, then we can and should live in Christ’s power to honor God with righteous living.
Turn with me to 1 John as he gives us a great clarity for the topic of practicing righteousness in all of life:
1 John 3:9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.
What does it mean to be “born of God?” It means something new has come into existence. Paul calls it a new creation (Ephesians 2:10; 4:24); Jeremiah calls it a new heart (Jeremiah 24:7).; and Ezekiel calls it a new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26). Being born of God is being changed by God so that the dominion of sin is broken.
John says that when we are born again, “God’s seed” abides in us, and we “cannot keep on sinning.” That’s how real the connection between the new birth and daily physical life is. The seed may be the Spirit of God, or the word of God, or the nature of God—or all three. Whatever it is specifically, God Himself is at work in the new birth so powerfully that the redeemed cannot keep on practicing sin. Another way of looking at it is God’s seed does not live in peace with a pattern of sinful behavior.
John is saying, “Not practicing sin is evidence of the new birth.” He flips it in verse 10 and highlights the other side of the coin:
1 John 3:10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
The point is, if God has saved you, if you are His redeemed child, you will practice righteousness and not lawlessness. The seed He has put in you will grow a godly person in you. So what we have to understand as we are convicted by Proverbs 21 is that we don’t need to start practicing righteousness. If Christ is in us, we will practice righteousness.
1 John 3:6-9 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.
The key is to realize that the present tense verbs used here in Greek for "sins" (in verse 6) and "practices" (in verse 9) imply ongoing, continuous action. This means that, in John's mind, what is impossible for the Christian is a life of unchanged continuation in sin, the same as when he was not born of God.
Now, as you hear this you can quickly begin to think, “But that sounds like perfection.” It can sound like a true Christian never sins again. Hear me clearly: This is not what he is saying. The Greek verb for "practice of sinning" in verse 9 implies continuous action.
We also know John isn't teaching sinless perfection because he says this:
1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
The “we” here is born-again Christians. He is saying, “There are no sinless Christians.” Here, John goes so far as to tell Christians that it is a sin to say you never sin or that you do not struggle with or fight sin.
Question: So, how do the born-again deal with their sin?
Answer: They confess and repent to God.
Christians can and do struggle with carelessness, coasting, indifference, and laziness. If you find yourself losing your vigilance against sinful attitudes and sinful behavior, the Bible says we need to RUN to our Advocate for propitiation, mercy, and righteousness.
1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
*We need to confess our sin and receive cleansing.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Christians don't go on sinning without real struggle and real confession and real repentance. If you are a Christian, and you see your sin, you hate it, you confess it, and you fight it; you do so with increasing vigilance as you grow up into Christ.
Children of God do not make excuses for sin but instead confess sin. Confession is agreeing with God that it is sin. It means you see the sin the way God does.
*We are also called to confess to each other and pray for each other.
James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
*We are to watch out for temptation and for each other and bear one another’s burdens.
Galatians 6:1-2 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
*We also are to repent of our sin.
Repentance is turning to God and away from sin. Repentance is essential because it is the “dying to self to live for Christ.” It is taking up a new path in light of the gospel. It is living out the transformation that Christ is doing within. It is not just a one-time thing. As Martin Luther said so famously in his 95 theses, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”
Question: How do the born-again avoid sin?
Answer: They must feed the seed.
Psalm 119:9–11 (NASB 1977) How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Thy word. With all my heart I have sought Thee; Do not let me wander from Thy commandments. Thy word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against Thee.
There is a spiritual diet without which no Christian can be strong, healthy, and fruitful: that is a diet of the word of God.
If we don’t soak in the fuel of God’s word and eat the food He intends it to be for our souls, our light dims and our soul languishes. He wants to refine out the impurities. He wants to build into us a foundation of truth that leads to holiness. He has saved us to practice righteousness!
Question: How do the born-again avoid sin? Answer: We must feed the seed!
Do not let me wander from Thy commandments. Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee.
- Psalm 119:10-11 (NASB 1977)
By His grace and for His glory,
Joshua “Shepherd” Kirstine
Soldiers for Jesus MC