Saturday, November 12, 2016

Proverbs 11:6 --- Repenting of our Self-enthronement

Proverbs 11:6
The righteousness of the upright delivers them,
    but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.

Since there are only two basic orientations in the human heart, crookedness/wickedness or integrity/righteousness (v. 3 and 5), this means there are only two ways of living.  We either live as desire-oriented people or as Word-oriented people.[1]  That is, we live either by what we think/feel is best or we live by what the Lord says in his Word.  We can either be the kind of people the Old Testament book of Judges describes: "In those days there was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes," or we can live as those who have a King.  The New Testament has revealed that this King is Jesus Christ (the title Christ means anointed one or king), and if we belong to him, then we are to obey all he has commanded us (Matthew 28:20).

Righteousness and lust are contrasted in this proverb.  One helpful way of remembering the meaning of righteousness is that righteousness is about having right relationships.  Right relationships begin first with our relationship to our Creator.  We were made to live in fellowship with the triune God.  But this is only possible if we return to this God, whom we have rebelled against.

When we rebelled against the Lord, what we really did was enthrone ourselves.  Self-enthronement is the fundamental problem of the human heart.  We enthroned ourselves in the garden by choosing to determine good and evil for ourselves, rather than learning it from God's Word (Genesis 3:5).  In essence, we were saying, "I am like God. I am his moral equal. And, if I am his moral equivalent, I can make up my own mind about right and wrong."[2]

In order to be right with God, we must repent of our self-enthronement, and turn to the true King, Jesus Christ, to be led by his words.  Here is how Jesus put it:
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

Only when we forsake our lofty pride of self-determination and autonomy, and embrace the lowliness of heart that learns from Jesus our Lord, can we be saved.  Only, then, do we leave the camp of the treacherous and join the camp of the upright.

When our relationship with the Lord is right, then right relationships with others are possible.  We can now begin to relate rightly to our spouses, our children, our friends, our bosses, and society.  But the vertical relationship with God must come first, and this comes only from repentance and faith, dying and rising with Christ each day.

Dying with Christ very much has a bearing on this proverb.  The sad reality is that sin enslaves us.  Notice what our proverb says about the unbeliever: "the treacherous are taken captive by their lust."  Lust is the opposite of love.  On the vertical plane, greed and lust do not submit to the commands of Christ, nor our resurrected King's wisdom.  On the horizontal plane, greed and lust destroy relationships.  And, while lust and greed promise freedom, what they actually deliver is inward slavery and captivity.  As Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin" (John 8:34).

Christ defined love for us in his death.  Lust is about self-taking, but love is about self-giving.  We give ourselves first to the Lord, and then to others for their blessing.  Right relationships are not possible apart from the love that gives ourselves to the Lord and then to others for their ultimate blessing and good.  Thus, righteousness and love begin with dying and rising with Christ daily.  Romans 12:1 puts it like this:
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a   living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."

Galatians 2:20 puts it this way:
"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

But how is this sort of life possible?  Is it not too high for us?  Our enslavement to following our own understanding and our sinful passions is not a small thing!  Can we really find freedom and change?

My only answer to this is that we are involved in spiritual warfare with our own sinful nature, what the New Testament calls the flesh.  This old nature, which governs by the old principle of self-enthronement, must die daily, so that the new man, who lives by all that Jesus commands, might rise daily.  This is what it means to live out our baptism in its imagery of dying and rising with Christ. 

What makes this possible, though setbacks of crookedness and fevers of lust may often recur, is the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Our Lord Jesus Christ pours out his Spirit into the hearts of his people.  When we struggle to follow our Lord's words or our own words, the Lord will answer our cry for help by giving us his Spirit (cf. Proverbs 1:20-23, especially v. 23).  Christ's Spirit will work within us the faith and love of Jesus himself, if we will only take up his gentle yoke with a lowly spirit.  In the end, it is as simple as this:  God gives grace to the humble, who confess their sin of self-enthronement.



[1] Jay Adams, Proverbs, 82.
[2] Jonathan Leeman, Political Church: The Local Assembly as Embassy of Christ's Rule, 240.

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