The Day Riches Won’t Profit

Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, 

but righteousness delivers from death.”

Proverbs 11:4

The great temptation in our day is to cast aside the biblical doctrine of the wrath of God. Some preachers have simply discarded it as an archaic doctrine that carries no weight for our contemporary culture. Other preachers mention divine wrath so infrequently that their hearers know nothing about it. This leaves many Christians sincerely believing that God does not burn with righteous anger against both sin and the sinner. Biblically speaking, however, “the idea that God is not angry with sinners belongs neither to the OT nor to the NT. God is a personal moral being who is unalterably opposed to evil and takes personal actions against it.” 

Because the God of the Bible is the thrice holy God, he is absolutely opposed to sin and evil (Psalm 5:5; 11:5). The culminating display of this holy opposition that God has to both sin and evil is his wrath. Though modern ears do not like hearing this, the wrath of God is the only appropriate ethical and moral response that an infinitely pure and holy being can have towards evil. Therefore, as our proverb above says, there will most certainly be a day of wrath. It is more certain than the rising up the sun tomorrow morning.

Days of Wrath

We see days of wrath all throughout the Bible. Early on in the book of Genesis, God justly judges the world by sending a flood that wipes out all but eight of the inhabitants of the earth (Genesis 6:5-8). Later in Genesis, God justly judges the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by causing fire and sulfur to rain down upon them, thus killing the occupants (Genesis 19:23-29). In Exodus, God judges the gods of Egypt along with those who worship them through a series of ten disastrous plagues (Exodus 7-11). Afterwards God judges Pharaoh and his army by causing the Red Sea to overwhelm them (Exodus 14:26-29). And space does not permit us to talk about all the other times God’s wrath consumed those who sinned against Him. 

The Day of Wrath

These days of wrath serve as microcosms of THE Day of wrath that is spoken about in Scripture. In a way, these displays of God’s wrath are meant to prefigure THE Day of God’s wrath (Matthew 24:37-39). They are minor depictions. This is not meant to lesson our view of these days of God’s wrath. It is meant to heighten our view of THE Day of God’s wrath.

One Day, both the great and the small, both the rich and the poor, and both the intelligent and the unintelligent will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ in order to give an account of their lives (John 5:27; Revelation 20:11-15). On that Day, the Lord will render to each one according to what he has done in the body (Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:6; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:12). For those who persist in wrongdoing, who perpetually live in ungodliness, and who constantly seek their own self-interest, there will be wrath and fury (Romans 2:8-9). For the “cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur” (Revelation 20:8).

The lake that burns with fire and sulfur will never quit burning (Luke 3:17). The ungodly will be forced to drink “the wine of God’s wrath” (Revelation 14:10). For all of eternity, they will be “tormented with fire and sulfur” in the presence of both angelic beings and the spotless Son of God (Revelation 14:11). Of their suffering there will be no end. Of the wrath of God there will be no end. This Day of wrath will exceed all other days of wrath.  It will be wrath unlike anything the world has ever seen. 

Riches Won’t Deliver You

As the Day of wrath approaches, our hearts are stirred to seek refuge. We want to know what will profit us on that day – what will keep us from the wrath of Jesus Christ. And because our hearts are sinful, they are drawn to riches as a source of refuge. “Somehow,” we think to ourselves, “these riches will keep me safe and secure.” And as we seek to accumulate wealth, we begin viewing our riches as an impenetrable city and as an unscalable high wall (Proverbs 18:11). “If anything can deliver me from the wrath of God,” we say, “surely it is vast amounts of wealth.”

Our proverb above, however, teaches us that riches will not help us on the Day of wrath (Proverbs 11:4; Zephaniah 1:18). Jesus Christ is a just judge that shows no partiality. He is not like worldly judges that are enticed to show favor to the rich man. No, Jesus Christ is much different. The Lord Jesus Christ has a heart that is not wooed by worldly wealth. As he judges the world, riches will not keep him from rendering a righteous judgment. 

He will judge the world in complete righteousness. He will render authoritative judicial verdicts based off ALL the evidence. Then, once he reveals all the evidence, his wrath will consume the wicked in “the fire of his jealousy” (Zephaniah 1:18). And on that Day, the wicked who are rich will fare just like the wicked who are poor.

Righteousness Will Deliver You

In light of this Day of wrath and fury, what will deliver us from Christ’s righteous judgment? And the overwhelming biblical teaching is that righteousness is the only thing that will deliver us from the looming righteous judgment that is about to happen. Our proverb above says that “righteousness delivers from death” (11:4). It is those “who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality” that will receive eternal life (Romans 2:6). Those who do good are the ones that will receive “glory and honor and peace” (Romans 2:10). All that matters on the Day of wrath is righteousness. Everything else will be consumed by unquenchable fire. Righteousness alone will deliver.

But where is a sinner to go to get righteousness? How can a sinner who is both positionally and practically unrighteous become both positionally and practically righteous? And the Bible answers this with the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through Christ’s active obedience to the law of God, and through his passive obedience in enduring the curse of the law due sinners, unrighteous sinners can be declared positionally righteous by God, and be made practically righteous through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

When a sinner turns away from sin and lays hold of Jesus Christ through faith, they are gifted with the free gift of righteousness (Romans 1:17; 3:22; 4:5; Philippians 3:9-10). Since God the Father gifts us with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, we sinners have been gifted with the very righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Since God the Father has graciously united us to Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ has become our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). And being found in Christ Jesus, we are now positionally righteous before God.

And just as a branch derives life from its union with the vine, so we, as redeemed sinners, derive spiritual life from our union with Jesus Christ (John 15:1-8). Though formerly we were slaves to sin, now we can live out a life of practical righteousness before God (Romans 6:12-14; 1 Peter 2:24). The Holy Spirit of God works within us to empower and enable us to live righteously (Romans 8:12-17). So, in Christ Jesus we are not only positionally righteous, we are also endowed with spiritual strength so that we can practically live righteously before God.

This is why union with Christ through faith is the only way that anybody will be able to stand on judgment day. If you stand before Jesus Christ without the righteousness that he procured for sinners in his atoning death, then you will endure wrath and fury. However, if you have been united with Christ through faith, then you are positionally righteous before God. Not only that, through the Spirit of God you have at least some practical righteousness as well. Therefore, the Day of wrath will not be a day of wrath for you. Just as Noah found safe refuge from the flood within the ark because he was righteous before God (Genesis 7:1), so you will find safe refuge from the wrath of God because you are positionally righteous in Christ Jesus, the very ark that delivers sinners from the impending wrath that is to come.

Favoring the Reprover

“Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more

favor than he who flatters with his tongue.”

Proverbs 28:23

To rebuke a man is to inform him that he is in sin – that he is guilty of falling short of the standard of Christian conduct as revealed in the Bible. In a sense, a rebuke is like a verbal spanking. Just as a parent spanks their child in order to let their kid know that he has disobeyed the standard of household conduct that the parents have established, so a rebuke is a verbal spanking that lets a Christian know that he has fallen short of the standard of Christian conduct that God has established in sacred Scripture. And though rebukes are never pleasant, they are greatly needed in the Christian life.

Since a gentle rebuke is so profitable, those who give godly rebukes should “afterward find more favor” in the eyes of the ones whom they reproved. Sure, the ones receiving the rebuke may have their pride hurt at first, but they should eventually see the spiritual good that came from the rebuke. Once they see that the well timed reproof served to remind them of the dangers of sin, the value of their souls, and the importance of living in a manner worthy of the gospel, their hearts should favor the reprover. I found this proverbial teaching perfectly illustrated when I read Iain Murray’s short biography on John MacArthur.

The Reprover Finds Favor

During the early years of John MacArthur’s ministry, a flustered lady from his church informed him that her husband had left her in order to go live with another woman. MacArthur knew that this was a spiritually grave situation, so he obtained the house number of the woman this man went to go live with. Upon calling the number, the husband that was messing around with adultery actually answered the phone himself. MacArthur then said to him, “This is John from Grace Church. I’m calling in the name of Christ for you to move out of this woman’s place before you sin against God, your wife, and your church.” Needless to say, the man was utterly shocked. He told MacArthur that he would go right back to his wife. 

On the following Sunday, the man approached MacArthur, embraced him, and said, “Thank you! I didn’t want to be there. I was tempted, and I thought no one would care about that.” Though he did not think that anybody would care about his flagrant sin against God and his willful betrayal of his wife, MacArthur cared enough to actually call and rebuke him about it. Because of this, the man’s affection for MacArthur increased. In light of this stinging rebuke, MacArthur found more favor in this man’s eyes.

The Flatterer Does Harm

Whereas a rebuke does a great deal of spiritual good, flattery does a great deal of spiritual harm. To flatter someone is to insincerely complement or praise them out of self-interest. Instead of rebuking someone over a particular sin, the flatterer will generally encourage them in their sin so as not to lose the advantageous nature of their relationship. Before long, though, it becomes apparent that the flatterer never had the spiritual well-being of the one whom they flattered in mind. They only had their own self-interest in mind. In light of this, the flatterer should lose favor in the eyes of the one whom they flattered.

So, this proverbial teaching is clear: the reprover should find more favor than the flatterer. Too often though, “the flatterer finds more favor than the reprover.” One reason for this is because “few people have the wisdom to like reproofs that would do them good, better than praises that do them hurt.” This is a sad reality. May we all seek to have godly wisdom that welcomes the reprover. And if we give a rebuke, may we give it in the spirit of our gracious Master, Jesus Christ. When he wounds his beloved children through rebuke, he then pours healing balm in the wound.

Brighter and Brighter

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, 

which shines brighter and brighter until full day.”

Proverbs 4:18

The Bible is uncomplimentary of those who are outside of Christ. The non-Christian is dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), under the enslaving powers of sin (John 8:34; Romans 6:20), without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:11-12), and hostile to God (Romans 8:7; Colossians 1:21). Their way of life is like deep darkness (Proverbs 4:19). They stumble and fall as they live wickedly on this cursed earth (Proverbs 4:19; Ephesians 5:11). Indeed, it is shameful to even speak about the things ungodly people do with their built-up enmity towards God (Ephesians 5:12).

The Light Shines in our Dark World

While it is plain that the Scriptures are unflattering in their portrayal of non-Christians, it is also unmistakably clear that the God who inspired the Scriptures is incomprehensibly merciful and gracious to unbelievers. While the world dwelled in darkness, God sent Jesus Christ, the true light, to be born of virgin (John 1:9). Christ’s purpose was to shine into the darkness and to bring life to those who were dead in sin (John 1:4-5). This God given mission could only be accomplished by destroying the works of the Devil, the prince of darkness (Genesis 3:15; 1 John 1:8). Through His obedient life, substitutionary death, resurrection from the dead, and ascension into heaven, Christ crushed the head of the Evil One.

The Light Shines in Our Dark Hearts

After Christ’s earthly ministry, He filled His church with the Spirit and sent them to take the gospel message to this dark and evil world. As they preached the gospel, the “light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” penetrated deep into “our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). Now that God has mercifully given us a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, we have been delivered from Satan’s domain of darkness and transferred into the bright and radiant kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13). Instead of being darkness, now we “light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8). Rather than being dead in sin, now we are alive in Christ Jesus. By the grace of God we now belong to those who, through faith in Christ, are righteous (Romans 1:17).

The Light Grows Brighter and Brighter

Because of God’s sovereign grace, we are now new creations in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). This new spiritual life we have brings about incredible results. As Archibald Alexander says, “The implantation of spiritual life in a soul dead in sin, is an event, the consequences of which will never end.” In light of this God wrought spiritual life that He has given us through the indwelling Spirit, we no longer walk in darkness. As the proverb above says, the Christian life is “like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day” (Proverbs 4:18).

Like the sun at the break of dawn, we as Christians begin to radiate with holiness and good works. This does not happen all at once. Much like the sun at the break of dawn, it is rather faint at the beginning of our Christian journey. We die to some sins. We eagerly obey God in certain areas of our lives. As time goes on, though, we get brighter and brighter. 

Through the ministry of the Spirit, we begin to be further conformed into the image of Christ, the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2; Romans 8:29). Just as the sun progressively makes its way to noon day, the Christian, by the grace of God, progressively makes his way to complete conformity into the image of Christ. Nevertheless, though many of our graces will be strengthened a great deal by the end of our lives, we will never reach complete conformity into the image of Christ on this side of heaven.

The Light is Brightest at Full Day

God has ordained that our complete conformity into the image of Christ will happen at the second coming of Jesus. We are promised that “when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2-3). It at the second coming of Christ that we will shine like the sun at full day. Even our Lord Jesus promised this when he told his disciples that on the New Earth “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43). This is the great hope that we have as Christians. Until the second coming of Christ, though, let us cast off the works of darkness and pursue righteousness that we may shine brighter and brighter in this dark world (Romans 13:12-14).

The Outward Varnish of Religion

“I had to offer sacrifices, 

and today I have paid my vows.”

Proverbs 7:14

Ravi Zacharias is a well-known Christian apologist, speaker, and evangelist. His books have been widely read, his YouTube videos have been widely watched, and his conferences have been widely attended. As one listens to him, he seems to exude Christian humility and gentleness. However, ever since his death in 2020, there has been an extensive investigation into Ravi Zacharias’ sexual misconduct. And just last week, the twelve-page report that reveals the findings of the independent investigation into his sexual wrongdoing was released (you can also find the latest Christianity Today article here). Ravi’s sexual misconduct has been made manifest now, and it has become apparent that he was a sexual predator.

As I read through the evidence in the report my stomach churned, and my face cringed. Ravi’s sexual sin is deplorable and sickening. One of the worst parts is that he seems to have used his ministry as a cover for sin. He utilized his Christian faith to his advantage in manipulating and coercing young ladies into certain sexual acts. In light of these recent revelations, this week I wanted to write on Proverbs 7:14 to reveal that the Bible actually talks about this evil tactic of using religion to coerce and seduce someone.

Proverbs 7 – The Adulteress

Within the book of Proverbs, chapters 5-7 deal extensively with sexual sin. In each chapter, there are warnings against the sin of adultery (Proverbs 5:9-14, 21-23; 6:26-35; 7:22-27) and the enticing allure of the adulteress (Proverbs 5:3; 6:24-25; 7:5, 10-21). Though these chapters present a wealth of wisdom, I want to focus on the fact that the adulteress in Proverbs 7:14 presents herself in the garments of religion in hopes to entice the simple man to drink the poison of sexual sin with her.

When the adulteress launches her attack in Proverbs 7, she is “dressed as a prostitute” (7:10), “loud and wayward” (7:11), and waiting for a man whom she can satisfy her sinful lusts with (7:12). Once she discovers her next victim, she lays hold of him and “kisses him” (7:13). Though this is a bold sexual encounter in and of itself, she wants to go further. It is at this point that she uses religion as a means to coerce and entice the simple man to bring this initial sexual encounter to its full consummation. She says to him, “I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows” (7:14).

Most translations translate “sacrifices” as peace offerings. The peace offering was a unique sacrifice because it was one of the only offerings where the offeror was given a large portion of the sacrifice so that they might return home and partake in it in a celebratory way with both friends and family (Leviticus 7:11-21). And in our passage, the adulteress has just offered up peace offerings at the temple, the dwelling place of God. She is now headed back home to feast on the remaining parts of the sacrifice.

While she’s headed home, she invites the simple man to come along with her. She wants him there so that he might partake in the rest of the sacrifice with her . . . . as well as some carnal love. It seems like she believes that, because of her sacrificial offering, God is rewarding her by satisfying her sinful passions (Proverbs 7:15-20). At the end of the day, it is apparent that the adulteress is covering up the sexual mischievousness of her heart with the outward varnish of religion.

Sadly, the simple man falls prey to her carnal passions that are robed in religious garments. He follows her “as an ox goes to the slaughter, as a stag is caught fast” (Proverbs 7:22), and “as a bird rushes into a snare” (Proverbs 7:23). The simple man of Proverbs 7 is seen as another casualty in the adulteress’ hunt to satisfy own her fleshly appetite (Proverbs 7:26).

Ravi – The Adulterer

Like the adulteress of Proverbs 7, Ravi Zacharias also used his religious garments to help him fulfill his sexual passions. Because Ravi had significant backpain, he would frequently go to receive a massage. While he was receiving these massages from young ladies, he would strike up casual conversations with them. 

One massage therapist said that these conversations led her to think of Ravi as a “father figure” to her. He would speak to her about spiritual things and would inquire about her financial situation. Upon hearing that she was struggling financially, he secured ministry funds to help her out. Shortly after this, he elicited sex from her. In recounting this time in her life, the lady said that Ravi would use “religious expressions to gain her compliance.” He would make her pray with him. He would call her his “reward” from God because of his faithful service to the Lord. Indeed, Ravi drove home the point that “the Lord understood what he had sacrificed” and implied that “their sexual exchanges were God’s way of rewarding him.” He then warned her not to speak out against him because that would “damage his reputation” and lead “millions of souls” to hell.

Another lady said that Ravi groomed her in a similar way. Throughout their conversations, Ravi “gained her trust as a spiritual guide, confidante, and notable Christian statemen.” As she began to see Ravi as a spiritual authority in her life, he started using his influence “to exploit her vulnerability to satisfy his own sexual desires.” Though Ravi and this lady were never physically intimate, intimate photos were shared. 

As you can see, Ravi was enslaved to sexual sin and he used his ministry platform to coerce young ladies. With his worldwide Christian ministry, he groomed women to respect him. This was all, of course, so that he might gratify his flesh with them. Then, with his worldwide Christian ministry platform, he warned the women to stay silent about it. At the end of the day, Ravi abused the Christian faith as a means to fulfill his godless passions. In doing so, he betrayed his wife, victimized many women, delegitimized his worldwide ministry, and dishonored the name of Christ.

Since seemingly godly people use the Christian faith as a means to satisfy their sinful lusts, may we all learn to “beware of any voice, though from the most revered quarter, that manifestly encourages forbidden indulgence.” And may we, those of us that have a ministry platform, learn to leverage our authority and influence for the edification of the church rather than the indulgence of the flesh. For we serve a God that will one day wipe away the outward varnish of religion and expose us for who we truly are.

Beastly Beauty

“Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout 

is a beautiful woman without discretion.”

Proverbs 11:22

Though our contemporary culture would be accused of toxic masculinity for saying something like this, the Spirit inspired biblical author believes this is a wise and profitable teaching. Whereas we would have said that a beautiful woman lacking discretion is a bit of a disappointment, Solomon regards her as a monstrosity. As one thinks through the meaning of such a vivid and graphic proverb, they quickly realize that this is a lesson often neglected in our society that prizes beauty over discretion. We would be wise to wean ourselves from the present-day culture’s way of thinking and to lay this biblical wisdom to heart.

External Beauty

External beauty, like a gold ring, is a gift from God. As one makes their way through the Bible, they will quickly notice that Rachel was beautiful in appearance (Genesis 29:17), that Job’s daughters were more beautiful than all others (Job 42:15), that Esther had a stunning figure (Esther 2:7), that Joseph was handsome in form (Genesis 39:6), that Moses was beautiful in the Lord’s eyes (Acts 7:20), and that David had lovely eyes and was regarded as good-looking (1 Samuel 25:33). It is evident that external beauty is not an anathema in the eyes of the Lord. Like a gold ring, beauty is both valuable and desirable. It is a good gift from a benevolent God.

Gold Rings on Pigs

Nevertheless, just as a gold ring loses its outwards appeal and desirability when it is attached to an unclean pig’s snout, so external beauty loses its attractiveness and allure when it is attached to a woman that lacks discretion. A pig takes the gold ring that is pierced through his snout and begins to root up the ground. The shine of the gold ring loses its charm as it gets covered with the mire and mud of the earth. The valuable and beautiful ring becomes unbecoming and undesirable as one looks at the filthy creature behind it.

Beauty Without Discretion

And so it is when external beauty is attached to a woman lacking discretion. To have discretion is to have godly wisdom and discernment that allows one to act in a way that honors the Lord. Discretion is what the beautiful Abigail had when she counseled King David not to avenge himself but to leave vengeance to the Lord (1 Samuel 25:33). On the other hand, to lack discretion is to lack godly wisdom and discernment. This, in turn, causes one to act in a way that is distasteful to Christ.

The beautiful woman that lacks discretion spends her days wallowing in the sewage and sludge of the world. Rather than pleasantly speaking about spiritual things, she gives her tongue to gossip and slander. Instead of adorning herself with good works that are pleasing to the Lord Jesus Christ, she gives unbridled reign to her sensual passions. When she could be tenderly tending to other’s for Christ’s sake, she selfishly seeks her own self-interest. While she lives this life, she lives for her own sinful lusts. 

And as she lives a life that lacks discretion, her external beauty becomes as unbecoming and undesirable as a gold ring in a pig snout. While the godly, virtuous wife is to be praised (Proverbs 31:30), the woman without discretion is to be pitied. If she were in Christ and filled with the Spirit, she could be pictured as the crown of her husband and as far more precious than jewels (Proverbs 12:4; Proverbs 31:10), but while she remains apart from Christ and lacking discretion, she is pictured as nothing more than an undesirable gold ring in a pig’s snout.

All That Glitters Is Not Gold!

The simple believes everything, 

but the prudent gives thought to his steps.”

Proverbs 14:15

In the 1500s there was an English seaman and privateer named Sir Martin Frobisher. He made numerous voyages to the new world. On his first voyage he stumbled across what he believed to be gold. As you can imagine, this caused quite a bit of excitement to folks back in his homeland. Before long, he was sending copious amounts of this “gold” back to his home country. He was a rockstar. He was even garnering the Queen’s attention!

Before long, though, it was discovered that the mineral that he was mining was not gold. It was nothing more than a bunch of invaluable minerals combined to make up a rock that looked like gold. As we would say today, it was fool’s gold. Sir Martin Frobisher learned the hard way that all that glitters is not gold. 

The Simple

And from the proverb above we learn that all that is said is not true. Nevertheless, like Sir Martin Frobisher on his first voyage, the simple man has not yet learned this lesson. Throughout the book of Proverbs, the simple man is the one who lacks godly wisdom and understanding. This causes him to be easily deceived and persuaded. Since he does not have enough godly wisdom and understanding to discern the truthfulness of a statement, he believes everything that anybody says.

This is certainly the case when it comes to matters of Christian doctrine and Christian living. The Bible teaches that false teachers will always exist. The first false teacher, Satan, appears in Genesis three. Other false teachers rise up throughout both the Old and New Testament. Many false teachers appear throughout church history. Today, countless false teachers continue to spring up.

Paul warns that these false teachers will arise from within local churches “speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:26). The author of Hebrews warns Christians not to “be led away by diverse and strange teachings (Hebrews 13:9). Peter told the churches he was writing to that false teachers will be among them “who will secretly bring in destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:10). As one reads the Bible, it seems inevitable that Christians and local churches will meet with false teachers at some point.

And the simple man does not stand a chance against these false teachers. As he hears twisted things that are contrary to the clear testimony of the Bible, he will believe them. He will mistake the elaborate doctrinal innovations of man as the revelation of God. When this occurs, it will be just as the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4. The simple man will be “tossed to and fro by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, and by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14). Ultimately, just as the Spirit said through Paul, the simple-minded Christian will “be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).

The Prudent

This is not the case with the prudent. Throughout the book of Proverbs, the prudent man is the one that has godly wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 13:16; 14:18). This goldy wisdom and understanding allows him to act in a way that is honoring to the Lord (Proverbs 13:16; 14:15; 27:12). This is especially the case when it comes to matters of Christian doctrine and Christian living.

The prudent man has learned that all that is said is not true. As our Proverb says, “the prudent gives thoughts to his steps” (14:15). Like the Bereans of old, the prudent man eagerly listens to a teacher all the while “examining the Scriptures daily” to see if the teaching lines up with the Bible (Acts 17:11). He is aware that he needs to test a teaching before he trusts it (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1). For the prudent man, this is not a matter of unhealthy skepticism. Rather, it is a matter of prayerful and careful consideration. Unlike the simple man, he knows that his soul is at stake so he “gives thoughts to his steps” (Proverbs 14:15).

Life Giving Water

“The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, 

that one may turn away from the snares of death.”

Proverbs 13:14

In our day, there is a tendency to think about the Christian life as a life of ease. This mainstream way of thinking, however, is at odds with the Bible. Rather than being a life of ease, the Christian life is filled with numerous snares that will lead to eternal death. 

Within the pages of Scripture, we see sin as a vicious predator lurking at our door with an intense desire to devour us (Genesis 4:7). We are taught that sinful passions are consistently waging war against our souls (Romans 8:13; 1 Peter 2:11). We are informed that Satan is prowling around like a roaring lion that would love to have us as his next victim (1 Peter 5:8). We are warned of the fact that we live within an evil world system that is seeking to allure and entice us to embrace its ungodly ways (Revelation 18). And we are clearly taught that there are false teachers that are “waterless springs” and “fruitless trees” that will seemingly promise us life but that will ultimately lead us to death (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 12-13).

As you can see, the Christian life is not a life of ease. Rather, from beginning to end, it is a war filled with many battles. The Christian life is lived out in enemy territory, it is fraught with many dangers, and the snares of eternal death are everywhere. In fact, it is so difficult that those who make it out alive end up exclaiming, “I fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7)!

The Dangerous Christian Pilgrimage

Few men have understood this concept of the Christian life more clearly than John Bunyan. In his famous allegorical work Pilgrim’s Progress, he portrays the Christian life as a difficult journey consisting of many dangers, toils, and snares. Christian, the main character in the allegory, is constantly attacked by the world, the flesh, and the devil as he makes his way to the Celestial City. 

Christian runs into people like Mr. Worldly Wiseman. Worldly Wiseman gives Christian worldly counsel in hopes to lead him off the narrow path that leads to life. As Christian makes his way up The Hill of Difficulty, he falls prey to the sin of sluggishness. Rather than pressing on through difficulty, he gives in and falls asleep. When Christian descends into The Valley of Humiliation, he encounters the mighty Apollyon (Satan). Apollyon opposes Christian with great nastiness. 

At every turn, the world, the flesh, and the devil are laying snares to keep Christian from making it to Christ’s Celestial City. This always leads the reader to ask, “Will Christian make it? Will he be able to stay on the straight and narrow path even though there are dangers all around him?” From all of this, it is clear that Bunyan believed that followers of Christ are always within close proximity to the snares of death.

A Godly Pastor as an Aid

Thankfully, throughout the allegory, Bunyan conveys that Christian, with the aid of Christ the King, will make it. At one point in Pilgrim’s Progress, a man named The Interpreter informs Christian of one aid that Christ is pleased to use to keep Christian away from the snares of death and on the narrow path that leads to everlasting life. The aid is a godly pastor; a pastor who rightly divides the word of God.

In the mind of Bunyan, a godly pastor is one who “begets” and “nurses” Christians in the faith, has his eyes “lifted to heaven,” has the Bible in his hands, and “has truth on his lips.” His desire is to know and unfold biblical truth to sinners, to plead with men about spiritual realities, and to press on people’s consciences the certainties of the world to come. This is the man whom Christ has “authorized to be your guide in all the difficult places that you may encounter on the way.” The Interpreter wants Christian to stay close to the godly pastor because, as he journeys to the Celestial City, many people will pretend to lead him down the right path, “but their way goes down to death.” 

In Christian’s encounter with The Interpreter, it is evident that Bunyan himself thoroughly believed that “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life that one may turn away from the snares of death” (Proverbs 13:14). One of the main aids that God has given Christians to avoid the snares of death and to work out their salvation with fear and trembling is the consistent intake of godly teaching (1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 3:16-4:2). When Christians sit under the faithful teaching and preaching ministry of a man that God has gifted with wisdom and knowledge, they find that such preaching is a fountain, a source, of spiritual life. They find that such teaching nourishes their souls and leads them away from the snares of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

A Blessed Memory

“The memory of the righteous is a blessing, 

but the name of the wicked will rot.”

Proverbs 10:7

The righteous are those who belong to God, have godly wisdom, and live in accordance with God’s ways. Throughout Proverbs, the righteous are those who fear God (1:7), carry out justice (8:20), increase in learning (9:9), speak profitable things (10:11, 21), remain steadfast (10:30), bear fruit like a tree (11:30), care for their neighbor (12:26), hate falsehood (13:50), and walk in integrity (20:7). 

The righteous live eminently godly lives filled with acts of service to King Jesus. They offer up their bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord (Romans 12:1). Their lives are filled with such godly virtues that they become paradigms of some of the virtues that God works in us by the Spirit. In essence, the righteous are those who truly live in this life.

Nonetheless, though the righteous truly live in this life, they still end up dying. Once they are gone, all we have are memories of them. These memories become blessings to the people of God. This is one of the ways that God honors those who honor him (Psalm 112:6). God sees to it that blessed men and women leave behind blessed memories; memories that are so profitable to the people of God that they are regarded as blessings from God.

We are blessed when we remember how Abraham was willing to offer up Isaac because he was confident that God would raise his son from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-20). Our spirits are encouraged when we think about how Moses chose to be mistreated with the people of God rather than enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin in Egypt (Hebrews 11:24-25). Our souls are renewed with zeal when we remember the steadfastness of Job in the midst of an onslaught of fiery trials (James 5:11).

Sweet Memories of William Tyndale

This is also one of the chief reasons so many Christians have benefited from reading biographies of righteous men and women throughout history. Just the other day I was reading about William Tyndale. Throughout the 1520s and 1530s, Tyndale’s main ambition was to translate both the Old and New Testament into English. Though this was illegal and punishable by death during his time, he was filled with a godly resolve to get the Bible into the language of the common man. Before he began this extraordinarily difficult task, Tyndale famously said to a very learned man, “If God spare my life, in a few years I will cause a boy that drives the plough to know more of the Scripture than you do.”

To enable the plough boy to know more Scripture than the learned man proved to be an audacious endeavor. Tyndale had to live as a fugitive on the run, he had to master the Greek and Hebrew language, and he had to find men that would print his translations even though it could cost them their lives. In all of this, Tyndale did not waver. Before long, his English Bible was circulating throughout England. As the Bible was placed into the plough boy’s hands, the plough boy began to know more Scripture than the Pope!

Although this was a remarkable feat, it proved to cost Tyndale his life. Because of his translation work, in 1536 he was tied to a stake, strangled to death by an iron chain, and then burned. William Tyndale gave up his life for the cause of Christ, the Word of God, and the building up of the church. Even though he is gone, we still hear his voice every time we read our English Bible. As you can see, “The memory of the righteous is a blessing” (Proverbs 10:7).

Not so With the Wicked

This is not so with the wicked. For those who do not belong to God, lack godly wisdom, and rebel against God’s good design, their names will rot. When they die, both their body and their names will decay. God will see to it that the wicked are either forgotten (2 Kings 9:30-37; Job 18:5-17; Psalm 9:5), or that they will be remembered with shame and detestation (Romans 9:13; 2 Timothy 3:8-9; Revelation 2:20).

The Stench of Henry Phillips

Take Henry Phillips for example. This is the wicked man who was hired to befriend William Tyndale for the express purpose of betraying him. The same money loving spirit that drove Judas to betray the Son of God fueled Henry Phillips to betray Tyndale, a translator of the Word of God. After Phillips gambled away a large sum of money that his father had entrusted to him, he was willing to do anything to pay off his debt. Knowing this, a wealthy man that abhorred the reformers offered Phillips a sizable amount of money to spy on, befriend, and betray Tyndale. In love with money, Phillips agreed. 

He proved to be remarkably successful in this endeavor. Before long, he lured Tyndale into a trap. Tyndale was then arrested and jailed. As we mentioned earlier, he was then tied to a stake, strangled to death, and then set ablaze. For the church, the memory of Tyndale is a blessing. The memory of Henry Phillips, however, has faded into oblivion. Even when Henry Phillips’ name is mentioned, it is remembered with sense of disgrace.

Righteousness Receives The Crown

“Gray hair is a crown of glory;

it is gained in a righteous life.”

Proverbs 16:31

Even at a very young age, C.H. Spurgeon was a great preacher. As pastors throughout the area became aware of how powerfully Spurgeon preached, they would invite him to come preach in their pulpits. One of the pastors that invited Spurgeon to come fill his pulpit was Mr. Sutton, of Cottenham. Though Sutton had never placed his eyes on Spurgeon, he was eager for Spurgeon to come preach one of his anniversary sermons.

When Sutton’s eyes finally landed on Spurgeon, Sutton was a bit shocked to find that Spurgeon was only a teenager. He immediately regretted inviting this boy preacher to come preach one of his anniversary sermons to a congregation that was jam packed in the sanctuary. The gray-haired Mr. Sutton told Spurgeon, “I shouldn’t have asked you here, had I known you were such a bit of a boy.” To which the young fiery eyed Spurgeon quipped, “I can go back as easily as I came.” Mr. Sutton, however, did not ask Spurgeon to leave. He unexcitedly went ahead and let Spurgeon address his congregation. Though he did rudely and impolitely let Spurgeon know that he didn’t expect much from a young preacher that still had his mother’s milk in his mouth!

When it came time for Spurgeon to preach, he picked up the book of Proverbs and read aloud, “Gray hair is a crown of glory” (16:31a). After reading he looked at the congregation and said, “I doubt it, for, this morning, I met with a man who has a hoary (gray) head, yet he has not learnt common civility to his fellow-men.” Then Spurgeon proceeded to read the second half of the verse, “it is gained in a righteous life” (16:31b). He then said boldly, “Ah! that’s another thing; a hoary head would then be a crown of glory, and, for the matter of that, so would a red head, or a head of any other color.” 

A Saucy Dog!

After these initial comments, Spurgeon went on to preach the sermon he had originally planned to herald. Mr. Sutton came up afterwards and said, “Bless your heart! I have been a minister nearly forty years, and I was never better pleased with a sermon in all my life, but you are the sauciest dog that ever barked in the pulpit.”

Spurgeon was a saucy dog, and this saucy dog taught Mr. Sutton two lessons that day. The first lesson was that gray hair is only a crown of glory when it is gained by years of righteous living. This is the main meaning of the proverb above. The second lesson was that a dark headed teenager with a passion for righteousness is worth listening to! This is an implication of the proverb that Spurgeon felt the freedom to draw out. For our purposes, we will focus on the main meaning.

Gray Hair – Crown of Glory

The Christian that lives a righteous life enters into his latter years with gray hair that is a crown of glory. They have spent decades meditating on and memorizing the Bible. Their constant devouring of the word of God allows them to speak the word of Christ to those around them. As they have lived in God’s world, God has refined and further conformed them into the image of Christ through fiery trials. Faced with difficult situations where it actually costs them to obey God, they have steadfastly remained faithful to Christ despite the costs.

Throughout all of this, God has slowly rid them of pride and produced within them ever increasing humility. They “flourish like the palm tree”, they “grow like a cedar”, and “they bear fruit in old age” (Psalm 92:12,14). Spending time with them is one of the greatest blessings in this earthly life. Their gray hair is a crown of glory, and those within the church ought to esteem them as paradigms of godly wisdom and virtue.

Gray Hair – Not Necessarily a Crown Of Glory

Nevertheless, just because a person is aged does not mean they possess the crown of glory. Apart from a righteous life, their gray hair is merely a crown that lies debased in the dust of the earth. Rather than living righteously to attain the crown of glory, they have lived wickedly storing up the wrath of God. Their “white hairs of ungodliness bespeak ripeness for wrath.” With this in mind, Charles Bridges said, “For what is a more lamentable spectacle, than a graceless old man.” Bridges is right. There is not a more lamentable sight that a graceless old man that has squandered decades of his life in service to the world, the flesh, and the devil.

This is not to say that the young are not to honor and respect even the ungodliest of older men. As followers of Christ, younger Christians should honor and respect them. However, nobody should be so foolish as to think that, just because someone is older, they possess godly wisdom, understanding, and counsel. If they have not live righteously, they lack the crown of glory that comes with old age. This means that Christians should not view them as paradigms of godly wisdom and virtue.

2020 In Books

One of my favorite parts of the year is when prominent Christian pastors, theologians, and websites begin posting their top ten book lists. This allows me to peruse these lists in hopes to find some good books to read in the upcoming year.

In what follows, I’ll post the ten books that I most enjoyed reading this year (in no particular order), and then I’ll post a link to top ten book lists from other pastors, theologians, and websites. My list will include books from any particular year, while other people’s lists will usually pertain to books that came out in 2020. My hope is that you will find some good Christian books to read throughout 2021 that will stir your affections for Jesus.

My List

Tethered to the Cross: The Life and Preaching of Charles Spurgeon by Thomas Breimaier – Though this will probably not appeal to some readers, as a lover of all things Spurgeon, it certainly appealed to me. Breimaier navigates Spurgeon’s writings and sermons to show his readers that Spurgeon’s hermeneutic, no matter what Scripture he was looking at, was crucicentric and conversionistic. For me, this book had the same result as Spurgeon’s sermons and writings do, it made me want to love Christ more!

To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson by Courtney Anderson – If you lost your job, depleted your savings account, and lost all your investment in cryptocurrency, you should still find a way to buy this book. I find biographies on missionaries to be gripping, and Anderson’s To the Golden Shore was the best missionary biographies that I’ve ever read. It was thrilling reading about the life and ministry of Adoniram Judson. Few men have accomplished so much for the name of Christ as Judson. And few men have endured so much suffering for the name of Christ as Judson. After reading this book, you will find Adoniram Judson to be one of your heroes in the Christian faith.

Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund – The puritans used to say that certain books were a balm to every wound. In contemporary terms, I guess this book would be Neosporin for your every spiritual wound. Ortlund uses the Bible and voices from the past to show his readers that Christ is not a Savior that reluctantly deals with sinners. Rather, Christ is a gentle and lowly Savior that delights in showing mercy and steadfast love to sinners. You will find this book immensely encouraging. Make sure you have it on your reading list for 2021!

The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance-Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters by Sinclair Ferguson – I know what you are thinking, “What a remarkably long and uninteresting title!” Before you scroll past, though, listen to what Alistair Begg said about this work, “I know of no one other than Sinclair Ferguson who has the capacity, patience, and skill to unearth an ancient debate, set in a Scottish village with an unpronounceable name, and show its compelling relevance to gospel preaching and Christian living. This may be Sinclair’s best and most important book. Take up and read!” This book really is an important read. It reveals how we can indiscreetly fall into legalism. It teaches us how we are prone to separate the benefits of salvation from union with Christ. And it reveals how we, as Christians, can gain gospel assurance.

The Person of Christ by Donald Macleod – This book was written in 1998. I determined to read a lot of books on the person of Christ this year, and the newer books I was reading were regularly referencing Macleod’s The Person of Christ. I light of this, I went and bought it. Let’s just say that I was not disappointed. As a matter of fact, I was so pleased with Macleod’s insights in The Person of Christ that I bought and read two more of his books. Anyhow, I found this book to be very good!

A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life by J.I. Packer – The Puritans believed that all biblical knowledge should lead to godly living. As they read the Bible, they believed that God was teaching them how to live as exiles here in this wilderness of a world. When they preached sermons, they drove home the main point of the passage and then labored extensively to apply it to their hearers. Needless to say, the Puritans knew how to live God honoring lives. In this book, Packer teaches us how we might imitate the Puritans in their quest for godliness.

Spurgeon on the Christian Life: Alive in Christ by Michael Reeves – Here is the thing, I love Charles Spurgeon and I love Michael Reeves. And God, in his grace, made Michael Reeves a Spurgeon scholar. This means that whenever Michael Reeves writes a book on Spurgeon, I must read it. So what about this book? I don’t think it is the best biography on Spurgeon, but I think it is a great book to introduce people to Spurgeon’s life, ministry, and teachings. If you don’t know much about how God mightily used this 19th century English Baptist pastor, then this book will give you a good introduction to him.

Jonathan Edwards: A Life by George M. Marsden – This is considered one of the most important biographies ever written about Jonathan Edwards. I, personally and embarrassingly, had never read a biography about Jonathan Edwards, so Marsden’s biography was a bit overwhelming! Marsden shows EXTENSIVE knowledge of the times of Edwards, the life of Edwards, and the impact of Edwards. So this is probably not the best biography to introduce you to Edwards, but it is certainly an important book for knowing and understanding Edwards. If I were you, I would read some shorter biographies about Edwards first. Then I would read this one a little later on.

The Holy Spirit by Sinclair Ferguson – Just the other day I was talking with a man entrenched in the Charismatic Movement. His claim was that Baptists are scared of the Holy Spirit. My claim was that Baptists aren’t scared of the Holy Spirit, but have a completely different understanding of the role of the Spirit in the life of a Christian. He placed overwhelming emphasis on his experiences (being slain in the Spirit, speaking in tongues, slithering on the floor like a snake, etc.), while I placed my emphasis on the biblical teaching of the Spirit. I say all that to say this; Ferguson, in the pages of this book, will give you a healthy understanding of the Holy Spirit. This book is thoroughly biblical and grounded in good sound theology.

Reenchanting Humanity: A Theology of Mankind by Owen Strachan – This is an important and timely book. Throughout history, major current events usually lead to greater theological precision in the church. For example, in the days of the Reformation, there was greater theological precision on the biblical doctrine of justification. During the 19th and 20th century, there was greater theological precision on the inspiration of the Bible. Current events fueled the church to be more precise! And in our day, where women claim to be men and where men claim to be women, the church needs greater theological precision in what it means to be human. This book will help the church in this area.

My Wife’s Top Three

My wife always wants me to put a few of her favorite reads of 2020 on here, so here are a few that my wife thoroughly enjoyed reading.

Knowing God by J.I. Packer – In 2006, Christianity Today said that Knowing God was one of the top fifty books that have most shaped evangelicals. Though Christianity Today said that in 2006, it is still true today, fourteen years later. Packer is both precise and lucid in Knowing God. He will teach you a great deal about the triune God that we, as Christians, know, love, and serve.

Devoted: Great Men and Their Godly Moms by Tim Challies – It is hard to overstate the simple fact that, behind many of the great men throughout church history, there were godly mothers. These women loved the Bible, Christ, and their families. They relentlessly evangelized and taught their children all that they could about the Christian faith. And God, in his grace, used their ministry to shape their children for the remarkable labor He would use them for later on. This book will allow you to learn more about these stories.

Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan – Since this book has been published many times throughout hundreds of years, there are a ton of different versions of it. I prefer the classic with the old English. Others prefer a modernized version. The link that I have attached is to the modern version. With all that said, Pilgrim’s Progress used to be one of the most popular Christian books of all time. Sadly, however, we may be the first generation of Christians that are largely unfamiliar with this book. In all honesty, the more I talk to people, it seems like our generation is even unfamiliar with the title of this book. . . . . which is incredibly sad. I say all that to say this; as a Christian, you need to read or listen to this book at least once. There is a reason the majority of Christians have had this on their bookshelves over the last three hundred years!

Other People’s List

Kevin Deyoung’s Top Ten Book List

The Gospel Coalitions 2020 Book Awards

For the Church | The 2020 FTC Book Awards

Tim Challies’ Top Ten Book List

Trevin Wax’s Top Ten Book List

9Marks Pastor’s Talk on a Bunch of Fun Biographies

More Lists Will Come

There will be more lists that come out. As they do, I will try to add them to this blog. I hope this allows you to find some good books!