|Volume 22 Number 9 September 2020||
“The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd” (Ecclesiastes 12:11). Even though my grandfather was a master carpenter, I was not blessed with his construction abilities. My thumb can attest to the accuracy of my hammer strikes. Trying to nail drywall to the stud can be quite the adventure. I suspect that most who have tried to nail something to a wall have had the frustrating experience of having the nail miss the stud. Whatever is being attached simply will not stay.
Solomon expressed the desire of every preacher. He wanted his words to “stick.” He worked hard and pondered how things could be said that would have the desired effect. His “nails” were “given by one Shepherd.” That is, God gives them. So, God gives spiritual carpenters the nails, and it is their job to make sure they nail them in the right spot. There are several significant lessons that we can learn from this.
First, we’re not using just any “nail.” The words we speak are not ours (or shouldn’t be) but are the words of God. Paul wasn’t ashamed of the Gospel because it is “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). People don’t need to be given our “nails” — our thoughts, beliefs and opinions. They need to be given the Word that can save their souls (James 1:21).
Second, we have to know where the studs are. Preachers need to know the people to whom they preach. Teachers need to know their students. How many times have we heard a lesson or sermon that had no relevance to us? We feel like it was wasted time. When we’re teaching the eternal truths of God, we need to make sure that they are reaching the hearts of our listeners.
Third, we have the responsibility of doing it right. No one wants a carpenter who can’t drive a nail in the right place. Equally, no one wants a preacher or a teacher who hasn’t taken time to make sure that what is being said is absolutely true according to God’s Word. James warned that one should be careful about deciding to be a teacher, because teachers will incur a stricter judgment (James 3:1). As Solomon said, we need to become “masters of these collections” of wisdom teachings (which ultimately have God as their source).
The Umpire’s Call
Recently, a preacher met a brother in Christ who was an American League umpire who had retired several years ago from a 20+-year career. When asked how he became an umpire, he briefly recounted his story. He loved baseball and grew up playing the game through college. However, he was not good enough to make it to the major leagues, so he figured being an umpire was the next best thing. He graduated umpire school fourth in his class of over a hundred students. He was picked up by Major League Baseball and sent to the minor leagues to see how he would do. He said that ultimately being called up by the American League as a career umpire was because, “I followed instructions and knew who was the boss!” What a basic, common sense concept, but, unfortunately, one that is unknown among too many people today! People today would be much more successful in their secular professions if they would just follow instructions (instead of thinking they know it all) and recognize who is over them (instead of being too arrogant to submit to someone else). Spiritually, the umpire’s call is the only way to be successful!
Know Who Is the Boss
Although the word “boss” may be colloquial, perhaps even having some negative connotations to some, there is at least a sense of the word that is applicable to Jesus as the Sovereign Lord. The word translated “Lord” (kurios) can refer to the divine “Lord” (in most of its occurrences, Matthew 1:22; 2:15; Mark 11:9; Luke 13:15; John 6:68; etc.).
It can also be translated “master” [“lord” KJV] (Luke 12:37; 14:21), “owner” [“lord” KJV] (Mark 12:9) or “sir” [of address] (Matthew 13:27; Luke 13:8; John 4:19). That Jesus is Lord can be ascertained from the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 12:3). Jesus is Lord by virtue of His role in creating the universe (John 1:3). “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16-17). He also showed His Lordship by the miracles He did, overriding the natural laws He created (Matthew 8:5-10; Mark 4:35-41; John 6:1-14).
Being the Sovereign Lord means Jesus has all authority (Matthew 28:18)! Jesus’ authority is known by at least four ways. First, Jesus’ authority is known by what He taught. For example, in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus repeated this statement, “You have heard that it was said to those of old… But I say to you…” (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28, 31-34, 38-39, 43-44). In these sections, Jesus was neither contradicting Moses nor merely adding to what Moses said. Rather, He was authoritatively teaching what God through Moses had taught all along. However, the masses were so blinded by Jewish tradition that they could not see the truth (Matthew 15:1-9). Furthermore, Jesus also set Himself as Judge on that last great day (Matthew 7:21). This would be blasphemous for anyone else besides Jesus! No wonder then, “when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29).
Second, Jesus’ authority was known by His power to forgive sins, which He proved when He told a paralyzed man, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house,” previously noting, “which is easier, to say, Your sins are forgiven you, or to say, Arise and walk?” (Matthew 9:1-8). The implication was obvious: healing the man proved Jesus had the power to forgive sins!
Third, Jesus’ authority was known by logic. When Jesus was asked, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?” He countered with the questions, “The baptism of John — where was it from? From heaven or from men?” (Matthew 21:23-25). The logical implication was so obvious to the chief priests and elders as they “reasoned among themselves” that they had to lie, “We do not know” (Matthew 21:26-27)!
Fourth, Jesus’ authority was known by the power He possessed over His own death. Jesus told His disciples, “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father” (John 10:17-18). Jesus truly is Lord, and we need to acknowledge that in every aspect of our lives!
Very early on in Jesus’ earthly ministry, His mother set the tone of obedience when she told the servants at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (John 2:5). Because Jesus is Lord, His Word has all authority. Paul declared, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Paul also wrote, “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37). The whole Bible, not just the “red letters,” can be traced back to Jesus, along with the rest of the Godhead, as being the source of Scripture! Thus, we must follow all the Word of God (Matthew 4:4), “handled aright” (2 Timothy 2:15), if we are to correctly follow the Lord’s instruction!
There are at least two main reasons why we must follow Jesus’ words for a spiritually successful life. First, Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through” Him (John 14:6). The word “way” (hodos) refers to a path or a road (John 1:23) and is also used metaphorically to refer to the way of life (Romans 3:17), even “the Way” of the Christian life, which is identifiable by others (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 24:14, 22). Jesus is also the personification of “truth.” Concerning Jesus’ incarnation, John wrote, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The apostle further declared, “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Before Pilate, the Lord said, “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John. 18:37).
Jesus is also life. From the beginning of His fleshly walk, it was written, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Jesus was and is, “life in Himself” (John 5:26). Even in transition from this life to the next, we can take comfort that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26)!
Second, we must follow Jesus’ words for a spiritually successful life because His Word will be our standard of judgment. Jesus said, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak” (John 12:48-50). The only hope we have for an eternity with God is by Jesus’ words and Jesus’ way!
Are we living successful spiritual lives? Let us make sure we know the Lord and follow His Word (Acts 9:5-6)!