No one will deny that positive parenting and positive preaching, such as encouragement and positive reinforcement, is effective and to be preferred over negative parenting and negative preaching. You’ve, no doubt, heard the saying, “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”
But there’s a time and place for confronting our children as parents and our congregations as pastors with negatives. There’s a time and place for preaching “Thou shalt not!” and dealing with sin.
We parents use the words NO and DON’T as we warn our children of evil and danger. Those words can become overused as a bad habit for everything, even things that don’t matter. But we ought not be afraid to warn our children when needed for their safety and for their own good.
We are constantly faced by laws given to us as prohibitions: Do Not Touch, No parking, Speed Limits, No Passing, NO U turns, Do Not Enter, No Loitering, etc. limiting our freedoms for our safety, as well as the safety of others.
The Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 are given toIsraelas negatives, except for the 4th commandment to honor the Sabbath Day and the 5th to honor our parents which are given as positive commands. (To learn why Christians today are not under the strict Sabbath laws and the observance of the Sabbath, go to my category SABBATH.)
God is not afraid of warping our personalities with negative commands. In this world we can’t get away from negatives. Our cheerful, humble, obedient responses to the negatives separate us from the scorners.
A wise person humbles himself and surrenders to the negative restrictions placed on him from God’s Word and from human authority God has placed over him as parents, teachers, police officers and judges. A foolish rebel stiffens his neck and refuses to bow to authority. With fire in his eyes, he snarls, “No one tells ME what to do!”
It’s good to take a stand for God and refuse to compromise with evil; but it’s wrong to take a stand for ourselves and insist on having our own way in every area of life, when God has placed us under authority.
Let’s look at some Negatives in Proverbs 3:1-12. Note, that in every case God promises to bless those who obey Him, just as He promises long life to those who honor their parents in the 5th commandment.
I. FORGET NOT MY LAW Proverbs 3:1
It’s easy to forget God’s Laws if we do not spend time in His Word and listen to Biblical preaching. That’s why Paul urges Pastor Titus in Titus 3:1-2 to “put them in mind to be subject to legitimate authority”
We are to keep commandments from the heart. If our desire to obey does not spring from the heart, but is forced or coerced, such is not true obedience, as far as God is concerned, but is mere legalism, an attitude Christians should abhor.
Israelfailed. They ignored God’s Laws, or observed it legalistically, as did the Pharisees in the four Gospels. That’s the story of the Old Testament. They either ignored God and stuck out their tongues at Him, so to speak; or else they went through the motions of observing it legalistically with no heart for God. As a result, they faced His chastening and judgment for their rebellion.
II. FORSAKE NOT CHRISTIAN GRACES Proverbs 3:3-4
Proverbs 3:3-4 encourages us to not forsake Godly attitudes and actions, such as mercy and truth. What a beautiful balance in the Christian’s life! Jesus was filled with mercy, truth, righteousness and peace. Psalm 85:10 expresses it beautifully. “Mercy and Truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” The Lord Jesus embodied these four beautiful virtues, as should we who are Christians.
The New Testament is filled with such instruction. For example, Ephesians 4:21-32 describes the beautiful attitudes and relationships that should be obvious among Christians at church and elsewhere. I remind you again from Proverbs 3:1 that these godly attitudes and relationships should spring from our hearts. Proverbs 3:4 reminds us that these heart observances bring favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man. Could you ask for anything more wonderful than that?
EXAMPLES OF CHRISTIAN GRACES
Note some examples of godly graces, such as truth and mercy, in the lives of well known Bible characters. Read of Joseph of the Old Testament, who was mistreated by his older brothers and later by Potiphar’s wife. Read how when he had the opportunity to be vengeful for mistreatment by his brothers, he showed mercy and truth to them in Genesis 39-47.
Read the stories of David in I Samuel, starting with ch 17. Read how King Saul and others mistreated him and how he responded in meekness and kindness towards them.
In Luke2:52we have a one verse biography of the childhood of Jesus. as He grew to adulthood. There we learn that He had favor with God and with man.
In Acts2:46-47 we have the secret of growth for churches; simply allowing Christ to be seen in our relationships with one another.
III. LEAN NOT TO YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING Proverbs 3:5-6
Use your understanding and common sense; but don’t lean on it. Trust the Lord exclusively and unreservedly, Certainly, don’t lean on your own righteousness, but Christ, as Paul testified in Philippians 3:3-9. Jeremiah warned in his prophesy in Jeremiah 17:9 to beware of leaning on the arm of flesh.
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