Service Video Message Video Message Audio The service video is unavailable at this time. The sermon video is unavailable at this time. The sermon audio is unavailable at this time. Scripture Verses Proverbs 14:12, Romans 1:21-32, Matthew 7:13-14, Proverbs 9:10, Proverbs 15:16, Proverbs 10:27, Proverbs 14:27, Proverbs 19:23 Downloads & Resources Skillful Living Dr. Jon Morrissette - 1/11/2004 I recently subscribed to Reuters "Oddly Enough" headlines on my Yahoo homepage. Every day they reveal the most shocking stories from around the world. For example, there was a story about an Icelandic fishing captain who was known as the "Iceman" because of his tough character. True story. Crew members from his ship "Erik the Red" were processing their catch for the day in shallow water. The water was filled with fish blood and guts. Suddenly a 660 pound shark appeared and began racing toward his men. The captain ran in the water and grabbed the shark by its tail. He then dragged the shark unto dry land and killed it with his knife. Locals say the man is called the "Iceman" because he isn’t scared of anything. I guess not! Or take the story of the man who was arrested after jumping over Niagara Falls. He wanted to the first to plunge over the falls without a boat, barrel, or life jacket. Is it me, or are people getting dumber these days? After being released on bail, Kirk Jones spoke of how happy he was to be alive and warned others not to do what he did no matter how depressed they might feel. He said, "I feel that I have reached out and touched the face of God." In Germany a man hid his deceased mother in a bathtub in his backyard. He wanted to continue collecting her pension after her death. So he wrapped her corpse in plastic, put her body in a bathtub, and covered her with garden waste and old roofing. He told friends that she was taking a holiday for her health. He is now being investigated for fraud and suspected murder. He defended his actions by telling authorities that she wanted to be buried in her garden instead of in an anonymous graveyard. Choosing a pattern of living that seems right. I guess you could say that all of these people did what seemed right to them at the time. Well Proverbs 14:12 (NIV) makes a stunning assertion. It says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." What makes this verse so stunning is that every one of us has chosen a path for ourselves. We have chosen a way of life. We have chosen a pattern of living that seems right. It doesn’t matter whether you are a teenager who is eager to grow into adulthood. It doesn’t matter whether you are a young adult struggling to establish your household. Or you may be a new parent, seasoned parent, empty nester, grandparent, retiree, or even a senior. There is a way that seems right to each of us individually. Each of us has chosen his own way to follow, for better or for worse, unto life or unto death. Such is the nature of the beast. We love being in the driver's seat, making choices, forging our own paths, being in control, choosing our destiny, and creating our future. Until we draw our last breath of air, we will continue this love affair with freedom. We will continue pursuing whatever path we have chosen for ourselves. But that isn’t the whole point of Proverbs 14:12. This verse dares us to step out of the moment and look down the road to consider where our chosen path is leading. Outside of my hometown in Herscher, Illinois there is a place that is called Pilot Hill. It is a lot like the hill in Elkhart, Illinois. It has the highest elevation of any place in the county. Every place else for miles is as flat as a pancake. In the old days travelers would stop there. From that hill they could see where all the roads were leading and decide if they were on the right path. This is the point of Proverbs 14:12 (NIV). "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." There is a way that seems right to a man, but in reality it is leading us away from the life we are hoping to discover and maximize. Proverbs 14:12 encourages us to stop and discern our way before we lose our way. We all believe that we have chosen the right way of life. Something that I have noticed is how confident we become about our way of life. With equal intensity both believers and unbelievers assert that they have the way that seems right. The Christian believes that following Jesus Christ is the right way. The non-Christian believes his own way is best and that his own way will lead to a longer enduring and higher quality life just as surely as the Christian’s way. For example, consider Romans 1:21-32 (NIV). This passage describes the path that ungodly people choose in order to try to maximize the length and depth of their lives. "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal men and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator-- who is forever praised. Amen." "Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them." This passage in Romans mentions those who are apathetic about God. People who have an inkling that God exists, but who really don’t care enough to commit themselves. People who do not worship God, glorify God, speak of God, think much of God, give thanks to God, open their hearts to God, or seek a deeper knowledge or understanding of God. People who do nothing! People who do just the opposite; they invent their own ideas about God. They believe what they want. We all know people who fit this description. We know people who for one reason or another have chosen to live their lives disinterested in and disconnected from God. When you talk to them they shrug their shoulders. No big deal. They have chosen a way that feels right and seems to make the most sense. They're satisfied. They’ve found no compelling reason to see things any differently. As far as they are concerned, they are on the right path. This passage in Romans goes on to mention those who because of their apathy about God, slip deeper and deeper into a lifestyle of sinning. Such people dive headlong into a life of sin without conscience. They plunge into the darkest depths of greed, materialism, lust, sexual immorality, and more. Again, we all know people who fit this description. People who bypass all belief in God, who throw caution to the wind, who live as they please. Their attitude is that the sinners are much more fun. Their way seems right to them. Of course, they don’t really believe in sin. For them, right and wrong is an illusion. Evil is a social construct. Sin is only what we’ve been taught it to be, nothing more and nothing less. Sin is a subjective reality. It exists only in the eye of the beholder. We find ourselves pressed to reason them out of their way of life. They are convinced they’ve found the way. Greed. Materialism. Drunkenness. Orgies. Carousing. Homosexuality. Self-worship. Creation-worship. Self-degradation. Impropriety. For them, they’re not really living and enjoying life unless they're moving beyond the emptiness of the last moment into a more intense, deeper experience in the next moment. We could continue in the rest of this passage in Romans to discover the other paths people choose. There are people who do what ought not be done. People who have depraved minds, who have no boundaries for themselves, who show no self or moral restraint. People who are filled with every kind of wickedness, including evil, greed, depravity, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, and slandering. They hate God. They are arrogant about their lives. They are boastful and proud. They go so far as to invent new ways of doing evil. They are senseless, faithless, heartless, and ruthless. Their conscience is malformed. Romans also mentions children who disobey their parents. They resist their parents' authority, their parents' wisdom, their parents' perspective, their rules, and even their boundaries. Children who think they know best, who think their limited life experience has taught them more than all the years of their parents' or grandparents' experience. You know, they have it all right and their parents have it all wrong. It’s amazing how fully convinced people of all ages are that their path is leading them into a better, brighter, fuller life. Self-delusion is alive and real, my friends. There is a way that seems right to every single man and to every single woman. In the New Testament in Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV) Jesus takes Proverbs 14:12 a step further. He says, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." It isn’t just that some people are self-deluded, believing they have chosen a way that is right and that leads to life. Jesus is telling us that in fact, most people, the majority (many) of people, are on the wrong path! The majority of people are on a path that leads to destruction. Notice, "..wide is the gate and broad is the path that leads to destruction, and many enter through it." But, "..only a few" are on the path that leads to life. "But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." So which path are you on? Are you on the path leading to life or are you on the path leading to destruction? And is that the path you are really on? Or is it just the path that seems right? Have you really seen where your path is leading or are you only deceiving yourself with wishful thinking? Compare and contrast your chosen path with God's path for you. Proverbs 14:12 is daring us to step out of the present to consider the future of where our chosen path is leading us. We need that place where we can stop and gather up some much needed perspective. The entire book of Proverbs provides us with just such an opportunity. The proverbs provide a comparison. They invite us to compare and contrast the way we have chosen for ourselves with the way God has chosen for us. Proverbs forces us to evaluate where we will end up if we keep on doing life our way, and where we could end up if only we began doing life God’s way. Proverbs causes us to realize that our way and God’s way lead to entirely different destinations. One way leads us to life, but the other leads to destruction. When push comes to shove, it doesn’t really matter which way "seems" right. What matters is which way "is" right. There is a right way or a best way! The Proverbs call this right way wisdom. Those who pursue the right way of wisdom are called wise and godly. In contrast, the wrong way is called foolishness. Those who pursue the wrong way of foolishness are called fools. There is a connection to the Proverbs in Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV) when Jesus compares the wise and foolish builders. Jesus said, "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." You see there is a right way, a wise way, to build our lives. And there is a wrong way, a foolish way, to unnecessarily wreck our lives. Imagine knowing the right way, the best way, the wise way of building your life. Imagine being able to avoid the perils and destruction of the foolish way of non-life. Imagine having the practical know-how and the cleverness to achieve great things. Imagine having plain good old common sense, being able to wed theory and practice. Imagine being able to see behind things, being able to read between the lines, to make appropriate decisions that are in the best interests of everyone involved. Imagine being successful and skillful in all of life’s relationships and responsibilities. Imagine having the resourcefulness, the discretion, to get things done and resolve your troubles without being put off by a problem. Imagine having the ability to carefully navigate through all of life with its storms and troubles. Seeing ahead, avoiding danger, avoiding the snares of sin. Imagine being able to have understanding, being able to analyze and discern all things, grasping the principles of life, and living in harmony with the principles and purposes God has built into the created order of things. Wise skillful living isn’t something we have to imagine. We can all be wise builders. But we have to realize that wisdom isn’t achieved cheaply or even painlessly. Wisdom is found through discipline. It requires taking things in, being observant, being receptive, and learning and grasping the principles of life and truth. Wisdom involves intellectual pursuit. It goes beyond just the heart and body. But most importantly, wisdom involves submission. It requires that we take a different posture before God than what we ordinary would take. Instead of just pursuing the first way that seems right, wisdom requires that we set our compass and follow the way that God has laid out for us in his word. But again, Proverbs invites us to contrast the wise life with the foolish life. Take any godless philosophy of life you choose, follow it to its inevitable conclusion, and you will discover that it leads to self destruction instead of deeper life. The point of Proverbs is that for life to work, for life to endure, for life to be enjoyable and satisfying, God has to be in the very center of our philosophy of life. When we take God out of our finances, we become enslaved to creditors and to debt. When we take God out of our family, marriages crumble, children digress into rebellious behavior, family members inflict pain on each other, we become traumatized emotionally and psychologically, and we hate each other. When we take God out of our community, workplaces are dominated by self-interest, greed, and competition. Civility erodes. Duty and responsibility evaporate. When we take God out of our lives, our speech becomes destructive, our passions and lusts rule over better judgment, our lives spiral out of control, and self-control loosens. Over the next several weeks I want to challenge you embrace the way that is right over the way that only seems right. We're going to dig into Proverbs. We're going to compare and contrast the wise and the foolish. Proverbs 9:10 (NIV) says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Proverbs 15:16 (NIV) says, "Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil." Proverbs 10:27 (NIV) says, "The fear of the Lord adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short." Proverbs 14:27 (NIV) says, "The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death." Proverbs 19:23 (NIV) says, "The fear of the Lord leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble." Is your way of life bringing more turmoil, or is it bringing more satisfaction? Are you adding length to your life, or are your years being cut short with all the stress? Have you found the fountain of life, or are you caught in the snares of destruction? Are you resting content and untouched by trouble, or is your life a total mess? Join us in the coming weeks as we contrast the way that seems right with God’s way. Better a little with the fear of the Lord than a whole lot all on our own.