Sound Wisdom

I love Jordan Peterson (JP) – like the father I never had. His book, Twelve Rules for Life, is filled with sound wisdom, godly instruction – things I wish my father’d taught me. (Pr 3:21)

In his straightforward, brilliant, humble manner, JP’s helping me understand fundamental life principles, things I wish I’d been taught when I was young, and had been able to teach my kids. It’s priceless. (Pr 4:7, 12:1)

JP isn’t a Christian, not just yet, doesn’t even claim to believe in God; he’s a man who’s struggling to find the truth in the fear of a God Who might exist. If what he’s found so far is any indication, he’ll be a believer before he’s done. He’s seeking and knocking like no one else I’ve seen; he’ll find. (Mt 7:7-8)

Below are his 12 rules, with some summary notes and supporting scriptures.

  1. Stand up straight with your shoulders back. Be as strong as you can be, in mind, body, soul and heart. (1Co 16:13) Our nervous system responds differently when we face difficulty voluntarily rather than as a victim. There’s no virtue in self-imposed weakness. Individuals can take down empires, change the world; one who stands for truth in love cannot be defeated. So, stand! (Ep 6:13-14)
  2. Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping. (Ep 5:29) People take better care of their pets than themselves. Self-hatred/disrespect/unforgiveness is inconsistent with God’s love for us. Act like you’re your own best friend, think of your future self as someone you need to care for.
  3. Make friends with people who want the best for you. (Pr 13:20) People who don’t want the best for you aren’t your friends. Not only can you separate yourself from them: you should. Set proper boundaries; seek out people who’ll help you be your best self, and be that kind of friend to others.
  4. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today. (2Co 10:12) Make daily incremental changes in your life, towards a goal of perfection (Php 3:12-14); compound interest is at work, and works both ways.
  5. Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them. (Ep 6:4) What I wish I’d heard as a young parent! This is Dare to Discipline on steroids, with a nuance that’s both encouraging and unarguably wholesome.
  6. Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world. (Mt 7:5) If we can’t set our own house in order, what business do we have trying to control or manipulate anyone else? People and social systems are much more complex than we realize, and we can easily wreck havoc with simplistic ideas. Humility applies wisdom first at home, verifying its utility through experience.
  7. Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient). (Mt 6:33) Life isn’t about happiness, it’s about purpose. Find your path and walk in it.
  8. Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie. (Ep 4:25) When we lie, we corrupt our own ability to perceive and interpret reality. There is never a good reason to do so. Speaking the truth in love always brings habitable order out of chaos. Articulate the truth in love as well as you can, to yourself and to others, and it clears your mind and spirit to see even more truth.
  9. Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t. (Ja 1:19) Don’t be gullible, yet recognize you don’t know it all. (1Co 8:2) Be willing to learn from anyone and everyone.
  10. Be precise in your speech. Speech conveys information, precise speech does so efficiently, requiring less time and effort. It is a way of honoring others, loving them as ourselves. Anything less is unrefined, tainted, corrupt.  (Ep 4:29)
  11. Do not bother children when they are skateboarding. “The spirit that interferes when boys are trying to become men is no more friend to Woman that it is to Man. It will object, just as vociferously and self-righteously, when little girls try to stand on their own two feet. It negates consciousness. It’s anti-human, desirous of failure, jealous, resentful, and destructive. No one truly on the side of humanity would ally him or herself with such a thing.”
  12. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street. Why is there so much evil and suffering in our world? It is the price of being, of freedom, of growing, and limitation. Pay attention to the intermittent rays of light sprinkling down into a suffering world. Enjoy them, and be reminded that the wonder of Being itself makes up for the ineradicable suffering that accompanies it.

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A Sound Mind

The role of the mind in the spiritual life a difficult, interesting and important subject. How are we to follow the Spirit, and receive “spiritual discernment” and direction from God, apart from our intellect?

Should we look for a feeling in our gut, perhaps a familiar peaceful voice, and presume it’s the Holy Spirit? Should we neglect to evaluate this impression with our intellect?

Apart from our mind, this is our only option, and briefly considering the consequences highlights the obvious: this isn’t God’s design, but mindless foolishness. God gave us our mind for a reason (1Ti 1:7); we should use it.

There’s such a thing as a carnal mind (Ro 8:6-7), but that’s very different than saying our mind is inherently carnal.

There’s such a thing as a corrupt mind (1Ti 6:5), but that’s very different than saying our mind is inherently corrupt.

There’s such a thing as a fleshly mind (Col 2:18), but that’s very different than saying our mind is inherently fleshly.

It’s with the mind that we serve the law of God (Ro 7:25); it’s where God puts His laws. (He 8:10)

God commands us: “Gird up the loins of your mind (1Pe 1:13); in other words, we’re never to neglect it, turn it off or be passive in using it, but always doing our best to think clearly, rightly, thoroughly and correctly. There are no exceptions to this; we must do this always, constantly. This is wisdom: the most important thing we can seek after. (Pr 4:7)

Being mentally passive is therefore never spiritual, it can’t be; it’s always foolish, childish, immature. (1Co 14:20)

Jesse Penn-Lewis, author of the classic, War On the Saints, claims passivity of the mind is the chief basis of demon possession. (ch 4) The enemy tries to bypass our minds and gain control of us by lying to us about the right use of our mind, so we don’t use it to identify and resist him. This is central to his war against us.

The very act of thinking must be spiritual: matter and electricity can’t do this on its own, so thought itself can’t be merely physical; it must be metaphysical. And we’re always thinking; as we think, so we are. (Pr 23:7) As we think according to truth we’re godly and spiritual, all else in us is carnal and fleshly. It isn’t so much about whether we’re thinking, but how we’re thinking.

When we deliberately set our minds aside, we’ve nothing left but emotion to lead us, and that’s not how God’s designed us to function. The enemy is a spirit, and will gladly infiltrate us, giving us lying emotions if we allow him through mental passivity. Every opening we hand over to him he’ll penetrate, like a poisonous gas.

Repentance is a change in thinking that produces godly feelings and actions. Every lie we hold (in our mind) is an opening for Satan, but God gives us repentance through godly instruction as we pursue truth so we can recover ourselves from the snare of the devil. (2Ti 2:25-26) We receive His instruction as the key to our freedom, taking heed to our way in order to cleanse it. (Ps 119:9)

We can’t identify truth by how it makes us feel; that’s how the wicked live. (Ep 2:2) To be renewed in the spirit of our mind (Ro 12:2), we need to buy the truth (Pr 23:23), crying after knowledge, understanding (Pr 2:3-5) and sound wisdom (Pr 2:7), evaluating our feelings by the truth.

We seek truth wherever we can find it, in science and in history, but primarily by meditating on God’s Law (Ps 1:2), constantly exposing our thought patterns to God’s Way, hunting down every false way, every thinking pattern that’s contrary to truth, so we can root out all enemy access to our souls.

We prayerfully seek truth through reason (Is 1:18), vetting new ideas based on what we already know to be true, such that we’re always ready to provide a reason for our hope to all who ask. (1Pe_3:15) This is a mental discipline, as well as a spiritual one (2Ti 2:15), in which we must cultivate and train ourselves. (He 5:14) It can’t be a choice of one or the other, mind or spirit: it must be both – and.

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They Would Not Come

Christ gives us insight into the heart of Man, what we’re all like unless God interferes with our free will, in a parable about a king inviting his subjects to a wedding for his son. The king sends out the invitations and prepares a lavish feast (Mt 22:2), but when the time comes to celebrate, no one shows up: the prince has zero guests at his wedding.

So, the king sends messengers to call on all those he’s invited, encouraging them to come and enjoy the wedding, but all of them decline, every last one of them, refusing to attend. (Mt 22:3)

So, the king sends more messengers to plead with them, explaining that the food is ready, and that it can’t wait much longer; he’s laid it all out and it can’t be taken back. If they don’t come the food will spoil and the prince’s wedding will be ruined. As their king, he commands them to come. (Mt 22:4)

But the people don’t take their king seriously, having no respect for him; he’s a kind, patient and merciful man, so they presume he won’t do anything if they just ignore him. They simply go on about their busy lives, leaving the king and his prince to enjoy their little wedding alone; they’ve no interest in celebrating with royalty, to share in their joy and fellowship. (Mt 22:5)

However, a few citizens become so irritated by these invitations to the royal marriage that they capture the king’s messengers, treat them hatefully, and eventually kill them all. (Mt 22:6) The rest of the townspeople get wind of this, but don’t bother arresting the murderers or making amends with the king; they just go on about their business as if nothing’s happened, essentially making themselves out to be accomplices in the treachery.

When this terrible news gets back to the king, how his own people have murdered his servants in response to his generosity, though he is a temperate man, this outrage makes him so angry that he sends out the army to kill them all and decimate their city, razing it to the ground. (Mt 22:7) Those he has invited to his son’s wedding have shown themselves to be traitors and murderers; they have no right to dwell in his kingdom, much less attend the wedding.

The banquet is near to spoiling now, and there are still no wedding guests, yet the king is determined to share his celebration with others. So he sends out more servants to try to find travelers, vagabonds, the homeless, anyone at all that’s willing to come, no matter what their background is, and invite them. These servants do manage to find a few folk willing to oblige the king, and they provide each one with a special gift from the king: a garment in which to celebrate the wedding. (Mt 22:9-10)

The king is pleased that guests have arrived and enters the banquet hall to introduce himself, but notices one with no wedding garment. (Mt 22:11) The king is concerned about an intruder refusing to identify as his guest, and politely questions the man about it. Perhaps there was a misunderstanding, or he was overlooked. (Mt 22:12a)

But there’s simply no excuse for acting the way this man has, to ignore the king’s provision and crash the wedding as if he weren’t invited. As he faces the king surrounded by guests who are wearing the wedding garments, he’s speechless (Mt 22:12b): he’s treated the king, the prince, and the wedding celebration itself, with utmost contempt, and for no particular reason other than disdain for the king and his son.

The king is indignant at this insulting behavior, and commands his men to tie up the intruder and expel him into the darkness outside, leaving him to suffer indefinitely. (Mt 22:13)


What does this parable tell us about Man, about our natural state before God? If it tells us anything, it is this: Many are called, but few are chosen. (Mt 22:14)

In other words, everyone is invited to walk with God, but none of us will come to Him (Ro 3:11) unless God chooses (elects) us (Ep 1:4-5), and intervenes in our will by giving us a new nature that is not alienated from Him (Ez 36:26), a nature that is inclined to seek Him and draw near to Him, such that we are no longer at enmity with Him. In this way, God draws His elect to Himself, and these few precious souls do come to Him and are saved. (Jn 6:44)

Further, Christ is telling us that the root cause of this problem between Man and God isn’t a lack of information, or a lack of awareness; the root cause isn’t our ignorance of His interest in us, or not knowing how to connect with Him. (Ro 1:19) The problem is that we dishonor, dislike and despise Him (Ro 1:21): in our natural state we’re all at enmity with Him (Ro 8:7), such that we just won’t bother to seek Him out, even if He pleads with us to do so. And even if some of us happen to be willing to take advantage of His gifts, without His aid we won’t come the way He has provided; we insist on our own way, remaining obstinate, disobedient, alienated from Him (Ep 4:18), separate from Him and His way.

This universal behavior in Man is totally inexcusable (Ro 1:20), and we’re all guilty as charged. (Ro 3:19) If God left salvation up to us, to receive Him and His free gift of righteousness and eternal acceptance with Him, Heaven would be empty — not a single human soul would dance in its streets. God calls us all to the marriage of the Lamb, but He must choose some, working in us to be willing to come, or no one would. God is not obligated to choose any of us, but I am so thankful that He does!

The implication of the parable is clear: God is both the author and finisher of our salvation (He 12:2); apart from His aid, no one is saved. And salvation is much more than a willingness to take free stuff; it involves a supernatural heart-transplant, a new creature. (2Co 5:17) Those who are continually preoccupied with their own interests and focused on earthly things (Php 3:18-19), who are not actively loving and pursuing Jesus Christ, submitting themselves to God and to His way, remain His enemies, and will be destroyed. (1Co 16:22) No lukewarmness is to be tolerated within our hearts (Re 3:16); He has come to save us from that. (Ro 7:24-25) The springing forth of His new nature within us, delivering us from our evil ways and from this present evil world (Ga 1:4), demonstrates His choosing of us. (1Jn 3:18-19)

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Be Content

The key to living in contentment, free of covetousness (Ep 5:3) and lust, lies in a promise: God has said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” (He 13:5)

This promise is found in multiple places, as a promise to His people as an holy nation (De 31:6) comprising all of God’s children (1Pe 2:9), and to individuals (Jos 1:5) called according to His purpose. (Ro 8:28) How does this great and precious promise enable us to partake of the divine nature (2Pe 1:4), curing us of covetousness?

Covetousness is an unholy wanting, seeking after that which is forbidden us in Torah (Ro 7:7), pursuing what is contrary to God’s purpose and will for us. (Ro 12:2) It’s ultimately a form of idolatry (Col 3:5), creating a god of our own liking, a fundamental denial of the infinitude of God, an attack upon His goodness and faithfulness, rooted in that primal lie that God’s Law is keeping something good from us. (Ge 3:5) Lust is the desperate heart cry of one who fails of the grace of God (He 12:15), who’s forgotten the power and wisdom of God. (1Co 1:24)

Knowing that God is with us, that He is sufficient to supply all our need (Php 4:19), frees us from all unholy desire: if God has forbidden it we don’t need it, and it would ultimately harm us and dishonor Him. Trusting God is knowing His pleasure is ultimately for our welfare and His glory, that He’s sovereign, and that He’s perfectly good.

Being content with such things as we have, in having our basic physical needs met (1Ti 6:8), is not merely a reference to the material things of life; it extends beyond to all that we need. By His Word through His Spirit, God is equipping us with everything we need to live for Him. (2Ti 3:16-17) We aren’t perfect, for sure, and while we should ever be striving to add more virtue and knowledge to our faith (2Pe 1:5), we can be content that God is our sufficiency (2Co 3:5), that He has designed us with the gifts, experiences and temperaments that are perfectly suited to His unique and glorious purpose in each of us. (1Co 12:18).

Grasping the infinite treasure that is ours in God leaves no room for unholy passion; the cure for our covetousness is found in His promises. Contentment is an enabling grace that’s learned (Php 4:11), a soul discipline, a pillar of spiritual health.

Let’s ask God to incline our hearts away from covetousness towards His testimonies (Ps 119:36), and then apply ourselves to root out every trace of lust with the very nature of God, by letting the truth of His Way penetrate every crevasse of our mind and soul. Every step toward godliness and contentment is great gain. (1Ti 6:6)

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That I May Know Him

Knowing God, like we know a friend, is different than knowing about God. We may study theology and acquire a lot of religious knowledge, but it’s not worth much if that’s all we have. (2Ti 3:7) If we’re wise, knowing God and walking with Him will be our top priority (Php 3:8), the only thing we find noteworthy about ourselves. (Je 9:23-24) With all the deception about us, how can we tell if we know God, and how well we know Him?

Well, are we earnestly obeying Him, the best we know how? (1Jn 2:4) Are we loving God with all our being and our neighbors as ourselves? If we think God doesn’t mind disobedience, selfishness, lukewarmness (Re 3:16), or doublemindness (Ja 1:8), if we aren’t afraid of displeasing Him (He 10:31), then we don’t know Him at all; we’ve simply made an idol for ourselves after our own likeness, another Jesus. (2Co 11:4)

And are we rejoicing in Him? Is He precious to us? (1Pe 2:7) Does meditating on His nature and His ways, on all that He does, bring a constant stream of delight to our souls? (Ps 119:97)

As God’s Law, Torah, reveals His nature and His way, the godly delight in the law of God (Ro 7:22), we serve the law of God. (Ro 7:25) We’re earnestly and consistently longing to understand and obey God’s Law more and more (Ps 119:20); that’s what it means to walk in the light with Him (Ps 119:45), the very definition of the New Covenant. (He 8:10)

Do we understand that God’s utterly sovereign? That He does as He pleases in Heaven and on Earth, and that nothing frustrates or worries Him? (Da 4:35)

Are we content in knowing the goodness and faithfulness of God (He 13:5), secure, unafraid (He 13:6), at rest in God? (He 4:3) Or are we lusting to envy, cleaving to dust?

Are we satisfied with the religion of our parents, accepting without question what we were taught as children, or what our culture and those about us claim? If we want God to leave us alone with our idols … He will (Pr 1:29-31) … to be trodden down in His fury. (2Co 5:11)

But if we want to know God, and ask Him to show us where we’re missing Him, seeking Him until He reveals Himself to us, He will. (He 11:6)

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The Voice of Strangers

God’s people hear His voice and follow Him (Jn 10:27), but do we also hear other voices which are not of God? If so, how do we tell the difference?

Horse Head Nebula, Hubble

To be clear, we aren’t referring to an audible voice, but to an inner sense or witness in our spirit that God’s trying to guide us or teach us something. Thinking the enemy can’t try to imitate God like this underestimates him, and implies any kind of impression or leading we receive must be from God.

But Jesus taught that other spiritual beings will also be speaking to us, trying to get us to follow them, and that we’ll know the difference instinctively. (Jn 10:5) But if we’re desperate to hear a “word from God,” we might override our instincts and fall pray to the enemy’s leading.

So, how do we know?

Simple, just like Jesus explained: if we don’t instinctively know God is speaking with us, then He isn’t. If we’re able to wonder if it might not be God, or ask, “Who are you?” then we don’t know it’s God and we should flee: ignore the impression, or voice, or leading, or whatever it is. We don’t need it, and we shouldn’t be looking for it.

If we need clear direction from God we should ask in faith for wisdom (Ja 1:5); seeking counsel from others and the Word, and then walk it out using all the wisdom we have, trusting He’s working out His will in us. (Php 2:13)

If we need direct revelation, God will speak to us clearly, and there will be no doubt about it. Satan comes as an angel of light to deceive (2Co 11:14), but the voice of God is unmistakable, let’s not settle for a counterfeit.

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Man of Sorrows

Our Lord is a man of sorrows (Is 53:3); grief is His companion. He weeps over our sin and stubbornness (Lk 19:41-42) and He’s looking for us to be afflictedManOfSorrow with Him. (Ez 9:4)

Does human brokenness move us to grief, sorrow and weeping? (Ps 119:158136) Or does a certain smugness, contempt or disdain pollute us? When we sense someone’s in error, is our first instinct to triple-check ourselves, hoping we’re missing something? Or do we jump too quickly to find fault? When we must discuss another’s brokenness, is it reluctantly … with tears? (Php 3:18-19)

ManOfSorrowsLoving our neighbors as ourselves means being as grieved in others’ failings as we are in our own. In seeking holiness and truth we often find ourselves confronting and exposing brokenness, but enjoying and feeding off of this is ugliness, enmity and pride. (Php 2:3) As C.S Lewis so elegantly observes, we must not wish black was a little blacker, for soon we’ll be wishing grey was black … and in the end inherit darkness.

The high calling of God is perfection (Mt 5:48), so through Christ we strive after it by faith. (Col 1:29) Christ’s love shines through holy sorrow (Ec 7:3); without it we’re nothing. (1Co 13:1-3) Let’s fellowship with Him in His suffering (Php 3:10), giving all diligence to add this virtue to our faith. (2Pe 1:5-7) It may not seem possible to get there from here, but God is willing and able to help us. (Ep 3:20)

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The Second Death

EtnaEruption
Mt. Etna, Sicily

Yeshua uses unmistakably graphic language to describe Hell. (Mk 9:43-44, 45-46, 47-48) He’s warning us to do all we can to avoid it. Who among us will go there? (Is 33:14) What would it be like do die the second death?

Before coming to faith I dwelt here, meditating on the terror of the Lord; it moved me to repent and seek God until I found salvation. This is, in fact, God’s norm in evangelism. (Jud 1:22-23)

The Lake of Fire is the dreadful fate of all who fail to find their eternal home in Christ. (Re 21:8) Fear of spending eternity in Hell drives the wise to ensure their election, until they’re as sure of Heaven as Christ Himself. Take no chances: perfect assurance of eternal salvation is available; nothing less is acceptable.

Only a few diligently secure their place in Heaven; whatever it takes, strive to enter: be one of them. (Mt 7:13)

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To Know Wisdom

Looking back over my life I’m realizing that most all of my troubles have come from not being wise. I made my biggest mistakes going headlong against the counsel of those who loved me most. No one to blame but me.

Wisdom is knowing the RayOnTreebest thing to do at each moment in time,  and doing it with the right motive and attitude. Wisdom is rooted in and springs from the fear of God (Ps 111:10); He says it is the most important thing. (Pr 4:7)

How do we get wisdom?  Simple: seek it, the way men seek money or pleasure … every day, with our whole heart. (Pr 2:4-5) Asking, praying without ceasing throughout each day, “Is this wisdom?” (Ja 1:5) And as we ask, we must be obeying wisdom: making the wisest choice we can every time we make a choice. (Pr 9:6)

Life’s tough, but it’s tougher when we’re stupid. Let’s ponder our path and walk worthy of God. The goal is not to have an easy life, but to be the kind of person to whom God will enjoy saying, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” (Mt 25:23)

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