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Christian Education Devotionals (104)

These devotionals were originally written by Hope PR Christian School (Walker, MI) teacher Brian D. Dykstra for his fellow teachers. They are posted here for their broader significance and for broader use by Christian parents and other Christian school teachers.

Seeking Wisdom as Silver

Seeking Wisdom as Silver

Brian D. Dykstra (Teacher at Hope PR Christian School, Walker, MI)

*This article was originally written as a devotional for his fellow teachers at Hope CS. It is posted here because of its broader value for our website readers.

Proverbs 2:1-6: “My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.”

At the beginning of this chapter, we again have a covenant father giving instruction to his son. There are certain aspects of his son’s spiritual life which the father greatly desires to see. He wants his words of instruction to enter his son’s heart. He wants his son to take his instruction with him where ever he goes. When the son hears the instruction of wisdom, the son is to pay attention and apply his heart to understand wisdom. The father wants to see his son show love for the true and living God.

The father wants to see that spiritual matters have importance in his son’s life. He is not merely to whisper after wisdom or even just raise his voice to call after wisdom before she gets away. He is to cry and lift up his voice after knowledge. He cannot let her get away. He understands just how important wisdom is to him. He has to have it. No substitute will suffice.

He is to seek wisdom as one seeks silver and hidden treasures. Think of all the trouble many people have willingly endured for the opportunity to find sliver. Great distances were covered under conditions which were extremely difficult. Hazards, sickness, and even death were risked by some of the people in their quest for earthly riches.

In Rocky Mountain National Park there is an old silver prospector’s camp. It takes some time to hike there, and that’s with a car giving a head start on what this prospector faced in his journey. It struck me as a tough place to live. Imagine the trouble he endured. He had to move enough supplies up into the mountains to survive. He had to build a shelter. Yet, what really displayed to me this man’s great desire to strike it rich was the fact that he hauled up a large, heavy and cumbersome iron boiler to help him separate the silver from what he didn’t want. I often wondered if all this were worth the trouble. He must have worked hard.

That’s the type of desire this father wishes to see his son have for the wisdom of God. Such a desire leads to an understanding of the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom, and with such a desire he will find the knowledge of God. There is no doubt about it. Verse five gives us the guarantee: “Then SHALT thou understand the fear of the Lord ...”

Wouldn’t it be nice to see such desire more often in students? All too often various forms of entertainment or sport can dominate young lives. Wouldn’t it be great to have children be as eager to pick up their Bible homework or catechism as they are to pick up the various sections of the newspaper? Does it seem that the only time the children need to be woken up and practically dragged out of bed is on Sunday morning? Why does it seem that there can be a nodder, dozer or sleeper in every other pew or row of desks, but never in the bleachers or before some video screen?

I am concerned about our denomination’s future. The blessings we have in church and school are often taken for granted or deemed to be of little importance. How often don’t we hear that children do not like school. I hope the facial expression of nearly absolute disinterest in all things academic, which some older students have perfected and some younger ones are developing, is a veneer for public display.

Yet, we must continue to point out the wisdom of God’s Word. Only God is the giver of wisdom in Jesus Christ. Godly wisdom cannot be found in any other place. Knowledge and understanding proceed only out of His mouth. That old time miner can serve as an example in the search for the wisdom of God. You have not found the valuable ore yet? Keep digging. You have struck a vein of valuable silver? Do not be satisfied until it has all been removed.

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The Prosperity of Fools Shall Destroy Them

The Prosperity of Fools Shall Destroy Them

Brian D. Dykstra (Teacher at Hope PR Christian School, Walker, MI)

*This article was originally written as a devotional for his fellow teachers at Hope CS. It is posted here because of its broader value for our website readers.

Proverbs 1:32-33: “For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.”

Wisdom has raised her voice. The Word of God has been made known in many different ways to the simple. At the very least the simple had the testimony of God in their hearts that what they did was against His Law. Yet, they found their pleasure in the ways of evil. The responsibility for their ruin lies at their own door. They cannot blame others for their destruction. The fault certainly cannot be found in God. The fault is only in themselves.

That the turning away of the simple results in their being slain reminds us of the word brought to Judah by Jeremiah, “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 6:15).

Was God strong enough to save Judah? Yes, He could have reached out His arm to deliver them. He could have destroyed Nebuchadnezzar and his host with one stroke from His almighty arm. However, His justice and His love for His own holiness could not allow Judah’s deliverance. As they lived in their sin, Judah listened to the message brought by her false prophets. They were certain that no evil would ever come upon them, in spite of all their corruption of God’s justice and shameless idolatry, because, they assured themselves, “We are the people of God!” The message of Judah’s history is simple: Turning away from God will lead only to destruction.

We can see how prosperity leads to destruction very clearly in our own nation. This past summer we heard very often about the adultery and deceitfulness of our scripture-quoting President. Still, President Clinton enjoyed a high approval rating from the American people. The economy is good. The future looks bright. There is money to be made. We are the most powerful nation on earth. There are those who look at this prosperity as being a sign of God’s blessing being upon us. It makes you wonder how ignorant they can be about the history of Judah. Jeremiah warned Judah of this very thing, “I spake unto thee in thy prosperity; but thou saidst, I will not hear. This hath been thy manner from thy youth, that thou obeyedst not my voice. The wind shall eat up all thy pastors, and thy lovers shall go into captivity: surely then shalt thou be ashamed and confounded for all thy wickedness” (Jeremiah 20:21-22). Judah looked upon her prosperity and took it as a sign of God’s approval. Actually, they were cattle being fattened for the slaughter. Their prosperity, since it did not come from God’s love for them, was really a curse.

These verses in Proverbs 1 end with a promise, “But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.” Not only is common grace refuted in these verses, the antithesis is shown. Judgment, and only judgment, against those who live in rebellious, unconfessed sin against God, but safety to those who listen to the voice of wisdom.

This is a valuable lesson which our students need to hear. We live in a materialistic age. We can be caught in this trap ourselves. Who are the celebrities in our nation? Consider how many of them have made their vast hoard of money. Do we expect to have to move over in the pew some Sunday morning in order to provide them some room? Yet, these people are given a fair amount of our children’s attention. They need to be taught the nature of God’s blessing. Blessing is not in the things of this world. Blessing is in the restoration of our covenant friendship with God.

No, this does not assure that the Christian life is one free from all adversity. Students need to be mindful of this as well. Each of us could speak of adversity in life. Trials are part of every Christian’s life. For the young students too, if trials have not come, they most certainly will at some time in life. There are times when Father’s loving hand is heavy upon us. We are often in awe of how much some of His saints must bear. God does not promise a primrose path to the pearly gates.

Jeremiah again serves as an example. He had a difficult task. He brought the Truth of God to Judah. It was not appreciated. He suffered mockery, scorn, persecution and shame. Jeremiah was even to the point that he cursed the day when he was born. He thought it would have been better to die in the womb. God comforted Jeremiah and promises to comfort us, “And I will make thee unto this people a fenced brasen wall: and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the Lord. And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible” (Jeremiah 15:20-21).

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Wisdom's Call Refused

Wisdom’s Call Refused

Brian D. Dykstra (Teacher at Hope Christian School, Walker, MI) - Originally written as a devotional for Christian school teachers

Proverbs 1:24-31: “Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: They would none of my counsel: They despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.”

In these verses we still have wisdom speaking. In the verses preceding we learned the voice of wisdom can be heard everywhere. The call of wisdom has a positive effect upon God’s children. They recognize His voice, know their sin and their only deliverance from it, repent and walk in the Spirit.

In these verses we read of what happens to those who do not obey the voice of wisdom.

When wisdom called, she did not call with pleading. The call was not some type of gracious, general offer. God knows who are His. We read of these people in Romans 9:21-22: “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction ...” God does not yearn after these scoffers and desire to save them, if only they would listen. God’s will is not frustrated as He shows Himself to be the God of omnipotence and justice.

Remember, the voice of wisdom is heard everywhere. Those who reject the testimony of God’s Word do so to their own destruction. By God’s making the voice of wisdom heard everywhere, the wicked are left without excuse. They heard the call, but refused. They saw the gracious hand, but thought nothing of it. They knew the counsel, but accounted it to be worthless. They heard the reproof of their sins, but desired the pleasures of this world.

Perhaps they believe God to be similar to the simple-minded people of our time. All a person need do is express remorse, no matter how superficial, and nearly everything, except intolerance, smoking, drinking and gun owning, can be exonerated. If a person admits to some wrongdoing, there is no choice but to give forgiveness and forgo any punishment. No one is to be made to suffer for his behaviour, as long as he admits to it. They must believe God to be as foolish as themselves. They will sneak into heaven’s back door with a last minute confession. They will attempt to satisfy God with a confession, while there is yet a smirk on their faces which expresses, “My, but that was still fun, though!”

Those who lived such lives of unrighteousness and rebellion against God’s Word will be given a surprise. It is now God’s turn to laugh and mock their fear. God will not answer their cry when their destruction and anguish come. God will make them reap what they have sown. God is not mocked. His holiness will not allow it.

The wicked then claim such judgment to be inconsistent to the nature of the God of love. Perhaps they believe, “He will not require me to reap what I have sown because He is the God of love. Because He is the God of love, He must love me, too.” Yes, He is the God of love. What the wicked have forgotten is that His love has an object. God’s love is not some universal, warm, fuzzy glow which cannot help but to envelope everybody. What is forgotten is that God loves Himself in perfect covenant fellowship. He loves His own perfect holiness. Those who would experience this love must be holy, even as He is holy. Of ourselves, our situation would be hopeless, but in His grace He has given the one perfect sacrifice to cleanse us from our sins.

The ark of the covenant was the picture of God dwelling with His people in covenant fellowship. This fellowship is only possible because God is merciful, which is why on top of the ark was the mercy seat. Remember though, the mercy seat on the ark did not sparkle with the glitter of solid gold. That mercy seat was covered with the blood of a sacrificial lamb. Where God does not see the blood of His Son, He will not dwell in love, but in judgment.

The message of these verses is still unsettling to us as teachers. We are to teach our students in the light of God’s Word. We would prefer that Word to be a one-edged sword sometimes, bringing only the fruit which we consider to be positive. It grieves us to hear of former students who have departed from God’s way. There will be students who will show that they hate the knowledge of God, do not fear Him, do not hear His counsel and despise His reproof. Such news brings sorrow. Then we must pray for grace to submit in humility to the will of the Potter who has power over the clay. We must apply His Word in our teaching, and His Word, a two-edged sword, will have His desired effect.

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Wisdom's Cry

Wisdom’s Cry

Brian D. Dykstra (teacher at Hope Christian School, Walker, MI) - written as a devotional for teachers as well as parents

Proverbs 1:20-23: “Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.”

Solomon has already instructed his son that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. He has also spoken about the enticement of sinners. The final end of the sinners has been made clear to the son.

But what is a father to do? He knows what he wishes most for his son, that is, for the son to live a godly life. The father can give instruction and point out the truth of what he has learned about God both from His Word and from the way in which God has led him in life. However, try though he may with careful spiritual instruction and example of life, he cannot take his son’s dead and sinful heart and make it alive and holy.

But there is a cry which is heard! It is the voice of wisdom. My commentary tells me that the word wisdom is actually plural in the text. Among other voices, Matthew Henry mentions the following as the voices of wisdom: human understanding, divine revelation and Christ Himself. Solomon, as a father, is not left on his own to give instruction to his son. He has all the help he needs, the voice of wisdom.

This help is found everywhere. Fathers are not usually too concerned about the behaviour of their sons while they are at home with them. Home is the place where the instruction has been given. Now what happens when the son leaves the house to go somewhere? Will all that instruction be forgotten?

No, the voice of wisdom will follow the son not only in the home but without as well. Her voice is heard in the streets. In ancient times, there were many activities which took place in the streets. There were markets, workshops and forms of entertainment to be found there. The voice of wisdom would still be heard by the son.

There were also places where large crowds could meet, the concourse. Many of us know of the concern that is felt when teenage children are in large crowds. Still, wisdom would call him.

Many important meetings took place in the openings of the gates. Business meetings were held there and large markets were found there also. Judgments rendered by the city elders were given in the city gates. It was the place to be to keep up on current events. If the son were there as a witness, the voice of wisdom could still be heard.

Wisdom also calls to this son and to us, as we are by nature. She calls the simple ones. The simple do not fear God. They live their lives as though there were no eternal judgment. The consequences of their actions upon their souls do not matter to the simple. They merely wish to enjoy the pleasures which the world has to offer. They love this way of simplicity! Is there any other sphere where men treasure ignorance over knowledge?

The son’s and our sinful natures can manifest themselves in an even stronger way than mere simplicity. Wisdom also raises her voice to the scorners. It is not enough for scorners just to enjoy their sin, they must also mock God and His holy name and mock those who worship Him.

Finally, wisdom addresses the fools. Fools not only indulge their sinful lusts and mock. They will do more than that. They hate knowledge. Oh, they do not hate to learn things. Think of the many learned men, especially in the world of science, who have earned many degrees. Still, they do not confess God to be the creator of all that they have studied. They hate the knowledge of God and His truth so much that they work ceaselessly for evidence to “prove” the clear testimony of God’s Word to be false.

As for the knowledge of salvation, who needs it? They hate that especially. Fools either dismiss the judgment of the law, deny the existence of the Judge or feel that in some way they can save themselves or do not need to be saved from anything. By nature that is what we are.

To such wisdom cries. Wisdom is not on her knees inviting, begging and pleading with sinners while tears stain her beautiful face. This cry is a call, a summons. It is a command. For those elected by God’s grace, the call is irresistible.

We are commanded to turn. We have walked in sin. We are to turn to the way of thankful obedience. God has confronted us with His standard of holiness. He has shown to us the end of sin and how He has delivered us from it in Christ’s cross.

Wisdom will pour out her spirit unto us. It is not something done in response to our asking for it. Rather, we are being notified of what will happen. Where there was the “spirit” of simplicity, scorn and foolishness, there will be the Spirit of a new Master.

God also makes known to us His word. It is not something left for us to discover on our own. We had been blind to the truth of the Bible because of our sinful rebellion but now, by His Spirit of wisdom, we see and hate our sins, and then we can read plainly of our deliverance from sin.

Yes, we still need to instruct our children at home and in the extension of the home, the school. God uses means. Yet we are thankful that the entering of God’s light into dark hearts does not depend upon us using just the right words, catchy words or the latest instructional methods. God irresistibly calls by the voice of His wisdom and His children, the elect, will hear.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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The Net of Temptation (Prov. 1:17-19)

The Net of Temptation

Brian D. Dykstra (teacher at Hope PRCS, Walker, MI- written as a devotional for teachers)

Proverbs 1:17-19: "Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird. And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives. So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof."

Solomon has just warned his son about the consequences of keeping the company of sinners. It all started innocently enough, but the end was the inevitable destruction of sin. An example from nature, a bird, is now used.

In ancient days, birds were hunted with the use of a net. The net had the purpose of taking the bird into the hunter’s possession. Nets were also used in the hunting of larger animals and especially fish. Hunting was not done for sport as it is sometimes today, but it was done as a means of livelihood. The net, when used on land, would be spread across an opening, and then the hunters would drive animals into the net to capture them.

Because of this common use of nets, in the Old Testament the net is often symbolic of spiritual threats. Most often they picture the danger of seduction, blinding flattery, exploitation of the righteous by the wicked and the punishment resulting from a sinful walk. Here we have the seduction of the acquisition of easy wealth and ample friendship (evil though it might be), the flattery of being needed in this sinful group and the exploitation of the innocent who cannot protect himself.

All of this temptation is likened to a net that snares and means the end of life for the bird. If such a net were spread in the presence of the bird, the bird would avoid the net because he now knows that it is there. By instinct he recognizes the danger and, in the interest of self-preservation, flees.

It is different for fallen, depraved man. Sin holds such power over our natures that, rather than fleeing from the net of temptation, we would rather see how close we can get to it without being snared. In our pride, we often believe that we have the wisdom to back away and escape before we find ourselves in any serious trouble. For the son in verse 10, surely, what would be the harm in merely hanging around with such people?

How often doesn’t it prove otherwise? Certainly, for Eve there was no real danger in speaking with the serpent herself or listening to Satan instead of directing the devil to her husband who had been created as her head, was there? Abraham would not experience any threat if he lied about his wife by saying that Sarah was his sister, would he? What harm could there be if Abraham were to beget children by the use of his maidservant? For David, what harm would come from just inviting a married woman over to his palace for a little dinner?

Yes, we often see the net but, instead of fleeing for our spiritual lives, we boldly step forward! A bird avoids the net by mere instinct, whereas man, endowed with the ability to reason, foolishly presses ahead.

Solomon points out that these sinners, who seek to capture his son, are really setting a net for their own souls. While they lay in wait for their victim to pass, they are really putting the eternal destiny of their own souls in peril. As they lurk for the lives of the innocent, it is their own lives which are in spiritual danger. That is what happens to those who are greedy of gain and kill for profit.

Solomon tells his son that such would be the end of one who joins the company of sinners. As Ahab allowed Jezebel to do the plotting and scheming against innocent Naboth, he was becoming entangled in the net of his own destruction. The son is told to flee. Do not trust your own strength or wisdom. Do not fool yourself into thinking that you can back away before the situation gets out of hand. We can only go to God in prayer and rely on His strength.

It sounds all too simple to satisfy today’s child experts. It is foolish to give such instruction to children. It would never work. Such a method of instruction would only produce fearful, untrusting and paranoid teens. That is the net with which they hope to ensnare us! They seek to draw us into their trap by their apparent logic. Yet what type of teens has the sinful world produced with their theories? No, they are not fearful all right, not even of the ghastly evil that threatens the destruction of their souls. They are very trusting. They trust their own moral relativism, right into the bottomless pit which was left by digging out the only true moral foundation. They are not afraid of any danger. Many simply joyfully immerse themselves in the cesspool of sin.

Do we see Satan’s nets around us? Then listen to the giver of true wisdom. Follow the instruction given by the Triune God concerning the instruction of children. Give the instruction which Solomon gave to his son. It is the wisdom of God in Jesus Christ.

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If Sinners Entice Thee

If Sinners Entice Thee

Brian D. Dykstra

[The article below and articles in future weeks are short devotional pieces written for Christian school teachers by a Christian school teacher. They show us the blessings of a Christian school—something for us to pray for and work toward. They teach us some practical lessons for raising our own children and grandchildren in this "present evil age." And they call us all to remember the parents and children of the church in our prayers. (From the CPRC, N.Ireland Bulletin - Nov.17, 2013)]

Proverbs 1:10–16: "My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause: Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit: We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil: Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse: My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path: for their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood."

In these verses, we have Solomon again giving spiritual instruction to his son. After telling his son the importance of fearing God and the reward of heeding godly parents, Solomon teaches about the general character of sin. It is a good foundation on which to build his book of wisdom. So much of Proverbs speaks of the blessed nature of spiritual virtue and the opposite effect of living in sin, that it is fitting that we have a basic outline of the development of sin.

In whose company does this son now find himself? He is in the company of sinners. It does not appear that he has usually found his companions among the wicked. It seems that these sinners come looking for him. Surely, these sinners show themselves to be very friendly people. Perhaps they even act as though they have this son’s good in heart. Isn’t that the example set by the father of the lie in his dealing with Eve?

This illustrates the importance of the company you keep. How many tears have been shed by godly parents when they see a son making his friends with the wicked. This is also one of the benefits of Christian education. Yes, our school has many shortcomings. How often don’t the students seem all to willing to follow a disobedient example? Yet, there are many godly friendships being formed here. Some of these friendships will prove very valuable during junior high and high school years. There are even examples of friendships started here that have lasted a lifetime.

These sinners do not lay open their plans at the start. In these verses, sin displays a progression. It all begins with a simple enticement. Sin is not presented to the son for what it really is. It is made to look good. Aren’t we surrounded by that every day? Do the media of television and movie dramas show the devastating spiritual result of breaking God’s commandments, or is sin portrayed as exciting, alluring and rather innocent? Our sinful natures are enticed daily, even without the help of the wicked. Children need to be warned about the enticing nature of sin. How did David’s sin with Bathsheba begin? Eve was enticed with the possibility of being as God.

What is Solomon’s advice? "Consent thou not!" It is a rather simple message. He assumes that because of the lifetime of instruction which his son has already been given, the son is able to recognize these sinners for what they are and their enticement for what it is. It is the type of advice that is so terribly mocked today. You are not coming along? You are going to be all alone. You are not going to have any friends. Your life will be very boring, devoid of any adventure. Aren’t you ever going to have a good time? What is it with you Christians? Why are you so judgmental? Aren’t we good enough for you?

Yet look at the examples from the Bible. Joseph resisted and, though he suffered at the hand of a wicked woman, prospered in the end and ultimately was saved. Job was tempted by Satan and was even encouraged by his wife to curse God. Yet Job has been a shining beacon to saints of all ages who have had to deal with adversity because we read, "... in all this Job sinned not."

There is a progression in sin here as well. It all starts with the invitation merely "to come with us." The demand then rises to become one of the group, "Cast in thy lot with us." If the son is worried about being caught, he is reassured that all will be done secretly and no evidence will be left. The rewards of membership in the group will then be laid out: "the spoil of precious substance." The profit will be shared by all.

The son is warned. Do not walk the same path with them. In fact, do not even place one foot on the same pathway with them. It seems that most often a life of sin begins not with a head-long into the depths of depravity, but with a slow immersion. What was once thought to be outside of the realm of possibility is now done with impunity. With each exposure to sin, the conscience becomes less sensitive. As is so often the case, one sin so often leads to another. The only safe thing to do is to recognize sin for what it truly is and to flee from it.

There are examples we can use in Bible class for this as well. Students must be warned of the dangers and the real power of sin. They must know that our nature is depraved, and that there is no sin which is impossible for us to commit. If we think that we can fend for ourselves and that we can associate with sinners without spiritual consequence, we deceive ourselves. When the sinners entice, we must flee to our only refuge, the protecting hand of the Triune God. He can uphold us through all temptation for His hand is almighty and His grace in Jesus Christ is rich.

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