THE PERFECTION OF GOD, PART 2

Oregon picture perfect mountains

In the prior post we considered the perfection of God and the reality that His perfection extends to each of His attributes.  Perfect beauty, perfect love, perfect mercy, perfect wisdom, perfect justice, perfect power, etc.   Further, God’s perfection has always existed and it will continue to exist even after the end of time.  He is perfect and nothing will change that condition.

Recall, too, that which the medieval theologians said of God:  they used a phrase which may be translated as “the most perfect being”, the Latin phrase “ens perfectissimus”.

Today, we want to consider God’s perfection as it compares to our own. 

Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, which is composed of the Father, the Son [Jesus] and the Holy Spirit.  We believe that Jesus was fully divine as part of the Godhead.  We also believe that Jesus was fully human, just as you and I are human, but He had no sin. 

Jesus, the incarnation of God, said:

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matthew 5:48 ESV.

In His human nature, He lived a perfect life because He fulfilled the law in each and every aspect of it.  Therefore, He was the sinless sacrifice that atoned for the sins that we have committed.  Because Jesus lived this perfect life as a man, He fulfilled His own commandment to us that we should be perfect as God, our heavenly Father, is perfect.  

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, describes our condition in which our mind and heart want to follow God and do His commandments but our flesh refuses and chooses to sin instead.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” 

Romans 7:18-19 ESV

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”  

Romans 7:24-25 ESV

Paul answered his gut-wrenching scream in verse 24 with his thanks as expressed in verse 25 – Jesus Christ is the One who can rescue us from this dilemma.  Clearly, because of sin we cannot even be considered a little bit good in God’s eyes, certainly not “perfect”!  

In the letter to the Philippians, Paul talked more about perfection, and said:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:12-14 ESV. 

Paul recognized that we are not, nor can we on our own be, perfect.  Even the apostle had not attained perfection; but he pressed on toward this goal because he belonged to Jesus Christ.  Our victory over sin is through Jesus Christ who did live that perfect life which we regularly fail to accomplish.  Not only did Jesus live a sinless life, He died on the cross and was raised from the dead on the third day.  He vanquished sin and death and He has promised to do that for us, for those who believe in His name and accept Him as their Savior.   

Paul, here, was referring to Isaiah 25:8, when he told the Corinthians that perfection did not belong to us, but to the One who conquered sin and death:

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 15:55-57 ESV 

The quintessence of perfection belongs to God, the Father Almighty because He is perfect:  simply put, perfection is just one of His attributes.  Indeed, it is because of His love for His people that we even get a glimpse of perfection in this fallen world.  Thank Him for giving us His Son, through whom we can be counted as righteous, or as perfect, before the holy eyes of our Almighty God.

Praise Him that He loves us so much that Jesus Christ lived a perfect life among us sinners so that we could be transported to heaven and live in His perfect righteousness there!

Father, when we consider Your attributes and realize that You are perfect, in all things, we can only bow in humble reverence that You would consider us at all.  When we remember that You sent Your Son as our Savior, the only response we rightfully can offer is one of repentant obedience, gratitude, and devotion.

THE MIGHTY RUSHING WIND – PART 2

In an earlier post, we ruminated about the wind which can remind us that the Spirit of God is characterized by wind or by the breath of God.  We then thought about the influence of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost when He came into the room like a “mighty rushing wind” and enabled the apostles to preach to the foreigners in Jerusalem in their own language.  Acts 2:2-5

The Spirit of God did not stop His work on earth when Pentecost was over.  Even in 2017, the Spirit has continuing involvement with those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Spirit convicts us of our sin so that we can repent, and the Spirit teaches us the way of righteousness.  Paul says it like this:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus [who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior]. [John 3:18] For the law of the Spirit of Life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has set you free from the law of sin and of death. “

Romans 8:1-2 NIV[Amplified]

And again Paul says it like this:

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” 

Romans 6:1-2

And again, like this:

“For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. … But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. … But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. … But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:5, 16, 18, 22-23. ESV

As Christians, the Spirit of God enables us to walk in ways of righteousness, not in sin.  We, as sinful creatures, cannot defeat sin by ourselves; we need help outside of us to overcome our sinful desires, and that help comes from the Holy Spirit.

What does all this have to do with wind?

Fence with trees felled by wind
Trees felled by strong wind along neighbor’s fence.

There is a fence between our house and our neighbor’s house.  It has been standing there for well over 30 years and has withstood numerous rain/wind storms.  After a recent storm with ferocious winds, we noticed a change in the backyard fence.  Something certainly looked amiss, but we couldn’t quite tell what it was.

Fence with tree root ball and uprooted fence
Root ball of tree with upended fence posts.

Upon a more detailed inspection, it immediately became apparent that a 70+ foot tall oak, along with several smaller trees, had fallen over. Further, it had upended one of section of the fence when its root ball, which apparently had grown under the fence and into our yard, was pulled out of the ground as the large tree toppled over. 

I certainly am not going to say that the tree sinned so it was knocked down by the wind.  But, I am going to say that this can be seen as a mini-parable describing the cleaning out that the Holy Spirit can do in my heart when I give control to Him. 

Paul says that we are not to continue to sin.  We are under grace so sin has no control over us … that is to say, sin cannot make us do wrong.  Because our sinful nature is not yet under the full control of the Spirit of God, we will be tempted to sin.  But, praise God, the Spirit is with us and He can knock down any sinful thought that we have, He can prevent any sinful action that we desire to take, and He can mute any sinful word that we yearn to speak.  Just like the tree came down, and it mattered not that the roots were under the fence – it came down as the roots were pulled out of the dirt, lifting the fence with it.  The Spirit will stop at nothing to rid our hearts of sin, because transforming us into the image of our Savior is His job and He knows how to do it.

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Romans 8:29 ESV

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Romans 12:2 NKJV

We are to be transformed into the image of God’s Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  This is the Spirit’s work as He leads us away from sin and into righteousness. 

Here is Romans 12:2 as presented in the song entitled “Do Not Be Conformed” and sung on Renewing Your Mind, an Integrity Music Scripture Memory Song album.

When you see or hear the wind outside, ponder and ruminate on whether you have allowed the wind of God’s Spirit to blow through your heart and uproot any sin that is hiding there.  Consider whether you have experienced the freedom in Christ as a result of the Spirit’s snapping the bonds of sin that had entrapped you for so long.  Praise the Lord for His provision of the loving Spirit who desires only that we be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father, now and forever more.

Father, I praise You for sending the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior, and for calling me to Yourself so that I could partake of this infinite gift of salvation that You have given to those who believe on the name of Your Son.  I praise You for providing the Holy Spirit as the enabling wind Who can eradicate the sin that besets me, and Who guides me in the ways of righteousness.   

THE MIGHTY RUSHING WIND – PART 1

We have had a number of significant storms in the past month, with very heavy rains, some hail, and extreme, sustained, wind.

Our yard is quite wooded, and we can see the wind even when we can’t hear it because of the trees swaying in the breeze.  When strong winds come, though, it is as if the trees are doing a stationary dance in praise to God, while bending and swaying to the will of His Hand.

“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Isaiah 55:12 ESV

 

When you watch the tree branches swaying in the wind, it is not difficult to imagine that they are clapping their hands in praise and glory of their Creator, the Almighty God. 

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

John 3:8 ESV

Jesus said these words when He was telling to Nicodemus that he must be born again to see the Kingdom of God. 

We know that the wind is present when we see the trees swaying.  Then, too, we hear the sound of the leaves as they are driven in all directions when the wind increases and its force is felt by even the strongest of trees.   

When I hear the wind like this, I recall Scripture telling us that the Apostles heard the Spirit of God at Pentecost, and the sound was like a mighty rushing Wind.

“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.”

Acts 2:1-5 ESV

God’s Spirit is characterized as a mighty wind in this Scripture text.  The Greek word used for “wind” is transliterated as pnoe, and it means “breath, breath of life”.  So Luke is saying that the breath of life that comes from God filled the house … it was His Spirit. 

In Acts, the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the ability to speak in languages that they had never learned, languages that the people from “from every nation under heaven” who were in Jerusalem would understand.  The apostles were given this ability so that they could effectively witness to the foreigners of Jesus, the Messiah, the One who rose from the dead and who lives in heaven, the One who could cleanse them from sin and who would give them life eternal.

The apostles’ message that day accomplished something that transformed the known world – it made the Gospel of Christ known worldwide.  An example of this is found in the fact that Epaphras (Colossians 1:7) was the pastor for the church in Colosse, a church to which Paul addressed the letter to the Colossians, but there is no record that Paul ever visited this church.  The people who traveled from Jerusalem to other cities and regions started churches and spread the witness for Jesus Christ throughout the known world.

The application for us? 

Have you been touched by the Spirit of God?  Has He breathed life into your heart so that you can receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and King?  Have you committed your life to Him?  If so, then you have the power of the Holy Spirit resident within you and you can use that power to witness to the miraculous works that Jesus has performed in your life.

Next time you feel the wind blowing in your face, or the next time you see the wind blowing the trees around, or the next time you hear the sound of the mighty rushing wind, think of your God and His Spirit that came to this earth to take up residence in your heart and in mine.

Let the wonder of God’s creation remind us to give praise to Him for His wonderful works to the children of men.  Psalm 107.

 

Father, thank You for caring so much for us that You gave us Your Spirit.  Thank You for blowing Your breath on us so that we can then breathe out Your love to those around us, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  We praise Your holy name and may we give glory to You in all that we do.

PERSONAL, PRIVATE PRAYER – DO I HAVE TO DO IT?

When we look at the New Testament scriptures, we see a pattern that reveals the importance of prayer, not just corporate prayer during Sabbath services but private, personal, intimate prayer with our Creator, Savior, Loving God.  In all things, Jesus is our example, so we look to Him for our understanding of personal prayer.

Jesus prayed intensely in the Garden of Gethsemane before being betrayed, arrested, tried and crucified, and He asked three of His disciples to support Him during this time.

“Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.”  And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”  And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”  And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.

Matthew 26:36-44 ESV

He was sad, sorrowful, asking the Father if there was a way that His assumption of our sin could be avoided.  In other words, “isn’t there some other way?”  Haven’t we cried the same thing to our Father?

But Jesus’ prayer didn’t stop with a refusal to do what the Father directed – He continued to acknowledge God’s sovereignty, saying, in essence, “Your way is the best.  If you want me to do this, so be itI will obey.” 

We have all had the experience of confronting a huge problem, frightening news that upends our universe.  Perhaps it is news of a deadly disease, or the fracture of a marriage that had seemed perfect.  Perhaps the violent, unanticipated loss of a child or spouse, or perhaps the agonizing vigil with an aging parent who no longer knows who you are.  We pray hard during those times.  We seek the Lord’s face and ask the hard questions, most of which begin with the word “Why”. 

There are a myriad of reasons that God allowed the difficult circumstance and we will never ever know all of them, but we can have confidence that they are all directly tied to His plan for your life.  He loves you and, even in the hard times when all logical arguments fail and it is sheer pain, unadulterated panic, and fear, if you are His child, He is holding you in His hand.  He wants you to understand that His grace is available and that His power is all-sufficient … trust Him and let Him hear all your fears, pain and panic.  Don’t try to sugarcoat your thoughts and feelings — He already knows them.  He will hold you and respond saying “my grace is sufficient for you.”   2 Corinthians 12:9.

USED Giant praying hands in Webb Missouri
Praying Hands in Webb Missouri

Jesus not only prayed when faced with the agonizing ordeal of the cross, He prayed, routinely, regularly, even when His ministry was at its peak and he was beset by many who wanted to be healed and to hear Him teach.  

“But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”

Luke 5:15-16 ESV

In fact, He often would withdraw from people so He could be alone with His Father, in prayer. 

“And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.

Matthew 14:23 ESV

“In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.

Luke 6:12 ESV

Jesus even told His disciples and those around Him that private prayer between them and the Father is more important than praying before others, as the hypocrites did.

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Matthew 6:6 ESV  The disciples understood that prayer was important, so in Luke 11:1 we have the record that, after Jesus had been praying, they specifically asked Him to teach them to pray.  It is this request that gives us what we call “The Lord’s Prayer”. 

Private prayer was important in the Old Testament — David said:

“But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.”

Psalm 88:13 ESV

Private prayer was important in the New Testament — The New Testament church also prayed earnestly for the spread of the Gospel and for the growth of the church.

“All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”

Acts 1:14 ESV

“So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.”

Acts 12:5 ESV  This is the humorous scenario that we read about, when Peter was miraculously released from prison and came to the house where people were praying for his release, but the maid would not let him in because she didn’t recognize him as the one for whom they were praying!

If prayer was important to Jesus, if prayer was important to the disciples who lived and walked with Him, if prayer was important to the early church, it should be important to us.

Individual prayer – it is important.  Take time to be away from work, household chores, telephone, television, children, spouse, even well-meaning prayer partners … have dedicated time to talk with God on an intimate, individual basis.  Then listen.  Prayer is a benefit that Christ has secured for His sheep.  Don’t ignore it. 

So, have you prayed today?

Father, forgive me when I have ignored spending time with You.  Forgive me when the trivial has overridden the important, when materialism has crowded out the eternal, when I have sinned by saying a “prayer” that is a thinly veiled demand that You act on my behalf in a certain way.  Forgive me, Father.  Help me to put Your desires ahead of mine so that You will is done in my life and in the lives of those with whom I come in contact.  May I sincerely say “Your will be done”.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

“Happy birthday to you” was heard repeatedly in our family last week, and we had more than our share of birthday cake.  For the first time in 11 years, we had birthdays for three generations all in one week.  I was the eldest generation, my son was the second generation and one of my grandsons was the third generation.  My husband duly noted that we would need 121 candles on the cake.  So, rather than setting off all the fire alarms in the neighborhood, we opted for one votive candle!

But, those were not the only birthdays in the family.  The Ruminant Scribe, Snapshots of God’s World and Word celebrated its second birthday this past week.

The first post to the site was dated April 15, 2015 and 216 posts have followed thereafter over the past two years.  It has been my pleasure and privilege to write the posts, and I thank the Lord for His guidance and leading in so doing.

What has been a total surprise to me is the reach of the blog.  I am certainly not as experienced as many and I do not have many followers, but that is fine with me.  I am confident that the people who read the blog are those God directs to the site.  Moreover, I appreciate and am humbled by each and every one of the men and women who have spent time with the blog. And I totally appreciate those who have provided comments or who have indicated that they liked what they read.  Thank you so much for the feedback.

In reviewing the reach of the blog, I have been amazed at the countries identified as places from which various readers have come.  In addition to the Untied States, visitors to The Ruminant Scribe blog come from 97 countries.  The concept that people from around the world have read the blog, at least in some small measure, is amazing and humbling, and it prompts me to give my best as I represent my King and Savior to others. 

I thank the Lord that in His providence He is providing the readership that He wants the blog to have.  For that reason, I pray that each post is encouraging people no matter where they live.

All in all, it is to God that I give the credit for the idea of the blog in the first place, as well as for the scope and breadth of the blog.  It is to God that I give all thanks for the desire to do this work and to reach out to others in this way.  It is to the Holy Spirit that I seek counsel and direction in writing the blog and in preparing the posts each week.  And it is to my Lord and Savior that I dedicate this blog with the prayer that His name will be glorified throughout the earth.

So, happy birthday to each of my family members, and happy birthday to The Ruminant Scribe.  May God shower His blessings on each of us this coming year.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 24, SELF-CONTROL part two

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 24

SELF CONTROL – SELF MASTERY SO WE CAN SERVE GOD IN FREEDOM

PART TWO

 

Developing the fruit of the Spirit of self-control is not instantaneous once we become Christians.

 

G. K. Beale says it like this:

Christians are like pilgrims passing through this world.  As such they are to commit themselves to the revelation of God in the new order so as progressively to reflect and imitate his image and increasingly live according to the values of the new world, not being conformed to the fallen system, its idolatrous images, and associated values.

G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), p. 175. [Emphasis mine]

 

As with all the fruit of the Spirit, we have the seed of the fruit within us because the Holy Spirit resides within the Christian, but that seed may not have grown very much yet.  We have to commit ourselves to the Holy Spirit so He can develop the character and image of Christ in us.

Remember our thoughts last week comparing a life without self-control to a jungle while a life with self-control is rather like a  well groomed, tended garden.

jungle-scene
   Jungle scene from Parrot Jungle in Kings Bay, Florida.
garden-walkway-parrot-jungle
Beautiful garden walkway from Kings Bay, Florida.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One characteristic of a growing and maturing Christian is the ability to bridle the wild impulses that lead to destruction — self-control.  Note, we can have self-control in one area but not in another.  The Spirit will encourage you to increase self-control so that it encompasses all the areas of your life, not just some of them!

 

How do we develop self-control of the Holy Spirit?  There is no pill to take for it and there is no substitute for hard work.  We train ourselves, just as an athlete would do, so that we learn to exercise self-control through God’s grace and His Spirit.

 

What does Scripture say?

 

So, what does the scripture say about temperance [abstinence or restraint]?

 

Consider Eating:

 

Table manners are important!  Proverbs 23:1-3 speaks of restraint when eating with those over you:

When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite.  Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food.  

 

If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.

Proverbs 25:16

 

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. … “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” … At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food.  So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

Daniel 1:8-16.  Honor God in controlling our appetite for food and beverages.

 

Consider Desires and Passions:

I made a covenant with my eyes, not to look lustfully at a girl.

 Job 31:1

 

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:13-16

 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age,… 

 Titus 2:11-12

 

Consider our Dress

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.

Proverbs 31:25

 

I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

1 Timothy 2:9

 

Consider our Speech and Thoughts

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;

Philippians 4:5

 

Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.

Psalm 141:3 (NIV)

 

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 19:14

 

Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth.  Therefore let your words be few. 

Ecclesiastes 5:2-3

 

Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

Titus 2:6-8

 

Consider the standard for Christian Leaders

For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.

Titus 1:7-8

 

Older Christians to be models for younger Christians

Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.  Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

 Titus 2:2-5

 

Consider Self-Control In all things

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.

Proverbs 25:28

 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,

 Titus 2:11-12

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

The temperate person lives within restraints and keeps his life under control.  Self-control is not strict adherence to rules.  Further, this is not done through sheer willpower, through grit teeth or rank stubbornness … it is done through the Spirit of our Lord and the strength that only He can give.  It is for the purpose of glorifying God by living self-controlled, upright and godly lives before those we come in contact with, in direct contrast to the worldly life that is so chaotic and random, without control or order.

 

Thinking back to last week’s lesson, is our life a jungle or a garden?  Are we tending it and, through self-control, weeding out the bad and developing the good for our Lord’s sake?  Have we committed ourselves to the Holy Spirit so that He can transform us into the image of Christ?

 

Let us develop self-control to the honor of God through the power of the Holy Spirit!

  

Blessings to you and I pray that you have been blessed as we have studied about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.   Next week we will have the final conclusion for the study; please join me as we seek to learn and do the will of our Father. 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 20, FAITHFULNESS part two

 FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 20

 FAITHFULNESS – BELIEVING GOD AND TRUSTING GOD AND HIS WORD

PART TWO

 

John Piper in God’s Passion for His Glory, (Crossway Publishers, 1998) notes:  

“Though God’s ways of expressing his faithfulness are sometimes unexpected and bewildering, looking indeed to the casual observer and in the short term more like unfaithfulness, the final testimony of those who walk with God through life’s ups and downs is that “every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” 

 

What does Scripture say?

 

And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed. But just as all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the LORD will bring upon you all the evil things, until   he has destroyed you from off this good land that the LORD your God has given you, if you transgress the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land that he has given to you.”

Joshua 23:14-16.  What is the definition of faithfulness?  “… not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you.”  Seems to me that this is a pretty good definition!

 

So, what does God’s faithfulness mean to His people? 

 

God’s faithfulness is the attribute where He is ever mindful of His covenant and fulfills all the promises which He has made to His people.  This faithfulness of God is of the utmost practical significance to the people of God.  This faithfulness is the ground of their confidence, the foundation of their hope, and the cause of their rejoicing. 

 

It saves them from the despair to which their own unfaithfulness might easily lead, it gives them courage to carry on in spite of their failures, and it fills their hearts with joyful anticipations, even when they are deeply conscious of the fact that they should have forfeited all the blessings of God because of their own wayward actions. 

 

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations. 

Deuteronomy 7:9

 

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:9

 

The saying is trustworthy, for … if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

II Timothy 2:11-13

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

Our response to God’s faithfulness is, obviously, faithfulness to God.   This is the fruit that the Holy Spirit wants to grow within us as we grow in the likeness of Jesus Christ our Lord.   He gives us the ability to remain faithful as we seek His strength and lean on our Lord.

 

Jesus said that we were to be faithful to him in our obedience and allegiance to Him when he said:

 

“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” 

Matthew 10:32-33.   

 

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 

1 Corinthians 13:7. 

 

In Charity and Its Fruits, Jonathan Edwards quotes this verse and notes that Paul is showing that charity includes a suffering spirit so that it “bears all things;” and that we do this by encouraging the two graces of faith and hope.  

 

Indeed, Edwards states that the fruit of faith through agape love “cannot be conquered by all the opposition the world brings against it, for faith overcomes the world” and also he notes that faith and hope in God enables the Christian to triumph in Christ Jesus.”

 

Faithfulness in interpersonal relationships is evidenced when, the Holy Spirit gives us the disposition to trust others. We give others the benefit of the doubt and we, ourselves, are trustworthy.  We are faithful to our vows, to our commitments and to our world. 

 

An example of faithfulness that is given to us in Scripture is marriage:

Marriage has a unique place because it speaks of an absolute faithfulness, a covenant between radically different persons, male and female; and so it echoes the absolute covenant of God with his chosen, a covenant between radically different partners.

Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury 

 

In other words, our marriages, our family life, our relationships with those in our intimate circle should reflect the faithfulness and love that characterizes God’s relationship with His people.  When people see us in the restaurant, at the mall, in the movies or by the hospital or nursing home bedside – do they see a faithfulness in all circumstances?   Is our marriage a witness of our relationship with Jesus?  Are you utterly reliable in the little things that no one will notice as well as the big ones that are out in front of others?  

 

Let us pray that the Lord would increase our faithfulness and that we would be able, at the end of the day, to lay our head down and hear His voice say:

 

Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master”. 

Matthew 21:25. 

 

Being called “Old Faithful” is a goal worth achieving in the Lord’s Kingdom! 

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.  

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 19, FAITHFULNESS part one

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 19

FAITHFULNESS – BELIEVING GOD AND TRUSTING GOD AND HIS WORD

PART ONE

 

Faith is a fundamental part of our human existence.  It is not a stretch to say that our life, as we know it, would not exist without it.  We breathe air that we cannot see (unless you live in LA or Atlanta and the smog is bad); we eat food that comes from hundreds of miles away and is touched and handled by multiple people we don’t know; we get on airplanes and, unless we have relatives in the airline industry, we don’t even know the names of the people to whom we entrust our lives!

 

We have seen, however, times in recent history where people who were supposed to be dealing faithfully over our matters were less than honest.  The Ponzi schemes of a few years ago are but one example.  Consider the hundreds of people who were hurt when they took a pain reliever and got cyanide instead.  Perhaps closer to home, think of the woman who trusts her husband and learns of infidelity, emotional abandonment and unfaithfulness.

 

In short, we expect the people in whom we place our trust to be faithful.   Faith without faithfulness equals disaster.

What does Scripture say?

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

 Galatians 5:22-23.    We now turn our eyes toward faith and faithfulness.

 

According to Dr. R. C. Sproul, the basic meaning of the biblical word “faith” is trust.  We can believe that God exists, we can even believe that God created the universe, but that is not the same as having faith.

 

Faith is not just believing in God, it is believing God – it is trusting God and His Word.

 

This is difficult for us to do because of our sin that reflects an unwillingness to believe or trust God.  Sin has an appeal to us because we think that if we commit the sin we will be happier than if we don’t commit the sin. So, what we are really saying is that we don’t believe what God says about sin or about our source of true happiness.

 

John Piper in God’s Passion for His Glory, (Crossway Publishers, 1998) argues that sin is where you could have had God’s glory as a treasure but you chose something else instead.  “This is the deepest problem with sin – it is a suicidal exchange of infinite value and beauty for some fleeting, inferior substitute.  This is the great insult.”

 

God knows that sin may be pleasurable, but He also knows it cannot bring happiness.  The apple in the Garden of Eden may have been good, but it soon soured when the weeds came and hard labor was upon both Adam and Eve, circumstances that were unimaginable to them prior to their fall.  Sin can only bring destruction to the human race, collectively and personally.  Sin is a curse on humanity … and that cannot be good by any definition!

 

In contrast, according to Dr. Sproul, when faith becomes fruitful, we have an increased capacity to believe God and that has a direct impact on our struggle with sin.  We can stand when Satan throws his arrows at us, when he tempts us to sin, because we believe our God and His Word.  We have faith in God and that faith is sufficient to carry us through.

 

So, what about faithfulness as an attribute of God and as something which the Holy Spirit wants to instill in us as God’s children?

 

J. I. Packer says in his book Concise Theology,

 

God’s faithfulness to his purposes, promises, and people is a further aspect of his goodness and praiseworthiness.  Humans lie and break their words; God does neither.  Indeed, we know God is Truth.  God’s fidelity, along with the other aspects of his gracious goodness as set forth in his Word, is always solid ground on which to rest our faith and hope.”

 

See Hebrews 6:17-18 where we read:

“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.”

 

In Numbers 23:19 we have a combination of truth and faithfulness – he will not lie and he will not deviate from his stated plan:

 

“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.”

 

In Lamentations 3:22-23 we read:

 

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

After reading Lamentations 3:22-23, Thomas Obediah Chisholm was inspired to write a poem entitled “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”  The providence of God was at work in the distribution of this hymn when Chisholm sent the words of his poem to his friend William Runyan, who wrote the music.  Runyan was a friend of Dr. Will Houghton who happened to be the president of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

 

The hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” became a favorite of Dr. Houghton who invited George Beverly Shea to sing hymns on the Moody Bible Institute’s radio station.  Shea was an unknown vocalist but he took the opportunity to sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness” in his musical lineup, especially because Dr. Houghton liked it so much.

 

Billy Graham was a student at Wheaton College, also in the Chicagoland area, and he heard George Beverly Shea (and this hymn) on the radio program.  Graham invited Shea to become part of the Crusade ministry and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” was included in the Crusade’s repertoire.  [See Lextionary.org, Hymn Story, copyright 2007 as written by Richard Niell Donovan].

 

How does the fruit of the Spirit of faithfulness apply to your life?  Read Lamentations 3 and let the wonder of these verses fill your heart and mind as you contemplate how great God’s faithfulness to us is, moment by moment, day by day.  For your encouragement, here is “Great is Thy Faithfulness” from the album of the same name as sung by Robert Kochis.

 

Now, may each of us reflect God’s faithfulness to us as we interact with those around us.  

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.  

 

 

 

 

Pedal! and Perseverance

There is a story that I came across many years ago, and it speaks to me as I consider my journey with Jesus Christ.  It has been duplicated numerous times so you may already have heard it, but I do ask that you read it and think, again, about your own perseverance in the Christian walk. 

At first I saw God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there sort of like a president. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I really didn’t KNOW him.

But later on when I met Christ, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike ride, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed Christ was in the back helping me pedal. I don’t know just when it was that He suggested that we change places, but life has not been the same since he took over steering the bike.

When I had control, I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable… it was the shortest distance between two points. But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places at breakneck speeds, it was all I could do to hang on! Even though it looked like madness, He said “Pedal”.

I worried and was anxious and asked, “Where are you taking me?” He laughed and didn’t answer, and I started to learn trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into the adventure.  And when I’d say, “I’m scared,” He would lean back and touch my hand.

He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy.  They gave me gifts to take on my journey, my Lord’s and mine.  And we were off again.  He said “Give the gifts away, they’re extra baggage, too much weight.”  So I did, to the people we met, and I found that in giving I received, and yet still our burden was light.

Perseverance
Perseverance in Pedaling!

I did not trust Him, at first, in control of my life. I thought He’d wreck it; but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, knows how to jump to clear high rocks, knows how to fly to shorten scary passages. And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places, and I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion, Jesus Christ.

And when I’m sure I just can’t do anymore, He just smiles and says … “Pedal!”

(Author unknown)

 

There are many theological words we could insert into this story, but the verbal picture drawn for us is sufficient for our purposes.  Life is hard – the Christian life is harder, especially if you try to do it on your own.  Your way is simply not good enough … we cannot live a sinless life.  That is the reason that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was necessary.  We need to come to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith and repentance, and only then can we rely on His strength to enable us to persevere.

 

In Second Timothy Paul encourages the young pastor to endure even when the “going gets tough”.  In these days of the Olympics in Rio, we can more fully understand Paul’s reference:

 

An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.

2 Timothy 2:5.

 

It is foolish for us to think we can satisfy God on our own, that we can compete in this world according to our rules and not those of the Creator God as established in the Bible.  Do we really think we are bigger and know better than God?  REALLY?

 

Sin has broken the connection between us and the Creator God.  There simply is nothing that we can do to fix that situation because anything we do is just as dirty and sinful as we are.  There must be Someone Who lived a perfect, sinless life, and Who was willing to be the sacrifice to pay for the sins that we have committed, so that we could be reunited with God.  That Person is Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

 

The Apostle Paul says:

 

And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22.  The Holy Spirit is our guarantee of salvation and perseverance.  What a blessing!

 

Jesus describes our security in Him as we persevere in our walk with Him in the Gospel of John:

 

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

John 6:37-40.

 

The Apostle John reiterates that which Jesus spoke in the Revelation of Jesus Christ.  Regarding Jesus presenting us to His Father in Heaven if we are faithful to Him, Revelation 3:5 states:

 

The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.

 

Perseverance in the Christian life.  It really is not based on our own efforts. We must yield control of our life to Christ, but even that we cannot do on our own!  Rather it is an ability that we receive from the Lord as the Holy Spirit indwells us and supplies the power that we personally do not have. 

 

We still must run the race and exert as much effort that we can muster, as if we were athletes competing in the Olympics, but at the end of the day we must recognize that it is God who worked through us.  The Apostle Paul reminds us:

 

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

1 Corinthians 3:6-7.

 

So, when you want to give up on your Christian walk, when you feel totally inadequate, when you think that you can give no more … listen to Jesus say “Pedal”.  Rely on Him and He will see you through as He uses you for His purposes, all to His glory and honor.

 

 

Father, forgive me when I have foolishly tried to do Your work in my own strength.  What folly!  Enable me to see when I am grabbing control and let me release my grip and rely on You. May my reliance on You be my first choice, instead of my last resort. Forgive me, Lord. Your way is always the best, most beautiful and enduring way there could possibly be. Thank you Father for calling me and for granting me the blessing of a relationship with Your Son and the presence of Your Holy Spirit.