WISDOM AND HUMILITY CARRY THE DAY

As adults, when we are asked a question, our most frequent response is to give an answer – usually with our chest puffed out just a bit and our head held a little bit higher.  We have been asked to pontificate and show our intelligence as we provide the individual standing before us with the information desired.

However, the wise response is to investigate the issue and then give an answer. Whether it is in the realm of the law, medicine, or any other discipline, the ability to identify the issue and then know where to look to find the answer is supremely better than just rattling off an answer based on what you recalled from yesterday, last month, or last year.  Indeed, knowledge is important, but wisdom is far better.

Scripture has much to say about the know-it-all and wisdom. 

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

Psalm 111:10

Taylor school
A college education may indicate learning, but real knowledge comes from reverent fear of the Lord.  Praise God for Christian universities such as Taylor University, Upland, Indiana, that provide a quality education while fostering Christian growth in their students as well.

A college education may indicate learning, but real knowledge comes from reverent fear of the Lord.  Praise God for Christian universities such as Taylor University, Upland, Indiana, that provide a quality education while fostering Christian growth in their students as well.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7

And he said to man, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom and to turn away from evil is understanding.”

Job 28:28

What is the “fear of the Lord”?  The answer to that requires more space than as a footnote to this post.  But, suffice it to say at this juncture, the following excerpt from “What Does it Mean to Fear God?,” an article posted October 22, 2016 by Dr. R. C. Sproul in the Ligonier Blog gives us some guidance when thinking of the fear of God as noted in the Wisdom Literature of scripture:

The focus here is on a sense of awe and respect for the majesty of God. That’s often lacking in contemporary evangelical Christianity. We get very flippant and cavalier with God, as if we had a casual relationship with the Father. We are invited to call Him Abba, Father, and to have the personal intimacy promised to us, but still we’re not to be flippant with God. We’re always to maintain a healthy respect and adoration for Him.

So, we know the source of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.  Where does humility come into the picture?

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,…

Colossians 3:12

So, what is humility?   Someone named Anonymous said “Humility is a strange thing – the moment you think you’ve got it, you lose it.”  

C. S. Lewis says that “humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” In other words, it is the quality of “self-forgetfulness”.  Rather than, “Me first,” humility allows us to say, “No, you first, my friend.” 

This does not mean that we must be passive followers; humility does not require that we lose our voice or that we cannot lead.  In Numbers 12:3 we read the following about Moses, the man who told Pharaoh to let God’s people go, the man who led the children of Israel through the wilderness for 40 years, the man who spoke directly with God and who received the 10 Commandments on tablets of stone:

“Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.”  (NIV)

Moses was humble and he didn’t seek his own welfare when attacked by his family.  God stood up for him when he was attacked by his siblings.  Read the rest of Numbers 12 to see the conflict between Moses and his brother and sister over Moses’ Cushite wife. What happened to them is priceless; but, if I may cut to the chase, I would simply summarize the story as  – spoiler alert — 

Humility Wins!

Of course this, too, is consistent with scripture.  See, for example, Psalm 147:5-6 where we read:

Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground. (NIV)

In the Lord’s calculus, wisdom comes from Him and man’s humility trumps man’s pride every time. 

Father, thank You for Your Son’s sacrifice that cleanses us from our sin and that results in life everlasting for the believer in Him.  Thank You that we can come to You, acknowledging our lack of understanding, and that You will lead us and teach us in the way of righteousness. Grant me humility and enable me to see when I am acting in disregard of that quality.  Then give me the grace to repent and return to Your side. 

 

A LITTLE HELP, PLEASE!

On a vacation many years ago, our young grandson saw the teeter-totter after his older brother sat on the end at ground level.  Almost instinctively, he wanted to be sitting on the other end.  Of course, the problem is that when one is sitting on the lower side, the unoccupied end is up in the air.

see saw
Papa assisting young grandson on the teeter-totter.

He didn’t know the words “A little help, please!” but he knew that his Papa would lift him high onto the teeter-totter seat.  So far so good!

But, then, after settling on the high end, he realized there was more to a teeter-totter than just sitting on the seat!  There was the weight differential between siblings and gravity was not his friend!

Once seated, he wanted to do it himself.  This was, of course, an abject impossibility since he could not even hold himself steady, but he didn’t realize that.  His spirit of “I can do it-ism” (is that a word?) was running rampant.

So, Papa stood behind the young teeter-totter rider, holding the seat and guiding the ride so that the older sibling could go up and come back down without such a jolt that the little guy would be thrown into the air.  In other words, Papa helped even though the little one believed he was doing it all by himself.

There are times when we, as adults, find ourselves in situations which overwhelm us or which are so complex that we cannot unravel the situation.  It is at those times that we should say “A little help, please!”

When we come to the end of our rope, our Lord is standing there ready to catch us.  Whatever the need is, our Lord is more than able to handle it according to His will and for your benefit.

Our problem, however, is that we, often, are too prideful to ask for help.  We need it, we know we need it, but we cannot seem to say the words, even to those who love us and who are in our physical family as well as our church family of believers.

Scripture repeats over and over again the admonition that we are to help others.

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Acts 20:35 ESV.

Help the weak, both believers and non-believers. (For further reference, see 1 Thessalonians 5:14.)

“Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”

Philippians 4:3 ESV.

Helping here was to be extended to missionaries who labored with Paul, and may require giving funds or providing housing; providing clothes or preparing a meal.

“You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”

2 Corinthians 1:11 ESV.

Helping includes more than merely giving money; it includes praying for the ministry of others.

When Jesus was healing and teaching, a Canaanite woman came to Him seeking healing for her daughter who was severely oppressed by a demon.  He did not respond immediately, and the disciples told Him to send her away.  He said that He was sent to the house of Israel, distinguishing her since she was a Canaanite.  She then persisted in seeking relief for her daughter as follows:

“But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”  She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”  Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.”

Matthew 15:25-28 ESV

I find it easy to ask the Lord to help me – but it is far more difficult to ask for help from others.  This should not be so.  By refusing to tell others of our need, we are denying them the blessing of obeying the Lord’s command to supply the needs of others.

Christian, if you have what others need, open your hands and give.  Christ gave His life for you; we surely can assist others in their time of need. Follow the Holy Spirit’s leading as you seek to help others.

If you have a need, swallow your pride and tell others of the problem.  Find a care group, an individual, an Elder, Deacon or the Pastor at your church, anyone who you feel comfortable speaking with and share the need or concern.  Pray with them and then let the Lord lead them in assisting you toward resolution of the problem.

christ-of-the-ozarks-missouri-1968-3
Christ of the Ozarks, Missouri, USA (circa 1965)

The Lord is still in our world helping others as He did with the Canaanite woman; now He uses our hands and feet to do His work.  Allow us to do so by seeking help.  It is available through those He leads by His Spirit to work in this world.

Father, may I be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and may I respond joyfully to the needs that present themselves to me.  And, may I give to others so that Your Name may be glorified.  

 

IS THIS WHAT IT APPEARS TO BE?

Have you ever seen something that just looked odd?  Like there was some inconsistency in what you were observing?

When we were on a trip recently, we were sitting in traffic when a mini-van pulled alongside of us.  The name on the … well, here is a picture of the vehicle:

Yellow cab in Virginia
The gray Yellow Cab.

In case you are not looking at this in color, the cab is gray.  The name is in black.  And, the name of the company is “Yellow Cab”.  [Please note, I am not in any way saying that the company is bad or that the driver of the cab was inconsiderate.  I am only commenting on the difference between the name and the color of the taxi.]

I started laughing and Bill then noticed the inconsistency and he, too, chuckled.  A discussion then ensued about why we were laughing – what made it funny. 

Obviously it was the inconsistency between the yellow in the name and the gray of the vehicle.  Yellow cabs, by definition, are yellow, at least that is what they usually are! 

That discussion then went into a discussion of how upset we are when we think something is one thing when, in fact, it is quite different. 

Christians are to be imitators of Christ. 

“You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

John 13:13-15 ESV

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:34-35 ESV

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-20 ESV

“… For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people.  And in Antioch, the disciples were first called Christians.”

Acts 11:26 ESV

Disciples of our Lord are to follow Christ’s example and His commands; that is what the title Christian implies – we are followers of Christ.  And, His example at the Last Supper was that of being a servant to others, with the specific commandment that His disciples love one another, just as He had loved them.   Before ascending into heaven, He directed that the disciples were to make disciples, baptizing and teaching others.  In Acts, we read that the early church met together and did what Jesus directed, and they were first called Christians in Antioch.

So, service, love, teaching and obedience to our Lord are central characteristics of a Christian.   How does that fit with someone who puffs themselves up before others, and then belittles folks behind their back?  How does that fit with someone who refuses to participate in helping those in need?   How does that fit with someone to will not associate with other believers in church?

Jesus had something to say about those who say or do things for the wrong reasons:

“”Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”

Matthew 23:23 ESV. 

The hypocrites arrogantly tithed absolutely everything, but they ignored those in need!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.  So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

Matthew 23:25-28 ESV. 

From a spiritual perspective, the what is on the outside is irrelevant: it is the heart that matters.  The hypocrites looked good on the outside, but inside was a different story!

I thought about that gray yellow cab and wondered if that was a picture of me. 

When people hear me speak of my Lord and Savior, the outside identifies me as a Christian; but then when they hear me blast the restaurant server, do they still see me as a Christian?  When I drive my car, with its fish decal on the back representing me as a Christian, and then I cut someone off, is my driving witness consistent with what the decal affirms?  

In other words, is my witness inconsistent with my heart?  Do I look like one thing in actions and in words while the underlying heart condition is vastly different?

Am I really what I appear to be?  Are you?

Am I a gray yellow cab? 

Father, forgive me for the times that my actions are inconsistent with the message that You have directed me to present to others.  Forgive me when I am more like the hypocrites in Scripture than I am like the Christians who unashamedly presented Jesus Christ to all who came to them.  Give me strength and the ability to do Your will as You direct and empower.

I CAN DO IT!

When our grandson was an infant, he was fascinated by light.  He would stare at a lighted lamp, in fact, you could entertain him by turning the lights on and off!  That fascination continued through his toddler age when his goal, multiple times daily, was to push the button or flip the switch to turn on the lights BY HIMSELF.

What parent has not heard the words “I can do it!”  They usually are stated in rather loud tones, often with a toss of the head as they refuse assistance even though there is little time to accomplish the task. 

I can do it myself - climbing up on bench 1      I can do it myself - climbing up on bench 2   I can do it myself - climbing up on bench 3

 After significant effort, often the child can do the task  and there is the feeling of success!

                I can do it myself - climbing up on bench 4      I can do it myself - climbing up on bench 5

Children aren’t the only ones who say this.  Adults utter these words as well, for example, consider these words in the context of following the instructions in the set up guide for some electronic gadget.  “I can do it!” 

But there are some things that I cannot do on my own.  

How often has this scenario unfolded in your life?  We see something that we believe God would have us do and we run into it, arms open (sometimes mouths open as well) but we fail, it is not successful, and we are worn out with the effort.  The problem is that we have not bathed the project in prayer.  We have not asked Him for His guidance.  We have not requested His Holy Spirit to be in control of this project. 

In short, we have not recognized that we CANNOT do it ourselves

Jesus was quite firm in this regard.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:1-5 ESV

Did you see that?  How much of eternal consequence can we do on our own?  NOTHING!  To state the obvious, the word “nothing” is the combination of two words – “NO THING”.  We can do “no thing” for Him, no thing of eternal consequence, unless we abide in Him. 

He is the One who gives us the ability; He is the One who provides the power; He is the One who gives direction for His work. 

The words “I can do it” are the death knell for any effort on our part to be productive in the Kingdom of God, especially if you mean that you can do it by yourself.  Paul noted that God could use him when he was weak, because then the power of God is made manifest.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10.  God may well use us, but it is always at His direction, through His power, and in His providence, and for His glory

More spiritually fundamental is the fact that we cannot even save ourselves from our sin.  The very act of salvation is all God’s work, not ours. Indeed, Scripture is totally clear on this point – no one can do anything to accomplish his/her salvation because we are dead in our sins.  Colossians 2:13-14.  It is foolish to think that a corpse can take any action on its own – it is dead.  So too, we cannot resolve our sin issue on our own because our sin, our intentional disobedience to God’s commands, renders us spiritually dead.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– … For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  

Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9 ESV 

“But God” – words that are music to the Christian’s ears.  But God … made us alive … by grace you have been saved through faith … it is the gift of God.

Beloved, the words “I can do it” simply do not apply to the resolution of our problem with sin.  We cannot save ourselves from our sin and we cannot approach a holy God while we are still in sin.  Absent God’s Grace and Mercy, we are doomed.  “But God”, salvation is all about Faith and Providence. Our salvation is a gift and we cannot do it absent God’s grace.

And, we must be abiding in the Vine before we can do anything of eternal consequence.  

Next time you are about to run off on your own … stop and seek His guidance and His power.  You can do all things as long as you are abiding in the Vine!

Father, thank You for Your great grace and mercy in providing salvation through Jesus Christ, Your Son.  May I give You honor and thanksgiving each day as I live through the power of the Holy Spirit, and may these words be glorifying to You, My God and my Savior.

THE WORD OF THE LORD, FOR US

Bible - Grandfather's bible given to him in 1939 by wife and son
My Grandfather’s Bible given to him in 1939 by his wife and his son, my Dad.

The Holy Bible tells us:

“’All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”  

1 Peter 1:24-25 ESV

The phrase “the word of the Lord” is first referenced in Genesis and runs throughout the entire Holy Bible.  Space does not allow for a complete listing, but here are some of the references to the “word of the Lord”:

The word of the Lord came to Abram – Genesis 15:1

The word of the Lord came to Samuel – 1 Samuel 15:10

The word of the Lord came to Elijah – 1 Kings 21:17

The word of the Lord created the heavens – Psalm 33:6

The word of the Lord remains forever – 1 Peter 1:25

Of course, Israel had the word of the Lord as given to them through the Torah, the prophets and the writings, in essence what we call the Old Testament.  And we now have both the Old Testament as well as the record of Jesus’ life and ministry in the Gospels, along with the letters and record of the ministry of the various apostles, and the prophetic writing of the Apostle John in The Revelation.  This collection of books is the New Testament. 

Holy Bible parallel translation
The Parallel Bible with 4 versions side by side, the King James Version, the New International Version, the Living Bible and the Revised Standard Version.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

2 Timothy 3:16

In other words, the entire Holy Bible, ALL Scripture, is God’s word and is profitable for us in numerous ways.  So, what does “breathed out by God” mean? God-breathed means that the words were inspired. 

Irenaeus. a 2nd century cleric from Lyons, France, said that we should be “most properly assured that the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit.”  Martin Luther said, “Scripture, although also written of men, is not of men nor from men, but from God.” 

From the 2nd Century to today, we see the same thought regarding God’s involvement in the Scriptures.  In an article entitled “God-Breathed Scripture” prepared by Ligonier Ministries, we read the following:

The Greek word translated as “breathed out” in 2 Timothy 3:16 is theopneustos, and Scripture is the only thing described as such by the Apostles. Thus, Scripture has a unique character as the voice and words of the Lord. It uniquely serves as God’s special revelation, as His inspired and revealed will for His people. Nothing else today is theopneustos, so we can point to nothing but Scripture as the Word of God. 

When we speak of Scripture as theopneustos, we are pointing to its divine inspiration. The Word of God written is identical to God’s speech. It is exactly what He intended us to have as the revelation of His will and how to please Him. At the same time, this does not take away from the Bible’s human character. God breathed out His Word, but He did so through the instrumentality of His prophets and Apostles. So, for example, the book of Romans is Paul’s word, bearing the Apostle’s unique style and character. Nevertheless, it is also God’s Word, given by Him. That our Lord used a man to give us the book of Romans does not in any way make it less than the very speech of God. And this applies to all books of Scripture. 

http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/god-breathed-scripture/ 

The Holy Bible is not only translated and printed into books, it is now online and is also available in e-book text for viewing on all sorts of electronic devices.  This presents a new issue for modern Christianity.  Are we letting the multitude of Bibles in the house and the easy accessibility of it through internet and online sources render it just another book to throw on the floor or to dust around on the coffee table.

Beware!  It is NOT the Reader’s Digest or the daily newspaper. 

Does it retain the holy place it deserves in our minds and hearts or has it lost, for us, the power of The Word of God?  

My prayer is that the ready accessibility of The Holy Bible in our country will not cloud our minds or distort our perception of how cherished and sacred the Scriptures should be.   The Holy Bible as a printed book is not some magical relic that has powers if we hold it to our breast.   

It is even more profound.  The words in The Holy Bible do, most surely, have power through the Holy Spirit because they are, indeed, THE Words of God.  

When we contemplate the grandeur of this Book that God has, through His grace, placed in our hands, we can begin to realize how blessed we are.  What a treasure it is to have the very words of our Sovereign God in our possession.  The most important document that you could possibly possess is a Bible, the message of God to you, and to me.  Don’t neglect its divinely inspired message to you.

Do you?  

Do I?

Father, forgive me when I have neglected to read and study Your Word.  I pray that I would give Your Word the proper respect and reverence that it deserves.  I pray that I would read it and place its words into memory, and that I would do what The Holy Bible directs, so that I would reflect its words to those around me, through the power of Your Holy Spirit.

SO, WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BOOK?

I enjoy reading.  I enjoy research, which involves reading.  I enjoy … well reading.  Reading and analyzing was a part of my work career for many years but I enjoyed reading even before going to law school.  So, what book do you love to read?  What is your favorite book?  If you were on a desert island and only had one book with you, what would it be?

I expect there would be a myriad of answers, and there are quite a number of books that I would like to have with me, but there is one that is high above the others, that is the love letter sent to us from a Holy God and it is entitled the Holy Bible.

I believe that the Holy Bible is the Word of God, that it is inspired and God-breathed, and that it is the only guide for my faith and life as a Christian.  So, it is the book that I would select above all others.

In our home, there are a number of Bibles and each one has a special meaning to us.   All are versions of the inspired Word of God.

Holy Bible KJV
The King James Version of Scripture that I have used for many decades.

This is the Bible that I used for many years.  When it began to come apart, my beloved husband had it rebound for me.  I use the English Standard Version now, but there are times that the text of the King James Version is just too beautiful for me to ignore.

Bible - Uncle Ed's worn Bible
My Great Uncle’s Bible that I received after my Great Aunt went to be with the Lord.

This is my Great Uncle’s Bible.  It was so worn, that he had electrical tape around the edges to keep it together.  One characteristic of this Bible is that in the front of it there were blank pages.  These pages were for the owner to write notes in, to keep at hand references that would assist their study of the Scriptures, or even outlines of lessons that were presented during Sunday School or worship. 

Bible - Uncle Ed's note pages
The tape used to affix the articles to the pages in my Great Uncle’s Bible are yellowed with age and, in many cases, no longer keep the note attached to the page.

The first entry is dated August 24. 1947.  For more than 50 years my Uncle had written in his Bible, had kept copies of inspirational thoughts, had written the Sunday School lessons that he taught in the Men’s Class, and had read and notated the text of God’s Word.  I have spent hours reading his notes and lessons that are recorded in these tissue-like pages of his Bible.  This is a beautiful reminder of a man who is now with our Lord.  I am blessed each time I read out of it.

Praise God that He has provided us with His Word. 

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

Note that this verse does not say “Only the New Testament is breathed out by God” or “Only the scripture that you think is easy to obey is breathed out by God” or “Ignore what you don’t like because this is just an historical text!” 

ALL Scripture is the Word of God, even the passages that are difficult to hear.  Scripture tells us that which He desires, how He wants us to live, what He values … we don’t have to guess and we don’t even have to ask.  He has given us the answers already, and they are available if you just read His Word.

God’s Word is powerful.  Through it the Holy Spirit can convict of sin, and through it the Holy Spirit can teach us how to grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Hebrews 4:12 ESV

God’s Word is our guide to living the life that God has intended for His people to live.  We are to share it and we are to express it through our life as we live out its teachings to those who watch us interact with others. 

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Colossians 3:16 ESV

I thank God that I live in a country where owning a Bible is not a crime and where I can carry my Bible with me without fear of being attacked or killed.  Not all in our world are so blessed.  My heart aches for them as I pray for those for whom owning a Bible seems to be a far off dream. 

The Holy Bible is the inspired holy scripture of the one and only holy God.  The Holy Bible truly is a love letter from the Almighty God to us, telling us everything we need to know to live a life that is pleasing to Him.  We should recognize its inestimable worth and treat it with the respect that a love letter deserves!

So, what is your favorite book?

Father, I pray that we would remember that Your Word to us is holy, that You inspired the writers and that You protected the Word so that it has remained inviolate for thousands of years.  Forgive me when I treat it with little respect or ignore it altogether.  Help us to remember that it is Your Word to us, not just another book by some author or another.  Reverent treatment should be afforded to the scriptures and loving use should be given as we cherish it through the years.

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 PERFECTION OF GOD

Perfection.  What a glorious word.  When it is said, we know that a high standard has been met, the pinnacle of achievement was accomplished, and we have witnessed work which cannot be improved upon.  Perfect.

Diver at hotel pool in Florida perfect
A perfect dive in Florida!

Perhaps you have achieved perfection in a sporting activity, like diving.  Or, perhaps you have achieved perfection in a hobby, maybe a picture that people have said is “picture perfect”.

Oregon picture perfect mountains
Picture perfect scene in Oregon.

Or perhaps it is the sleeping newborn infant, while family members look at the child and marvel and say “Perfect!” as they look at the little fingers with tiny fingernails! 

Newborn baby girl (C)
Newborn baby daughter, alive with all sorts of possibilities ahead of her.

While each of these examples do show what could, in human terms, be considered perfect, they come nowhere close to the perfection that is the standard of our God. 

Medieval theologians used the Latin phrase ens perfectissimus  to refer to God.  The phrase may be translated by the words “the most perfect being.”  … [They wanted to] underscore the reality of God’s perfection so clearly that they would eliminate any possibility of suggesting the slightest lack of perfection in God’s character.

R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, © 1998p. 197

Dr. Sproul continues:

God’s perfection applies to all of His attributes.  His power is perfect; it has no weaknesses or any possibility of weakness.  His knowledge is not only omniscient but reflects perfect omniscience.  There is nothing that God does not know or that He could possibly learn. … God’s love, His wrath, His mercy – all that He is — is perfect. Not only is He perfect, but He is eternally and immutably so.  There never was a time when God was less than perfect and there is no possibility that in the future He may slip into any kind of imperfection. What has been with God will be so forever.  His perfection is immutable.  It cannot change.

Ibid., p. 198  (Emphasis is mine)

The very consideration of the scope of God’s perfection makes it hard to comprehend.  How extensive it is … how overwhelming it would be for us to see … how unlike us it makes our Creator God.

When God delivered him from the hand of King Saul, David extolled the Lord and gave praise to Him, including the following description of the monumental difference between God and man by saying, in part:

“For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.  But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.”

Psalm 103:19 ESV. 

“As for man … BUT God.”   The chasm between God and man is so great that it cannot be truly fathomed.  Those who think that God is unnecessary because we can handle things for ourselves, “thank you very much”, are simply – well, wrong.  The very fact that we exist, the fact that we have air to breath or that rain comes for nourishing our planet so food will grow, and the fact that the earth keeps spinning is in God’s providence and in His good pleasure.   

“This God–his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.   For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?  This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless.”

2 Samuel 22:31-33 ESV

Jesus, the incarnation of God, said:

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

Matthew 5:48 ESV.   Of course this is an impossible goal, but we are called by our Savior to strive for perfection.

God’s perfection is one of the attributes of His nature.  Praise His holy name that His perfection extends to all His attributes.  He is the same today as He was before the creation of the world and He will be the same perfect powerful God when this creation is transformed into the new heaven and new earth. 

God’s perfection – hard to comprehend in its fullness, He is the “most perfect being”.  God’s perfection – difficult to fathom, but easy to hold on to as we rest in the perfect love of our Savior and God.

Father, You are perfect, You are the most perfect being and You have been such since before You spoke the world into existence.  Perfect in power, in love, in wisdom.  I praise Your name and bow in humble gratitude as I think of Your perfection touching my heart which is so full of imperfection and sin.  Father, enable me to live my life as a testimony to Your perfect character, and I ask this through the power of the Holy Spirit.

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.