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. 

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, PATIENCE, part one

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 13

PATIENCE – SLOWING DOWN OF GOD’S WRATH

PART ONE

The fruit of the Spirit at issue this week is Patience, also known as longsuffering.

 

I have no doubt that each of us has, at one time in our life or another, said that we want patience but we don’t want to wait for it!   Mr. Paul Sweeney asked a question that I have raised a number of times in general conversation:

“How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?”

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson said:  Adopt the pace of nature:  her secret is patience.”

 

Hal Borland said:  “Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.”

 

The patience that we are speaking of as a fruit of the Holy Spirit is different than that which has its basis in the person or in society in general.  The patience that is referenced in Galatians 5 is grounded in the Holy Spirit.

What does Scripture say?

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

Galatians 5:21-22.

 

The longsuffering that is a fruit of the Spirit stems, as do the other characteristics that we have examined, from love of Jesus Christ our Lord and comes from the Holy Spirit, as we are being transformed into the image of our Lord.

 

In Hebrew, the word longsuffering is a combination of the words Arek and Aph which mean, respectively, Long and Nose. (By the way, the word Aph or nostril first appears in Scripture in Genesis 2:7 where we are told “Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”)

 

So the literal meaning of the Hebrew word for longsuffering is “long of nose” with reference to “long breathing”.  Because anger was indicated by rapid, violent breathing through the nostrils, this term meant “long of anger,” or “slow to wrath.”  In the ESV the word longsuffering is translated “slow to anger.”

“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” 

Psalm 86:15

 

Longsuffering, in the Greek context, is the word makrothumia, and it is a bit more expanded in definition.  It relates to “long of mind or soul” which is regarded as the seat of the emotions.  This is in contrast to “shortness of mind or soul”, in other words irascibility, impatience, or intolerance.

 

Tim Keller from Redeemer Presbyterian Church defines makrothumia found in Galatians 5 as the “ability to take trouble (from others or life) without blowing.  To suffer joyfully.”  Strong’s Lexicon explains that this term is the self-restraint which does not hastily retaliate a wrong.  Its opposite is revenge or wrath.

 

Longsuffering is attributed to God in connection with his “bearing long” with sinners and His intentional delay in executing judgment on them, thereby allowing time for them to come to Him in repentance.

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Romans 2:4

 

Now the God of patience [macrothumia] and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus, that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (KJV)

Romans 15: 5-6

 

We are also to be longsuffering toward others.

Be patient [macrothumia], therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.

James 5:7

 

The Apostle Paul associates longsuffering with endurance which suggests patient endurance of trials and sufferings, and its further association with joy indicates a joyful acceptance of the will of God, whatever it may be.

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.

Colossians 1:11

 

In this regard, Matthew Henry defines long-suffering as patience to defer anger, and a contentedness to bear injuries.

 

Christians are frequently admonished and exhorted to cherish and show longsuffering toward one another.   For example:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience [longsuffering], bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Colossians 3:12.

 

This is not the type of patience that waits in the line at the bank, without screaming for service, but with the foot tapping in frustration.  Rather, this kind of patience is not available by our own efforts, it comes from reliance on the Holy Spirit and, just as the other fruit of the Spirit, this fruit is not available to the unregenerate man.  It is a mark of the Christian as she is being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.

 

It is in reliance on God and acceptance of His will, with trust in His sovereignty, goodness, wisdom and faithfulness, that we are enabled to endure and to hope steadfastly through the power that the Holy Spirit provides as we lean on Him and learn of Him.  We look to Jesus as our chief example to imitate – He was the penultimate example of longsuffering patience throughout his life, death and even after His resurrection.

How does this apply to my daily life?

Does this patience/ longsuffering have relevance to our modern life? YES.   Just look at what David describes in Psalm 55 when he realizes Ahithophel had betrayed him, and consider how this relates to the feelings you experienced upon betrayal and disappointment.

For it is not an enemy who taunts me – then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me – then I could hide from him.  But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.  We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng. 

Psalm 55:12-14

 

Matthew Henry, in his commentary on Psalm 55, said of the hurt that we can experience even from our “Christian friends”,

There always has been, and always will be, a mixture of good and bad, sound and unsound, in the visible church, between whom, perhaps for a long time, we can discern no difference; but the searcher of hearts does. David, who went to the house of God in his sincerity, had Ahithophel in company with him, who went in his hypocrisy. The Pharisee and the publican went together to the temple to pray; but, sooner or later, those that are perfect and those that are not will be made manifest.

 

However, while recognizing the universality of disappointment or emotional sabotage, Scripture teaches that longsuffering or patience does not permit either retaliation or revenge!

 

The Christian has the duty to bear the injuries suffered from others even if it requires longsuffering. This means that we do not bring any immediate suffering on the one who injured us.  We are not to show any bitterness toward him, either in speech or in action.

 

Is this hard?  Yes.  Is it commanded? Yes.  Does it require the Holy Spirit to work in us?  Yes.

 

Quoting from Deuteronomy 32:35, the Apostle Paul said:

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Romans 12:19

 

Next week we will consider how this patience is evidenced in our lives.  In the meantime, consider how you can relate to those who have hurt you in the past and ask the Holy Spirit to grant you the patience and longsuffering that you need so that you can respond in love and not bitterness.

 

 

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. 12 – PEACE part three.

 

PEACE – TRANQUILITY OF ORDER

PART THREE

 

We have been talking about the peace that the believer has in Jesus Christ through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

 

Now, I am going to ask a question –

 

  • Try to suppose for a moment that your religion has been withdrawn from you. In other words, try to conceive yourself without your faith, though in every other way you, and your circumstances, are unchanged.

 

Now – tell me,

  • Would you be appreciably the poorer?
  • Would anyone detect that something was different or that some secret thing had passed away?

 

What does Scripture say?

 

Rev. George Morrison, a pastor in London in the late 1800s asked these questions when he was preaching on Romans 15:13 where Paul says

 

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” 

 

Rev. Morrison continued to ask his congregation:  “Do we go up and down the world with a glad peace because we believe in God through Jesus Christ?  It is to that that we are called, whatever our temperament or our lot.”

 

He recognized that the fruit of the Spirit is ours, “whatever our temperament or our lot” might be.  In other words, external circumstances do not control the existence of the fruit of the Spirit.  We HAVE the Holy Spirit within us and He desires to grow the fruit in our hearts.

 

So, if we are to go up and down the world with a glad peace because we believe in God through Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, what does it look like?

 

It is not a peace I described at the beginning of this series that is based on our own efforts at trying to be peaceful.

 

In the The New Testament and Wycliffe Bible Commentary, we find the following regarding John 14:27:

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” 

Peace.  A frequent word in connection with farewells.  But this is a legacy rather than merely a conventional touch. …  My peace.  A distinctive brand of peace, different from that of the world, which would be panic-stricken at such an hour as this, with death so near.  The gift of his peace would make his followers unafraid, as he was. (cf. 16:33).

 

Here, the peace that is described in Scripture comes, as did joy, from the wellspring of Love for Jesus Christ and the Father.  Jonathan Edwards called Love the Sum of all Christianity.  If we do not have Love, we cannot have spiritual joy; and, we cannot have spiritual peace if we do not have joy.  They flow from each other and all stem from Love.

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

Dr. R. C. Sproul says that peace as a fruit of the Spirit means that we have a new capacity to live at peace with others and ourselves.   I can have this peace with myself and with others because, as the definition of peace explains, I rest in the wisdom and sovereignty of God more than in my own.

 

What does it look like?   Perhaps the language of Paul is instructive when he says in Ephesians 4:1-3 that we should walk in a “manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called … eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

 

We are unified with each other in the BOND OF PEACE.  This unity is referenced again in Colossians 3:15:

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful.”

 

In all honesty and fairness, I have to throw in a caveat here:  We must recognize that living in peace with others is the goal, but it is not always possible.  The writer of Hebrews recognized this and said:

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Hebrews 12:14

 

In Romans 12:18 we read:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 

 

Should we seek peace with others at all costs?  No.  The Scripture says that we should be peaceable as far as it depends on us.  If there is something we can do to accomplish peace, we should do it.

 

But we must realize that just like it takes 2 to tango, it takes 2 to be at peace with each other.  We cannot force someone else to be at peace with us … that is their issue.  Just like forgiveness, we must forgive others … what they do with it is their business.

 

How should we guide our life to encourage the growth of the fruit of the Spirit of peace, I suggest Philippians 4:6-9 would be a great place to start:

 

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 

 

Meditate on these verses as you listen to Integrity Music’s Scripture Memory Song entitled “Mediate on These Things.”

 

Amen, and amen.

 

My prayer is that you will allow the Holy Spirit to come into your life and touch your heart with His peace that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Don’t fret – your life in Christ is protected by the best guard you could ask for, the very Spirit of the Holy God.  That is peace!

 

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.  

 

HERE COMES CUDDLES — OR IS IT BUTTER BUNS?

One of our canine daughters, Cuddles to be exact, has a desire for … butter. Not butter flavoring and not butter on anything, she just wants a stick of butter. It must be softened so that it is the right consistency, but otherwise, she apparently is not particular about brand.

Here is a picture of Cuddles before we knew of her love of butter. Thin, svelte figure of a darling MinPin canine!

Cuddles when we brought her home.
Cuddles when we brought her home.

We discovered her penchant for the slippery treat when looking for the butter dish one evening. It had been on the dining room table, along with the salt, pepper and napkin rack. So, being humans with fairly good memory retention about the location of things, we proceeded to go to the dining room and found that we were correct. There was the butter dish, without the cover – that had been knocked off.  We often lay it on its side when we partake of the solid, delicious, edible fat better-known as butter – but the dish was clean. I’m talking dishwasher clean.

At first, we thought that we must have used all the butter and washed it, but the dishwasher still had the dirty dinner dishes in it and I recalled putting a whole stick of butter on the dish the previous day.

Then we thought that perhaps we used the stick and failed to put another in its place. That was a reasonable conclusion except for the fact that we always replace the butter with a stick from the refrigerator so that it will be soft when we want to use it.

At that point we both noticed that Cuddles was nowhere to be found. Normally, if we are even within calling distance to the table where food is consumed, Cuddles is there waiting for us to drop anything on the floor. If we are not careful, she will jump up and knock whatever we are carrying to the floor, such is her deep desire to be surrounded by food. Indeed, the dog trainer said:

“I have never seen such a food-centric dog before!”

So, her silent absence spoke volumes in people language!

Then we noticed that the place mats were shoved around a bit, and one of the chairs had not been returned to its position under the table. The evidence was in – she had jumped up onto the chair, put her little canine feet on the table, knocked off the lid and consumed virtually the entire stick of butter. In short, she ate ¼ pound of butter, and licked the plate absolutely clean.

The Butter Dish -- licked clean.
The Butter Dish — licked clean.

Hence, her name around the house has become Butter Belly (from my Beloved) or Butter Buns (from me). Several hours later, she bestowed upon my Beloved a real treat when she became violently sick while laying on his lap. The butter had its revenge and my husband was the one who paid for it!

Butter Buns must not have a good memory about the effects of solid butter on the canine system because today we went into the dining room and found the butter dish empty, again. This time, however, there had been only a couple of tablespoons of butter left on the dish, but still it was not a pleasant thought. After spanking her, and putting her out to the backyard, we are hoping the lesson that “butter is bad for doggies” has been learned.

However, in our home, Butter Buns is not the only one who yearns after that which she should not have.   As Christians, we are to put off the old man and allow the Holy Spirit to have full sway, full reign, and full control of our lives.

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

Colossians 3:8-10.

We know that Jesus Christ paid the price for our sin when He died on the cross at Calvary and that His resurrection sealed the fate of Satan and all his henchmen. Sin no longer has control of us and we can defeat it in our lives by living through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is what we should strive for in our Christian lives. Since the Holy Spirit is, as His name indicates, Holy, this means that sin cannot be countenanced by Him.

But, still we sin. We are human and we still have the old nature within us and there are times that we simply do not win the battle when facing temptation that is put before us … like the butter dish. Paul recognized this fight and said:

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.   Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

Romans 7:18-20

Butter Buns trying to appear innocent.
Butter Buns trying to appear innocent.

I have to say that Butter Buns is a four-footed illustration of my fight with temptation and the frequency with which I fail to resist and do the right thing. I may not lick the butter dish clean, but there are many areas of my life which are just as unhealthy and just as inconsistent with having the Holy Spirit resident within me.

What about you – does Butter Buns remind you that we must yield to the Holy Spirit on a daily, moment-by-moment basis, so that He can accomplish His work to transform us into the image of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior? Let us confess the sin, repent, and be cleansed by His grace and love. Then, we can live victoriously through His Spirit.

As for Butter Buns, we are moving the butter dish to the far edge of the kitchen counter! Perhaps a locking lid butter dish …?

Father, I pray that you will make me aware of the times that I am sinning and displeasing Your Holy Spirit. I pray that I would be sensitive to sin in my own life and that I would repent and turn from those actions, thoughts and desires. I pray that I would be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ, Your Son and my Savior, for it is in His Name that I pray.