OUT OF PLACE?

Have you ever noticed something that seemed to be “out of place” in the context surrounding the thing or event?

We saw this sign was alongside a road that had a nursing home on the right and a cemetery on the left. 

  dead end sign and cemetery

Although the sign was factually correct in that it told the driver that the road did not lead to any other road, it seems to be somewhat “out of place”, or perhaps a better description might be “somewhat macabre”, given the context in which it was placed.

We saw an even better example of something “out of place” when we were watching one of Agatha Christi’s Poirot mysteries on television recently.  The many episodes in the Poirot series are elaborately filmed, with mid-1930s furnishings, clothing, automobiles, etc.   The characters are incredible and the story lines are detailed.  All this to say, the programs are a delight to watch and we really enjoy them. 

However, on this particular occasion, one of the characters was assigned the job of tailing a suspect whenever she left her apartment.  The suspect came out of the building and got into her car, so our character dutifully started his vehicle.  As the suspect sped away, so did our character when the rear of his vehicle was seen bouncing over …

wait for it …

a SPEED BUMP! 

A speed bump on a street in the 1930s?  I don’t think so.  In fact, a quick Google search said that speed bumps were not used in the UK until the 1980s.   It quite simply was “out of place” in the episode we were watching.

As Christians, we are called to live a life of holiness, of love and of sweet communion with our Lord. 

The church in Ephesus seemed to have many problems and Paul addressed them in his letter, and he points to the importance of living a life that is in keeping with their witness as Christians.

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.  Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

Ephesians 5:3-4

In short, while certain activities and certain speech may be acceptable among society, such things are “out of place” when said or done by Christians. 

Paul says this about the traits that the Christian should exhibit:

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

This way of living will never be “out-of-place” as far as the Lord is concerned, however it will certainly be countercultural to those around you and it may appear “out of place” to them!

Jonathan Edwards, the Puritan theologian in the early days of our country, said this about the Christian virtue of love:

A Christian should at all times keep a strong guard against everything that tends to overthrow or corrupt or undermine a spirit of love. That which hinders love to men, will hinder the exercise of love to GodIf love is the sum of Christianity, surely those things which overthrow love are exceedingly unbecoming Christians.  An envious Christian, a malicious Christian, a cold and hard-hearted Christian, is the greatest absurdity and contradiction. It is as if one should speak of dark brightness, or a false truth!

So, beloved, when I look in the mirror of my life, do I see consistency in the development of my Christian life?  I know that I am not where I need to be, but am I closer than I was last year at this time?  Are you?

When I look in the mirror of my life, do I see speed bumps where I faltered, do I see times that I harmed my witness by taking actions or saying things that are out-of-place, that are inconsistent with my Christian witness?  Do you see such things?

Let us bring our life into conformance with what our Lord desires for us.  Let us be attuned to the Holy Spirit as He convicts us of our sin, as He leads us into paths where we are to walk, and as He brings to mind the Scripture that will enable us to do the work that has been planned for us to do, and let us eliminate our “out of place” activities/words/thoughts.  In short, let us be transformed into the image of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ through the power of His Spirit.

Father, I pray that I would be attuned to your Spirit so that I would be able to discern when my thoughts, actions, or words would be out-of-place, when they would harm my witness for my Lord, when they would grieve you, Father.  I cannot do this on my own, and I seek your strength and power to do these things.

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – LOVE

Scripture says that God is love. 

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

1 John 4:8

We know that there are three primary words for love in the New Testament that enrich its meaning in Scripture beyond what our English translation can provide.

First is Eros from which we derive erotic, or romantic love, sexual and physical; it is a love that desires to possess for personal benefit.

Second is Phileo from which we get Philadelphia and philanthropy, words that mean companionship and friendship.

Third is Agape love.  This is the New Testament Greek word that describes God’s love for us.   Agape love is the result of a decision that commits itself to the well-being of the beloved regardless of the condition or reaction of the one who is loved, and it is the type of love that comes from God.

God loves His creation, and more than the creation generally, God loves His people.  Moses expressed it like this:

“It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”

Deuteronomy 7:7-8

In other words, God’s love is not dependent on anything that we have or any action that we have taken.  It is not dependent on our position in society or the status of our bank account.  Indeed, we have nothing that God has not given us, and we can give Him nothing that he needs … He loves us because He is love.

The amazing aspect of this attribute is that it is complete, unconditional and everlasting love.  A. W. Tozer (1897 – 1963) said this about God’s love:

God’s love is measureless.  It is more.  It is boundless.  It has no bounds because it is not a thing but a facet of the essential nature of GodHis love is something He is, and because He is infinite, that love can enfold the whole created world in itself and have room for ten thousand times ten thousand worlds beside.

The Apostle John elaborates on this incredible attribute of our marvelous God when he says:

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. … We love because he first loved us.”

1 John 4:9-11, 19

And now we come to the crux of the matter.  John said it well – “God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.”  This week, known by many as Passion Week, we have prepared for Easter Sunday, the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  It is truly a day of joyous celebration for the Christian. 

But, before we can properly arrive at Sunday’s celebration we need to ruminate upon the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary, the Friday night when sin thought it had triumphed over mankind.  This is the supreme example of God’s Agape love.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die, but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinnersChrist died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Romans 5:6-10.

We, who were wallowing in our sin and were deserving of nothing but death and judgment from a holy God, were granted righteousness and full pardon from the judgment that our sin surely deserved when Christ died for us.  His sinless life, His death on the cross, and His powerful resurrection from the dead provides us with His righteousness because He took our sin and paid for it with His precious blood on the cross.

That, Beloved, is Agape love.  We don’t have to get clean before God will love us.  We don’t have to do anything before God will love us. The Holy Spirit said it through Paul’s writing: “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  This is the example of divine, Agape, love for a being that can offer nothing … it is supreme love that is contingent not on the person being loved but on the nature of the One doing the loving.

This is the love that our Lord exhibited when He took our place on that cross.  It is the love that is evident when Jesus, suffering mightily on the cross, prayed for the soldiers who, even as He spoke, were dividing His clothing among themselves:

“”Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.”

Luke 23:34

Love is a principle of action rather than of emotion.  It is a purpose of honoring and benefiting the other party.  It is a matter of doing things for people out of compassion for their need, whether or not we feel personal affection for them.

J. I. Packer, Concise Theology, p. 182.

This love that has been extended to us deserves our response in love extended back to God and then to others.

Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758) was a Puritan theologian, pastor, and devout Calvinist, whose conversion centered on his coming to the realization that God is sovereign over all things.  In the book Charity and Its Fruits, Edwards calls love the “sum of all Christianity”.  And he renders the following exhortation:

A Christian should at all times keep a strong guard against everything that tends to overthrow or corrupt or undermine a spirit of love. That which hinders love to men, will hinder the exercise of love to God… If love is the sum of Christianity, surely those things which overthrow love are exceedingly unbecoming [to] Christians.  An envious Christian, a malicious Christian, a cold and hard-hearted Christian, is the greatest absurdity and contradiction. It is as if one should speak of dark brightness, or a false truth!

May we relish in this glorious attribute of our holy God – Love.  And may we honor and glorify the embodiment of that love in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who endured unimaginable horror on the cross as He absorbed all our sin in Himself so that we could be called the children of God, all on the day we call Good Friday.  And may we live in the power of the Holy Spirit so that we glorify God through compassion and loving kindness as we share the good news of Jesus Christ and the glorious message of hope through His resurrection which we celebrate on Easter Sunday.

Sovereign God, I praise You and glorify You as only You are worthy of adoration.  Thank You for the love that has been expressed through the sacrifice of Your Son so that my sin has been paid for and my debt extinguished through His righteousness.  I bow in humble obedience to You, my Lord and Master.

KUDZU – A FORMIDABLE FOE

Kudzu is a vine that is ubiquitous in the American South.  It was formally introduced to the United States at the 1876 World’s Fair Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, however its potential in the U.S. was minimal at best and it appeared not to have a place in our landscape.

Then came the dust storms of 1935.  When soil erosion ravaged the prairies, millions of kudzu seedlings were grown in greenhouse nurseries as the weapon that would stop erosion in its tracks. 

Today, rather than in prairies, kudzu is associated with the South.  It is very aggressive when planted along roadways and railway embankments, and for that reason, it is conspicuously visible from passing automobiles!   Indeed, its creation of goblins and ghouls out of trees and telephone poles can be seen even when traveling 65 miles per hour. 

Kudzo - Trees engulfed in the vine
Kudzu as seen from the car traveling down the Interstate Highway.

In fact, the vine has been called “the vine that killed the South”, although that seems to be quite an exaggeration!  (Read more about this at: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/true-story-kudzu-vine-ate-south-180956325/#cGVCq35eEDVdpfqu.99) )

We pass kudzu every time we get in the car as it is on the roadways that we travel daily.

As we were traveling down the highway, I began thinking about Kudzu and its spread.  At first, it is innocuous, just a little vine, a weed, no problem.  But when it becomes aggressive, it takes control of a small area on the tree and, quickly, engulfs the entire tree.  It is truly a formidable foe!

As I was thinking about this, I found a parallel to it for our spiritual lives. Consider the insidious ways that sin overtakes us.  Sin is cosmic treason, it is disobedience to God’s command.  Dr. R. C. Sproul says:

The slightest sin is an act of defiance against cosmic authority.  It is a revolutionary act, a rebellious act in which we are setting ourselves in opposition to the One to whom we owe everything.  It is an insult to His holiness.

R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, © 1998, p. 115-116

Kudzo along highway beginning its takeover in VA
Kudzu getting a firm hold along the highway in Virginia.

Looking at trees that are consumed by kudzu, we see them weighed down, bent and misshapen.  This brings to mind Jonathan Edwards’ description of sin and its effects:

Your wickedness makes you as if it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf; and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a falling rock.

The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. II (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1974) p. 9.

Like kudzu, sin is insidious – it creeps in when and where we least expect it.  We must be on our guard because sin is constantly tempting us to disregard God and to act on our own, and sin is a formidable foe. 

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

1 Peter 5:8 ESV

Indeed, we cannot defeat sin on our own.

Martin Luther put it this way:

Either sin is with you, lying on your shoulders, or it is lying on Christ, the Lamb of God.  Now if it is lying on your back, you are lost; but if it is resting on Christ, you are free, and you will be saved.  Now choose what you want.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Kudzu thrives in the light along the highways and roadways of the South.  But, its enemy is the shade of the forest where it cannot survive. 

Sin thrives in the darkness of rebellion against God and of self-pride.  Jesus said:

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”

Matthew 6:22-23 ESV

But, sin has its enemy, specifically the Lord Jesus Christ.  When the Light of the world illuminates sin, the Light defeats the darkness. 

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.””

John 8:12 ESV

“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV

Like kudzu, sin may creep in and may even cover the heart, but the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is sufficient to overcome whatever sin we have committed.  Repent and accept His forgiveness, then praise our Lord and glory in His name.

Father, thank You for shining the light of Jesus Christ in my heart and for the presence of the Holy Spirit that protects me as sin tries to tempt.  I pray for strength as I walk the path you have directed, I pray that I will look to You each day in Your strength, all for Your glory.

 

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, KINDNESS, part two

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 16

 KINDNESS – A CONSTANT STATE OF READINESS TO HELP

PART TWO

So how do we show kindness to others – to whom should we be kind – what is kindness, after all?  What does the scripture tell us about these questions?

The greatest kindness we can do for another person is to witness to them of the Great King Jesus and lead them as the Holy Spirit directs toward their salvation and spiritual growth.  Most often, we do this by setting a good example as this is frequently the most effective witness of all, especially if, at the appropriate time, it is accompanied by our words telling of the gospel of the Lord Jesus as the Source of our life in Him.

For our brothers and sisters in the Lord, we help each other in faith and obedience and encourage each other when in trial or temptations.  We can bring spiritual joy and strength to each other as we seek to live for Christ before meeting Him in heaven.

What does Scripture say?

We as Christians are to be kind, not only in a spiritual context but also physically, to both individuals and the world, whether or not they claim Christ as their Savior.

We are told to help others in their difficulties and calamities.  See Jesus’ words in Matthew 25: 35-36.

Kindness for the Christian can be summed up as being kind in three specific ways:

  • By giving to them of those things that they need and we possess.

“Give and it shall be given unto you.”

Luke 6:38

  • By doing for them and making an effort to help them to improve their situation.

“For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.”

I Thessalonians 2: 9

“For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do;”

Hebrews 6: 10

  • By suffering for them and assisting them in bearing their burdens and in doing everything that we can to lighten those burdens.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Galatians 6:2

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers”

1 John 3: 16

Now that we know that we are to be kind to others, who are the “others”? Or, another way to put it is, “to whom should we be kind?”

Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us to be kind to our neighbors, and it expands the definition of neighbor to anyone we meet along life’s way.  Luke 10:29 and following.

That parable, however begs the question: what kind of people are our neighbors so that we can be kind to them?

We are to be kind both to the good and to the bad.  Remember, the Holy Spirit is transforming us into the likeness of Jesus Christ … we are to imitate God.  We should be kind not just those who we consider good in our own eyes.

“For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Matthew 5: 45

In this regard, Jonathan Edwards has said:

“Some are proud, some immoral, some covetous, some profane, some unjust or severe, and some despisers of God.  But any or all of these bad qualities should not hinder our beneficence [kindness], nor prevent our doing them good as we have opportunity.  On this very account, we should the rather be diligent to benefit them, that we may win them to Christ; and especially should we be diligent to benefit them in spiritual things.”

It also goes without need for elaboration that we should be kind to our friends. But this duty of kindness also extends to our enemies!

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”

Matthew 5: 44

And, we should be kind to the thankful as well as to the unthankful.   Again, this follows the example of Jesus.  Luke 6: 35 says He “is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil;” It is also consistent with the command that we should be merciful as He is merciful.  Luke 6:36.

How does this apply to my daily life?

We do not deserve God’s kindness and yet He is kind every moment of every day –as He showers us with His blessing and love in Christ Jesus, as He provides for our salvation and eternal life with Him, as He has given His grace and mercy in forgiveness of our sins, even the ones that we keep on doing and which He knows we will continue to do, yet in His infinite love, mercy and kindness He continues to forgive when we come to Him.

Please remember that the Holy Spirit is transforming us into the likeness of Jesus Christ … and one of Jesus’ attributes was kindness that was extended to those he encountered throughout his life, even to his executioners, including you and me.  He died on the cross because of our sins, and we put him there as surely as any Roman spear or nail.  Such kindness freely given to us should result in an outpouring of love and kindness by us to others, not in our human power as just one more thing we have to do but through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Kindness – it is such a common term, so flippantly used, and yet such a profound witness when it comes from a heart prompted by the Holy Spirit.  It is not a last minute thought or a flippant act of little consequence as the world describes; it is a life style of placing others first, of putting yourself in subservience to others so that their needs are met; it is going the extra mile and then some, because Jesus went all the way from heaven, to earth and then to the cross for you, and for me.  Such kindness cannot be repaid by any action on our part, but we can illustrate it to others as best we can, with prayerful praise and as a thankful witness for Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

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 – PATIENCE, PART TWO

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 14

PATIENCE – SLOWING DOWN OF GOD’S WRATH

PART TWO

Last week we looked at patience/ longsuffering in our society and how it is defined in the Hebrew and Greek of Scripture.  Now, we will consider what Scripture tells us about how we are to exhibit this patience!

 

What does Scripture say?

 

  1. When we love God we want to imitate Him and, thus, we want to exhibit longsuffering because one of the attributes of God is patience/ longsuffering.

 

“The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness …”

Exodus 34:6

 

This longsuffering is shown in God’s bearing innumerable, continuous and abhorrent injuries, not just from men in the generic sense but from each of us individually on a daily basis.   In short, it is God’s mercy in being longsuffering and patient so that he is slow to exact judgment on people.

Jonathan Edwards expressed it like this:

“If we consider the wickedness there is in the world, and then consider how God continues the world in existence and does not destroy it, but showers upon it innumerable mercies, the bounties of his daily providence and grace, causing his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sending rain alike on the just and on the unjust and offering his spiritual blessings ceaselessly and to all, we shall perceive how abundant is his longsuffering toward us.”

As children imitate their parents, so we as children of God should imitate our Father – as He is longsuffering, so we should be likewise.

 

  1. When we love God we will want to express our gratitude for His longsuffering that has been exercised toward us.

All the injuries that have been received by us from others pale in comparison with the injuries which we have done to God and for which God has forgiven us!  As we accept the forgiveness of God and His longsuffering on our behalf, we must show, as far as we are able, the same forgiving patience to others when they have harmed us.  We can do this because of our thankfulness and gratitude to God for His forgiveness to us.

 

  1. We are not bearing injuries from others if those injuries disturb our calmness of mind or if they put us into excitement and tumult.

We should continue to have love in our heart toward the one who injured us and refuse to let the injury interrupt or destroy our love for him/her.   We should not lose the quietness and repose of our own mind and heart over the injury we have suffered from someone else.

Remember who we are to imitate and into whose likeness we are being transformed – our Lord Jesus Christ.  No matter what evil he suffered, no matter what injury was inflicted on him, he bore them without retaliation or revenge … he loved the very people who inflicted the injury and he did not get flustered, angry or excited by it.

 

  1. We should be willing to suffer much in our interests and feelings for the sake of peace, rather than to take any opportunity and, perhaps the right, to defending ourselves.

The Christian spirit of longsuffering will refuse to take the advantage that we might have to vindicate ourselves when we are injured, especially if by taking that action we might cause harm to the one who hurt us.   Also, taking the advantage to address the harm will almost always lead to a loss of peace and will create hostility between people.

Paul admonished the Corinthians about this in 1 Corinthians 6:7 where he said:

 “To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you.  Why not rather suffer wrong?  Why not rather be defrauded?”

Longsuffering may be required for the sake of peace as charity may direct.  This should be our first response to injury.

 

  1. The main root of a meek and longsuffering spirit is humility, and this humility is brought about by our love for God.

Pride or self-conceit is usually the foundation of an unforgiving and vengeful spirit.  Love to God leads us to remember our unworthiness of His mercy and grace because of the sin that we so easily commit.  There is no room for pride when we face the God who has given us so much – His Son.

 

  1. Our love to God enables us to recognize His sovereignty. In other words, God’s hand is in the injury that we suffer, not only the hand of the man who did the injury, and we will submit to God’s will in everything. 

When we love God, we will see His hand in everything as He is sovereign.  Remember agape love – one aspect of that love is that we acknowledge God’s absolute right to govern us in all aspects of our life.  Our response to the injury from another person should be to see that it actually came through God’s love and wisdom for our good and for His own purpose for our life.

Remember what Joseph said to his brothers when they came to him in Egypt seeking relief from the famine:

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

Genesis 50:20

Joseph recognized God’s sovereign hand at work, even in the horrible treatment given to him by his brothers.  When he had a chance to retaliate, he declined and, instead, gave them a place to live and food for their families and flocks.

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

  • We meekly bear with the injuries received from others.

There is no eye for an eye or tit for tat.  Christ is the example.  Jonathan Edwards summarizes this eloquently in Lecture iv:

“And, at last, when he was most ignominiously dealt with of all, when his professed friend betrayed, and his enemies seized him, and led him away to scourging and the death of the cross, he went as a lamb to slaughter, opening not his mouth.  Not one word of bitterness escaped him.  There was no interruption of the calmness of his mind under his heavy distress and sufferings, nor was there the least desire for revenge.  But, on the contrary, he prayed for his murderers, that they might be forgiven, even when they were about nailing him to the cross; and not only prayed for them, but pleaded in their behalf with his Father that they knew not what they did.  The sufferings of his life and the agonies of his death did not interrupt his long-suffering towards those that injured him.”

 

  • The spirit of longsuffering is commended to us not only by the example of Jesus Christ, but also by the example of the saints.

Think of Stephen – Acts 7:59-60 when his persecutors were killing him by stoning, he kneeled down and prayed that the Lord would not hold this sin against them, and then he died.

Think of Paul – Although he was injured numerous times, 1 Corinthians 4:11-13, he exhibited a spirit of longsuffering when, after being beaten and chained, he was singing in prison so loudly that the other prisoners heard him and the jailer and his family were converted.  Acts 16.

Think of the 1st century Christian martyrs. We cannot ignore their example of longsuffering during the horrific persecution of Nero and the rulers who came after him, even in our modern age throughout areas of the world which do not touch the U.S. but of which we are aware!

 

  • This longsuffering on the part of the Christian is rewarded with the exercise of Divine longsuffering toward us.

 

We are often told in Scriptures that men are to be dealt with by God hereafter according to their way of dealing with others while here on earth.

With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; with the purified you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.

Psalm 18:25, 26

 

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 6:14-15

 

If you are hurt by the action or speech of someone, before taking steps to get even or to set the record straight, pray that the Holy Spirit would enable you to be patient and longsuffering.  Pray that you would love the individual as God loves you and extend patient longsuffering toward the other person while you remember God’s longsuffering toward you on a daily basis.

 

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. 6, LOVE, PART THREE.

We are continuing Dr. R.C. Sproul’s identification of the characteristics that should be evident in the Christian’s life and heart when Agape love is present through the Holy Spirit.  We began consideration of these characteristics last week by noting that:

  • Agape love gives us the desire in our hearts to worship God;
  • Agape love believes and trusts God’s Word; and
  • Agape love recognizes God’s absolute right to govern us.

 

What does Scripture say?

Let us now consider several additional characteristics of Agape love.

  1. Agape love enables us to desire justice for others.

 

David, in Psalms 82:3-4 says:

“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.  Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

 

The prophet Micah says that God has told us what we are to do in Micah 6:8:

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” 

 

Of course, we know that Jesus was asked “who is my neighbor” in Luke 10:29 and in response, the parable of the Good Samaritan was given, telling us that all persons are our neighbors.  Agape love enables us to want, and to work for, justice and mercy for persons we come in contact with, whether physically or through hearing of their difficulties.  They are our neighbors and Agape love encourages our participation with them.

 

  1. Agape love encourages us to be content in any situation.

 

Paul said that he was content in whatever the circumstance presented in Philippians 4:11-12.  Paul exhibited this contentment when he and Silas were in prison and, after being beaten and put in chains, they were praying and singing praises to God, so loudly that the other prisoners heard them.  Acts 16.

 

Paul understood that contentment is possible when we remember that God is sovereign and that He is in control of the events and circumstances that confront us.  Therefore, through His sovereignty, we know that He will use the situation for His purposes and for His glory.  We often may not know why certain things happen, but we know the One who has ordained and permitted those things for His reasons and for our ultimate benefit. We, therefore, can be content in His provision and grace.

 

In 1 Peter 1:6 the demand for contentment sounds impossible when Peter says:

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials….”

 

Rejoicing while suffering — this is evidence of Agape love because only the Holy Spirit can enable us to do so.

 

  1. Agape love enables us to resist the sin of bitterness.

 

Paul says in Ephesians 4:31:

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

 

The writer of Hebrews 12:15 warns:

“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled….” 

 

James 3:14 warns that bitter envy and selfish ambition do not come from heaven but rather are earthly, unspiritual and of the devil.  James then says:

 “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”

James 3:16

 

Jonathan Edwards describes the response to bitterness in Charity and Its Fruits as follows:

An envious Christian, a malicious Christian, a cold and hard-hearted Christian, is the greatest absurdity and contradiction.  It is as if one should speak of dark brightness, or a false truth!

 

Simply put, bitterness, gossip, resentment … none of this has any place in a heart that is filled with Agape love.  Using Christ as our Guide, we see no evidence of this response when He was lied about by false witnesses, rejected and abandoned by His own disciples, accused by the hypocrites in the Synagogue, or when He heard cries for His crucifixion from the very people who within that same week were clamoring for Him to become their leader.  Another example of Jesus’ Agape love was His response when He was nailed to the cross and people were “wagging their heads” at Him.  Mark 15:29.  Rather than bitterness, Jesus’ prayer was

“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!” 

Luke 23:54.

There are times that we forget that the Agape love in our heart through the Holy Spirit is simply another way of saying God’s love is within us.  The Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, has the same power and strength as the other Persons in the Trinity and it is this Spirit that has the power to enable us to love as only God can love.   The Holy Spirit can impart God’s love to us because He is God … and He has provided this same love to all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Think about the awesomeness of Agape love that is available to us, and then let us commit ourselves to putting that love in practice as we go through our lives, day by day.

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

Let’s get practical – What can we do to exercise each of these characteristics?

 

Dr. Sproul suggests using what he calls the Judgment of Charity.  The Judgment of Charity is simply the practice of giving others the benefit of the doubt, believing them to have acted in love and not hate, responding in love and not as an enemy.  Charity makes it a practice to consider other’s communication in the best light, or the best case scenario, even when that person’s actions or words have wounded us.

 

Rather than thinking of some negative ulterior motive for why they acted the way they did, the Christian exercising this fruit of the Spirit views the actions of others through the lens of Agape love.  In so doing we are following the example of Jesus in our relationship with Him.

 

How often have we hurt our Savior by failing to honor our commitments, by failing to obey His commands, by failing to serve Him to the utmost of our abilities even when we have promised to do so?  Yet, despite knowing our failings, He went to the cross for us, took our shame and punishment, and paid the price of our sin.

 

The evidence of the fruit of Agape love in our heart is the Spirit’s enabling us to love God and others as Christ loved us.  It is a love that honors God and His Word.  It is a love that serves others without demanding anything in return.  It is a love that enables the Christian to love the unlovely, precisely because the Christian is also aware that she is a sinner and is repugnant to our Holy God, BUT FOR the righteousness of Christ that she has been given through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Praise the Lord for His wonderful mercy and grace and for Agape Love.

 

Damaris sings How Deep the Father’s Love for Us on her The Heart of God album.  It is a beautiful song that touches my heart each time I hear it.    Let the words speak to you as you consider Agape Love and your response to the Spirit as He leads you into a new appreciation of God’s Love!  Praise His Holy Name!

 

Agape love – it truly is way more than casseroles and cards!

 

Next week we will begin our look at the fruit of the Spirit – Joy.

 

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. 4, Love, Part One.

 

When I started this study, I thought that the first fruit, love, would be simple to talk about.  You know, sending people cards when they are ill, preparing casseroles when there is a need … all those things that we do under the name of love for our fellow man.  However, as I searched Scripture about what the fruit of the Spirit of love was, I had to rethink my definition … I pray that you will see that Agape Love is way more than casseroles and cards!

 

What does Scripture say?

We know from 1 Corinthians 13 that love is a gift of the Spirit, and Paul calls it the greatest of all the gifts.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 

1 Corinthians 13:13.

 

But love is not only a gift of the Spirit, it is also the first fruit of the Spirit that Paul identifies in Galatians Chapter 5.

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 5:21-22.

 

Therefore, you might not have been given love as a gift of the Spirit, but you still must exhibit love because love is also the first fruit of the Spirit which is resident in you because the Holy Spirit is within you.   In short, love is the only virtue that is both a fruit and a gift of the Spirit.

 

In considering the singular word “fruit”, the Wycliffe Commentary on Galatians says that this “tends to emphasize the unity and coherence of the life and the Spirit as opposed to the disorganization and instability of life under the dictates of the flesh.”

ORANGE - LOVE
LOVE – WAY MORE THAN CASSEROLES AND CARDS!

You will recall that we are using the orange as a representation of the fruit of the Spirit.  Each believer has the entire fruit because the Holy Spirit resides in her heart.  Therefore, each believer has each segment of the fruit.  Here we are considering love.

 

So, what is Love?

We know that there are three primary words for love in the New Testament that enrich its meaning in Scripture beyond what our English translation can provide. First is Eros from which we derive erotic, or romantic love, sexual and physical; it is a love that desires to possess for personal benefit.

 

Second is Phileo from which we get Philadelphia and philanthropy, words that mean companionship and friendship.

 

Third is Agape love.  This is the New Testament Greek word that describes God’s love for us.   Agape love is the result of a decision that commits itself to the well-being of the beloved regardless of the condition or reaction of the one who is loved: this is the love that comes from God.   One who is nice, compassionate, and even charitable, may be exhibiting a kind of love but, if these actions come from a non-believer, it cannot be Agape love.

 

Jonathan Edwards said in Charity and Its Fruits:

The Spirit of God is a Spirit of love, and when the former enters the soul, love also enters with it.  God is love, and he that has God dwelling in him by his Spirit, will have love dwelling in him also. 

 

Love is resident in the believer, in a way that the unregenerate person cannot understand or experience, simply because the Holy Spirit indwells the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.  And, God the Holy Spirit is love.  Jesus promised to send us the Comforter, the Paraclete, the Teacher Who would guide us as we live our lives as witnesses to Jesus’ power and glory.  It is this Spirit that resides within us and it is this Spirit that transforms us into the image of Christ.

 

The person who is loved may not accept the love, they may not appreciate the love, and they may even despise the one offering the love; but the decision to love is unabated by the response or rejection from the one who is loved.  It is for this reason that Agape love cannot be produced by us on our own nor is it resident in our spirits absent the presence of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

 

The supreme example of Agape love is described by Paul when he said:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die, but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Romans 5:6-10.

 

We, who were wallowing in our sin and were deserving of nothing but death and judgment from a Holy God, were granted righteousness and full pardon from the judgment that our sin surely deserved when Christ died for us.  His sinless life, His death on the cross, and His powerful resurrection from the dead provides us with His righteousness because He took our sin and paid for it with His precious blood on the cross.

 

That my beloved is Agape love.  Love for a being that can offer us nothing … supreme love that is contingent not on the person being loved but on the nature of the One doing the loving.

 

It is the love that our Lord exhibited when He took our place on that cross.

 

It is the love that is placed into our hearts by the Holy Spirit when He indwells us at our conversion.

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

The Wycliffe Commentary on Galatians also notes that the singular use of the word “fruit” may be “intended to point to the person of Christ, in whom all these things are seen in their perfection.  The Spirit seeks to produce these by reproducing Christ in the believer.”   Paul says later in Galatians:

“It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!”

Galatians 4:18-19.

 

So, how should I respond to this love?  First and foremost, remembering what God did for us should bring us to our knees in humble thanksgiving and in renewed dedication to do His will and work in our world.

 

Second, this love should influence our desire to be in God’s Word and to pray in praise, thanksgiving, supplication and adoration.

 

Listen to this vocal offering of the song How Deep the Father’s Love for Us as sung  by Damaris on her album entitled The Heart of God and think how it reveals Agape Love:

 

In future posts we will consider various aspects of this love!  For now, bow before our God and thank Him for loving us and calling us to Himself.  Then, consider whether your life exhibits a self-sacrificing love for God and then for others.

 

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, INTRODUCTION, Series Post No. 1

This is the first post in a series of thoughts about the fruit of the Spirit found in The Bible at Galatians 5:22-23.   I plan to post this series each Friday, if the Lord grants it, and we will take time to think about what the Scripture says, and how it applies to my daily life.

 

I have used a number of references in preparation for this study, but throughout this study we will be specifically referencing Dr. R. C. Sproul’s teaching series Keeping in Step with the Spirit, CD Teaching Series; and Developing Christian Character, CD Teaching Series, both of which are available from Ligonier Ministries at http://www.ligonier.org. I will also make frequent reference to Jonathan Edwards’ sermons collected in the excellent book Charity and Its Fruits, available through The Banner of Truth Trust at https://banneroftruth.org/us/. Another reference that I have referred to in this study is the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This is an incredible reference for understanding our Christian theology, not just the fruit of the Spirit. I would encourage you to obtain a copy of the Shorter Catechism together with proof texts at http://www.pcaac.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/ShorterCatechismwithScriptureProofs.pdf.

 

WHAT DOES SCRIPTURE SAY?

 The first question we need to ask is “Why study the fruit of the Spirit?”

 

We know that the Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Catechism Answer Number 1.

 

The Catechism also teaches that God created man, male and female, “after His own image in knowledge, righteousness and holiness” with dominion over the creatures. Catechism Answer Number 10.

 

However, because of Adam’s fall, sin entered the world and all mankind lost the “knowledge, righteousness and holiness” that had been given to us at creation. Catechism Answer Number 18.

 

Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:22 says it this way:

 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

 

No longer do we have the righteousness and holiness that we had when mankind was first created. But all is not lost. The Catechism again comes to our aid by explaining that sanctification is the work of God’s free grace by which we are renewed in the image of God and are enabled more and more to die to sin and live to righteousness.

 

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Romans 6:12-14

 

Paul continues to consider the Christian transformation in Colossians 3:10 where he says that we “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” and Ephesians 4:24 says that our new self was “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

 

So, how important is righteousness?     God calls each of his children to righteousness. Remember the first catechism answer – our primary purpose is to glorify God … we do that through the practice of righteousness.

 

At this point, some are asking “what in the world does all this righteousness talk have to do with the fruit of the Spirit?”   Listen to the words of Jesus.

 

Jesus prioritized the disciples’ concerns in Matthew 6:33: they were not to worry about what they would eat or wear — they were to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” and all the other needful things would be added to them.  Jesus explicitly stated that our goal is righteousness.

 

In his book The Holiness of God, Dr. R. C. Sproul says “the goal of all spiritual exercise must be the goal of righteousness.[i]

 

So, how do we know if we are growing in righteousness? Dr. R. C. Sproul continues to provide this answer:

The fruit of righteousness is that fruit that is exercised in us by the Holy Spirit. If we want to be holy, if we have a real hunger for righteousness, then we must focus our attention on the fruit of the Holy Spirit. [ii]

* * *

[The virtues listed in Galatians 5:22-23] are the marks of a person who is growing in holiness. These are the virtues we are to cultivate. … In this list of the fruit of the Spirit, the apostle gives us a recipe for our sanctification. … The fruit of the Spirit – that is where our focus must be. [iii]

 

HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO MY DAILY LIFE?

 

Martin Luther explained righteousness in practical terms by saying that “Every Christian is called to be Christ to his neighbor.” We understand this to mean that we should live our lives to conform to God’s will so that when people see us, they see the reflected holiness of Christ in our lives – people will see us reflecting Jesus’ love to others and, in so doing, they can see Him living through us.

 

We all sin every day, or more likely every moment of every day. But for the believer in Jesus Christ, that sin is covered by His righteousness and we are made children of God through His work on the cross. Therefore, we can follow our chief end, which is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, by growing in righteousness. This is done by allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our minds and hearts so the fruit of the Spirit becomes recognizable in our life.

 

Our search for righteousness leads us directly to the Holy Spirit and the fruit that He promises to provide and grow in our hearts.

 

So, for now, I would challenge you to read Galatians Chapter 5 and focus on the comparison between the acts of the natural man and the acts of the believer in Christ Jesus who has the Holy Spirit working in her heart, specifically verses 19-23.

 

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.

——————–

[i] The Holiness of God, R. C. Sproul, published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., © 1998 R. C. Sproul, page 166.

[ii] Ibid., page 167.

[iii] Ibid, pages 169-70.