“YOU SURE LOOK LIKE YOUR FATHER!”

Many years ago, before my biological children were born, we were foster parents for several children who were placed, for a variety of reasons, in a nearby children’s home. 

As an “adventure” one weekend, we took our foster children to a Civil War battlefield, complete with canons and stacks of cannonballs.  It also had a museum and much for the children to interact with as they learned about what happened at the Chickamauga Battlefield so many years earlier. 

When we went to the cashier to pay for our souvenirs, the Park Ranger standing there looked at our family and said to our son, “Boy, you sure look like your Father!” and to our daughter he said “And, you really look like your Mom!”  We smiled at him and paid for our goodies, and then left. 

In the car, we chuckled about the Ranger’s well-meaning comments.  They were especially humorous since both children were in foster care and of no blood relation to us.  Furthermore, they were not brother and sister but were from two separate families. 

Ultimately, I did have two children, a son and daughter, and when they were in preschool, my husband left us and divorce ensued.

Then the Lord brought Bill into our lives and, 31 years later, we are still married and the “children” (now in their 40s) are very much in love with him.   

When Bill had taken our son to the store for some clothing, the cashier looked at the two of them and said “Boy, your sure look like your Father!”   Without correcting the clerk, without discussing step-relationships, and without missing a beat, our son said “Yes, I do.”

Father and son marathon cropped
Father and son running in a marathon.

We were thinking about these comments recently and I wondered if I looked like my Father.  Do you?

We have just concluded consideration of just a few of the attributes of God, the Father, and I thought we should bring those discussion down to earth.  Do we look like our Heavenly Father?

I know that we cannot be like God, we are merely creatures who are sinful and who live in a fallen world.  But some of the attributes that are of God can be found in us if we let Him live in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. 

For example, Eternality is totally outside of our experience, we are time-bound, temporal, finite.   But Mercy is something that we can extend to those who wrong us in some way.

Omnipotence, Omniscience and Omnipresence are attributes that no one would ever credit me with having, that’s for sure.  They reside within God and are not communicable to either you or me. 

Holiness is surely one of the attributes that sets God apart from the sinful creation ever since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.   But, Scripture says that we are to be holy. 

“For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.””

Leviticus 11:45

“but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.””

1 Peter 1:15-16

I cannot be holy on my own nor can I become holy through any effort or action that I take.  I am sinful and will be sinful all my life.  But through the righteousness of Jesus Christ, in the eyes of God, I can be holy.

Justice is another attribute of God that is tied to His Holiness.  God is repeatedly called Just in Scripture and we are told that His actions are always just. 

“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.  He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.”

Deuteronomy 10:17-18

While Justice is an attribute of God’s intrinsic nature, it is also something that we are commanded to be.

“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?”

Micah 6:8

Love, the attribute of God’s nature which Jonathan Edwards called “the sum of all Christianity”.  God loved us even when we were sinners and unable to approach Him even in prayer. Through the Holy Spirit, we were made part of God’s family because of His love.

In Romans 11, the Apostle Paul uses the imagery of an olive tree into which branches have been grafted, the tree, rooted in Jesus Christ, is referencing the Jews while the branches that were grafted onto the tree reference the Gentiles. 

Adoption is another image presented in Scripture with respect to God’s love.  The Amplified Holy Bible renders Ephesians 1:4-6 as follows:

Just as [in His love] He chose us in Christ [actually selected us for Himself] [as His own] before the foundation of the world, so that we would be holy [that is, consecrated, set apart for Him, purpose-driven] and blameless in His sight.  In love He predestined and lovingly planned for us to be adopted to Himself as [His own] children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the kind intention and good pleasure of His will to the praise of His glorious grace and favor, which He so freely bestowed on us in the Beloved [His Son, Jesus Christ].

We have been loved by God, through Christ Jesus, and have been adopted into His family.  What does that mean for us here on earth, surrounded by so many who do not know Him?  We are to love each other and are to live as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ so that men can see Him when looking at us.

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.  As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”

John 15:8-9

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

John 15:12

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.  These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”

John 15:16-17

So, the question hangs in the air – do you look like your Heavenly Father?

          At church on Sunday morning?

          At the supermarket on Tuesday?

          At the work meeting where your project is being criticized?

          When someone cuts you off on the highway?

          When you can’t think because the neighbors’ dogs are barking?

Do you look like your Heavenly Father?  Do I?

 

Father, we so easily call You Father even though we had nothing to do with Your adoption of us.  Your grace in giving us eternal life came at the incredible cost of Your Beloved Son’s atoning death.  Your mercy was extended to us even while we were still wallowing in our sin. Oh, Father.  Your love and compassion is too wonderful for us to comprehend.  All we can do is thank You and pray that we would be transformed through Your Spirit into the image of Your Beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  May we look more and more like Jesus and, thus, more and more like You each day.

THE HORSE – A VISION OF MAJESTIC STRENGTH

We were visiting in Tampa recently when we were invited to have lunch at a restaurant named Ulele.  It is in the old waterworks building so it has a charm that modern buildings just cannot replicate.

Ulele - Tampa 4

Inside the restaurant, there is a magnificent bronze statue of a stallion created by Victor Delfin, that is the focal point of the décor.

Ulele - Tampa 14

Standing closer to the figure you get a sense of its size and musculature.

The Laughing Horse by Victor Delfin at Ulele in Tampa Florida
“The Laughing Horse” by Victor Delfin.  The artist was skilled in his representation of this magnificent animal.

Scripture contains many references to horses.  One that I dearly love is found in the book of Job where God is responding to the demand for answers that Job propounded to Him:

Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane?  Do you make him leap like the locust? His majestic snorting is terrifying.  He paws in the valley and exults in his strength; he goes out to meet the weapons.  He laughs at fear and is not dismayed; he does not turn back from the sword.  Upon him rattle the quiver, the flashing spear, and the javelin.  With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground; he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.  When the trumpet sounds, he says ‘Aha!’ He smells the battle from afar, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.”

Job 39:19-25 ESV

This description of the horse grips me with awe for the strength, courage and resilience of this mighty animal.  But we are warned in Proverbs to give credit where credit is due:

“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.”

Proverbs 21:31 ESV

When we have battled a temptation and won, we must not boast in the victory – rather, we give God the glory for the victory because He enabled us to be victorious. 

Further, we read in Psalm 147 that while God created both the horse and man, their strength does not bring God delight:

“His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”  

Psalm 147:10-11 ESV

Just think of the privilege we have — we can bring pleasure to the Creator of the universe!  When we reverence the Lord, when we cling to His steadfast love, it is in those times that we bring the Lord pleasure!  The prophet Micah reminded the people that God has told them what He required:

“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?”

Micah 6:8 ESV

These same commands apply to us today.  These things bring our God pleasure!

One of the final references to the horse in Scripture is in the last book of the Bible, Revelation where we read:

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.”

Revelation 19:11 ESV

Our Lord will be victorious.  He will come in righteousness as the perfect Judge of the world He came to save but which rejected Him.  For the Christian, the white horse is a welcome sign; for the non-believer it bespeaks of judgment and rejection. 

So, do you trust in the horse or in the One who created the horse and who will ultimately return on a white horse in judgment at the end of time?

Father, I praise Your name for sending Jesus Christ to be our atoning sacrifice on the cross.  Thank You, Lord and Savior, for Your obedience and willingness to come to save us from our sin.  Thank You, Holy Spirit, for quickening the hearts of Your children so that we can believe on the name of the Lord and be saved.

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.