COME AS A CHILD

What does it mean to come to Christ as a child?  To consider this question, we need to have a glimpse of what a child is like.

A child is inquisitive.  Always wanting to learn what is going on in the world around him.

boy meets dino

A child is daring, within limits of course.   Playing with a bubble car is fun and challenging as you catch the bubbles and watch them rise into the sky.

Bubbles - the bubble car entertains

A child loves challenges, like mastering the fear to go down the slide alone.

Boy on slide at playground

A child likes to be active.  Just follow a 3-year-old around one day and you will realize how much territory that child can cover.

child at playground gym
Campground play area in Texas campground.

 A child is trusting.  They don’t second-guess the reason people are telling him to do something.  They trust that they will be cared for, unless and until they are hurt in so doing; then the ability to trust someone is difficult to retrieve.

Trust - evan jumping in pool with daddy

A child has faith in the one who is caring for him.  Although they don’t know the word or its meaning, a child demonstrates devotion and loyalty, and the child seeks and returns love.

“And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.”

Mark 10:13-16

Matthew Henry says of this text:

That there must be something of the temper and disposition of little children found in all that Christ will own and bless. We must receive the kingdom of God as little children; that is, we must stand affected to Christ and his grace as little children do to their parents, nurses, and teachers. We must be inquisitive, as children, must learn as children (that is the learning age), and in learning must believe. (Oportet discentemcredere – A learner must believe.)  The mind of a child is white paper (tabula rose – a mere blank), you may write upon it what you will; such must our minds be to the pen of the blessed Spirit. Children are under government; so must we be.  Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? We must receive the kingdom of God as the child Samuel did, Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. Little children depend upon their parents’ wisdom and care, are carried in their arms, go where they send them, and take what they provide for them; and thus must we receive the kingdom of God, with a humble resignation of ourselves to Jesus Christ, and an easy dependence upon him, both for strength and righteousness, for tuition, provision, and a portion.

Matthew Henry Commentary on Mark 10.

So, have you come to Christ as a child? 

Do you lean on Christ as a child leans on his parent, nurse or teacher? 

Are you inquisitive as you learn and believe Him? 

Is your mind open to the pen of the Holy Spirit as He writes on your mind and will? 

Have you humbly accepted and resigned yourself to Jesus Christ and His authority over you? 

Do you depend on Him for strength and righteousness? 

Do you depend upon Him for your provision and care, here and forevermore?

May we not be childish in our belief, but may we be childlike as we look to our Savior and give thanks for our Almighty Father.  While we begin as newborn babes in the faith, may we not remain children but, through the grace of our God and the work of the Holy Spirit, may we grow into mature Christians giving glory and honor to our Savior, Jesus Christ and to His Father, the Almighty God. 

Lord, thank You for letting me come to You as a child.  When I start to puff up into arrogant adulthood, let me see the error of my ways and return to my childlike dependence upon You and the guidance of Your Spirit.  May I grow up spiritually into a mature Christian who loves You and who is devoted to Your Son, my Savior and Lord, and may I know the sound of His voice through the Spirit as He guides and leads me along life’s treacherous ways.

 

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – GOODNESS

Another one of God’s intrinsic attributes is His goodness. We read about it in the opening verses of the Bible where we read of creation done by God simply at the power of His words.

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good.”

Genesis 1:3-4. 

Waimea Canyon Kauai mountains
Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii

This continued throughout creation and then, in verses 26, 31 we read: 

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.  … And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”

When the Triune God was done with the creative work on the sixth day, He looked at His completed creation and said not only that each of the component parts were good, He declared that “it was VERY GOOD” and that statement included mankind, created in His image, for fellowship and relationship with Him.  God is good, and we were created in His image. 

A short look at the newspaper tells us that we are not good, however.  Sin entered the world and contaminated that which God had created.  But sin did not change the character or nature of God.  He is still Good.

For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”

Psalm 100:5

God is not good because it is attractive for Him to be so, and He does not strive after following some standard for goodness that is outside of Himself.  God IS good.  J.I. Packer says that God’s sovereign redemptive love is just one facet of God’s goodness. Goodness underlies virtually all that He does.  [J. I. Packer, Concise Theology, p. 46]

He is the Source of all goodness.  In other words, goodness is not an abstract concept – it is personal – it is WHO — it is God.  The only reason we know anything at all about goodness is because God, who created us in His image, IS good.

The Jews knew that to call yourself good was to take an attribute of God and apply it to yourself, something that was clearly within the definition of blasphemy, as is evidenced by Jesus’ response to the man in Mark 10:18 where He says:

“Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone.” 

Goodness is one of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul identifies in Galatians.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…” 

Galatians 5:22

Due to sin, we have no inherent goodness within ourselves.  But, the believer has the fruit of goodness due to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit is part of the Triune God-head and thus the Spirit has the same nature as the Father and the Son.  Since goodness is intrinsic to the Father’s nature, it is also part of the Holy Spirit’s nature, so that it is a fruit that will grow within the believer as we give more and more of ourselves to the Lord.

Dr. R. C. Sproul notes, in the Developing Christian Character, CD Teaching Series from Ligonier Ministries, that when God’s goodness is evidenced in our lives as a fruit of the Spirit, there is a new ability to appreciate excellence and beauty because it is evidence of the beauty, order and exquisite detail of God’s nature and character.

 We have already spoken of God’s joy in His beautiful creation. A further example of God delighting in beauty can be found in Exodus 28:2 where God tells the people how to make Aaron’s garments for use in worship:

 “And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty”.

Even though they were in the wilderness, God did not want the priest to be clothed with normal garments.  Exodus 28 details what was to be made, including what materials were to be used.  A very partial listing includes: blue, purple, and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen; two large onyx stones engraved and set in gold filigree; chains of pure gold; twelve gems for the breastplate – sardius, topaz, cabruncle, emerald, sapphire, diamond, jacinth, agate, amethyst, beryl, onyx and jasper – each one being put in gold filigree settings.  And there is much more!  Clearly, Aaron’s garments reflected God’s glory and beauty!

Another example God’s goodness is appreciation for music.  Music was an integral part of worship in the Old Testament. 1 Chronicles 15:28, 2 Chronicles 7:6.  David talks of making music and singing to the Lord in many of the Psalms.   Psalm 101:1, Psalm 92:1.

More recently, Johan Sebastian Bach [1685-1750] composed his music to give glory to God.  Bach wanted his music to point to the existence of God when, during the “Enlightenment”, people were arguing that man was the be all and end all and that God was unnecessary.   Bach himself said:

“Music’s only purpose should be the glory of God and the recreation of the human spirit.” 

Listen to “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” as composed by Johan S. Bach and performed by the Choir of Sommerville College, Oxford. 

God’s goodness is just one of the intrinsic aspects of His nature, it is one of God’s attributes.  Goodness is truly the foundation for all that He has done for us. We should praise Him continually for the mercy, grace, and salvation that has been extended to us through Christ our Lord, all because of His goodness.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, GOODNESS, part one

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 17

GOODNESS – A FUNDAMENTAL CHARACTERISTIC OF GOD

PART ONE

In his sermons compiled as The Glorious Feast of the Gospel by Richard Sibbes, an Elizabethan Era theologian, teacher and preacher, he makes the following statement: 

Here you may see that God doth veil heavenly things under earthly things, and condescends so low as to enter into the inward man by the outward man. For our apprehensions are so weak and narrow that we cannot be acquainted with spiritual things, but by the inward working of the Spirit of the Almighty.

 

Simply, we cannot understand spiritual things except for His imparting that ability to us.  This is precisely what we have been speaking about throughout this series. The Holy Spirit resides within us and it is He, and only He, who can teach us of the fruit of the Spirit as we allow Him to do so.   

What does Scripture say?

 

So, turning to Galatians 5, we read:

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.  

 

The Greek word used here is ἀγαθωσὐνη.  The transliteration is agathosyne. According to Strong’s Lexicon, it means “uprightness of heart, goodness, kindness.”

 

Dr. R. C. Sproul notes, in the Developing Christian Character, CD Teaching Series from Ligonier Ministries, that goodness is a relative term and that any definition must be based on a standard.  First, there is an external and an internal aspect of goodness.  Externally, a good deed is one that appears to conform to the demands of the law … but this is not the full definition of a good deed.  Rather, it also incorporates an element related to motivation.  Internally, a good deed is one that is motivated by a desire to please God in our vertical relationship with Him.  The concept of goodness as moral excellence is evidenced horizontally in our personal relationships by unwavering integrity and a generosity to others that is based on the recognition of how God has blessed us through Christ.  Further, there is a new ability to appreciate excellence and beauty, this being evidence of the beauty, order and exquisite detail of God’s nature and character.

 

The Jews knew that to call yourself good was to take an attribute of God and apply it to yourself, something that was clearly within the definition of blasphemy and not to be taken lightly, as is evidenced by Jesus’ response to the man in Mark 10:18 where He says:

 

“Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone.” 

Mark 10:18.

 

Paul said in Romans 3:11-12: 

“None is righteous, no, not one;   no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’”

 

Given Jesus’ statement that only God is good, and given Paul’s assertion that no one is good on their own, it really is a futile gesture for us to look within ourselves for goodness.  Why?  Because of sin. Sin has robbed us of the good that God granted to us at creation. 

 

We know that Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  And, if you are like me, you have learned that sin is “missing the mark,” rather like shooting an arrow at God’s glory and the arrow fell short. 

 

However, John Piper in God’s Passion for His Glory, (Crossway Publishers, 1998) argues that the Greek definition of the word for “falling short” (husterountai) means “lack”.  The concept focuses not so much on the missed target but on the fact that you were aiming at the wrong target.  In other words, Piper says that sin is where you could have had God’s glory as a treasure but you chose something else instead.

 

In Romans 1:23, Paul confirms this concept when he says that people “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image.”  John Piper elaborates on Paul’s statement when he says: “This is the deepest problem with sin – it is a suicidal exchange of infinite value and beauty for some fleeting, inferior substitute.  This is the great insult” to God.  We choose sugarcoated misery while at the same time we mock and dismiss as irrelevant the God upon whom our very existence depends. 

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

While believing that we ourselves are good may be arrogance of the highest order, it is by far not a new problem.  In Jeremiah 2:12-13 we read the Lord’s words saying that the people’s dismissal of God is appalling. 

Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the L
ORD, for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

 

The people had needs that the Lord was ready to provide, but they did not want His help – they wanted to do it their own way without realizing that their way was incapable of satisfying.  

 

Unfortunately, the Old Testament people of Israel are not the only ones who miss the mark, who have traded a counterfeit for the only real, living God, and who sin in word, deed, and thought; it occurs today in 2016 just as it has in all the years since the fall.  We may not have idols of wood or precious metals that we have fashioned with our hands, but we sin in trading God for our bank account, or for our self-confidence, or for our family, or for Hollywood stars, or for our houses, or for our successes, or … well you fill in the blank. 

 

What does this have to do with the Fruit of the Spirit?  A great deal!  Rather than simply wiping everyone out in judgment and condemnation as would be His right, our living, creating and loving God is GOOD. 

 

GOD IS GOOD.  It is a fundamental characteristic of His being and it is the underlying aspect of virtually all that He does, although we do not usually think of it in that way.   He is the source of all goodness.  In other words, Goodness is not an abstract concept – it is personal – it is WHO — it is part of the character of God.  The only reason we know anything at all about goodness is because God, who created us in His image, IS good.

 

Theologian J. I. Packer says God’s “sovereign redemptive love is one facet of the quality that Scripture calls God’s goodness”.  According to Packer, the supreme expression of God’s goodness is His amazing grace and inexpressible love that is evidenced by His saving sinners, who deserve only condemnation, at the tremendous cost of Christ’s death on Calvary

 

Next we week we will speak more of Goodness, its characteristics and how it is evident in our day to day life.  For now, bask in your relationship with our God who is Good and praise Him for his grace and inexpressible love extended to each of us!

 

 

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

 

 

A TRAGEDY OF OUR TIMES

Newborn
Newborn child, wrapped in hospital blanket and cap; sleeping soundly in the cocoon of the blanket.  But, not all newborns are healthy and comfortable … some are born addicts, a tragedy of epic consequence!

 

A newborn baby is a gift from God.  See Genesis 33:5 and Hebrews 2:12.  They are to be loved, cared for, protected, nurtured, and taught of God and His Word.  This is not the future that many of our young ones have, however.

 

A while ago, the Knoxville News Sentinel, ran an article under the headline “East Tennessee Children’s Hospital treats drug-dependent babies”.   Most of these precious babies became dependent on drugs due to abuse of painkillers or anti-anxiety medications used by their mothers during pregnancy.  The article spoke of a two-week-old child that exhibited the “telltale signs of a baby agitated and in pain”.  The little boy had an open sore on his face from rubbing the skin raw; a scratch on his left cheek; tremors so severe that he was placed in a special area where nurses can watch him 24/7 in case he has seizures or stops breathing.

 

This little guy is experiencing untold horrors placed upon him by the actions of his mother prior to birth.  The article states that the pain for these infants is excruciating.  The medical personnel who treat them say the infants suffer from nausea, vomiting, severe stomach cramps and diarrhea that is so severe the skin can blister like a severe burn.  And the babies are inconsolable.

 

I cannot judge this child’s mother for what she did or did not do.  I don’t know what circumstances she found herself in other than that she was going to have a baby.   I can only pray for this woman, her little baby and his recovery from an addiction that he did not cause but which will likely continue to plague him for the rest of his life.

 

It would be bad enough if this little tyke was the only child so afflicted.  But the numbers show that the club into which he was born is not exclusive to him.  Tennessee statistics show that in 1999, drug dependent babies were hospitalized 55 times.  In 2011 that had figure skyrocketed to 672 infant hospitalizations due to addiction.  In 2015, the Tennessean newspaper blog advised that in 2014 there were 921 drug dependent babies born in Tennessee.

 

And, these numbers have not gone down.  In an April, 2016 news article about the end of a Tennessee law related to incarceration of mothers of drug-dependent babies, USA Today discussed the status of Tennessee’s fight for these helpless babies and stated:

 

“Roughly 1,000 babies suffering from drug dependence have been born every year since 2013, when the state began requiring all hospitals to report them to the health department.”

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, as cited in a USA Today article entitled Born into suffering, the number of drug dependent babies admitted to intensive care units nearly quadrupled from 2004 through 2013, from 7 to 27 per 1,000 hospital admissions.  Vanderbilt University researchers said in the Journal of Perinatology that one affected baby was born every 25 minutes in 2012.  That figure is likely higher now.

 

We cannot continue to harm the unborn generation by killing babies through abortion or by rendering infants incapacitated because of drugs ingested by their mothers.  This must stop; but we must recognize that both actions are merely symptoms of the underlying spiritual war raging in our world.

 

I don’t have any pill, plan or panacea that would stop this travesty.

 

But I do believe in God and that His Son, Jesus Christ, is the Savior of our souls.  I do believe that He came to earth and died on the cross for my sins and for the sins of all who would repent and claim Him as their Savior.

Used Easter in Canterbury (C)
Easter display at Canterbury Cathedral, in Canterbury, England

 

I do believe that the power of sin and evil was defeated when Jesus rose from the dead, the event we celebrate as Easter.  I do believe that He will come again and that He has already won the cosmic struggle which is evidenced by the depravity that we see in our world today.

 

And, I do believe that He can reverse this tide if we repent, seek His strength to withstand the pull of addiction and utilize all the tools He has provided for support, withdrawal assistance and reintroduction of mothers and families into a drug-free existence.

 

Jesus used little children as living examples when he taught His disciples:

 

He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

Mark 9:36-37. (NIV)

 

He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

Mark 10:14-16. (NIV)

 

I look at my own grandchildren and praise the Lord that they are healthy, growing strong and in loving, supportive families.  They remind me that I must come to the Lord with the same open, trusting and loving heart that they exhibit when they come to me.

 

Children swinging
Children swinging at the campground playground.

 

They also remind me that there is a dramatic contrast between their lives and so many children for whom a loving and supportive family is a mere dream, and for those children my heart weeps.

 

In humble obedience, I believe that we all must pray for these little children.  I believe that we must take part in caring for these little ones, trying to give them as much of a life as we can.  We need to work with the mothers during pregnancy to stop abortions and the use of drugs.  And I believe we must work toward addressing the situations that create the desire to abort children and abuse drugs in the first place.

 

Above all, we need to point the mothers to the Savior who loves them and their unborn child more than they could ever know.

 

Father, this horror is too big for me.  I feel helpless against its magnitude.  But You are all powerful and all wise, and I believe that You are the answer to the problem of addiction of any type.  Guide me and give me strength to follow Your lead in doing what I can to help these precious infants who are suffering so upon their birth and to help their mothers understand that drugs are not the solution to any problem.