Follow God’s Example…

Ephesians 5:1 (NIV)

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children…

Our Verse of the Day continues to focus on the theme of love as the full expression of what it means to walk with God. At first glance, I was intrigued by this one sentence verse. Parsing it out, I saw two key points that I wanted to explore: “God’s example” and “as dearly loved children,” so I read further to Verse 2.

Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)

1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Key Point 1: We just needed to go one more verse to nail “God’s example” for us to follow. We are to walk (live) “in the way of love”! And our example of this “way” is our Lord Jesus Christ. His way of love is sacrificial in every aspect of relationship – first and foremost as the atonement for our sins … but also as a covering for offenses. (Cf. Proverbs 10:12; Proverbs 17:9; 1 Peter 4:8) As Paul shared: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Gone is the idea that we extend love to others after they have “earned” it. Gone is the notion that we only express or demonstrate love to another person because we feel like (based on our own determination) he/she deserves it. God’s example looks deeper than our transient emotions and human feelings.

1 John 4:7-12 (NIV)

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.

Key Point 2: Did you see it? Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God! “As dearly loved children” comes to life for us here. We did not become children of God until we were born of God; and that did not happen until we received Jesus as Lord and Savior. (Cf. John 1:12-13) So a child of God, by definition, loves in the same manner that God loves them. And the text says we are “dearly loved”. That speaks to the intimacy of our relationship with the Father we experience through Christ Jesus. And so, let us continue to look at how the Apostle John further articulates this “way of love” for us:

1 John 4:15-21 (NIV)

15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because He first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

I encourage you to read further into Ephesians 5:1-20 (Link to Bible Gateway Provided Here). I want to draw your attention to how Paul contrasts walking in the way of love with our former conduct as unbelievers. Before we encountered the love of God through Jesus Christ, we were unable to walk in perfect love. Paul illustrates this and provides us with practical, concrete examples of the tension between light and darkness … between love and the absence of love. Just as light exposes the darkness, so the love of God exposes the behaviors we exhibit as humans that are unloving, unkind, and therefore, unholy. And it is imperative for us to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we can truly walk in the way of love. Christ Jesus lived the sacrificial love the Father has in mind for each of us to imitate. And He challenges believers with this spiritual standard: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Cf. Luke 9:23) James and Peter weighed in on this instruction as well. James: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (Cf. James 3:13) And Peter: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:22)

Although love is spiritual, it will always express itself in the physical or natural. The Father expects us to imitate Him, to be conformed to the image of His Son, and walk in the way of love. Love is to be the expression of our faith in Jesus … the outcome or fruit of the Holy Spirit who lives within us. Indeed, every fruit of the Spirit is rooted in love.

1 John 3:16-18 (NIV)

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

2 John 1:6 (NIV)

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love.

I just feel impressed that the Spirit of God is very concerned that we as believers not only hear the command to walk in love, but to make it actionable in our lives. As I have shared before, God saved us … created us in Christ Jesus to do good works which He prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) We have been saved to serve! This is His call on the life of every believer! We just need to be obedient as opportunities and divine appointments to share the love of God with others come our way. As the inspired writer of the Book of Hebrews urged: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds….” (Cf. Hebrews 10:24) Indeed, being the love of God in this world is the responsibility and purpose of the Church. We are called to be the physical expression of God’s love to the world … and I pray we will do so with intentionality as we see the Day approaching….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Links to Bible Gateway for Additional Study on The Way of Love:

1 Corinthians 13

Romans 12:9-21

Diversity In Unity

Galatians 3:28 (NIV)

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

A couple of weeks ago (August 13th), I cited our Verse of the Day in the commentary regarding our identities as new creations in Christ Jesus. So perhaps we are called again to reflect on this topic further. In a world that appears to be fixated on the differences in our human and physical characteristics, I find it disheartening how our “diversity” can be used to create divisions between cultures and nations rather than to facilitate and encourage the unity God desires for people. To me, our Verse of the Day looks to “unity within diversity” because our “oneness” is the desire of God for those who abide in Christ Jesus. Let’s look at the surrounding context:

Galatians 3:26-29 (NIV).

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Faith in Jesus Christ changes everything … because to be in Christ means we have been born-again of the Spirit of God. This new birth makes us children of God; and as new creations in Christ, we no longer conform to the patterns of this world. (Cf. John 1:12-13; 3:3-8; 2 Corinthians 5:17-19; Galatians 6:12-15) Yes, in Christ we are spiritual creations … the workmanship of God the Father … and He has ordained for our identities in Him to be formed apart from our physical characteristics … our ethnicities … our biological determinants … or our social status. And collectively, the new creation God has formed through His Spirit is the Church … the Body of Christ … and we are members of His Body and belong to one another. (Cf. Romans 12:4-5) It is this connectedness that unifies us in Christ Jesus. Our diversity is neutralized through our interdependent function within the Body. Indeed, what should distinguish believers IS our unity!

Paul gave an insightful speech in the Areopagus at Athens, Greece. His discourse is captured for us in Acts 17:22-34. What led me there in my study was his commentary on the common origin of mankind and the sovereignty of God over human life:

Acts 17:24-28 (NIV)

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything. Rather, God Himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one blood He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us.28 ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.’

What I want to focus on a moment is Verse 27 and its implications. We know from Genesis 1:27 that “God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.” (Cf. Genesis 5:2) And I think we can reasonably infer that our gender distinctiveness was designed for reproductive purposes along with its spiritual applications for intimate relationship with God. Likewise, we know that from the original union (one blood) all the physical diversity of mankind has developed over the millennia. Our physical characteristics are quite diverse; and yet, we are genetically and reproductively compatible as a unique form of life God designed us to be. As mankind has reproduced and migrated over the earth, distinct peoples and cultures formed and settled into diverse geographic regions and nations. And what Paul helps us to see and understand is that God planned and purposed this phenomenon. Speaking of the course of human history, Paul asserts that God “determined their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” Thus, the diversity of mankind that we observe has been sovereignly designed by God! But what we may not have realized is the reason for it: “So that people would seek God and reach out to Him and find Him.”

I find that statement quite powerful … the assertion that the purpose of human diversity is to draw us closer to God. Somehow, through our ethnic and cultural differences, God planned to inspire people to “seek Him”. Fascinating! The very richness of human biological expression that has so often divided us is actually the very mechanism God has purposed to unite us! And when a person finds Jesus, the One whom God sent, he or she finds God! As Jesus declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.” (Cf. John 14:6-7) Yes, in Christ, all of our differences and identities are set aside through the unity of faith. So let us make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Cf. Ephesians 4:3-6)

A Final Thought:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” ~ Revelation 7:9-10

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Choose You This Day…

Joshua 24:15 (NIV)

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Our Verse of the Day challenges us to make a life decision … to choose whom we will worship and serve. Will it be the gods of this culture in the land where we are living? Or will it be the Lord … the Most-High God … the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? As I think about what is happening in our nation, I marvel at the similarities Israel faced in its historical challenges to be the people of God. Israel had its share of enemies, and so the current turmoil we face as a nation should not come as a surprise for believers who struggle to preserve a nation under God – where righteousness, justice, and truth might prevail. A friend invited me to read Psalm 83; and I saw a prayer emerge in the context that I wanted to share with you:

 Psalm 83 ~ A Song. A Psalm of Asaph.

O God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God. See how your enemies growl, how your foes rear their heads. With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cherish. “Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.” With one mind they plot together; they form an alliance against you— the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, of Moab and the Hagrites, Byblos, Ammon and Amalek, Philistia, with the people of Tyre. Even Assyria has joined them to reinforce Lot’s descendants. Selah. Do to them as you did to Midian, as you did to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon, 10 who perished at Endor and became like dung on the ground. 11 Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna, 12 who said, “Let us take possession of the pasture lands of God.” 13 Make them like tumbleweed, my God, like chaff before the wind. 14 As fire consumes the forest or a flame sets the mountains ablaze, 15 so pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your storm. 16 Cover their faces with shame, Lord, so that they will seek your name. 17 May they ever be ashamed and dismayed; may they perish in disgrace. 18 Let them know that you, whose name is the Lord that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.

Yes, we can and should pray without ceasing … seeking the face of God for righteousness and justice to return to our land. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Cf. Ephesians 6:12) Indeed, the battle is spiritual; and the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:4) And as we pray, I think we would be wise to examine ourselves and our attitudes as we come before the Lord.  Let us remember how God admonished His people Israel:

2 Chronicles 7:13-15 (NIV)

13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.

The call of God upon our hearts and lives is to be children of light! (Cf. Ephesians 5:8) Asaph, a Psalmist, wrote: “Blessed are those who have learned to worship you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.” (Cf. Psalm 89:15) The Prophet Isaiah urged: “Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” (Cf. Isaiah 2:5) So, it follows that we must deal with our own sin and darkness first. This scripture enjoins us to humble ourselves and pray and seek God and turn (repent) from our own sin.  THEN God will hear and forgive and heal! The Apostle John spoke to this issue as well:

1 John 1:5-10 (NIV)

This is the message we have heard from Him (Jesus) and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us.

So the application here is to prepare our hearts for prayer first. As Isaiah admonished, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear.But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” (Cf. Isaiah 59:1-2) The people of God are being called to repent … to return to our first love – Jesus Christ. (Cf. Revelation 2:4). As David confessed, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Cf. Psalm 51:17) I think these are the requisite actions needed if we want to be productive and effective for the Kingdom of God. And so, I believe our deepest pursuit in prayer should first be sincere reverence for God and a passion for holiness within ourselves. Then we can emerge from our times of prayer empowered to serve the Lord as His Body. He will afford us discernment and discretion on how to engage a culture of unbelief; and He will equip us to better minister to those who respond. Yes, we can invite them to choose whom they will serve … as we choose to serve the Lord.

Some final thoughts:

Hebrews 12:14 (NIV)

14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.

2 Timothy 2:22-26 (NIV)

22 Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

Philippians 2:14-16 (NIV)

14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and innocent, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!