The “Platinum Rule”

Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

We just talked about this yesterday.  Message unchanged….  There is a definite call to humble ourselves and to not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think … as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. (Cf. Romans 12:3) This reminds me of when Jesus taught His “Sermon on the Mount” and said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Cf. Luke 6:31) Perhaps, a “Platinum Rule” should read: “Treat others in the same manner that God has treated you in Christ Jesus.”  I think that raises the bar a notch….

We need to remember that God has been more kind, more gentle, more longsuffering, more patient, more forgiving, more compassionate, and more loving towards us than we ever tend to be towards one another; yet, we are made in His image and called to live as Jesus did. (Cf. 1 John 2:6) So this brings me back to two key passages:

Galatians 5:22-26 (NIV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

It is only by the Spirit of God living within us that can ever hope to attain the godliness He desires within each of us.  And a person does not receive the Holy Spirit except that he/she believes in Jesus Christ … placing their faith in His life, death, and resurrection for the assurance of this gift. As Peter affirmed (and I often quote): “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3) And indeed, we need the power of God to bear the fruit of the Spirit in our relationships with one another.  I can see no other conclusion for a believer … a child of God.  As John emphasized in His epistle: “Dear friends, let us love one another … for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and know God.” (Cf. 1 John 4:7)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Law of the Spirit

Romans 8:1-2 (NIV)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

This verse is a great encouragement … and opens an entire chapter of Scripture focused on the immutable love of God for those who believe in the Lord Jesus.  Beginning with the word “therefore” to connect this affirmation of “no condemnation” for those who are in Christ Jesus, we should probably go back to Romans 7 to understand the “conclusion” Paul is bringing to the forefront.  It is Romans 7 where we find a detailed description of the spiritual conflict within us … the struggle to put our sinful nature to death.  Paul shares his insight on how the Law and its commandments work to reveal our sinful nature and to articulate how our sinful behavior and conduct manifest: 

Romans 7:7-13 (NIV)

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. 13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

In dealing with sin, we have to recognize that the Law and the Commandments were spoken by God through Moses to instruct His people … to impart light, wisdom, and knowledge to those He chose to be His people from all the peoples of the earth.  God said, “ Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” (Cf. Exodus 19:5-6) And, “You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.” (Cf. Leviticus 20:26) Indeed, the will of God has always been for His people to obey Him; and it is our obedience that should set us apart (sanctify us) from all other people:

Deuteronomy 26:16-19 (NIV)

16 The Lord your God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; carefully observe them with all your heart and with all your soul. 17 You have declared this day that the Lord is your God and that you will walk in obedience to Him, that you will keep His decrees, commands and laws—that you will listen to Him. 18 And the Lord has declared this day that you are His people, His treasured possession as He promised, and that you are to keep all His commands. 19 He has declared that He will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations He has made and that you will be a people holy to the Lord your God, as He promised.

We need to get this historical understanding and perspective because Paul indicates there is “new covenant” of obedience that will not come through the Law and its commandments; rather, it will take a spiritual form brought forth through the death and resurrection of Christ. Through the wisdom given to him, Paul shares how the Old Covenant administrated through Moses worked to expose the depth of moral corruption within us by giving us the knowledge of it.  And the sacrificial system instituted under Moses was a constant reminder of the need for atonement through the physical death (shed blood) of a “substitute” for the person who sinned … who violated the Law of God.  Paul explains that the commandments let us know when we have transgressed the holiness God expects of us … and through sin we have entered into condemnation and death.  It is this picture of the Law and the condemnation it brings forth that has awakened Paul to the truth of the New Covenant through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Romans 7:14-25 (NIV)

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

I believe what Paul is articulating here is the internal struggle with the sinful nature we experience as humans. The conflict between our spirits and our flesh is ongoing; and we are in need of rescue from this spiritual war (the Law is spiritual).  Though in our spirits we desire to do what is right and good, we are unable to do so within our own power. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Cf. Romans 5:6-8) Yes, it is Jesus Christ who has delivered us from the death brought through sin.  Jesus, the Son of God, became the eternal atonement through His physical death (shed blood) on the cross as our “substitute”. As the Apostle John affirmed: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (Cf. John 3:17)

God declared you and I are forgiven if we believe in His Son and abide in Him. Though as transgressors we are worthy of the condemnation of death, God in His great love and mercy ordained that in Christ Jesus there would no longer be condemnation for our sin. The penalty required for sin has been paid. Restitution has been made on our behalf. But we need to be careful to observe that this liberty from the law of sin and death is for those who are IN Christ Jesus.  Forgiveness and reconciliation and restoration is afforded to those who believe and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Let’s return to the Apostle John on this matter:

John 3:16-21 (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. 18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Our human rebellion against God did not change with the introduction of the Law and commandments; rather, it only afforded the knowledge of our sinful human nature so that we would know what God desires of those He created in His image. “All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:3-6) Thus, it is only by the grace of God that we are saved. He sent His Son, Jesus, to not only bring true light into the world but to save the world from the condemnation of sin and spiritual death. As Peter informs us: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3)

So what is the application for us?  How do we live in obedience to the Law … and deal with our sinful human nature that draws us into rebellion against it?  Paul explains that we must live in the Spirit in order to accomplish the requirements of the Law.  And it is through believing in Jesus Christ that we receive His Spirit to abide in us forever.  For the Holy Spirit is the seal of our redemption … deposited as a guarantee of what God has promised to those who love Him. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 2 Corinthians 5:4-5; Ephesians 1:13-15) And so we are called to be led by the Holy Spirit and to live in Him:

Galatians 5:13-25 (NIV)

13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! 16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

We cannot change what the Law and commandments bring to our conscience; nor can we resolve the conflict produced in our flesh because of our sinful nature.  We have to see and understand that a spiritual problem requires a spiritual solution.  And the Spirit God gave us affords us power, love, and self-control. (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7) Through faith in Jesus Christ, we receive His Spirit to indwell us and conform us to His image.  For this is the will of God!  This is the fulfillment of His commandments.  This is the New Covenant we enter through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is why we believe the love God has for us!  The “Law of Love” is put into our minds and it is written on our hearts because He abides in us and we abide in Him. The intimate relationship that God desires with us is perfected in love. This is how we know Him!

1 John 4:7-16 (NKJV)

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

If we walk in the Spirit, we will walk in love. Through His indwelling Spirit, we will love one another as God through Christ Jesus has demonstrated His love for us. As Peter wrote: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”  (Cf. 1 Peter 4:8) Love keep no record of debts. (1 Corinthians 13:4-6) This is why God will remember our sins no more. Our debt has been paid. We have been forgiven. We have been redeemed from the law of sin and death. There is now no condemnation! And this is why we praise and worship Jesus! Oh, how I pray these truths will encourage your heart to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Cf. Ephesians 3:18-19) And I pray we will love one another as He has loved us! (Cf. John 15:12) For love is how we will keep the Law of God so that our hearts will not condemn us:

1 John 3:11-24 (NIV)

11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. 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. 19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from Him anything we ask, because we keep His commands and do what pleases Him. 23 And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in Him, and He in them. And this is how we know that He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Saved From Condemnation

John 3:17

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

Our verse today came as John 3:17 … but it is proceeded by the “universal” verse known so well and quoted so often – John 3:16. But verse John 3:18 following has an equally important message that should be placed in context; so I have decided to reprint the entire passage together for your reference.

John 3:16-19 (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.

Observe that God gave His Son to save us.  Our salvation is a gift! We cannot earn it.  As Paul expounded in Ephesians 2:8-9: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not of works, so that no one can boast.  And “through faith” means that you believe in His Son – Jesus Christ.  Through placing your complete faith in Christ and His finished work, His sacrificial blood for atonement, and His resurrection from the dead, you are no longer condemned but have passed from death to life. (Cf. 1 John 3:14) Yet, notice how Verse 18 continues to admonish: “Whoever does NOT believe stands condemned already.”  Why? Because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son – Jesus.  In Verse 19, the Apostle John goes on to explain why people do not believe: “People love darkness instead of light.”  In essence, people love their sin more than they love God….

The Prophet Ezekiel spoke some difficult words … under the Old Covenant … which we would be wise to contemplate:

Ezekiel 33:12 (NIV)

“Therefore, son of man, say to your people, ‘If someone who is righteous disobeys, that person’s former righteousness will count for nothing. And if someone who is wicked repents, that person’s former wickedness will not bring condemnation. The righteous person who sins will not be allowed to live even though they were formerly righteous.’

However, in the New Testament, you will find a more expansive theology shared by the Apostle Peter to consider:

2 Peter 1:3-11 (NIV)

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them (these qualities in increasing measure) is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things (additions to faith), you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

There are several key themes we can find in this apostolic instruction from Peter. First of all, everything we need to live a godly life comes from His divine power – namely the Holy Spirit.  Second, the glory and goodness of Christ avails us of His very great and precious promises (i.e. wisdom, knowledge, gifts of the Holy Spirit, etc.) which allow us to participate (take part in) the divine nature.  As such, knowledge of His Word and gifts of His Spirit, equip us to mature in our faith – to bear the fruit of the Spirit in and through our lives. (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23) So Peter encourages us to move forward in maturity of faith in order to confirm the calling and election of God upon our lives!  Maturity through a growing faith will keep us from stumbling; and it promises great reward in the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ….

Paul reminds those who believe of this same truth: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) But there is more in the following verses to put this into context and congruence with what Peter articulated in his epistle. I have reprinted it below for you:

Romans 8:1-11 (NIV)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set us free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh (our sinful nature), God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives lifebecause of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who lives in you.

It is clear that to believe in Jesus Christ goes beyond just a mental assent as to His Deity.  We are called to “participate in the divine nature” which God equips us to do through His divine power … the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.  Paul asserted if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Him.  As the Apostle John wrote: “This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit.” (1 John 4:13) A life IN Jesus Christ is a Spirit-filled life.  There can be no other possible conclusion.  And a Spirit-filled life will produce the fruit in the life of a believer “in increasing measure” so that he/she will be effective and productive in His Kingdom. The Apostles are quite consistent with what Jesus Himself taught:  “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (Cf. John 3:5-6)

So the good news is that fallen, sinful man does not have to remain condemned to separation from our Holy Father … the God of all Creation.  God sent His one and only Son to save us … to reconcile us and restore us to Himself … as He determined and ordained before the foundation of the world.  All a person needs to do believe in Jesus Christ and begin to follow Him into the discipleship of a Spirit-filled life of Kingdom service.  His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.  He invites us participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires, and to walk in the Light of His glory and goodness….

I pray each of us with grow in knowledge and go on to maturity in the Spirit … to confirm our calling and election … to live lives worthy of the Lord Jesus … to please Him in every way … bearing fruit in every good work … growing in the knowledge of God…and strengthened with all power according to His glorious might. (Cf. Colossians 1:9-11) I ask that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of our hearts will be enlightened in order that we may know the hope to which God has called us, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people,and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength God exerted when He raised Jesus Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms…. (Cf. Ephesians 1:17-20) Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Wisdom From Heaven

James 3:17-18

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Wisdom….  We all need it.  We are urged by the Apostle James to ask for it.  “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5) But we need to distinguish the wisdom that comes from God … and the wisdom that comes from the world and human intellect.  In seeking the wisdom for living that comes from God, James writes:

James 3:13-18 (NIV)

13 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. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Here we have a challenge … that our very lives should emulate the character of Christ Jesus. And James has some fairly salient points for us to consider.  He starts with the premise that those who are wise and have spiritual understanding demonstrate their “depth of faith” by living a “good life”.  And then he defines a “good life” as “deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom”.  So as to further explain his instruction, James then contrasts the differences between the “earthly” or “carnal” wisdom of the world with the “heavenly” or “spiritual” wisdom that comes from God.  I think it might be useful to breakdown these “distinctions” James brings to our attention:

Wisdom that does NOT come down from heaven is labeled earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. It is manifested in human conduct such as “harboring bitter envy” or “selfish ambition” in your heart.  He goes on to observe that wherever you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”  In other words, envy, jealousy, pride, covetousness, idolatry, and greed proceed from a pattern of life that is sensual, brutish, and of this world.  Such behavior is inconsistent with a life rooted in the love of God. By contrast, we see that those who live a “good life” through the wisdom that God gives are:

            Pure                            (i.e. seek holiness and self-control)

            Peace-Loving             (i.e. seek resolution to conflict and reconciliation)

            Considerate               (i.e. seek the good of others above themselves)

            Submissive                 (i.e. not only to God but to each other)

            Full of Mercy             (i.e. readily forgiving)

            Full of Good Fruit    (i.e. acts of service and compassion)

            Impartial                    (i.e. righteous judgement; unbiased)

            Sincere                       (i.e. genuine; unpretentious, faithful)

So we can infer from these “distinctions” in wisdom for living what is best, good, and wholesome in our relationships with others versus what is immoral, destructive, and unrestrained to the extent that physical, emotional, and spiritual harm ensues to another.  Only the wisdom that comes from above equips a person to live the righteous life God intends for each of us to live!  Perhaps that is the very reason God has drawn us to believe in His Son – so that we might be filled with His Spirit … the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. (Cf. Isaiah 11:2).

No doubt, to be filled with the Spirit of God is essential to living a “good life” as James envisions it.  And I can almost hear Paul chime in with his Letter to the Galatians on this matter … parsing out the same contrasts as James:

Galatians 5:13-26 (NIV)

13 You, my brothers and sisters, have been called to liberty. But do not use your liberty to indulge the flesh (and its nature); rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Cf. Leviticus 19:1815 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (the wisdom that comes from heaven). 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

So my prayer is that we will seek wisdom … ask for wisdom … and apply wisdom to our hearts so that our lives will be good and beneficial to others.  This is HOW we are to love one another as we ourselves have been loved by God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  So I will conclude with an excerpt of the prayer Paul offered up for the believers in Colossae: “I do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in every way, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Cf. Colossians 1:9-10)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

This Is My Story….

1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect….

This verse is connected with the themes we have been reading about the past week on sharing the Gospel.  Interestingly, I believe this passage is the most succinct instruction we can find in the Bible regarding evangelism in its “simplest” form.  We do not have to pass out “religious tracts” in the mall or door-to-door in order to be evangelists; although there might be occasion to do that sort of activity.  We do not have to stand on street corners with banners and megaphones heralding Scriptures; although if the Spirit directs you to do so … you should obey.  But if you think about it, when most of us were “touched” by the Gospel message, the context was probably somewhat different.  Your exposure to the message about Jesus Christ probably came through someone with whom you had a relationship.  It could have been a parent, a sibling, a family member, a friend, a co-worker, or simply an acquaintance.  Maybe someone did hand you a gospel tract, or a religious billboard caught your eye and planted a spiritual seed. But most likely it was seeing “something different” in the life of another believer or hearing the personal, spiritual experience of someone you trusted that inspired or encouraged you to have a “real” relationship with God….

As I read this verse, I connected with its instruction of “how” to be an effective witness of the Gospel.  First of all, Peter indicates that we must have a “strong” relationship with Jesus ourselves.  In our hearts we are to “revere Christ as Lord”.  This means we have humbled ourselves and surrendered our lives to His authority.  This means He is worthy of our praise and worship.  This means we have experienced His life-changing grace in our hearts and desire our lives to reflect the holiness for which He saved us.  As the writer of Hebrews admonishes us: “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14) If we revere Christ as Lord in our hearts, we will pursue a life that reflects that faith and hope and love.  As Peter wrote in his second pastoral epistle:

2 Peter 1:3-11 (NIV)

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

If we are living a life that is reflective of a genuine relationship with our Lord Jesus, then others will see it. And sometimes … your life in Christ will produce curiosity in someone who is seeking to have “more” of that “something” you appear to have in your life. It will be attractive to them because you reflect the light of God found only in Jesus. And so Peter instructs us: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Note the extreme language: ALWAYS. To be prepared means we have “practiced” in order to be ready. We have “fine-tuned” our thoughts about our own personal encounter with Jesus. We have “reflected” on our own experience of His faithfulness in our lives. And then sharing the Gospel … well it simply becomes sharing our own story!

But do this with gentleness and respect,” Peter writes. This all sounds very similar to what Paul advised, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Cf. Colossians 4:5-7) And this is why I think we need to reflect on how to best communicate and share the good news of Christ Jesus. The manner and the circumstances in which we shared the Truth with someone can determine your effectiveness and mine in reaching that person for God. If we appear pious or superior in our tone, we do not reflect the One who said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Cf. Mark 9:35) So the question to ask is are you and I “prepared” to answer anyone about our faith and our hope in Christ? But a more crucial question to ask might be: “Is our love for others evident in our walk … enough so that it would be a conversation starter for a stranger or an unbeliever?”

Okay, I’m going to stir some conviction…. What is a definitive application for us to consider here? Well, for unbelievers to respond to the Gospel … they need to see a “real” Gospel. They need to see a genuine outcome of the power of God to believe it exists and that it is authentic. We live in a generation and a culture that increasingly dismisses or rejects the existence of God, and more specifically, the message of Jesus. I believe some of this intellectual skepticism can stem from inadequate “evidence” of the work and power of God in the lives of those who profess faith in Him. We cannot see the wind, yet we can observe its movement and impact. Likewise, we cannot see the Spirit of God, yet a person should be able to discern His manifestation in the life of a believer. I believe when the presence of God is seen because His impact is observable, faith is formed. So if our lives do not authentically reflect the transforming power of Christ, then how is there evidence for an unbeliever to move from skepticism to the reality they are searching to find? I pray that each of us will be introspective and consider if the “wind” of our lives is sufficient to “stir the leaves” in the hearts of unbelievers. If it is, I would venture to say that someone is going to ask about the faith they “see” you have in Christ Jesus. So be prepared to tell them your story. It is a great one to share!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!