Love Your Neighbor…

Matthew 7:12 (NIV)

So, in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Our Verse of the Day reminds us of what we have heard since childhood – known as the “Golden Rule.” Instilled within us was the adage: “Treat other people the same way you want them to treat you.”  You will find this same message recorded in Luke 6:31 as well. This relational concept stems from the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” found in Leviticus 19:18. Jesus quotes this OT passage in His teachings found at Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31, and Luke 10:27. But Jesus goes on to explain that love is the essence of what all the Law and the Prophets were revealing from God.

The Apostle Paul affirmed this teaching in his epistles:

Romans 12:9-11 (NIV)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

Romans 13:8-10 (NIV)

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.

Ephesians 4:1-3 (NIV)

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Galatians 5:13-15 (NIV)

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

The Apostle Peter confirmed the same instruction:

1 Peter 1:21-23 (NIV)

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. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

1 Peter 3:8-9 (NIV)

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

And the Apostle John preserved for us the spiritual depth of this command: To love one another as Jesus has loved us:

John 13:34-35 (NIV)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

1 John 3:10-11 (NIV)

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

1 John 4:11-13 (NIV)

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit.

So, I pray we will take this message to heart as we prepare for His Coming.  I pray we will make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. I pray we will be proactive in our communities to show the love of God to others … bringing the Good News of Jesus to fill their hearts with the knowledge of the truth: “For God so loved the world.” Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

 If you fulfil the royal law according to the scripture that says, you shall love your neighbor as yourself – you do well. ~ James 2:8

Love Each Other…

1 John 4:20-21 (NIV)

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. And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Our Verse of the Day is quite direct in its message and delivery.  The Apostle John does not mince words.  Saying you love God but having hatred in your heart towards another believer is wrong.  It is hypocritical.  John will call you out as a liar.  Pretty strong … perhaps even harsh words to use.  John indicates there is a chasm between what you say and what your heart manifests in reality.  So, I think we all need to do a heart check from time to time.  We need to examine our feelings towards others we tend to dislike, distrust, or disagree with.  John goes on to state that “loving others” is a command.  Thus, it is not optional to obey!

As Moses instructed:

Leviticus 19:17-18 (NIV)

17 “‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. 18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

As Jesus taught:

Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

As Paul explained:

Romans 13:8-10 (NIV)

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.

As James exhorted:

James 2:8-9 (NIV)

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.

When Jesus spoke with His disciples during the last Passover meal, He told them: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Cf. John 13:34-35) No doubt there were many dimensions and demonstrations of His love that Jesus had in mind; yet I cannot help but think that being an ambassador of reconciliation with the Father was foremost – because that was the very reason Jesus was sent by the Father.  As John affirmed: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (Cf. 1 John 4:10) And so, I believe this portrait of love should be the origin of every thought … of every motive … of every action we take to love others as He has loved us. It was LOVE that compelled Jesus to finish the work the Father gave Him to do.  Indeed, this is the greatest message of love that we could ever share with another person. And it is love for others that should compel us to do so … to make the most of every opportunity we are given by the Father to share the good news of Jesus Christ.…    

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.   ~ John 15:9-17

Follow God’s Example…

Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)

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

Our Verse of the Day brings a challenge to us as believers in response to having placed our faith in Jesus. We have been born again of the Holy Spirit; and we have been GIVEN the right (authority) to become children of God and to receive “adoption to sonship”. (Cf. John 1:12-13; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5) And because we love the Son, we love the Father who sent Him. This is why we are dearly loved children of God. But this love did not originate with us; rather, it is our response to His love for us. (Cf. 1 John 4:19) And so we are called to walk in the way of love – in the same manner as Christ loved. Then, Paul goes on here to briefly summarize how His love was demonstrated: “He gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

This theme reverberates throughout the New Testament writings of the apostles. Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Indeed, it is central to our response to the grace of God and a commandment of Jesus Himself. In John 13:34, Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Likewise, in John 15:12, Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” There is no ambiguity here. His command does not require theological research or debate. But maybe the guidance of Paul to give us descriptive and practical ways of demonstrating love to one another would be helpful….

As I thought about the many passages in which Paul addresses the demonstration of love, I kept coming back to the guiding principle where he wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-3) You see, love is rooted in mercy. It is in the light of mercy that we see love manifested. Think of a new born baby. It is completely helpless and defenseless upon entrance into the world. Yet mercy demands that care and nurture to be provided – behaviors we would consider a profound demonstration of love. The “living sacrifice” of parents becomes evident from the moment of birth. So, in the same way, God cares for us. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” (Psalm 103:13)

Paul will continue through Romans 12:3-21 to bring full definition to love in action; but I think the conclusion for us is that love in its highest expression is sacrificial. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) Love begins with sacrifice. It means to give something of higher value in return for something of lesser value. It means to suffer loss. This was the principle of the sacrificial system of the temple – where the people would present a highly valued animal (first born, unblemished) to be slaughtered as a sin offering to God according to the Law. Yet, incredibly, in His mercy for our helpless sinful human condition, God decided to sacrifice His best … His all … His only begotten Son as a sin offering for us … to fulfill the righteous requirement of the Law. (Cf. Romans 8:3-4)

Jesus is God’s example of love.  His love is merciful … it is gentle … it is kind and considerate … it is compassionate … it is forgiving.  Paul explained the excellence of His love in this manner: “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.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8) And Jesus explained: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love.” (Cf. John 15:9-10) And so we see that our love for Jesus is rooted in our obedience to Him … just as He was obedient to the Father.

Philippians 2:1-8 (NIV)

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

So, what is the application? If you want to love others as God in Christ Jesus has loved you, then your life too must be sacrificial. And, further, your sacrifice must be your very best! Love must be sincere … not half-hearted. Love is the most excellent way! Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did. (Cf. 1 John 2:6) Yes, I believe this is what God is calling us to do in our generation … at this appointed time in history … as His remnant church! We are called to be “living sacrifices” to those who are helpless; to those who are defenseless; to those who are orphans and widows; to those who are abused and mistreated; to those who are prodigal; those who are lost and without God. Yes, “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.” (Cf. 1 John 4:17)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. ~ 1 John 4:8

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. ~ 1 John 4:20

What Is Required?

Micah 6:8 (NIV)

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Keeping with the theme of our response to God and His offer of salvation to the world, this Verse of the Day from the Old Testament addresses the same theological concept.  God has made known to us His Being.  He has revealed His Way, His Truth, and His Life through His Son, Jesus. The salvation offered by God requires a response to this revelation … a response to Jesus! And God has made it clear that He expects His creation to respect and revere His Son. 

Micah declares: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” And the Prophet Isaiah admonishes: “Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” (Cf. Isaiah 1:16-17) Both prophets have expressed the heart of God and His will for our conduct … our response to Him.  The Apostle James reasoned:

James 2:14-24 (NLT)

14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. 18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” 19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? 21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” (Cf. Genesis 15:6) He was even called the friend of God. (Cf. Isaiah 41:824 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.

And we should just simply look at what Jesus taught in this regard:

Luke 6:43-49 (NLT)

43 “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 44 A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. 45 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say (and do) flows from what is in your heart. 46 “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t DO what I say? 47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house right on the ground, without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”

Here is the message that I see in our Verse of the Day: Put Faith into Action! Make it genuine! We can talk about ministry for others, but doing ministry is what matters. It is our faith-informed response to our salvation! Indeed, in view of God’s mercy, we should offer ourselves as living sacrifices – holy and pleasing to God. (Cf. Romans 12:1) As Paul explained to believers in Ephesus: “We are God’s workmanship. He has created us in Christ Jesus to do the good works which He planned and prepared for us long ago.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) Yes, faith is about “doing” the works of God … not for merit or His favor to receive salvation; rather, to demonstrate our “response” to His mercy and redemption. So, I pray that we will truthfully be about the Father’s business in 2023 … preparing ourselves daily in prayer and bible study to be “vessels for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 2:21) Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says! ~ James 1:21-22

Thanking God For You…

1 Corinthians 1:4-5 (NIV)

I always thank my God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in Him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—  

I always thank my God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in Him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—  

As we enter the second day of this week of Thanksgiving, our Verse of the Day is a call for us to offer our thanksgiving to God for other believers. The Apostle Paul often began His epistles with an expression of gratitude toward the believers in the churches who he had mentored during his missionary journeys. Here are a few examples:

Ephesians 1:15-16 (NIV)

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

 Philippians 1:3-6 (NIV)

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Colossians 1:3-4 (NIV)

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 (NIV)

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 (NIV)

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.

Philemon 1:4-6 (NIV)

I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all His holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.

Notice how these passages have some common elements.  First, Paul assures the churches that he is praying for them all the time.  He expresses this discipline in prayer as “always”, “continually”, and “not stopped.” Secondly, we observe that in his prayers, Paul is giving thanks to God for these believers … and specifically for their faith in Jesus Christ. In addition, Paul typically commends HOW their faith and service to God is evident by their love for one another.  Indeed, it is their love generated by their faith that Paul is so grateful to see coming to fruition! Their response to the grace of God is ample cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving, and Paul is inspired to let them know.

So, I see an application for us to consider … and I believe we should ask ourselves some questions:

  • “Do I give thanks to God for other believers who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ?”
  • “Do I appreciate their gifts, talents, and service to Jesus Christ as members of His Body?”
  • “Am I grateful for their fellowship and love as expressions of their faith in Him?”

As I pondered these questions, I found myself feeling appreciation and gratitude for other believers and their labors of love toward people through the ministries of the Church. And I have, from time to time, expressed my thanks to them for their devoted service. But as I think of Paul’s example, continual giving of thanks to God for my brothers and sisters in Christ, I find myself falling short of this ideal. Yes, I must confess that thanksgiving for others during my prayers has not been often enough; and I think that, perhaps, I have been missing an essential focal point of prayer. I am convicted and convinced that I should never cease remembering the Body of Christ throughout the world, nor should I ever cease to mention those who attend our local assembly in my prayers. Paul has made it clear that it is important to be faithful in sincerely giving thanks to God for their lives, their gifts, their service, and their love….

So, in this season of Thanksgiving, I pray that we all will remember this fundamental truth: that in Christ we form one body … His Body. Though we are many members, each individual member belongs to all the others. (Cf. Romans 12:4-8) And as Paul instructed in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” Thus, in light of this context, I believe it follows that we should continually give thanks to God for each other during our daily time of prayer. Yes, let us make this our practice … to remember each other and to express gratitude to God for each other in our prayers as often as possible.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NIV)

1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Abounding In Love…

Philippians 1:9-11 (NIV)

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

In our Verse of the Day, I believe we encounter a different concept with regard to the impact that knowledge and discernment have upon our redemption. We typically think of wisdom, understanding, and depth of insight, as the role of the Holy Spirit for our walk as born-again creations. Indeed, He is our guide into all Truth. He is our Advocate … our Helper … our Comforter … who teaches us all things and reminds us of everything Jesus taught His disciples. (Cf. John 14:26; 15:26) Yet here, Paul appears to assert its impact on the growth and maturity of our love as followers of Christ. He prays for our love to abound … for the love within us to grow and mature and bear fruit … in response to the work of the Holy Spirit.

Why is this important?  Well, Paul states the purpose of his prayer is “so that we may be able to discern what is best and to live in a consecrated position for the soon return of our Lord Jesus. We know the primary goal of our life in Christ is to love God and to love one another. But love is not just a matter of the emotions; rather, to be effective and productive for the Lord, we must use our intelligence and exercise discernment. And so, I think Paul is praying not only that the Philippians continue in their outpouring of sincere love, but he is encouraging them to operate in love that exercises knowledge and moral discernment. Paul indicates that love directed by intelligent, moral decisions will manifest itself as the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ … as the completion of God’s love that brings Him glory, honor, and praise! (Cf. 1 John 4:11-17)

As I pondered the issue of moral discernment and how the Holy Spirit impacts our capacity to love more deeply, I recalled some passages where Paul discusses whether our interactions with others are beneficial or harmful.  I believe these selections represent practical applications of how our love for both God and others abounds (increases) with knowledge and depth of insight:

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (NIV)

12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By His power God raised the Lord from the dead, and He will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” (Citing Genesis 2:2417 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with Him in Spirit. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians 10:23-33 (NIV)

23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. 25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” (Citing Psalm 24:1) 27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? 31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

As love abounds in our redeemed, transformed hearts … as it matures in outward expression to those around us, such love always seeks and endeavors to operate in the Spirit of Christ.  It requires us to “discern what is best.” As Paul asserted: “I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” I think this mindset is essential if we intend to share the truth in love. As Paul would later instruct the believers in Philippi:

Philippians 2:1-5 (NIV)

Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus….

My friends, when we love as Jesus loved us and gave Himself for us, we will be filled with the fruit of righteousness in our lives. Its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. (Cf. Isaiah 32:17) We will no longer be conformed to the pattern on this world; rather, we will be transformed by the renewing of our minds. (Cf. Romans 12:2) And I think this is Paul’s ultimate desire – that when we stand before God in the judgment, our lives will have been filled with the spiritual fruit of righteousness that comes from Jesus Christ – produced by the Holy Spirit. (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23) And then, the Father will receive all the glory and praise! “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Looking For Acceptance…

Romans 15:7 (NIV)

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

As I contemplated our Verse of the Day, a thought began to form on the application of it.  Let’s look at the verse in its surrounding context:

Romans 15:1-8 (NIV)

1We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please Himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” (Citing Psalm 69:9For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy.

As I studied the message being developed here by Paul, I remembered his inspired affirmations in Romans 5 that I believe are applicable to our study as well:

Romans 5:1-11 (NIV)

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And let us boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but let us also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. 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. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

I think if believers would humble themselves under the truth of Roman 5:8; recognize His passionate love for all people (John 3:16); and understand that we were accepted while still in our state of sin and hopelessness; then we should be able to accept one another just as Christ accepted us … in order to bring praise to God. Through faith in Jesus and the atonement for our sin accomplished through His shed blood, new believers have received the love of God and the assurance of His acceptance into their hearts. They are accepted by God just as we were accepted when we first believed and came to faith. And so, all believers should be accepted, embraced, and loved by one another. Yes, we need to deeply consider this admonishment and remember that each individual who responds to the Gospel and comes to faith in Christ Jesus, will move along their journey toward complete healing, deliverance, and freedom at a different pace. Indeed, the process of sanctification does not begin until His reconciliation has been received in the heart of a sinner transformed into a believer.

I am convinced that until a person can accept the forgiveness of God through His Son and embrace the truth of His love and reconciliation, they will not be able to experience the power of His resurrection to heal, deliver, or set them free from every bondage that hinders them from wholeness and fullness in life.  Paul wrote: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Cf. Galatians 5:1) But, I also believe that when members of the Body fail to accept one another as Christ accepted us, we can create obstacles to the victory and freedom found in Jesus. I am sure that is why Paul advised the believers in Rome: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please Himself….”

To the believers in Ephesus Paul wrote: “As a prisoner for the Lord, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Cf. Ephesians 4:1-3) To those in Thessalonica Paul admonished: “And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15) And to the Colossians Paul emphasized: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

It is clear from Scripture that we are to make every effort to accept one another … bear with one another … forgive one another … and love one another as Christ Jesus demonstrated His acceptance, forgiveness, patience, and love for each one of us.  This requires a humble and obedience spirit. As Paul advised: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” (Cf. Romans 12:3) So I pray that we will listen to what the Lord Jesus would have us to hear from His Word this morning.  I pray we will learn to serve one another in love … to build each other up … and to accept one another as Christ has accepted each of us. And let us offer Him thanksgiving and praise for His great love. In Jesus Name, Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Send Greetings!

2 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)

All God’s people here send their greetings.

Our Verse of the Day might seem mundane at first glance, but when I read the surrounding context, some inspirational thoughts emerged that blessed my quiet time this morning.

11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All God’s people here send their greetings. 14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

2 Corinthians 13:11-14 ~ Final Greetings

As I read the benediction of his last letter to the Corinthians, I felt the impact of Paul’s message and instructions – not only for believers in Corinth but in Ephesus, Macedonia, and all the other places where his evangelical passion helped establish new churches. His utmost desire to see the ordained purposes of the universal Church to produce the fruit of Gospel resonated with me.  Indeed, the reasons for assembling ourselves and joining our lives is evident in these last words:

  • Rejoicing in the Lord Jesus and in His redemption!
  • Striving for restoration of intimacy with God through abiding in the Lord Jesus!
  • Encouraging one another in the faith, and the good deeds that come through faith!
  • Being of one mind and one accord through the unity of the Spirit!
  • Living in peace with one another through compassion, humility, and forgiveness!
  • Experiencing the love and peace of God within the Church!

Paul follows with Verses 12-13 which speak to the affection among believers that should be demonstrated throughout the universal Church. He seems compelled to include: “All God’s people here (in Macedonia) send their greetings (their holy kisses) to all of you all there (in Corinth).” Yes, every local body of believers should express their love … their affection … to other believers everywhere! To me, Paul affirms what Jesus related to His disciples: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Cf. John 13:34-35) Indeed, the purpose of the Church is to be … and to share … and to spread … the love of God revealed in the life of Jesus, His Son! This is how His love is completed in us! (Cf. 1 John 4:12; 17)

Well, I hope that we see the importance of sending greetings of affection; expressing concern and providing support for needs; providing encouragement to build up the faith of others; and equipping believers for works of service. For these things are not only important for those within the local body, but also for believers all across the world who form the Body of Christ. The purpose is that we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Cf. Ephesians 4:11-16) Yes, this is my prayer for all who believe and abide in in the Lord Jesus. And I join with Paul in these words: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Talk The Walk…

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

In our Verse of the Day, Paul admonishes believers to exercise self-control with our mouths … and surely that is some sound advice. Foul language has no place in our lives and it is certainly unbecoming to a believer. Your Christian testimony is diminished … perhaps even disregarded before others when you cuss, curse, or use vile words. If what you have to say to another person does not encourage, teach, instruct, or build them up, then it is probably best not to say anything at all. To be caustic, demeaning, or demoralizing does not reflect reverence, love, or respect for God … nor another human being. The Apostle James also had some sharp words to address this issue:

James 3:2-11 (NIV)

2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. 3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

In His own teachings, Jesus weighed in on how we speak to one another. He exhorted: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, (Citing Exodus 20:13) and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ (an Aramaic term of contempt) is answerable to the council. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Cf. Matthew 5:21-22) Indeed, it is clear that the words we speak are significant to our walk with God and exert tremendous influence on our relationships with others. As Solomon observed: “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Cf. Proverbs 18:21)

I believe the application for us is evident. So, if the use of coarse joking, foul language, or demeaning and abusive words is a stronghold in your life, I pray you would consider the instruction of these men of God. Let your talk reflect your walk! God and the people around you will be much happier if you would endeavor to encourage and build others up. (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Romans 15:5; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Hebrews 12:14)  Yes, exercise self-control and choose to use words of kindness, gentleness, peace, patience, forgiveness, and love. (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Humility – The Right Attitude

Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

We have read and discussed our Verse of the Day before. It ties well to the theme that we have been studying the past week; and it challenges us to view the command to love one another through the lens of humility. To be humble in our interpersonal actions with others is another way we emulate and facilitate the love of God. Again, we have Jesus as our role model. And it is actually His example that Paul will reference as the spiritual standard for humility. He urges us to have the same mindset (attitude) as Christ Jesus. Here is the larger context for us to consider:

Philippians 2:1-8 (NIV)

1Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; 7 rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!

I always love reading from the Book of Philippians and the instructions that the Apostle Paul laid out for the body of believers there. His practical advice on what conduct and how it should be manifested in a Spirit-filled believer was needed … and it is certainly applicable to the Church in these latter days. I see these key points in the text:

1.      Our mindset is to be the same as Christ Jesus. Our motivation … our drive … our passion is to be like Him.

2.      Though God is Spirit, we understand His nature as God through Jesus in a physical form … made in human likeness.

3.      We, made in the image of God and also in human form, are to take on the nature of a servant just as Jesus did.

4.      We have been “saved to serve,” and it is this humble nature that equips us to do so with love.

5.      Obedience is the mechanism through which we achieve this humble nature to walk in love.

The application is for us to develop an attitude … a mindset … a servant’s heart and nature … that will value others above ourselves. We should not only consider our own interests, but focus on the interests and needs of others. And I love the exhortation Paul wrote to Titus in this regard:

Titus 3:1-8 (NIV)

1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. 3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. ~ Colossians 3:12-13

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!