Shout with joy to the Lord; lift up your voice, rejoice & sing!
11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
We live in a world that is jam-packed with self-promotion.Hollywood ‘elites’ and musicians press their opinion on every subject into our cultural conscience simply because they have a platform to do so, misunderstanding their position in society. Everyone, it seems, that can have a voice, opinion or viewpoint wants to make sure they are heard, too, among the sea of other voices cluttering our ears, minds and eyes. The cry of ‘look at me!’ rings through social media outlets. People seeking praise or trying to justify their poor life choices do everything they can to make sure that they are right, simply because they can be heard. Proverbs 18:2 “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”
But, as Christians, we are called to something different (1 Peter 2:9). In humility, we consider others as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). And in this attitude of humility (James 4:6), we will always find that there is only One who is worth bragging on, worth talking about at length, and it’s Jesus. Simply because we are aware of our own mistakes, our problems, our own failings, they are all too clear (Romans 7), so we brag on Jesus, the One who has saved us from ourselves (Titus 3:4-6.)
People who shout about themselves have only a narcissist to promote to a host of other narcissists. The competition is thick. But when we brag on Jesus, and what He has done, our voice will ring out above the rest, because we point toward something higher, something the rest of the crowd doesn’t have. And in the distinctiveness of Christ, we will find that truth rings out over the noise, that a humble voice can have the deeper impact. When we boast in Christ, we point toward a work done in us that is greater than our own human effort, we point toward hope, depth and meaning, which the world is sorely lacking in with its messages of self.
In humility, we understand our place, we see our sin, our need for God, and we are brought to joy because of what He has done for us in Christ. And then we spend our life’s efforts singing His praises. They may press their man-made reason and so-called righteousness on us, but we can see beyond their flash and into the emptiness of their arguments.
Use every occasion to point others toward Jesus today, and sing His praises. Rest in Him, find your identity in Him, you who are in Him are clothed with Christ. Let the world see Him in your actions, attitudes and adoration today.
2 Corinthians 5
11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Shout with joy to the Lord; lift up your voice, rejoice & sing!
Sweet Holy Spirit, guide us today in the imprint of Christ’s footsteps to pursue justice, counting our neighbor’s welfare to be as important as our own. Amen.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
6 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.
6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. Empathy is the feature of our own emotional health that allows us to resonate with another human being. It keeps them from being just a fixture in our own little world, and places them on equal footing with us. Empathy reinforces humanity, it directs our hearts toward the needs & suffering of others, and it guides us to action to see justice done for the oppressed. Empathy stirs our heart, it engages our mind, it motivates our spirit to do what it best for someone other than our self. It is a gift that keeps us alive, sane, and functioning as a member of a responsible, God-honoring culture & worldview.
Being emotional has often been viewed as a weakness. There have been people and cultures that have maintained that a strict anti-emotionalism will help you to be a better human being, that it helps you to ‘grow up’ and deal with the hardships of life better. For some, being detached emotionally is a sign that you have accepted reality and are now able to function as an adult. Emotionalism is for the weak.
This couldn’t be any farther from the truth, and we can look to Jesus for our example.
When meeting with people who were in need, hurting and broken, Jesus’ response was never cold and calculated, detached and solely observant. Listen:
Matthew 15:32 “Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”
Mathew 8:14-15 “14 And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him.”
Matthew 9:1-3 “And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. 2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”
Mark 10:14 “But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”
Luke 19:41 “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it,”
John 5:6 “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?””
John 11:32-35 “32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
The common thread between Jesus, the people, their situation and the emotional response that Jesus had comes down to two small words “He saw.” That’s it. He observed their suffering, their situation, and simply in the seeing, His heart was provoked by emotion. And in that ’emotional’ state, Jesus acted in the mercy and justice of God to do what was right. He related to those who suffered, and He helped them carry their burdens, and usually took them all together.
This is the example of Christ. This is empathy at work. God is not cold and detached. There is not maturity that results in dismissing the heart and hurt of people who suffer.
Can emotion be used to take advantage of others, can sob stories capture the heart of another and remove them from rational thought? Absolutely. But don’t let the possibility of feeling deeply keep you from feeling. Don’t ever let the possibility of someone’s dishonesty keep you from serving others as Christ already has served them. Empathy doesn’t just keep others human in our own hearts, it keeps us human, too. A lack of empathy, a lack of compassion kills our own heart, and allows us to focus solely on self, dehumanizing others and seeking comfort away from their suffering. It removes us from the sphere of the work of God.
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Empathy & wisdom, paired together, help us walk in the path of the truth & mercy of God as we follow Christ.
Empathy without wisdom condones improper behavior and sinful struggles. Sometimes people hurt because of poor life choices and an improper worldview. These are the instances where empathy leads to compassion which leads to loving correction. It doesn’t keep us from meeting with them, but it guides us as we seek to guide them toward God, understanding their brokenness & our own.We are all responsible for our own choices & actions.
Knowledge without empathy is simply a cold observation of one’s perception of reality. It is cold and uncaring, even if we are right in regards to observing their moral transgressions. God’s mercy in the face of His own justice revealed grace for us & a glorification of Himself in the process. Had He simply observed, we would remain dead in our sin, damned by our own broken actions & motivations.
Pairing them together, we are kept responsible to God & others, seeing a need, and meeting a need while engaging the heart of the other as Christ has done, and drawing them toward Him. Mercy & justice, working together.
6 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Sweet Holy Spirit, guide us today in the imprint of Christ’s footsteps to pursue justice, counting our neighbor’s welfare to be as important as our own. Amen.
Sustain us in the struggle Lord, and raise us to Your life. Amen.
1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
7 You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
Let’s read that last bit again:
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
When we hear the word freedom, we probably have several different images pop into our mind. Mel Gibson pops in first as William Wallace, face painted blue, war worn, tied to a table and suffering his last. It is a gasping final breath, a cry for something that mattered most, that was worth dying for, a cause that was meant to bring hope to others.
Then I think of people like Harriet Tubman & Sojourner Truth, people who worked and struggled and did things both stealthy and public to draw attention to the plight of their people, desiring freedom from oppression & slavery. They didn’t care what man’s opinion was on the matter, they did what was right. Dr. King echoed their hearts on the other side of the Emancipation Proclamation, while men and women still struggled for equality because of the color of their skin, and many still echo their cause today, and rightfully so.
I think of Moses standing in the court of Pharaoh, staff in hand, and Charlton Heston’s beard hanging down on his chest demanding that Pharaoh let God’s people go. A power struggle between two men, one who thought himself a god, and another who was on a mission from God. Moses stood representing a people who were oppressed, taken advantage of, beaten down and suffering. Freedom seemed like a pipe dream to them, suffering was their companion.
But God has different plans.
All of these examples of freedom that pop into my head center around people who were willing to stand up to that others might have freedom, and I think that’s only right. People who fight for their own freedom, but neglect the needs of others around them do not understand the true nature of freedom. And this thought is found in this passage from Galatians 5 today. We have been granted a great freedom in Christ, yes. But we cannot, not even for a moment, keep that freedom to ourselves. It is counter-intuitive, truly free people want non-free people to truly be free, and they will point the goals of their life toward that work.
Freedom isn’t an idea. It’s not a rough concept or construct that we work under. Freedom is a state of being, and it shapes everything we have license to do. Paul was pointing this out, too, when he reminded the church in Galatia that their freedom was given so that they might serve others. It isn’t a freedom for self, but a freedom to serve. That’s what freedom is for, freedom is for freeing, and people who are free, and understand their freedom, having engaged with it, will seek freedom for others. They will ‘go’ as Jesus called them to go, bringing freedom to the captives.
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
If this was Jesus’ mission, then it belongs to us, too.
Freedom if for everyone. Free means free.
Go set someone free today.
A brief Sunday morning devotional.
Lord God, we know full well that our ways are not Your ways, that we often take the beauty of what You intend and attempt to recreate it in our own image. Father, please forgive our broken motives, and draw our hearts toward correction in You. Only when we humbly bow & obey will we find true beauty, purpose and joy in You. Grant us Your grace again today, and give us strength to walk with our Master, Jesus. Amen,
21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written,
“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than those of the one who has a husband.”
28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.
We cannot seriously desire to trade the promises of God for the desires of our flesh. Yet, we hand over the eternal & holy for the temporary & twisted. We are given accounts like Abraham’s as a reminder of the consequences that come, the split allegiances that form, and the lives that are broken in the process. The life that attempts to pursue both God & personal desire is always going to deal with these problems. That is to say, we will all deal with these from time to time as our ability to follow God is still struggling with the desire to sin.
When we come to these daily crossroads, we need to remember that simple phrase that Paul uses here when speaking to the church in Galatia, “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.” And we need to remember what that entails for us, and what He intends for us.
It is so easy to get caught up in the moment, and to struggle with those earthly pulls & influences. But God has something more, something better in mind for His children. We need to be intentional, take time daily, and bend our knee to the One who has paid the price for our salvation. A conscious surrender to Him is a conscious surrender to this better way, this simpler way, that honors God above self & promise over immediate gratification.
“So brothers, we are not children of the slave, but of the free woman.” We are heirs with Christ Jesus. Draw near to Him & leave the old ways behind.
Do you think that the Queen of England ever forgets her status? Do you think she ever gets up in the morning, looks around the royal bedchambers, notices a staff member setting up the tray for her morning tea, opening the curtains, laying out her things and wonders, “Well, who is this and why are they doing all this?”
No. Of course not. She’s the queen, and that life is what is afforded for her. It is part of her rank and status that she would be so cared for & so well attended. While she may have no real power, she is still beloved by those who are hers.
We often forget what we have been afforded in Christ. We look around at the world God has created, at he provision He has laid out for us, we forget how dearly loved we are. We forget =Whose= we are and we fall into the trap of disbelieving just how deeply and how greatly we are loved.
4 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.
God has made provision for =you= in Jesus Christ. He has shown the depth of His love, and breadth of His grace. He has given us a wonderful gift beyond measure. But so often we see and observe, and we turn back to what we once had. That is what Paul is dealing with in this portion of his letter to the Galatian church. Why would we turn back to the life that once had us, to the pain that once ensnared us? Why would you turn back to death once you have been brought back to life?
But we do it every day.
We leave behind the rich appointments of grace to wallow in the filth of our own sin.
This is why we are daily glad for grace, and for the presence of the Holy Spirit that corrects us. There is mourning that comes with this realization, but it is a mourning that is infused with hope.
19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
You are deeply loved and dearly bought when you are clothed with Christ. You are afforded a richness that comes with being drawn into the presence of the Living God. Jesus gave proof to His disciples after He was resurrected by doing something simple, He ate with them. He wanted them to see that this was the new reality, the new normal. The life they had been appointed to was past and there was something new on the way. This is what Jesus does for us, this is what God has laid out for us. It’s all for =His= glory, but as heirs, we share in the glorious promises of righteousness.
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
God will take great care to clothe us, care for us and shower us with His love. We are His children, deeply loved, dearly bought. Just as Christ did simple things, like eating fish, to convince His disciples that things really were as they were, even thought it was beyond hope, maybe even beyond belief, He was alive again and there, present with them. Just as He did that, we need to remember that every day, through many convincing proofs, God reminds us that He is present with us, loving us. He is our Abba, our Father, our Daddy & He cares very much for us.
Rest in His arms today. Let Him sing over you. May the joy of the Lord be your strength.
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
Galatians 6:1-10 ESV
We live in a very litigious society. There are always plenty of lawyers available on billboards and city busses ready and willing to go to battle for you…for a small fee. We have all been pretty well trained to be cynical and untrusting and there doesn’t seem to be any slowing in the pace in regards to this unfortunate trend.
But for Christians, our attitude is always supposed to be different. The way we interact with people, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ, is supposed to stand in stark contrast to the way the world does things. We shouldn’t be ready to attack, we should be ready to restore. We shouldn’t be ready to bite back when we are wounded, we should be ready to seek healing with that other person. Yes that is going to be difficult sometimes, many times in fact, but to honor God by trusting in. His way of doing things far outweighs any personal ‘satisfaction’ we may get from trying to drag someone else through the mud.
Jesus tells a parable about an unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:
“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.
But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.
Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.
So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Matthew 18:21-35 ESV
And as Christians, this is what we must remember. No one will ever, ever offend us more than we have offended God. We must always be ready with grace and mercy in our hands, mouths and hearts. We do not seek the destruction of another person, but rather to lift them up. No matter the offense? Yes. No matter the offense. We need to forgive as we have been forgiven, and be willing to die to self and our perceived ‘right to retribution’ so that another person who may have stumbled may be restored.
God takes care of making sure the ledger is balanced in the end. That is not up to us to work out today. Yes, we judge a tree by its fruit, and yes, as Christians, we are called to hold one another accountable. But we do not do things as the world does them, we seek restoration as Christ directs us, and we seek that in God’s wisdom, through His Spirit, and His Word.
Again, from Galatians 6, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Remember what you have been forgiven and show mercy appropriately. The person who is forgiven much loves much, and the person who is forgiven little, loves little (Luke 7.) And our goal as we follow Christ, is to love much, remembering just how much we have been forgiven. So, GoLove in His Spirit today.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
Matthew 5:5-9 ESV
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 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.
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 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.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
One of the saddest things I have seen has been the handful of people that I went to college with that have sacrificed the truth and authority of the Scriptures in order to satisfy their own flesh or to satisfy liberal social dogmas. Where we used to sit side by side learning and preparing for ministry, today we stand miles and miles apart. We have little to nothing in common any more and they simply serve as lessons on what compromise does to us, as it slowly peels us and pulls us further and further from the truth. One rationalization at a time, one tiny step here, one little slide there, and justification for personal desire overrides the truth of Scripture in favor of satisfying self.
Again, Paul says, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 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.”
They take up ‘social’ agendas and causes desperate to make the message of Christ ‘relevant’ to the world they have embraced, rather than seeking healing for the world around them by drawing it and pointing it toward Christ. We cannot become ‘relevant’ by compromising our core. Instead, we listen and understand Jesus when He tells us that the world isn’t going to like us, because it didn’t like Him. We should expect conflict, not a gentle sublimation into one with the world.
The Christian walk isn’t about satisfying sexual desire outside of the marriage bed of one man and one woman by pushing the homosexual agenda. The Christian walk isn’t about justifying the use of the ‘Morning After’ pill and abortion (which they call ‘Women’s Reproductive Rights) rather than defending the sanctity of all life in all stages. As Christians, spending time in the Word, we plainly see that God does not approve of living out homosexual relationships, and He does not approve of murder of innocents within the womb.
But for these former classmates of mine, they have done everything possible to shift and shape Jesus and His message, warping the definition of compassion and mercy to include allowing what has traditionally been defined as deviance and sin as acceptable behavior. They see themselves as liberators of the captives and encouragers of the oppressed in some strange mockery of Jesus’ declaration from Luke 4 (and Isaiah):
“Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
They really see themselves in this way, liberators and freedom bringers, but in doing so, they step away from the authority of Scripture and they follow the flesh. Are there people who struggle with homosexual desires? Of course, but the answer is chastity and purity not an encouragement of unacceptable behavior. Are there people who are pregnant and do not desire to be? Absolutely, but for most of them, they made the choice to engage in sexual relationships, knowing that the propagation of the species is the primary purpose of sex. The answer, again, is not to indulge in the flesh, but to remain pure and seek out an adoption minded couple to care for the child rather than murder it…
If we really want to GoLove people for the sake of Christ, if we want to share what it means to be free and to live in the desire and plan of God, then we stand firmly in the truth as we do so. Compromise isn’t love. Encouraged deviance isn’t compassion. Creating some misshapen amalgam of faith and flesh that cannot exist is not the path of salvation that Christ showed us. Grace does not allow for sin, it stands as the remedy for sin. Love is not continuing to let a wounded person bleed. Love is bringing them to the One who can bring them restoration and wholeness.
There is so much more to say on this. Paul wrote letters and letters about this struggle. But we start first with the truth found in God’s Word, we then seek His direction and wisdom as we apply that truth to our own lives, and then His love as we share it with others. Truth comes with gentleness and respect, but it does not change itself to accommodate the wayward.
“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”
Galatians 2:11-21 ESV
Sometimes we have a hard time letting grace be grace. We feel the need to tack on extras, or add just one more element that we feel is ‘key’ because it hits on a personal hot-button issue, and so we feel extra passionate about it. It usually is something that isn’t directly mentioned in Scripture, but it feels to us like it might as well have been. And so, when people don’t fulfill our extra requirement, we begin to doubt their faithfulness, we question their faith. After all, how could they not see this and how important it is? How could they purposefully and willingly live and act opposite to or indifferently to something that is so important to us? They must not care about their faith as much as we do. And so we begin to view them less as a brother or sister in Christ and more as an opponent, someone to be contended with rather than loved, someone who needs to be ‘convinced’ rather than a co-laborer in Christ. And in doing this, we create a whole new category of people in our mind:
1. People who need Christ
2. People who are already in Christ
3. People who act like they know Jesus, but we think they must just be fooling themselves, because they don’t do it like I do.
And so we keep our distance from them, and we talk about them to others who are like-minded whenever we get a chance. And we say it isn’t gossip, we’re just ‘concerned’ and want to make sure they understand how important this is. And further separation builds up in our hearts against them, and again, even though Jesus didn’t mention this directly, we feel sure He must have felt the same way we do, and so we we become a part of infighting and malicious talk and distance ourselves from the heart of Christ in the process.
This petty cycle of talk and attitude and nonsense is not what Christ had in mind for His bride, the Church. If there is something that comes up that is a legitimate issue that Scripture does directly address, or if there is a statute God lays out for us that is plainly spoken about, and we see someone living contrary to what is found in Scripture while still claiming Christ, then yes, we have a responsibility to calmly, rationally speak with them. You do judge a tree by it’s fruit, and as Christians we are called to seek reconciliation when we have been wronged, and to point out bad doctrine when we see it, just as Paul does with Peter in this passage. But it must be done directly and in love, based in concern. Not out of anger or bitterness.
Paul confronts Peter because he sees him living two different lives depending on who he is around, and he sees his doctrine shifting according to those crowds. And so, out of love and concern for Peter and more so for the truthful presentation of the Gospel, he addresses Him, personally, directly and in a group that can see what is happening and hold Peter accountable.
CAUTION: This is not a surprise intervention. This is not a witch hunt. This isn’t a ‘GOTCHA!!’ moment. This is not the Spanish Inquisition.
This is a brother in Christ sharpening another brother in Christ. This is love in action, and truth being protected. This is something you hope you never need to do, but if you do, you do it gently but directly and you do it in the company of believers who are strong, not out in public and not in front of people who are just beginning to come to Christ.
Matthew 18 has specific instructions for how to address someone who has wronged us personally or who needs correction. It is never done flippantly, lightly or without a great deal of prayer and personal inspection, checking for planks in our own eyes first.
Maintaining the purity of the message is vitally important. We do not compromise truth. But we also don’t treat others like they are not important and not worth our time along the way. If someone needs correction, then there is a proper way to handle that along the way. But we also need to ask ourselves if this is a matter of truth and doctrine or if this is a matter of opinion that we have developed, and look to the Scriptures to seek out the truth along the way. If we want to GoLove as we have first been loved, then we always consider the heart of the other person, and love them as Jesus would first before we go charging in full of righteous indignation and personal piety.
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Truth does not shift or change to accommodate culture. What was once wrong does not become right, and what was once held in highest esteem does not become irrelevant. As we watch our culture slip further and further down the slope of moral decay, as we watch churches and those who claim Christ reversing their views on marriage and morality in order to placate our corrupt culture, my heart aches and my mind reels at what is happening in my lifetime.
The truth, plainly spoken in Scripture, is obvious in its meaning and intent to those who come humbly to receive it. But to those who have been corrupted by the flesh and a desire to feel ‘relevant’ to people who have no desire to follow the truth of Christ, there are seemingly no more lines they will not cross in order to stand for this great, gaping moral failure and distancing from truth they simply regard as old, stodgy, backward tradition.
The Gospel is what the Gospel is. We are met by it as it is, in its wholeness and in its foundational truths. We either accept it as a whole, taking it for what it is, or we are creating something of our own, born in our sin and selfishness. If someone comes teaching another Gospel, another message besides the one originally taught, Paul plainly states here, then it is no gospel at all. It is a work of confusion and perversion, and nothing more. It isn’t mercy or enlightenment. It isn’t ‘proper interpretation’ or in ‘the context of the day.’ It is a corruption, a deception and leads to nothing but death.
Just plastering the name of Jesus on something that maintains a few of His teachings, cherry picked to make things feel nice, this ‘almost truth’ has been a tactic of the enemy from the get-go. To look at truth and speak the phrase ‘Did God really say…?” distorting things, tweaking them just a little, we find something that looks close enough, that feels okay, and that satiates our fleshly need to be satisfied, we find a cocktail of pluralism, universalism and sin. There is no need to beat around the bush with this or try to say it in a ‘nicer’ way. It is a false gospel. Period.
And if we are going to GoLove people for the sake of Christ, then we need to be lamp-bearers for the truth and for the Bridegroom. Trim your wicks. Refill your lanterns and stand ready. Truth doesn’t change to accommodate culture. It never has. God’s holy truth is found plainly spoken in His Word and requires no extra tweaks or twists. In order for us to be faithful servants of Christ, we simply seek to please the One who first loved us and we serve those around us in His truth and with His love and we trust in Him above any cultural conscience.