Be Kind

Since God is kind, and since He commands us to be kind (Ep 4:32), we ought to understand what kindness is.

Kind is not nice, avoiding conflict, difficulty or discomfort; at times we’re called to speak the truth (Ep 4:15) even when it wounds. (Pr 27:6) Nice is generally selfish and fearful; seeking approval and acceptance; this isn’t the servant of Christ. (Ga 1:10)

Kindness isn’t passive, weak, insecure or timid; God commands us to be strong (1Co 16:13); Kindness can be bold (Pr 28:1), standing firm (Ep 6:13), confronting evil and defending ourselves as needed. (Lk 22:36)

The root words from which we get our English word kind also give us our word kin; as if God’s calling us to treat one another like family: we are all related, members one of another. (Ep 4:25) The Greek is chrestos or useful, suggesting moral helpfulness and benevolence, also translated easy (Mt 11:30), good (Ro 2:4), and gracious. (1Pe 2:3) It’s how we treat our loved ones.

Kindness is love in action (Tit 3:4), loving my neighbor as myself, seeking their ultimate welfare. Love persists in kindness (1Co 13:4), for love perfects and completes kindness. (2Pe 1:7)

The opposite of kindness is evidently malice (Ep 4:31): having ill will, animosity, wanting less than the best for another. This is often rooted in vengeance, thinking others deserve less than the best, rendering our own sense of justice rather than letting God do so. This is, at it’s root, unbelief in the goodness of God (Ro 2:2), refusing to walk in love and let God be God.

If God is ever inviting us to what is best, both for ourselves and others, if He is never malicious, then we should be like Him. (Lk 6:35) This is our design, when we’re at our best and bring Him glory, being like Him, full of grace and truth. (Jn 1:17)

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The Whole Matter

Solomon sums up our entire duty very simply: Fear God and obey Him. (Ec 12:13) Summarizing well takes insight, and is often very useful in helping us focus.

I’ve been trying to summarize what I see going on in our post-election limbo, not knowing who our next president will be, convinced that vast voter fraud is in play to unseat president Trump. How do we view the hand of God in all this, especially if the deep state, the Left and big Tech are successful in their veritable coup? To do so, I need to step back a bit and identify a biblical perspective.

God’s goal in history is simple: He’s redeeming and purifying a bride for Himself (Tit 2:14), in the way that brings Himself the most glory. (Ps 145:10) Nothing else matters; it’s mere dust in the balance. (Is 45:15)

God is choosing to Himself souls who love the truth and pursue it (2Th 2:10); we’ll find the truth (Mt 7:8) because He’s teaching us. (1Jn 2:27)  And if God is for us, who can be against us? (Ro 8:31)

As for the world, it’s lost, steeped in wickedness. (1Jn 5:19) Yet God is restraining evil according to His perfect timing and will (2Th 2:7); He’s always in complete control of everything. (Da 4:35) Nothing takes Him by surprise; nothing frustrates Him. He’s very patient, and what He’s doing, tending His golden harvest, will be precious beyond description. (Ja 5:7)

God must let His enemies act like enemies in order to reveal and glorify Himself; there’s a purpose in all of it, even the timing; it’s perfectly designed for our good. (Ro 8:28) Only by His mercy is humanity not already so much worse than it already is, so much more dishonest and rebellious and deceitful. The final age of Man is prophesied, and it will be an order of magnitude more corrupt than anything we see today.

God has chosen certain dear believers to walk with Him during the evil days to come (Re 7:14), shining as lights in the darkness (Php 2:!5); He’s calling us all to prepare and train for battle, to be ready. (Ep 6:13) If we aren’t willing to follow Him there, then who would we send in our place? If not now, when?

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Puffed Up

How do I feel when I find myself in the right and others in the wrong, or in the know when others are ignorant? Do I feel superior, more important, more significant, more valued? Do I tend to get puffed up in my knowledge? (1Co 8:1b) This isn’t love (1Co 13:4); it’s rooted in pride, and tends toward alienation and division.

How does knowing more than others make me better? Why should this move God to love or value me more? It doesn’t; God loves each of us infinitely, because He’s made us each in His image: His love is truly unconditional. (Jn 3:16) I can’t do or be anything to get God to love or value me any more or less.

Yet false religion tries to use spirituality to make itself look better than others (Mt 23:5), to exalt itself (Lk 18:11) because it isn’t grounded in the love of God. (Ep 3:17-19) At it’s core, this is ugly and uninviting, and I think we all know it.

Love is concerned for others who are misinformed, deceived, carnal (Php 3:18) and disobedient (Ps 119:136); Love esteems other better than itself and humbly seeks to help. (2Ti 2:25) This is pure religion (Ja 1:28): without love, I am nothing. (1Co 13:2)

The love of God equalizes everyone, levels the playing field, so to speak. We all have the same invitation to come (Re 22:17), to be as close to God as we like, to partake of the divine nature (2Pe 1:4) and joy in Him. (1Pe 1:8) What we do with this amazing invitation, how we employ our skills, abilities and resources in going after God, is what defines success. (Mt 25:21)

As we pursue God we’ll come to know Him better (Php 3:8) and understand more of His Way. (He 11:6) We should be deeply thankful for such a precious privilege to know and walk with the living God (1Jn 1:3-4); it shouldn’t make us feel better about ourselves (Ep 3:8), or move us to devalue those who don’t get it.

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Great Peace

Peace is the tranquility of order in the midst of turmoil and chaos; it’s the very nature of Christ in us (Jn 14:27): an implicit, thankful trust in the eternal purposes of God, enabling us to walk in unspeakable joy in every circumstance. (1Pe 1:7-8) Christ is always at peace in Himself, and He offers Himself to us as peace; His yoke for us is easy, and His burden is light. (Mt 11:29)

Even so, peace seems elusive since our old nature resists the prescription, though it’s elegantly straightforward: Great peace have they which love thy law, and nothing shall offend them. (Ps 119:165)

The life of Christ in us loves Torah (Ro 7:22), and those who love Torah not only find peace, we find great peace.

The goal of Torah is to equip us for the godly life (1Ti 1:5), enabling us to understand that God has a plan, a purpose in all He allows, that His plan is good, and that He’s carrying out His plan according to His pleasure; nothing can stop Him. (Da 4:35)

In this knowledge, it’s impossible to be offended, to lose confidence in God, or to lose our hope in Him; with our eyes in eternal focus, nothing can happen to us or about us that will cause us to stumble in pursuing Him, or in seeking to please Him. (2Co 4:16-18) Torah defines moral reality; nothing else can, so being aligned with moral reality inoculates us against being offended, and maintains our internal order in the midst of conflict.

Peace isn’t the absence of conflict, it’s understanding that God’s in control in the midst of trouble, working out His glorious purpose. Peace is glorying in and rejoicing in His purpose, knowing He will glorify Himself in everything He allows. (Ro 5:3) The Father isn’t worried, anxious or afraid, and the Son is always doing what He sees the Father doing. Abiding in the Father and the Son (Jn 14:23), this is where we find life and peace. (Jn  17:3)

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Every Weight

What’s keeping me from being closer to God? What am I holding tightly, unwilling to release? It might not be a bad thing, in itself; it might even be a good thing. If I knew God wanted me to let go of it, would I resist?

Letting go of sin is a given, but how do I know when God wants me to let go of something that isn’t necessarily sinful?

This isn’t straightforward; there’s an ascetic temptation that isn’t good, a self-denial that isn’t godly, a will-worship that isn’t Spirit-filled. (Co 2:23) God gives us richly all things to enjoy (1Ti 6:17); as a general rule, we should be giving thanks and enjoying every perfect gift in Him. (Ja 1:17)

This is about the voice of God: when He speaks, we’ll know. If we don’t know God wants us to give something up, then He doesn’t, at least not yet. But He does call us to inspect our lives, examine ourselves, and be open-handed before Him. (Ps 139:23-24) As we pursue Him (Php 3:12), seeking His face, He’s always faithful to show us the next step. (Php 3:15)

In taking stock of our life, we may begin to note dead weight: things we’re doing or thinking that aren’t aligned with scripture, false ways that need to be rooted out; we may find some of our possessions distracting us, consuming precious energy and time; we may discover certain relationships that are consistently sapping our strength, luring us from the Way, creating needless drama in our lives. If duty isn’t calling, if it isn’t healthy, enabling us to serve or providing wholesome balance, if it’s a handicap or liability, bogging us down, weakening us, tripping us up … consider letting go.

God says, lay aside every weight. (He 12:1) It’s a matter of the heart, of attachment. If we’re not mindful of it, if it isn’t in our way, holding us back or slowing us down, then it isn’t a weight.

Travel light, disentangled from needless encumbrance. (2Ti 2:4) Maintain an eternal focus (Php 3:13-14): an earthy, temporal focus is enmity toward God. (Php 3:18-19) Life is a vapor; it isn’t about possessions (Lk 12:15), or ultimately even family (Lk 14:26) or country: we have no home here (He 13:14); our citizenship’s in heaven. (Php 3:20)

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Count It All Joy

Pain and suffering, whether physical or emotional, is so unpleasant that it’s difficult to understand how God can command us to count it all joy under various kinds of trials. (Ja 1:2) Does God expect us to disconnect from reality and not feel the normal, healthy emotional response that trauma typically evokes in our lives?

No, it isn’t actually the pain and suffering itself that God wants us to glory in; we’re to rejoice in the midst of our suffering, confident that God will produce patience in us (Ja 1:3): the ability to endure difficulty without losing hope.

If we value patience, and God works patience in each of us through suffering (He 12:6), then we can rejoice in the outcome of godly suffering. It’s through suffering that God matures and completes us; it’s necessary for our growth in godliness. (He 12:11b)

Patience seems to be the primary goal in suffering: it’s the tendency or ability to experience distress in hope: the confident expectation that God is working it all out for our good (Ro 8:28) and for His glory. (1Pe 1:7)

Patient endurance of suffering produces a wealth of practical, life experience with the faithfulness of God, as we see how He works so brilliantly through chaos and pain to accomplish His purposes. And such experience produces hope (Ro 5:3), the knowledge that God will ultimately be wondrously glorified through whatever He allows. (Re 15:4)

And such hope makes us unashamed in our suffering, as the love of God shines forth from us by the Holy Spirit. (Ro 5:5) It is in the midst of suffering that our love for God and others shines most brightly, when it’s clear that we aren’t seeking God out of selfishness, but even when it hurts, even in persecution. We’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain by rejoicing in God and knowing He’s at work; we abound in hope through the power of God in the midst of our suffering, knowing God does all things well.

So, it’s appropriate to be in heaviness as we’re suffering (1Pe 1:7), to weep and grieve and struggle (He 12:11a) – this is perfectly healthy. (Ro 12:15) But this sorrow and heaviness should not be the whole of our experience; we should not suffer like the world does, without hope. (1Th 4:13) We must also look beyond our suffering in faith, rejoicing in what God will eventually accomplish in and through our suffering. (1Pe 1:7)

We can be thankful in our suffering (1Th 5:18), and also for our suffering (Ep 5:20), knowing there’s a glorious purpose in everything God allows. (Ep 1:11)

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What He Seeth the Father Do

Abiding in Jesus Christ is living our lives as He would live them, doing what He’s doing as He lives in us. (Col 1:27)

And Christ is doing today what He’s always done, looking to see what His Father’s doing. (Jn 5:19) So we should follow His steps, doing the same, what we see the Father doing, and not doing what the Father isn’t doing.

Is the Father fearful of Man? No? Then we shouldn’t be (Mt 10:28); that’s not what the Father’s doing.

Is the Father envious, covetous, or discontent? No? Then we shouldn’t be (He 13:5); that’s not what the Father’s doing.

Is the Father troubled, or worried about the future? No? Then we shouldn’t be (Jn 14:27); that’s not what the Father’s doing.

When we’re not doing what the Father’s doing, we’re living like the world, alienated from the life of God through our ignorance. (Ep 4:17-18) This is a life of dead works, from which we turn away (He 6:1), cleansed of them by the blood of Christ to serve the living God. (He 9:14)

So, what is the Father doing? He’s always up to something. (Jn 5:17) We should seek His face (Ps 27:8) so we can see what He’s up to, and be about His business. (Lk 2:49)

God reveals His Way within us in and though our own will as we yield to Him. (Php 2:13) Every glance of our hearts, every whisper, every subtle move, submitted for inspection and correction to the Word of God hidden in our heart (Ps 119:11), cleansing our way all day, every day. (vs 9) Where we stray from His Word we ask Him to make us go in the path of His commands as we delight in them (Ps 119:35); God is able to do this (2Co 9:8), and so He does. (1Co 1:9)

The Father is always rejoicing in the Son (2Pe 1:17); so should we.

The Father is Light (1Jn 1:5); when we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with Him (1Jn 1:7) and become a light proving what’s acceptable to God. (Ep 5:8-10)

Known unto God are all His works from the foundation of the world. (Ac 15:18) As we obey the Father in faith and wisdom, and are faithful in the little things, He gives us more to do. (Lk 12:42)

This is our privilege and our glory, through the Son to see with the Father’s eyes, to feel with the Father’s heart, to be His members in the here and now (Ep 5:30), to hear from Him in the last Day, “Well done!” (Mt 25:21)

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Made Alive

Each of us is an individual, uniquely and personally designed by God (Ps 119:73), made in His image. Yet as believers in God we’re also part of something larger, the body of Christ (1Co 12:27), thus members one of another. (Ro 12:5)

This body of Christ, of which every believer is a member, must then extend across time and space, comprising many distinct living building blocks (1Pe 2:5), all being continuously knit together into a single organism (Col 2:19), as actual members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. (Ep 5:30)

As Christ raised Himself, His divine body, from the dead, making Himself alive again, overcoming death and the grave, those in Christ are raised up together with Him. (Col 2:13) It is as though the Resurrection occurs both as an historical event, and also as a timeless, ongoing reality, outside of time and space.

As God is ever present in every moment of time, continually experiencing every instant of time all the time, He is always there at the instant of the Resurrection of Christ, always defeating death permanently and fully and completely in Christ.

And in His Resurrection, Jesus Christ is also quickening each believer, raising each particular soul from both physical and spiritual death to be forever alive together with Him and in Him. (1Co 15:22)

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a verifiable historical fact which proves and demonstrates that something profound is continually happening, and that it will continue to happen, until it is complete (Php 1:6): until all that are in Christ are raised to perfection and newness of life. (Ro 6:4)

As surely as Christ has risen, so each and every living soul in Him will one day be quickened in a spiritual body like His to eternal life. (1Co 15:49) Christ is the Firstfuits, the promise and first evidence of the coming harvest: the rest of us who are in Him. (1Co 15:23)

Our resurrection from the dead has already happened in Christ (Ep 2:6); God sees the end from the beginning as if it were altogether one, and calls those things which be not as though they already were. (Ro 4:17) It’s done — Christ leaves none of His own behind. (Jn 6:39)

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Be Perfect

Christ commands us to be perfect (Mt_5:48); the Greek is teleios: complete, mature, flawless, morally perfect. This is an impossible standard, clearly, but it’s not surprising: God doesn’t tolerate imperfection, and He shouldn’t. (De 18:13) He requires perfection of us because it’s right for Him to do so (Re 3:2); our lack of ability is irrelevant. (Pr 20:9)

So, how should we respond to this demand for moral perfection? There are dangers here we do well to avoid.

Firstly, we shouldn’t complain about God being unfair: fair is giving us all what we deserve – eternal torment in the Lake of Fire. We’re all desperately wicked (Je 17:9), unbelievably sinful, even on our best day. (Is 64:6) There’s no requirement for God to lower the righteous standard simply because we’ve chosen to sin and corrupt our will. Borrowing more than we can ever repay, and gambling it all away, doesn’t mean we owe any less. We’re guilty as charged: we need mercy. (Lk 18:13)

Secondly, we shouldn’t try to lower the standard for ourselves (Mt 18:26); aiming for anything less than perfection is willful sin (He 10:26); choosing this as a life pattern is insolent, arrogant, disrespectful to God – inexcusable. (vs 27) Every willful sin is a personal affront to God; He hates all who break His laws on purpose. (Ps 5:5) We must try our best, our very best, to be as perfect as possible (2Pe 1:5-7), as poor as that might be. (Php 3:12)

Thirdly, we must ground ourselves in the unconditional love of God (Ep 3:19): God loves each of us because He made each of us uniquely in His image, with His own hands. (Ps 119:73) Real love isn’t conditioned on behavior (Mt 5:44-45): God loves the righteous and the sinner equivalently, because that’s His holy nature.

We must be grounded in the love of God to retain our sanity before Him while we’re stained in our sin. (He 11:6) Our sin is repulsive to Him; it makes Him indignant (Mi 7:9), and every single one of our sins must be dealt with firmly and justly. Yet even in His anger God Is Good – there isn’t a malicious bone in God’s body, and we must count on this in order to function as we consider the second death. While there’s any doubt about our standing before Him, we remain in dreadful peril.

The only sane response to God’s demand for perfection is to find refuge in Christ through the gospel. The terror of God moves us to seek Him (2Co 5:11), to pursue salvation from our sin until we know we’re safe in Christ, absolutely sure. (1Jn 5:13) We can not afford to stand before God all on our own, and be judged according to our own works.

We should examine ourselves very carefully to ensure that we’re in the faith; we should be able to prove this. (2Co 13:5) There are things that accompany salvation (He 6:9); without these manifest in our lives we’re deceiving ourselves. (Ja 1:22) Until we’re perfectly sure of our eternal destiny, we strive to enter the kingdom (Lk 13:24), and labor to enter into His rest (He 4:11); diligently making our election sure. (2Pe 1:10)

We work this out, our own salvation from both the penalty and power of sin in our lives, with fear and trembling. (Php 2:12) We don’t rest until we know that Christ Himself is our own personal advocate, dying in our place for us, giving us His perfect righteousness (1Jn 2:1) and working His righteousness in us (Ep 2:10), making us as eternally safe from the wrath of God as He is.

It is only from the safety of eternal rest that we pursue perfection with joy, not to be saved, but because this is right, aligned with our new nature to love and obey God. (Ps 119:4) We don’t presume the liberty to sin because He has redeemed us.

And as we pursue God, we don’t let others define good and evil for us, telling us what perfection looks like – we go back to Torah (Is 8:20) and check every requirement against it (Ac 17:11), searching out truth for ourselves. (Ps 119:99) One of Satan’s tactics is to both add to the Word and take away from it (De 4:2), imposing such unhealthy, burdensome regulations that we either rebel, or we or become hateful, proud and judgmental in keeping them. (Mt 23:4)

Finally, and this is key, we don’t focus overly much on ourselves, on our own behavior and how we’re failing; we stop trying in our own strength to be perfect. We grow in holiness through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit as we behold Jesus Christ. (2Co 3:18) Behold Him and rejoice in Him (Php 4:4); He’s the one who gives us faith (He 12:2), our access to grace, the power to live for God. (Ro 5:2) Christ Himself is our life (Col 3:4), and our sanctification. (1Co 1:30)

We behold Christ primarily through Torah, (Ps 119:18), which shows us where we need cleansing (Ps 119:9), then we ask for help to obey (vs 10), hiding His Word in your heart and meditating on it (Ps 119:97) so we won’t sin against Him. (vs 11)

As we receive with meekness the engrafted Word, beholding the living Christ within it, the lies we believe, which keep us in bondage, are exposed and corrected through God’s gift of repentance. (2Ti 2:25-26) This is how Christ transforms us and delivers us from sin. (Ja 1:21) He Himself is the Word, giving us His life (Ps 119:50) through the scriptures (Jn 6:63), enabling us to live uprightly.

We don’t dwell on our own sin, focusing on it constantly; there’s a specific season for this, in which we’re to afflict ourselves. (Ja 4:9) As a general pattern we meditate on Christ through His word (Php 4:8); He points out things that are amiss, where we’re off the mark, imperfect (He 4:12), as He is pleased to work in us.

As He does reveal our sin to us, our imperfections, flaws and weaknesses, we immediately confess and agree with Him, asking Him to quicken and enable us to obey Him (Ps 119:35), and to reveal specific scriptures to us which shed light on our darkness and lies. (Ps 119:130) We meditate on these texts until they become part of us, prayerfully quoting them whenever we feel tempted. (Mt 4:4) This is how we take the sword, the sword of the Spirit, and fight the good fight of faith (1Ti 6:12), abiding in Him, so we won’t be ashamed before Him when He comes. (1Jn 2:28)

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That Which Is Behind

God is infinitely self-sufficient; He doesn’t need our worship or our service. He is perfectly complete and content in Himself.

Even so, there is something God lacks, which He may only obtain through us: affliction. (Col 1:24) God would not afflict Himself, or cause Himself grief or suffering: this only comes to Him through sin.

This suffering in God is not at all for God; it is for us; it is the vehicle through which God chooses to reveal His infinite nature and character to the universe (Ro 9:22-23), and the elect are the primary beneficiaries of this.

And it may very well be that the primary way God suffers is by allowing His children to suffer innocently at the hands of the wicked. When believers are persecuted, Jesus Christ takes it personally, as if He Himself were being persecuted. (Ac 9:4) This is a gift He gives Himself through us and for us, and also a deep privilege he bestows upon us. (Php 1:29)

Perhaps it is only in this mindset that we fully rejoice in difficulty (Ja 1:2) and tribulation (Ro 5:3): suffering not only works patience and holiness in us (He 12:10-11), but will eventually serve to glorify God immensely. (1Pe 1:6-7) If God is allowing others to afflict Himself through us, for a glorious eternal purpose, we can glory in this as well for His sake. (Php 3:10)

There’s something about God’s suffering that will vindicate and glorify Him one day. The nature of His enemies will be open to the universe, impossible to hide, since He’s given them liberty to pursue their own free will. Most all of what they have done will have been perpetrated against His own, whom the world hates because it hates Him. (Jn 15:19) In that day, in the context of the suffering of God, there will be no just complaints, no excuse for the wicked. (Ro 1:20)

Let’s be ready and willing to suffer for God as He wills (Ga 6:14), to let Him suffer in and through us. (Ga 2:20) This light affliction, for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. (2Co 4:17)

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