A Very Small Thing

Laying hold of eternal life (1Ti 6:19) is more than finding justification, it’s being transformed by gospel truth.

One of these basic truths is that God loves each one of us enough to become our sin (2Co 5:21); He’s willing to lay down His life to rescue a single human soul. He thus places infinite value on each one of us.

In light of JEHOVAH’s valuing of us, for us to value the opinions of others above His, to be moved to feel more or less significant or treasured in how others treat us, is to effectively discount and dismiss God’s valuing of us, to trade in His estimation for Man’s … which must be immensely offensive and insulting to Him, our enmity towards the Godhead constantly bleeding through. (Ro 8:7)

We do this in countless ways as we react to the opinions of others; in being threatened and intimidated by their disapproval, and basking in their praise … we’re treating them as idols (1Jn 5:21), as if they’re God.

It isn’t that the discernment of others shouldn’t matter at all; their judgments, observations, complaints and encouragements are a rich source of wisdom in our pursuit of holiness — others can often see our faults, weaknesses and strengths much more easily than we can. It’s that we must keep this all in perspective; it’s a very small thing (1Co 4:3), incidental, trinkets among gems; all else is the fear of man. (Pr 29:25)

Even in something as small as winning or losing a game or contest, do we feel better or worse about ourselves either way? What does this really look like when we’re loving one another as ourselves, and God with all our hearts?

The pride of life (1Jn 2:16) is valuing, or even disvaluing ourselves, apart from God (Ja 4:10); thinking we can judge human worth or significance in any way on our own. (Mt 7:1) It’s an abomination to God (Lk 16:15), and seems as natural as breathing. (Job 15:16)

If the king is a personal friend, whom I can call and chat with on a whim, and is pleased with me, what does it matter if others are, or aren’t? How much more so with the King of glory, ought we to focus solely on hearing Him say, “Well done!” (Mt 25:23)

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Things that Are Excellent

What we approve reflects who and what we are. This is more than weeding out explicitly sinful things, not only the appearance of black amongst the shades of gray, but also anything that smacks of impurity, of dullness in spirit, mind or body, of mediocrity … approving only what’s excellent. (Php 1:10)

Holiness cannot accommodate impurity within. (Ep 4:27) We’re to be adding virtue to our faith (2Pe 1:5); thinking we can behave inconsistently from time to time, making excuses for ourselves, is to rob ourselves of virtue, of excellence.

We become what we behold (2Co 3:18): His excellency is excellent in every conceivable way. We may observe it in Creation, and in the Word, and in His gifting in the saints.

Perhaps it is only in feeding in the majesty, rejoicing in His infinitude, that we learn to recognize the mediocrity within and about us, and to despise it as beneath the image of God.

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Love One Another

When God tells us to love others as ourselves (Le 19:18), there’s an implicit command to love ourselves, to treat ourselves and each other with honor and respect as children of JEHOVAH; the command is empty otherwise.

Unless we love ourselves, how can we love others? And if we don’t love others, how can we love God? (1Jn 4:20)

This isn’t about putting ourselves first (2Ti 3:2); self-focus can be strangely twisted, fearing success, prosperity, blessing, and envying those who find it. It isn’t even about liking ourselves, or thinking we’re better than others; that’s pride.

At it’s root, love is benevolence: desiring the best, for ourselves and others (1Co 10:24), seeking the well-being of all, the harm of none. (Php 2:15) It’s rejoicing in another’s prosperity and grieving in their loss. (Ro 12:15) It’s being aware of others, of what they’re perceiving and valuing, ever seeking to help them become their very best selves. (Php 2:4)

Loving God is loving what He loves, hating what He hates. (Ps 97:10) If God so loves each one of us that He’ll become our sin and die in our place, placing infinite value on every single human soul, we certainly ought to seek each other’s welfare, including our own. (1Jn 4:11) Seeking God, cleaving to JEHOVAH with all our heart and encouraging others to do the same, is the beginning of love (2Jn 1:6); there is no welfare outside Him. (Re 22:15)

Growing in God is growing in benevolence (1Th 3:12), becoming more like Him. (Mt 5:44-45) When I find myself disinterested in the welfare of another, or neglecting my own, Father, remind me of Your heart; Your arms are always open, inviting us all to come, and always will be. (Re 22:17)

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Spirit, Soul and Body

Atheists tell us we’re just electro-chemical accidents, yet most of us instinctively know better, that our lives matter, that we have intrinsic value, that we’re made in God’s image. But what exactly is this image?

God describes us as a trinity: spirit, soul and body (1Th 5:23), comparable to the way He’s revealed Himself as Father, Son and Holy Ghost. (Mt 28:19) This should come as no surprise; an image is a likeness. But are we a soul with a spirit and a body, or a body with a spirit and a soul, or a spirit with a soul and a body? What, in essence, defines us?

Clearly, we’re not our body (Lk 12:4); we’re much more than this.

Are we then a spirit with a soul and a body? The Psalmist views his spirit as something within himself, distinct from his core self. (Ps 143:4) Stephen, upon his death, seems to view his spirit as something conveying him to Christ, but something he has, not what he is. (Act_7:59)

When God created Adam and breathed into him, man “became a living soul.” (Ge 2:7) The essence of our identify appears to be revealed here: we’re souls with bodies and spirits. Our spirit is evidently formed along with our soul and comprises our spiritual temple, being inseparably linked with our souls, through which we know and feel. (1Co_2:11)

It’s our souls that sin, not our bodies or spirits (Ez 18:4), so it’s our souls which need atonement. (Le 17:11)

We can speak to our souls as ourselves, the essence of who we are (Lk 12:19), the source of our motivations, thoughts and intentions. Death is requiring our soul to leave our body. (Lk 12:20) If we lose our soul (Mt 16:26), we lose our very selves. (Lk 9:25)

So, becoming, growing, improving ourselves, who we are, is in our souls, not our minds or bodies (1Ti 4:8); we evolve through our choices, which mold and reveal us. We’re eternal soul beings headed toward eternity, to only one of two possible ends. We’re designed to be gods (Ps 82:6), but we can make ourselves into fiends. (Jn 6:70) Choose wisely: every choice we make shapes us in eternity.

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He Was Sick

Some faith healers teach it’s always God’s will to heal deformity, sickness and disease immediately, that if we’re suffering physically in any way, it’s due to sin and/or our lack of faith in God: in other words, our own fault.

Though it’s true that sin can cause physical weakness, disease and sickness (1Co_11:30), Scripture never presumes sin is the sole cause of disease, or even a typical one. Nor does it teach that being sick for a season is necessarily our fault; it does not teach that it’s always God’s will to heal us immediately.

For the innocent, presuming sin is the reason for affliction, or even a lack of faith, adds insult to injury. (Jn 9:3)

Case in point is Epaphras, a dear man of God who became sick while serving Christ. (Php 2:30) He didn’t have authority to heal himself immediately, nor did Paul. His healing came at the last minute, and it was undeserved: God had mercy on him. (Php 2:30) If his state had anything to do with a lack of faith, Paul wouldn’t have tolerated it.

Trophimus, who ministered with Paul, became so sick Paul had to leave him behind. (2Ti 4:20) And Timothy had such physical problems Paul suggested a dietary change. (1Ti 5:23) Again, if a lack of faith were the sole cause of seasons of weakness and sickness, these texts would not be written as they are.

At times, Paul himself took pleasure in being afflicted with various infirmities as a way to reveal the sufficiency of God’s grace in his life (2Co 12:10); he didn’t presume it was always God’s will to heal immediately.

Granted, at times, God may be willing to heal instantly and miraculously, and we might, in fact, forego healing due to our lack of faith (Mt 17:19-20): anything we ask in faith, we receive. (Mt 21:22) We often suffer because we don’t pray, and even when we do pray it’s selfish, and so in vain. (Ja 4:2-3)

But God is no man’s servant; He isn’t this giant, cosmic vending machine dolling out gifts to those who have the right feelings or speak the right words. There’s nothing we can do to manipulate Him, and presuming we know His will in a situation can lead to tremendous pain and frustration. His ways are often mysterious, and His will in any given situation is not, in my experience, obvious. I think the key is in understanding what it means to ask in faith, and how this works.

To pray in faith is to pray knowing the will of God (1Jn 5:14) for the glory of God. (Php 1:21) Faith isn’t about trying to make ourselves believe something, it’s about walking so closely with God that we sense what He’s doing to glorify Himself. (Jn 5:20)

Trying to harness spiritual power through ritual or technique is the essence of witchcraft. The human soul in itself is exceedingly powerful; we must carefully distinguish between godly faith and presumption. The slightest twist of God’s truths can make them poisonous; if we aren’t careful we may, like faith healers often do, use them like knives to wound the innocent. (Pr 12:18)

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