Drawn Away

Is it a sin to be tempted? Evidently not: Christ was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin. (He 4:15) Then again, perhaps tempted can mean different things depending on who’s being tempted, and by what.

It isn’t a sin to be tested, merely to have sinful choices presented to us. It was in this sense Christ was tempted (Mt 4:1); He certainly had many opportunities to sin, to break God’s Law (1Jn 3:4), but He never did.

But we are tempted when we’re drawn away of our own lust and enticed. (Ja 1:14) Drawn away from what? From God, from holiness, from wisdom, purity and love. We are enticed, feeling the internal pull and attraction of sin drawing us away from the light into the darkness. This isn’t Christ (Jn 14:30): God cannot be tempted in this way. (Ja 1:13) The very suggestion of sin is repulsive to Him. (Ps 45:7)

We may not feel this is sin, to be drawn away from God and enticed; we may be confident that we aren’t in sin until our lust — the unlawful desire within us — conceives, giving birth in our hearts and minds to intent and will to pursue what’s forbidden us. After all, we’re only human.

Clearly, intending to break God’s law is sin as well (Ja 1:15a); that’s  taking disobedience to a whole new level, often resulting in outwardly sinful behavior, leading ultimately to death. (15b) Considering the consequences and long-term impact of our sin when we’re feeling tempted like this is a certainly a powerful deterrent. (1Co 6:18) This is wisdom, and the fear of God. (Pr 14:16)

Yet, by definition, being enticed by a sinful choice actually is sin if being in that state necessarily violates any of God’s laws. So, we might look at it this way: Can we be loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength (De 6:5), as we’re being drawn away from God? Or does being drawn away from God necessarily imply that we’re already, in some way, loving Him less than He deserves? When our soul is fully satisfied in Him (Ps 63:5-6), what can draw us away? (Ps 73:25)

When we aren’t in deep communion with God, feeding on the majesty, whenever we’re distracted, tired, bitter or wounded, that same old primal lie that God doesn’t quite satisfy, and that something else will, beckons. Lust can then draw us even farther away, our desires becoming more pronounced and powerful, because we’re not fully satisfied in God, we’re not pursuing and enjoying Him as we ought, we’re not loving Him with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind. That’s how we give place to the devil (Ep 4:27), offering him ground to work in us all manner of wrongful desire. (Ro 7:8)

We may choose to live our lives in unfulfilled passion, exerting a brute force asceticism in denying ourselves the pleasures of sin for a season. (He 11:25) This is certainly better than giving in to our lusts, yet there must be a better way. (Ps 63:3)

Perhaps if we seek (Mt 7:7-8), we can find the life of Christ rooting out the sin nature itself (Ro 7:24-25a), bit by bit, realigning our internal affections in God (Ro 12:2), cleansing us of the great lie in all its insidious shades and nuance, until we’re joyfully esteeming the unsearchable riches of Christ greater than any earthly pleasure. (He 11:26) Perhaps then would grace reign through rightesouness in us (Ro 5:21), and the world would not be so enticing. (1Jn 2:15-16)

articles    blog

Sound Speech

God forbids us from using words improperly, saying or writing anything that’s destructive or harmful, speech which isn’t edifying. He calls this corrupt communication, and says we aren’t to tolerate it within ourselves. (Ep 4:29) What He’s looking for is sound speech which shines under the strictest moral scrutiny. (Tit 2:8a)

Sound speech is speaking the truth in love (Ep 4:15), to move the hearer to a better place, springing from wisdom, knowledge and humility, encouraging others and ourselves in a godly way. Anything else is corrupt.

For example, if we say something arrogantly, proudly or maliciously it can’t be edifying (1Pr 2:1); this isn’t sound speech. If we’re seeking someone’s harm in an unrighteous manner, speaking ill of them (Ja 4:11), this can’t be helpful: it’s corrupt. (Ep 4:31)

If we speak simply to draw attention to ourselves, to exalt to boast or commend ourselves, this isn’t edifying. (Php 2:3) It may be edifying to point out our behavior and experience as an example or encouragement (Php 3:17), or to invite souls to rejoice with us in our accomplishments (Ro 12:15), or even to describe our faults and ask for prayer (Ja 5:16), but simply drawing attention to ourselves isn’t edifying. (1Co 13:4-5)

Certainly, no lie, false accusation (1Ti 3:3), or half-truth can be edifying because it seeks to hide the light from those who ought to know it (1Jn 2:10), and encourages them to remain in darkness. Even claims which might be true should not be stated as true unless we’re certain. Silence might be wisdom when speaking certain truths would not be edifying (Jn 16:12), but we should put away lying: whenever we do speak, speak only the truth. (Ep 4:25)

Also, we shouldn’t swear as a means of assuring others we’re telling the truth; that’s the way of lying. (Ps 119:29) No gradations are permitted in the Way of truth (30), everything we express must be completely and utterly aligned with what we know to be true. A simple Yes or No is sufficient when we’re walking in truth; anything less is corrupt. (Mt 5:34-37)

And what of exclamations, expletives, cursing and profanity? If we shall give an account for every idle word (Mt 12:36), how shall explain our use of these?Some seem harmless, but are they sound speech?

Using God’s name or title as any kind of expletive or exclamation is taking His name in vain, irreverently, not as intended, a violation of the 3rd Commandment (Ex 20:7), so it is corrupt. Similarly, cursing — invoking spiritual power to harm someone — is off limits. (Ja 3:9-10)

But what about words expressing anger, frustration, annoyance, surprise or even wonder? Expletives and exclamations, is this sound speech, or corrupt communication? A good test might be, “Do I see Jesus saying this?” (1Pe 4:11) In other words, can I say it in His name, on His behalf?” (Col 3:17) Does it glorify God? (1Co 10:31) Is it the most effective and efficient way to encourage or edify another? Is there a more precise way to express what I’m feeling or thinking? Is it something I need to express, such that I’ll be negligent and unloving if I don’t?

A general rule here might be: When in doubt, don’t. (Ro 14:23) Be swift to hear, but thoughtfully precise, selective and deliberate in speech (Ja 1:19), choosing words carefully, prayerfully and intentionally. (Pr 19:10) To the degree we don’t control our tongue, even when we’re surprised and excited, our religion is empty and pointless. (26)

And what of idle conversation, words filing the air just because we’re uncomfortable with silence? If it isn’t edifying, again, it’s  not sound speech, it’s corrupt.

And finally, speech which weakens us, deprecating words designed to lower or belittle ourselves — this also is corrupt, unloving to both ourselves and others. Perhaps we’re afraid of the strength of those about us, wanting to make ourselves small so as avoid abuse or oppression, or we may be looking for sympathy, or forgiveness, or nursing a deep father wound and lack that robust, healthy self-confidence which is unashamed of God’s design and gifting within us. Whatever the root of unhealthy speech, if it isn’t grounded in the dignity and love of God, it’s corrupt, profane and vain babbling. (2T 2:16)

The overriding principle is edification: does my communication honor all people (1Pe 2:7), treating all – including myself – with love, wisdom, compassion and respect? (Col 4:5) Is God at work within and through my words, not to control and manipulate, but to empower in godliness? Am I considering others, where they are and what they need, deliberately enabling them in a right relationship with God (Col 4:5-6), laying a good foundation against the time to come? (Mt 12:37)

This is the high calling (Php 3:14), for sure. I count myself to have apprehended (13) and press forward toward the mark. To master the tongue in sound speech and not offend is to be mature, able to properly discipline the entire body.  (Ja 3:2)

The ideal in Christ is sound speech that can’t be condemned, so when the adversaries come to accuse, they’ll have nothing to say (Tit 2:8), and then to hear God will say, “Well done!” (1Co 4:5)

articles    blog

Make Friends

The parable of the Unjust Steward is challenging, putting it mildly. When Christ says, “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” (Lk 16:9), is He saying befriend the wealthy so when we fall on hard times they’ll be there to rescue us?

The mammon of unrighteousness would be material things this unrighteous world values, tools for good and evil. They aren’t ours (Ps 24:1), so we’re all stewards, and like the steward in the parable (Lk 16:1-2) we’ll all be accused of mismanagement (Jn 5:45) and held accountable. (Ro 14:11-12)

So, we all find ourselves in a similar crisis: we’re flawed in fundamental ways, our record shows this and judgment is coming; we should prepare to make the best of it using every means at our disposal. Pass or fail, the consequences will be eternal. (Ro 2:6-11) In this predicament, Christ is telling us, “make friends.” In other words, live such that when Judgment Day comes those testifying in the heavenly court will be on our side, welcoming us into Paradise.

Consider that everyone who has ever lived will be present at this final Day of Judgment, and those we’ve impacted through our lives will be testifying about us (Ja 5:4), agreeing with God in how they view us, being for or against us. (Mt 12:41-42) Our own works will also bear witness (Ja 5:3), our every act testifying in heavenly court. (Mt 12:36) There will be no deception or partiality; if we’ve walked in holiness before God even the wicked will be forced to agree. (1Pe 2:12)

So, the kinds of friends we should be thinking about here aren’t those who’d pay our bills when we’re unemployed, but those who’ll be receiving us into everlasting habitations, standing between us and our eternal home, inviting us in or barring our way. We must keep short accounts (Mt 5:25-26) and manage our affairs with an eternal perspective. (Col 4:5) As the unjust steward wisely navigated his crisis to secure his earthly comfort for a season (Lk 16:8), Christ is calling us to holy intensity (Mt 5:29-30), striving to secure our eternal welfare. (2Pe 1:10-11)

As we steward earthly resources we’re laying an eternal foundation (1Ti 6:17-19), so let’s make it solid, grounded firmly in the Rock of our salvation (Ps 95:1), to withstand the blasts of God’s penetrating inspection. (Mt 7:24-25)

This isn’t salvation by works; we’re saved by faith (Ep 2:8-9), but our works do reveal our faith. (Ja 2:18) We show what we believe by what we do, so when our actions don’t align with faith in Christ it’s a faith issue (Lk 6:46), a peril of sobering consequences. (Ro 8:13)

To find healing we examine ourselves (2Co 13:5), confess our faults to those who are praying for us (Ja 5:16), and root out the lies which bind us. (Jn 8:32) Living this way doesn’t produce salvation – it’s the life salvation produces. (Ep 2:10)

articles    blog

Of the Truth

Our orientation toward truth is fundamental; it defines what kind of people we are. In relation to truth, there are only two kinds of people: those who love the truth, and those who don’t.

Almost everyone who has ever lived is in this second group: those who don’t love truth. To them, truth is desirable when it suits their purpose, when it aligns with their agenda, when it gives them what they want. Otherwise, truth is a burden, a threat, an obstacle they intend to manage and work around, in which case a lie appears as a relief, preferred and most easily accepted.

Those who want to believe what suits them don’t love the truth and seek it out, regardless how it might impact them. Once the lie is offered with any chance of being correct, they grasp on to it and hold it close. They must then love darkness rather than light, because they’ve not aligned themselves with truth (Jn 3:19), but hold the truth in unrighteousness, angering God. (Ro 1:18)

Those who love the truth obey and follow the truth at any cost. It becomes our only way; we know no other. We know no lie is of the truth (1Jn 2:21), and all truth is consistent with all other truth. So, we can accept no real inconsistency in our world view — we permit nothing in it that doesn’t align with all reality as we perceive it.

It’s a narrow way, often lonely — any step to the side is indeed treacherous. It’s better not to know the truth, not to even come this way, if we aren’t going to obey it. (1Pe 2:21) Yet the effort eventually leads us to God, so we end up with God, in God, aligned with Him Who is the Truth, because all truth, all reality, points to Him. (Ep 4:21)

For example, the complexity of Creation proves there’s a Designer. Contemplate the odds of a single useful protein forming by chance, even if all required elements happen to be present in the same space, intermingling with each other, and manage to assemble themselves in some random way. The odds are comparable to that of two people blindly selecting the same atom from among all the atoms in our Milky Way galaxy. And protein is just one element of an irreducibly and incredibly complex machine at the base of all life forms. The fact of a Designer is clearly seen, being understood by us all, and easily verified. It is the beginning of the way, and even this first step sets us in rare and precious company.

Given a Creator, Who evidently made us all in His own image, one reasonably expects some ancient religion to reveal Him. Nothing compares to Torah, not even close. The very existence of Israel is infallible proof that God is real, and that He has openly revealed Himself to the world. Yet, who’s been focusing on knowing the God of the Old Testament? This next step separates us even further, alienating us from the more popular religions of the world.

Following Torah leads us to the Jewish Messiah (Ga 3:24): the only Man to predict His own death and resurrection, pull it off exactly as predicted by Hebrew prophets hundreds of years earlier, and have the fact verified by hundreds of eye-witnesses, who were all willing to die rather than live out of step with this fact: it cost them everything. People make up lies all the time, but they aren’t willing to die for what they know is a lie. The Resurrection of Christ is the most provable fact of all history. And this step isolates us yet more, pitting us against most all of the Jews. (Ro 11:28)

The incarnation of Christ is indeed the ultimate singularity, putting the resurrection in perspective: divinity piercing the human domain for a sovereign purpose. (Jn 3:17) And this leads us to Who Jesus is, why Jesus died, and for whom He died — that He might bring us to God. (1Pe 3:18) And so, we’re home at last.

We know we’re of the truth, at home in Christ, when we walk in love, and also in truth (1Jn 3:18-19), seeking the ultimate welfare of all, yet unwilling to live apart from the truth, even a little bit, even to spare those who are deeply offended by it.

Thus, in being of the truth, though we seek the world’s good, we invariably find ourselves in the crosshairs of the world’s hatred of truth; to avoid the truth they must ultimately mock and dismiss us, or eradicate and overcome us — we shouldn’t be surprised if the world hates us (13), just as it hated Him. (Jn 7:7)

articles    blog

Your Moderation

Some of us are wired to be extreme, always looking for boundary conditions, testing and exploring. We want to know our limits, how things work, and why things are the way they are. This can be a good thing, and it can also be problematic.

God tells us to let our moderation be known unto all men (Php 4:5a), relating this to the fact that He’s at hand, close by, imminently revealing Himself. (b) He evidently values stability, precision, an evenness of spirit that’s perfectly under our control, and would have this on constant display in us for all to inspect.

The word moderation is epieikes, also translated gentle (Tit 3:2), and patient (1Ti 3:3); it implies restraint on the passions, general soberness of living, being free from all excesses, fit or suitable, appropriate, mild. Perhaps the reference to the Lord’s ever-presence informs the choice of moderation here.

It’s not that we’re to avoid extremes altogether; indeed, we’re commanded to love God in the extreme (De 6:4) and rebuked for lukewarmness. (Re 3:16) We cannot love God too much, obey Him too well, or be too holy or righteous. (Mt 5:48)

The idea here is likely related to self-control, companied with a proper aim in our behavior. We’re to be constantly tuning the wavelengths of our expression to align perfectly with God in every situation. This is the very definition of being appropriate, and it requires both discipline and holy intention. (Php 3:15-16)

Controlling ourselves apart from a godward focus leads to pride and will-worship (Col 2:23), and a godward focus without self-control is spineless passion. (Pr 25:28) Neither are Christ. (Ep 4:20)

We’re to both approve things that are excellent (Php 1:10) and also master ourselves in pursuing them. (1Co 9:27)

Yet our perception of excellence is incomplete (1Co 8:2), and our aim depends on what we can currently apprehend. (Php 3:13-14) As we pursue our present vision of Christ He reveals more of Himself to us (2Pe 3:18), and then we find that our definition of perfection is refined and we adjust.

Spiritual life is a cycle of moderating ourselves in Christ, for Christ, adding to our faith, being sanctified and transformed into His image. (Ro 8:29)

articles    blog

Thou Shalt Not Covet

Lust, especially for men, can be an uncomfortable topic. Finding a woman attractive and giving her more than a passing glance is commonly understood to be sin, equivalent to adultery. As men are primarily visually oriented, it’s no surprise that men struggle here; it’s the focus of many an accountability session.

Women, on the other hand, don’t seem to find the topic troublesome at all and seldom discuss it, other than perhaps in confronting men. Evidently, most of us have bought into the lie that it’s primarily a masculine concern.

But what if, as in so many other ways, we’ve made up our own definition of lust, cherry-picking verses out of context to suit ourselves, and overlooking the heart of scripture?

God clearly defines lust in the 10th commandment – Thou shalt not covet (Ro 7:7): we’re forbidden to desire what belongs to another, such that we’d wrongly dispossess them if given opportunity.

This is different than thinking it might be nice to have what our neighbor does. Clearly, if we like our neighbor’s boat and offer him a reasonable sum — this isn’t lust, it’s basic economics: there’s nothing unholy or unloving here.

The definition of lust implies it violates the law of love in some way. (Ro 13:9) So, if a man finds a woman attractive, enjoys her beauty as he would a sunset, and seeks her welfare, where’s the harm? But in entertaining a plan to entice her, knowing she’s married, he’s crossed a forbidden line. (Pr 5:20)

We must define lust in the context of God’s Law (Ro 7:7), not in the context of common sentiment. Changing the definition of sin is harmful on so many levels. Finding a woman attractive is perfectly natural and wholesome, but seeking to use or defile her definitely is: it violates Torah. (Pr 6:29)

And we must not focus simply on sexual desire; the precept relates to any unwholesome appetite: inappropriate diet (De 14:3), worldly attention and praise (Jn 12:43), materialism, the abuse or perversion of most any good thing. (Ep 2:3)

God has created us to enjoy beauty and pleasure, designing us specifically for this, and providing Himself as our ultimate satisfaction. (Ps 16:11) Unto the pure, all things are pure, but unto the defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure, but even their mind and conscience is defiled. (Tit 1:15) Yet some are weak by design, some through a soul wound, some taken by false teaching. Torah enables us to sort out what’s lawful from what’s merely taboo, and Christ offers us the wisdom to know how to build up and encourage others in joyful living for God without becoming overly focused on mechanics. (Ro 14:17)

God has given us richly all things to enjoy (1Ti 6:17), yet it’s better to forego than to encourage others to violate their conscience (1Co 8:12), or to bring a reproach on the name of Christ.

articles    blog

Eye Hath Not Seen

Is it possible for the finite mind to conceive of something or someone superior to the infinite God? To anticipate anything more majestic, more beautiful, more glorious than the Creator of the universe? Or to conceive of some blessedness or pleasure exceeding what God provides for us in Himself?

If we’re capable of imagining something greater than God, something more worthy of worship, awe and admiration in any particular aspect of His being, God would be malicious in forbidding worship of this conceptualization of another deity, for by its nature it would be worthy of worship and beneficial to us to worship. This proves (by contradiction) that it’s impossible to imagine anything superior to God in any way; it’s inconceivable.

Being Creator of our soul, mind and body, God knows what will perfectly fulfill and satisfy us, and He has designed us perfectly, such that we are perfectly satisfied only by ultimate perfection: Himself.

How satisfying is God Himself, really? Well, until we know everything there is to know about Jehovah, our view of Him, and therefore our worship and admiration of Him, can be enhanced and improved, increasing our joy and delight in Him. And since a finite mind cannot ever fully comprehend the infinitude of God, our journey into pleasure in discovering God will be eternal and infinite. There is no upper bound to how much we can enjoy Him.

As a token of Jehovah’s amazing nature, of His willingness to lavish the most extravagant gifts upon us, God has already given us His Son. If He was ever going to withhold anything good from us, if there was ever anything of which we would be unworthy, or anything too much to ask of God, it would have been His beloved Son: Jesus Christ. Yet He didn’t even hold Christ back from us, but gave Himself up freely in Christ for us. (Is 53:10) What could possibly keep God from giving us what’s optimal for us in every possible way (Ro 8:32), and to actually Himself be that which supremely satisfies us?

The corrupt appetite may well long for something other than God (Ro 1:26), for something else than what He is and provides, which is invariably and infinitely inferior. (Ep 3:8) This is worshipping and serving the creature more than the creator (25); it’s an appetite and passion blind to the glory of God. (Ep 4:17-18)

But the transformed soul, walking in God’s perfect design, rejoices in God Himself with joy unspeakable and full of glory. (1Pe 1:8) The pleasure and ecstasy is limited only by the capability of the redeemed soul to experience it.

Truly, eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the unregenerate heart the things God has prepared for those who love Him (2Co 2:9), for such is foolishness to the world. (14) But God has revealed Himself to us who know Him by His Spirit. (10)

Yet the above is often abused to reference the glories of Heaven itself, rather than focusing on God, as if the beauty and splendor of Heaven is the prize. As a bride focused on family, friends and trinkets rather than her husband, so do many long for Heaven as a reunion with loved ones and the splendor of a sparkling city. (He 11:10) It’s the carnal mind posturing itself again in center stage, choosing over and over again anything but God Himself as an ultimate objective, and thereby missing the Pearl of great price. (Mt 13:45-46)

Whom have I in Heaven but God? What could possibly exist anywhere that I should desire more than God? (Ps 73:25) Anything or anyone that even slightly comes to mind — it’s an idol, a lie. (1Jn 5:21)

articles     blog

Receive the Grace

God says that by Christ we have access by faith into grace (Ro 5:2); in other words, the power to live the Christian life becomes available to us as Christ Himself enables us to know for certain that He is empowering us to live for Him.

Though God is the source of our strength to live for Christ, God doesn’t merely cause us live for Christ apart from our will, apart from our willing engagement with and pursuit of Him; there is a cooperation with God involved, yet it’s a cooperation which God also determines and enables. This access to grace involves a supernatural knowing (faith) as well as a supernatural willingness to become and to do.

So, it’s significant that God begs us to not receive His grace in vain (2Co 6:1); He pleads with us that we should not neglect His offer to enable us with the strength we need to live for Him. He challenges us and calls us out to act on His invitation to put this divine power into motion and actually live for Him.

Even though God is the Author and Finisher of our faith (He 12:1), and though without Him we can do nothing (Jn 15:%), He expects us to engage our will to walk in this divine power based on His invitation and promise.

Yet even this practical working out of grace is itself another grace, or an additional divine enablement on a different level, such that everything we become for God and in God is also finally all from God and for God. We may only glory in Him. (1Co 1:31)

Paul illustrates this for us in his own experience: he is what he is by the grace of God (1Co 15:10a), and His grace (or enabling power) was not bestowed on Paul in vain (b) because Paul acted out this grace by laboring more prolifically than all the other apostles (c); but even this abundant laboring was not something Paul himself produced all in his own power — even this activity was due to the further enabling of God within him, equipping him to do so. (d)

So, until we both access divine power by faith, and then also act in accordance with our faith to see God’s grace working out in our life, we’re receiving the grace of God in vain. Both of these behaviors are each driven by grace, and are needed to fulfill God’s purpose in making grace available to us.

Perhaps it’s like being given a brand new cordless vacuum … exciting, but keeping it securely in the box out in the garage doesn’t clean the house. Surely, opening the box and putting it together helps, but still the house is filthy. Charging up the vacuum and turning it on, studying and admiring it — that’s moving in the right direction, but this still isn’t the point.

Amazing design and power may be at our finger tips, begging us to engage, but the vacuum still exists in vain. We may even write elaborately about the vacuum and tell all our friends how wonderful and innovative it is, but this is all still a sad waste of the vacuum. We may do all these things, and most sincerely, yet wonder to ourselves why this amazing gift isn’t working to clean our house.

It isn’t until we get off the couch, put our hand to the handle, and begin to move the empowered vacuum over the dust, actually using it per it’s design, that all the potential of the vacuum is realized and becomes practically useful. Until then the thoughtfulness of the gift, and all its power and design is in vain.

So, what aspect of our lives yet lacks the grace of God? What untapped power has God given us that’s still unopened in the box? (Ep 1:18-19) Where is it that we could we become more like Christ if He but enabled us? (Ga 4:19) He will show us the next step if we but ask, seek and knock. (Mt 7:7-8)

Then, as He shows us HIs way, step by step, we seek grace from God to believe, to know, to become, and to do the will of God. (Php 3:14-15)

articles     blog

Be Merciful

Mercy is that quality which finds no pleasure in pursuing justice to the full, in seeing the wicked destroyed; it doesn’t require all wrongs to be fully righted and paid for by the offender; it’s willing to forgive and let things go rather than seeking revenge. It’s a disposition of compassion, sparing a sinner the full penalty they deserve, with a view to seeing them healed and restored. (Ps 145:8) It’s grounded in benevolence, good will, and charity.

Mercy is only relevant in the context of transgression and sin, when someone has violated God’s Law. Mercy refrains from imposing the full penalty someone deserves as punishment for their crime. By definition then, mercy cannot be demanded, expected as a right: mercy is undeserved.

God delights in being merciful (Mi 7:18), especially towards those who fear Him (Ps 103:11), who are seeking Him and trying to obey Him. (Is 55:7) When one falls into sin, even against us, and then repents, we should rejoice in seeing them forgiven and restored, just as Father does. (Lk 15:10)

God commands us to be merciful (Lk 6:36), and promises mercy to the merciful. (Mt 5:7) This follows from the fact that God commands us to love our neighbor (Ja 2:8), and failing in mercy is failing in love; it’s preferring others suffer fully for their sins rather than repenting and being restored, requiring them to pay their sin-debt in full, and deriving satisfaction from their suffering.

Being unmerciful reflects a basic lack of understanding of and appreciation for how much we each need to be forgiven. (Mt 18:33) It is also a presumption of certainty in discerning what others deserve, and it is typically rooted in feeling morally superior to others, which is pride. Those who neglect mercy as a manner of life are thus revealing that they themselves are unforgiven, and shall in the end receive no mercy from God. (Ja 2:13)

God’s ultimate purpose in our lives is to reconcile us to Himself. (1Co 5:19) Whenever mercy serves that end, helps us draw nearer to Him and enjoy Him, enabling us to become more like Him, or gives us an extended opportunity to do so, we can count on His mercy. We should reflect God’s love for others in this way, and love mercy like Father does.

But those who seek mercy merely to avoid the consequences of sin, who haven’t repented and changed their minds about rebellion, who remain presumptuous and committed to their sin, who are not seeking to be restored in their relationship with God, will be sorely disappointed; such will receive ultimate justice from Him. (Ro 2:8-9)

God’s basic requirements for each of us are simple: do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him. (Mi 6:8) Mercy is central; having our lives marked with justice, a right treatment of ourselves and others, while also loving mercy, is godly maturity and wisdom. God’s calling us to be like Himself: both just and merciful.

articles     blog

Diversities of Operations

When the disciples of Jesus came across someone casting out demons in Christ’s name, they tried to stop him; they simply couldn’t imagine God being in any ministry except their own. (Lk 9:49)

After all, they were the Twelve Apostles, following the Messiah literally, physically, participating directly in Christ’s work with Him. Clearly, anything less was unacceptable. How could anyone else be serving God and not directly involved in Christ’s earthly ministry, as one of Christ’s personal disciples and followers?

It’s a common temptation: we get something right, and then think ourselves superior to all those who don’t quite get it like we do. We tend to view our own particular ministry, denomination, or way of engaging with God as superior to all others, thinking everyone should do it our way. We fear that which is different and unfamiliar, and we want to diminish, control, extinguish or quarantine it.

Yet Christ Himself doesn’t view even His own ministry this way, and corrects the disciples here. (Lk 9:50) Christ wants some folk to be serving Him elsewhere; He’s working through them in a different place and venue. (Lk 8:38-39) This isn’t a problem; it’s God’s perfect plan.

The beauty of The Way is that it isn’t bound to a single organization, race, culture or time period, or to a single protocol or structure; it transcends all temporal divisions, customs and barriers. (Ac 10:35) It doesn’t favor a certain personality type or learning style; it recognizes diversity as the gift of God, enriching, strengthening and completing spiritual community. (1Co 12:4) The principles of righteousness can be applied in any context, and godliness can look very different from one setting to the next. (5-6)

Some of us prefer more structure and ritual in our worship, others more freedom and spontaneity. (Ro 14:5) Some of us are more emotional and expressive, others more reverent and still. In matters of preference, where God has not prescribed a pattern, style or format, we ought not to impose ours, or think any less of those who approach God differently. (4) Even when motives are evidently impure, we should rejoice whenever truth is proclaimed, in whatever style or fashion it’s presented. (Php 1:18)

Bold conviction in godly principles (Ga 2:14), which are thoroughly grounded in Scripture (Mt 15:9), and deference in our preferences (1Co 9:19); this is the way of love.

articles     blog