A couple of posts ago I talked about how I realized that I am all the things 1 Corinthians 13 says that love is not – I envy and boast, I am arrogant and rude, I insist on my own way, I am irritable and resentful.
Yesterday it came much more clear: in light of what Jesus said are the two greatest commandments, I am not just failing to love – I am in sin!
I know most of you are saying, “Well, duh!” but I don’t think I have ever looked at it that way before. It is sin just as much as adultery and gluttony and lying and all the others that seem so obvious. In fact, if I am honest, it should be considered the greatest sin since it directly breaks the greatest commandment – to love God, and the second to love my neighbor.
I confess (agree with God that I am in sin) and repent (turn away from my sin), and purpose to live a new life by the power of the Holy Spirit!
I was going back and forth with a friend the other day, and I think it encapsulates my bottom-line view on salvation:
(Paraphrase, starting with my friend’s question)
“How do you know you are chosen to believe in Christ?”
“Because I do believe in Christ, and I am genuinely convicted by the Holy Spirit for my sin. Otherwise, I wouldn’t care. Faith is a current thing. Not based on a date I said a prayer, but based on current, ongoing, persevering belief in what God has done through Christ. It is not dependent on my faith to make it so, but I do have to receive His free gift and He will give me the ability to persevere to the end. I believe, from what I see in scripture, that we can reject God’s gift. Even some who profess belief and do things in God’s name are just lying – doing it for show, not out of love. I have been horribly convicted this week of how little I really love God and my family – but I still have salvation in Christ, and am determined to love and serve God instead of my own selfish, prideful, self-righteous self.”
“But it still is more than likely that I am not chosen for glory but wrath. I can not say that I am adopted just because I think I want to be. Paul, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, etc. all say that my thinking that I am saved based on scripture, works, or feelings does not mean a thing. Paul knew he had met Jesus and was given the gift of repentance, faith, life, etc. I think that I have met Jesus but I am still nothing but a hypocrite, a vessel of dishonor, as a foil to those of honor. Just because I know I owe God worship with my life does not make me a son. I may pray for mercy but still be rejected, and God is still right, and I understand that and am trying to accept that.”
“God says He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to eternal life. All the theology and self-pity in the world doesn’t excuse your rejecting the free gift of salvation that He has offered to you. It is up to you to obey His will and be saved, or reject His will to the end and be damned. Your choice. You can’t choose to be saved, since Jesus’ death and resurrection are accomplished fact. However, God leaves it up to you to reject His gift or receive it. You can find all kinds of theological works to muddy the waters, but it doesn’t change His will or what He has done.”
Right or wrong, there it is.
“…love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or proud. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” 1 Corinthians 13:4,5 ESV
Last Sunday, August 23, 2015, I came face to face with how little I really love God and my wife and family.
As I told some of my close friends, when confronted with how poorly I have been treating my daughter…
“Instead of humbling myself and letting the Holy Spirit rule my tongue, I spoke completely in the flesh and spewed a lot of venom at [my daughter] and [my wife]. All my pent-up selfishness and resentment and blaming others and all kinds of junk came forth. Wagging my finger at [my wife] and telling her it’s her fault I’m shut down emotionally. Telling [my daughter] she’s irresponsible and lazy and making her feel worthless. A comment [my daughter] had for me later was “I feel like you destroyed the part of me that for so long has been your little girl.” [My wife] said for the first time in all our marriage regret entered her mind and heart.
I don’t know if our relationship will recover. The only hope is for me to truly love God, and then [my wife] and my family. I am lazy, and I don’t pursue God. I don’t do the hard things. But I have to change that.”
So, am I a broken man? I guess, in the area of sexual immorality, I have brokenness in that I allow the Holy Spirit to rule over my flesh in that area when temptation comes along.
How about the verses above?
I certainly envy and boast a lot. I can’t let one of my kids be the center of attention – I have to come up with something from my distant past to prove that I am at least as good or as cool. I can’t just praise them.
Arrogant? Definitely! Rude? Certainly! I talk down to my wife, children, co-workers, just about everyone. Not consciously most of the time, though I can be cruel in doing so when I get going.
I insist on my own way often, usually through passive-aggressive means, whether at home or work. I pout, or put on the martyred look.
Irritable? Always! Especially when I get pushed to do something I don’t want to do, or when my direction is suddenly changed by other needs (unless I get to jump in and be a hero, which stokes my ego).
Resentful? I gave my wife and older children an earful of how resentful I am that I have put in so much hard work over the years to give them everything they want, only to receive ungratefulness in return. What a joke! The main thing they really wanted was ME, being engaged in their lives and eing there for them instead of running off to serve everyone else, since it is easier and more gratifying to serve outside the home, in a way more people will see.
My wife says she wants me to BE, not to DO. To BE a man of God, a man in love with God. I can see so clearly how I have failed.
Time to CHANGE!
I was asked to give the father’s blessing over the students in my daughter’s college program at the parent appreciation banquet last week.
God gave me scripture to craft together, and I’d like to share what he gave me:
Father’s Blessing 2015
Men and women of Verity, class of 2015, it is my honor to speak over you the father’s blessing.
More than anything, I pray that you will continue to be students of scripture, that you may know God’s wisdom and gain understanding and insight from Him, to receive His instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity. May you continue to increase in learning and obtain guidance from the Lord. Remember that a healthy fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; receive His words and treasure His commandments. Make your ear attentive to wisdom, and incline your heart to understanding, for the Lord gives wisdom, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. As you walk in integrity, God will guard your path and watch over you. You will understand righteousness and justice and equity. Wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will watch over you and understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil. Let your heart keep God’s commandments, for length of days and years of life and the peace they will add to you. Do not let steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. That way you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight. Fear the Lord, and turn away from evil – it will bring healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty. You will be blessed when you find God’s wisdom – she is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.
As you follow the Lord, and obey his commands, may you receive that which God promised to Israel. Blessed in the city, and blessed in the field. Blessed be your children and the fruit of your work. You will be blessed when you come in, and blessed when you go out. May the Lord cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you, and God bless all that you undertake. Let all the peoples of the earth see that you are called by the name of the Lord. Be faithful to Him, and the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you honor the Lord your God.
Women of Verity, may you be like Ruth, who was presented a choice between the comfortable, pagan world she knew, or following the one true God. She chose the path of humility, becoming one of the poorest of the poor, only to be redeemed and lifted up to become the wife of the owner of the land. May you be like Esther, who could have kept her mouth shut and lived a luxurious life as queen, but chose to put her life on the line for her people by acknowledging her God. For such a time as this, you, too, have been trained up – stand ready for the call.
Men of Verity, may you be like David, who is called a man after God’s own heart. Not because of his great virtue, but because when confronted with his sin, he repented in sackcloth and ashes, begging God for a purified heart. May you be like Isaiah, who knew he was unworthy to stand in the presence of a holy, holy, holy God, yet when the Lord cried out for a messenger he burst out with, “Here am I, Lord! Send me!” He carried a message to multiple generations of the kings of Judah, knowing it would be virtually fruitless for the present, but would have everlasting impact. Be ready when God calls, and be bold to proclaim whatever message He gives you.
May you all be salt and light in this dark world, bringing glory to God by the good works that you do. As Jesus commands in Mark chapter 16, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” The good news that Jesus Christ is the only Way to God, the ultimate Truth, the only One who gives us everlasting Life, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. The message that it is only by His perfect life, death on the cross, and resurrection from the dead that the penalty for our sins is paid in order that by receiving Him, we have the right to become children of God and live with Him forever. As He commands in Matthew 28, go and make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Christ has commanded. Behold, He is with you always, even to the end of the age.
Finally, may the grace of Almighty God, the fellowship of Jesus Christ, his only Son, and the power of the Holy Spirit, be with you now and forever. Amen!
Tom asked a question on another post, and I gave a lengthy answer which I want to repeat as a stand-alone post, because I think it is important.
Here’s what I said:
Sorry to take so long to respond. I wanted to make sure I got it right, and I am just taking some extra time to look up the verses that keep going through my mind.
First, I should be clear – being prepared for the day and the hour means being a true Christian. Salvation does not depend on anything other than faith in Jesus Christ’s atonement for my sin by His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.
That said, James called it when he said, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:17-18 ESV)
Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) and “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
He also said, “So, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24, emphasis mine)
So, that last verse is a command, and it involves loving God (worship) and loving your neighbor. According to Jesus’ words, if you truly love Him (and by extension God), you will reconcile with others so that your worship of God will not be hindered.
John said, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20, emphasis mine).
Scripture is clear. If we profess to be Christians, and thus profess that we love God, we must live that out by doing everything humanly possible to be reconciled with others (specifically, per the use of the term “brother”, other Christians – though we are also commanded to love our enemies as well).
So, husbands, so, wives, so, brothers and sisters in Christ – fervently, doggedly pursue reconciliation as proof of your profession of faith.
As Paul says in Romans, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (That is where I don’t want anyone to make an excuse, and say, “I tried to reconcile, but he/she wouldn’t…” unless you have really, truly, before God and man, made every possible attempt to reconcile).
What do you think…is God really involved in our daily lives? Is He really like the God described in the Bible, or has He backed off, and doesn’t get all that involved in our world? I have heard that latter opinion all too often, and it was a major stumbling block in my own battle against bondage to sin.
If you have a hard time seeing God as described in scripture, therein lies your most basic problem – you don’t really believe in the God of the Bible. Rather, you believe in a God who is shaped by your intellect, by what you think of Him, by what you perceive Him to be.
Your actions will show that you don’t fear God as much as you fear the opinion of people directly around you (and, conversely, you don’t hunger for His approval like you hunger and thirst for people’s approval).
“Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.” (Ephesians 6:5-8 ESV)
God is the God of the Bible, regardless of what you may think or believe about Him or His involvement in your life.
“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?“(Numbers 23:19 ESV)
Adam and Eve shook off God’s authority because they wanted to decide for themselves what is good and what is evil, and they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil to become like God. It didn’t work out so well for them.
The only way to be truly free from bondage to sin (anger, adultery, fornication, lies, covetousness, etc.) is to put ourselves back under God’s authority, to allow Him to be God in our own lives instead of stubbornly wanting to decide for ourselves what role He is to play on this earth.
So, you have to decide. Are you going to acknowledge that God IS, that He is everything the Bible says, and bow your will to His will like Jesus did right before His crucifixion? Or, are you going to be like those described in Romans:
“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” (Romans 1:21-25 ESV)
I never could break free from bondage to hidden sin until I truly started to fear God more than the opinions of people around me, and determined to seek His will and do it, no matter how painful, Whatever It Takes!
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto death.” (Revelation 12:11)
May you fully acknowledge the grace of God and the blood of Christ to truly set you free,