Earn God’s Love

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love.” (Galatians 5:6)

We may confess salvation by faith with our mouths, but in our hearts we work to keep (or earn more of) God’s love.

The proof is in our pride: the false belief that we are somehow better than others because of what we’ve done for God.

There can be no doubt, doing things for God is vitally important, essential in this way: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love.” Faith must be expressed because it is a belief that is strong enough to translate into action. Weak beliefs are called opinions. And they flee fast when action is required to prove their worth.

The Galatians began in faith, but fell into a works mentality. Paul spoke definitively to correct their error.

Two questions are useful here:

  • How should my faith express itself?
  • How can I earn more of God’s love?

The first question takes a lifetime of perseverance to answer. The second is much more simple: nothing.

undiscovered opportunities

“… it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you…” (Galatians 4:13)

Scripture tells us that Paul’s illness was a trial for the Galatians. He praised them for not treating him with contempt or scorn–implying that their response was uncommon, unique, mature.

If it was a trial for them, imagine how difficult it must have been for Paul!

The hard truth is that hardships can open doors that would otherwise be closed. When life gets difficult, we are quick to complain. We settle for mere survival. What if our goal was not to simply get through, but to be used by God in the midst of hardship.

In times of stress we may find new opportunities to be faithful. Let’s commit to a new prayer:

God, help me in this season and open my eyes to see how you are calling me to act.

 

 

 

Why we become ashamed of the gospel

“… for I am not ashamed of the gospel …” (Romans 1:17)

What might move a follower of Jesus into a Peter who denies his savior?

The gospel calls us to be DIFFERENT, and in our world, no one likes to stand out from the pack. Just look at rebellious youths, even they all look alike (just don’t tell them that.)! Sure, the “outliers” exist…but by definition they are unique. And. Only sociopaths have no problem being rejected by others. We naturally want community, which we unnaturally pursue through conformity. to be unashamed about the gospel is to be willing to stand out and stand a part from the world.

The power of the gospel is UNCONTROLLABLE. Most of the power in the world is predictable and once it’s understood, it can be controlled. No one wants to catch a lightning bolt, but everyone knows where the location of the light switch. The power of the gospel is never subordinate. To be unashamed of the gospel is to also be humble about our own power.

The calling of the gospel is to PURITY and HOLINESS, to a life that strives to sin less. I suspect most of the time we are ashamed of the gospel because it is a light that reveals the darkness in our hearts. To be unashamed of the gospel is to admit to being sinful, imperfect.

Speak the truth in love

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow…” (Ephesians 4:15)

The self-righteous wield the truth like a weapon of mass destruction, ambivalent to the the devastating consequences. When confronted, the predictable response follows: “WHAT? All I did was tell the truth?” Their fortress of foolishness is unassailable. Mostly.

Speaking the truth without love ignores the greatest truth: we are called to live in love. Ninety nine times out of a hundred, we cannot help someone grow into the likeness of Christ with a hammer.

God’s work in our own lives reveals a gentleness. He progressively reveals more and more of himself and the darkness in our own hearts. Imagine the devastation if on the first day of your new life in Christ God revealed to you all the things that needed to change in your heart.

I teach my children that to love someone is to want the very best things for them. What if our goal was to help others grow to be more like Jesus (this is the very best thing we could want for someone). This would lead to a mouth that tells beneficial truths in a way that they are most likely to be heard.

You should tell more lies

… there is nothing false about [Jesus]. (John 7:18)

I’ve seen people tell lies–“white” ones too–for the following reasons:

  • To ACCOMPLISH their agendas.
  • To AVERT undesirable, yet deserved, consequences for their actions
  • To AVOID conflict with others.

The first group is far too practical, they will say whatever works in the moment in order to get what they want. Justification is easy when the ends justifies the means. Rationalization is even easier when the final goal is good (for example, carrying on the work of the kingdom). An elder of a church I once said, “telling a white lie is ok if it benefits everyone involved.” I chuckled, with as much gentleness as I could muster (which wasn’t much, given the situation), I said, “that simply isn’t true, there is no teaching in scripture that supports this thinking.” These people know what they want and will say anything to get it.

The second group is far too irresponsible and they love their comfort. Rather than own up to their mistakes, they seek to dodge the consequences they deserve. “It’s only cheating if you get caught” is the mentality.

The final group is far too accommodating and they love their “peace” with others too much. The bitterness and resentment in their hearts keeps them from showing actual grace. Instead, a superficial counterfeit is used instead. It’s easy to keep the peace when we get to keep the war alive in the privacy of our minds.

 

What gets in the way of you telling the truth?

What good comes from telling the TRUTH?

[Jesus] is a man of truth. (John 7:18)

Why should we tell the truth, what good comes from it?

When we tell the truth, we follow Jesus’ example. He is our model, the shape our souls ought to take is his. The spiritual life is about becoming more like Jesus. This means fighting off the powerful temptation to bend the truth, even just bend it a “little.”

When we tell the truth, we keep our integrity. All the money in the world cannot buy back a shattered integrity. Telling the truth keeps our conscience clean and our sleep constant.

When we tell the truth, we earn trust from others. Without trust, true community is impossible. Without trust, influence is shallow. We are not called to live isolated, powerless lives. To connect and live with impact, we must live authentically.

When we tell the truth, we deserve trust from others. In our broken world, appearances are powerful. The force of some personalities naturally gain trust from others The triumph of people skills and charisma is this: like-ability gathers false support. Not only should we earn trust from others, we ought to actually deserve their trust.

We we tell the truth, we help others grow. It’s easy to play it safe and it’s common to avoid conflict. I’m not suggesting we look to start up confrontations every chance we get, but how many people are missing out because we lack the courage to say the tough thing?

When we tell the truth, in situations where we are tempted to cover up our errors, we face the true consequences of our actions. In these painful moments, especially when we choose to face them, we learn powerful lessons.

 

Let us commit to telling the truth, in all things, so that we might become more like Jesus and grow into the person God has designed for us to be.

What’s Your Worship?

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions. Mark 7:8

In the beginning of our spiritual life, everything is new and we are constantly learning what it means to honor God.

Over time, that which is new becomes normal. Habits form: we park in the same spot, sit in the same place, talk to the same people. There’s nothing inherently wrong in developing a regular pattern.

We are caught in a trap when our worship becomes meaningless ritual. Without being aware, we’re stuck in a rut.

Hopefully, a new desire emerges and we desperately want to worship in spirit and in truth. This calls for the courage to recognize that so much of our comfort in worship comes from personal experience rather than biblical teachings.

Then the questions come, like an avalanche: Why this church and not that one? Why this music and not another kind? Why this sermon style? Eventually they boil down to something like this: what does it really mean to worship God?

So. The horizons expand and we gain perspective. The world is no longer flat, but round. THE spiritual life is bigger than OUR spiritual life. The commands of God become more important than human traditions.

When God is distant

The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:5)
We forget and ignore God for many reasons, this passage illuminates us with at least three:

Anxiousness
Lack of prayer
Lack of thankfulness

Proximity is power. In the dark, a light close by allows us to see. In times of grief, the presence of a close friend gives comfort. In seasons of confusion, access to wisdom makes the way clear. When a child is lost, debilitating fear sets in with the awareness of being alone. We know the power of proximity.

When our problems become our priority, anxiousness and worry gain control of our thoughts. Like a hamster on the wheel, we furiously tread the same thoughts without any movement forward. Fixated on the possibility of failure or harm drowns out the voice of faith in our hearts and make it impossible to trust in God.

In the face of certain failure, it’s difficult to talk to God. Instead we look to the solutions we can gain by our own power…meanwhile, things continue to spin out of control.

Without thankfulness, we are consumed by what we don’t have, and quickly loose contentment. This begins the fruitless pursuit for more…more stuff, more security, more control and power.

God is near. He is always near. He never leaves us, nor does he shut off access. Our responsibility is to acknowledge him. We must let our anxiousness be overwhelmed with the power of his presence. We must talk to him, simply and plainly, in prayer. Like a conversation between friends, we turn to the God who is near. We must take an inventory of the blessings we already possess and offer sincere thankfulness.

When we trust in the nearness of God, we have a confidence the world cannot destroy or erode.

You don’t have to change anything

For you have heard of my previous way of life … . (Galatians 1:13)

Paul grew, he didn’t stay the same. This is remarkable, uncommon among the ranks of seasoned believers. After years of powerful actions fueled by deep convictions, Paul still allowed God to speak to his assumptions.

Paul was passionate and sincere, but he was headed in the wrong direction, persecuting the people he ought to be building up.

Think about what you used to know and how you used to act. When was the last time you were surprised? Embarrassed? Maybe even a little ashamed of your past beliefs and behaviors?

In this we find a measure of spiritual maturity: what was once a trophy of personal glory becomes a testament of personal folly.

We know we are in a spiritual rut, and our spiritual growth stunted, if it has been too long since since God has challenged an assumption.

Age isn’t a deposit on wisdom and getting older doesn’t automatically mean growing up.

How human is your gospel?

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:11-12)

I want you to know
In a world obsessed with gaining glory and self promotion, Paul’s example is vastly different. He is clear and direct: his teaching was not from people, not even himself. His authority came from God.

>>As a leader, when do you relish your influence too much?

Not of human origin
How we love to add to the gospel! Sometimes, we teachers, think it is not interesting enough, so we add conjecture and interpretation and present it as fact. More common, for all believers and followers of Jesus, we add our rituals and unwittingly create soul damaging ruts. DO THIS, DO THAT! Such additions undermine grace, seeking to earn and repay the extravagant gifts of God.

>>In your teaching and in your judgements of others, how have you added to the gospel?

Received by revelation from Jesus Christ
God spreads, and it’s our responsibility to listen and maintain our faith with discipline and perseverance. It’s easy to get caught up with the business of life–especially in the the face of success. However, we must not neglect our interior lives before God.

>>What is the condition of your spiritual life right now, is your heart postured to hear God?