Always Faithful – Part One

Galatians 5: 22, 23

Jesus said, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much…” He then added one of His most pointed comments: “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” Luke 16: 10 & 13.

Members of the U.S. Marine Corps have as their motto that which is becoming of followers of Christ. Their motto: “Semper Fe,” means “always faithful.”

Having trained together and sharing mutual goals they bond themselves to the corps and each other with a pledge to always be faithful.

Do you approach your calling as a Christian with less commitment? Are you perpetually making excuses for yourself? Do you allow yourself liberties our Lord never intended?

In Galatians 5: 23, “faithfulness” is listed among the fruit of the Spirit. That is, in the Spirit filled believer’s life one characteristic is faithfulness. The Greek word translated faithfulness is “pistis,” meaning “the character of one who can be relied on.”  It means we are obedient to God and loyal to our associates.

The text does not say “fruits,” plural, but “fruit.” These are not nine separate virtues we are to seek to develop. They constitute one body of excellence that are the natural product of the Spirit-filled life.  They are not some things we do, they are what we are.

Consider this seventh characteristic of the nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit.

The first three have to do with our UPWARD relationship with God: love, joy, and peace.

The next three are OUTWARD on a horizontal plane, and have to do with our relationships with people: longsuffering, kindness, and goodness.

The final three have to do with our INNER being: faithfulness, meekness, and self-control.

P.T. Forsyth, a giant of a theologian of a past era said, “Unless there is within us that which is above us, we shall soon yield to that which is about us.”

To always be faithful we have to have within us replenishable resources provided only by the Holy Spirit. Our faithfulness is founded on God’s faithfulness to us which stimulates our faith in Him.  When we have faith in Him we desire to be faithful to Him.

The core reason we find so little faithfulness today is not that we are too passionate about bad things, but that we are not passionate enough about good things. To be faithful to a person or position we must be passionately committed to it.

Resolutely regarding God and man be SEMPER  FE.

Code Red

Consider this scenario.

You express your lack of approval of certain actions you consider being wrong. The respondent abruptly responds: “You are a bigot expressing hate. You should be ashamed of yourself harboring such hate.”

Your response is “I love the person, but I don’t like their conduct.”

The respondent: “You are just trying to cover your hate.”

You are then in the position to respond: “I do love the person. You say I have hate. You are bitter and bitterness is hate on steroids.” Because the one accusing another of hate is unable to separate the doer from the deed they are inclined to hate the person they have accused, you.

Therefore, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…”. It is not the root that is bitter, it is the fruit it produces that is bitter. The fruit is festered anger and resultant bitterness. The dissenter who accuses a believer of hate is speaking out of a mentality of anger metastasized into bitterness.

Make sure you have no bitterness in your life. A bitter person is someone who has feelings of resentment and deep anger, often because of something from the past that has hurt them. They have a negative attitude and negative emotions. At their core, a bitter person is someone who is deeply resentful of other people.

A bitter person’s baseline mood is often angry, disappointed, or irritable.

Bitter people believe that the world owes them so much. Bitterness involves  feelings of sadness, resentment, and anger that has developed over time.

Don’t let bitterness enter into your life. Instead, give it a creative outlet – make it an opportunity to show patience and express love. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly” Hebrews 6: 12.

It’s not what you eat that matters, it’s what eats you. You might have an ideal diet, but if you let bitterness and its companions of resentment, worry, fear, lust, guilt, anger, or any other emotional disease eat at you it’s going to affect your physical health as well as your emotional well being. Therefore, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” Ephesians 4:31-32.

Christians must courageously stand up for their convictions in the face of bitter criticism. This is no hour to suffer spiritual laryngitis. Expect opposition and don’t be silenced by vitriol. Endeavor to please the Lord in your actions. Be like the apostles who rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for the Lord.   Study issues to be well versed in what you believe and why. Holy boldness is undergirded by the Lord Himself. We are engaged in spiritual warfare.

This is an hour of CODE RED.

Who Am I? Part Five

John 3: 16 – 18

Our loving Lord loves us even amid our doubting.  (John 20: 2)

Three days after Jesus died on the cross of Calvary as a living sacrifice for our sins a rumor spread in the early morning that His tomb was empty. Two disciples ran to the tomb. The first one there described himself as “the other disciple, whom Jesus loved.”

In a moment when doubts must have cascaded on him John had a sense of who he was. He was an object of Jesus’ love. God honors honest inquiry. John was questioning for an answer not that there was an answer.

When you fully trust in Jesus, you know His love will never fail you. Circumstances may sometimes cause you to feel forsaken. Even then in reality you aren’t.

You may temporarily fail to enjoy the presence of the love of Christ because of your hurts or fears, but His love is still there.  Even if you are in an emotional state of shock, let your mind dwell on the fact you are an object of Jesus’ love.

Circumstances don’t change the reality of Jesus’ presence and love. They may temporarily change your awareness of them. At the tomb initially John wasn’t aware of Jesus’ presence, but he was conscious that even then he was “the disciple Jesus loved.”

You may have been looking for a God who would roll up His sleeves and stride into your life bashing all of your opposition, subduing every opponent, curing every ill, and healing every hurt. He not having done this, you may be beginning to develop doubts.  Don’t!  Fix your mind on facts, not appearances. He is there at work because He loves you.  At the tomb it only appeared He didn’t love them and had abandoned them.

With all of your doubting, don’t ever doubt you are a person Jesus loves. Then set about to interpret your circumstances in light of that reality. Don’t ever question that reality in light of your circumstances.

He loves us in our delights (John 21: 7 & 20).

Twice after the resurrection of Jesus John describes himself as “that disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21: 20). This further identifies John as the one loved by Jesus in the upper room dilemma.

Now on the sunny shores of the Sea of Galilee, in a heady moment of delight, John acknowledges himself to be one loved by Jesus. The circumstance wasn’t the cause but the occasion for this acknowledgment.

The love of Jesus is like the Mississippi River flowing to water a rose. You may be that rose and feeling wilted. You have NO reason to be, the supply is sufficient. You are an awesome spirit being.

When you become aware of who you are out of gratitude you want to help others come to an awareness that they too are objects of Jesus’ love.

Say it to yourself, “I am one who Jesus loves – – – now and forever.”

Who Am I? Part Four

John 3: 16 – 18

As the Apostle John came to realize Jesus loves us in our despair (John 19: 26).

The morning following the night of trauma in the upper room their dilemma turns to despair.  Jesus is crucified. Their eclipse seems permanent.

Standing there watching Jesus die on the cross is John who has devoted three years of his life to following Jesus. How is he going to think of himself? Perhaps as a foolish person for devotion to a rabbi who is dying as a common criminal. Maybe He saw himself as a defeated individual. 

John, look closely at that cross causing your despair. It is no cause for doubt. It is a reason for reassurance. It reveals the boundless love of God “who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all.” Love is most convincing when it involves sacrifice. Here hangs the most conclusive evidence of love. In Jesus’ own words hear it: “Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down His life for a friend.”  Jesus did that and more. He died for us when we were “yet enemies.”

In light of this John once again identifies himself as “the disciple whom He loved…”  That was his preoccupation. It gave him a sense of purpose even in the hour of his greatest despair.

The fact that something bad happens in your life does not necessarily mean God is angry with you. It may only be a step in the right direction He is leading you in order to ultimately bless you.

The young theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, suffering in a Nazi prison camp, scribbled a noteworthy note on a scrap of paper. It read: “Only a suffering God can help.”  Because Jesus suffered on the cross He alone is equipped to help you. The writer of Hebrews tells us He can sympathize with our weaknesses. The word “sympathy” comes from two Greek words, “sym pathos,” meaning “to suffer with.” Because you are the object of His love He suffers with you and is able to help you.

When the next occurrence comes along in your life when you tend to despair, how are you going to respond? Perhaps in one of two ways:

The Ostrich Technique.  Most people have some defense mechanism for dealing with despair. Perhaps yours is to do as the proverbial ostrich and hide your head in the sand. Incidentally, ostriches get a bum rap, they don’t really hide their heads in the sand. However, if we do as they are alleged to do and withdraw from reality we are denying the truth in our lives, becoming passive, indecisive, and numb.

When you acknowledge yourself as one loved by Jesus Christ and rely on your spiritual resources, you can do the same with your despair. The process of covering is accomplished by applying God’s Word.

The Oyster Technique. When a grain of foreign substance gets in an oyster it becomes an irritant. If the oyster can’t expel it, work is begun on it to transform it for good. The oyster begins very gradually to cover the source of irritation with its very best substance and almost without notice makes it a pearl. Apply God’s word to your dilemma. It is the better of the two techniques.

Who Am I? Part Three

John 3: 16 – 18

In the Gospel of John he refers to himself four times as “one of the disciples, whom Jesus loved”. The four settings in which this reference is made helps our understanding of how unconditional His love for us really is. It is this constant love, not man’s conditional approval, that should give us a sense of dignity and self-worth. You are an object of His love.

Starting today we will see four settings in which He loves us.

He loves us in our dilemmas (John 13: 23).

In the upper room the evening before Christ died on the cross for our sins the disciples were faced with a dilemma. Their world was about to go into eclipse. For three years the twelve had followed Christ. Now it was made clear one of them would betray Him.  This is a major dilemma. Their neat little world was coming apart.  Even in this crucible of crisis John knew he was “one… whom Jesus loved.”

In our dilemmas we most often have a tendency to question why this is happening to us. The “why me, Lord” complex causes confusion. A better question would be, “Lord, now that this has happened to me, one whom You love, HOW can it be used by You to make me what You want me to be?”  This gives a divine interpretation to our dilemmas.

When faced with a dilemma, and we all are at times, those uncomfortable times are classroom times the loving Lord is trying to teach you something. Like everyone I have been in that classroom and must confess I have been tardy at times. Even then I have learned from Him. Stability comes from making a mental adjustment to look at the experience as an “Oh, I see” moment.

Keep in mind. “…we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6: 2). We might not always be able to win a physical victory, but we can always win the spiritual aspect.

Because of your awareness that you are an object of Jesus’ love, you can do as John did and Peter later exhorts us to do and “Cast all your cares (anxiety) on Him because He cares for you” (I Peter 5:7).

Remember, “The Lord is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him” (Nahum 1: 7). Heavenly wisdom flowed from the pen of the Psalmist when he wrote “Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him” (Psalm 34: 8).