Open Communication

Some of the most common advice we hear for building strong and healthy relationships is to understand the importance of open communication.

But therapists and relationship experts are not the only one’s who emphasize communication. The Bible also teaches the value of talking to each other about what is really going on in our hearts and lives.

We should communicate:

When we have a word of instruction, encouragement, or praise:
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

With a brother or sister is in spiritual danger through sin:
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
(Galatians 6:1)

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” (Matthew 18:15)

When WE have sinned and need healing:
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (James 5:16)

When we have offended each other:
“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
(Matthew 5:23-24)

When we are concerned about one another:
“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad.” (Poverbs 12:25)

When we feel burdened:
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

Perhaps most importantly, our communication must not be only horizontal (with each other,) but also vertical (with God.) Listen to David as he speaks of the difference it made in his life when he truly opened up to his God:

“When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.  Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found.” (Psalm 32:3-6)

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Getting the Fruit of the Spirit

In Acts 2:38, Peter preached the gospel to thousands of people at one time. When many of them wanted to respond, he instructed them all, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 19:2-5, Paul became deeply troubled when he met some men who said that they had been baptized, but that they did not have the Holy Spirit:

“He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said to him, ‘No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ And they said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

In John 3:5, Jesus told Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

Notice something about all three of these passages: they emphasize the importance of the Holy Spirit in baptism and spiritual rebirth.

Galatians 5:22-23 gives a beautiful list of positive character traits, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” All of these traits, we are told, are the fruit of the Spirit.

It is no wonder that the Spirit is so important, if these things are the fruit that follows from Him. If these things are the fruit of the Spirit, how can we expect to have them without first having the Spirit? That would be like trying to create an apple without first having an apple tree, or painting a tennis ball orange and claiming it is an orange, or planting soybeans and hoping they sprout into corn. As with any other fruit, if you want the fruit of the Spirit, get the Spirit, and then you can enjoy His fruit. It’s the only way.

This is why producing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives is not simply about “trying harder” or just “being a good person.” Until we are washed in Christ’s blood and filled with His Spirit, we can never hope to be righteous in His sight. As Isaiah 64:6 says, all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.”

 May we spread the good news about Jesus’ blood and God’s Spirit, and the wonderful things they can do, and rather than grieving that Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), may we all make that Spirit welcome in our hearts and lives, that we may enjoy His fruit.

Show Love, Gentleness, and Respect to THOSE People?

The Ephesians were warned not to be “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming (4:14).”

Notice that the danger described here is not one of people who are dedicated to following God, but have accidentally missed something. It is a description of people who are intentionally using trickery and manipulation to turn people away from God’s will. Is there anything more angering or frustrating than knowing that there are people out there who are “scheming” about how to lead Christians astray?

What is an appropriate response in a situation like that? The answer is given in the next verse “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ.”

This passage that we so often quote in reference to “speaking the truth in love” is indeed situated in a context of remaining firm despite “cunning,” “crafty,” and “deceitful” cultural or religious movements.

Consider another passage.

In 1st Peter 3:15, we read, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

We tend to imagine this passage playing out in a very non-confrontational way, perhaps when an acquaintance asks us out of nowhere why we believe in Jesus and then waits patiently for our response. But once again, this is not what the context primarily indicates.

The entire chapter of 1st Peter 3 is about suffering at the hands of our fellow humans simply because we choose to do right. Our verse about “giving a reason for the hope that is within us, yet with gentleness and respect” is sandwiched between verse 14 which speaks of suffering for what is right, and verse 16, which speaks of our being slandered maliciously because of our good behavior.

Speak the truth in love when a brother makes an honest mistake, and speak the truth with just as much love when its enemies work tirelessly to tear it down.

Be ready to give and answer with gentleness and respect when an honest seeker asks you an honest question, and be ready to give a gentles answer also when you are ridiculed or persecuted for your faith.

Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” (1 Peter 2:21-23)

Biblical Manhood

Society has its own ideas of what makes a man. But the Bible paints its own beautiful, powerful picture of what manhood should look like.

Society teaches that a man is someone who gets whatever he wants. He is surrounded by beautiful women, nice cars, and big screen TV’s. Jesus, however, the only perfect man to ever live, didn’t even get married or have a girlfriend, and he acquired almost no personal possessions. Instead, He was busy pouring Himself out for a broken world, speaking powerfully about His Father, and spending time alone in the wilderness.

The Bible contains a great deal of information about manhood. Maybe you did not have a father figure in your life, or maybe he was not a very good example. Even if you have a great father, painting a Biblical picture of manhood can help us understand even more clearly what God’s intentions are for men.

Men are:
Morally disciplined and upstanding. “Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies.” (2 Kings 2:2)

Calculated in their actions.
“A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might, for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.” -Proverbs 24:5-6

Concerned with the spiritual welfare of themselves and others.
“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Gentle and kind.
“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” – 1 Peter 3:7

Concerned with things of importance.
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” – 1 Corinthians 13:11

Mature.
“Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” -1 Corinthians 14:20

Hard working.
“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” – Lamentations 3:27

If we are tempted to think that Biblical men are emasculated, devoid of any real adventure or danger or passion, we need only look to the examples of Godly men in the Bible to find otherwise. What could be more adventurous than Paul’s ancient travels around the world, with the threat of death at every turn? What could be more dangerous that David’s rise to power, starting with a band of 400 thugs and ending in the uniting of the kingdom of Israel? What could be more passionate than the power with which Jesus gave His life up for us on a crucifix, knowing well that He could strike us all dead if He so desired?

Let us aspire to hold up God’s picture of manhood.

Statue of a Man