Strive for Spiritual Growth

Our creator is the absolute embodiment of wisdom, and those who follow Him have access to that wisdom through His written word. Not in human books, human social media updates, human blog posts, or human opinions expressed by preachers can the same degree of truth and wisdom be found.

Humans do our best to grasp at the truth. We try to say things that are meaningful and insightful. But ultimately, there is simply no substitute whatsoever for the scriptures.

With that in mind, I want to share with you a piece of scripture, and rather than making commentary about it, I just want you to really pay attention to it, and maybe even commit to considering it constantly throughout your week.

2 Peter 1:5-7

“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence,
in your faith supply moral excellence,
and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
and in your knowledge, self-control,
and in your self-control, perseverance,
and in your perseverance, godliness,
and in your godliness, brotherly kindness,
and in your brotherly kindness, love.”

Please consider what these instructions would mean for your life if you took them seriously. What would it look like to apply all diligence to your pursuit of spiritual growth every day this week?

Here are some synonyms of the words used in the translation quoted above. These may help us better consider what it would be like to make a conscious effort to grow in these ways each day.

Faith – belief, trust, confidence; fidelity, faithfulness
Moral excellence – virtue, perfection, goodness, uprightness
Knowledge – doctrine, wisdom, understanding
Self-control – self-mastery, self-restraint, continence
Perseverance – steadfastness, patient waiting
Godliness – piety, devotion, reverence
Brotherly kindness – brotherly love, affection
Love – benevolence, good will, esteem

“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” (2 Peter 1:8-11)

Will you make growth in these qualities a goal for your life, one towards which you actively strive?

Advertisements

Scriptures and Thoughts on “Kindness”

What is kindness and what does it look like?
Old Testament
Hesed – occurs 250 times – mercy, kindness, loving-kindness. 42 times it is stated that God’s hesed endures forever. God desires a people to be the object of His hesed.

New Testament
Agathos – goodness, that which is good
Epikei – mildness, gentleness, and fairness
Pilanthropia – benevolence towards others
Chrestos – graciousness, goodness – this is the word most often translated as kindness. It is listed as a fruit of the Spirit.

Some occurrences of Chrestos:

(Romans 11:22) “Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.”
(Titus 3:4-5) “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”

Kindness is often translated from words associated with goodness, so I get the sense that kindness is not only a description of what is merciful or gentle, but also that which is fitting and right.

(Ruth 2:20) – what Boaz did was merciful, but also fitting and right. This would also be true in our example of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9.

In English, it comes from the same word as kin, or kind as in “what kind of person are you?”

What are some easy ways to be kind to others?
(Galatians 6:2) “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Seizing opportunities: (Galatians 6:10) “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” What opportunities arise from day to day?

Sharing resources: (1 John 3:17) “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”

(Acts 20:35) “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Kind words: (Ephesians 4:29) “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Acts of service: (Matthew 25) “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”

Should I be kind even when I do not feel like it?
Yes, it is the right thing to do.

(Proverbs 3:3-4) “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute In the sight of God and man.”

(Colossians 3:12) “put on a heart of…kindness” and (Ephesians 4:32) “Be kind to one another” both command kindness from us.

(Micah 6:8) The LORD requires of us that we love kindness.
(Luke 6:35) God Himself is kind to the ungrateful and evil.
(1 Peter3:9) “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”

How can I be kind when I do not feel like it?
(Proverbs 11:7) “A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.” Realize that it is in your own best interest to be kind.

(Proverbs 3:3-4) also indicate that this will result in favor from God and man. See (1 Peter 3:9) as well.

(Ephesians 4:15) Speak the truth in love. Examine your motivation, and if it is love, act from that source.
(Philippians 2:3-4) “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

(Luke 6:35) Recount how God has been kind to you.

 What is an act of kindness that was done to you that you remember?

What is an act of kindness that you have been privileged to do for another?

 What is the proper motivation for kindness?
1 Corinthians 13:4 “Love is patient and kind”
1 John 3:18 “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

Christianity is More than simply Doing Good Deeds

As Jesus was traveling along, He entered a village.

“…and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10)

As many have noted, Martha was probably doing admirable things, rushing about and making sure that the needs of her guest were taken care of. But in the midst of all of her well-doing, she had taken her eyes off of the only thing that really mattered: Jesus.

And it really is so easy to get distracted by so many different “important,” and “good” causes that we forget what matters most.

Maybe we are busy all day working hard to provide for our families, but are unmotivated to open our Bibles or spend quiet time in prayer.

Maybe we spend hours online researching political news-stories and assessing what is best for our country, but we hardly give a thought to what Jesus might be trying to teach us as individuals today.

Maybe we feel deeply for the physical needs of those around us without giving a single thought to their spiritual need for a Savior.

We must remember that doing good is not simply about what we do, but why and how we do it. Christianity minus the Christ is just another form of humanism. Put another way: good deeds are indeed good, but it is possible to do them while missing the very heart of Christianity.

As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13: “If I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”
Jesus Himself is an example to us in that He never allowed the good and necessary actions of everyday life to pull Him away from His Father. “Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” (Luke 5:16)

The church in ancient Ephesus was warned that their good deeds alone were not enough to save them:

“I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”  (Revelation 2:2-4)

We must ask ourselves: Am I helping the poor? Am I serving my neighbors? Do I take care of my family and friends? Am I kind and considerate? Do I care about my country?

But we MUST also ask: Am I truly in love with Jesus?

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.

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