God is on our Side

In the fifth chapter of his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul emphasizes God’s desire for reconciliation with those who are separated from Him.

“Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Reconciliation between offended parties can be very tedious and difficult work. Many will tell you that unless both parties are truly dedicated to being reconciled, a disagreement or a feud can go on for years or even for life. This is true whether in personal relationships, or in those between whole groups of people or nations.

These words to the Corinthians confirm for us that God, on His part, is dedicated to reconciliation with us, the people of the world. This availability for reconciliation demonstrates to us God’s great love, for as the text says, He is willing to overlook our trespasses in order to restore our relationship. This is astounding considering that we are the ones who rejected God in the first place, and who have rejected Him with our sinful actions too many times to count.

It is a good thing that Jesus supports the concept of forgiving someone “490 times” in Matthew 18. It is a good thing that “God is love” according to 1 John 4, and that love “does not take into account a wrong suffered,” according to the famous love passage of 1 Corinthians 13.

Many people get this picture backwards. They think of themselves as the innocent party who was just minding their own business, when all of a sudden God marched up with a list of unreasonable demands that had to be met or the relationship would be severed. But scripture, as we have seen, just does not fit that picture. God is actually the one who is willing to overlook the past and invite us back into His arms. God is “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance,” according to 2 Peter 3:9.

We are going to have to humble our pride if we are to come to Him. We cannot portray Him as a demanding tyrant who forces us to jump through hoops for His own arbitrary reasons. Rather, God, like a loving parent, knows what is best for us and calls us gently and lovingly to follow the path of life.

The apostles found themselves as ambassadors on Christ’s behalf, literally begging for God’s estranged children to return to Him. God wants us to be with Him! He wants everyone to be with Him! He is on our side! So much so that He would not only overlook our sins against Him, but that He even sent His own Son to die at our hands, who even then prayed “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

God is pulling for us. His invitation to life still stands. In the words of Jesus, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

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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?

Verses and Thoughts about the word “Christian”

What does it mean to be a Christian?

Christos – Christ, the Greek form of the Hebrews “Messiah,” which means anointed one.
-ianos – indicates that a person is the follower of a leader or the slave of a master.

Christianons – A person who follows and belongs to the Christ, the Messiah, the annointed one.

(Acts 11:26) “And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”

(Acts 26:28) “Agrippa replied to Paul, ‘In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.’ (NASB) ” [or] ‘Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’ (NIV)

(1 Peter 4:15-16) “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.”

Why do we use the term “Christian” so much more frequently than the Bible does? Is that okay?

The Context of all three passage cited above suggests that “Christian” was a name given and used by outsiders about the church. Thus, the NT writers had no habit of using it themselves.

Does our usage of the same term as the world reflect a concerning lack of distinctiveness in our thinking?

Perhaps a shift towards the language that the 1st century church actually used with frequency about themselves could help up demonstrate the distinctiveness of the true church?

Are there other terms we ought to use more often?

Brethren: (occurs 188 times in NT)

“Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.” (Acts 6:3)

“And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea.” (Acts 11:29)

“Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message.” (Acts 15:32)

“After some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.’” (Acts 15:36)

“And he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium.” (Acts 16:2)

“After we arrived in Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.” (Acts 21:17)

“There we found some brethren, and were invited to stay with them for seven days; and thus we came to Rome.” (Acts 28:14)

Church: (occurs 112 times)

The church in Jerusalem.” (Acts 8:1)

The church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria” (Acts 9:31)

“They had appointed elders for them in every church.” (Acts 14:23)

The church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28)

The church that is in their house.” (Romans 16:5)

“All the churches of Christ greet you.” (Romans 16:16)

“The churches of the saints.” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

“The church of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:2, 10:32, 15:9, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Galatians 1:13, 1 Timothy 3:5)

“The churches of God.” (1 Corinthians 11:16, 2 Thessalonians 1:4)

“The churches of Judea which were in Christ.” (Galatians 1:22)

“The churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea.” (1 Thessalonians 2:14)

“The household of God, which is the church of the living God.” (1 Timothy 3:15)

Saints: (occurs 61 times)

“Your saints at Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:13)

The saints who lived at Lydda.” (Acts 9:32)

“To all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints.” (Romans 1:7)

“And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:27)

“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” (1 Corinthians 1:2)

“as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

“But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” (Ephesians 5:3)

“To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.” (Philippians 1:1)

The Way: (occurs 5 times)

“So that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:2)

“About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way.” (Acts 19:23)

“But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets.” (Acts 24:14)

Is it okay to call someone a “Christian” if they have some false doctrines or practices? If yes, explain. If no, what should we call them?

(Matthew 7:21-23) “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

(1 Corinthians 5:11) “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler– not even to eat with such a one.”

(2 John 1:10) “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting;”

(Matthew 7:15) “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

(Revelation 2:2) “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;”

(Romans 14:1-4) “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables onlyThe one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”

Given that the term “Christian” appears to have been imposed and mostly used by outsiders to refer to those who followed or claimed to follow Christ, does this effect our answer?

How can we honor God through the name “Christian?”

(2 Timothy 2:19) Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.”

(1 Peter 4:12-16) Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler;16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name

(Acts 5:40-42) They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

(Acts 21:13) Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

What attributes should a Christian clearly exhibit?

(Acts 4:13) Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.

(John 13:34-35) “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

(Acts 17:10-12) The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.

What does it mean to “be a good Christian” or to say “I need to be a better Christian,” and how can we do this?

Scripture and Thoughts on “Mothers”

What does God intend to teach us through the example of mothers?

(1 Corinthians 13:4-7) Love is patient; love is kind. Love is not jealous; is not proud; is not conceited; does not act foolishly; is not selfish; is not easily provoked to anger; keeps no record of wrongs; takes no pleasure in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

(Isaiah 49:15) Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?

(Isaiah 66:13) As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you.

(Ephesiasn 4:32) Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

(Galatians 4:26) But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.

(1 Thessalonians 2) Paul uses the illustration of a mother nursing her child as a picture of gentleness and affection

Is it possible for a woman to make motherhood more central to her identity than she ought to?

(Matthew 10:37) Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

(Luke 14:26) “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

(1 Samuel 1-2) shows us a woman who wants desperately to be a mother, she is not content just to be a wife. But we also see that when she does have a son, she is willing to give him to the Lord.

(Psalm 127:3) Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD, and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

(Genesis 2:24) For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

(Song of Songs 3:11) “Go forth, O daughters of Zion, And gaze on King Solomon with the crown With which his mother has crowned him On the day of his wedding, And on the day of his gladness of heart.”

What picture does the Bible paint of ideal motherhood?

(Proverbs 31) speaks of mothers demonstrating strength, hard work, planning, provision, wisdom, kindness, charity, and dedication to God.

(2 Timothy 1:5) I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.

(1 Kings 3:24-27) The king said, “Get me a sword.” So they brought a sword before the king. 25 The king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.”26 Then the woman whose child was the living one spoke to the king, for she was deeply stirred over her son and said, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him!” 27 Then the king said, “Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him. She is his mother.”

            (The Bible speaks much about mothers giving teaching and instruction)
(Proverbs 19:26-27) Whoever robs their father and drives out their mother is a child who brings shame and disgrace. Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.

(Proverbs 1:8-9) Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.

(Proverbs 6:20-21) My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck.

(Proverbs 23:22-23) Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. Buy the truth and do not sell it— wisdom, instruction and insight as well.

(2 Chronicles 22:3) He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother was his counselor to do wickedly.

(Matthew 14:8) Having been prompted by her mother, she *said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”

What role should mothers take in disciplining their children?

(Ephesians 6:4) Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

(Deuteronomy 21:18-21) “If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, 19 then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his hometown. 20 They shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear.

(Proverbs 22:6) Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

(Proverbs 22:15) Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

(Proverbs 29:15) The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

(Ephesians 6:1-3) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—  “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

 Does Mary deserve special recognition as the mother of Jesus?

(Luke 1:28-30) And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 

(Luke 1:42) And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!

(Luke 1:46-48) And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed,

What does it look like to truly honor your mother?

(Matthew 15:4-6) For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.

(Ephesians 6:1-3; Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—  “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

(John 19:25-27) Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

(Proverbs 23:22) Listen to your father who begot you, And do not despise your mother when she is old.

(Ruth 1:16-17) For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.

(Proverbs 30:17) The eye that mocks a father And scorns a mother, The ravens of the valley will pick it out, And the young eagles will eat it.

(Ezekiel 22:6-7) “Behold, the rulers of Israel, each according to his power, have been in you for the purpose of shedding blood.They have treated father and mother lightly within you. The alien they have oppressed in your midst; the fatherless and the widow they have wronged in you. 

How do we properly honor a mother who does not live honorably?

(Leviticus 19:3) Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.

(Leviticus 20:9) For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him.

(Exodus 21:15) “Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death.

(Romans 13:7) Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
Are there those who are not owed honor, or are all owed it? Is this like David, respecting Saul as king even though Saul himself was not being honorable?

(Matthew 10:35) “For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW;

(Luke 12:53) “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

(Psalm 27:10) For my father and my mother have forsaken me, But the Lord will take me up.

            Notice that the church can provide mothers for those in need
(Ruth 1:16) But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.

(Mark 10:29-30) “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.

(1 Timothy 5:1-2) Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.

(Matthew 12:48-50)But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

(Esther 2:7) He was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, his uncle’s daughter, for she had no father or mother. Now the young lady was beautiful of form and face, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.

Make Your Calling and Election Sure

Consider this beautiful passage from the opening chapter of First Peter:

“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.

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.”

Wouldn’t it be great to have all of these qualities? Who couldn’t use a little more moral self-control from time to time, or some additional brotherly kindness every once in a while? Who wouldn’t want to be full of godliness and love?

Notice, then, what Peter says can rob us of these qualities. He tells us that a person who lacks these qualities has “forgotten his purification from his former sins.”

It sounds like this individual does not understand or else does not appreciate the fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross in order to pay the price for our rebellion against God.

As if to make this teaching even more clear, Peter continues, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you,” or as the King James translation says, “give diligence to make your calling and election sure.”

Peter is telling them that if they do not understand, cherish, and rest in what God has done for them, they will not be able to grow as God calls them to. The way to avoid the “uselessness,” “unfruitfulness,” and “blindness” of one who lacks these qualities is to truly know, and appreciate, and be certain of, our salvation, and the love of God that purchased it.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 says something similar: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God.”

Just as in Peter, Paul tells us something that we must do: we must possess out bodies in sanctification and honor. And just like Peter, Paul goes on to tell us what can cause us to fail in this endeavor: not knowing God.

Do you really know God? Sure, you know Biblical facts about Him. You can make statements such as “God is love,” or “Jesus Christ is the propitiation for my sins.” But do you know Him, personally? Are your calling and election sure? Do you know that He loves you, has paid the price for you, and welcomes you into His arms?

We must strive to be filled up with the virtues spoken of by Peter, and the purity spoken of by Paul. But we will not succeed unless our motivation, our inspiration, and our encouragement are in knowing God, and the love with which He first loved us, and with which He calls us, has mercy on us, and pours His grace out on us.

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.”

Scriptures and Thoughts on “Love”

What are the Biblical words translated as love? Do some describe a more noble love than others?

Old Testament –
‘ahab
= to have a strong emotional attachment or desire for someone or something.
Genesis 22:2 – Parent to child
Exodus 21:5 – slave to master
1 Samuel 18:1 – close friendship
1 King 5:1 – unflagging loyalty

New Testament –
Agapao/agape – “this love is selfless and therefore selfishness is the negation of love. Love does not occur because the one we love is loveable or worthy. It is a decision of the will.”
John 17:26 – God to His Son
John 3:16 – God to us
John 14:21 – God to His people
John 13:34-35 – Fellow Christians
1 Thessalonians 3:12 – Christians towards all people
1 John 4:8 – essential nature of God
1 John 3:17 – expressed through outward actions
Galatians 5:22 – fruit of the Spirit
John 14:15 – expressed through obedience to God

Phileo/philanthropia
– to approve of, to like, to treat affectionately or kindly, to welcome, befriend
John 5:20 – God the Father for the Son
John 11:3 – Jesus for his friend
John 16:27 – the Father for us as His children
Matthew 10:37 – people for their families
Mark 14:44 – it is also translate to kiss!
1 Corinthians 6:22 – we must have this love for God, or be accursed
Romans 3:19 – God disciplines us because He has this love for us

Eros
is not mentioned in the Bible.

Storge is not mentioned directly in the Bible. Romans 12:10 mentions a derivative when it tells us to have brotherly love and affection for each other.
Romans 1:31 and 2 Timothy 3:3 – the lack of it is mentioned as a bad thing and translated as “heartless.”

Ludus is not mentioned

Pragma is not mentioned in this sense

Philautia is not mentioned

It would seem that Agape is the word often used to refer highest form of love, since it is the word chosen to describe God’s essential nature, and because it is understood to be unconditional.

But we should be careful not to build theologies out of speculation on the meanings of various Greek words.  For instance, it is not accurate to say “the Bible teaches that there are four kinds of love.” Only two words for love are mentioned with any frequency, and only three are mentioned at all.

It is also the case the agape, like most words, can stretch in its definition more that we readily admit. For instance, in the Septuagint, agape is used to describe and instance of rape.
And in John 3:19 – men have agape for the darkness.
1 John 2:15-17 tells us not to have agape for the world or the things in the world

Consider the conversation between Jesus and Peter in John 21 and the two different words used. Is there any significance here?

What is a Biblical definition of love?
Love is a bond of relationship.
It motivates outward action (John 3:16, 1 John 3:17, John 14:15).
It does not appear to be given or withheld based on the recipient meeting pre-existing conditions of worthiness – 1 John 4:19 says we love Him because He first loved us – Romans 5:8 says because of His love while were still sinners Christ died for us.
1 Corinthians 13 gives a beautiful definition of love.

Love is the unconditional commitment to the wellbeing of another, with the goal of maintaining a healthy relationship with them.

 What is the hardest thing about love in your opinion?

 What does it mean that God is love?
God has it within His nature to love us in the way that the preceding definition describes, He has proven this by His actions of love towards us.

To say that God is love indicates that this is an eternal aspect of His nature. Perhaps it has been eternally manifested in the love shared by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for each other?

Since love forms a bond, it is in His love that He, through Christ, holds all things together – Colossians 1:17

Indeed, without love, things cannot hold together – Galatians 5:14-15

This explains why eternal life is the result of God’s love towards us, and our responding in love to Him.

 What is your favorite verse about love and why?

What does it mean that love never fails?
1 Corinthians 12 talks about many spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 13 speaks of “a more excellent way” and describes love. After love is described, it is contrasted with the prophesying, speaking in tongues, and special revelations of knowledge that will soon cease. In this context, it appears that “love never fails” means that when other spiritual gifts cease, love continues throughout human history and eternity.

In the description given in 1 Corinthians 13, it is said that love bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things. In this sense, love never fails because it never gives up, even if it is not always reciprocated.

 If God is love, why would he send anyone to hell?
The bible is clear that many will go to hell – Matthew 7:13-14 – wide is the way that leads to destruction

Remember that love, as we have defined it, is an unconditional commitment to the wellbeing of another. The only way that God could be love and people still go to hell is if a) they have the ability to override His will with their own and b) they choose to rebel against Him.

Claiming that people go against God’s will is not blasphemous, 2 Peter 3:9 states that he does not want anyone to perish, yet the Bible also teaches that some will. This is because they rebel against Him.

So, does God “send people to hell”? In a sense He certainly will, Matthew 25:41. But that does not mean that this action is what He wanted for them. Rather, it is what they have insisted upon.

 How can we grow in love?
Hebrews 10:24 – consider how to stir one another up to love and good works.

 

Are Christians Better than Other People?

One common complaint raised against Christians is that “you think you are better than everyone else.” The typical response, often offered preemptively before this objection is even raised, is that “I do not think I am better than anyone else just because I am a Christian. I am just as bad as you are. The only difference is that God looks on Christ’s righteousness instead of my sins.”

So is it true? Do Christians really think they are better than other people? And should they? Are they actually better than other people?

That depends on what you mean by “better.”

Does a Christian have more intrinsic worth in God’s eyes than a non-Christian does? The Biblical answer is “no.” We derive an objective value from being a soul created in God’s image, whether Christian or not (Genesis 1:26, Genesis 9:6, Acts 17:28).

Does God love a Christian more than a non-Christian? If love means wanting what is best for a person, and acting in their best interest, then once again, the Biblical answer is a resounding “no.” Contrary to the conclusions of some Calvinist theologians, God is “patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).”  He illustrates this love by the story of a father who runs out to welcome home his rebellious son (Luke 15:11-31). After all, Jesus died for sinners (Romans 5:8), not people who were already holier-than-thou. (Mark 2:17)

Does a Christian deserve God’s grace more than a non-Christian does? If the key word is deserve, then the answer is “no,” yet again. A Christian is not someone who has earned their salvation. It is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8, Romans 6:23). This fact led Paul to conclude, “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all” (Romans 3:9). When it comes to deserving our salvation, we are not better than anyone else.

But there is a real sense in which Christians are better than other people. Or at least, we sure ought to be.

A chief aspect of God’s work in the life of a Christian is to conform him to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). There is no reasonable way to understand the concept of “being conformed to the image of Christ,” through a process of “transformation by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:1) that does not include becoming a better person.

Ephesians 4:22-24 states it plainly: “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

If you have not become a better person since becoming a Christian, something is seriously wrong.

In conclusion: Do Christians have more intrinsic worth than others? No. Does God love Christians more than others? When love is understood as an unconditional, active desire for the wellbeing of another, clearly not.   Do Christian’s deserve to be saved more than others? No.

But do Christians behave better than others? The answer had better be “yes.” We ought to be a people unusually full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. We ought to be a people unusually forgiving, unusually meek, unusually pure and upright and gracious and harmonious. Shame on us when we are not.

May we be growing in holiness in a way unlike anything that we experienced before our conversion. May we look more like our God every day. In that sense, may we be better than we were prior to our conversion.

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?

Christianity is Unique

Poet and journalist Steve Turner satirically remarks in his poem “Creed:” “We believe that all religions are basically the same; at least the ones we read were. They all believe in love and goodness.  They only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.”

Indeed, to claim that “all religions are basically one” or that “all religions lead to the same god” is logically inconsistent. I would like to define some of what separates Christianity from other worldviews, and the power that it has.

1) Christianity gives ultimate meaning and purpose to life. In this respect Christianity is separated from atheism.  The Bible gives us a view of a cosmic, beautiful, incredibly important story unfolding.  It is a war between good and evil, between love and lawlessness.  It gives us a reason to live and it shapes our lives. Of course an atheist can live with a sense of personally constructed meaning, but that meaning lacks the authority to empower his actions in his moments of greatest need.  It is essentially utilitarian.  It is, by his own admission, only a product of random chance that happened to serve him for a time and will abandon him at the grave.

2) Christianity does justice to the importance of the heart. This separates us from Islam.  A Muslim is justified when his good deeds outweigh his bad ones. But Christianity is not a legalistic religion.  It is not chiefly about rule following.   In a legalistic religion, rituals become compulsive.  The heart is not addressed because the actions are considered sufficient. Christianity, on the other hand, emphasizes the heart first, and actions follow naturally.  Consider Jesus’ brilliant “Sermon on the Mount” that begins in Matthew 5 for examples.

3) Christianity is ambitious. This separates us from Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism.  A central goal of Buddhism is to become free from all desire.  Desire is understood to cause pain, and eliminating desire eliminates pain and brings us to enlightenment.  There is no distinction between desires for right or wrong ends.  All desire is to be eliminated. Christianity, however, exalts the desire for that which is right, while rejecting that which is wrong.  It is ambitious enough to expect something more wonderful to be accomplished than an escape from all desire.

4) Christianity teaches us how to forgive others and ourselves. In this way I believe that Christianity outshines any other worldview.  The Bible teaches that God is Love.  Love is willing to suffer for the good of others.  Thus Jesus Christ came to the cross to suffer for our sakes, so that He might forgive us. The incredible teaching of Christianity, which no other religion dares to suggest, is that God Himself, our Creator, is willing to suffer in order to absorb our evil.  In this way the relationship between Him and us is held together. It follows that we have no right to withhold forgiveness from others.  We are not justified in withholding mercy when we are so clearly in need of it (Matthew 18:21-35).

In conclusion: No worldview meets mankind where he is like Christianity.  Its meaning, purpose, and morals are universal and objective, giving them the necessary weight to serve us in our most difficult hours.  It emphasizes the transformation of our hearts, not simply of our actions.  It gives us an ambitious outlook on the outcome of this amazing battle that we see around us.  And most importantly, it teaches us the truth about love, the only force strong enough to hold us together.