Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph. 5:1-2)
While the Bible makes clear that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, there are some who take this to mean it does not matter how we live. That while in many ways and for many reasons, it is and can be wise and good to order one’s life according to scripture, it certainly is not necessary. However, scripture commands that we “be imitators of God, as beloved children.” That is, if we are children of God, then we should strive to be imitators of God. We should strive to display the character and attributes of God in our lives and in the way we interact with the world around us. This is not a suggestion, but a commandment, as the phrase “be imitators” is in the imperative mood. But scripture does not just stop with commanding us what to do but offers reasons as to why believers should strive to be imitators of God. We are then told to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” In other words, just as Christ was willing to give his life as a sacrifice for us, should we not be willing to give up our lives as a sacrifice for him? Should we not be willing to surrender the way in which we live, the manner in which we spend our time? Should we not be willing to commit the whole of our lives to serving Christ, serving his Church, and reaching the lost with the gospel? We should, if we are thankful for what Christ has done for us.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2-3)
Kids are great! I have often thought the best part about having children is that they will teach you more about God and about yourself than you could ever learn otherwise. For example, just this morning our six-year-old daughter wanted to play with some plastic beads that she saw her older ten-year-old brother playing with. When he informed her that he really wanted to play by himself at the moment, she became upset and complained to mom. When mom informed her that her brother really just wants to play by himself right now, she had a complete meltdown. She became very upset and began crying profusely. In response, mommy tried to explain to her that “it’s not a big deal. They are just beads and she can always play with them later.” None of which was very comforting to our daughter. As I sat and witnessed, with utter amazement and bewilderment, the complete emotional breakdown of a six-year-old over plastic beads, I began to wonder how often God looks at us the same way. How often do we have complete meltdowns and emotional perturbation over life not going our way or not getting what we want, and God looks at us thinking, “Really? It’s not that big of a deal.” But to our little minds and from our finite perspective, “the world is crashing down around us! This is the most horrible experience ever!” This is not to trivialize traumatic experiences we do go through in life—the loss of a child, diagnosed with a terminal disease. Those are horrible, life-changing, experiences. But more often than not, we fret and moan and have complete meltdowns over beads. What helps us get through these “traumatic” events is to remember that when we go through these difficult times in life, these disappoints or apparent setbacks, we know that God is producing steadfastness in us and, thus, we should count it all joy.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jer. 29:11)
This week has been a week of surprises and canceled plans due to extreme cold weather in central Texas. Whatever you were planning to do this past week got canceled or re-arranged. I once heard it said, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.” This week has been incredibly true of that. No matter what you were planning or what you thought your week was going to look like, nothing went according to plan. It’s good to know that while God is in control of everything and all things happen according to the sovereign will of God, when it comes to God’s people, everything he does is for us. While Jeremiah 29:11 was originally written to the Israelites living in exile in Babylon, the same can be said of God's people today. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” It is always a good thing to make plans so that we have a map of where we are going in life and where we are trying to get to, but we must always hold those plans in loose fingers recognizing that God may redirect us or our lives at any moment. When we cling too closely to our plans, place our hope too strongly in our vision of the future, when we believe our plans are written in stone, we set ourselves up for radical disappointment when things turn out differently. We can also begin to question the goodness of God when we think we know what is best for our future or when we think God is simply being cruel or arbitrary. But if you are a child of God, if you have placed saving faith in Christ and are trusting in him alone for your salvation, even when our lives do not turn out or are not turning out the way we had hoped or thought, know that God’s plans for you are always for your good and not for evil, plans to give you a future and a hope.
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)
Prayer is one of the areas that most Christians struggle with. Over the years I have spoken with countless believers who have admitted to struggling in their prayer life. We read stories like George Muller and wonder how we can have that kind of prayer life? Doubtless there are many different reasons for our weak prayers. One may be a lack of faith. Another may be a misunderstanding of what prayer is and how it works. Another may simply be not making prayer time a priority in our busy schedules. But one reason that is often overlooked by men who desire to have a more effective prayer life is the manner in which they treat and love their wives. Notice carefully the words of Peter: “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.” Husbands need to be understanding with their wives and honor them as the weaker vessel. Weaker, not in the sense that they are less intelligent or less valuable, but in the sense of understanding that God intended for men to be their protectors and shepherds. Peter offers two reasons as to why this should be. The first is because our wives are “heirs” with us. Husbands should strive to be understanding toward their wives and honor them because they are, after all, fellow sisters in Christ who will inherit the kingdom of God with us. Secondly, however, husbands should strive to be understanding toward their wives and honor them so that our prayers may not be hindered. Why is that? Quite simply, why should God honor our prayers when we fail to honor and cherish the most precious gift He has given us? Husbands, if you want your prayer life to be strengthened and you wanted more of your prayers to be answered, “live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel.”
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph. 6:4)
As a father, not angering your children is nearly impossible. Every time I discipline one of my children or tell them they have to do their chores rather than play outside or simply give them an answer they do not want to hear, they can easily be made angry. But Ephesians 6:4 is not about never making your children angry. To accomplish that goal would mean giving your children whatever they ask for or always saying yes. This certainly would not make them angry but would, of course, spoil them and engender an attitude of entitlement. Rather, Ephesians 6:4 is about applying the second great commandment to your children. We can sometimes think the second great commandment only applies to the people who live next door to us or across the street from us or whom we work next to or attend church with. However, “loving your neighbor” is as much about your own children as it is about your next door neighbor, no matter how young they are. Thus, we as fathers, should always strive to be the kind of father to our children as we would want for ourselves, if we were children. We should not be arbitrary in our rules, tyrannical in our authority, abusive in our discipline, or harsh with our words. We should never say the sort of things to our children we would not have wanted spoken to us by our fathers when we were children. Telling our children they are dumb or not smart or saying, “What is wrong with you?” is never helpful at best, and harmful at worst. As fathers, we should strive to be the kind of father to our children we would have wanted for ourselves—firm but fair, patient but not spineless, protective but not possessive, godly but not legalistic.
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:14)
One of the most comforting passages in all of scripture is Psalm 103:8-14 which says, “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” It’s comforting because it not only reminds us that God will forgive our sins when we come to him asking for forgiveness because God is merciful and forgiving, but also because God is understanding and compassionate. “He knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” God knows how weak we are. He knows how difficult it is for humans to resist temptation. This certainly does not excuse our behavior, but it causes God to be compassionate on our souls. There’s a lesson to be learned here. Knowing how difficult it is for us to always do the right thing, we should be more understanding of others when they don’t do the right thing. If God is compassionate with us because he knows our frame, how compassionate should we be with others whose frame we resemble?
For to the snow he says, “Fall on the earth.” (Job 37:6)
As I sit here looking out the window at the lovely blanket of snow covering the ground, I am reminded of God’s amazing power and sovereignty. Beginning in chapter 36, Job’s friend, Elihu, begins to extol the greatness of God, essentially asking Job who he thinks he is to question God. In the process, he says, “God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend. For to the snow he says, 'Fall on the earth,' likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour. He seals up the hand of every man, that all men whom he made may know it. Then the beasts go into their lairs, and remain in their dens. From its chamber comes the whirlwind, and cold from the scattering winds. By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast. He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world” (vv.5-12). Elihu’s point is that God is in sovereign control of all things. There is nothing in this world that happens by chance or accident. This is actually a very comforting thought to know that someone is in control of this seemingly chaotic world we live in. We are not at the mercy of chance or circumstance or corrupt politicians. When bad things or unexpected things happen in this world, we can know and be sure that they happen for a good reason because God is good and trustworthy and wise.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled. (Psalm 2:12)
As we look out at the world, it can sometimes be discouraging and disheartening to see the world spiraling out of control, literally in a tailspin with the ground rapidly approaching. It appears the world has no regard or reverence for God and we wonder why God puts up with us. However, the current anti-God attitude displayed in society and in our culture is not new. In fact, Cain killing his own brother Abel in Genesis 4, right at the start of world history, was the first act of extreme irreverence toward God. Abel was created in the image of God, the second-born son of Adam and Eve, and his own brother killed him. Thus, we read in the second psalm, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed” (vv.1-2). The author of Psalm 2 is unknown, but if we assume David wrote it, since he is the author of most of the psalms, then this psalm was written about one-thousand years before Christ, three-thousand years before today. The world has always been “against the LORD and against his Anointed.” Yet while we fret about what we see happening in the world and we worry about the future of our nation, we are told that God “sits in the heavens [and] laughs; the Lord holds them in derision” (v.4). God looks at the world’s anti-God posturing, and it is like a baby kitten hissing and being aggressive toward a 600-pound grizzly bear. Laughable! If God is not fretting about what he sees in the world, neither should we. Hence, Psalm 2 ends with a strong and sober warning from God. “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son [Jesus Christ], lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled.” God is being incredibly patient with the world. But much like the grizzly bear staring in amazement and bewilderment at the half-pound kitten baring his teeth and hissing, there will come a day when the grizzly bear will have had enough.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. (Galatians 6:1)
Following up on yesterday’s Daily Thoughts, Christians often struggle with knowing whose responsibility it is to correct those behaving sinfully. Often the thought is it should be those who are closest to the person, their spouse, their family members, or their pastor. However, Galatians 6:1 says, “If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” First of all, the underlying Greek word for “restore” (katartizō) is in the imperative mood. Meaning, it is written in the form of a command. Thus, when we see someone “caught in any transgression,” we who are spiritual are to seek to restore that person; restore them to right fellowship with the saints and with God. Second, when seeking to understand who should be the one to do the correcting, the answer is those who are spiritual. That is, those who are believers but also those who recognize the sin problem. Third, when scripture says, “if anyone is caught in any transgression,” we tend to think about being caught or trapped in some horrendous and hideous sin. But sometimes the sin people can be caught in is pride, arrogance, laziness, gossip, slander, divisiveness. These can be harder to see and detect and often seem less harmful than the bigger and more grievous sins. Notice scripture says, “any transgression…” Of course, if you’re a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. This verse does not mean we go around hammering everyone for every little sin. Restoring someone or correcting their sin, does not always mean offering a sharp rebuke. Sometimes it means when someone begins to gossip, simply saying, ‘You know, I don’t think we should be having this conversation,’ and then redirecting the conversation to something else. Or, when someone comes to us to “seek our advice” about someone who has offended them, we stop them and gently say to them, ‘You know, I really don’t need to hear this. If you are having trouble with someone else, you need to go and speak to that person directly and privately, per Matthew 18:15.’ But nonetheless, we are all responsible for restoring someone who is caught in sin.
If your brother sins, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (Matt. 18:15)
When someone upsets us or does or says something to offend us or just behaves in a way we know is sinful and will be harmful either to themselves or to someone else, what should we do about it? Too often when the sin is not against us, we look the other way, believing that it’s not our problem, that someone else will deal with it. However, when the sin has been committed against us, many Christians will often take one of two approaches. Either they will stuff the emotions down inside and try and ignore them, all to keep the peace or they seek the advice of a trusted friend as to what to do about it or how to handle it. All three of the above approaches are sinful and unbiblical approaches. In Matthew 18:15 Jesus says, “If your brother sins…” Some translations say, “If your brother sins against you…” (ESV, NKJV). However, the words “against you” are being supplied by our English translators. The Greek New Testament simply says, per NASB and NIV, “If your brother sins, go and tell him his fault…” Thus, what Jesus is saying is that if your brother sins in any way or against anyone, you have a responsibility to go to him and address the issue, whether the sin is against you or not. But what is also worth noting is that Jesus says, “If your brother sins, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” In the Greek, the word “go” is in the imperative mood. In other words, Jesus commands us to “go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” Thus, to not go and speak with the sinning brother or sister, is sinful on our part for it would be disobedient to Christ’s command. Additionally, to go and speak with someone else about the issue, rather than going privately to the sinning brother or sister would also be sinful because Christ commands us to “go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” Christ does not command us to keep the matter to ourselves nor does he command us to seek the “advice” of someone else. Christ commands us to address the sinning brother or sister directly and privately. Of course, if the sinning brother or sister does not respond favorably to our correction, we don’t continue to keep the matter private. In Matthew 18:16-17, Jesus gives additional steps to take.
Daily Thoughts is a daily short post to encourage and help you grow in your faith. If you would like to receive these direct to your in-box, please subscribe.