The Protected Right to “Choose”

fdvdfThere has been a lot of talk lately about the horrendous practices of Planned Parenthood. It is sickening to think that the body parts of human beings are being sold for medical research to help prevent diseases in living persons.  The end does not justify the means. There are other ways to prevent disease. Our president at a recent banquet for Planned Parenthood stated that as long as he was president a woman would have the “protected right to choose”. That means the right to murder her unborn child. At the end of his speech he had the audacity to say “God bless Planned Parenthood”. He is asking God to bless an organization that murders children!

When the United States House of Representatives recently voted to stop funding Planned Parenthood, former speaker of the house Harry Reid said: “The Republicans have lost their moral compass”. How can we sanitize abortion and say that it is moral for a woman to murder her unborn child? I am sure you have heard the story of the dentist who killed Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe. This man is a dentist who has lost his license to practice and is now in hiding for fear of his life. A petition has been signed by hundreds of thousands of people demanding his extradition to Zimbabwe for trial and prison time!

Human life is made even less valuable when we are told that there is no difference between human beings and animals. Ingrid Newkirk of PETA said: “When it comes to having a central nervous system, and the ability to feel pain, hunger, and thirst, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” She’s saying that we’re all the same; however, if we are all the same, why are there laws protecting endangered species but not human life?

What does the Bible say about life? In Psalm 51:5 David said: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” He is not saying that his mother committed sin in having him but that there was never a time that he was not a sinner but the emphasis is on the word conceived. From that moment on he was a human being.

21233220_SAPsalm 139:13-16 reads: “For You formed my inward parts, You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for You are fearfully and wonderfully made, marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they were all written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none.”

The body is truly a miracle of God. We know that every living creature is made up of microscopic cells so small that the letter O would contain between thirty and forty thousand of them. Each cell is a micro universe of almost unbelievable complexity. Such a complicated and unerring development of cells cannot possibly be the result of chance. The Psalmist said “He created me”.

Today people argue that the fetus is not yet a person but simply a part of the woman’s body like a gall bladder that can be removed. That’s why the language in describing unborn children has been changed. Years ago everyone referred to the unborn child as a baby. It’s hard for anyone to think rationally about killing the baby so today we call it tissue mass. To get rid of tissue doesn’t sound so bad but that is not how the Bible describes unborn children. Growing medical knowledge of unborn children undermines that illusion.

James Boice said: “The Greek philosopher, Aristotle speculated that the fetus becomes human when it quickens in the womb, that is when the mother feels it move. We know today the movement of the fetus is only a matter of degree, the baby is moving all the time. Others have argued that the fetus becomes human only when it is old enough to survive outside the womb,  but advances in the care of premature babies make it possible for even extremely small infants to survive, certainly infants that are younger and smaller than many being aborted. It is increasingly common today to identify life with brain activity, though we know that there is brain inactivity in the unborn child even before the mother is aware that she is pregnant. For that matter, there’s a beating heart and the circulation of the baby’s own blood as well.”

The problem with trying to determine a point before which the developing child is fully human is that there isn’t one. In the Psalm David speaks of his unique individuality from the first moments of his existence in the womb. From that very first moment, God knew him and ordained what his life was to be.

The apostle Paul said in Romans 1:25: “Who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”

I hope you see now how heinous abortion is and how we must do our utmost to preserve life.

See you Sunday.

Dick

 

 

 

 

Church of “None”

dfvdgvbfOn the religion page in the Times Picayune recently there was an article entitled “The Church of ‘None’ – Cultural Christians have morals without a belief in God.” The article is too long for me to go into in any detail but I would like to highlight one paragraph. It said: “These are the people who identify with ambivalent, ambiguous statements like ‘I am spiritual but not religious’; ‘I am kind of agnostic’; ‘Now I am an atheist, but I grew up Catholic’; or ‘I believe in something but I don’t know if it’s God’.”

What these so-called Nones are saying is that truth does not exist in any objective sense. They are the new spirituality of our post-modern age. They are of the mindset that each person must decide for himself a standard of truth. Your morals belong to you and someone else’s morals belong to them.

I am sure that most of you have seen on a car around town the bumper sticker that says Coexist spelled out in symbols. This was designed by a Polish graphic designer named Piotr Mlodozeniec. Here’s what the symbols stand for.

For the letter “C” a crescent moon representing Islam is substituted

For the letter “X” the star of David representing Judaism is substituted

For the letter “T” a cross representing Christianity is substituted

For the letter “O” the peace symbol or pagan/Wiccan pentacle is substituted

For the letter “E” a male/female symbol or a scientific equation is substituted

For the letter “I” a pagan/Wiccan symbol is substituted

For the letter “S” a Chinese yin-yang symbol is substituted

Newer Coexist designs expand the tolerance message to also include earth-centered and Eastern religions as well as issues surround religion and science and gender, including homosexuality.

This kind of tolerance is not only unworkable but totally unbiblical. Fernando Sabater, a Spanish philosopher states: “Tolerance…the doctrine in vogue, is that all opinions are equal. Each one has its point, and all should be respected or praised. That is to say, there is no rational way to discern between them.”

This new tolerance says that everyone has the right to believe or say what they think is right, because all beliefs are equal. Therefore, all lifestyles are equal and all truth claims are equal.

rfvrfgI can’t help but think of the dialogue between Jesus Christ and Pontius Pilate. In John 18:37, 38: “Pilate therefore said to Him ‘Are you a king then’? Jesus answered ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice’. Pilate said to Him ‘What is truth’?…”

First of all, there is such a thing as truth. It is singular. It is not in fragments that require us to speak of “truths” in the sense of unrelated facts or items. Truth holds together. The Lord Jesus indicates in His statement to Pilate that truth is not only an entity, it is objective. James Boice said: “It is there to be observed and discussed, and we can observe it and discuss it without prejudice. This is involved in Christ’s statement that He has come to bear witness to the truth, as one might to any fact submitted in a court of law.”

In the Bible we see our true condition. We also find that God has done what needed to be done in sending His Son as our savior. Jesus died for us, He rose for us, He reigns for us. This is objective truth. When Jesus said to Pilate “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice”, He was saying that truth must come from above and He came to bear witness to the truth.

Pilate is the picture of the post-modern man who has nothing substantial in which to believe. He had no idea that truth was standing right in front of him and that his actions should have been guided by God and not the demands of the crowd. The same is true today. Truth is not based upon opinion polls or popularity but is embodied in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one who has come to reveal Himself to us through His Spirit and make everything plain to all of those who will come to Him.

See you Sunday.

Dick

 

Two Gospel Encouragements

ymunbgrvtefcdI would like to tell you two things that the Lord Jesus Christ that should give great comfort to us as believers. The first thing is what Christ has done for us as our suffering servant and the second thing is what He does for us as our all-sufficient God. First of all we will look at Christ as our suffering servant. It comes from Isaiah 53. This passage is directly cited no less than seven times in the New Testament and with more than forty allusions. Jesus, in Mark 10:45, weds Isaiah’s suffering servant to Daniel’s Son of Man (Daniel 7:13, 14) and thereby redefines for us who and what Messiah will be.

This is exciting: What does this text tell us about the servant of the Lord? The list is staggering. He bore our grief (Isaiah 53:4). He carried our sorrows (53:4). He was wounded for our transgressions (53:5). He was bruised for our iniquities (53:5). He was chastised for our peace (53:5). He healed us by His stripes (53:5). He bore our iniquities (53:6, 11). He was oppressed and afflicted (53:7). He was slaughtered (53:7). He was cut off (53:8). He was stricken for our transgressions (53:8). He was bruised by the Lord (53:10). He was put to grief (53:10). His soul was made a sin offering (53:10). He poured out His soul to death (53:12). He was numbered with the transgressors (53:12). He bore the sin of many (53:12). He made intercession for the transgressors (53:12). (Christology: the Study of Christ by Daniel L. Akin). This reminds us of the price Jesus paid to redeem us from our sin.

The next thing to see is what the Lord Jesus does for us. In Ephesians 3:20, 21 Paul says: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

photo 1 (1)He who loved us so much that He spared not His own Son to make us His children (Romans 8:32) invites us to come to Him freely and confidently but He also promises to bring the full measure of the wisdom and powers of His Godhead to answer us. How do we measure what He can do? He holds the whole earth in His hand, He created the universe but continues to control the light in your room and the decay of an atom in the most distant galaxy. He make the flowers grow and the snow fall, He rides on the wings of a storm and holds a butterfly in the air, and He who was before the beginning of all we know still uses time as His tool of healing, restoration, and retribution. Our thoughts are as a window to Him, generations to come from us are already known fully to Him who loves our family more than we do. He looks at the length of our life as a handbreadth, and makes our soul, though sinful, His treasure forever. Such is the God who hears our prayers and is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or can even imagine. (Commentary on Ephesians, Bryan Chapell)

In Philippians 4:19 Paul the apostle said: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches and glory by Christ Jesus.”

James Boice asks us “Who is the God of Philippians 4:19? He is the God who calls Abraham out of Mesopotamia when he was an idol worshiper like his contemporaries and sent him on his way to a new land promising that he would be blessed and there would be greater blessing to all people through his descendants. The God of Philippians 4:19 is the God who called Israel our of Egypt, who took her through the Red Sea, who preserved her for forty years in the wilderness, and who finally enabled her to conquer the land of Canaan. He is the God of David, of Elijah, of Jeremiah, of all the prophets. He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who died for our salvation and then triumphed over the tomb. This God stands behinds His promises.”

The God of whom Paul speaks is a God who will support His people and will never let down the one who trusts in Him. If you believe in Him and desire to obey Him you will find Him strong in your need and entirely faithful to you. These are just two wonderful attributes of who God is.

See you Sunday.

Dick

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nevermind

002In his excellent book The Book that Made Your World by Vishal Mangalwadi, he begins by saying: “On April 8 1994 an electrician accidentally discovered a dead body in Seattle, WA. A shotgun had taken the person’s life. The police investigation concluded that he victim of this ghastly tragedy was the rock legend Kurt Cobain (b. 1967) and that he had committed suicide a few days earlier. Cobain previous attempt at suicide by drug overdose had been unsuccessful. His wife, singer Courtney Love, is said to have called the police multiple times to have them confiscate his guns before he killed himself or harmed others.

Cobain, the lead singer and guitarist for the rock band Nirvana captured his generation’s loss of anchor, center, or soul so effectively that their album Never Mind sold ten million copies.

The phrase “never mind” means don’t bother, don’t concern yourself. Why should you mind if nothing is true, good, or beautiful in any absolute sense? Should a man be bothered about his adorable daughter’s on-going need for a father? “Never mind” is a logical virtue for a nihilist who thinks that there is nothing out there to give meaning and significance to anything here—be it your daughter, wife, or life.”

It was reported that prior to the 1960’s teenage suicide was virtually non-existent among American youth. By 1980 almost 400,000 adolescents attempted suicide every year. By 1987 suicide had become the second largest killer of teens after automobile accidents. By the 1990’s suicide slipped to number 3 because young people were killing each other as often as they killed themselves. And why? Because they had nothing to live for. If God does not exist then life has no real meaning.

A man named B. F. Skinner is the father of what we call “behaviorism”. This basically means that there is neither God nor soul. Human beings are chemicals turned animals, qualitative no different than dogs. Our life as human beings is determined by environment, chemistry, chance and cultural conditioning.

Another example of our hopelessness is defined by Ingrid Newkirk, the president of PETA. Among other things she has said: “Six million people died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughter houses.” This is laughable, but you see what little value she places on human life! We can abort millions of children with no consequence at all and yet she’s concerned about broiler chickens! She also said: “Animal liberationists do not separate  out  the  human animal,  so there  is no  rational  basis for  saying that a human  being  has  special rights.   A rat is a  pig is  a  dog is  a  boy.  They are all mammals.  When  it comes to the central nervous system,  and the  ability  to  feel pain, hunger, and thirst, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” Though this is partially true, human beings are not in the same category as animals.

That is our problem. We do not see ourselves with any significant purpose. In Ecclesiastes 3:11 God said “that He put eternity in the hearts of men.” This means that we were created for a relationship with God. Without Him our search for meaning is futile and as Kurt Cobain found, empty.

In the book of Genesis there is a distinction between man and animals. Man was given a soul, animals were not. In Genesis 2:7 the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being.

Who are we? In Deuteronomy 7:6, God said: “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.” All men are created in the image of God and can understand the value of their life only in Christ. Therefore, it is only those who are believers who can understand their special relationship to God.

In I Peter 2:9, Peter said: “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy  nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” This is our identity and this alone gives us meaning and purpose in life. Let us therefore learn more and more about our relationship with God.

 

See you Sunday

Dick

The Love of God in the Incarnation

In the hymn O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus the first stanza reads:

        O the deep, deep love of Jesus! Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free;

        Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me.

       Underneath me, all around me, is the current of thy love;

       Leading onward, leading homeward, to thy glorious rest above.

 

I have come to appreciate more God’s great love for us. The hymn writer said: “It’s a mighty ocean in its fullness over me. It is also underneath me and all around me.” What does this mean?

ieufveiI am reading a book entitled The Incarnation of God by John C. Clark and Marcus Johnson. Let me share with you briefly some of the wonderful things they tell us about God’s great love for us: “In Matthew 17:5 when God the Father said ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him’. The Father and the Son share precisely the same desire—to open up to us the love They eternally share with one another. So the Father directs us to His Son, His eternally beloved and the Son directs us to Himself, the bearer and bestower of that love.

The stunning reality of the incarnation is that the love that God the Father has for God the Son has come into our humanity through the enfleshing of the Father’s Son. The love of God for His Son has actually entered into our humanity, allowing our humanity entrance into that love.

We must consider Jesus’ words in John 14:6, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No One comes to the Father except through Me’. When Jesus said that He is the ‘way to the Father’, and that it is only ‘through Me’ that one comes to the Father, it surely makes all the difference in the world that it is specifically the incarnate Son of God who said so! The incarnate Son is Himself our way to the Father—only God incarnate could do that! This is what it means to say that when the incarnate Son reveals God as Father, it is supremely good news (Gospel).”

10341540_259704290878774_7684688980415230104_nDonald Fairbairn says: “Jesus is not saying eternal life is something that He will give us. He is not saying that because of what He has done, or what He will do or what we do, then we will get X, Y, or Z while living forever in heaven. Eternal life is knowing Christ and His Father, God. At the heart of the central idea of Christianity lies the reality that Christians will know the Father and the Son.”

To know the Father through the Son is to be joined to the Father through the incarnate Son.

Martin Luther said: “For the Son comes down to us from the Father and attaches Himself to us; and we, in turn, attach ourselves to Him and come to the Father through Him. This is the reason for His incarnation and His birth from the Virgin Mary, that He might mingle with us, be seen and heard by us, yes, be crucified and put to death for us, and draw and hold us to Him. He was sent to draw up to the Father those who would believe in Him, just as He is in the Father. He forged these links between Himself and us and the Father, thus enclosing us in this circle, so that now we are in Him, and He in us, just as He is in the Father and the Father is in Him. Through such a union and communion our sin and death are abolished, and now we have sheer life and blessedness in their stead.”

Such is the great love of God for us through His Son, Jesus.

See you Sunday.

Dick

Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control

fruit-of-the-spirit_t-1024x768The fruit of the Spirit today is self control. Self control can be defined as the believer’s wall of defense against the sinful desires that wage war against his soul.

Charles Bridges observed that the person without self control is easy prey to Satan. He said: “He yields himself to the first assault of his ungoverned passions, offering no resistance…having no discipline over himself, temptation becomes the occasion of sin, and hurries him on to fearful lengths that he has not contemplated…Anger tends to murder. Unwatchfulness over lust plunges into adultery.”

Self control is necessary because we are at war with our sinful desires. James says “that each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” In this verse the words translated drawn away picture a wild animal being lured from safety into a place where it can be attacked or captured. The next word in the verse enticed pictures a fish attracted by the glint of something in the water, altering course and closing its mouth on the juicy bait, only to find that it concealed the deadly hook. John Blanchard said: “Inwardly, man has the desire and the potential to sin; outwardly, he is surrounded by enticements, allurements, temptations. As long as he resists these, he is safe, but it is this consideration, this toying with the idea, this allowing of the outward attraction to occupy a place in his mind, that moves his toward the fateful moment.”

There are many things we could talk about in the area of self control but I would like to talk about our uncontrolled tempers. Many of us have temperaments where we tend to lash out at those who inconvenience us in some way. As godly people, however, we are to learn to control this tendency. In Proverbs 16:32 it reads, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit then he who takes a city.” Charles Bridges said: “The taking of a city is child’s play compared with this wrestling…That is the only battle of a day. This, the weary, unceasing conflict of a life.”

selfcontrolfruitAlthough not harmful to others, other uncontrolled emotions such as resentment, bitterness and self pity may be more destructive to ourselves and to our relationship with God. All of our sinful inner emotions have a common focus on self.

In James 1:19, he says: “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” Here are some other examples from Proverbs: “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise” (Proverbs 10:19). “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered” (Proverbs 17:27). “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity” (Proverbs 21:23).

To paraphrase this, we should remember that God gave us two ears and one mouth. We should listen more carefully before we speak. As Thomas Manton wrote: “Anger grows not by degrees like other passions, but at her birth she is in her full growth. The heat and fury of it is at first, therefore the best cure is deliberation.” Therefore, we should seek to bring every part of our life under the continuous control of the Holy Spirit.

See you Sunday.

Dick

Some Pastoral Thoughts on the Man, Bruce Jenner

bruce-jenner-s-decathlon-olympic-gold-1103071-TwoByOneI am putting aside our study on the fruit of the Spirit to speak about what is happening in the media concerning Bruce Jenner who now calls himself Caitlyn. Unfortunately, this is taking our country by storm. Never mind our larger issues such as Isis, crime in our streets, and ever-growing tax burden. We are focusing our attention on the perverse.

Who is Bruce Jenner? Many of you may not remember that in 1976 he was an American hero. Our country had just survived Watergate, the Vietnam War had recently ended and America needed something to give them new hope. It was brought by Bruce Jenner in the Montreal Olympics. He came to international attention as a Decathlete, winning the gold medal in the men’s Decathlon event. He became an overnight star. He was briefly Erik Estrada’s replacement in the TV series Chips.

Today he has more TWEETS than the President of the United States. Instead of being hailed as an Olympic hero, he is being hailed for his sex change. In fact he is going to be given the ESPY award this year (which stands for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly award) named in honor of the late Arthur Ashe. This award is given to those who “reflect the spirit of Arthur Ashe…by showing courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost.” I do not feel that he is a man of courage but the cost to our society will be high.

He is being praised by the LGBT community as well as NAMBLA (the North American Man Boy Love Association. This name says it all! What a horrible ally in sin!).

Many want to use the Bible to support homosexual and transgender issues. Those who support these perversions believe that the Bible is irrelevant or improperly translated. For example the book of Leviticus does teach that certain fabrics should not be mixed and that certain animals should not be eaten. These laws were only for Israel. The purpose of these restrictions was to keep them distinct from other nations. Jesus teaches us the same thing today. He tells us to be holy as He is holy. The apostle John tells us to avoid the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (I John 2:16).

Original caption: USA's Bruce Jenner, San Jose, CA., displays the gold medal he won in the Olympic decathlon here 7/30. (Copyright Bettmann/Corbis / AP Images)
Original caption: USA’s Bruce Jenner, San Jose, CA., displays the gold medal he won in the Olympic decathlon here 7/30. (Copyright Bettmann/Corbis / AP Images)

This week on the radio, the host was asking the callers whether or not God was honored with someone who got a sex change. He tried to justify it by saying was God honored if you got contact lenses that changed the color of your eyes or dyed your hair. Eye color and hair does not change your gender and this does not dishonor God but changing your gender does.

What does the Bible say about our gender? In Genesis 2:7: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being.” In verse 18: “And the Lord God said it is not good that man should be alone, I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Our sexual identity is a creation ordinance. We each have specific roles. Adam’s function was to lead. Eve, as the helper, was to supply what was lacking in him. The word helper means “like opposite him or according to his opposite”. This is how God created us.

No matter how Bruce Jenner changes his outward appearance, he still has the chromosomes of a man. He is not, and never will be, in God’s eyes as he claims “the new normal”.

In Deuteronomy 22:5 we read: “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your God.” Abomination is a strong word. This would drive us to be careful about maintaining gender distinctions. This verse has nothing to do with equality among men and women. This violates God’s standards. In this passage Moses is particularly talking about gender attitudes and sexual practices that violate God’s order. The fact that the pagan peoples were notorious for such practices is supposed by a Babylonian proverb which tells of an Amorite saying to his wife, “You be the man, I’ll be the woman.”

In I Corinthians 11:3 Paul says: “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of the woman is man, and head of Christ is God.” Man’s headship is not based on man’s fall into sin but on God’s creative act. Man is given the role of headship because God designed it to be so. Paul points out that man was made first, then the woman was made from the man and for the man (11: 8, 9). Why did God do things in this way? To ask that is rather like asking why are there weeds? They just are. And man’s headship is there! God put this order in creation because it pleased Him to do so.

Every person, including Bruce Jenner, who wants to change their gender is sinning against God regardless of how they feel trapped in a body of the other sex. The further as a nation we get from Godly morals, we will see more and more perverse things taking place. Let us as Christian people hold fast to the truth of God’s word.

What is the definition of sin? The shorter Catechism is: “Sin is any want of conformity unto or, transgression of the law of God.” This is His standard regardless of what we are anyone else says. The apostle Paul said in Romans 3:4: “Let God be true and every man a liar.”

See you Sunday.

Dick

Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness

gentlenessfruitThe fruit of the Spirit we are dealing with today is gentleness. William Hendricksen says a number of synonyms are necessary to show the broad meaning of this word: yieldedness, reasonableness, big heartedness, geniality, considerateness. If we stop just here, how many of these qualities would characterize you? Would people say of you “they are the most reasonable, big-hearted person”

James Adamson uses the word “humane” in his commentary on James and said it describes “the man who is fair, considerate and generous rather than rigid and exacting in his relations with others…” It is contrasted with “strict justice” and is used of judges who do not press the letter of the law… It is also used of people who listen to reason. E. Vine says it is “the trait that enables us to look humanely and reasonably at the facts of a case…not insisting on the letter of the law.

The overview of the word gentle is the opposite of being rigid. In Philippians 4:5 the apostle Paul said: “Let your reasonableness be made known to everyone.” Commentator Dennis E. Johnson says: “The term refers to the calm and kind disposition that enables a person to offer a non-violent, even generous, response to others’ aggression. Aristotle explained ‘gentleness’ as a willingness to forgo one’s own rights according to the letter of the law. So this word nicely captures the thrust of Paul’s earlier exhortation about the way that Christians should treat each other: ‘Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others’ (2:4). Elsewhere Paul uses this word to teach that elders must not be quarrelsome, but gentle (I Timothy 3:3). Also believers should be gentle rather than quarreling (Titus 3:2). Paul associates gentleness with meekness as seen in 2 Corinthians 10:1.”

In Philippians 4:5 the apostle Paul expands the circle of those whom we are to treat gently. It goes beyond the church to everyone, even those who make our lives miserable. As children of God who sends sunshine and rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45) as brothers and sisters of the beloved Son who died for us while we were still His enemies (Romans 5:10), we should extend kindness rather than retaliation to those who are inconsiderate and unkind toward us.

fruit-of-the-spirit_t-1024x768In Matthew 10:28-30 Jesus said: “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart and you shall find rest for your souls.”

Jesus in these verses gives us an example of selflessness. We deserve nothing from Him and yet even the yoke that He requires of us is light. He provides for us the very opposite of many of the aggravated mental stresses that drive us crazy. If we truly pay attention to His teachings, we will have lower blood pressure and a more peaceful life.

I leave you with a story that I’ve used before that gives us an example of a gentle life. Watchman Nee, a Chinese evangelist, tells of a Christian he once knew in China. He was a poor rice farmer, and his fields lay high on a mountain. Every day he pumped water into the paddies of new rice, and every morning he returned to find that a neighbor who lived down the hill had opened the dykes surrounding the Christian’s field to let the water fill his own. For a while the Christian ignored the injustice, but at last he became desperate. He met and prayed with other Christians and came up with this solution. The next day the Christian farmer rose early in the morning and first filled his neighbor’s fields, then he attended to his own. Watchman  Nee tells how the neighbor subsequently became a Christian, his unbelief overcome by a demonstration of a Christian’s gentleness and Christ-like character.

Can we truly live a gentle life for the glory of God and as a witness to others?

See you Sunday.

Dick

Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness

fruit-of-the-spirit_t-1024x768Today we are talking about the fruit of the Spirit which is goodness.  This is more exclusively an attribute of God.  In Luke 18 when Jesus was talking to the rich young ruler he called Him “good master” (Luke 18:18).  Jesus did not deny that the word applied to Him but He wanted him to see that in the absolute sense the word good can only be applied to God, so Jesus asked him “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” We can be good only in a relative sense.  And yet the relative sense is also true goodness.  It is a reflection of God’s goodness in us because of our faith.

What does goodness mean? It describes the character of a saved person.  It could imply being faultless and outgoing.  For example when Paul was giving the qualifications for elders in the church in 1Timothy 3:7 he said he must: “Have a good testimony among those who are outside.”

In a paradoxical way Jesus said in Luke 6:26: “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”  We Christians may suffer reproach from the world for being good.  We must distinguish between popularity that comes from compromise and the testimony of goodness that the world sometimes gives despite itself.  Somebody may call you for example a goody-goody.  Why do they do that?  There are certain vices in which we as Christians will not participate.  Calling you a goody-goody is a term of derision.  I wonder if your life convicts those name callers of the sin in their life.  This reminds me of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Jesus is telling us that our goodness can have a positive impact upon others.  Some will be attracted to us and others will not.  With Christ as our source of goodness we have a security in our life and conduct which others long to have but I believe they will never find because they are looking for the wrong things.

fruit-of-the-spirit-goodnessLet me also say we are not saved by our goodness.  When people are asked if they are going to heaven when they die, they all often answer yes because I am a good person.  Romans 3:12 says, “There is none who does good, no, not one.” Goodness is a result of our changed life not the cause. In Ephesians 2:8-10 Paul said: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

George W. Bethune in his book The Fruit of the Spirit wrote: “True goodness is not merely impulsive, but rational and considerate—it will therefore pause, and be at some trouble to inquire what service, and how best may it be rendered… Goodness should be willing to give time, and thought, and patience, and even labor, not mere money and kind words and compassionate looks.”

We as Christians are called upon to do good for others in word and in deed.  We are to seek to minister to believers and unbelievers alike. True goodness is not only self sacrifice but also untiring. It does not “become weary in doing good” (Galatians 6:9).  It does not look to the recipients, or even to the results, of its deeds for its reward.  It looks to God alone, and finding His smile of approval, it gains the needed strength to carry on.

 

See you Sunday.

Dick

The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

fruit-of-the-spirit_t-1024x768The next fruit we are talking about is kindness. Let’s first of all talk about what kindness is not. In Proverbs 18:8 it says: “The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body.” The Puritan Charles Bridges says: “No good results can arise from the spirit of the talebearer, because with him it is pure selfishness, without a principle beyond the love of sin for its own sake. He lives upon the scandal of the place, and makes it his hateful business to carry about tales, or slanders of his neighbors faults. Such reports are eagerly devoured, and the mischief-maker feeds with greedy appetite upon the fruit of his cruel indulgence. To him this may appear harmless play but if it draws no blood, and no outward hurt is shown, an internal and often incurable wound is inflicted.” How many times have we knowingly or unknowingly hurt someone with our speech? This is not showing kindness.

Another example of unkindness is found in the prophet Jonah. Remember how God told him to go preach to the people at Nineveh. Jonah knew that if he obeyed God that the people of Nineveh would repent and that God would forgive them. At first, Jonah wanted no part of this. He fled for Tarshish. He was showing unkindness to the people of Nineveh by not wanting them to enjoy the forgiveness of God.

One last example of unkindness is in a man named Diotrephes. We read of him in the epistle of 3 John. His ambition in the church led him to evil speaking, to the breaking of fellowship and to excommunicating those who would not obey him. He is an example of selfishness, pride, disobedience and rebellion toward God. He did not have the heart of a servant but rather wanted to have a position of lording it over other members of the church. I am sure people like this exist in churches where their lack of kindness is a stumbling block to believers and unbelievers alike.

kindness_t_nvWhat is kindness? Jerry Bridges defines the word this way: “Kindness is a sincere desire for the happiness of others. It is an inner disposition created by the Holy Spirit, that causes us to be sensitive to the needs of others, either physical, emotional, or spiritual.” I will give you two examples of Biblical kindness though there are many more. Matthew 7:12 is what we often called the Golden Rule. Jesus said: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” What Jesus means here is that I am to treat you with kindness regardless of how you treat me. This is not a conditional promise. For example our kindness would be letting someone in in traffic, not letting our tempers flare when someone inconsiderately pulls in front of us, acting kind to people who are not particularly kind toward you.

One other example is found in Luke 10 in the parable of the Good Samaritan. In that parable Jesus speaks of a man in dire need, he had been robbed, beaten and left half dead. Who would show him kindness? Not a priest or a Levite. These were the upper classes among the Jews. The example of virtue which lower classes would follow. However they were neither kind nor merciful but the Samaritan was. Jesus was exposing the self righteous pride of many of the Jews of His day. Their pride led to unkindness. The Samaritan had nothing to be proud of. He was moved with compassion. He bound up the man’s wounds after having treated them with oil and wine. He then carried him to an inn for recovery and paid his expenses while recuperating. This is one example of how we show kindness to people without expecting anything in return. This is the Christ likeness we are to seek to imitate.

See you Sunday.

Dick