Creation: A Theater of God's Glory

John Calvin beautifully articulates what it means that “the heavens declare the glory of God”:

[God] has also displayed his perfection in the whole structure of the universe. So he is constantly in our view and we cannot open our eyes without being made to see him. His nature is incomprehensible, far beyond all human thought, but his glory is etched on his creation so brightly, clearly and gloriously, that no one however obtuse and illiterate can plead ignorance as an excuse. So with absolute truth the Psalmist exclaims, ‘He wraps himself in light as with a garment’ (Ps. 104:2). It is as though he was saying that when God created the world for the first time, he put on outer clothes. He hung up gorgeous banners on which we see his perfection clearly portrayed…

Wherever you look, there is no part of the world however small that does not show at least some glimmer of beauty; it is impossible to gaze at the vast expanses of the universe without being overwhelmed by such tremendous beauty. So the author of Hebrews sensitively describes the visible world as an image of the invisible (Heb. 11:3). The superb structure of the world acts as a sort of mirror in which we may see God, who would otherwise be invisible.

John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion ed. Tony Lane and Hilary Osborne, p. 32-33

The Spirit's Fruit of Faithfulness

The fruit of the Spirit is…faithfulness

One of the most frequent refrains throughout the Psalms is “Great is your faithfulness, O Lord.” The people of God delighted to praise God for His faithfulness. Partly because if God were not a faithful God, the history of Israel would have been very short and the OT would have been a very small book. But even though Israel tested God’s faithfulness over and over and over again, God proved His faithfulness beyond a shadow of a doubt. God demonstrated His faithfulness by keeping His promises and by being utterly and completely reliable. 

And one of the parts of the Spirit’s ministry is to make us like our heavenly Father by cultivating the fruit of faithfulness in our lives. What does it mean to be faithful? It means to be enduringly trustworthy, reliable, and devoted.

When someone is enduringly trustworthy they strive to do what is right not only in public before the eyes of others but in secret as well when the Lord, alone, is watching them. They can be trusted with your most precious secret and your most valuable possession.

When someone is enduringly reliable you can take their word to the bank, you can plan on them to be there when they say they will, and you can count on them to help you in a time of need.

When someone is enduringly devoted you see it in there walk with God how they follow the Lord in trial and prosperity in good times and hard times. They stick closer than a brother.

Faithfulness means being enduringly trustworthy, reliable, and devoted. Sadly, though, rather than reflecting God’s faithfulness, we usually stand out as a contrast to it.

Of all the lines of all the songs we sing here the one I feel most comfortable singing is this: 

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, 

prone to leave the God I love.” 

As uncomfortable of a thought as this is, we need to understand that every sin we commit, knowingly or unknowingly, is an act of unfaithfulness to the Lord. 

And, on a horizontal level, we demonstrate that we are not completely faithful even when we speak to others with good-intentions: We say things like “I’ll pray for you” and then never pray, we say “I will be there” and don’t show up or cancel last minute because we found something more interesting to do, or we say “Let’s get together” and never follow up.

In light of this, we need to pray to our faithful God and confess that we stand out as a contrast to him. Here are some words to help you do that:

Our Heavenly Father,

Your steadfast love extends to the heavens and Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Yet we have been faithless.

You are the God who always keeps His Word, yet we have failed to always keep ours.

Forgive us for being like sheep that have gone astray. 

We are prone to wander and prone to leave the God we love.

Forgive us in Christ we pray, Amen.

When we confess our unfaithfulness, we need to remember the place where God has supremely displayed His faithfulness to us, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We read in 1 John that…

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness…My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

God’s faithfulness is good news when we flee to Christ, because God will always faithfully forgive the sins that are covered by the perfect sacrifice of Christ.

The Hidden Floodlight Ministry of the Holy Spirit

The following is a very helpful and illuminating illustration from J.I. Packer regarding the ministry of the Holy Spirit:

The Holy Spirit’s distinctive new covenant role . . . is to fulfill what we may call a floodlight ministry in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. So far as this role was concerned, the Spirit “was not yet” (John 7:39, literal Greek) while Jesus was on earth; only when the Father had glorified him (see John 17:1, 5) could the Spirit’s work of making men aware of Jesus’ glory begin.

I remember walking to a church one winter evening to preach on the words “he shall glorify me,” seeing the building floodlit as I turned a corner, and realizing that this was exactly the illustration my message needed.

When floodlighting is well done, the floodlights are so placed that you do not see them; you are not in fact supposed to see where the light is coming from; what you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained. The intended effect is to make it visible when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness, and to maximize its dignity by throwing all its details into relief so that you see it properly. This perfectly illustrates the Spirit’s new covenant role. He is, so to speak, the hidden floodlight shining on the Savior.

Or think of it this way. It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder, on Jesus, who stands facing us.

The Spirit’s message is never,

“Look at me;

listen to me;

come to me;

get to know me,”

but always

“Look at him, and see his glory;

listen to him, and hear his word;

go to him, and have life;

get to know him, and taste his gift of joy and peace.”

—J. I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), p. 57; emphasis original.

James Smith, the predecessor to the famous Charles Spurgeon, wonderfully echoes the thoughts of J.I. Packer:

Wherever the Spirit of Christ is, He…

Reveals Christ to the understanding,

Enthrones Christ in the affections,

Gives Christ the control of the will,

Endears Christ to the heart,

Glorifies Christ in the soul,

and Conforms the person to the lovely likeness of Christ.

James Smith, Sabbath Reading; or Profitable Portions for the Lord’s Day, p. 128; as quoted in Knowing Christ by Mark Jones, p. 61.

HT: Justin Taylor

The Spirit's Fruit of Goodness

The fruit of the Spirit is…goodness.

What do we mean by the Spirit’s fruit of goodness? If you saw goodness in action what would it look like? Here’s my attempt at a definition: Goodness refers to someone who is characterized by personal integrity and open-handed generosity.

In that definition you can see two separate but related parts.

First, goodness is marked by a personal integrity. To have personal integrity means that you are an authentic person not phony or hypocritical or manipulative.

Second, goodness is marked by an open-handed generosity. Open-handed generosity means that you hold all of your resources with an open-hand so that you can do good to all as need and opportunity arises. Someone who is marked by open-handed generosity is constantly on the lookout for opportunities to meet needs with the resources God has entrusted to them.

As Christians it should be our desire to be known for having personal integrity and open-handed generosity.

Yet, how often have you been struck with your own phoniness and hypocrisy. We may look one way in public but remove the crowds and outside spectators and we’re a different person. 

And rather than look for need and opportunity to do good, we hoard our resources because “they’re mine, my own, my precious.” 

Or, at times, if we do seek to do good to others, we can detect a subtle hint of reluctance, perhaps even resentfulness, lurking in dark corners of our heart. “Why did I waste my time helping them, now my Saturday is wasted?!” “I really wish I wouldn’t have offered to let them stay at my house, now I have to clean up after them.”

It is utterly humbling to realize that even the good we do so easily becomes contaminated by impure motives, which is why we need to regularly go to our Good God and confess our lack of goodness to Him. Here is a prayer to help you do that:

Our Heavenly Father,

You are good and do good, teach us your ways.

We lack the purity and depth of goodness that you call us to.

Forgive us for the ways we lack personal integrity and instead are marked by hypocrisy.

Cleanse us from the reluctance and resentfulness that still resides in our hearts and keeps us from being generous.

Help us to pursue needs and opportunities to do good to others and to share what we have, so that we may offer You the pleasing sacrifice of obedience.

In the Name of Christ we pray, Amen.

Now turn from thinking of your lack of goodness to thinking of the overflowing abundant goodness of Christ:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

Jesus’s whole life was lived in open-handed generosity. He came not to be served (although He had every right to demand to be) but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many. And in the greatest act of generosity known to man, He not only expressed open-handed generosity but arm-stretching generosity as He stretched out His arms to be nailed to a cross. This is the most radiant display of goodness.

The Spirit's Fruit of Kindness

We come now to the Spirit’s Fruit of Kindness. We often think of kindness as merely a type of attitude or demeanor that someone has. When we say that someone is kind, we mean that they are “generally nice and pleasant to be around because they don’t annoy me.”

But the biblical concept of kindness puts the accent on action. Someone who is kind is one who eagerly desires to benefit others in a tangible way. “It’s a generous orientation of our hearts toward other people.” A kind person is one who constantly thinks to themselves “how can I do unto others, as I wish they would do unto me”?

To be kind we ask questions like this… 

What specifically can I do to help this person in need?

How can I be a means of comfort to that person who is grieving?

How can I encourage that person who seems to be struggling?

What can I do to demonstrate gratitude to that person who is serving?

But kindness doesn’t stop at the asking of those questions. Kindness also gets busy answering those questions with action.

Sadly, there are many weeds that grow up in our hearts that choke out the Spirit’s Fruit of Kindness. There are obvious ones like selfishness where instead of being moved outward toward others we are turned inward on ourselves. But then there are some not so obvious weeds that work against kindness. 

Busyness smothers the fruit of kindness. Kindness requires thoughtfulness, which takes time and effort and mental energy. And the tangible act of Kindness takes time as well. But if we’re so busy that we can’t even spend time thinking or demonstrating kindness to someone, then we’re probably too busy. Think how busy Jesus was during his earthly ministry, how many demands and burdens were placed on him every moment of every day, yet he never told someone who called out to him “sorry, I’m busy right now.”

Also, a fear of man works against kindness. In an effort to do something kind, especially in relation to someone who is grieving, haven’t you caught yourself thinking “but what if I say the wrong thing, what if I buy the wrong flowers, write the wrong note, or what if they don’t like this meal”? Suddenly you feel paralyzed and crippled by what the other person might or might not think of you if you were to do this that you end up shutting down and doing nothing. On the one hand, we don’t want to be so insensitive to someone that we come in like a wrecking ball. On the other hand, we don’t want to be so sensitive to how we will be perceived that we decided “it’s best that I do nothing.” The worst thing you can do for someone hurting, struggling, or grieving is nothing. And the worst thing you can say is nothing. And often it’s a fear of man that keeps us from doing and saying something rather than reaching out in kindness.

In light of how we fall short of God’s calling to kindness, we need to regularly go before the Lord and confess our lack of kindness to him. Here is a prayer to help you do that:

Our Heavenly Father, who overflows with kindness,

Forgive us for the unkindness we have done to others and the kindness we have failed to do for others. Instead of being moved outward toward others, we have been focused inward on ourselves. In our busyness and fearfulness, we have failed to act in kindness toward our neighbor. Give us an eagerness and zeal to benefit others with Christ-like acts of kindness.

In the Name of Christ we pray, Amen.

In addition to confession, we need to run to the fountain of God’s kindness which is found in the Gospel of Christ:

When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit… (Titus 3:4-5)

Regularly drinking from the fountain of God’s kindness to us in Christ is the spiritual refreshment that most helps us grow in kindness to others

The Spirit's Fruit of Patience

The fruit of the Spirit is…patience.

Because of the pace of life in our culture and the fact that we can receive so many goods and services almost instantly, patience is a fruit of the Spirit that is uniquely hard to cultivate. We don’t really have to be patient anymore and ironically enough, we don’t have time for the fruit of patience to grow.

When we moved into our new house, I had my heart set on planting a mango tree in our yard. I foolishly assumed that all you needed was some free space in your yard that had dirt. Then someone came and burst my mango tree dreams by telling me that it’s not so simple. It can take anywhere from 4-8 years for a mango tree to produce fruit. I can’t wait that long, I want a delicious mango tomorrow.

We are all in serious need of the Spirit’s fruit of patience, especially when it comes to our relationships with one another. It has been said that if you ever want to really test and grow your patience all you have to do is become a member of a local church and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so. Or as one humorous little poem puts it:

To dwell in love with saints above—

Oh that will be glory!

But to dwell below with saints we know—

Now that’s a different story!

The fruit of patience that the Spirit wants to bring forth in all our lives for the good of the church and our witness to those outside is the ability to steadfastly respond to others shortcomings and sins with gentleness and forgiveness.

Patience remembers that grace often works slow in our own lives just as much as it does in others. 

Patience is mindful that God has forgiven us far more than we’ve ever had to forgive someone else.

Patience is conscious of the fact that people have to put up with us just as much as we have to put up with them.

Patience views an offense as an opportunity to display the Gospel rather than to display revenge.

Confessing our Lack of Patience

Sadly we are an impatient people in desperate need of a harvest of patience. In light of that, here is a prayer that you can use as a guide to help you confess your impatience to the Lord:

Our Gracious Heavenly Father, who overflows with patience toward his impatient children,

Forgive us for the many ways that we have failed to bear the fruit of patience in our lives. We have responded to the offenses of others by being quick to anger and slow to forgive. We have responded to the shortcomings of others with harshness rather than gentleness. We have pridefully forgotten our own faults and weaknesses and dealt impatiently with others. Instead of patiently overlooking wrongs that have been done to us we have responded according to the flesh. O Lord, be merciful and patient with us and give us the grace to be patient with one another.

In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

Seeing Patience through the Lens of the Gospel

As impatient as we are, we need to hear and remember the gospel, which so wonderfully tells us that our God is an abundantly patient Father toward His children. He is slow to anger and quick to forgive as we’re reminded in Psalm 103:

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always accuse, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.

The Spirit's Fruit of Peace

The fruit of the Spirit is…peace.

Peace is almost as hot of a commodity in pop-culture as love. The right answer to the pageant question is "world peace." the cry amidst the political conflict is "peace.” The bumper sticker reads “No Christ. No peace. Know Christ. Know Peace.” 

So what are we talking about when speaking of the spirit's fruit of peace? What is God, by His Spirit, seeking  to cultivate in the life of His children? 

Before we zoom in on specifics lets pan out and make note of some generals. When the Bible speaks  of peace it speaks in a multi-faceted way. There is the peace that God makes with us in Christ. There is the peace that God gives to us so that we can have a divinely-given calmness and restfulness amidst all circumstances. Then, most relevantly to our topic, is the peace that God calls us to. The calling to peace is captured in one of the beatitudes “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” In essence, the God of peace calls us to be agents of peace. 

So the fruit of peace that the Spirit wants to cultivate in our life is this: a striving to live in harmony and unity with others through constant forgiveness and reconciliation

The Psalmist praises the pleasantness of the fruit of peace in the opening of Psalm 133: 

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”

You can hear Paul's earnest call to the Church to actively pursue peace in Ephesians 4:3: 

“Be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Also, later in Ephesians 4:32, Paul tells us about the primary tool for maintaining and mending peace: 

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Harmony and unity, in this life, is not a destination that you arrive at but something you must actively maintain and mend. Why does it require constant maintenance? Because we are often peace-breakers rather than peace-makers. Instead of cultivating the fruit of peace-making, we allow the weeds of peace-breaking to grow. 

When wronged by another instead of pursuing reconciliation, we can allow bitterness and anger to simmer in our hearts toward that person. In a disagreement with another instead of listening carefully and speaking softly, we can flare up and become contentious and quarrelsome. Often reconciliation and the restoration of peace is a simple matter of saying “You're right, I was wrong.”  Which turns out to be a not so simple matter for our pride. 

This is why we need to constantly humble ourselves before the God of peace and confess our sin of peace-breaking. Here is a prayer to help you do that: 

Our Heavenly Father,

Forgive us for the ways that we have failed to bear the fruit of peace.  Pardon us for the ways in which we have been peace-breakers. Forgive us for the times that we have stubbornly refused to restore peace and seek reconciliation with others. Give us an eagerness to maintain the bond of peace in Your Church and to live peaceably with all.

In the Name of Christ we pray, Amen.

Having confessed our sin of peace breaking, we need to them cling to the peace that we have with God in Christ: 

Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:1,8-9)

Dwelling deeply on the peace that we have through the Gospel of christ, greatly aids the cultivation of the Spirit’s fruit of peace.

O Father, You Are Sovereign

This past week we introduced a new song into our collection of corporate worship repertoire. The song is titled “O Father, You Are Sovereign,” after it’s opening line and major theme. The reason I find this song worth singing is because it so richly and poetically unfolds what it means to confess that God is sovereign. In the first verse it highlights God’s sovereignty in creation. The second verse highlights God’s sovereignty in all of our daily affairs. The third verse highlights God’s sovereignty even amidst our trials and pain. And the final verse looks forward to the day when every knee will bow before the Sovereign One. It is not only worth singing, it is worth committing to memory.

O Father, you are sovereign
in all the worlds you made;
your mighty word was spoken
and light and life obeyed.
Your voice commands the seasons
and bounds the ocean’s shore,
sets stars within their courses
and stills the tempests’ roar.

O Father, you are sovereign
in all affairs of man;
no pow'rs of death or darkness
can thwart Your perfect plan.
All chance and change transcending,
supreme in time and space,
you hold your trusting children
secure in your embrace.

O Father, you are sovereign
the Lord of human pain,
transmuting earthly sorrows
to gold of heav'nly gain.
All evil over-ruling,
as none but Conqu'ror could,
your love pursues its purpose —
our souls’ eternal good.

O Father, you are sovereign!
We see you dimly now,
but soon before your triumph
earth’s every knee shall bow.
With this glad hope before us
our faith springs up anew:
our sovereign Lord and Savior,
we trust and worship you!

The Spirit's Fruit of Joy

The fruit of the Spirit is…joy.

The second fruit that should grow on the tree of a Christian’s character is joy. This fruit is a little trickery to define since it refers to an affection or emotion of the heart more than it does to an act of the will. But let me try and piece it together, first by contrasting it with the type of joy that the world displays.

The joy of a Christian is not based on material possessions. The world so often finds gladness in goods. We can easily fall into this trap ourselves. The problem with getting our joy from material realities is that as Jesus points out “moth and rust can destroy and thieves can break in and steal.” The joy of a Christian is not rooted in the temporary but the eternal. Here’s a good way to test how much of your joy is wrapped up in something material and temporary: Is there any possession that if you lost it or if it broke down would cause your day to be ruined and your attitude to be soured?

Also, the joy of a Christian is not based on circumstances. Circumstances ebb and flow like the rise and fall of the ocean tide. Not only that, but our feelings about our circumstances, whether they’ve changed or not, can feel like riding a six-flags roller coaster. A tough day at work, a rough day with the kids, a tense meeting with a friend, should not dictate your joy. Don’t mistake this to mean that Christian’s always have to walk around with a plastic smile telling everyone that they feel “swell.” The joy of a Christian can be present even in the midst of real tears over real sorrows.

So if the joy of a Christian is not based on material possessions or dependent on circumstances, what is it? The joy of a Christian is a happiness of heart that is firmly rooted in God’s sovereignty and salvation.

It is rooted in God’s sovereignty, which gives the child of God the unshakeable confidence that despite my circumstances God is on the throne and He does whatever He pleases and will work out all things for His glory and my good.

And it is rooted in God’s salvation, which gives the child of God an eternal possession of greatest value that can never fade or perish unlike the things of earth.

Sadly, we often allow many weeds to grow up in our hearts that rob us of joy. For example, we allow envy, greed, and discontentment to rob us of joy. We wish we had what they have, or if only we could have that newer vehicle or bigger house then we could breath a little, or how can I be joyful when my clothes don’t fit like I’d like them to. Our joy can be robbed from a Gospel-Amnesia. We neglect to meditate on the glories of the Gospel and so our heart grows cold and damp and joyless. Also, we can lose our joy in the Lord when we harbor secret sin and live in hypocrisy. David makes it clear in Psalm 32 that secret sin sucks out all the joy of the Christian life.

For these reasons and many more we need to regularly confess our joylessness and ask the Lord to restore joy to us. Here is a prayer that can guide you down the path of confession:

Our Heavenly Father,

Forgive us for we have lacked the joy of the Spirit in our lives. At times we have honored you with our lips but our hearts have been far from You. We have choked out the joy of the Spirit with discontentment, coveting, grumbling, and hypocrisy. Create in us a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within us. Restore to us the joy of your salvation, and uphold us with a willing spirit.

In the Name of Christ we pray, Amen.

Even though you do not rejoice in the Lord as you ought, you should take great joy in the fact that the Lord rejoices over you. If you don’t believe me read it for yourself from Zephaniah 3:14-17:

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil…The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Did you catch that? God “rejoices over you with gladness.” God, the infinitely happy God, takes joy in you, his redeemed child. As a Father comes into the room of his little child to sing a sweet lullaby to them, so the Lord sings over you with deep and overflowing affection. How can you not be joyful at news such as that?

The Spirit's Fruit of Love

The fruit of the Spirit is…love.

The first fruit of the Spirit that Paul mentions in his list is love. Love has been referred to as the crown-jewel of Christian character. You could say that it is the fruit above all fruit and the fruit that is present in all the other fruits. But what is love? There are as many answers to this question as there are 80’s rock songs about this topic. Perhaps a better way to phrase the question would be this: What does it mean to love in a distinctively Christian way? Our love should not be conformed to the definitions and standards of culture but to the character of Christ. He is the One in whom the Spirit’s fruit of love flourished purely and perfectly. When we look at Christ’s actions and words they give us this definition and model of love:

Christ-like love is serving and sacrificing for the good of another regardless of whether the act is reciprocated or the person is deserving. [1]

Love is…serving

Jesus demonstrated the servant-hearted nature of love in John 13 when he humbly stooped down to wash the disciples (disgustingly dirty and terribly smelly) feet. After this act of service he said to his disciples: “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)

How can you show tangible love by serving those in your church family today, this week, this year?

Love is…sacrificing

As Jesus demonstrated for us in the ultimate act of love on the cross, love requires sacrifice. We are called to emulate that love: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16)

What sacrifices of time, energy, money, resources, personal ability, and gifts can you make to show love to others?

Love is…for the good of another

True Christian love is about motives and aims just as much as it is about action. You can serve in great ways and sacrifice to great degrees but not have love if you’re motives are impure. Serving to gain recognition is not Christian love. Sacrificing so that others will praise how much you sacrifice for others is not Christian love. Christian love is a self-forgetful others-oriented love. Christ-like love looks at another person and says “What burdens do they have that I can help them bear?” “What needs do they have that I can help them meet?” “What griefs do they have that I can share?” “What trials do they have that I can help walk them through?”

How would you answer those questions in relation to people you know of in your own life?

Love is…regardless of whether the act is reciprocated

Love is never offered as a bargaining chip or as a form of negotiating a mutually beneficial agreement. Love does not look for a “return on investment.” When we act in a “I’ll scratch your back and you scratch mine” sort of way, that’s manipulation not love. Jesus died for us “while we were still sinners” even “enemies” of God. If Jesus had waited to love until we were able to reciprocate that love, we would be perpetually left in a state of “unloved.”

Where are you withholding or being stingy with love because the person isn’t reciprocating the love like you’d hoped they would?

Love is…regardless of whether the person is deserving

One of the most precious realities about Christ’s love toward us is that there is nothing we could do to merit it and we have done everything to demerit it, yet he has freely lavished his love upon us. What ought to separate a Christian’s love from the love that the world shows is that our love extends even to our enemies, those who are actively hostile and opposed to us.

How can you show tangible love to someone in your life who is “undeserving”?

May the Spirit abundantly produce the sweet fruit of Christ-like love in your heart and life.

[1] This definition and some of the explanations are borrowed and adapted from Paul Tripp, What Did You Expect?, p. 188-189.

4 Encouragements to Meditate on God's Word

This is an excerpt from the sermon ‘Resolved to Meditate on God’s Word

What motivation does the Scripture gives us to encourage our meditation on His Word?

1. To Stir Our Affections

First off, meditating on God’s Word helps to stir and deepen our affections for God and the things of God. 

To illustrate this, one Puritan used the imagery of starting a fire: “Meditating is like trying to build a fire from wet wood. Only those who persevere will produce a flame. When we begin to meditate, often our affections are cold and damp and wet, so all we experience is a bit of smoke. Then as we continue on there are a few sparks here and there. But, at last, if we continue to press on there is a flame of affection and joy that rises up to the Lord.” (A Puritan Theology, p. 896).

Look in our passage to see how the Psalmist shows this link between meditation and affection. Listen to verse 97:

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.

There is this sort of back and forth relationship between the Word of God and the heart of the Psalmist. Because the Psalmists loves the Law of the Lord, he meditates on it. And the more he meditates on it, the more he grows in his affections for the Lord and His Word. It’s like a classic game of pong.

Look also at what the Psalmist says in verse 103:

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

You can study how honey comes to be formed, you can read the nutrition facts on the back of a honey jar, you can even interview Winnie the Pooh about the joys of honey, but nothing beats dipping your own hand into the honey jar and letting your own taste buds relish in the delights of honey. To relish the sweetness of honey, you have to let it linger over your tastebuds so that you get the richest enjoyment out of it. 

That’s how we stir and deepen our affections through meditating on God’s Word. If we want our cold damp heart to spark into flames we must persevere over a text. If we want to take in all the sweetness of God’s Word we have to let it linger over our spiritual tastebuds.

The Puritans, who in Church History have really been the loudest cheerleaders for meditating on God’s Word, recommended two particular topics for meditating to stir our affections: Meditate on the (1) Savior and meditate on (2) Sin. That seems to be an odd combination but it is a proper one. You see, the goal of our spiritual growth when it comes to our affections, the desires of our heart, is that they would mirror God’s. Meaning, that we would love what God loves and hate what God hates. Also, as Thomas Watson said, “til sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.”

So if you want to taste more of the loveliness of Christ, linger over a passage like Colossians 1:15-20. When it comes to the person and work of Christ, this passage is like deep sea diving in the Mariana Trench, no matter how long you swim you’ll never make it to the bottom. And the truths are so deep that the theological pressure almost causes your head to burst, in a good sort of way.

To taste more of the bitterness of sin, start with a topic like pride or coveting or disobeying your parents, look up what the Scriptures have to say about it, and then take some time to ponder these two questions:

(1) Why does a Holy God find pride or coveting or disobeying parents so detestable?

(2) Where in my heart and life do I need to confess pride or coveting or disobeying parents?

Meditate on God’s Word helps to stir and deepen your affections.

2. To Guide Our Prayers

Second motivation to meditation: Meditating on God’s Word helps to guide and inspire our prayers.

Have you ever felt in the act of praying that your prayers are scattered and shallow or your distracted and start running down rabbit trails in your mind or you come to prayer but you feel like a car with a dead battery that won’t turn over? Meditating on a particular passage of Scripture is a wonderful remedy for that kind of prayerless praying that we often experience. When you lack motivation to pray or don’t have the foggiest clue what to pray, the best recourse is to pray God’s Word back to Him. Take a text of Scripture and transpose it into a personal prayer. Meditating and Praying is like holy God-approved multitasking. 

One practical way to see the link between meditating and praying is to think of every passage as a house of prayer and inside that house are 4 rooms that you should walk into. The 4 rooms are Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication, the 4 different types of prayers. So let’s take Psalm 23:1 as an example: “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” 

First, you enter the room of Adoration: Lord, what a marvelous God you are, that you would watch over and provide for lowly sheep like us. 

Then, you walk into the room of Confession: Lord, I have wandered this week from your Shepherding-care and been anxious and worrisome because I have lacked trust that you would provide for all my needs.

Next, you come into the room of Thanksgiving: Lord, I thank you for how you guided me through another year of ministry. Thank you for providing our family with another child and a beautiful undeserved home.

Finally, you enter the room of Supplication: Lord, I pray that Mrs. Jones would know even in the midst of her grief that you are the kind of shepherd that never leaves of forsakes your sheep. I pray that in the midst of Mr. Jones job loss you would supply all his needs.

By just taking that one verse and viewing as a house for prayer, you can turn it into a time of Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication without feeling like you’re lost or at a loss for things to pray.

Meditate on God’s Word to guide and inspire your prayers.

3. To Improve Our Application

A third encouragement for meditating on the Scriptures is that it helps you improve your application of the Word to your life.

It has been rightly said that the goal of digging into God’s Word is not to gather information but to experience transformation. God’s Word must journey through our head, into our heart and out our hands

The intended destination is not the head, although that is a necessary and essential stop in the journey, because we need to learn to think God’s thoughts after Him. 

The intended destination is not even the heart, again a necessary and essential stop along the way, because we need to learn to love what God loves and hate what God hates. 

The intended destination is the hands, because, as beloved children of God, we need to learn to act as God acts.

Meditating on God’s Word, truly digesting, regurgitating, then digesting it again, helps move God’s Word from head to heart to hands.

Think of this specifically in relation to listening to the preaching of God’s Word. Listening to the preaching of God’s Word is wonderful, I highly recommend it. You’ll never benefit from the sermon you never hear. Yet, remember the warning James gives us: “be doers of the word, and not hearers only… (James 1:22-25)” Our hearing the preaching of the Word should lead to living out the Word that was preached.

When a Pastor preaches, it’s as if they are scattering the seed of God’s Word over the soil of your heart. For that seed to actually bring forth the fruit of application, you need to tend to it and cultivate it through meditation. Chew on the sermon, sip and savor it like an expensive well-aged wine, all the while asking the question “How is God calling me to live differently in light of this Word?”

A wonderful example I have seen of this is how one family uses Sunday lunch to go around the table and discuss what they learned and what questions they had about the sermon. I like that idea, my sermons are very forgettable so strike while the iron is even luke-warm!

Meditate on the Word of God to improve your application.

4. To Sharpen Our Conscience

Finally, I would commend this practice of meditating on God’s Word because it helps to sharpen and calibrate our conscience. 

The Bible speaks of the conscience as our internal compass for morality and wisdom. Our conscience is designed by God to help us choose right over wrong and wisdom over foolishness. Jiminy Cricket’s advice to Pinocchio was “always let your conscience be your guide.” But there’s one major problem with that piece of advice: because of the effects of sin, our ‘conscience compass’ doesn’t point due north. We need to sharpen and properly calibrate our conscience so that it can be a faithful guide in issues of morality and wisdom.

Look at what the Psalmist says in verse 102: “I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me.” The Psalmist is able to walk in line and not turn aside from God’s rules because he has been taught by the Lord through meditating on His Word. 

The more we steep our minds in the Word of God, the more calibrated our conscience will be to the will of God. In this present cultural moment where ethical fences are being plowed over, we need a very sharp conscience.

So if you would taste more of the sweetness and digest more of the nutrients of God’s Word, take up the practice of meditating on God’s Word.

Reading through the Bible in 2019 and Beyond

If you’re looking to begin plodding your way through the Bible again, a Bible reading plan is a wonderful tool and guide. Below are my favorite Bible reading plans which I have broken down by length of time it takes you to get through the whole Bible:

One Year Bible Reading Plan

Read through the Bible in a year with each day of the week dedicated to a different genre: epistles, the law, history, Psalms, poetry, prophecy, and Gospels.

Two Year Bible Reading Plan

Read through the Bible in two years simply by reading two chapters a day, one from the New Testament and one from the Old Testament.

Three Year Bible Reading Plan

Read through the Bible one chapter at a time, one chapter a day. Readings alternate between the Old and New Testaments.

Or if you’re not interested in following a calendar plan but still want to work through the whole Bible, here is a wonderful Bible Reading Record Chart.

How about a Bible app to help you along the way? Check out these two apps:

Crossway ESV app for iPhone and Android: Comes with the ESV version of the Bible, a free audio Bible, and preset Bible reading plans that you can follow.

Read Scripture app for iPhone and Android: Comes with videos on each book of the Bible and videos on certain significant biblical themes.