Loving Each Other as We Love God

Do you listen to popular Christian music on the radio or YouTube? I like Tauren Will’s new song, “Citizen of Heaven,” but I should warn YouTube users that the video is a bit dark, as is our world. Wills sings, “Getting caught up in the here and now, has a tendency to wear me down. Am I really free if I’m thinking ’bout, only temporary things? The world’s screaming so loud, when I’m locked to the middle of my doubt. When I’m lost in the rhythm of the crowd, I hear heaven calling me. Don’t want to be another victim, falling prey to the system, when You’ve called me the kingdom. I know I am a citizen of heaven. My identity forever is Yours.” I feel loved by these words that remind us of who we are in a world seeks to pull us into its vortex. I am impressed by popular Christian music that is especially well-written (think, “I Can Only Imagine”) and sung. I sense that the artists are giving us their best. When I stop studying and start writing, I ask myself if I am giving you my best insights from God? Since God gives me his best, in love, shouldn’t I do the same for you?

How we express our love for others matters. I am appreciative of popular Christian songwriters who express their love for God with their biblical truths or worshipful lyrics. In contrast, today, the world mostly expresses love through sex, technology, and materialism. By God’s providence, I am in a church where our pastors strongly encourage us to consider how we interact with our culture. In our pastor’s exegetical sermon on Acts 19, he spoke to us of the effect of the disciples’ restrained behavior when the Ephesians threatened to riot. The disciples quiet Christian love resembled that of Christ, who endured silently when called to his suffering. In Ephesus, the disciples’ conduct motivated the town clerk to defend them, remarking that they “are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess.” (Acts 19:37) (1) Sometimes we demonstrate our love by what we say or do; other times we love on others with our silence and restraint. Christians love is the result of God’s love, that comes first, before we know him.

Expressing truth artistically, verbally, and behaviorally from a gracious heart is fruit of our salvation. John says, “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:19-21) God loves us first, and we love our Christian family because of God’s love for us. Our love for other Christians (whom we see) is evidence of our love for God (who is invisible). Finally, God has commanded us to love other Christians, and because we love God, we want to please him. I pray our meditation on this passage will result in our mutual conviction to love others as much as we say we love God.

Our relationships are a barometer of our love for Jesus Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the most excellent, most profound, most extensive love, superior to all other kinds of love. Merciful forgiveness and undeserved grace reconciles us to our holy, perfect King. Our reaction to gospel love is made possible by the Spirit, and is the only possible good response to him. So says 1 John 4:20, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”  “John immediately goes on to show that anyone who is attempting to separate [love for God and love for others] is a liar, for love cannot be so differentiated. John’s reasoning at this point is interesting. He argues that it is easier to love men than God; therefore, if there is no love for men, love for God is absent also, regardless of what the person professing to love God may say verbally. How many Christians really believe that it is easier to love men than God? Possibly it is a very small number, for our natural inclination is to think that it is easier to love God simply because he is worthy of our love and that it is difficult to love men because they are not lovable or lovely. Yet this passage says exactly the opposite, implying, no doubt, that unless we are really loving our Christian brothers and sisters on the horizontal level, we are deluding ourselves in regard to what we consider to be our love for God on the vertical. Unless we can love men and women, we cannot love God. Unless we actually do love them, we do not love the one who created them and in whose image they were and are created.” (2) Does my love for others prove my love for God, or does it contradict my belief that I love him wholly and sincerely? Do my relationships prove my love for God or make me question it? And not just for my close Christian friends but those who are different but kingdom dwellers—all Christian music writers, politicians (all parties), doctors, neighbors, church members, teenagers, and Christians in other church denominations? Twenty-three years ago, I had an epiphany that prepared me for working with missionaries on different missions teams over the next two decades. I realized that I have the hardest time working with Christians with varying personalities from mine—not different accents, politics, viewpoints, or other common variances—but different ways of working, different priorities, methods, and approaches. Since then, I’ve had lots of opportunities to practice loving people, and yet, I have so far to go!

We love our Christian brothers and sisters as we love God. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” “On the one hand, there are undoubtedly those who loudly profess to love God but who do not love their Christian brothers and sisters. John rightly calls such liars. But on the other hand, it is also possible that there are many who recognize that they do not really love God (at least not as much as they would like to) and who wonder how they might learn to love him better. “’I cannot see him,’ they might argue. ‘At times he seems so far away and so unreal. How can I learn to love him? How can I make progress in this that I know to be my privilege and Christian duty?’ On the basis of these verses we are justified in arguing that John might well reply to such that a Christian learns to love God by loving those he can actually see. This does not replace the revelation of God’s love at the cross of Jesus Christ, of course. It is there that we learn what love is. Nevertheless, it does supplement it practically, for it is by practicing a real and self-sacrificing love for one another that we learn to love the one who sacrificed himself for us.” (3) What is God’s lesson for you today? Are you convicted to love others as much as you love God? Or, do you need to love God as much as you love others? John says our love for other Christians (whom we see) is evidence of our love for God (who is invisible). “And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (v. 21) The “must” here stings a bit, when we know we do not love our brothers and sisters as we should. What happens when if we change it to “can”— ‘whoever loves God can also love his brother?’ Same meaning, but a bit more encouraging, isn’t it? We can love others with the same love we have for God, to the same extent, for the same reason—because we have his love in us. “It is easy to say we love God when that love doesn’t cost us anything more than weekly attendance at religious services. But the real test of our love for God is how we treat the people right in front of us—our family members and fellow believers.” (4)

If God loves us first, shouldn’t we love others before they love us? How do you love your Christian family at your local church? Do you sometimes withhold your love because you are afraid of entering into yet another complicated relationship with demands on your emotions, time, and choices? Don’t we deceive ourselves, thinking that we love God more or better than we do, based on the evidence in our relationships? Are we willing to examine them to see where our love is bountiful and where it is deficient? “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18) Sometimes the old hymns say it best. “O love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee. I give thee back the life I owe, that in thine oceans depths its flow. May richer fuller be.” (5)

(1) Taha, Allen, “A Christian Uproar,” Acts 19:21-41, February 23, 2020, https://www.trinityboerne.org/sermons/sermon/2020-02-23/a-christian-uproar.

(2) Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, “An Exhortation to Love One Another,” 1 John 4:17-21, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.

(3) Boice, Ibid.

(4) Life Application Bible, New International Version, 1 John 4:20-21, Tyndale House Publishers, 1991.

(5) “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go,” words by George Matheson.



February 28, 2020


God’s Love Comes First

Have you started any new projects or hobbies in the last few years? If so, there was probably a clear starting point. Hopefully, we pray before engaging in something completely novel that will affect our lifestyles, finances, or homes, as opposed to impulsively jumping in. I am considering getting a dog to be a therapy pet. I’ve thought about it for over a year and praying for the last few months. This month I started a dog budget, inquired about the pet deposit for my apartment, and downloaded a couple of rescue pet locators to see the little breeds that are usually available. The more I prepare and pray, the more insight I have about a couple of my concerns. I vacillate between confidence and doubt, excitement and anxiety, with some confusion. The process reminds me of how Christian life unfolds—it’s not very clean, organized, or structured, but messy, mixed, and unpredictable. I love Old Testament accounts because they illustrate biblical principles in action, encouraging us in our haphazard Christian sanctification, and process of maturing. We all start growing from whatever point Christ calls us, whether it’s when we’re young or old, after life is well underway. All Christians conform to biblical principles, but not without struggling and wavering, unlearning some things as we acquire others. So far this year we have considered how God produces Christian fruit in us, through our salvation, for the benefit of others. It’s vital that we understand and embrace fruit-bearing as an essential, primary activity of lives lived for Jesus, albeit imperfectly and weakly. It’s also critical that we do so based primarily on love, the first fruit identified in Galatians 5:22-23. Love is our most excellent Christian quality, influencing all that we are and do as justified children of God, no matter where we are in the process. “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Meditating on God’s love for us before considering how we love others is only sensible since his love always comes first. In Romans 5:1-11, Paul writes about our justification, salvation, reconciliation, faith, hope, character, endurance, reconciliation, salvation, all through God’s love. He makes it clear that God’s love is the thread that binds all these blessings together. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:5, 8) God’s love in our justification leads to God’s glory, joy in suffering, endurance, character, and hope (Romans 5:1-4). God’s love through the indwelling Spirit never fails (5:5). And, God’s love for us is manifested through Christ (5:8) when we were utterly undeserving and unloving. Christ justifies and gives us the Spirit who supplies our love for God and others. It is our hope in Christ, not in ourselves or our plans that supplies and increases our love.

Whether or not I decide to get a dog, my process of praying, thinking, budgeting, and praying some more will be the touchstone of my decision-making process and how I explain my choice to others. However, when I talk with others, especially non-pet owners, I am amazed at how many tell me, “Just go for it. Find a dog and do it.” I can see how it will turn out if I get tired of walking a dog, especially in the bad weather, and want to give up. But how many of us Christians think we should just love people more—just do it? This is a formula for failure, as we know by either having caused problems with good intentions or failing to do much at all. Instead, remembering how God’s love works in us gives us the assurance, because it is God’s process, not ours. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5) First, God justifies us by the faith he gives us. Then, because of his grace, we have joy because he has given us the sure hope of his glory. Because of his grace and love, we rejoice in our sufferings with the knowledge that they supply endurance, which then produces more godly character in us. All because the Spirit supplies our hearts with God’s abundant love. Even our difficulties and trials become blessings of strengthening because of God’s unfailing love. His grace, mercy, compassion, and holy sanctifying love is the reason we will never be ashamed—he never fails us.

Without God’s loving justification and indwelling Spirit, our love for God and others is not only limited but vastly inferior. Our view of our suffering is evidence of our justification and ability to love beyond our human efforts. James Boice writes on the benefits of suffering: “First, it produces perseverance…You may notice another word used to translate this idea in your Bible…patience…endurance, …[or] patient endurance…We express the idea positively when we say, ‘Hang in there, brother.” It is hanging in when the going gets tough, as it always does sooner or later…So here is one thing that separates the immature person from the mature one, the new Christian from one who has been in the Lord’s school longer. The new believer tries to avoid the difficulties and get out from under them. The experienced Christian is steady under fire and does not quit his post.” (1) God’s love through the indwelling Spirit never fails us; as our confidence in Christ increases, our love increases. “The revelation of divine love towards us is so abounding that it fills our hearts; and being thus spread through every part of them, it not only mitigates sorrow in adversities, but also, like a sweet seasoning, it renders tribulations to be loved by us.” (2) How else could Paul, who suffered so much for Christ write, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind?” (Philippians 2:1-2)

Life is not sublime on earth, but God’s love is always heavenly. Living with a dog won’t be any more perfect than being without one. But the benefits may outweigh the costs—an analogy about God’s love, which is weightier than any crosses we bear as a result of our justification. It is my prayer that I will minister to my neighbors more lovingly, with or without a dog. And, it is my prayer that our contemplation of God’s steadfast, sure, eternal love will overpower our self-generated, weak attempts to be loving creatures in all our circumstances. After all, “…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Jesus didn’t expect us to love him before he saved us. We were unlovely. But now, “Isn’t it astounding that God should need to commend his love to us?…What a great, great love this is!…Karl Barth was in this country some years before his death, [when] someone asked a question at one of his question-and-answer sessions that went like this: ‘Dr. Barth, what is the greatest thought that has ever gone through your mind?’ The questioner probably expected some complicated and incomprehensible answer, as if Einstein were being asked to explain the theory of relativity. But after he had thought a long while, Barth replied by saying: ‘Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so.’ This was a profound answer and a correct one. For there is nothing greater that any of us could think about or know than that Jesus loves us and has shown his love by dying in our place.” (3)

Hasn’t your justification led to joy in suffering? Haven’t you learned greater endurance, with a more godly character? How much more can we minister to others knowing that God’s love through the indwelling Spirit will never fail us? What might change in your love through God’s abundant, faithful love? What might you do differently? Since God’s love for us is manifested through Christ, how might we encourage each other more authentically through gospel-centered love? “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

(1) Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Rom. 3-5, The benefits of Suffering, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.

(2) Calvin, John, Calvin’s Commentary on (Passage), https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/romans-5.html

(3) Boice, James, Rom. 5:8, Ibid.

February 19, 2020

Christian, Fruit-Bearing is Your New Nature

Well, here is my latest mum report: nothing, not one single bloom. However, my irises are blooming at the rate of two per day in the warm South Texas sun. All my soil preparation, mulching, and feeding have benefited the plants I thought needed no encouragement, with no impact on the others. I have more irises blooming this year than I’ve had in three years. I may gain enough experience with different plants to know how to produce the best blooms in the future. Even so, the weather will determine the outcome to a certain extent. My miniature garden has many things in common with a farm: its unpredictability, dependence on the weather, and its ability to bring smiles or frustration, joy or discouragement. All this is leading up to the parable of the Sower. Most of us are familiar with the parable told by Jesus of four different types of ground on which the seed (gospel) falls when sown by God (the Sower). Here it is in its briefest form (without the explanation): “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” (Luke 8:5-8) The sower and seed are constant, but the soil varies, being either too compacted, too rocky, too thorny—or soft and receptive. Jesus told parables for the benefit of believers. “But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear and did not hear it.” (Matthew 13:16-17) Our Lord prepared the hearts of his people to receive the knowledge that much of their preaching, witnessing, and teaching would fall on deaf ears and hard hearts. The fruit born by his people is evidence that God’s Word has taken root in gospel-transformed hearts.

As I started to meditate on the parable, I noticed the slight differences in words used by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Mark wrote: “…those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” (Mark 4:20) Matthew writes, “As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:23) And here is Luke’s, “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15) All three apostles caught Jesus’s central teaching that a gospel-changed heart isn’t guaranteed, but will bear fruit. More often than not, though, the gospel doesn’t penetrate or take root. Jesus’s preaching, teaching, and witnessing went unaccepted by many, so we should not expect ours to be any different. We faithfully pray for the gospel to take root, participate in ministry, and rejoice in sharing the mercy of our Savior. We do not stop; this is our fruit. God has prepared our hearts, planted his Word, and it has taken root—to bear fruit for Christ. Be encouraged that even when the “weather” (our circumstance and trials) threatens our crops, and people don’t react as we might wish, pray, or expect, Christ plants his gospel word to be heard, accepted, and bear fruit.

According to the ESV Study Bible notes, “Typical agricultural yields ranged from about fivefold to fifteenfold, with a tenfold return considered a good crop, though some historical reports tell of extraordinary yields up to a hundredfold.” (1) From this perspective, thirtyfold is a hugely successful crop of changed hearts. So even the smallest fruit generated by some believers should be considered significant. And of course, all the fruit, every single one, is utterly flawlessly transformed by the grace of the gospel. There is no imperfect fruit-bearing here, making each convert a cause for celebration. God rejoices in your loving heart for him, desire to bear fruit, seed sowing in imitation of Christ. By God’s grace alone, we have heard God’s Word and accepted it; therefore, we bear fruit.

Matthew reminds us that we have also been given understanding through Christ’s redemption. “As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:23) As my pastors preach through the Book of Acts, I am inspired to remember the ups and downs of early church ministry. When only a few women show up for our monthly training meetings, Jesus reminds me to be content. When more women come to a Bible study or book discussion, I remember that God is the one providing the yield. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:7-9)

Looking out on my garden, I realize that you may think that I like mums more than irises. In truth, I treasure the irises more because I haven’t had them in gardens as often, and I love their white boldness. They remind me of Christ’s purity as I am writing. Just so, Christians treasure God’s grace for fruit-bearing, in all circumstances. Luke’s summary of the parable includes the idea that the “honest and good” transformed heart gives way to patient fruit-bearing by those who hold onto the gospel. “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15) “No farmer has ever produced a bumper crop impatiently. No farmer can ever just throw the seed in the ground and expect fruit to be there present in abundance that same afternoon. It is easy to grow weeds, but, if you want a good crop, that can only come through careful preparation, careful cultivation, and then through patient waiting for the earth to be watered, for the sun to shine, for photosynthesis to take place, bringing together that beautiful, exciting, enchanting experience of the growth of life. It is true not only in the agricultural world, but it is true in the spiritual world as well.” (2)

Richard Phillips brings our attention to the other usual interpretation of “patience” in Luke 8:15. “Trials are important for testing and approving our faith. If you want to know if you are a true Christian, if your faith and religious zeal are real and abiding, then you must consider your reaction to trials. If you are unwilling to stand for Christ when you are mocked, if you are not able to obey God’s Word even though you seem to lose out, if you respond to bad times by shunning church and blaming God, then you have reason for concern.” (3) It is not only a farmer’s internal reaction to trials that brings the yield but his ability to make the best of the situation to benefit everyone. My brothers and sisters in Christ who use their trials to teach, drawing great spiritual encouragement from their afflictions and difficulties, are the ones who help me the most. Our women’s study of Hebrews since September reminds us weekly that God hasn’t designed the Christian life to be smooth and easy. Our character is refined, not by soft chamois, but by hard files of varying degrees of roughness. The Lord offers us rewards when we persevere in our fruit-bearing. “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” (Hebrews 10:36)

How did Christ plant the gospel in your heart? What seed-sowing milestones do you remember? How might you do the same for others? How do you hold onto God’s Word tightly and treasure his grace? Do we see all our circumstances as an opportunity to trust Christ, rejoice in him, and useful for bearing his fruit? Are we willing to use our afflictions, rejection for our biblical faith, or difficulties to bear more fruit? “The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” (Psalms 92:12-15)

(1) English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Mark 20, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.

(2) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Matthew 13:23, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-13.html

(3) Phillips, Richard, “Turning Your World Upside Down—Kingdom Priorities in the Parables of Jesus, Page 11, P & R Publishing, 2003.

February 14, 2020

Our Words—Fruit for the Kingdom

Have you ever tried to stop using a particular word? When I was younger, I had the bad habit of using “mild” curse words, at least mild compared to those used today. It was tough to stop, with no other reason than I wanted to change. But I needed a deeper motivation which was not to offend and to be more professional. I replaced my bad words with “oh, pooh” and “darn.” Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Having been redeemed in Christ, the words that now come out of my mouth flow from a changed heart—transformed and gradually sanctified. Lately, God has been deepening my motivation, even more to speak for his glory and kingdom. Our conduct, choices, and decisions reflect the good God has put in us through Christ for the benefit of his family, our Christian brothers and sisters. This is especially true of our words, which should be for the benefit of others and not our own glory, promotion, or satisfaction. It’s counter-cultural, like other ways in which we live for Christ.

Speaking for the benefit of others rather than for myself is biblical. “But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4) Even in prayer, as we meet with God, our words bless others through our union with him and our intercessions for them. So here is our passage today, focusing on the fruit of our mouths: “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit…The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33, 35-37) Godly speech, which originates in our gospel treasure strengthens God’s family. Our words will mirror the gospel treasure in our hearts as we seek to bring out the treasure for others to enjoy. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:29-30)

When Christ transforms us, bringing us out of the darkness into his light, and the Holy Spirit makes us progressively better, so our fruit is improving. “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit” (verse 33). When people plant trees today, they can “make” them good by the way they prepare, plant, and nurture them. Some will, because of sin, not be good, by no fault of God. Like trees, there resides in us the potential to be made good, but only by Christ’s interceding mercy. Like trees, we bear fruit depending on whether we are (spiritually) healthy or rotten. Have you ever opened a spoiled peace, apple, or watermelon? The outer peel may look good, but the flesh inside is brown and putrid—some may even be poisonous. And so it is with our words or our tone of voice when we are not reflecting the gospel good in us. “Even a liar’s speech expresses something true; it may not tell us the state of the world, but it tells us the state of his heart.” (1)


C. S. Lewis wrote a brilliant expose of Satan’s work, “The Screwtape Letters.” In the imaginary letters, Satan writes to his demon nephew, Wormwood, as an “affectionate uncle,” to disciple him in the devil’s craft. In one particular letter, he instructed Wormwood to use a man’s speech to hinder his relationship with God and his mother. “My dear Wormwood, I am very pleased by what you tell me about this man’s relations with his mother… In civilised life domestic hatred usually expresses itself by saying things which would appear quite harmless on paper (the words are not offensive) but in such a voice, or at such a moment, that they are not far short of a blow in the face. To keep this game up you…must see to it that each of these two fools has a sort of double standard. Your patient must demand that all his own utterances are to be taken at their face value and judged simply on the actual words, while at the same time judging all his mother’s utterances with the fullest and most oversensitive interpretation of the tone and the context and the suspected intention. She must be encouraged to do the same to him. Hence from every quarrel they can both go away convinced, or very nearly convinced, that they are quite innocent. You know the kind of thing: ‘I simply ask her what time dinner will be and she flies into a temper.’ Once this habit is well established you have the delightful situation of a human saying things with the express purpose of offending and yet having a grievance when offence is taken.” (2) Convicting, is it not—a commentary on our society today, using words to drive home superiority and criticism of others?

Compare Lewis’s quote with this commentary by John Gill on Matthew 12:35. “A good man is a regenerated man, one that is renewed by the Spirit of God, a believer in Christ, a sincere lover of him, and one that follows him, wheresoever he goes, and who has the grace of God implanted in him: for “the good treasure the heart”…[and he] brings forth good things; tells his experience, speaks of what God has done for his soul; says many things to the glory of the grace of God; of the person, offices, blood, righteousness, and fulness of Christ; and of the operations and influences of the blessed Spirit; and which are pleasant, profitable, useful, and edifying to the saints.” (3) Rather than incite conflict and criticism, our good words build up our Christian family and those who will be drawn to join it. Our speech will reflect the gospel treasure in our hearts as we seek to bring out our wealth of grace for others to enjoy.

The selection, character, and tone of our words should prove that we have been justified. In Matthew 12, Jesus addressed his comments to the unbelieving Pharisees. However, in verse 36, he refers to the “people” whom God will judge. “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37) But we should not think that anyone’s words will be the basis for their justification, their delivery out of condemnation. Instead, Jesus teaches that our words reflect the state of our justification, much as James teaches that we are “justified” (proved to be Christians) by our conduct. (4) In our progressive justification (sanctification), speech improves over time as we are conformed to the character of God. “Consider Peter, a disciple who must have been present with Jesus as he preached to the rulers of the Jews on this occasion…If ever a disciple was guilty of foolish, careless words, it was Peter…But what a change regeneration makes! And what a change in Peter after Christ’s resurrection and his gracious recommissioning to service….In that day Peter’s words were no longer careless, idiotic, or mistaken. Peter began to speak truthfully and with power, as the Holy Spirit spoke through him.” (5) Our pastors, theologians, teachers, family members, godly friends, and Scripture help us by modeling purified speech. “Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:14-15) Over the last week, the Spirit reminded me of our pastor’s sermon on Acts 17, about speaking the gospel with love and respect when I was discussing other Scripture with my Christian family. (6) What a delight it is to know that God matures us through our regular participation and interactions in our local churches.

Will our words reflect the gospel treasure in our hearts as we seek to bring out our cache for others to enjoy? Do your speech and manner of speaking reflect the goodness Christ has worked in you, that the Spirit continues to work in you? Do you see progress in your use and choice of words? How about your tone and manner of speaking? Are you quick to react or do you take time to appreciate the full impact of what others are communicating? How often do you verbally share the gospel treasure in you? Does it come out in your emails, texts, tweets, or other posts? Will you pray about doing so respectfully and without attacking an unbeliever’s values or integrity? Do we give thanks to God, as he deserves, for our justification in Christ? Whenever I conduct a Bible study or meeting now, we begin with praises and thanksgiving; is there any better way to prepare for our time together? God deserves it and we need to get into the habit of delighting in words of praise together. Will you devote a regular time to commune with the Lord with words of praise, acknowledgement, and appreciation for what Christ and the Spirit have done in and for you? “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:3-4)

(1) Budziszewsky, J., “What We Can’t Not Know,” Ignatius Publishers, First Edition, 2011.

(2) Lewis, C. S., “The Screwtape Letters,” pages 13-14, HarperCollins Publishers, 2009.

(3) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Matthew 12:35, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-12.html

(4) James does not contradict Paul on positional justification, meaning saved by faith alone through grace alone, not by our works. But James uses the term “justification” in a different way—Saved by grace alone, but not saved for grace alone. A couple of articles about this are found at:



(5) Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Matthew 12:28-38, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.

(6) Taha, Allen, “Sharing is Caring,” https://www.csmedia1.com/trinityboerne.org/02-02-2020-website.pdf 

February 7, 2020

Bearing the Fruit of Repentance

Are you waiting for something? An event, a purchase, or the end of a trial? I am waiting for several things—a new recliner, my mums to come back to life, and a conference with a friend in mid-February. The passage for today has heightened my sense of anticipation. All of these things are outside of me—that is, I have no control over their dates. In the case of my mums, I don’t even know if they will ever blossom again, in spite of my feeding and watering them as I should. “And [Jesus] told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, “Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?” And he answered him, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.”‘” (Luke 13:6-9) God nurtures his redeemed people to produce fruit, especially the fruit of repentance. The Lord rejects the fruitless, those who refuse to repent of their sin and self-idolatry. But, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Today is a day of grace. Those of us who are Christians are to eagerly receive and employ God’s blessings to be more productive fruit-bearers today, as repentant sinners. “This parable in the first place refers to the nation and people of the Jews…Yet it is, without doubt, for awakening all that enjoy the means of grace, and the privileges of the visible church.” (1)

One of the dangers of a topical Bible study, sermon, or devotion is the tendency to make Scripture fit your topic. I wrestle with this every time I write because I want to be contextually accurate to our passages. It’s so common for us to manipulate Bible verses to meet our needs or philosophies because we are wired to self-interest in our sin nature. It would be much safer to move through a book exegetically, but even there we tend to insert our own meaning and perspective on the text. Why am I addressing this now? Well, I have listened to at least two sermons, five commentaries, and two devotions on the parable in Luke 13:6-9 to be sure that I have the right understanding of its meaning. The pictures that Jesus’s parables offer are unmatched in their vividness. But the meanings are sometimes obscure, and questionable when not provided by him. I recommend great caution with their interpretation and application only as is consistent with Scripture’s whole truth.

So is the parable about the barren fig tree in the garden about the ultimate, definite coming judgment, which will not be denied? Is it a warning against obduracy, like that of the Jews and all those who reject Christ? Does it teach that just because God hasn’t yet judged them they won’t be judged? Is Jesus turning the tables on those who judge others, reminding them that they too will be judged? Can we apply a meaning to believers who think they are saved, even if their lives don’t produce any visible sign of belonging to Jesus Christ? After my studies, I am going to risk saying that all of these may be valid ways to apply Christ’s parable. (But please write to me if I’m wrong!) I’ve even read about caring for fig trees. They don’t require much care to produce fruit, but will never do so in the first year. It will be two to three years before trees will produce seeds, then fruit, but can take up to six years. Feel free to google it. So it’s wait, wait, wait…ah, fruit. But in our parable, the vineyard owner was still waiting for his fruit after three years.

If our vineyard owner is our pastor or a mentor, imagine their disappointment if we aren’t producing fruit from all the time they’ve invested in us. Imagine God’s displeasure if we aren’t actively responding to the good news of the gospel that Christ has given us. Every source I have consulted has agreed that the figs God’s wants from us here are our repentant hearts. “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17) Redeemed Christians bear the fruit of repentance. ” Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?”(v. 7) In a sermon on the parable, Dr. R.C. Sproul teaches about the kind of repentance that is biblical. He says that attrition is repentance that is driven by the fear of punishment, like a child not wanting to be punished, but not sorry about committing the act. Contrition, on the other hand, is true repentance of a broken heart, sorrowing because we have offended God. There is a kind of theology that teaches that a Christian can be “carnal,” that is, having Christ as Savior but not as Lord, without bearing any fruit. But this is an impossibility since the Holy Spirit renews the whole person at the time of conversion. (2)

So Christians, if we think we have any reason to bear less of this fruit or repentant, or none at all, we do not. No matter how hard our lives may become, no matter how busy, full, or demanding, God expects and wants us to be confessors. And the more humble and mature we become, the more we realize the need to admit our sins and ask for his help to change. “Christ taught His disciples to pray daily for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 6:12), and the Bible saints are often pleading for pardon and obtaining it (Ps. 32:5; 51:1-4; 130:3, 4)…The believer who is really conscious of his sin feels within him an urge to confess it and to seek the comforting assurance of forgiveness. Moreover, such confession and prayer is not only a subjectively felt need, but also an objective necessity…The divine sentence of acquittal is brought home to the sinner and awakens the joyous consciousness of the forgiveness of sins and of favor with God. Now, this consciousness of pardon and of a renewed filial relationship is often disturbed and obscured by sin, and is again quickened and strengthened by confession and prayer, and by a renewed exercise of faith.” (3) Is life good? Are we blessed? Let’s ask ourselves, “…do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4) In the parable of the barren fig tree, the vinedresser kindly and patiently  gives the tree another full year to produce fruit. “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” (Luke 13:8-9) The gospel of Jesus Christ is offered to us with love, and God gives us the desire to respond in love. That is only the beginning of our sanctification. Repentance is one of the most potent graces operating in my life, to produce fruit that others may share. After studying this parable this week, my prayer has been for the Holy Spirit to help me repent because of God’s goodness through the gospel. Just because he hasn’t disciplined me lately doesn’t mean I have nothing to confess. “So great is the blindness of the sinner that he abuses to his own harm the things that have been given to him for his own benefit.” (4) May we receive and employ God’s graces to be more productive, repentant fruit-bearers today.

God has placed us in the body of Christ, and our local churches as fig trees were placed in fruit-fields for their best productivity. Are you worshipping regularly with your church family to grow in your fruit of repentance? Do you avoid thinking about the things you feel guilty about or run to God for the sweet gift of forgiveness? How much goodness will it take for Christ to convince you to engage in regular confession, for your intentional or unintentional sins? Are you willing to ask the Lord to reveal your heart, intellectual, attitudinal, or ethical sins? “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9) “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

(1) Henry, Matthew “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible,” Luke 13:6-9, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/luke-13.html

(2) Sproul, R.C., “The Parable of the Barren Fig,” https://www.ligonier.org/learn/sermons/parable-barren-fig/

(3) Berkoff, L., Systematic Theology, “Soteriology—Justification,” pages 514-5,” Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, Reprinted 1993

(4) Ligonier Devotions, “Presuming upon God’s Kindness,” Martin Luther on Romans 2:4, https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/presuming-upon-gods-kindness/

January 31, 2020

Christian Hearts, Good Fruit

I’ve been trying to come up with a smart way to open this devotion, but I’m stuck on the word “bear.” It’s the keyword of our passage, in the verb form, meaning to “produce” or “yield” (fruit). We don’t use the word “bear,” and my mind keeps slipping to a new show on the Animal Planet TV channel called “Man versus Bear.” It’s a pretty silly show with a man or woman competing against a massive bear in different stunts. TV producers can come up with some pretty crazy ideas for new shows. The use of the word “bear” in Scripture implies that something inside us yields something that grows outside of us. A plant produces flowers or food, as inventors create new medical tools from their medical knowledge, and chefs make new recipes based on their experience and knowledge of food. Other than bearing children, we usually don’t even think of producing something on a daily basis. Yet we are created to do just that, and ideally to do so every day. But like a TV producer, inventor, or writer, the thought of delivering anything so frequently is intimidating. The good news is that, like a garden, God has planted the seeds in us and he has given us his Spirit to empower us to do so. If our hearts are transformed by Christ’s righteousness, we will produce good fruit. “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:43-45) It is my goal to stimulate our fruit-bearing because Christ has redeemed us for this purpose.

God’s creation illustrates the reality of a regenerated heart that produces fruit. Our passage from Luke 6 begins with a general statement (v. 43), followed by an illustration from nature (v. 44), and then the specific application of the principle for believers (v. 45). Jesus frequently taught about the two ways of humankind: regenerate or unregenerate. In Luke 6:46-49, following this passage, he compared disciples to those who built on him (the rock) and unbelievers to those who built their lives on the sand. In Matthew 25, our Savior described these as the sheep and the goats—the sheep going to eternal life and the goats to eternal damnation. (1) In Luke 6 he says, “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit.” “This teaching can be taken in either of two ways. In one sense, observing good and bad fruit allows one to judge wisely in dealing with others (the context also of [a related passage in] Matt. 7:15–20). In another sense, it applies to the disciples themselves, for the fruit of a bad tree involves judging and condemning others while the fruit of a good tree involves forgiving and giving to others and loving one’s enemies.” (2) A redeemed heart in Christ yields good fruit, just like a healthy tree; an unredeemed heart is like the fig tree Jesus cursed because it hypocritically produced leaves but no fruit (Matthew 21:18-19). Another passage comes to mind, Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” But rather than fret, we are encouraged, since Christ has redeemed us, believers, making us good “trees.”

In nature, fruit is evidence of the tree’s species, with the natural consequence that bears fruit consistent with its kind. “For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.” (6:44) I have some mums in my garden that I planted in November. They were beautiful, with lush yellow, white, and red flowers. But after those blossoms died, I haven’t seen a single new one. If I do, I certainly don’t expect to get daisies, roses, or apples from them. How silly would that be? No one expects to get milk from a gas pump or laundry detergent from a movie beverage vending machine. (I’m being senseless to make a point.) We go through our days, expecting most people to be gracious, kind, other-centered, wise, and good. But why? Jesus clearly teaches that there are at least as many unregenerate, unfruitful people as there are believers. As Gill writes, “…and no more can an unregenerate man perform good works, or bring forth: fruits of righteousness acceptable unto God; for these require a knowledge of his will, obedience to it, a principle of grace, love to God, faith in Christ, and a view to the glory of God; all which are wanting in such a person.” (3) But since my goal is not to cast dispersions on others, let me suggest what is even more senseless: our justification for Christian unfruitfulness based on that of the general population. Gill also says, “…the grace of God revealed to good men, and wrought in them, teaches them to live soberly, righteously, and godly; a holy life is the fruit of grace, and an evidence of it.” (4) You and I aren’t thorn bushes; we are branches produced on the grapevine of Christ designed to bear sweet grapes for our lord.

Good spiritual fruit is the spiritual consequence and evidence of regenerated, abundant heart. “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) As Martin Luther proclaimed, “Salvation is by faith alone, but not a faith that is alone.” The ESV Study Bible Notes observes that “The true nature of people’s hearts can often be seen when they speak off-the-cuff, without reflection.” (5) R.C. Sproul links the passage to Psalm 1, where the righteous man “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers,” after meditating on God’s law day and night (vs. 2-3). Studying to write my blog devotions is my most convicting study. Little do we know about the benefit of studying a verse or three over a week, or a biblical topic for a year, because we don’t usually do it. I highly recommend doing in-depth Scripture meditations and journaling about them. I think you will be surprised by their value. As Dr. Sproul comments, our hearts become storehouses of good words and conduct, like thesauruses, leading to fruit for Christ. As Jesus says in verse 45—this fruit comes from an abundance in our hearts. We won’t even know what is there until it comes out through our mouths and shows up in our choices.

Do you see yourself as a productive Christian, or do you doubt Christ’s victorious, resurrection power to produce good spiritual fruit? How might you struggle with either bearing or identifying your fruit reflect a less than an “abundant” heart for Christ? “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:32-34)

(1) This perspective on the passage is strongly influenced by R.C. Sproul’s sermon on Luke 6:43-46, https://www.ligonier.org/learn/sermons/good-bad-fruit/

(2) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Luke 6:44, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ephesians-6.html

(3) Gill, ibid.

(4) ESV Study Bible Notes, Ibid.

(5) Sproul, ibid.

(6) Sproul, ibid.


January 24, 2020

Following the Spirit, Crucifying the Flesh

Do you have a dog or two at home? If so, walking your pooch in the beautiful weather is probably delightful but walking in bad weather isn’t much fun. I’ve been praying about getting a pooch next year, maybe an older, little one that doesn’t require too much of my time, since I’m the only one to care for it. But every cold or rainy day I am glad not to have one. Like other interests, pet ownership comes with benefits and responsibilities—unconditional love and fun vs. vet and food bills and exercising in all kinds of weather. I’m not yet convinced that the benefits are worth the costs for me. I will continue to put money and effort into my little patio garden to have flowers. I will keep exercising regularly for flexibility in my joints, but a dog…not so much yet. If I do decide to rescue a pooch, I know that my perspective and attitude will change, but there will still be some days when I will push myself to do what is necessary. When it comes to the work of Christian spiritual warfare, God gives us the desire to put in the effort, while he does most of the heavy lifting. When we are redeemed, our longings and aspirations are transformed to align with Christ’s purpose: to walk in the Spirit. But the battle of our new and old natures isn’t over until we finish our journey on earth. The fruit of the Holy Spirit will grow in us because God has determined that it will—we have his promise to stimulate our growth in sanctification. We participate in the process by recognizing and rejecting sinful desires when they pop up and yielding to the Holy Spirit. Believers are called to embrace the battle within, to fight sin for maturity and fruitful living.

Eventually, we will get to the nine fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Before we do, let’s consider Paul’s context: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law…And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:16-18, 24-26) We battle within ourselves to conquer our unholy desires to do what is right, for the sake of our Christian family (vs. 16-17). We do so because “the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Galatians 5:14) “The context of Paul’s exposition is not about our isolated, personal growth, but on its impact on others and on our relationship with Jesus Christ. The gospel devours the very motivation you have for sin. It completely saps your very need and reason to live any way you want. Anyone who insists that the gospel encourages us to sin has simply not understood it yet, nor begun to feel its power…if you truly understand through the gospel who Jesus is and what He has done for you, then you will ask: How can I live for Him? And the answer will be—look at the will of God expressed in the law. The gospel frees us from the law, for the law. It does away with our old, selfishly motivated and unloving law-obedience. And it motivates us to obey the law out of love.” (1)

You may be the only one to walk a dog, or do any number of chores, but we have lots of help to grow into maturity for greater spiritual fruit: brothers and sisters in Christ, pastors, elders, theologians, counselors, and especially the Holy Spirit. “If the Christian life looks too hard, we must remember that we are not called to live it by ourselves. We must live it by the Spirit of God. The command of love is not a new legalistic burden laid on our back; it is what happens freely when we walk by the Spirit. We must learn to ‘walk by the Spirit.’…As Romans 8:7 says, ‘The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law.’ The basic mark of the flesh is that it is unsubmissive. It does not want to submit to God’s absolute authority or rely on God’s absolute mercy.[So] conflict in your soul is not all bad. Serenity in sin is death…So take heart if your soul feels like a battlefield at times. The sign of whether you are indwelt by the Spirit is not that you have no bad desires, but that you are at war with them!” (2) We are called to embrace the battle within to fight sin and encourage fruitful living.

Christ has given us the Spirit and crucified our unholy aspirations. “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law…And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:18, 24) “As a person fastened to a cross may be alive, though he cannot act and move as before, being under restraints, so the old man, though crucified, and under the restraints of mighty grace, and cannot reign and govern as before, yet is alive, and acts, and operates, and oftentimes has great sway and influence; but whereas he is deprived of his reigning power, he is said to be crucified: and though this act is ascribed to them that are Christ’s, yet not as done by them in their own strength, who are not able to grapple with one corruption, but as under the influence of the grace of Christ, and through the power of his Spirit.” (3) Here is the good news of the gospel—sin no longer reigns over us, and the law can no longer oppress us, and we no longer want to rebel. Now we belong to Christ and as “belongers,” we delight in what delights him and desire what God desires. But this is not an unconscious, automatic work of God. We stimulate our spiritual fruit by actively rejecting sinful desires and yielding to the Holy Spirit, following his lead.

The Holy Spirit leads us to yield to God holy fruitfulness. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:25-26) The keyword of Galatians 5:16-25 is “Spirit” and the verbs in the passage reveal our relationship with him. We are to walk, gratify, keep from, want to do, are led, belong, keep in step, not becoming conceited, provoking, or envying. We are to “keep in step” with the Spirit to “keep from” the desires of the flesh. Instead of “gratifying” them, we “crucify” them. Gill writes that we are to be wary of “Provoking one another; not to good works, which would be right, but to anger and wrath, which is contrary to Christian charity, or true love…Envying one another; their gifts and abilities, natural and spiritual; their rank and station in the world, or in the church. These were sins the Galatians very probably were subject to; and where they prevail, there is confusion, and every evil work, and are therefore to be watched and guarded against.” (4)

“Believers are engaged in a conflict, in which they earnestly desire that grace may obtain full and speedy victory…The fruits of the Spirit plainly show, that such are led by the Spirit. By describing the works of the flesh and fruits of the Spirit, we are told what to avoid and oppose, and what we are to cherish and cultivate; and this is the sincere care and endeavor of all real Christians.” (5) The question is, are we willing to engage in spiritual warfare internally to conquer our unholy desires? What personal ungodly aspirations did we crucify last year? Which ones do you want to vanquish now? Will you pray for the Spirit’s guidance, trusting God to be victorious in your battle for holy fruitfulness? Be encouraged.  “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

(1) Keller, Tim, Galatians For You, “Gospel Freedom”, (Galatians 5:14), The Good Book Company, United Kingdom, 2013.

(2) Piper, John, Desiring God Ministries, “Sermons,” http://www.desiringgod.com

(3) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Galatians 5:24, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/galatians-5.html

(4) Gill, Galatians 5:25, ibid.

(5) Henry, Matthew “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible,” Galatians 5:25, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/galatians-5.html

January 17, 2020