And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. (Ephesians 5:2)
Love (agape) is fundamentally a decision of the will, not an emotion of the heart. This runs counter to our culture that speaks of falling in and out of love. However, love that acts unselfishly in order to benefit its object is the bedrock of the Christian’s faith and character. Christ’s love is defined by the offering of Himself as a sacrifice to God for our sins. He chose to do that; it was a decision of His will (Jno. 10:18). Similarly, we are to “walk in love” – sacrificing ourselves in the service of others. Deciding to love Christ means sacrificing yourself for Him and for others. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 Jno. 5:3).
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. (Ephesians 5:1)
Little children want to be like their parents. They imitate what they see, and as they mature they become what they mimic. In this context, Paul teaches us to imitate God by forgiving one another as He has forgiven us (Eph. 4:32). There are many things we are to imitate in God. Primary among them is His holiness: “as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy'” (1 Pet. 1:15-16). Be an obedient child of God and pattern your life after His holiness. If you choose to practice sin you will be imitating the “god of this world” (the devil). Who are you imitating today?
16 Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” (John 7:16-17)
Jesus made the bold claim that He taught the word and will of God. He explained how you can know His message is from God. First, you must have a determination to do God’s will (“if anyone wills to do His will”). When you do not want to do the will of God you will not accept what Jesus said as the word of God. But, if you earnestly want to do God’s will, Jesus said you can and will understand His teaching and its heavenly authority (“he shall know concerning the doctrine”). Understanding the Bible has much to do with the attitude you have when you read it or hear it taught. A hard heart refuses it, but a heart that wants to do God’s will receives the word of Christ. Jesus has spoken God’s will with heaven’s authority. Do you want to do God’s will? If so, then you can understand His teaching.
25 And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?” 26 Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” (John 6:25-27)
Why are you following Jesus? These people followed Him because they ate the miraculous food He provided the multitude from five barley loaves and two small fish (Jno. 6:9-14). The next day, Jesus focused on their motive for following Him around the Sea of Galilee, and it was not a pretty picture. They had a selfish reason for following Jesus: They wanted more food! But, when Jesus offered them Himself as “the bread of God” who “comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” they became increasingly disinterested. Eventually, many stopped following Him (Jno. 6:33-66). Jesus wants you to follow Him because of your faith in Him as the Son of God and as the only One who can satisfy your hunger for salvation. Follow Jesus because He is “the bread of life”. He alone can fill your soul with God’s mercy, forgiveness and eternal life.
A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart. (Proverbs 18:2)
In yesterday’s “Tips” from Proverbs 18:1 we observed how the pride of selfish desire isolates a person from the wise judgment of God. To this Solomon adds the simple observation that a person who has no interest in gaining understanding is a fool. This is the person who always knows what is best and has little time and interest to hear alternative possibilities. This person is not equipped to increase in knowledge and wisdom; he is all about “telling” what he thinks (“expressing his own heart”). This person is the receptacle of all wisdom (and if you don’t think so, just ask and he will tell you!) This is but another example of how pride prevents a person from humbly accepting the understanding that is found in God’s word. “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prov. 2:6). Delight in the wisdom of God’s word and not the sound of your own voice.
A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment. (Proverbs 18:1)
The proverbs of Solomon give us insight into the desires of the heart. The person who obstinately refuses sound advise isolates himself. His motive becomes clear as he contends against sound judgment. He is more interested in satisfying his own interests and desires than accepting wise counsel. Pride prevents us from accepting the wise judgments of God’s word. Many rage against the Bible. By doing so they isolate themselves from God as they insulate themselves with the foolishness of their prideful unbelief. Humble yourself before God and follow His wise judgment. By doing so you will have ready access to every spiritual blessing in Christ, instead of being isolated from God in the folly of pride and unbelief.
21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22)
We examine the fruits and vegetables we eat to be sure they are fresh. We examine the glasses, plates and utensils with which we eat to be sure they are clean. Unfortunately, we are not so quick to examine the Scriptural quality of things. We accept them into our minds and lives with little thought of whether God approves. When was the last time you opened your Bible and examined it to see if what your preacher said is really so? (Read Acts 17:10-12) We must put everything to the test by using God’s word to assess whether or not it is God’s will for our lives. If God’s word approves something, then it is good and we must hold fast to it. If God’s word rejects something as evil, then we must refrain from it. Your faith will be challenged today. Be sure to use God’s word to do what He approves and to flee every evil — “test all things”.
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9)
Love (agape) is a deliberate act of will that is real and not pretended. William Barclay described “agape” as “unconquerable benevolence, undefeatable goodwill”. The fact that “God so loved the world” led Him to a superlative act of sacrifice (“He gave His only begotten Son”). God calls on us to set our heart fully upon what God says is “good” and never let it go. God’s word is truth (Jno. 17:17). By it, God tells you what is good (Micah 6:8; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). To “cling to what is good” we must also accept God’s definition of what is “evil”. We must detest sin just as God does. “You who love the Lord, hate evil!” (Psalm 97:10) Genuinely and completely love God. When you do you will obey Him, showing by your actions that you hate evil and cling to what is good.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43-45)
God has never told His followers to hate their enemies. Christians are to practice love toward their enemies just as God practices love toward His enemies. After all, even when the world was sinning against Him, God “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (Jno. 3:16). We were God’s enemies when we lived in sin, but in His great love He sent us a Savior (Rom. 5:8; Eph. 2:4-5). When people mistreat you and sin against you, remember how God has loved you. Christian, you are a child of God. Act like His child and love your enemies. When you do you will be like your Father in heaven.
33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. (Matthew 5:33-37)
Jesus dealt with people who thought their word was only binding if given with an oath under certain conditions. If not, then they felt free not to keep their word (see Matt. 23:16-22). Such people still exist. Honesty holds little value to them, so they break their word easily and repeatedly. Some think by emphasizing or exaggerating their honesty they somehow increase their integrity. So, they swear by God, by heaven and earth, and by many other things. They assure you they are telling you the truth. For Christians, a simple “yes” or “no” is enough to establish their truthfulness. Be a person of such integrity of heart that your word is your bond. Then when you speak, others will have no need to wonder whether or not what you say is actually true.