Love God 5

Ephesians 4:22-24

In today’s society with our modern ways of communicating and staying in contact with one another it is easier to get in touch with people who live far away. Recently I was contacted through e-mail by someone I knew when I was a child. She reminisced on our childhood and the old neighborhood and suggested that we might get together some time.

I hesitate getting in touch with all the many people I knew so many years ago. The biggest reason is that I am not the same person I was forty years ago. Not only have my life and circumstances changed, but I have changed. I do not think and act as I did so long ago.

The letter to the believers in Ephesus makes a comment about spiritual growth. What are we to do with our old self? What is wrong with the old self? What is the goal of the new self?

Whether our beliefs in God came later in life or they have been with us since childhood, the odds are that we are not who we used to be. When we do not have a deep connection with God, or we have no faith at all, we are easily tempted by the corruption of our humanity – a tendency to be selfish, to sin, to act deceitfully. But when we take on a new faith, when we progress in our spiritual growth, we can put away our old habits and behaviors.

Through an acceptance of Christ and a movement forward in our faith we grow to be better people. As Ephesians 4:24 points out, we are to grow in the likeness of God. We should grow to be more holy in our thinking and in the things we do.

2 Peter 1 talks about the progression of spiritual growth for believers. We are to begin with faith and then add goodness to that. Once we have mastered our faith and goodness we can add knowledge and self-control. To continue growing toward that more perfect self, that spirituality that is like God in true righteousness and holiness, we must now add perseverance and godliness.

Godliness is that new self that we need to have. Godliness is that holiness, that God-likeness, that we must exhibit in our life and our ability to love.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you be made new, more God-like, in your attitudes?

Love God 4

Matthew 15:25-28

When I applied for a position as a corporate trainer I felt very confident about the opportunity. I knew I would make a great trainer. But the manager who interviewed me disagreed and told me she did not intend to hire me.

After a moment of disappointment my wife told me to call her back and convince her that I was the person for the job. I called back, politely explained that I was truly qualified for the position, and challenged her to give me a chance to demonstrate my skills.

I got the job.

Continuing with the story of the Canaanite woman, we have seen that her daughter is suffering from demon possession. But Jesus has ignored her calls for help. What does the woman do in verse 25? How does Jesus respond? What ultimately causes Jesus to give the healing requested?

Jesus healed the woman’s daughter because she exhibited great faith. She was persistent in her pursuit of a response from Jesus. She did not give up easily, but pushed forward until she achieved what she desired.

We may find ourselves in a desperate situation. We need help. We need God’s blessings and guidance and strength.

We may turn to the Lord for help, but then we may feel that we have been ignored because God has not responded immediately. We need to have the perseverance of our faith, the ability to accept where we are and press forward to see the changes we want to have happen. We must be willing to be like the Canaanite woman and dare to press God for His presence in our lives.

Perseverance goes beyond waiting. Perseverance implies action on our part. When we see what needs to change – in ourselves, in our world, in our faith – perseverance calls us to make those changes. It may happen quickly. It may take years. But the faithful believer who has perseverance will constantly work toward improving God’s kingdom.

We also need perseverance with ourselves. We must constantly and patiently move on in our faith to become better Christians.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What needs to be better about your faith?

Love God 3

Matthew 15:21-24

We are all likely familiar with the frustration of waiting in a doctor’s office. We are aware of the patience needed to finally be seen by a physician. While patience is an admirable quality, the “perseverance” mentioned in 2 Peter 1:6 does not translate to be patience. Patience can be understood to be the quiet tolerance of the passing of time. But perseverance is the acceptance of circumstances joined with the active pursuit of change.

As an example of perseverance – the attitude that we must add to our faith, goodness, knowledge and self-control – we have the story of the Canaanite woman. Like the story of the Good Samaritan, there is information implied by the words. The Canaanite woman was not Jewish.

Why does the woman come to Jesus? What was Jesus’ response? What did the disciples want? How do you feel about Jesus’ responses?

There are many different interpretations of why Jesus ignored the woman as he did. He may have been testing her devotion and authenticity. He may have truly wanted to focus on the Jews, but changed his mind. He may have been teaching a lesson to the woman, to the disciples, or to us.

If there is anything we can take away from this story it is the need for perseverance in our faith. The woman was not part of the ministry of Jesus yet she was willing to make herself vulnerable, to risk the rejection she received, by confronting Jesus. She was willing to endure being snubbed by Christ and the disciples to accomplish a greater good.

As Christians we must realize our need to grow in our faith, to move from being good to being great. That requires that we put ourselves at risk. That requires that we move forward, refusing to accept where we are as the end of the journey.

We must have faith and goodness. And to that we must add knowledge and self-control. Then we must add perseverance – the deliberate and sometimes slow movement forward in faith.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you live out perseverance in your faith?

Love God 2

1 Peter 1:14-15

In one of my teaching assignments part of my duties was to escort a classroom full of children down a long hallway, down a staircase, down a second hall, all the way to the cafeteria at lunch. It was the rule of the school that students should be quiet as they went to lunch so as not to disturb other classes.

I explained to my students that if they made noise no one would say this student or that student was noisy. They would say that Mr. Emerson’s class was noisy. I explained that in this they represented me, and since I am obedient to the rules they must also be obedient to the rules.

In the same way when we claim the title of “Christian” we are telling everyone that we represent the Son of God. As representatives of Christ we must behave in ways that give honor to the Lord. If we will grow in faith we must be faithful in our beliefs and add to our qualities of being Christian.

Peter has some instructions to faithful believers. What are we to do? What behavior should we live out? Why?

If we are to be obedient to God we must suppress our desires and tendencies to get caught up in the sinfulness of the world. We must avoid and suppress our sinful desires. We no longer live in ignorance. We have been shown the way of living out faith by Christ himself.

But more than simply being obedient to God, more than just having faith, more than just adding goodness to our faith, we must aspire to be holy in our behaviors. We are to add godliness to our faith, goodness and knowledge. We are to be holy in the same way that God is holy.

It is a difficult challenge. It is a high ideal to work toward, but we are children of God and we are challenged to be as holy as God.

And we are not called to be holy now and then. We are not called to be holy in private. We are called to be holy in all that we do.

If we are able to add holiness to our faith we will be one more step closer to being the great Christians we are called to be.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What must you do to be holy?

Love God 1

Philippians 2:12-13

We are working more and more at having our children, now growing into young adults, to become more self-sufficient and productive in their daily lives. Whenever we leave the house and there are things to be done we leave a “to do” list for our kids, a list of those tasks that we expect them to accomplish while we are away, something to be done without our involvement or nagging.

What a delight it is to come home and find that our kids have checked through their lists and accomplished things.

The same is true of each one of us in our faith. God has given us commandments in the Bible. Christ came to earth and taught us lessons and provided us with an example to follow. Now it is up to us to build our Christian life, to move through our journey of faith, on our own.

Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi addresses the need for the believers to grow in their faith. What does he say about their obedience in faith? What should they do about heir own salvation? How is this work accomplished?

If we are Christians then we have accepted the life, teaching and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Our salvation is sure. We are promised everlasting life in the kingdom of God.

But we can’t stop there. Just because Jesus is not present with us in bodily form to push us deeper in our faith, just because the early leaders of the church are no longer with us, we can’t stop with the secure knowledge of our salvation.

We have the faith. Now we must add goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance and godliness. (2 Peter 1:5-6) When we build on these qualities we grow closer and closer to being the perfect children of god we are called to be.

We can take courage that it is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, who works within us to help us grow in holiness and goodness. Through the working of God we can move toward being great Christians with stronger and more effective faith.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you remember that God is working in you to grow your faith?