So Walk Ye in Him

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, – Colossians 2:6

If we have received Christ himself in our inmost hearts, our new life will manifest its intimate acquaintance with him by a walk of faith in him. Walking implies action. Our religion is not to be confined to our closet; we must carry out into practical effect that which we believe. If a man walks in Christ, then he so acts as Christ would act; for Christ being in him, his hope, his love, his joy, his life, he is the reflex of the image of Jesus; and men say of that man, “He is like his Master; he lives like Jesus Christ.” Walking signifies progress. “So walk ye in him”; proceed from grace to grace, run forward until you reach the uttermost degree of knowledge that a man can attain concerning our Beloved. Walking implies continuance. There must be a perpetual abiding in Christ. How many Christians think that in the morning and evening they ought to come into the company of Jesus, and may then give their hearts to the world all the day: but this is poor living; we should always be with him, treading in his steps and doing his will. Walking also implies habit. When we speak of a man’s walk and conversation, we mean his habits, the constant tenor of his life. Now, if we sometimes enjoy Christ, and then forget him; sometimes call him ours, and anon lose our hold, that is not a habit; we do not walk in him. We must keep to him, cling to him, never let him go, but live and have our being in him. “As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him”; persevere in the same way in which ye have begun, and, as at the first Christ Jesus was the trust of your faith, the source of your life, the principle of your action, and the joy of your spirit, so let him be the same till life’s end; the same when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and enter into the joy and the rest which remain for the people of God. O Holy Spirit, enable us to obey this heavenly precept.


A Good Ending

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. – Revelation 22:1-5

As the lights dimmed and we prepared to watch Apollo 13, my friend said under his breath, “Shame they all died.” I watched the movie about the 1970 spaceflight with apprehension, waiting for tragedy to strike, and only near the closing credits did I realize I’d been duped. I hadn’t known or remembered the end of the true story—that although the astronauts faced many hardships, they made it home alive.

In Christ, we can know the end of the story—that we too will make it home alive. By that I mean we will live forever with our heavenly Father, as we see in the book of Revelation. The Lord will create a “new heaven and a new earth” as He makes all things new (21:1, 5). In the new city, the Lord God will welcome His people to live with Him, without fear and without the night. We have hope in knowing the end of the story.

What difference does this make? It can transform times of extreme difficulty, such as when people face the loss of a loved one or even their own death. Though we recoil at the thought of dying, yet we can embrace the joy of the promise of eternity. We long for the city where no longer will there be any curse, where we’ll live forever by God’s light (22:5).

Lord Jesus Christ, give me unfailing hope, that I might rest in Your promises and welcome Your life eternal.

Turn On the Love Light

16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 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. 19 We love because he first loved us. 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. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. – 1 John 4:16-21

KENDALL AITENDS a large Bible study group nearly every week, but most people around him don’t even know he is there. He always sits by himself and heads for the door as soon as everyone says “Amen” to the closing prayer.

One of the group leaders, Dale, noticed Kendall and decided to befriend him. For several weeks, Dale sought out Kendall after Bible study just to say hello. Eventually Dale convinced Kendall to meet him for lunch. After a couple of get-togethers, Kend­all began to open up. “No way can God love me,” Kendall said one day. “He just puts up with me because I’ve accepted Christ as my Savior. But God will never love me as his child. I’m just lucky to be saved.”

Dale wisely didn’t counter Kendall’s confession by ramming Scripture verses about God’s love down his throat. Instead he gently asked about Kendall’s back­ground. He learned that Kendall had grown up in a non-Christian home with a stem father who was quick to discipline him. He couldn’t recall that his father ever hugged him or held him or said, “I love you.”

So why do people like Kendall fail to see themselves as people unconditionally loved by God? Their sense of belonging is diminished when they don’t sense love from God or others. Since they aren’t loved by the people from whom they most need love, they often conclude they are unlovable. It’s difficult to believe that God can love us if our need for human love has gone unmet.

As long as Kendall kept his distance from others, he wasn’t reminded of his unlovableness. Was Kendall unlovable? No way! His inner self-portrait was wrong. He needed more of the light of Christ, God’s Word, and God’s people to begin reveal­ing who he was.

Dale met with Kendall for a few months. Eventually he convinced Kendall to join a small group. In the group Kendall experienced the love and care of eight other students. As his new friends met his long-ignored need for love, Kendall’s idea of his identity was transformed. As he began to experience love through the care of his friends, he began to see his lovableness to God more clearly.

If you shy away from God and people because you can’t believe they could ever love you, you need more light on who you really are. Stop pulling away. Instead, draw close to people who love you and let the light of their love illuminate the true picture of who you are.

REFLECT: Have you made it a habit to hide from people because you can’t trust their Love? How can you let people into your Life?

PRAY: Tell God about the hurts that cause you to block people out at times.

How Not to Pursue God

“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth.” (Isaiah 58:13-14)

It is possible to pursue God without glorifying God. If we want our quest to honor God, we must pursue him for the joy in fellowship with Him.

Consider the Sabbath as an illustration of this. The Lord rebukes his people for seeking “their own” pleasure on his holy day. But what does he mean? He means they are delighting in their business and not in the beauty of their God.

He does not rebuke their hedonism. He rebukes the weakness of it. They have settled for secular interests and thus honor them above the Lord.

Notice that calling the Sabbath “a delight” is parallel to calling the holy day of the Lord “honorable.” This simply means you honor what you delight in. Or you glorify what you enjoy.

The enjoyment and the glorification of God are one. His eternal purpose and our eternal pleasure unite.

Jesus the Bread of Life

“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.” – John 6:35-36

The crowd was looking for a meal and focused only on their own temporal needs.  Jesus rebuked them in verse 26 saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”  Kostenberger notes, “…Jesus discerns people’s true motives.  This, too, proves he is the Son of God.”[1]

Jesus points men to himself as the ultimate satisfaction of their needs both physical and spiritual.  Jesus is greater than a mere magician able to multiply loaves and fishes.  Jesus is the prophet greater than even Moses (Hebrews 3:3) who the crowds are thinking about regarding the manna in the wilderness (vs. 30).  Jesus then explains that true bread coming down from heaven is one that “gives life to the world” (vs. 33).  The crowd responds enthusiastically, “Sir, give us this bread always.” (vs. 35)  They want the bread, but Jesus gives them something they were not quite expecting.

Jesus declares himself to be the Bread of Life.  Ridderbos notes in response to the questioning he is receiving, he points not to what he can do but to who he is.  Yes, men need bread but need more than physical bread, life-giving bread.  He notes, “He not only grants that bread but is that bread.”[2]  The true bread coming down from heaven having been sent from the Father is Jesus the Son, not manna or physical food.  What mean need is not just fulfillment on physical and spiritual levels, they need Jesus in particular.  They need the one sent down from heaven by the Father to give life to all.  This is John 3:16 in edible form.

Jesus not only declares himself to be the Bread of Life, he then adds, “whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”  The bread this crowd received the previous day had already been digested.  It was gone and more was needed.  The Bread of Life, however, leaves people without the need for more.

The Bread of Life is sufficient, eternally sufficient.  Partakers of this bread, those who come to Jesus in belief, will never be hungry or thirst ever again.  Why?  According to Rogers and Rogers, it is “the bread that give life; that is, everlasting life.”[3]  The life given by this Bread is not because of coming or the believing in and of themselves, but is the result of the power of the Bread.  To put it a different way, the life given by Jesus is everlasting because Jesus is everlasting.  From a human perspective, the act of belief is a necessary component of salvation, but it is not the strength of this belief or the method of one’s coming that results in everlasting life.

The Bread of Life is the satisfaction, thus those who do not taste of this bread cannot benefit from it.   Michaels confirms that these promises “are not to those whom he is speaking.”[4] Verse 36 says, “But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.”  The crowd is looking at Jesus and asking for bread.  They have not comprehended the fact that he indeed is the bread himself.  They look to Jesus to give them something outside of himself to satisfy their needs.  Based upon the fact that they follow him demonstrates their belief that Jesus can provide physical needs but they have failed to believe that Jesus Himself is their need.  Kruse notes, “Those who come to Jesus, i.e. those who believe in him, are brought into relationship with God…”  So this crowd is seeking for the benefits of a relationship without the relationship.  The conclusion one may draw then is there are some followers of Jesus who are not genuine in their belief and thus have no salvation which can be lost.

[1] Andreas J. Köstenberger, Encountering John: the Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective (Encountering Biblical Studies), 2 ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 1.

[2] Herman Ridderbos, The Gospel of John: a Theological Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 229.

[3] Cleon L. Rogers and Jr. & Cleon L. Rogers III, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 197.
[4] J. Ramsey Michaels, The Gospel of John (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2010), 375.

The Fruit of the Spirit

 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 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. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. – Galatians 5:16-24

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is one of the most neglected aspects of the biblical teaching on sanctification. There are various reasons for this:

Preoccupation with externals. Though students often murmur and grumble when facing tests in the classroom, there is a sense in which we really want to have them. Tests that measure skill, achievement, and knowledge are even standard fare in magazines. People like to know how they rate. Have I achieved excellence in a certain endeavor, or am I mired in mediocrity?

Christians are no different. We tend to measure our progress in sanctification by examining our performance against external standards. Do we curse? Do we drink? Do we go to movies? These standards are often used to measure spirituality. The real test—evidence of the fruit of the Spirit—is often ignored or minimized. This is the trap the Pharisees fell into.

We recoil from the real test because the fruit of the Spirit is too nebulous. It is far more demanding of personal character than superficial externals are. It is a lot easier to refrain from cursing than it is to acquire a habit of godly patience.

2. Preoccupation with gifts. The same Holy Spirit who leads us into holiness and bears fruit in us also gives spiritual gifts to believers. We seem to be far more interested in the gifts of the Spirit than the fruit, despite the clear biblical teaching that one may possess gifts while being immature in spiritual progress. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians make that abundantly clear.

3. The problem of righteous unbelievers. It is frustrating to measure our progress in sanctification by the fruit of the Spirit when the virtues listed among the fruit are sometimes exhibited to a greater degree by non-Christians. We all know nonbelievers who exhibit more gentleness or patience than many Christians. If people can have the “fruit of the Spirit” apart from the Spirit, how can we determine our spiritual growth in this manner?

There is a qualitative difference between the virtues of love, joy, peace, patience, etc., engendered in us by the Holy Spirit and those exhibited by nonbelievers. Nonbelievers operate from motives that are ultimately selfish. But when believers exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, they are exhibiting characteristics that are ultimately directed toward God and others. Being filled with the Spirit means that one’s life is controlled by the Holy Spirit; nonbelievers can only exhibit these spiritual virtues to the extent of human ability.

Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit in his letter to the Galatians: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). These virtues are to characterize the Christian life. If we are filled with the Spirit, we will exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. But, of course, this takes time. These are not superficial character adjustments that happen overnight. They involve a reshaping of the innermost dispositions of the heart, which is a lifelong process of sanctification by the Spirit.

  1. We tend to neglect the study of the fruit of the Spirit because: (1) we are preoccupied with externals; (2) we are preoccupied with spiritual gifts; and (3) we recognize that many nonbelievers exhibit the spiritual virtues better than Christians.
  2. It is easier to measure spirituality by externals than by the fruit of the Spirit.
  3. We can have spiritual gifts and still be immature.
  4. There is a qualitative difference between the presence of the spiritual virtues in nonbelievers and believers. With nonbelievers, it is merely human effort. With Christians, it is God the Holy Spirit producing spiritual fruit in measure beyond mere human ability.

R.C. Sproul,
Essential Truths of the Christian Faith

6 Secrets that Will Transform the Way You Pray

Do you remember anything about your college commencement address? Stop for a moment and try. Do you remember what it was about? Any profound words of wisdom? Any helpful tips about the way life works? Any life-changing truths?
Still thinking?

Most people who went to college don’t remember their commencement speaker, much less what he or she said. There’s a certain irony to this, since a commencement address is supposed to sum up a philosophy of life and lay out what someone believes are the most essential principles for living. It’s supposed to be one of the most memorable and profound speeches a person gives.

Your commencement address might be lost somewhere in the cobwebs of your memory, but there’s a more important commencement address preserved for us in the pages of Scripture. In 1 Kings 8, King Solomon gives the people of Israel a “commencement address” in the form of a prayer offered at the dedication of the Temple he had built. And it’s one worth listening to.

Solomon, whom God had made the wisest man on earth, explained that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10 CSB). This prayer is the embodiment of Solomon’s knowledge of God, which forms the foundation of his wisdom.

A.W. Tozer said in The Knowledge of the Holy,  “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us .… We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. The most [determining] fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.”

Our knowledge of God is the core, shaping influence on our lives. Here are the things Solomon knew about God that transformed the way he prayed. If you grasp them, they can transform the way you pray, too.

1. God is a mysterious-yet-accessible God (1 Kings 8:12-13).

God is incomprehensible (dwelling in total darkness) but approachable (through the Temple he has built).

Depending on our experience, most of us have a hard time accepting both of these truths. For many, the idea of God coming near is unbelievable. But as a human race, our most chronic shortfall is that we constantly minimize God and downplay his glory. We want him to be approachable, but we don’t like him being mysterious.
But God isn’t just a slightly bigger, slightly smarter version of us. He exists without beginning or end. He stands outside of a universe at least 12 trillion light years across, having spoken it into existence with a word.

God isn’t just a slightly bigger, slightly smarter version of us. Believe that, and it’ll transform the way you pray.

It is not wise for someone with capacities as limited as ours to expect to comprehend everything about God or grasp how he exists eternally, how he is a Trinity, or how all things are working for his good purposes.

2. God is a narrowly-accessible God (1 Kings 8:27-29).

If God really does dwell in darkness but has revealed himself in a specific place and specific way, it follows that the only way to really know him is to seek him at the place he has designated.

The place that God has put his name and the continued power of his Spirit in is his church. That means if you are going to experience the blessing of God, you have to be committed to the church. You can’t have a casual relationship to the church and rich access to the blessing of God.

3. God is a promise-keeping God (1 Kings 8:15, 56).

Solomon first utters a phrase in verse 15 that he repeats over and over throughout his prayer: “[God] has fulfilled the promise by his power.” Solomon ordered his life around the assumption that the promises of God were true.

Wisdom means aligning your life around the promises of God—not becoming more moral or filling your head with more Bible knowledge. It means living in a way that if the promises of God aren’t true, you would be a fool.

4. God is a grace-extending God (1 Kings 8:46-50).

The biggest chunk of Solomon’s prayer is all about God’s willingness to forgive and restore after we sin. The whole prayer is built on the assumption that we are desperate sinners who need God’s help after we mess things up—which we’ll do pretty often.
The ceremony to dedicate the temple, in fact, was so closely linked to our need for forgiveness that it was literally bathed in blood. Verse 5 tells us that before the prayer, King Solomon offered hundreds of thousands of animals as sacrifices to atone for the people’s sins, so the ground he was standing on would have been saturated with blood. That grosses us out, and it should: It represents the heinousness of our sin.

All this blood pointed to the blood of the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus, who would one day be slain for the forgiveness of our sin. When we walk into the presence of God, we stand on ground soaked in the blood of Jesus. And when we pray in the power of this new sacrifice, we can rebound from defeat (vv. 33-34), regain lost blessings (vv. 35-36), request personal healing (vv. 37-39), regroup for spiritual victory (vv. 44-45), and repent and be restored (vv. 46-49).

5. God is a justice-conscious God (1 Kings 8:32).

Solomon says, “May you judge your servants, condemning the wicked man by bringing what he has done on his own head and providing justice for the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness” (1 Kings 8:32).

Solomon knows that there will be times when you feel like you were deprived of justice. You’ve tried confrontation, maybe even taking things to the authorities … and you still can’t get justice. When that happens, Solomon says, you have two options: Either let that injustice fester until you are forced to take vengeance yourself, or lay it at God’s feet, knowing that one day he will restore justice to you. The first option will only lead to bitterness and despair, even if you get the vengeance you’re after. Only entrusting justice to God can renew your life and lift your weary heart.

6. God is an outward-focused God (1 Kings 8:41-43).

At every point in Israel’s history, God had the outsider in mind. He saved Israel to make them a blessing to others. The Temple was built with the salvation of the nations in mind. And the church is built with the salvation of the nations in mind. Because he cares about outsiders, God is furious when we treat the church as if it is all about us.

If you’ve been saved by God’s great generosity toward you, then you become scandalously generous with what you have. How could you help it? You were an outsider when God brought you in. Shouldn’t you focus your life on helping to bring others in?

J.D. Greear