“And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows” (1 Thessalonians 3:12, NLT).
When Christians aren’t loving, many people see them as hypocritical. After all, if you’re a Christian, aren’t you supposed to be full of love for others all the time? The truth is, Christians are just like everyone else – they have bad days, times when they feel like kicking the cat and moments of anger. They get down and they get frustrated.
The difference is Christians have help. We don’t have to rely on ourselves to work up love for others and then feel guilty when we can’t. God puts the love in our hearts and he’s the one who makes it grow. Because he is love and he lives in us, it’s his love that overflows from us as we yield to and are led by his Spirit.
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8, NLT).
It’s true you are what you eat and it’s also true you are what you think about. If you dwell on negative, depressing things, chances are you’ll get depressed. Watching the news makes you think nothing good ever happens in the world.
I’m sure the news wasn’t so great in Paul’s day either. When he told the Philippians to fix their thoughts on the positive, he was pointing them to more than what was happening in Philippi. He was encouraging them to keep their thoughts on God, because he alone is excellent and he alone is worthy of praise. When anyone does anything kind or loving, God gets the praise as the source of all good things.
“Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” Philippians 2:7-8, NLT).
When a we humble ourselves before someone or something such as a court of law, we become courteous and respectful, less proud and arrogant and don’t assert our own importance. We’ve seen this happen when celebrities go before a judge – suddenly they are just like the rest of us!
When God humbled himself to become human, he gave up his status and rank so to speak, as the Creator and sustainer of the universe. He became vulnerable, weak (needing food, water and sleep) and submitted himself to all it means to be flesh and blood. God is big in so many ways, but for love he was willing to become as small as a cell in Mary’s body and to become the lowest of criminals, dying on a cross.
“He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. Finally he will cause justice to be victorious” (Matthew 12:20, NLT).
When you’re down, the last thing you need is to be kicked. Unfortunately many Christians seem to shoot their wounded (Why Do Christians Shoot Their Wounded? Helping (Not Hurting) Those with Emotional Difficulties, Dwight L. Carlson).
This is another thing I love about Jesus: his tenderheartedness. Our frailty is known to God and because he is love, it is also precious to him (in our weakness, he is strong). He doesn’t take any pleasure in our suffering, but is the One who comes to our rescue and gives us comfort. His heart is for us, even though the whole world may be against us. May we all be transformed by his Spirit to be more tenderhearted.
“This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory” (Colossians 1:26-27, NLT).
It’s exciting to have a secret and be able to surprise and amaze people with it. It makes you feel important, special and privileged.
God kept something secret for a long time, many generations in fact. We know he didn’t reveal it earlier because he was waiting for just the right time in our history. Paul reveals this secret in Colossians: Christ lives in the believer and this is how we have assurance of sharing his glory. The secret is out, but it’s not just for some. Everyone can have the special privilege of Christ living in them.
“Masters, be just and fair to your slaves. Remember that you also have a Master—in heaven” (Colossians 4:1, NLT).
Life isn’t fair! We all learn that at an early age, don’t we? If we expect most things we encounter in life to be unfair, we won’t be too disappointed. Even though I know this, sometimes unfairness can still take me by surprise.
In this verse, Paul advised Christian masters to be just and fair to their slaves and to remember they also had a Master in heaven. Even though slavery itself isn’t fair (it’s evil), because of the fairness of God, anyone in a position over someone has the responsibility to be kind and considerate to him or her. Because God is fair to us, we must remember to treat others fairly.
“Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault” (Colossians 1:22, NLT).
As I’ve written before, we don’t have to ask for God’s presence when we pray. Because he lives in Christians, his presence is a constant. This verse explains how and why—God reconciled us to himself through the death of Christ and as a result, he has brought us into his presence. By his shed blood, he has made us holy (set apart) and blameless.
This is one more example of how God has done everything for us. Not only are we incapable of doing anything to gain or further our salvation, there’s no need—he has done it all. Just as a parent would make sure all is prepared for a son or daughter to come home after a long absence, he’s taken care of everything. That’s how much he loves us.
“He has told us about the love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you” (Colossians 1:8, NLT).
Many think love is a feeling. Some have figured out it’s a choice and a commitment. It can be both, but from God’s point of view, it’s a fruit of his Spirit, a gift from the Spirit and it’s who God is. Sometimes even Christians aren’t very loving so it’s good to realize God is the one who gives us love out of himself and fills us with himself, as we (by his power in the Spirit) surrender our wills to his.
“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13, NLT).
Most religions feel the need to give people work to do to keep them in the mode of earning their place in heaven. Fear of losing out or even having a lesser position or reward is a way of keeping them under control. Legalism perpetuates the cycle of obey, disobey, fearfully repent, obey, ad infinitum. The conditioned response becomes one of work harder, do more, repent deeper.
This verse has always been encouraging to me, especially in those times I have willfully or even accidentally (OK, it’s rarely accidental) done something wrong. It’s impossible for us to stop sinning on our own and at times, equally impossible to want to stop. Thankfully God works in us, giving us not just the power to please him but the desire. Oh how he knows us!
“Instruct all the skilled craftsmen whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom. Have them make garments for Aaron that will distinguish him as a priest set apart for my service” (Exodus 28:3, NLT).
Proverbs is full of wise one liners and pithy sayings. A thorough study of the book would be helpful to anyone seeking wisdom and an understanding of life. We are advised to love wisdom like a sister (Proverbs 7:4), to prize and embrace her (4:8) and that she is more precious than rubies (3:15).
The craftsmen in Exodus were filled with the spirit of wisdom. God is the Spirit of wisdom and when he gives us wisdom, he is in effect filling us with himself. He is wisdom and he is our wisdom.