Truth and Love

Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth. Instead, we will lovingly follow the truth at all times—speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly—and so become more and more in every way like Christ who is the Head of his body, the Church. Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly, and each part in its own special way helps the other parts, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:14-16 TLB

Other translations say verse 15 this way: “Speaking the truth in love….”

When someone has to say that they are speaking the truth in love, sometimes they are doing the opposite. The verses above are the ones used to back up their words of love. I don’t know about you, but there are times I just can’t tell if Christian love is really being used, even in some small part and so I can become confused. When it comes to the basics like love, I don’t want to get it wrong.

I have found after a long time that it is much easier to tell when someone is NOT speaking in love. It can even be obvious, and hard to avoid. No matter how much the word ‘love’ is used, it doesn’t seem to ring true, and the reason is found in the chosen verses. As Christians we are required to speak, deal, and live truly, so that the whole body is healthy, growing and full of love. It is quite easy to see when those characteristics are absent, and that’s a good test.

Maybe it’s not only the words after all, but the tone, the manner, the delivery, the expressions used either all or in part. Easier to see when in their company, but still possible to tell in the written word like twitter or any of the social media platforms. So next time you are faced with the words, “I am speaking the truth in love” look for the things that are absent. As happens so often in conversations, it’s what is not said that tells the story. Now rest in the fact that where there is no fruit of the Spirit, there is no Spirit of love, so that ‘truth’ becomes suspect. As we are told in Galatians 5:22,23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Having said all that, should a Christian approach you, showing genuine concern and love to speak truth into your life for good, listen intently and act on it. Then, and only then, the given truth will be for your benefit as you walk the path of Christian faith. I trust we will always be open to growth by means of advice from others who may have been on the way that bit longer, and we can benefit from this experience. However, as a word of caution, we should always take great care if WE ever think it is necessary to ‘speak truth’ into another’s life and Christian walk. We should only do this after much prayer and meditation plus a helping of common sense, after all no one is perfect.

Advertisements

God’s Fairness

Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous? Matthew 20:15

In Matthew 20 Jesus tells the story of the owner of the vineyard who needed work done, so he went out at different times of the day to hire workers. The first ones were hired at the dawning of the day, and the last bunch were hired an hour before the work was completed. The work was finished, and that is important to remember.

The average working man was no different in Jesus’ day to the employee of today. They saw what happened and they grumbled. Oh we are good at moaning aren’t we? The owner of the vineyard offered the same wage to the labourers whether they started first or last. You can imagine the ones who had been out in the sun all day sweating, as they discovered that the ones who worked for just an hour, got the same money. It’s not fair, I can hear them say.

Do you think a Christian who has been on the way for many years is worth more to Jesus than the late arrival? What about the thief on the cross? He got in literally as he was breathing his last. Did Jesus think any less of him for coming late? Not at all. So, if you think you are worth less in God’s eyes for any reason, compared to any other Christian, think again. We are all equally precious in His sight. What a comforting thought!

You are precious to me, and I have given you a special place of honour. I love you. That’s why I am willing… to save your life. Isaiah 43:4

Actions or Words?

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35

I see some folks online, trying to prove their Christianity by their words, as if they need to convince someone of the truth. However, convincing is not our job. That’s the work reserved for the Holy Spirit. More often than not, there can be a bit of putting others down by showing through words just how much they know compared to you and me.

I love this verse because it contains a great truth, usually missed by the zealous. It’s the word ‘know’. The Word doesn’t say you will have to use fancy language, or eloquence, to all people so that they will know that you are a Christian believer. It’s the other way round. As long as we love one another as followers of Christ, all people WILL KNOW. They can’t help but notice. The Word of God reminds us that it will be obvious.

So, if you have a stumbling tongue, or are very shy, or introverted, or backward, or not very confident in company, you are every bit as able to show Jesus to others by your love. We don’t always need to use words, whether fancy or plain. We are charged to love our fellow believers, and even in the absence of words, ‘all people will know’. That, my friends, really is the good news of the gospel!

The Bathwater

When change happens too quickly, and we are not quite ready for any of it, we are always in danger of things going wrong. Change happens in all walks of life, whether at work, in the family, or even our relationships, however in my experience there is no more dangerous place for change quite like a church fellowship.

Since change will always happen in all walks of life, we must accept it and get used to the idea, but it is never a good thing to make changes without taking the other affected people along with you. If they are left behind, the intended changes can only partly be made, if at all! However, I believe the greater danger is that some will be so adamant about the benefits of change that the baby is thrown out with the bathwater. Not only does nothing positive happen, but we are left further back than we were before the change was proposed. There are times when doing nothing is better than any change.

Now here’s the dilemma. We dearly love in the Lord those who differ from our own views, and like them I want our church both local and general to grow, but…. what if those strongly held beliefs on each side do not come together, or agree? What if each side thinks the other has it partly or all wrong? On one corner the old timers who don’t want to change if it’s for change’s sake, and on the other side the younger progressive who wants the church to change in order to better relate to the world and the sinner? Both would agree that the end result of changed lives for the Kingdom is the most important outcome, but there needs to be some agreement in how we go about it!

An engineer is responsible in helping to make change happen, and in my case that would have been a new process or product introduced in an assembly line. The changes were usually obvious, needed, and went ahead without any difficulty. Occasionally however, a change would fail, either in part or the whole, and had to be cancelled. My experience was that undoing the change was more difficult, expensive, and took longer than the effort and time taken to put it into place. One of the real deep seated outcomes was the loss of confidence in the minds of the staff who operated the assembly. They rightly expected those with the authority and responsibility to think it through beforehand and get it right by the time it was implemented. My parallel is this: Much care is needed to prevent changes being made in a church fellowship which would create more problems than they would solve. This could show itself in regular attendees losing morale, confidence, respect, and sadly in some cases attendance. No one wants that! A rule of thumb is, the greater the proposed change, the greater the risk of it going wrong at least in part. It is worth remembering that human nature is the same as in Bible times, and more importantly that the Gospel still applies because:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8

Our ‘Way’

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. Proverbs 14:12 NIV

We usually use this verse to show clearly that the path we take to live our lives, even with good intentions, may not be best for us or others looking on. It is also used as a verse to show the way of salvation from the way we think is right, to the way that God knows is right. I also think it can be used in another, more down to earth and meaningful way. In fact, it’s the word ‘way’ that catches my attention.

According to the dictionary, as well as meaning a path, or road, the word can also mean a method, style, or manner we adopt. Someone close to me once explained, after saying some harsh, ill thought through comments, “It’s just the way I am. It’s the way I was made, so you’ll just have to accept me like this”. Really? I don’t think so. That’s the problem we are sometimes faced with. We can expect and accept it from the unchurched and unsaved, but what if it comes from a Christian brother or sister as sometimes can be our experience?

Scripture is clear that when we accept Christ, we are changed from the inside out. Yes, we can occasionally step out of line and need forgiveness, but what if a friend’s ‘way’ can be naturally harsh, abrasive, and off putting? Perhaps on more than the odd occasion? However, it is equally important that I also must remember to be careful not to fall into the sin of seeing the speck, and ignore the plank in our own eye. God does not leave us as he found us. The apostle Paul made it clear in when he said with confidence:

For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Romans 6:14,15 NIV

Contend

Dear friends, I wanted very much to write to you about the salvation we all share together. But I felt the need to write to you about something else: I want to encourage you to fight hard (contend KJV) for the faith that God gave his holy people. God gave this faith once, and it is good for all time. Jude v3 ERV

Something made Jesus’ brother, the writer Jude, change his mind about what he wanted to emphasise to the churches of his day. He started out with the intention of talking about the salvation we share, but instead we read a warning about things that we need to fight for, because the Gospel in the early Church was being changed by some.

Jesus died for us, and as His church, we are entrusted to keep it as He left it when the ascension took place, leaving His followers behind. Jesus took a chance leaving such a precious gift in human hands, and we will be held accountable for the purity of this same Gospel. It’s all down to us, and what a sobering thought that is.

The verse says this faith was given once, and it is good for all time. That means we are not entitled to play around with it, to make it any ‘better’, or more ‘acceptable’ to the world than it already is. Jesus died and gave His life to provide this salvation, and we will be tried by the great Judge if we abuse, alter or misuse it. When the preacher gets too close for our comfort, we say he has stopped preaching and started meddling. We like a nice neat gospel that suits us, and not always the Gospel Jesus left in our care.

This small letter of Jude, containing only one chapter, holds a powerful lesson. We must have nothing to do with any program in the church that doesn’t help spread the one true Gospel. It’s not enough to educate, entertain, or suggest something that will get folks in to make them ‘familiar’ with being in the church building. If we are not teaching and preaching the full Gospel of Jesus Christ, we have fallen short of our calling. None of us would want to be guilty of that eternal crime. So, let’s be true to the Gospel and contend for the Faith that God gave His Holy people.

His Will!

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside. Job 23:10,11 NIV

You may have seen my recent piece where I confessed to overthinking some things, well here is one of those hoary chestnuts which I wrestle with, and have done more recently than in my early faith walk. The fact is, it was never in question, or an issue at any level in church circles until recently. The issue is the free will that God has given us to choose His way, or reject it.

The old patriarch Job had more real problems to contend with than any of us will ever face, and his faith was unwavering in spite of his friends advice, and yes even his wife who told him to ‘curse God and die’ and be done with it. The big lesson to be taken from the life of Job is his full, complete faith in a God he couldn’t see. He had no knowledge of Jesus, or God’s ultimate plan of salvation, but Job believed that his God knew the way Job would take. God didn’t decide what Job should do. The choices were Job’s to make, but it is clear that God knew the way Job would take. There is a vast difference between God knowing our path, and deciding that path for us.

An argument made by some professors and students of theology is this: Since our gift of free will is real, does this mean that God cannot know our decisions until we make them of free will, only then and not before? OR, although in free will, God does not make our decisions, but He, being God, knows what those decisions will be beforehand? The fundamental question at stake is God’s omniscience. Is He really ‘all knowing’? Do you have any thoughts on this?

I am reminded of this verse from Isaiah 55:8,9 (ESV) For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”