This series of posts pertains to our identity as members of the church, made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). They lift up Jesus as “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3).
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,”
Ephesians 4:1-2 ESV
The Apostle Paul wrote of those even in the church, "For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 2:21). This is not the way it should be though. Just as God is steadfast and patient in His love, He expects the body of Christ to exhibit the same kind of love for each other and for others.
Perhaps the most difficult thing Christians will do is to bear with one another and others—everyone they encounter— in patient love. This means that we refuse to take offense (Psalm 119:165, KJV), adapting our perception of people to what His redemption has made possible for each individual.
When Christ is abiding within, all things are possible (John 15:4-8). To abide is to settle down into and make oneself at home in. Consider the analogy where we each could be compared to a house having many rooms, or many parts of our lives that may be considered separable. If we have invited the Holy Spirit to abide in us with abandon, making every room fully available, we can love with God’s selfless love. When we abide in Christ, His life causes us to bear His fruit, or His characteristics, patience included.
Patience from God waits in love, seeking the interest of others rather than what it wants (Philippians 2:4). It seeks to build them up, not seeking its own good but theirs. This Spirit-given patience also waits on the Almighty God in faith and trust, believing His word and His promises to be true.
Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for Your patience with me, especially as I have held onto unbelief, pride, and kept back parts of my life, seeking my own good. I give You all of me for all of You, God. Abide in me, Spirit of God. I will choose not to take offense at those You love. Give me your eyes and your emotions to see others as You do and to love them patiently as You do.
“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”
Romans 2:4 NKJV
When God revealed Himself to Moses, He described Himself as longsuffering (Exodus 34:6, KJV), or slow to anger (ESV). At times in the Bible, God is compared to a husband whose bride is unfaithful to Him, and yet in His forbearance He continues to love and make a way for the relationship to work, waiting for His beloved to return.
Jesus taught that God is to be compared to the father of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). The father was so glad to see his son who squandered his inheritance return that he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. Then he threw a huge celebration. He did not react in anger when his son returned, for that is inconsistent with God’s righteous character.
God longs for His children to change their minds, believe the best about His good intent, and do what is right.
Out of the riches of His goodness, the love of God bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
In Jesus Christ, God showed why He endures all things, even the cross: “for the joy set before him” (Hebrews 12:2).
Since our example and the One who lives in us is Jesus Christ, we should also be longsuffering toward others, enabled by God’s love in us to treat all as those in the family of God, or as ones made for it—as brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers. This includes all those who may be difficult to love, even as we may be difficult to love for certain others.
Prayer: Thank You, God, for Your steadfast, enduring love. Thank You for the riches of your goodness and kindness in Jesus Christ. Spirit of God, empower me to love only as You can. I pray the same for my family and my church.
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you...Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
Luke 6:27-28, 36 ESV
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ teaching of the new covenant elevated that which had been taught under the old covenant. Under the new covenant that Jesus brought into being, the law of sin and death was replaced by the law of the Spirit of life (Romans 8:1). To those who have given themselves over to God in Jesus Christ, God has given them a new heart and a new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26)! The love of God has been written by the Spirit of God on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33).
Have you given yourself over to God?
The new command of God in Jesus is “love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Just as God’s revelation of Himself to Moses was One of mercy and grace (Exodus 34:6), Jesus taught that merciful love was integral to the heart of God. Jesus adapts His perception of people to what His redemption has made possible for them.
Those in the church have Christ living in them through the Spirit of God, enabling them to adapt their perception and to be merciful, even as God is merciful by His very nature.
In Jesus, the mercy God calls His people to is of a nature that causes them to love even their enemies! This was a radical teaching in the brutal time 2000 years ago when it was taught, a time of Roman conquest. Jesus was completely counter cultural, and His teaching still is in the 2020s.
Who do you see as your enemies?
God’s way for us, led by the Spirit, is to love our enemies, do good to any that hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those that despitefully use or abuse us. By our love, the love of God, are followers of Christ to be known as ones set apart (John 13:35).
God’s great love is the love of the shepherd of the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7). God’s people are to treat even their enemies as God’s lost sheep, God’s beloved ones, made in His image and likeness. They are to follow Jesus, whose ministry empowered by the Spirit of God was about setting free those oppressed by the devil and doing good (Acts 10:38).
How does God want you to do good to those He’s put around you?
Prayer: I praise You, God, for Your merciful love that pursued me in my sin. Your loving kindness is unfathomable. Spirit of God, mold me into the fullness of Jesus, including the fullness of God’s generous love for all. Make my family and my church also places of Your great mercy.
“Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them.”
Luke 4:40 ESV
God’s attention isn’t limited to one place (Psalm 139:7), but Jesus’ was since He became a man. God filled Him with the Holy Spirit and made Him an example that those who choose to follow Him might follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21).
Jesus’ attention was amazing. His attention was always on His Father, and it was on God’s love for the world. He gave attention to so many, and He gave it completely. He gave it to the crowds. He gave it to Jews and Gentiles, men and women, people from all walks of life, those called sinners. He gave it to His disciples. He saw people for who they were. He saw people the way God sees them — with eyes of love. The kind of attention Jesus gave is part of the mind of Christ, which we have through the Spirit of God as believers (1 Corinthians 2:16).
Several passages in the gospels describe large crowds coming to Jesus. He preached to them about the kingdom of heaven which He brought near. He taught them. He laid His hands on them and healed them one by one. The Son of God laid His hands on them!
When He met with people, Jesus asked questions including “What is your name?” (Luke 8:30), “What are you seeking?” (John 1:38), “What do you want me to do for you?” (Matthew 20:32), and “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” (Luke 24:17)
Jesus ate with them, and He gave them food to eat when there was not enough to go around. In the midst of a crowd, He called a despised chief tax collector down from a tree so He could go to his house to spend time with him (Luke 19:1-10).
God gives His attention to everyone. He gives of Himself and His Life.
How do we give our attention?
When we are present with people, are we fully present? Or are we distracted?
Are we interested in them and what they care about (Philippians 2:4)? Do we take the time to ask questions that seek to know what it’s like to walk in their shoes?
Do people know their value because of the attention we give?
Prayer: Creator God, who am I that You are mindful of me? Yet You have crowned me with glory and honor. I will sing a new song of praise to You, and I will praise You always. Thank You also for taking what is Yours and giving it to me. Thank You for the mind of Christ. My attention is on You, Father, and I pray that Your people would feel the love You have for them based on the attention that I give. I make Your agenda my own.
“As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.”
Acts 16:16-18 ESV
The supernatural is real, as are spirits. The Saduccees were Jewish teachers of the law that denied the supernatural was real. They witnessed many of the miracles of Jesus right before their eyes and did not believe in the supernatural nor in resurrection. Less has changed 2000 years later than some may think. Faith is fundamentally the decision to believe in God and His word and act on it; without it, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
God clearly has the ability of discernment in all things since He knows all things. As men and women made in His image and likeness, He has shared discernment of the spiritual as a gift to some in His church (1 Corinthians 12:10), unusual as it may seem to some of us. He has also given some more natural discernment than others; this has to do with abilities rather than spiritual gifts, but natural discernment is also of significant value.
Jesus exhibited impressive discernment on many recorded occasions during His ministry. There were also those who came before Him and those who came after Him whose discernment was astounding, including Elisha and the Apostle Paul.
The passage above is about a moment in the life of the Apostle Paul. While God can give words of wisdom to His people that show His future purpose, there are evil spirits that tell the future to some as well. (King Saul consulted such a medium in 1 Samuel 28, for example.) Paul ran into such a person during his ministry. Using the instruction (Mark 11:22-25) and repeated example of Jesus to His disciples, Paul used the faith of the Son of God that was in him (Galatians 2:20, KJV) to command the spirit to come out of her, and it did.
We should also notice that Paul and Jesus did not make a big deal about evil, because Jesus had it defeated. They simply and confidently told it to get lost, and it did. In Him, we are more than conquerors. And so we choose to lift up Jesus. [There is a link to music embedded in the underlined text]
Prayer: Thank You, God, for who You have made me in Christ. Thank You for Your Spirit and Your gifts that You have given to Your church. Thank You for making me an ambassador of Christ. Thank you for Your confidence in me to make me a partner in grace with You. Thank you for the mind of Christ and Your victory in all things. I praise You for Your steadfast love and for Your ways.
“Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Matthew 6:9-10 ESV
The best selling Christian book next to the Bible, which has sold over 5 billion copies, is the Purpose Driven Life, having sold over 50 million copies in 85 languages. We all want to understand our purpose and live purpose-driven lives.
God has a purpose for life, and He has shared that purpose with His children. It was Jesus’ purpose as well: to do the will of God and all of the will of God for the glory of God. His will is for the kingdom of God to come so that God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
We are to make His purpose our purpose. His will is to become our will. The purpose of prayer is to become one with God, connecting with Him in order to do His will.
Jesus came to bring the kingdom of God near. He was empowered by God’s Spirit to do God’s will. He did good, He brought freedom, and He made things right. Jesus showed what His followers should do and expected them to do it. He empowered them by giving them the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead (Romans 8:11). Regarding this, the Apostle Peter said, “The same promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:39).
One doesn’t really need to seek God’s specific will or purpose for their life. There is enough that has been made clear about what we are to do. The Apostle James said, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).
Prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. I choose Your will above my way. It is not my will but Your will that I will do. I will seek to make sure that in every way my will comes into alignment with Your will. I make Your purposes, plans and objectives mine as well. Thank you for the mind of Christ.
“But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge...But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.”
1 John 2:20, 27 ESV
Solomon wrote that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). Typically, our fear may be of many other things, including fear of failure, fear of the judgment of others, fear of evil, and fear of death. Fear is a major motivator! Before Jesus’ resurrection, it was also this way for His disciples; He didn’t want them to stay this way though, and they didn’t.
To see God in His proper place as the One who will judge all is to see what is true and to begin to build life on what is real. It’s also important to know our identity in Christ; we are God’s glory. If we build our life on the values of the world, we reject God and what He has for us. These values include: be true to yourself, follow your dreams, speak your truth, and it’s not wrong if it doesn’t hurt anyone. Or we might be inclined to value ourselves by our successes in the eyes of others. The values of the world that lift up self or human tradition are opposed to those of God.
Knowledge is good, but to pursue only natural knowledge obtained through science, the senses, and reason is a mistake. People tend to look for evidence of things they would like to believe, and, in our sinful nature, we would prefer to put self and extensions of self at the center of everything. True to the Apostle Paul’s prophecy, we live in a world of self-interest and of lovers of self; if we don’t pursue God first, we are unable to arrive at a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:2,7).
It’s true that no one else is allowed to judge us (Matthew 7:1), but it’s foolish to think that God will judge everyone, each by their own concepts of what is real and true. The fear of the Lord as He has revealed Himself is the beginning of knowledge, the foundation upon which to build.
As prophesied by Isaiah, Jesus has had “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:2). To those that are born again by the Spirit of God, Jesus has given them the anointing of the Holy Spirit, who has all knowledge. This is “Christ in you” (Colossians 1:27). Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Spirit of truth who will guide His disciples into all the truth (John 16:13). As His disciples, it is our work to reject falsehood and seek truth, cooperating with God in the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2, Ephesians 4:23, Colossians 3:10). Choosing to be led by the Spirit causes those in Christ’s body to think in a new way, with a sound mind to see clearly, which replaces a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7, KJV). [There is a linked song at the underlined text.]
As we choose to abide in Christ (John 15:4), the Vine, the Spirit of God guides us into spiritual truth as we seek it, filling us with the knowledge of His will (Colossians 1:9). The Holy Spirit also reveals words of knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8, KJV) to some within His church in order to better enable Jesus’ continuing ministry (John 14:12). God has all knowledge, and the Spirit of God shares bits of this knowledge with parts of His church that reveal things in the present or the past. These words come to them as intuition through their spirits. There are many examples of servants of God given special knowledge from God in the Old and New Testaments, and this continues today for the building up of the church. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
Prayer: I praise You, God, that You have all knowledge. I thank You that I am part of Your beloved and that You have opened my blind eyes to see. I reject the values and the lies of the world, embracing instead the truth You have revealed. I abide in You, Jesus. Abide also in me. Holy Spirit, I ask in faith for knowledge from You according to the promise of Your Word. Thank you for the mind of Christ.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV
The grace of God is the divine outflowing of the nature of God. Its gateway is the atonement of Christ that gave everything that was needed to make men and women at-one with God.
Having given ourselves over to the living Jesus, we have been identified in the death, resurrection and glorification of Jesus Christ. He is alive in us, and we are alive in Him, part of His body, seated on the throne of grace at the right hand of God (Ephesians 2:6). As He is (right now in heaven), so are we in this world (1 John 4:17).
If that is hard to imagine, you aren’t alone. The Spirit of God makes what seems impossible possible, as God isn’t confined to our dimensions. (Science has proven that there are more dimensions than we experience.) As the church, we are connected now to God in Jesus Christ!
Made at one, the Spirit of God multiplies this grace in us and through us as the ambassadors of Jesus Christ, continuing His ministry of grace in multiplied form.
We have freely received grace, so we can freely give grace today. Who can you give grace to today?
As the church in the world, we are His hands, His feet, His eyes, His ears (1 Corinthians 12:15-21). The God of grace dwells in us, walks in us (2 Corinthians 6:16, KJV), works through us, and in Him we pray at all times and we do the word of God. At one with Him, He asks us to approach the throne of grace with confidence in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). We can be confident to ask Him for the things that will bring Him glory (John 14:13).
He has made the church the channel of His grace that flows and manifests through the Spirit of God. As the church, together we are capable of flooding the entire world with God’s grace. Layperson or otherwise, each is a minister of Jesus Christ, speaking His grace, emanating His grace, His very nature.
Prayer: I praise You, God, for the beauty of Your nature. Your grace is exceeding abundantly above all that I ask or think. I praise You for Your love which surpasses knowledge. I thank You that You have shared with me everything that is Yours, making me a steward of your manifold grace. Spirit of God, lead me to share Your grace with those You’ve placed in my world.
“He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”
2 Corinthians 9:10-11 ESV
God is a generous giver; this may be what I love most about His nature. When we think of all God has given in and through Jesus Christ, we must know that our ability to give has to do with much more than giving our money to God’s work.
Jesus Christ has finished the work that abundantly gives to any who will receive it. God gives life and keeps on giving it. God makes Himself and His generous love known. He saves completely. He frees and delivers. He heals and makes whole. He sanctifies. He gives peace. He gives His Spirit, His divine nature, sharing His identity with His children. He changes those in His church into the fullness of Jesus. He makes fruitful. He strengthens. He blesses. He makes right. He gives hope.
He enables us to give of ourselves in every way and to participate in connecting men and women to His abundant giving. Jesus gave us His mission, making us His ambassadors.
God supplies kingdom seed for us to sow. We reap according to the nature and quantity of the seed we plant. When we sow and when we water, the Spirit of God fills us, gives us more, multiplies.
We are made to give, just as Jesus was made to give. The secret of living is giving, starting with giving of oneself fully to God.
Prayer: Lord God, I give all of me for all of You. I praise You for the generosity of Your giving. You have given me more than I could ask for or imagine. I am fully satisfied in You. And as I have freely received, so I freely give. Spirit of God, make me fully like Jesus in my giving of what is mine and what is Yours.