To return, or . . . not to return.

Hosea 14:1-2

“Return, Israel, to the Lord your God.
    Your sins have been your downfall!
Take words with you
    and return to the Lord.”

When we sin, when we mess up and we really know we did . . . we want to do better. Most of us want to “fix” it. And maybe that can be okay if we keep our eyes on God in doing so. Because while work can never save us, wanting to try, to get up and do, or even the action of stopping a behavior because we know it’s wrong-is the beginning (action of) repentance.

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” -James 2:18

In other words he has the desire to do good. To work, share, help, save, obey, because he has faith. Faith brought on by the hearing of God’s word which tells us we need to repent. We need to stop the bad that we do and return to our Father in heaven. Not only for our good but for the good of others.

Return with apologetic words and then words of encouragement, because the law meant to guard us. To keep us from certain death.

Galatians 3:24 “So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.”

If we ever wonder why we have a conscience, this would be the reason. It’s our flashing yellow light. When it goes off we have a choice to keep going, or return.

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Environment #6 Final Steps

The final step in the environment’s transformation is to give yourself in friendship to the people there.  Win their hearts by showing a genuine care and concern for them.  A true friend does not force her views on others, but works patiently with them, helping them to question the values of the world, maybe even the values for which they have been living.  Years ago I was in a neighborhood Bible Study.  The leader told me that one of the members had originally joined only because she was suffering from depression and was looking for any activity that would get her our of the house.  One day she was feeling so sad she called to say she just couldn’t make herself get out of bed to come.  The other women decided it wasn’t enough to pray for her–they went over to her house, cleaned it and cooked dinner.  Their love and compassion had a lasting impact.  She saw something in their lives that she wanted.  She became a Christian because, as she put it, “Who wouldn’t want to be part of this?”

As we become more Christlike ourselves, and as we influence our friends and others around us toward the Christian ideal, our environments will change.  If you open a Via de Cristo Pilgrim’s Guide, the first thing you see, even before the table of contents are these words:

“To be on a pilgrimage is to go through Christ to the Father, under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, bringing others along with you.”

Each one of us is on just such a pilgrimage every day of our lives.

Environments are not changed suddenly or by magic.  You cannot change the world, but you can change yourself;  and as Paul says in the book of Galatians, “a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”  Allow God to use you and you will be the leaven that raises the bread.

Godly Relationships

“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone;  I will make him a helper fit for him.”  Genesis 2:18

From the beginning, God intended us to be in relationship with others.  He said it wasn’t “good” to be alone.  He also made man “in the image of God”( Genesis 1:27) and God Himself is a relationship — Father, Son and Spirit.  It’s a relationship founded on love according the apostle, John:

“…the Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand.”  John 3:35

and producing love, according to Paul:

“…the fruit of the Spirit is love….’ Galatians 5:22

In fact, Scripture tells us that God is not only loving, He is love.

It seems to me that if God is love, and He made us to mirror His image, and He created us to be in relationship with one another — then His desire is that all our relationships be loving!  I’m not always a logical thinker, but this is where logic leads me.  I guess that means acting in love, even when we don’t feel love.  How do we do that?  Well…..

“Love is patient and kind;  love is not jealous or boastful;  it is not arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way;  it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. ”  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

It’s not easy, but I think if we pay attention and keep these verses from Corinthians in mind, we can become more patient, kind, courteous and humble;  and those few changes in our behavior will allow God’s love to shine into all our relationships.

 

 

Practicing Brotherly Love

The Bible not only tells us to continue in brotherly love, it gives us instructions on how to do that.  I’ve heard them called the “one anothers”:

  • Be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50)
  • Outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10)
  • Serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
  • Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21)
  • Accept one another, just as Christ accepted you (Romans 5:17)
  • Instruct one another (Romans 15:14)
  • Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)
  • Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 4:9)
  • Admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)
  • Be patient with one another (Ephesians 4:2)
  • Be kind and compassionate with one another (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Pray for one another (James 5:16)
  • Confess your sins to one another (James 5:16)

Then there are some “do nots.”

  • Don’t pass judgement on one another (Romans 14:13)
  • Do not lie to one another (Colossians 3:9)
  • Do not slander one another (James 4:11)
  • Do not grumble against one another (James 5:9)

How do you do with this list?  If you’re like me, you fall down quite a bit.  I have to admit patience and not grumbling are areas I really need to work on;  serving and submitting deserve extra attention as well.  What about confessing sins to one another — I would really rather not go there!

It boils down to this:  brotherly love requires humility and sacrifice.  It involves imitating the one who loved us like a brother — Jesus.  He did all these things and did them perfectly.  He’s the one who teaches us to love.

Why to Read Galatians

The book of Galatians was a favorite of Martin Luther.  He said,

“This is my epistle, I am wedded to it.”

Galatians has been called the masthead of the Reformation, the Magna Carta of the early church, the Manifesto of Christian liberty, the impregnable citadel and a Gibraltar against any attack on the heart of the Gospel.

Why not read it during October and tell us if it becomes your favorite.  You might try reading Luther’s Commentary on Galatians as well.