Welcome to the second part of our study on GENTLENESS. This week we’ll look at James’s teaching as he defines meekness in greater detail. We’ll conclude with examples of strength founded in humble meekness that we can model from the lives of Moses and our Lord Jesus.
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”
James 4:10 NKJV
How do gentleness and wisdom fit together? Click HERE to read James 3:13-18.
According to James, worldly wisdom is…
Unspiritual, earthly, and demonic, a kind of wisdom that has no substance of goodness. When others get ahead or attain success, bitter envy and jealousy rear their green heads. In competition, its red-hot ambition is not for the good of others–it’s purely selfish. James declares that envy and selfish ambition yield disorder and every kind of evil practice.
But heavenly wisdom…
The yield of heavenly wisdom is good deeds rooted in humility. Peacemakers sow seeds of peace and reap a crop of righteousness. Godly wisdom overflows with purity, peace, consideration for others, submissiveness, mercy, good fruit, impartiality, and sincerity.
May we always pray to receive God’s heavenly wisdom that allows us to grow in humble meekness.
“(Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.)”
Numbers 12:3 NKJV
This passage of Scripture describes Moses as the meekest and most humble of all men. Bearing these powerful credentials of spiritual strength, God chose him to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land–a gargantuan task. He faced problems no one man has ever encountered, but God brought him through each one with success. Here are a few of God’s miraculous provisions: water in the barren desert pouring from rocks; daily manna from heaven; clothes and shoes that lasted forty years; a dry path through the Red Sea to escape the Egyptians; speaking face-to-face with Moses on Mount Sinai where he received the Ten Commandments on stone tablets; and God’s guiding presence in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
One story shows Moses’s humble gentleness toward his siblings, Aaron and Miriam. Apparently these two became upset after Moses had married a Cushite woman, and they began to criticize their brother’s leadership. “’Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?’” (Numbers 12:2 NKJV). The Lord heard their words and became angry, dressing them down in front of the tent of meeting and dealing out retribution by making Miriam leprous. Aaron repented, and Moses pled with the Lord to take away Miriam’s punishment. (Click HERE to find out the rest of the story.)
Jesus shows His strength like a lion and His humble meekness like a lamb. From the Gospels through Revelation, He is depicted as the strong Lion of Judah as well as the humble Lamb of God. He embraced the little children to bless them (Matthew 19:13-14), and He treated women with respect and forgiveness (Luke 7:36-50).
The Scriptures about Jesus’s road to Calvary reveal the most about His gentle humility and controlled strength. Here are a few examples:
When Peter cut off the slave’s ear during Jesus’s arrest, Jesus rebuked Peter and performed a healing miracle (Luke 22:49-51).
Later when Peter denied knowing Him, Jesus sadly looked over at His disciple without a word (Luke 22:54-62).
He remained silent at the lying accusations of a mock trial and submitted to their physical torture (Mark 15:1-20)
When Pilate threatened Jesus that he held the power to either release or crucify Him, Jesus responded that God alone was in control of His fate (John 19:10-11).
Even as He was dying on the cross, Jesus forgave His enemies and voiced His will concerning His mother, Mary (John 19:25-27).
He forgave the sins of the thief on the cross next to Him (Luke 23:39-43).
Like Moses, have you ever struggled with humble gentleness as a leader of obstinate people? Have you ever forgiven an undeserving sibling or family member?
Like Jesus, have you forgiven your enemies–even in the face of the threat of death? Have you extended grace to them? Held your tongue when rejected or wrongly accused?
Whatever our trials, may we count them all joy because through them we will be made perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4) Our triumph and victory glorify our Savior, Jesus Christ. May we follow the humblest, gentlest and meekest man, the Son of God, and emulate His example.
Dear Father, thank you for teaching us about spiritual strength found within humble meekness. May we follow Your example and grow to be like You as we study Your Word and commune with You in prayer. May Your controlled strength shine through our lives as we humbly submit to You. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Welcome to our final month of study. During the next two weeks, we’ll define GENTLENESS and examine what meekness looks like through Scriptural examples. Our goal is to understand how to do our part so God can grow seeds of gentleness in our hearts and lives.
“Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.”
Let’s begin by defining GENTLENESS, also commonly called MEEKNESS. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the quality or state of being gentle, especially: mildness of manners or disposition.”
We’re weaned as children to understand meekness as someone who’s a wimp. Do you remember the cartoon, Popeye? One of the characters was a rotund man, even named Wimpy, who constantly ate hamburgers. Another example is hen-pecked Dagwood Bumstead in the cartoon, Blondie, who made the Dagwood sandwich an American cultural fixture. Even from childhood, we’ve been indoctrinated into the world’s definition: meekness equals weakness.
πράγματα / prágmata
But the Bible’s definition is the complete opposite. The Greek word written above is “prautes,” a challenging word to define in English. Picture a wild horse that’s broken and now under the control of a bridle. R.C. Trench in his classic work “Synonyms of the New Testament” says that “Prautes does not consist in a person’s outward behaviour only, nor yet in his relations to his fellow man…rather it is an inwrought grace of the soul, and the exercises of it are first and chiefly towards God. It is that temper of spirit in which we accept his dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.”
Meekness means we have surrendered and entrusted our soul and spirit to God’s good control without argument or resistance. Therefore, gentleness implies great strength under control. It’s courage, not mousey fear; true humility, not false modesty; “a humble and gentle attitude that is patiently submissive in every offense while being free from any desire for revenge or retribution.” (John MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary)
How do we personally measure up to these standards? Let’s explore this divine strength in the Scripture by reading Psalm 37.
We see how Matthew 5:5 relates directly to Psalm 37:11. It says, “The meek shall possess the land, and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.” So, what does meekness mean in this Psalm and what does it have to do with God? Let’s read verses 5-8:
5 “Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. 6 He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your justice as the noonday. 7 Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. 8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm.”
Psalm 37:5-8 NKJV
A portrait of meekness…
COMMIT: We commit everything to the Lord–our business, relationships, finances, health, fears–because we realize we are insufficient to deal with all the complexities of life. God is willing and able to sustain, guide, and protect us. (Verse 5a)
TRUST: We confidently place our trust in the Lord because we know God is on the side of the righteous. He will defend and vindicate us whenever the enemy attacks. (Verse 5b)
WAIT: This is perhaps the most difficult for us to do. Meekness means we are still and patiently wait for the Lord to bring His will to pass in our lives. In the middle of life’s storms, we are still and calm, trusting in God’s control and His willingness to work things out for our good. (Verse 7a)
DON’T FRET: Another challenge for sure! When the wicked go on their merry way in prosperity, it’s hard not to be upset or angry. Yes, it may feel very unjust and unfair. But since we trust God completely, it’s possible to rest in Him when we encounter opposition or setbacks. (Verse 7b-8)
If we have ever previously regarded gentleness as weakness, we now have a clear picture of its powerful, controlled strength. As Jesus taught in the Beatitudes, the meek will inherit the earth. What an amazing blessing awaits us as we understand how important it is to cultivate this strong fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
Next week we’ll look at how the Book of James defines meekness and also how we see it reflected in the lives of Moses and especially our Lord Jesus.
How is God growing seeds of gentleness in your soul and spirit?
Dear Father, thank you for teaching us that meekness is strength under control. It takes divine strength to answer with a soft word or to turn the other cheek. Help us to commit, trust, wait patiently, and not fret as You work out Your good will in our lives. May we grow in Your sweet gentleness each day. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Welcome to our fourth study about FAITHFULNESS. This week will wrap up our study on this fruit of the Spirit. Let’s examine God’s faithfulness by continuing to look at the last four covenants. There is one that is very special to us Christians–do you know which one?
“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jeremiah 31:33 NKJV)
Various Scriptures will be included in today’s lesson.
The Mosaic Covenant…
This covenant between God and Israel was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. God’s finger wrote out the Ten Commandments on tablets, and He also spelled out 613 laws for the Jews to live by. Breaking even one commandment made them guilty of all. The only path to forgiveness was the shedding of animal blood.
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes atonement by reason of the life.“
Leviticus 17:11 NKJV
The Law contained blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. Signed and sealed by the Shechinah Glory in Exodus 24:1-11, this covenant was rendered conditional. (If you would like to read the 613 commandments, click HERE.)
The Land Covenant…
Now Jehovah said unto Abram, “Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house, unto the land that I will show you: and I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and be you a blessing: and I will bless them that bless you, and him that curses you will I curse: and in you shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
Genesis 12:1-3 NKJV
The Land Covenant, an unconditional covenant, is still very much in effect. It is an expansion of the original Abrahamic Covenant and emphasizes the promise of the Land to God’s earthly Jewish people in spite of their unbelief. The Abrahamic Covenant teaches that ownership for the Land is unconditional. The Land Covenant, however, teaches that the enjoyment of the Land is conditional on obedience. (Read some provisions of the Land Covenant HERE.)
The Davidic Covenant…
The unconditional Davidic Covenant was between God and King David. You can read two accounts: the first emphasizes Solomon (click HERE) and the second emphasizes the Messiah (click HERE).
In summary, God made David four eternal promises: an eternal House or dynasty, an eternal Throne, an eternal Kingdom, and an eternal Descendant. This guarantees the eternal covenant since the Seed of David produces One who is Himself eternal: the Messianic God-Man, Jesus Christ.
The New Covenant and The Law of Messiah…
In relationship to the Church, the New Covenant is the basis of the Dispensation of Grace. In relationship to Israel, the New Covenant is the basis for the Dispensation of the Kingdom. The New Covenant itself is an unconditional covenant and therefore eternally in effect.
“Behold, the days come,” says Jehovah, “that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was a husband unto them,” says Jehovah. “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” says Jehovah: “I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people: and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know Jehovah; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them,” says Jehovah: “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more.“
Jeremiah 31:31-34 NKJV
This unconditional covenant is between God and the entire nation of Israel. (Please note that this covenant is not Replacement Theology. It applies to the Church but is not made with the Church.) Further, it is now a replacement of the Mosaic Covenant, considered broken. It promises the blessings of salvation and the regeneration of the nation of Israel. It provides for the forgiveness of sins, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and material blessings as well as the rebuilding of the Temple during the Millenial Age.
The New Covenant also contains the Law of Messiah: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2), and “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
Here is another difference. The Law of Moses said: “Love your neighbor as yourself “(Leviticus 19:18), making man the standard. The Law of the Messiah said: “Love one another, even as I have loved you”(John 15:12), making Messiah, who died for mankind, the standard.
Last, the Law of the Messiah provides a new motivation. Instead of the Law of Moses teaching, “Do, in order to be blessed,” the Law of the Messiah teaches, “You have been and are blessed, therefore, do.”
One New Man…
Here is a mystery: Gentiles have been grafted into this Jewish heritage and share in the blessings of this New Covenant. Two passages clearly explain it. The first is Ephesians 2:11-16:
“Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.”
Ephesians 2:11-16 NKJV
Romans 11:17 also describes the concept of partaking:
“And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, the Gentile believers.”
Romans 11:17 NKJV
The Olive Tree represents the place of spiritual blessings of the Jewish Covenants. The two types of branches partaking of the blessings are the natural branches, which are the Jewish believers, and wild olive branches, which are the Gentile believers.
However, the Blessing aspect, as highlighted by the New Covenant, included the Gentiles. The Church enjoys the spiritual blessings of these covenants, but not the material and physical benefits. The physical promises still belong to Israel and will be fulfilled exclusively with Israel, especially those involving the Land. However, the Church now also shares all spiritual benefits.
The blood of the Messiah shed at the Cross is the basis of salvation in the New Covenant. The blood of the Messiah ratified, signed, and sealed the New Covenant(Hebrews 8:1-10:18). The Church has become a partaker of Jewish spiritual blessings, but the Church is not a replacement for the Jewish people.
The Mosaic Covenant’s purpose…
An important purpose of the Mosaic Covenant jumps out at us. Is it possible for Man to keep all 613 commandments without breaking one of them? Of course not. Its purpose is to point out our sins and our need for a Savior.
Only Jesus lived a perfect life on earth without breaking one commandment. As God and Man, Jesus alone can identify with our human struggles, yet without sin. He is the Promise of God sent to fulfill the Law, not to abolish it.
The Land Covenant’s importance…
The special importance of the Land Covenant is that it reaffirms the title deed to the Land as belonging to Israel. Although she would prove unfaithful and disobedient, the right to the Land would never be taken from her. Furthermore, it shows that the conditional Mosaic Covenant did not lay aside the unconditional Abrahamic Covenant. It might be interpreted by some that the Mosaic Covenant displaced the Abrahamic Covenant, but the Land Covenant shows that this is not true.
The Impact of the Davidic Covenant…
The impact of the Davidic Covenant is its magnification of the Seed aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant. According to the prophecy, Messiah would come from the Seed of Abraham, the Tribe of Judah, the family or house of David.
The Benefits of the New Covenant…
Our gift of salvation comes through Jesus’s death and resurrection. He died for all mankind. Although the majority of Jews don’t believe in Jesus as Messiah now, they will believe in the future. In Romans 11, Paul taught that the Gentiles share in spiritual blessings, but these are Jewish spiritual blessings attained through the Jewish covenants.
As believers in Messiah, all spiritual blessings are available to us, whether we’re Jews or Gentiles. Through Jesus’s death on the cross for our sins, believers reap spiritual benefits that would never be ours otherwise. The eight covenants of the Bible pinpoint exact provisions, which are valuable for a full understanding of Scripture.
Thanks for joining me this month for a fascinating study about faithfulness. Not only are we to be faithful to God and to one another, but God shows His faithfulness to us through His covenants. I’ve learned a lot from studying God’s eight covenants–I hope you did too.
Next month I’ll be combining each of our last two fruits of the Spirit, GENTLENESS and SELF-CONTROL, into two-week studies. I’m looking forward to concluding our year-long Bible study and hope you’ll join me in November.
Which covenant of God’s faithfulness means the most to you?
Dear Father God, we give You thanks for teaching us about Your holy covenants with Israel. As Christians, we also enjoy the blessings and benefits of them, especially the New Covenant. Thank You for Your faithfulness to us. We praise and glorify Your Name throughout all the earth. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Welcome to our third study on faithfulness. This week we’ll explore how God shows His faithfulness to us and how we experience it in our personal lives. Just as in a marriage ceremony, God makes a covenant to be a faithful husband to us. Let’s relish every moment with this covenant-keeping God who never breaks a promise and who vows to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
“Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.”
In the Holy Scriptures, God proves His faithfulness and the truth of His Word. Hebrews 6:18 states that God is not a liar, nor is He a promise-breaker of an unconditional promise He vows to fulfill. He keeps every covenant, every promise or foretelling that has or will come true. The Bible is full of one testimony after another of God’s faithfulness, which people still testify to today.
Did you know that the Bible mentions covenants between God and His people about 277 times? Deuteronomy 7:9 says “Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deuteronomy 7:9 NKJV).
Conditional versus unconditional...
A conditional covenant means God will fulfill His promise if Man is obedient to do his part first. Man’s failure to do so results in some type of punishment, but his obedience results in God’s blessings. The Edenic and the Mosaic Covenants are both conditional.
The Adamic Covenant, the Noahic Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant, the Palestinian or Land Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant areunconditional. These are dependant on God Himself and are a sovereign act of God to bring blessings to His people.
How are these covenants meaningful to us? Today we’ll discuss four: the Edenic, Adamic, Abrahamic, and Noahic. As we progress, be thinking about how each one affects your life.
The Edenic Covenant…
God first made a conditional covenant with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and spelled out the rules for a blessed life. However, they had to first obey God’s direction.
“And Jehovah God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And Jehovah God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.”
This unconditional covenant came about after Adam and Eve sinned by eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Throughout the ages, mankind has been affected by this covenant, causing us all to be born in sin. God pronounced judgment on Adam, Eve, and the serpent as follows:
“And Jehovah God said unto the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life: and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed: he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.’
Unto the woman he said, ‘I will greatly multiply your pain and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; and your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you.’
And unto Adam he said, Because you have hearkened unto the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree, of which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat of it: cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil shall you eat of it all the days of your life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to you; and you shall eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of your face shall you eat bread, till you return unto the ground; for out of it were you taken: for dust you are, and unto dust shall you return.'”
God made several promises to Abraham, specifically to multiply his seed into a great nation. The token of this covenant is the male child’s circumcision on the eighth day after birth. This unconditional covenant is very lengthy, so I will quote one and link more Scriptures for deeper study.
“And the angel of Jehovah called unto Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said, ‘By myself have I sworn, says Jehovah, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, that in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because you have obeyed my voice.'”
God wiped out His creation of Man due to their rampant wickedness. However, He saved righteous Noah and his family along with pairs of all the birds and animals. The token promise of this unconditional covenant is the rainbow. Do you remember God’s promise every time you see a colorful bow in the sky?
“… I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud, and I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.’ And God said unto Noah, ‘This is the token of the covenant which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.'”
Genesis 9:1-17 NKJV
Our God demonstrates His faithfulness to us through His covenant-making and covenant-keeping. What impact do these promises have on your life? How has God personally shown you His faithfulness?
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for Your covenants. They prove Your love and eternal faithfulness to us, Your people. We bless Your Name, O God, for You are worthy of worship and praise. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Welcome back to our second study on faithfulness. This week we’ll be focusing on how faith comes alive through works. Although works alone don’t save us, they are important in relation to our faith. Let’s explore this important teaching by studying what James tells us in the New Testament.
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
First, let’s review last week’s definition of faith: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV).
We know that faith isn’t wishful thinking. In fact, faith is probably the most practical possession we possess in our Christian walk. Do you realize that faith is a living thing, just like our physical bodies? Just as our bodies are dead without our spirits, our faith is also dead unless it shows action, proving it is alive.
James explains it by giving an example in James 2:15-16: “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what doesit profit?”
Helping others in need is a basic Christian work. All missionary and charity work flow out of our faith’s love for Jesus. We are all commissioned as believers to spread the gospel to those in our sphere. These noble works spark tangible life into our spirits, assuring us that the Lord is well pleased.
Faith versus works…
“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?”(James 2:14 NKJV).
James may come across as controversial with this question. In the Greek language, this question demands a negative answer. However, according to the Scriptures, we know that faith alone does indeed save us. But we need to realize that James is speaking to a specific group of Jews who, before Jesus died on the cross, only believed in salvation through works. His argument is an effort to base salvation on faith first, but second, to also show that works have an important place in the Christian walk. Christian belief can only motivate us one way–to do good works as part of our worship and love for our Lord and Savior.
Justification by faith alone…
Paul teaches that salvation is graciously extended to the Gentile as well as the Jew. He clearly tells us in Scripture that David and Abraham both agreed that salvation is through faith, not works:
“But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works.”
Romans 4:5-6 NKJV
“For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’”
Romans 4:3 NKJV
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
Romans 5:1-2 NKJV
“Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also…”
Romans 3:27-29 NKJV
Saving Faith versus professing faith…
James is examining salvation is a different light. He sees it as a two-sided coin–as saving faith versus professing faith. For James, justification is by a faith that works—by a genuine faith that manifests itself in post-conversion works.
James explains that although a person may believe in God’s existence, that doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is saved. “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” (James 2:19 NKJV). We must first have a conversion experience by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Afterward, our faith grows and comes alive through good works.
John Calvin said, “Faith alone saves, but a faith that saves is never alone.” Thus, James’s question is not simply “Can faith save?” but as the Greek text may suggest, “Can that faith save him?”
“For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”
Although good works don’t produce salvation, they are going to matter after we get to heaven. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, believers’ works will be judged by fire, and each one will receive rewards based on them. However, if a Saint has no works or if all his works are burned up, that person will still be saved.
“Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
James refers to Abraham’s justification, citing his willingness to sacrifice his son on the altar as his work to prove his faith.
“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.”
James 2:21-24 NKJV
I hope James’s teaching has inspired us to put our faith to work! Although works cannot save, we are commissioned by the Lord to go forth doing good and helping others as we are enabled. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus to our lost and dying world, spreading the gospel of the Good News. Let’s remember Jesus’s promise to us to reward every good work:
“‘And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.'”
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for showing us that we all need to breathe life into our faith by doing good works. May we be inspired to serve You more by sharing our faith and ministering to one another. May we have acceptable, pleasing works to lay at Your feet at the judgment seat of Christ. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Welcome to October’s first study on FAITHFULNESS. This week we’ll more fully understand what faith is and how it operates in our lives. The Apostle Paul explains it by giving examples from the beginning of creation to Old Testament heroes. Let’s discover how God is faithful to us and how we can become more faithful toward Him and to one other as we grow in this seventh fruit of the Spirit.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…what does that mean to us?
Faith is having absolute confidence that the Lord will do what He has promised. Not simply wishful thinking, but the absolute conviction that God is willing and able to accomplish all He has promised to us, regardless of our circumstances or obstacles that may look impossible to overcome. Through the ages, the saints of old learned that our confidence in Him is never in vain, for “He who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23).
Faith at the dawn of history…
The invisible Word of God formed our universe and our world. God’s Word is the substance of faith out of which all visible worlds have come. That fact alone negates the man-made theory of evolution, which proposes that a “big bang” created our universe (see Hebrews 11:3).
Abel’s testimony still speaks to us today. God accepted his animal sacrifice as an act of faith, declaring it righteous, although He didn’t accept his brother Cain’s (see Hebrews 11:4).
Noah believed God’s warning of unseen things to come and faithfully built an ark according to God’s direction. Noah “became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (see Hebrews 11:7).
Enoch was miraculously translated to heaven without dying. He had a testimony of being pleasing to God, which testified to his great faith. Paul sums it up: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (see Hebrews 11:5-6).
Abraham and Sarah…
Has God ever called you to leave your home and travel by faith to an unknown destination? Like a bride traveling to a foreign country, she trusts that her husband is waiting for her and will take her to his home where he will love, protect, and provide for her.
So went the story of Abraham. God called him to leave his homeland to follow His leading to a future Promised Land. Abraham’s willingness to believe the promise without first seeing it (2 Corinthians 5:7) proves his great faith. For us, too, living by faith means walking forward in obedience to God’s voice and trusting Him for His provision and safe arrival to the destination He has prepared (see Hebrews 11:8-10).
Abraham wasn’t the only one with great faith. His wife, Sarah, proved hers when she believed the promise that she would conceive a son in her old age. God rejuvenated their bodies to be able to conceive and bear this child whose descendants would be as numerous as the stars–the origin of the Jews, God’s chosen people (see Hebrews 11:11-12).
But the story doesn’t stop there. When God tested Abraham’s faith by commanding him to sacrifice his son of promise, his only son Isaac, God stopped him when he was seconds away from plunging the dagger into Isaac’s heart (see Hebrews 11:17-19). Abraham had believed that God wasn’t negating the promise of multiplying his seed through Isaac but would raise Isaac from the dead. Abraham couldn’t know then that God had future plans involving His own Son, Jesus, the final sacrifice for the sins of mankind whom God would raise from the dead.
The Faith of Moses…
What a glorious story of faith! Not only did his parents hide Baby Moses, refusing to put him to death and allowing him to be adopted by Pharoah’s daughter, but Moses also forsook the life of Egyptian royalty as an adult.
Later he obeyed God’s call to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and to the Promised Land. Moses witnessed God’s plagues of judgment on Pharoah when he kept refusing to let the Jews go worship in the wilderness. He watched God split the Red Sea, providing dry ground for them to cross over as they escaped the pursuing Egyptians and their enemy’s subsequent drowning. Moses experienced one miracle after another during their forty-year journey of faith (see Hebrews 11:23-29).
Paul cited several more examples of heroes of the faith for our encouragement (see Hebrews 11:30-40). So many have gone before us and set great examples for us to follow. Faith is truly a divine walk with God down the path of life. That’s how we learn to trust Him and walk boldly in our faith.
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. As we hope in God, we know that He will bring forth the evidence in His timing. Are you living by your faith today, hoping and believing for something not yet seen?
Dear Father God, thank you for being a faithful God we can trust. May we obey Your voice each day and walk a walk of faith. We claim 1 John 5:4: “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith.” In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Welcome to our fourth and final study on the sixth fruit of the Spirit, GOODNESS. Goodness is a main attribute of God, and all His promises for us are good. As children of God, we have the legal right to claim every one of them for our lives. Which promises are you standing on?
“And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises.”
2 Peter 1:4
This week we will have our scriptures attached to each category of God’s promises. You can read each one by clicking directly on the scripture reference.
Right now the hymn, “Standing on the Promises of God,” is playing in my memory. Our church frequently sang it on Sunday mornings–such a good reminder as we began a new week. Let’s refresh our spirits as we begin this new week by remembering some of God’s good promises from His Word.
A long life…
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
“He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.”
Malachi 3:10 NKJV
Provision for our physical needs…
“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
“‘In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.'”
John 14:2-3 NKJV
Healing the land…
“‘If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.””
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
The list of promises continues and is longer than I could possibly write here. Which promises are you standing on? If not mentioned above, please share the ones that are special to you.
Nothing is more powerful than praying God’s Word back to Him. Please join me in Paul’s prayer of blessing found in Ephesians 3:16-21.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:16-21 NIV
What a glorious ending to this fruit of the Spirit! Rehearsing God’s promises refreshes our hearts and minds. No matter what you may be dealing with in your personal life today, Jesus is the answer. Pray His promises back to Him. Stand firm and be encouraged. God will always bring His Word to pass, and His Word never fails. We can trust God completely.
Next month we will be studying about one of my favorite fruits–FAITHFULNESS. I’m looking forward to October, and I’ll be saving you a seat on the “Front Porch!”
Welcome to our third study about GOODNESS. When Jesus walked the earth, His life fully reflected His Father’s perfect goodness. This week we’ll look at some of the stories focusing on Jesus’s words and actions from the New Testament. Pull up a chair and let’s get started!
“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.”
While on earth, Jesus reflected the goodness of God through His teaching ministry and healing the sick.
Teaching in parables…
During the three years of Jesus’s earthly ministry, He began by preaching the Sermon on the Mount. (Click HERE to read the beginning part–the Beatitudes.) The crowds were astonished by the wisdom, truth, and authority of His teachings. He continued to attract crowds wherever He traveled, and He used parables to explain God’s kingdom.
“On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. Then He spoke many things to them in parables…”
Mathew 13: 1-3 NKJV
The parable of the sower…
Do you recall the parable of the sower? (Click HERE to read it.) After Jesus finished speaking, the disciples asked Him why He only spoke to the masses using these metaphors.
“He answered and said to them, ‘Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled…’ ”
Jesus concluded by assuring His disciples, as believers, of their special standing with God.
“‘But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.'”
Matthew 13: 16-17 NKJV
The purpose of parables was to reveal as well as conceal the truth. Just as in Isaiah’s day, hiding the truth was a judgment for unbelief.
Matthew 13 has several other parables we can study. Verses 13 through 18 explain the spiritual meaning of the sower (click HERE to read). As believers, ask the Lord to reveal their mysteries to you, and He will.
Healing the sick…
One of the main displays of Jesus’s ministry was the miraculous healing of the sick. He opened blind eyes, unstopped deaf ears, made the lame walk, healed lepers, cast out demons, and raised the dead.
The Gospels document many examples of stories about healing. Here are a few of my favorites.
The pool of Bethesda…
Remember the man who had been sick for thirty-eight years? An angel would suddenly stir the waters of the pool, and the first person into the water was healed. The man couldn’t step into the pool fast enough when the waters began to churn, so he never received his healing. Click HERE to read about the miracle Jesus performed for him.
Stories about healing the blind are special to me since my mother and several other relatives suffer from eye diseases. Jesus healed a blind man near Jericho who begged the Lord to restore his sight. Click HERE to read the story.
A demon-possessed man…
Who hasn’t read the famous story of Jesus casting out demons, called Legion, into a herd of swine? Only Christ and His disciples had the power then to cast out demons, but on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to dwell in and give all believers the same power. Click HERE to read about this dramatic deliverance.
A deaf-mute …
As Jesus traveled by the Sea of Galilee, they brought a deaf-mute man to Him for healing. Read how Jesus opened his ears and made his speech normal HERE.
How has God’s goodness blessed your life?
Do you have a favorite parable? Would you share it and explain its hidden mystery?
Do you need healing in your body? Or have you or someone you know ever received the touch of Jesus and been healed? Would you share your testimony with us?
Dear Lord, thank you for God’s goodness in Your teaching ministry and Your miracles of healing. We praise You for revealing the mysteries of the kingdom of God to us. May Your Holy Spirit empower us to share the gospel with the world and draw the lost to the cross of Christ. In Jesus’s Name we pray. Amen.
Welcome to our September study about GOODNESS. Let’s begin by grasping the meaning of this attribute of God. Isn’t it amazing that God grants us His goodness as one of the fruits of the Spirit? God’s goodness is a vast conceptthat blesses us richly.
“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”
Psalm 118:1 NKJV
Let’s define GOODNESS…
What exactly does GOODNESS mean? We might refer to someone as a “good person,” or write “good” across the top of a student’s graded essay. A rich dessert or a juicy steak may taste “good.” Or we might proclaim that a home run or touchdown was “good.” In Texas, we usually reply “good” when asked how we are doing (yes, it’s bad grammar, but it sounds right in Texas).
God’s goodness is different…
We use “good” to describe all sorts of things, but in relation to describing God, it falls short. God is far above our ways and thoughts. Let’s first look at some definitions to better understand this attribute of God’s divine GOODNESS.
Goodness is the central essence of God’s character.
It means God is not evil, abhors evil, and cannot be tempted by evil.
He uses divine wrath and divine justice to manifest His goodness to His creation.
His mercy flows out from His goodness.
God’s kindness flows out from His goodness.
His holy love for His people flows out from His goodness. He saves us through Christ, who is the propitiation for our sins.
God, Himself, is the definition of GOODNESS because He is naturally good in and of Himself. He cannot lie or deceive because He is Truth. God created the universe and its worlds, including our planet, and declared that it was good. Everything holds together in nature perfectly because of His goodness.
Jesus defined goodness…
A rich young ruler asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life. “So Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God’ ” (Luke 18:19 NKJV).
Let’s take time this week to focus on God and His perfect goodness. Let’s soak our minds and hearts in King David’s beautiful psalm that describes this divine attribute.
I will extol You, my God, O King; And I will bless Your name forever and ever. 2 Every day I will bless You, And I will praise Your name forever and ever. 3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable. 4 One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts. 5 I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, And on Your wondrous works. 6 Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts, And I will declare Your greatness. 7 They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness, And shall sing of Your righteousness. 8 The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. 9 The Lord is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works. (Click HERE to read the rest of Psalm 145.)
Psalm 145:1-10 NKJV
How has God revealed His goodness to you?
Dear Father, thank you for revealing your divine goodness to us through nature, Your kind actions, and Your free gift of salvation through Your Son Jesus. Plant seeds of goodness in our hearts today so we can reflect Your divine nature in our lost and dying world. May Your goodness draw all people to the cross of Christ. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Welcome to our last week of study on the fruit of KINDNESS. We will conclude the month of August with the story of Ruth and Boaz. Not only is it a romance, but it’s also a redemption story of God’s salvation for mankind.
“But Ruth said: ‘Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God.'”
What a time to be alive! The story of Ruth took place about one hundred years before David took the throne as King of Israel. It was a time of hardship and famine in the pagan Moabite culture. But it was also a time when God showed His lovingkindness and faithfulness to redeem unexpected partners in amazing ways.
Here’s the story…
Naomi’s story begins with her husband, Elimelech, and their two sons–Mahlon and Chilion–and ends with her two daughters-in-law. Originally from Bethlehem in Judah, Naomi’s family left their Jewish homeland due to famine and settled in Moab. (Click HERE for historical background on Moab.) Over a ten-year period, her husband and sons died in a foreign land that worshiped false gods, leaving her with only Orpah and Ruth, both Moabitesses.
A patriarchal culture…
The culture of that day was patriarchal, so a woman without a husband or male relative was doomed to starvation or worse. With no protection or provision, she would be completely dependant on the kindness and generosity of others to survive. Facing a hopeless future, Ruth did the only thing she could: she departed for her homeland.
Naomi directed her daughters-in-law to return to their own families and their own gods. Orpah left, but Ruth clung to Naomi, promising to stay with her and become a worshipper of the God of Israel.
Ruth’s sterling character…
Upon their return to Bethlehem, Ruth set out to make a living for her and Naomi by gleaning in the barley and wheat fields. Ruth became known for her chaste character and her sacrificial loving kindness toward her mother-in-law. One day, Ruth carried jars of barley to Naomi, who discovered that Ruth had gleaned in the fields of Boaz, a close relative.
One night, Boaz was going to winnow barley at the threshing floor. Following Naomi’s instructions, Ruth washed, anointed herself, and dressed in her best clothes.
“So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law instructed her. And after Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was cheerful, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came softly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. Now it happened at midnight that the man was startled, and turned himself; and there, a woman was lying at his feet. And he said, ‘Who are you?’ So she answered, ‘I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative.’ Then he said, ‘Blessed are you of the Lord, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich.'”
Ruth 3:6-10 NKJV
A happy ending…
Ruth’s action moved Boaz to redeem the property of Elimelech and marry Ruth in order to raise up children to her deceased husband. Isn’t it interesting how God grafted a Moabitess into the lineage of Jesus?
In order to understand this story, we must begin with grasping how redemption worked in a patriarchal culture. God established the Israelites in the knowledge that He was their Father or Patriarch. As such, God desired to redeem the family in relationship to one another and to Him. So, Boaz is a picture of God Himself working out our redemption.
Ruth was brought into Israel’s community, redeemed as the wife of Boaz. But it didn’t stop there. She also joined in the redemption process for others, becoming the great-grandmother of King David. By God’s redeeming a foreigner, we know ahead of time that Jesus would also redeem all men to Himself, not just Jews. The family of God embraces all mankind with lovingkindness and without exclusivity.
How does the story of Ruth show God’s loving-kindness?
We are sojourners born into a sinful world, like Ruth. Left there, we will spiritually starve and remain dead in our sins. But God’s loving-kindness invites us to come home to Him. Like Boaz, He redeems us through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He pays the price for us to belong to Him and become His bride. The best part? We will worship Jesus and reside forever in His heavenly kingdom.
Hasn’t this month been an enlightening study? The KINDNESS of God relates directly back to salvation in each story we’ve examined. Let’s praise our heavenly Father for loving us in our sinful state yet extending His hand of KINDNESS to us through the blood of Christ shed at the cross. It’s only through His grace that we can be redeemed from the curse.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Ephesians 2:4-9 NKJV
Which part of Ruth’s story impacts you the most?
Dear Jesus, thank you for teaching us about Your kind and loving character through the story of Ruth and Boaz. Although we are all born into sin, You are here to redeem us and make us Your bride. We give You all the praise, honor, and glory because You are worthy, dear Lamb of God. In Your precious Name we pray, Amen.