God’s Patient Work in Me

Examine YourselfYesterday I left you with the question, “How Patient and Kind Have You Been?

It’s important for us to turn inward and inspect our hearts, as Paul enjoined in 2 Corinthians 13.5:

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.

But when we find we are in the faith and that we love our brethren, what, exactly, does that prove? Does it mean we are earning God’s grace? Hardly! Does it mean we are “good enough” for God, or holy enough or righteous enough to be saved? Not on your life!

If we are in the faith and if we love our brother, that is proof that God is working in us and that we are His!

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5.23-24)

We clearly see that God sanctifies and preserves us unto our final salvation.

No matter how strongly we love or what heights of kindness we reach, we will never out-love or out-give our great God! It’s upon His love and in His kindness we rest our hope. The finished and powerful work of Jesus on the cross cleanses us from all our sins and empowers us to love others.

Concerning the salvation of God’s children, Peter writes:

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3.9)

Sun RisePaul wrote “Love suffers long” in 1 Corinthians 13, and Peter uses the same word here: God “is longsuffering toward us.” God will not allow any of His children to perish–don’t worry about that. All will come to repentance. As Jesus said,

This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. (John 6.39)

God’s kindness is also offered as an encouragement to sinners to come to repentance, coupled with a warning in Romans 2.3-4:

And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering [patience], not knowing that the goodness [kindness] of God leads you to repentance?

If you hear God’s call, run to Him–don’t despise His patience and kindness. He is waiting for those who will come to Him. Today you have the opportunity to come to Him. Take it!

How Patient and Kind Have You Been?

PatienceI’ve had days when I felt the beast welling up inside and, to my shame, exploded in anger towards my dearest loved ones. It’s a terrible feeling, as if I’m not completely in control. Even if I feel my anger is justified, usually in the aftermath I’ll realize I went too far in my words, tone, and actions.

When Paul wrote, “Love is patient,” he could have also written, “Love is difficult,” but maybe he thought we’d figure that out.

Interestingly, in 1 Corinthians 13.4-7 love is always defined with verbs! It’s difficult to see in our English bibles, “Love is patient,” because patient is an adjective describing love. But some of the older versions render it better: “Love suffers long.” You can see the active verb better. Love is not a feeling or something we own; it’s expressed in action towards others or in response to others.

KindnessPatience and kindness relate to another pair of principles: mercy and grace. Whereas mercy withholds punishment from someone who deserves to be punished, grace blesses someone who does not deserve a blessing. Doesn’t patience relate nicely to mercy in that it waits and endures while another person irritates and provokes? Doesn’t kindness relate to grace in that it actively seeks to bless others, regardless of whether they deserve it?

Love is, indeed, the greatest command of God because in it we find both grace and mercy, both patience and kindness. I pray often that God will help me be more patient and kind with my family and with others.

How are you doing by way of fulfilling God’s greatest command, to love Him with all your heart? How are you doing with loving your neighbor as yourself? Test yourself today by thinking about last week–how patient and kind have you been?

Are You Walking in Grace Today?

ComfortingTheoretically, I assume grace would come naturally to a sinless and selfless individual. But to all of us lawbreakers who feel guilt and shame in our lives, grace makes us nervous and unsettled. As weird as it may seem, grace almost feels wrong to us.

Take for example the parable of the laborers in Matthew 20.1-16 in which the landowner went out five times during the day to find laborers for his vineyard. The first men began work early in the morning, the second around 9 a.m., the third around noon, the fourth around 3 p.m., and the last at 5 p.m., leaving them only an hour or two of daylight in which to work. Those last men were called “about the eleventh hour,” Jesus said (Matt. 20.6). We use that phrase “eleventh hour” to mean “the very last minute.” Indeed, those men were called at the tail end of the day, and we law-abiding folk balk as the landowner handed every worker the exact same wage no matter how many hours he had worked!

“Not fair! Those who worked longer should have received more. Workers have rights, you know. You can’t give those sweaty, exhausted workers the exact same thing as to those men who lazed around most of the day.”

Oh really? Jesus demands that we consider it. Isn’t it up to the landowner to hire workers and pay them whatever he wants? If the workers agreed to the wages, they received what was fair.

Not only was the landowner fair, but he extended grace to those who worked fewer hours. He didn’t have to pay them a full day’s wage…but he did. It’s not that he wasn’t fair to the first men, it’s that he is more than fair with the last–and therein lies the message. Grace makes us squirm.

When your wife has left several obvious items at the house undone, when your children succumb to temptation and break your rules, when a man holds a sign on the side of the road “hungry, please help,” do you act in grace? Is grace your default, or is it something you must work at?

By the Grace of GodBecause of our sinful natures, grace is often difficult and not our default. Grace is truly being like God, and we have fallen from His nature; that image has been corrupted. Jesus is the exact image of the Creator, but we are not!

How have you responded to your husband / wife today? How have you dealt with your children recently? When your boss is cranky, what is your default reaction? When your employees don’t exactly measure up, how do you treat them? Humans mess up. God doesn’t. Yet see how He treats us in spite of our sins!

Are you walking in grace today? Or do you walk entirely by law? When people don’t measure up, do you prosecute (persecute?) them to the fullest extent of the law?

“For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1.17)

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Rom. 3.21-26)

For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Rom. 6.14)

For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you. (2 Cor. 1.12)

Think on these things.