Embrace Power, Love, and Self Control (Not Fear)

…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV)

Several days ago, terrorists from ISIS attacked numerous places in Paris, France. Ambushing a concert and restaurant patios, the terrorists killed over 120 and injured many more. This horrific (and cowardly) attack struck fear into the lovely city of Paris and beyond, the fear ripples now reaching the civilized world. (My parents were in Paris the day before, and praise God they made it out before the attacks.)

Today news headlines are littered with the situation with Syrian refugees. Many feel the only right thing to do is to accept all refugees and many feel the right thing to do is to refuse them all (for fear there are terrorists among them). Some land in the middle or maybe they are still trying to understand the situation.

Presidential debates are an often occurrence these days, with the right and the left doing verbal battle with their fellow party members. We want to know who will be our next Commander-In-Chief and it seems everyone has a hot opinion on who would be best for America. Again, fear seems to control much of the conversation.

There’s a lot going on.

But let me remind you of something: God did not give us a spirit of fear. In Christ, we win whether we live or die (Phil. 1:21). We must seek to lay our life at the feet of Jesus and allow His Spirit to guide us, no matter how scary – or even deadly the path may be (Matt. 16:25).

Here are some reminders from 1 Timothy 1:17:

  1. God did not give us a spirit of fear. Do not be anxious (Matt. 6:34). Our worries don’t add to our life, they take it away (Luke 12:25). The King of the world is our savior, our advocate, and our friend. If He is for us, who can be against us?
  2. We have a spirit of power. Prayer works. It changes things. And our God is sovereign. You have the Spirit of God living within you (1 Cor. 3:16). There is no greater power.
  3. We have a spirit of love. We are not only called to love our neighbors, we are called to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44). Do you realize that includes terrorists? Now this does not mean that we sit on our hands and do nothing, but we are to be governed by the love of Christ, which is a love that loves the unlovable. We do not drink the poison of revenge, but rather we leave ultimate justice up to God Himself (Romans 12:19). Even when we suit up for battle, we must have love and respect for the enemy.
  4. We have a spirit of self-control. We may voice our opinions. We ought to when we have something to say that is winsome and helpful. Christians can and should be involved in the public conversation. But we are to do so with love, grace, and truth. Here is a good measuring stick: if you are engaging in dialogue with someone, does it honor everyone (1 Peter 2:17)?

My friends, do not fear. Because of your purchase on the rugged cross, you have no need of it. And remember, it is not that we ought to be fearless, powerful, loving, and self-controlled. This is not a behavioral standard that we must meet to be righteous. No, 2 Timothy 1:7 says that God has given us a spirit of fearlessness, power, love, and self-control. We are recipients of these virtues by way of the Spirit who lives within us.

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Justification Leads to Justice

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? (James 2:14 ESV)

 

Yesterday I sat in my truck in a parking lot before a meeting. I saw a young man walking around holding a tray of something food-related plus literature trying to find a fellow human to speak with.

He found me.

He came to my window and looked at me with a gentle look that said, hey man – please open your window. I drove off. No, I am kidding. I rolled down my window and heard a great testimony of a young man who was a drug addict on the verge of death who was saved by grace in Christ. He was in that parking lot hustling sales of banana nut bread for the halfway house that helped him get clean. We talked and I bought some bread and that was that.

If you have never sold something door to door or cold called, you probably don’t understand how much fun this young man wasn’t having. Strangers really hate being approached by strangers wanting money or to sell something – even the most valuable treasure in the history of the world (that’s Jesus if you’re a little slow). But this young man pressed on, smiling and encouraging and filling his tray until it was empty and then replenished supplies to sell more.

My banana nut bread friend had experienced the grace of Jesus and he will never be the same. Once driven by desperation for the next chemical fix, he is now motivated by the Gospel’s warmth in his bones. His salvation got his feet moving because that’s what salvation does.

Justification in Christ leads to justice in life.

Now we can’t get this backwards. James 2 isn’t saying if we don’t have works we aren’t saved, it is saying that if we don’t have works we don’t have faith – and if we don’t have faith we aren’t saved. Faith leads to action. If there is no action – no acts of service, no sacrificial love, no compassion for the poor in spirit or in social standing, etc. – faith isn’t there. You see, salvation in Christ isn’t like taking a sugar pill. You might imagine a placebo effect but the efficacy is imagined. No, it’s like a full on soul transplant where He takes our heart of stone and gives us a heart of warm beating flesh. So if there is no change in the person post salvation we need to examine whether salvation happened to begin with.

Now don’t go freaking out that your works aren’t good enough. That’s the opposite error, trying to think you can work yourself into heaven (See what I did, God? See what I did?!?!). God no more needs our works than He needs our help to make the sun rise tomorrow morning. But God gives us the gift of allowing us to serve our neighbor and to pursue acts of justice.

Martin Luther said that God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does. I like that. I’d add that we ourselves need those good works. Those good works show us the Spirit of God mid stride as He works in messed up sinners like you and me to love sinners like you and me.

The call to action here is not to judge our acts of service, but rather to make a bee line to the cross of Christ. Washed in the blood of Jesus, new hearts, we will act.

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