Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 27 March 21:
Psalm 37:3 – “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.”
“Conformity to the character of God, insofar as creatures are able, is our goal as believers, and the Holy Spirit is the agent chiefly responsible for this work of sanctification (Rom. 8:1–17; Eph. 5:1). As we follow His leading and the transformation of our minds by God’s Word, the Spirit bears in our lives fruits such as joy, peace, patience, and kindness (Rom. 12:1–2; Gal. 5:22–23). Goodness and faithfulness are also fruits of the Spirit’s work, as we see in Galatians 5:22 and today’s passage.
Biblically speaking, goodness involves both the external act and its internal motivation. God measures us not only by how we obey His law but also according to the intent of our hearts (1 Sam. 16:7). Thus, a deed is fully good only when it is motivated by a desire to please the Lord. Moreover, remember that our Savior had harsh words for those who acted holy but not for the right reasons (Matt. 23).
Fallen people are unable to do what is good according to this standard (Rom. 3:10–11). Measured by the relative standards of sinful creatures, we can say that unbelievers do civic good and other commendable things, such as loving their children. Nevertheless, because fallen people do not do these things out of a love for Christ, such deeds are ultimately splendid vices. Only believers, because we are redeemed by Jesus and have been granted the Holy Spirit, have the ability to do what is good in an ultimate sense. Sin, however, remains in our lives until our glorification (1 John 1:8–9), so our best works are still tainted by impure motivations. Thanks be to God, the Spirit does work in us to purify our motivations (Titus 3:4–7), making us more willing to do the right things for the right reasons.
Faith is another fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Gal. 5:22). But when the Apostle refers to faith, he speaks not merely of “believing in God.” Paul also calls us to “believe God.” Believing in God is not that remarkable — even demons do that. What the Lord wants is a people who trust in His promises alone (James 2:14–26).
Every time we sin we show disbelief. To transgress God’s law is to show that we do not consider evil to be evil and do not fear the Lord’s promised wrath. To flee sin, on the other hand, is to show faith in God as the ultimate standard of good and to believe His promise that righteous men and women will prosper (Ps. 1).” (Tabletalk Magazine, Ligonier Ministries)
What is the goal for Christians in this life? “…to be conformed to the image of his Son….” (Romans 8:29)
“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) “…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21)
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, our imperfect ‘good deeds’ done in all the love we can muster for the Lord and for others, practiced over time in sincerity and humility become steps towards Christ-like character development. The key is prayerful practice. Just as we practice skills we want to master, riding a bike, using a hammer, throwing a baseball, etc.; we must also practice the habits of love and the virtues of faith – “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) Jesus said that if we love Him, we will obey His commandments. (John 14:15) However, since we aren’t perfected in love, sometimes His commandments are difficult for us; sometimes we don’t obey as we should, and sometimes we obey, but our words or actions don’t match our hearts. Obey anyway, and your behavior, with prayers of confession and repentance, will be used by the Holy Spirit to shape your heart to make your good deeds a natural joy, no longer difficult for you – “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) Practice!
- Philippians 4:9 — What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
- 1 Timothy 4:15 — Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.
- Hebrews 5:14 — But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
- 2 Peter 1:10 — Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
- 1 John 3:4, 7, 8 — Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
- Romans 8:28-29 — And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 27 Mar 21: Trusting in the Lord and His grace, strive to do good from a heart of love, and pray for God to increase your love where obedience is still a chore; as you “dwell in the land,” doing your job, taking care of your family, and interacting with others in your community, befriend faithfulness. When you fail, which we all do daily, repent, and fail forward, being increasingly conformed to the character of Christ.