Speak Truth in Love

Being both honest and kind is how we grow in our faith and mature through Jesus

Speak truth in love.When Paul writes to the church in Ephesus, he tells them to speak what is true with love. This should be our guide in all that we say. While this makes sense, it’s harder to put into practice.

Truth: This phrase, to speak truth in love, starts with a call for honesty. As the saying goes, “Honesty is the best policy.” Better still, the Bible commands us not to lie (Leviticus 19:11).

Yet how often do we tell a tiny fib to protect someone’s feelings? Is this okay? How often do we tell someone an untruth because it is expedient? Or maybe we lie to avoid a confrontation or having a difficult conversation.

While some of these issues may be shades of gray, others are black-and-white. The point is Paul tells us to speak truth.

Love: The guiding principle in how we express ourselves honestly is love. Love should temper what we say and how we say it. We want our words to help and not to hurt. Love is the framework for truth telling.

Yet sometimes out of a desire to love, we hide the truth. We obscure what is real because it is the easier path to take. This is a show of love, but it’s outcome isn’t truth.

We need to speak what is true and to do so with a loving attitude.We need to speak what is true and to do so with a loving attitude. Click To Tweet

Grow: Though speaking the truth in love feels like wise advice, it’s not always the easiest path to take. Being both honest and loving at the same time can be a challenging thing to do. But we must persist in this effort.

When we speak the truth in love, Paul tells us that we will grow in our faith and develop maturity as the group of people—the church—who follow Jesus.

That’s why speaking truth in love is so important. We do it for Jesus.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Ephesians 4, and today’s post is on Ephesians 4:15.]

How Do We Respond to Jesus?

We should show our gratitude to Jesus for all he has done for us

Live for JesusThe Bible records many things Jesus did when he was here on earth. A reoccurring action is Jesus healing people from their physical and spiritual maladies. Matthew 8 records several of these instances, and we will focus on one of them.

Jesus goes to Peter’s house; his mother-in-law is sick in bed with a fever. (Note the reference to Peter’s mother-in-law. This tells us Peter was married.) Though we may not think too much about a fever today, this illness was bad enough to keep this woman in bed. She wasn’t merely resting, waiting to get better. She was incapacitated and not able to do anything. The situation was serious.

Jesus walks up to the bed and touches her hand. When he does her fever leaves her body. The next phrase is curious. It says she gets up to wait on him.

The cynic might say that Jesus healed her with selfish intentions, that he made her well only so she could take care of him, likely preparing some food for him to eat. Though this is a humorous thought and one many women likely nod their head in agreement with and might make men snicker, this misses the point.

Instead, I see Peter’s mother-in-law taking care of Jesus as a response to show her gratitude to him for what he did to make her better. Her example is one for us to follow.What do we do to show our gratitude to Jesus for all he has done for us? Click To Tweet

Jesus has done so much for us. What do we do to show our gratitude to him?

It’s too easy for us to move from day-to-day and take Jesus’s work in our lives for granted, to not bother to show him our appreciation.

Jesus saved us, forgave us, and restored us to right relationship with his father. Plus, Jesus loves us, teaches us about God, and shows us how to live.

For all Jesus has done, what should our response be? What can we do to show Jesus how much we appreciate him?

Perhaps we should live for him.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Matthew 8, and today’s post is on Matthew 8:14-15.]

Don’t Speak About Things You Don’t Understand

False teachers slander what they don’t understand, and they will be destroyed

Don’t Speak About Things You Don’t UnderstandOver the years I’ve heard many ministers talk about things they didn’t understand. Not biblical or spiritual things, but worldly things. Out of ignorance they condemn certain people for their actions, slandering them in the process.

This is why the world doesn’t understand Jesus and his church. This is why the world thinks Jesus hates them. Though he doesn’t, the words people say when they talk about things they don’t understand sends the wrong message that Jesus has something against humanity.

In Peter’s second letter he talks about these ministers and those who parrot their uninformed views. Peter explains that these teachers who slander what they don’t understand are false teachers. They’re irrational like wild animals. They’re creatures operating under instinct, void of intelligent thought. What is the outcome of these false preachers who speak of what they don’t understand? Peter makes it clear. They’ll be destroyed (2 Peter 2:12).

Jesus is all about love. Jesus loves everyone, especially those on the outside, the people on the fringes of society who religious folks reject.Many people, who claim to represent Jesus, speak out of ignorance about those outside the church. Click To Tweet

Unfortunately too many people who claim to represent Jesus, often the ministers of his churches, speak out of ignorance about those outside the church. These false teachers cause the church to reject those in the world and condemn them, even though this isn’t what Jesus wants.

We should reject these false teachers. We should ignore what they say and disassociate ourselves from them. These false teachers will be destroyed. Peter says so.

Instead we need to align ourselves with Jesus and the love he offers to everyone. When we do this, our love will point them to him.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 2 Peter 2, and today’s post is on 2 Peter 2:12.]

The Bible Teaches Us How to Live With One Another

Scripture is packed with instructions of how Christians should treat each other

 The Bible teaches us how to live with one another.Last year I shared 13 Reasons Why I Love the Bible, and I periodically expand upon one of those thirteen reasons. Today we’ll explore how the Bible teaches us to live with each other. Although these lessons occur throughout the Bible, let’s focus on one reoccurring theme. I call these the “one another” commands. These instructions teach us how to treat each other.

The Bible contains thirty-one of these one-another instructions. Most only occur once, but four of them occur multiple times. This must mean they’re more important, or else they wouldn’t be repeated. They are:

Love One Another: The command to love one another occurs ten times in the Bible, all in the New Testament. John writes about this the most but so do Paul and Peter.

Unfortunately our society today has a skewed understanding of the word love. Consider the following.

  • I’d love to go to the movies with you.
  • I love pizza.
  • I love to read the Bible.
  • I love my family.
  • I love God.

These are all phrases I’ve used. But they convey different meanings of the word love, ranging from preference to passion. What is love? Our society often treats love as an emotion, but let’s consider love as an attitude that prompts unselfish action. When it comes to loving one another, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 gives us some helpful instructions on how to do this. By following these verses we can begin to love others in a biblical way.

Encourage One Another: In four places, both the Old and New Testaments, the Bible tells us to encourage one another. Using positive words to lift others up and inspire them in their life and faith is a simple thing, yet most of us fail to do so most of the time. This is a skill we need to learn and then apply.

We all know people who encourage us. We enjoy our time with them, because we feel better about ourselves afterwards. May we be like them.

However, we also know people who we don’t enjoy being around because they discourage us, either directly through negative talk or indirectly through their attitudes. May we not be like them.

Let us encourage others and provide a positive, nurturing relationship that motivates them to do better.

Live in Harmony With One Another: Paul and Peter tell us we’re to live in harmony with one another. This is key. Harmony comes out of biblical love and is bolstered by encouragement, but there is more to harmony than that.

Two words come to mind that relate to harmony. The first is peace. We should strive to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).

The second word is unity. It’s critically important for followers of Jesus to live in unity with one another. When we do so, we point others to Jesus. When we fail to do so, we push people away from Jesus. May it never be so.

Unity—that is, harmony—is important to Jesus. In one of his prayers he asks his father that we will live in unity, that we will be one just as he and his father are one (John 17:21).

Greet One Another With a Holy Kiss: The fourth of the one-another commands that appears multiple times in the Bible is a perplexing one. It’s the instruction to greet one another with a holy kiss. What does that mean?

I explored this in another post where I speculated that this command might be a “sacred act of intimacy for the church community.” Then I admitted that I’m not really sure.

Another thought is that greet another with a holy kiss might be like a secret handshake, a way to express Christian affinity without saying a word. I suppose that works, too.

Or we could interpret this command to greet one another with a holy kiss as a principle that implies acceptance and affection with all others who follow Jesus. This also might be a viable interpretation of this confusing phrase.May we learn to treat one another as the Bible tells us. Click To Tweet

In addition to these four, there are twenty-seven other one-another commands in the Bible. As we strive to follow them and put them into practice, the Church of Jesus will grow, and the world will be better for it.

May we learn to treat one another as the Bible tells us.

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What Does the New Testament Say About Temples and Priests?

Through Jesus we become his priests and his temple, which should change everything

Jesus makes us his priests and his temple.In the Old Testament the people go to the temple to encounter God. The priests help them in this; they act as a liaison between them and God.

In many ways we still do this today. We go to church to encounter God. We look for our ministers to help us in our quest, to act as a liaison between us and God.

But this is a wrong perspective. We cling to the Old Testament practice and largely forget how Jesus fulfilled it. Peter helps us understand this in his first letter. He says we are living stones built into a spiritual temple, prepared for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus (1 Peter 2:5).

Yet from our perspective of going to church to encounter God, this verse is confounding. It turns what we do upside down, and that’s the point. Jesus came to turn the old ways upside down and make something new for us.

We need to embrace this. We need to change our perspectives.

Living Stones: As living stones our actions matter. We live for Jesus. We live to honor him, praise him, and glorify him. We live to tell others about him through our actions and even through our words. Our faith is alive, and our actions must show it.

Spiritual Temple: As living stones we become part of the construction of his spiritual temple. And if we are part of his temple, we don’t need to go to church to meet him because, as his temple, we are already there and can experience him at any time.

Holy Priesthood: As living stones we are being made into a holy priesthood. If we are truly priests through what Jesus did for us, then we don’t need ministers to point us to God, explain him to us, and assist us in encountering him. God is preparing us to do that for ourselves as his holy priests.

Spiritual Sacrifices: As living stones and holy priests, serving God in his spiritual temple, we offer to him a spiritual sacrifice. This spiritual sacrifice negates the need for many of the animal sacrifices and offerings we read about in the Old Testament.Through Jesus we do things in a new way. Click To Tweet

This thinking is so countercultural to the way most Christians live today that it bears careful contemplation. Through Jesus we do things in a new way. We are living stones built into a spiritual temple, being prepared for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices.

This can change everything—and it should.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 1 Peter 2, and today’s post is on 1 Peter 2:5.]

One Way That Jesus Fulfills the Old Testament

Jesus turns the celebration of Passover into the celebration of Communion

One Way That Jesus Fulfills the Old TestamentAs the Israelites prepare to leave Egypt, Moses instructs them to have a special meal with their families and neighbors. They celebrate the first Passover. From then on Passover becomes an annual celebration.

Fast forward a couple millennia. Jesus gives his disciples instructions to celebrate Passover together. As they eat the Passover meal, Jesus adds something new to their tradition and gives it fresh meaning. Taking the bread they’re eating, Jesus uses it as a metaphor for the sacrifice he’s about to make. Then he repeats this with the wine.

The Bible records this event in Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, and Luke 22:15-20. Paul also gives instructions about this remembrance in his letter to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 11:22-29.

These passages provide us with the basis for how we celebrate Communion. We may also call it the Lord’s Supper, The Holy Supper, Holy Communion, the Eucharist, or Holy Eucharist. They all mean the same thing. They all direct our attention on Jesus and what he did for us to reconcile us with Papa.

When Jesus institutes what we turned into the sacrament of communion, he fulfills the Old Testament practice of the Passover. That means he takes something old and adds his own twist to make it something new.

From this we see three key elements of Communion:

Part of a Meal: We see the practice of Passover and Communion in the Bible as part of a meal. Matthew and Mark note that Jesus’s reflections happen as they eat. Luke adds some additional detail. He records a second mention of the cup after the meal. The key point is that communion is part of a shared meal, not an act separate from it.The key point is that communion is part of a shared meal, not separate from it. Click To Tweet

With Family: Neither Passover or Communion take place in a large church gathering or religious ceremony. Both happen as a private gathering within a community of family or close friends—our squad. The people celebrate Passover in homes with family (or with neighbors). The Communion Jesus shares with his disciples occurs in an intimate setting with his close friends. This shows us Communion isn’t something that happens at church but apart from it, usually in homes.

As an Annual Celebration: Jesus says we are to celebrate Communion in his honor to remember him. Paul adds to this, writing that Jesus also said, “do this, whenever you drink it” (1 Corinthians 11;25). Though we may interpret Jesus’s words to mean every time we have a meal, the context is Passover, so a better understanding is every time we celebrate Passover, which is an annual event.

When we observe Communion every week at church, even once a month or quarterly, it can become routine and lose its meaning. Instead we should treat it as an annual celebration that we greatly anticipate and highly revere.

When we add this to the concept of a family meal, Communion could elevate to the level of a treasured family celebration similar to Thanksgiving or Christmas: a special time with family gathered.

The ancient practice of Passover and Communion bears little similarity to what we do today. I can’t ever recall celebrating communion in church as part of a meal. Communion was always a ceremonial representation, included as part of a church service.

The bread was reduced to a small bit of bread or a cracker. The wine was reduced to a mere sip, barely enough to wash down the morsel of food we ate just before it. In doing so we trivialize Communion by making it less than what it should be.

Let’s take back Communion. We can return it to an annual celebration in our homes with our family. And we will do it in remembrance of Jesus.

We Should Pay Attention When Jesus Says, “But I Tell You.”

Jesus fulfills the Old Testament Law and Prophets when he gives new meaning to the old ways

We Should Pay Attention When Jesus Says, “But I Tell You.”Jesus said he came to fulfill the Law and Prophets (Matthew 5:17). One way he did this, the most significant way, was to satisfy the anticipation found throughout the Old Testament for a coming savior, a Messiah, who would save his people.

Jesus also fulfilled the Law and the Prophets by changing the way people viewed God and treated others. We’ve talked about this in another post. Because of Jesus we became God’s temple, and we’re to serve as priests to one another. That means we don’t need to go to church to seek God or have a minister lead us. Seriously.

A third way Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets is by giving us an enlightened understanding of the intent behind the literal interpretation of what the Old Testament said and how the people thought. He does this in the teaching we call “The Sermon on the Mount.” Each time Jesus makes this transition from the old way to the new way, he says the words, “…but I tell you.”

Consider the following examples:

Murder and Anger: The Old Testament said murder was wrong (Exodus 20:13). Jesus says we need to control our anger (Matthew 5:21-22).

Adultery and Lust: The Old Testament commanded us to not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14). Jesus says that lust is just another form of adultery (Matthew 5:27-28).

Divorce and Commitment: The Old Testament made it easy for a man to divorce his wife (Deuteronomy 24:1). Jesus says the only justification for divorce is adultery, else couples should stick together and make it work (Matthew 5:31-32).

Keeping Vows and Avoiding Vows: The Hebrew traditions said to not break your promises, but to fulfill all the vows you made. Jesus says to not make a vow at all (Matthew 5:33-34).

Revenge and Forgiving: The Old Testament people could exact revenge on those who hurt them, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (Exodus 21:24, though this was actually to keep people from retaliating in disproportionate ways). Jesus, however, says don’t resist evil (Matthew 5:38-39).

Hate and Love: Another old Hebrew tradition said to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. Jesus says to love our enemies and pray for them (Matthew 5:43-44). Jesus turned the law into principles to guide our behavior and exhibit the heart of God. Click To Tweet

Jesus took the legalistic approach of the Old Testament Law and the people’s interpretation of it, and he turned them into principles to guide our behavior and exhibit the heart of God in how we interact with others.

May we follow these new ways of Jesus.

How Does Jesus Fulfill the Law and the Prophets?

Jesus does three things to complete what the Old Testament started

Jesus Fulfills the Law and the ProphetsJesus drew people to him. The words he spoke and the hope he communicated attracted them. Some people assumed he had come to replace the Old Testament Law and the work of the prophets, but revolution was not his calling.

Jesus didn’t come to do away with what the Old Testament taught. Instead his mission was to bring the Old Testament into fruition, according to God’s plan from the beginning.

Jesus made this clear. He said, “I have not come to abolish the Law and the prophets but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). How did Jesus do this?

Jesus Became the Ultimate Sacrifice: The Old Testament is packed with instructions for making sacrificial offerings, commands that showed the people’s relationship with God. These sacrifices had various meanings, but one key sacrifice occurred to redress sin. An animal had to die because the people had sinned. Because the people continued to sin, animal sacrifices continued to be required. These sin sacrifices happened over and over, year after year, century after century.

Jesus, in his sacrificial death on the cross, became the ultimate sacrifice for sin to end all sin sacrifices. In his once-and-for-all sacrifice, he died to make us right with God, to reconcile us into right relationship with the Almighty.

Jesus Turned Law into Love: Despite Jesus’s fresh way of looking at the understandings of his people, most of his followers still struggled to fully comprehend what he meant. They wrestled to reconcile his teachings with their traditions.

One such person asked Jesus to identify the greatest commandment in the Old Testament. Jesus’s answer was love. He said to “love God with all our heart, soul, and mind.” This stands as the greatest commandment, but then he added one more. He said to “love others as much as we love ourselves” (Matthew 22:36-40). These two simple principles summarize all the Old Testament Law and the writings of the prophets.

Jesus removed a set of impossible-to-please laws and replaced them with one principle: love.

Jesus Changed Our Perspectives. Jesus liked to review what the Hebrew Bible said, and then he would expand on it. He often made this transition by saying “but I tell you…” Then he would give his enlightened explanation about what God meant. We’ll do well to carefully study what Jesus said immediately after his words “but I tell you…” Look for more about this in the future post.Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament Law and the writings of the prophets. Click To Tweet

What’s important to understand when we consider that Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament law and the writings of the prophets is we must put the Old Testament in proper perspective. This doesn’t mean to ignore the Old Testament because Jesus fulfilled it, but it does mean we need to consider the Old Testament in the context to which it was given. In addition to teaching people how to live back then, the Law and the prophets also pointed them to the coming Savior, Jesus.

As we read the Old Testament we see allusions to Jesus and the freedom that he represents. And if we read the Old Testament with care, we will also see that this future revelation about Jesus applies to all people, not just God’s chosen nation of Israel.

Yes, Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament Law and the writings of the prophets. And we are the benefactor of that.

Thank you Jesus.

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Is God’s Forgiveness Conditional?

Jesus wants us to fully forgive others so that we may be fully forgiven

Is God’s Forgiveness Conditional?In asking the simple question, “Is God’s forgiveness conditional?” the answer seems obvious: “No! God’s forgiveness is unconditional.”

I was taught that if I followed Jesus, he would forgive me. It was a fact. Forgiveness was unconditional. It made sense, and it comforted me.

However, Jesus’s instruction in today’s passage seems to question this assumption.

Jesus teaches about prayer. He says that when we pray, if we think of someone holding something against us, we must forgive them “so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25, NIV).

Does this mean that if we withhold forgiveness from others that God will withhold forgiveness from us?

I think so.

Recall the Lord’s Prayer. One phrase says, “Forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12, NIV). This phrase flows from our mouths with ease. On the surface these words offer us assurance of forgiveness. But I don’t think that’s what Jesus means by this simple expression. He seems to be saying that to the degree we forgive others, God will then forgive us.To the degree we forgive others, God will forgive us. Click To Tweet

Stated another way, the extent to which we withhold forgiveness, will be the extent to which God withholds our forgiveness.

What a terrifying thought.

Between what Jesus instructs us through the Lord’s Prayer and what he teaches in today’s text, we get the real feeling that the degree to which we can receive God’s forgiveness hinges on the degree to which we extend forgiveness to others.

This is a sobering thought.

May we always forgive fully, so that we may be fully forgiven.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Mark 11, and today’s post is on Mark 11:25.]

5 Things Jesus’s Disciples Did

We are to go out and preach repentance under the power of the Holy Spirit

5 Things Jesus’s Disciples DidAfter Jesus calls his disciples, he trains them and then sends them into the world. He gives them five simple instructions:

Go out: To be effective Jesus’s disciples can’t hang out with each other. They need to go out into the world around them.

Preach Repentance: A basic understanding of preach is to tell or to encourage. A simple definition of repent is to turn yourself around, to make a U-turn. When Jesus tells his disciples to preach repentance, he’s instructing them to encourage others to turn their lives around and head toward him.

Drive Out Demons: Jesus empowers his disciples to do miraculous works in his name. These wondrous signs certainly get people’s attention. Supernatural power not only helps people in need, but it also rightly directs our attention to God. I think that’s the point.

Anoint the Sick: When Jesus tells his disciples to anoint the sick, he’s instructing them to bless those with health concerns and pray for them.

Heal People: Yes, Jesus wants us to heal those who are hurting. He gives us the power to do so, through the Holy Spirit. We need to walk in faith to make that happen.The instructions Jesus gives his disciples, can also apply to us today. Click To Tweet

The instructions Jesus gives his disciples, can also apply to us today. We are to go into our world and encourage people to pursue Jesus. As we do, we are to go in Holy Spirit power to perform signs, anoint people, and heal those in need.

While some people assume the supernatural power of signs and wonders ended with the disciples, I see no indication of that in the Bible. What Jesus gave to his disciples then, he gives to us today. It’s up to us to accept his call and move into it. And when we do, our witness will be magnified, and Jesus will be exalted.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Mark 6, and today’s post is on Mark 6:12-13.]