Posts tagged ‘love’

May 31, 2014

Daily Devotionals (May 31st): The Redeemed Life

by Aaron Dunlop

philippians

Circumstances have a very powerful effect on the Christian’s life. Happy circumstances can make us lazy, indifferent, proud, complacent, etc. Harsh circumstances often leave us skeptical, bitter, and cold. In short, without the grace of God success is as dangerous as suffering loss. Whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in—either bitter or sweet—we need to pray that the Lord would redeem them “for the advance of the gospel.”

It is interesting that the apostle inserts the adverb rather when speaking of his imprisonment in Rome. He implies that the more probable result has been reversed: contrary to all appearances or expectations, these circumstances have actually advanced the gospel. The Lord has redeemed the hostility of the world and caused the wrath of man to praise him (Psalm 76:10).

How extensive is your theology of redemption? You believe that your soul was redeemed from the slavery of Satan in justification (Romans 3:24). You believe also and hope for the day when your body will be redeemed from the curse of the fall in glorification (Romans 8:23). But do you believe that in the interim between your justification and glorification—in your life—the Lord can redeem the circumstances of your life for His glory? Do you believe that by the grace of God (that is sufficient, 2 Corinthians 12:9) the things that happen to you can fall out “rather for the furtherance of the gospel”? In the redeemed life the trials of life become triumphs of the gospel in the soul.

Reading:“But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.”—Philippians 1:12 

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May 30, 2014

Daily Devotionals (May 30th): The Things that Happen…

by Aaron Dunlop

philippians

I often wonder—and am often rebuked—as we join in congregational singing of Psalms and hymns how much we really believe. How honest are we when we sing the first lines of Psalm 122 for example on the Lord’s Day morning: “I joyed when to the house of God, Go up they said to me”? When we are enveloped by the stuff of life, do we really believe that “every joy or trial falleth from above, traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love”?

We all know that circumstances dictate our mood. But would we admit also that they also affect our theology? How often do we live under the delusion that if circumstances—“the things that happen”—were pleasant then we could be godly, we could be happy, we would have things in order, and praise God more? Very often we do not enjoy the present because we live with the false promises of the future, the “grass-is-always-greener” syndrome.

Paul’s happiness did not depend on the “things that happened” but on the furtherance of the gospel. 2 Corinthians 11:23­–28 tells us that he was beaten with“stripes above measure…in prisons more frequent.” He continues,“Once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep.” He continues in this catalogue of suffering to outline the shadow of danger that hung over him and the weariness of the flesh:“in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen…in weariness and painfulness.” Despite all this that happened to Paul he told the Romans that in all these things he rejoiced in tribulations (Romans 5:3) because they worked for the furtherance of the gospel in him.

Reading:“But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.”—Philippians 1:12 

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May 29, 2014

Daily Devotionals (May 29th): Filled with the Fruits of Righteousness

by Aaron Dunlop

philippians

Every year the fruit trees in the neighbour’s garden blossom with the signs of spring. It is always good to see this new life because there is the anticipation that there will be fruit come summer time—and it is open season for the neighbourhood. What we look for come the end of summer are the boughs of the trees heavy laden with pears, plums, and apples. Sadly, last year the boughs of the plum tree were empty—no fruit. The pear tree was pretty sparse also, and the worms enjoyed most of the apples. No fruit at harvest-time robbed us not only of the enjoyment of harvesting, but also of enjoying the harvest itself. No fruit meant no jams or fruit-sauce and no canning.

Paul carries this image into the spiritual realm and encourages the Philippians to live so that they will have fruit in the end, that they might enjoy a full harvest laden with the fruits of righteousness. We can have many fruitless “good works,” but what we want is to be “fruitful in every good work” (Colossians 1:10). The fruitfulness of our good works and the harvest of spiritual fruit in the end are conditioned on the love we exercise in the present. Do we live with this love that abounds in knowledge and insight in those things that are excellent or do we meander through a life filled with loveless (unrighteous and fruitless) good works? Do we seek to excel in good works by a true, deep, and insightful love or are we satisfied with the mediocrity of a shallow sentimental love of which there is no fruit? Only fruitful good works please the Lord: “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples”(John 15:8)

Reading: “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”—Philippians 1:9-11 

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May 28, 2014

Daily Devotionals (May 28th): Pure and Inoffensive Love

by Aaron Dunlop

philippians

The Lord Jesus said that the law of God is fulfilled in two great commandments—love to God and love to our neighbour (Mathew 22:37–39). The balance between these two commandments is one of the most difficult aspects of Christian living. Some try so hard to love their neighbour that they concede too much and offend God by compromising the purity of the truth, of the church, and of Christian principles. Those on the other side of the extreme try to exercise their love to God to such a degree that they offend their neighbour without a second thought. The Lord Jesus tells us to love the Lord with all our heart soul, strength, and mind and—at the same time—to love our neighbour as ourselves.

The problem in doing this lies, in part, in the false assumption that love for God and love for my neighbour are mutually exclusive. I either love God or I love my neighbour, but I cannot do both, the two cannot co-exist. Another common fallacy is that if I love God properly it is OK to offend my neighbour; in fact, some think that if they are not offending others with the truth they are not loving God. The balance of a pure and inoffensive love applies to every area of life.

Love to God may set in place many ambitions for the home or for the family name. But many in trying to reach those ambitions have been so strict and rigid that that they have wearied their children and given them a distaste for Christ and Christianity, forgetting that God requires mercy and not merely sacrifice.

Preachers and pastors can also find it hard to maintain the balance of love. Not content for the truth to be a natural offence to fallen men, they have to present the truth in such a way that they make sure it is offensive. Like Rehoboam, they lay heavy burdens on the people (2 Chronicles 10). Like the Jews in Christ’s day they look for a warrior-Messiah (Acts 1:6) rather than One on whom the Spirit descended in the form of a gentle dove and who came with the perfect balance of “grace and truth” (John 1:17). Let us seek that balance of love to God and a simultaneous love to those around us—a love that respects God and edifies others, a love that has a high view of God’s truth and a desire to present it with grace. Let us pray with Paul that we might diffuse throughout our lives that which the Lord has infused into our hearts—a pure and inoffensive love.

Reading: “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”—Philippians 1:9–11 

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May 27, 2014

Daily Devotionals (May 27th): The Excellence of Loving Spiritual Insight

by Aaron Dunlop

philippians

We often assume—wrongly—that the choices we make as Christians are pretty simple and straightforward. We reason, the Bible is clear; right is right and wrong is wrong—how hard can it be? Paul’s prayer for a culture of love in the church of Philippi, however, was based on the opposite assumption that choices are not always black and white and that there are areas of grey, or as scholars call it “adiaphora” (from the Greek meaning “things that are indifferent”). This is the word that Paul uses in Philippians 1:10 where we read literally, “that your love may abound more and more … for your proving the things that differ.” What the Philippians need is love cultured in knowledge and spiritual insight that will enable parents, pastors, children, and all God’s people to prove what is excellent—the best choice, the best way, the best word in a given situation.

Paul implies here that practical Christianity is not an exact science in which every situation has a textbook answer. He is telling us that Christianity is an art learned in the school of prayer—“this I pray.” We in the Reformed and evangelical church are tripping over ourselves with all the textbook answers for parenting, for Christian homemaking and home schooling, family-integrated church, Christian fatherhood and motherhood, how-to Christian blogs, and conferences. But all of the knowledge gleaned in the age of information and streamed on the information super highway cannot replace good old-fashioned, loving spiritual insight! We need to remember that knowledge may choose between good and bad, but only loving spiritual insight can choose between what is good and what is best—things that are excellent!

Reading: “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”—Philippians 1:9–11 

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