Leaving My Regrets and My Successes

“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:7–11).

It is evident from the writings of the Apostle Paul that he had a preeminent desire in his life: to know Jesus and be found in Him. In other words, he wanted to be fully yielded to the living Christ whom he was now aware had taken up residence inside his earthly body. He wrote in the book of Acts, “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Paul was aware of something that we need to rediscover today: We are not called of God to simply bring the knowledge of God to our generation, we are called to be a visible expression of who God is by allowing Him to demonstrate His power, wisdom, grace and love through us.

Leaving our Regrets Behind

Paul then goes on to make a statement which should encourage us whenever we feel mediocre compared to those we read about in the Bible: “Not that I have already attained or am already perfected” (Philippians 3:12). He was essentially saying, “I am not everything that I should be.” Paul was not, and neither are we! He continued, “But I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12–14).

In other words, “God has a plan for my life, and I am moving forward to fulfill that which Christ has determined to do through me. Therefore, I must forget those things that are behind and reach forward to those that are ahead.”

One of the hardest things for us to leave behind is our regret. We tend to carry it with us through life—those constant thoughts of, “If only I had done this; if only I had not done that; if only I had been this; if only I had known; if only I had been there; if only I had not been so selfish.”

However, if anyone had a lot of reasons to live in regret, it was Paul. He says in the book of First Corinthians, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:9). In the book of Acts, he said this, “This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities” (Acts 26:10–11).

Imagine Paul visiting different churches, looking upon the faces of men, women, and children who would be just like the ones he had formerly hauled out of their homes. Would he be reminded of the mothers and fathers pleading for mercy, the children crying? At that time, Paul was merciless, torturing Christians until they reached the point of blaspheming the name of God. When the beloved disciple Stephen—a young man who was full of faith and was serving tables—enraged the religious crowd, Paul was the man who held the coats of those who stoned him. Surely Paul easily could have been plagued by the memories of what he had done. Yet he made the deliberate choice to forget those things that were behind.

There was a time in my life when I would go to my knees and weep almost every day. I would weep for the things I had done, the things I had not done, the deficiencies in my life. I would think about what I wished I had known as a young Christian, the places I should have gone but did not. I wrote it all down, and I would go in to my office and cry every day until one day, the Lord spoke to me and said, “Carter, if you succeed in what I have called you to do, you are not to touch the glory. You are to give it all to Me. But that is not the only thing you are to give to Me. I want you to give Me your sorrow, your failures, your struggles. You are not to touch the glory, and neither are you to carry the shame. Both of those things belong to Me. I took it all on the cross, and you are not to carry the sorrow of it in your heart any longer.”

It was true. Once I allowed Him to do so, God took the sorrow away. Yes, I still have the memory of what I have done, but I do not carry the sorrow of it anymore. The Lord once spoke to the Apostle Peter words that you and I must remember today: “What God has cleansed you must not call common” (Acts 10:15). If God has cleansed you, you have no right any longer to hang your head. You are a new creation in Christ Jesus. Your sins, your mistakes, and your failures are all cast as far away from you as the east is from the west (see Psalm 103:12). As a matter of fact, God says, “Your sins and iniquities I will remember no more” (see Hebrews 10:17). That means that one day when you get to the throne of God and want to give Him a list of all your failures in life, the Lord will look at you and say, “Well, I will have to take your word for it because I do not seem to remember any of it! When My blood touched your life, it blotted out all your transgressions.”

And so it is time to lay down that sorrow. If you are going to find the fullness of what God has destined for your life, you have to walk away from your regrets. Many women who have had abortions carry a deep inner sorrow when they become believers in Christ. They wonder what that life would have been like; what it would have been like to have that child with them at church. Men also need to learn to walk away from what happened because of what they did or did not do. Remember, Jesus died to take all of it from us. He died to give us a new mind and a new heart; He died to take away our sorrow. Now I am not saying that we should just pretend none of it ever happened or that we should never talk about it. What I am saying is that it loses its power to destroy us. It loses its power to imprison us behind walls of regret. Instead, it gives us an understanding of what really happened on the cross. Jesus took our captivity captive and brought us into a place where we can testify about the goodness of God, leading others out of their personal struggles and into the light of Christ.

Leaving Our Successes

The second thing that we must learn to leave behind is our success. Paul said, “Concerning the righteousness which was in the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:6). There were very few, if any, people in his generation who could make that claim. He was a man driven by success; he sat at the feet of some of the best scholars of his time. He was a leader among the Pharisees; he had accolades, he had diplomas, he had degrees, he had position, he had power. Nevertheless, he concluded, “I count all of it as rubbish.

Thank God for the past, but the past is not going to become my identity. My identity is in Christ. I do not want to know anything but Him; I do not want any power but His” (see Philippians 3:7–9). Many believers today find their whole identity in their success outside of Christ—in their diplomas, their occupation, what they used to be. When they meet with people, all they talk about is themselves and what they have accomplished. It is because their identity is not yet fully in Christ.

Sometimes it takes as much grace to walk away from success as it does from sorrow. Of course, this does not mean we must now go and burn all our diplomas, it just means that they are not our identity anymore. Thank God for them, but our identity is Christ and Him alone. The strength, grace, direction, compassion, and power we have is all Christ in us, the hope of glory.

Press On

Once we learn to leave behind our regrets and successes, we can “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). The call of God is higher than anything offered in this world. Paul described it this way: “That I may know Him, that I may know the power of His resurrection, that I may know the fellowship of His sufferings, that I may be made conformable even to death if necessary. That I might win Him and be won of Him for the purpose for which He laid hold of me!” (see Philippians 3:10–11).

In other words, “I want to be able to yield up my will, my comforts, and even my life so that I can know the power of God. I want to experience the full measure of His resurrection life in my own life. If it leads me to suffering, let it lead me there, so long as I am conformed to the One who went to a cross for me. I do not want to be cut short on this journey, for I recognize that Jesus died for me and left me here to live for others. The very life of Christ lived inside of me—accompanied by His power, vision, and giftings—is to flow through my life for the sake of others!”

I hope that this walk Paul described is your desire today. Yes, it might be a difficult path, often accompanied with a measure of sorrow, but there is truly no better way to live. By the grace and power of God within us, let us leave behind our regrets and successes and reach forward to this incredible calling that is ours in Christ. Let us allow the Lord to lead us the full distance for the sake of others who still need to know Him!

Carter Conlon ©2018 Times Square Church

Courtesy of http://tsc.nyc/sermons/48661_sermon-newsletter-201809-leaving-my-regrets-and-my-successes.pdf

 

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The Call to Love: The Wonders of God’s Love in Action

1Corinthians 13:4 Love is patientlove is kind and is not jealouslove does not brag and is not arrogant (NASB: Lockman)

Amplified: Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. (Amplified Bible – Lockman)

KJV: Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

NLT: Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud (NLT – Tyndale House)

Phillips: – This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience – it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance. (Phillips: Touchstone)

Wuest: Love meekly and patiently bears ill treatment from others. Love is kind, gentle, benign, pervading and penetrating the whole nature, mellowing all which would have been harsh and austere; is not envious. Love does not brag, nor does it show itself off, is not ostentatious, does not have an inflated ego, (Eerdmans)

Young’s Literal: The love is long-suffering, it is kind, the love doth not envy, the love doth not vaunt itself, is not puffed up,


LOVE IS PATIENT: E agape makrothumei, (2SPAI): (Proverbs 10:122Corinthians 6:6Galatians 5:22Ephesians 4:2Colossians 1:113:122Timothy 2:253:102Timothy 4:2James 3:171Peter 4:8)

Spurgeon – Always try to put the best construction on other people’s actions and work. Let gentleness triumph.

Keep Paul’s flow of thought in mind…

The Primacy
of Love
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
The Perfection
of Love
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
The Permanence
of Love
1 Corinthians 13:8-13

Here are some of the ways this verse has been translated…

Love is never tired of waiting; love is kind; love has no envy; love has no high opinion of itself, love has no pride (BBE)

Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head (The Message)

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions. (Proverbs 10:12)

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. (1Pe 4:8note)

with all humility and gentleness, with patience (makrothumia noun form of “patient” below), showing forbearance to one another in love (Eph 4:2note)

And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness (chrestotes = gives us what we need & related to word for kindness below), humility, gentleness and patience (makrothumia = a “long fuse” before it “blows!”) (Col 3:12note)

Paul had given Timothy an example and encouraged him by saying…

you followed (like a disciple) my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience (makrothumia), love, perseverance (see note 2 Timothy 3:10)

Paul went on to tell Timothy to preach with patience writing…

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience (literally “all patience” makrothumia) and instruction. (see note 2 Timothy 4:2)

You will observe that agape “love” is defined by verbs rather than adjectives–by what it does, instead of what it is. Note also that love is not a feeling and as you survey Paul’s description of agape love, you note that there is not stress on personal feeling. The kind of love Paul is talking about is seen and experienced and demonstrated.

Paul begins with 2 positive aspect of love love is patient, love is kind. The first is passive—not retaliating. The second is active—bestowing benefits. This twofold opening statement stands as a daily challenge to every Christian! But the “descriptive definition” does not stop here but is followed with a series of primarily negative aspects of love, each preceded by the negative particle in the Greek which conveys absolute negation—love never brags, is never arrogant, etc! This description of agape should drive every believer to the foot of the Cross and to a complete surrender to our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the perfect fulfillment of agape and Who Alone by His Spirit’s filling and control can enable us to work out this aspect of our salvation in fear and trembling to the glory of His Father. Amen!

Remember the context of the preceding three verses of this “crown jewel” of Holy Scripture for there we learn that love is indispensable and is more important than eloquent communication, spiritual gifts, or personal sacrifice. We may have all the trappings of true religion but if we don’t have love, we don’t have anything at all.

The Corinthians were impatient with each other, suing each other, tolerating sin in the church, and creating problems because they did not have love. Paul emphasizes that whatever gifts and/or qualities a believer may posses, they are nothing without love.

A T Robertson says that 1Corinthians 13:4-7 pictures

the character or conduct of love in marvellous rhapsody. (1 Corinthians 13)

Chrysostom adds that here Paul…

makes an outline of love’s matchless beauty, adorning its image with all aspects of virtue, as if with many colors brought together with precision.

Phillips has a pithy paraphrase…

This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience – it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.

Pfeiffer has an interesting comment writing that…

One might almost say that love is personified here, since the description is practically a description of the life and character of Jesus Christ. However, the picture is directly related to the Corinthians. The observance of the truths of this chapter, as will be noted in the following remarks, would have solved their problems. (Pfeiffer, C F: Wycliffe Bible Commentary. 1981. Moody)

Hodge introduces this famous passage noting that…

Almost all the instructions of the New Testament are suggested by some occasion and are adapted to it. This chapter is not a methodical dissertation on Christian love, but shows that grace is contrasted with the extraordinary gifts that the Corinthians valued inordinately. Therefore, the traits of love that are mentioned are those that contrasted with the Corinthians’ use of their gifts. They were impatient, discontented, envious, puffed up, selfish, indecorous, unmindful of the feelings or interests of others, suspicious, resentful, censorious. The apostle personifies love and places her before them and lists her graces not in logical order but as they occurred to him in contrast to the deformities of character that the Corinthians displayed. (Hodge, C. 1 Corinthians)

Wiersbe suggest that the careful inductive student read 1Corinthians 13:4-7

and compare this with the fruit of the Spirit listed in Gal 5:22noteGal 5:23note. You will see that all of the characteristics of love show up in that fruit. This is why love edifies: it releases the power of the Spirit in our lives and churches. (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor)

I like the practical way Joseph Beet explains the “patience” demonstrated through a man or woman (husband or wife) who is filled with the Spirit (Ep 5:18note compare filled with the Word in Col 3:16note) that they might be enabled to exude the fragrant fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22noteGal 5:23note), i.e., agape love which…

continues in spite of conduct likely to quench it. This continuance often, but not always, shows itself in restraining anger. Hence, in the Bible, the word is often (Ro 2:4noteRo 9:22note etc.) used in this connection. (A Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistles to the Corinthians – Online Version)

Love (26) (agape) is unconditional, sacrificial love and a love that God is (1Jn 4:8,16), that God shows (Jn 3:161Jn 4:9) and which God gives by means of His Spirit’s production in the heart of a yielded saint, the constituent elements of this fruit being described by Paul in this famous section of Scripture. Agape is the caring, self-sacrificing commitment which shows itself in seeking the highest good of the one loved. Jesus Christ, in His sacrificial death on the Cross, is clearly the epitome and embodiment of agape love.

Agape is a love which impels the one loving to sacrifice himself for the benefit of the person loved. God’s love must be seen in full bloom in the life of every disciple of Christ.

Agape love is the love of choice, the love of serving with humility, the highest kind of love, the noblest kind of devotion, the love of the will (intentional, a conscious choice) which is not motivated by superficial appearance, emotional attraction, or sentimental relationship. Agape is not based on pleasant emotions or good feelings that might result from a physical attraction or a familial bond. Agape chooses as an act of self-sacrifice to serve the recipient. From all of the descriptions of agape love, it is clear that true agape love is a sure mark of salvation and in fact is impossible to carry out unless one is genuinely born again.

Agape love does not depend on the world’s criteria for “love”. Nevertheless, believers can fall into the trap of blindly following the world’s demand that a lover feel positive toward the beloved. This is not agape love, but is a love based on impulse. Impulsive love characterizes the spouse who announces to the other spouse that they are planning to divorce their mate. Why? They reason “I can’t help it. I fell in love with another person!” Christians must understand that this type of impulsive love is completely contrary to God’s decisive love, which is decisive because He is in control and has a purpose in mind. There are many reasons a proper understanding of the truth of God’s word (and of the world’s lie) is critical and one of the foremost is Jesus’ declaration that

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love (agape) for one another. (John 13:35). (Comment: Agape is the badge of discipleship and the landmark of heaven! (Jn 13:35). )

Agape in the Greek classics spoke of a love called out of one’s heart by the preciousness of the object loved. This is the idea inherent in the Father’s proclamation “This is My beloved Son… ” Agape is the love that was shown at Calvary. Thus agape is God’s love, and is the love that God is. It is not human affection but is a divine love, commanded by God, produced as fruit in the heart of a surrendered saint by the Holy Spirit (God Who is at work in us to will and to work to His good pleasure) (Ro 55-noteGal 5:22note), self-sacrificial in nature seeking the benefit of the one who is loved, a love which means death to self and defeat for sin since the essence of sin is self-will and self-gratification, a love activated by personal choice of our will (working out our salvation in fear and trembling) not based on our feelings toward the object of our love and manifested by specific actions as described in this section of 1Corinthians 13:4-7 where we see “love in action.”

Bible.org – The Greek word agape (love) seems to have been virtually a Christian invention—a new word for a new thing (apart from about twenty occurrences in the Greek version of the Old Testament, it is almost non-existent before the New Testament). Agape draws its meaning directly from the revelation of God in Christ. It is not a form of natural affection, however, intense, but a supernatural fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). It is a matter of will rather than feeling (for Christians must love even those they dislike—Matt. 5:44-48). It is the basic element in Christlikeness. (1 Corinthians 13)

Agape may involve emotion, but it must always involve actionAgape is unrestricted, unrestrained, and unconditional. Agape love is the virtue that surpasses all others and in fact is the prerequisite for all the others. Jesus when asked

Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” replied ”You shall love (agapao – related verb) the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment.” (Mt 22:36-38)

John MacArthur explains that

Agape love is the greatest virtue of the Christian life. Yet that type of love was rare in pagan Greek literature. That’s because the traits agape portrays—unselfishness, self-giving, willful devotion, concern for the welfare of others—were mostly disdained in ancient Greek culture as signs of weakness. However, the New Testament declares agape to be the character trait around which all others revolve. The apostle John writes, “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16). (MacArthur, J. The Power of Integrity : Building a Life Without Compromise, page 133. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books) (Bolding added)

F B Meyer wrote the following regarding agape love

Wherever there is true love, there must be giving, and giving to the point of sacrifice. Love is not satisfied with giving trinkets; it must give at the cost of sacrifice: it must give blood, life, all. And it was so with the love of God. “He so loved the world, that He gave his only-begotten Son.” “Christ also loved and gave Himself up, an offering and a sacrifice to God.” (See note Ephesians 5:2)

We are to imitate God’s love in Christ. The love that gives, that counts no cost too great, and, in sacrificing itself for others, offers all to God, and does all for His sake. Such was the love of Jesus–sweet to God, as the scent of fields of new-mown grass in June; and this must be our model.

Not to those who love us, but who hate; not to those who are pleasant and agreeable, but who repel; not because our natural feelings are excited, but because we will to minister, even to the point of the cross, must our love go out. And every time we thus sacrifice ourselves to another for the sake of the love of God, we enter into some of the meaning of the sacrifice of Calvary, and there is wafted up to God the odour of a sweet smell. (Devotional Commentary on Ephesians)

Kenneth Wuest describes agape love noting that…

Agape is a love that impels one to sacrifice one’s self for the benefit of the object loved… (it) speaks of a love which is awakened by a sense of value in the object loved, an apprehension of its preciousness.

Wuest explains that phileo love is “an unimpassioned love, a friendly love. It is a love that is called out of one’s heart as a response to the pleasure one takes in a person or object. It is based upon an inner community between the person loving and the person or object loved. That is, both have things in common with one another. The one loving finds a reflection of his own nature in the person or thing loved. It is a love of liking, an affection for someone or something that is the outgoing of one’s heart in delight to that which affords pleasure. The Greeks made much of friendship, and this word was used by them to designate this form of mutual attraction.”… “We gather, therefore, that agape is a love of devotion (Ed note: and volition), while phileō is a love of emotion. There is another distinction we must be careful to note, and that is that agape is love that has ethical qualities about it, obligations, responsibilities, where phileō is a non-ethical love, making no ethical demands upon the person loving.

In contrasting phileo and agape love, we might say that the former is a love of pleasure, the latter a love of preciousness; the former a love of delight, the latter a love of esteem; the former a love called out of the heart by the apprehension of pleasurable qualities in the object loved, the latter a love called out of the heart by the apprehension of valuable qualities in the object loved; the former takes pleasure in, the latter ascribes value to; the former is a love of liking, the latter a love of prizing.

(Agape is) a love that denies self for the benefit of the object loved.

(Agape describes the) love of the Spirit-filled husband, purified and made heavenly in character.

(Agape is) the love which the Holy Spirit sheds abroad in the heart of the yielded believer (see note Romans 5:5)

The saint is to order his behavior or manner of life within the sphere of this divine, supernatural (agape) love produced in his heart by the Holy Spirit. When this love becomes the deciding factor in his choices and the motivating power in his actions, he will be walking in love. He will be exemplifying in his life the self-sacrificial love shown at Calvary and the Christian graces mentioned in 1Co 13:4-8.” (It is) a love that is willing to sacrifice one’s self for the benefit of that brother, a love that causes one to be long suffering toward him, a love that makes one treat him kindly, a love that so causes one to rejoice in the welfare of another that there is no room for envy in the heart, a love that is not jealous, a love that keeps one from boasting of one’s self, a love that keeps one from bearing one’s self in a lofty manner, a love that keeps one from acting unbecomingly, a love that keeps one from seeking one’s own rights, a love that keeps one from becoming angry, a love that does not impute evil, a love that does not rejoice in iniquity but in the truth, a love that bears up against all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. That is the kind of love which God says one Christian should have for another.”

(Agape love) speaks of a love which is awakened by a sense of value in an object which causes one to prize it. It springs from an apprehension of the preciousness of an object. It is a love of esteem and approbation. The quality of this love is determined by the character of the one who loves, and that of the object loved. (In Jn 3:16) God’s love for a sinful and lost race springs from His heart in response to the high value He places upon each human soul. Every sinner is exceedingly precious in His sight. “Phileo” which is another word for love, a love which is the response of the human spirit to what appeals to it as pleasurable, will not do here, for there is nothing in a lost sinner that the heart of God can find pleasure in, but on the contrary, everything that His holiness rebels against. But each sinner is most precious to God, first, because he bears the image of his Creator even though that image be marred by sin, and second, because through redemption, that sinner can be conformed into the very image of God’s dear Son. This preciousness of each member of the human race to the heart of God is the constituent element of the love that gave His Son to die on the Cross. The degree of the preciousness is measured by the infinite sacrifice which God made. The love in Jn 3:16 therefore is a love whose essence is that of self-sacrifice for the benefit of the one loved, this love based upon an evaluation of the preciousness of the one loved. (Wuest, K. S. Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans) (Bolding added)

John MacArthur has numerous excellent comments regarding agape love…

We have no capacity to generate (agape love) on our own. The Greek word for that kind of love is agape, and it is characterized by humility, obedience to God, and self-sacrifice. (MacArthur, J. Drawing near: August 3. 2002. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books)

Biblical agapē love is not an emotion but a disposition of the heart to seek the welfare and meet the needs of others. “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends,” Jesus said (John 15:13). And that is exactly what Jesus Himself did on behalf of those God has chosen to be saved. In the ultimate divine act of love, God determined before the foundation of the earth that He would give His only Son to save us.” (MacArthur, J: Ephesians. 1986. Chicago: Moody Press)

(AgapeLove is an attitude of selflessness. Biblical agape love is a matter of the will and not a matter of feeling or emotion, though deep feelings and emotions almost always accompany love. God’s loving the world was not a matter simply of feeling; it resulted in His sending His only Son to redeem the world (Jn 3:16). Love is self-less giving, always self-less and always giving. It is the very nature and substance of love to deny self and to give to others… We can only have such love when Christ is free to work His own love through us. We cannot fulfill any of Christ’s commands without Christ Himself, least of all His command to love. We can only love as Christ loves when He has free reign in our hearts… When the Spirit empowers our lives and Christ is obeyed as the Lord of our hearts, our sins and weaknesses are dealt with and we find ourselves wanting to serve others, wanting to sacrifice for them and serve them—because Christ’s loving nature has truly become our own. Loving is the supernatural attitude of the Christian, because love is the nature of Christ. When a Christian does not love he has to do so intentionally and with effort—just as he must do to hold his breath. To become habitually unloving he must habitually resist Christ as the Lord of his heart. To continue the analogy to breathing, when Christ has his proper place in our hearts, we do not have to be told to love—just as we do not have to be told to breathe. Eventually it must happen, because loving is as natural to the spiritual person as breathing is to the natural person. Though it is unnatural for the Christian to be unloving, it is still possible to be disobedient in regard to love. Just as loving is determined by the will and not by circumstances or other people, so is not loving. If a husband fails in his love for his wife, or she for him, it is never because of the other person, regardless of what the other person may have done. You do not fall either into or out of agape love, because it is controlled by the will. Romantic love can be beautiful and meaningful, and we find many favorable accounts of it in Scripture. But it is agape love that God commands husbands and wives to have for each other (Ep 5:252833-see notes Ephesians 5:252833 cf. Titus 2:4note; etc.)—the love that each person controls by his own act of will. Strained relations between husbands and wives, between fellow workers, between brothers and sisters, or between any others is never a matter of incompatibility or personality conflict but is always a matter of sin… Loving others is an act of obedience, and not loving them is an act of disobedience. (Ibid)

“The absence of (agapelove is the presence of sin. The absence of love has nothing at all to do with what is happening to us, but everything to do with what is happening in us. Sin and love are enemies, because sin and God are enemies. They cannot coexist. Where one is, the other is not. The loveless life is the ungodly life; and the godly life is the serving, caring, tenderhearted, affectionate, self–giving, self–sacrificing life of Christ’s love working through the believer. (Ibid)

Agape love centers on the needs and welfare of the one loved and will pay whatever personal price is necessary to meet those needs and foster that welfare.” (MacArthur, J: Romans 1-8. Chicago: Moody Press; MacArthur, J: Romans 9-16. Chicago: Moody Press)

Agape is the love that gives. There’s no taking involved. It is completely unselfish. It seeks the highest good for another no matter what the cost, demonstrated supremely by Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.” (MacArthur, J. Saved Without A Doubt. Wheaton, Ill.: May, 2006. Victor Books)

Forbearing love could only be agape love, because only agape love gives continuously and unconditionally. Eros love is essentially self–love, because it cares for others only because of what it can get from them. It is the love that takes and never gives. Philia love is primarily reciprocal love, love that gives as long as it receives. But agape love is unqualified and unselfish love, love that willingly gives whether it receives in return or not. It is unconquerable benevolence, invincible goodness—love that goes out even to enemies and prays for its persecutors (Mt 5:43noteMt 5:44note). That is why the forbearance of which Paul speaks here could only be expressed in agape love.” (MacArthur, J: Ephesians. 1986. Chicago: Moody Press)

Giving of oneself to others is the epitome of agape love. Biblical love is not a pleasant emotion or good feeling about someone, but the giving of oneself for his welfare (cf. 1 John 3:16). Divine love is unconditional love, love that depends entirely on the one who loves and not on the merit, attractiveness, or response of the one loved. Christ did not simply have a deep feeling and emotional concern for mankind. Nor did He sacrifice Himself for us because we were deserving. God’s love, and all love that is like His, loves for the sake of giving, not getting With conditional love, if the conditions are not met there is no obligation to love. If we do not get, we do not give. But God’s makes no conditions for His love to us and commands that we love others without conditions. There is no way to earn God’s love or to deserve it by reason of human goodness. Romantic, emotional love between husband and wife ebbs and flows, and sometimes disappears altogether. But loss of romantic love is never an appropriate excuse for dissolving a marriage, because the love that God specifically commands husbands to have for their wives is agape love (see notes Ephesians 5:25Ephesians 3:19; cf. notes Titus 2:4; etc.)—love like His own undeserved love for us, love that is based on willful choice in behalf of the one loved, regardless of emotions, attraction, or deserving. Romantic love enhances and beautifies the relationship between husband and wife, but the binding force of a Christian marriage is God’s own kind of love, the love that loves because it is the divine nature to love. It is the love of giving, not of getting; and even when it ceases to get, it continues to give. Where there is the sacrificial love of willful choice, there is also likely to be the love of intimacy, feeling, and friendship (philia)… Those who are given God’s nature through Jesus Christ are commanded to love as God loves. In Christ, it is now our nature to love just as it is God’s nature to love—because His nature is now our nature. For a Christian not to love is for him to live against his own nature as well as against God’s. Lovelessness is therefore more than a failure or shortcoming. It is sin, willful disobedience of God’s command and disregard of His example.” (MacArthur, J: Ephesians. 1986. Chicago: Moody Press)

Agape is impossible for unconverted to manifest this divine love & in fact it is impossible even for a believer to demonstrate it in his own strength. It can only be exhibited by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. A believer has this love (divine nature) within (Col 1:27note) and it is progressively manifest more and more as fruit by the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22) as we obey God’s truth. Agape love willingly engages in self-sacrificing action to procure the loved one’s highest good.

Love’s perfect expression on earth is the Lord Jesus Christ and He defines this sacrificial love for He left heaven, came to earth, took on a human form, was spit on and mocked, was crowned with a crown of thorns, nailed to a cross, abused, and had a spear thrust into His side. He loved the church enough to die for her. That’s sacrificial love.

Donald W. Burdick gives the following excellent summary of agape love:

It is spontaneous. There was nothing of value in the persons loved that called forth such sacrificial love. God of His own free will set His love on us in spite of our enmity and sin. [Agapeis love that is initiated by the lover because he wills to love, not because of the value or lovableness of the person loved. [Agape] is self-giving. and is not interested in what it can gain, but in what it can give. It is not bent on satisfying the lover, but on helping the one loved whatever the cost. [Agape] is active and is not mere sentiment cherished in the heart. Nor is it mere words however eloquent. It does involve feeling and may express itself in words, but it is primarily an attitude toward another that moves the will to act in helping to meet the need of the one loved. (Burdick, D W: The Letters of John the Apostle (Chicago: Moody, 1985, page 351)

As noted below Barclay has labeled agape as unconquerable benevolence for nothing the other person can do will make us seek anything but their highest good and to never feel bitterness or desire for revenge. Though the one loved even injure us and insult us, agape will never feel anything but kindness towards him. Agape gives & gives & gives. Agape takes slaps in the face and still gives even as Jesus did saying Father forgive them. Agapeis not withheld. That clearly means that this Christian love is not an emotional or sentimental thing. It is the ability to retain unconquerable goodwill to the unlovely and the unlovable, towards those who do not love us, and even towards those whom we do not like.

William Barclay notes that agape indicates an…

unconquerable benevolence, invincible goodwill… If we regard a person with agape, it means that no matter what that person does to us, no matter how he treats us, no matter if he insults us or injures us or grieves us, we will never allow any bitterness against him to invade our hearts, but will regard him with that unconquerable benevolence and goodwill which will seek nothing but his highest good.”… In the case of our nearest and our dearest we cannot help loving them; we speak of falling in love; it is something which comes to us quite unsought; it is something which is born of the emotions of the heart. But in the case of our enemies, (agapelove is not only something of the heart; it is also something of the will. It is not something which we cannot help; it is something which we have to will ourselves into doing (Ed note: enabled by the Spirit Whose “fruit” in yielded believers is “agape love”). It is in fact a victory over that which comes instinctively to the natural man. Agape does not mean a feeling of the heart, which we cannot help, and which comes unbidden and unsought; it means a determination of the mind, whereby we achieve this unconquerable goodwill even to those who hurt and injure us. Agape, someone has said, is the power to love those whom we do not like and who may not like us. In point of fact we can only have agape when Jesus Christ enables us to conquer our natural tendency to anger and to bitterness, and to achieve this invincible goodwill to all men.

Agape, is that unconquerable benevolence, that undefeatable good-will, which will never seek anything but the highest good of others, no matter what they do to us, and no matter how they treat us. That love can come to us only when Christ, Who is that love, comes to dwell within our hearts… ”

(Agape) … will never dream of revenge, but will meet all injuries and rebuffs with undefeatable good will. Agapeis that quality of mind and heart which compels a Christian never to feel any bitterness, never to feel any desire for revenge, but always to seek the highest good of every man no matter what he may be. If a man has agape, no matter what other people do to him or say of him, he will seek nothing but their good. He will never be bitter, never resentful, never vengeful; he will never allow himself to hate; he will never refuse to forgive.

Love, agape, is the virtue of the man who, even if he tried, could not forget what God has done for him nor the love of God to men.

Agape is the word for Christian love. Agape is not passion with its ebb and flow, its flicker and its flame; nor is it an easy-going and indulgent sentimentalism. And it is not an easy thing to acquire or a light thing to exercise. Agape is undefeatable goodwill; it is the attitude towards others which, no matter what they do, will never feel bitterness and will always seek their highest good. There is a love which seeks to possess; there is a love which softens and enervates; there is a love which withdraws a man from the battle; there is a love which shuts its eyes to faults and to ways which end in ruin. But Christian love will always seek the highest good of others and will accept all the difficulties, all the problems and all the toil which search involves. (1 Corinthians 13 Commentary) (Bolding added)

F. E. Marsh writes that…

Love has not an irritating thorn in its hand, nor a jealous look in its eye, nor depreciating words on its lips, nor sore feelings in its heart. Love sees the best in others, and the worst in itself. Love will wash another’s feet, and think it is honored by so doing

A Peanuts cartoon shows Lucy standing with her arms folded and a stern expression on her face. Charlie Brown pleads, “Lucy, you must be more loving. This world really needs love. You have to let yourself love to make this world a better place.” Lucy angrily whirls around and knocks Charlie Brown to the ground. She screams at him, “Look, Blockhead, the world I love. It’s people I can’t stand.”

Bible.org – 1 Corinthians 13

1. God’s Love Is Incarnational – God entered into our world and demonstrated love in a way we could visualize – understand. We must go where young people are and where they live out their lives. This in itself will demonstrate to our young people our love for them.

2. God’s Love Is Patient – We must not make impatient demands but allow young people to grow at their own pace.

3. God’s Love Is Kind – We must be gentle and sensitive to the needs and hurts of young people. We must allow them to be teenagers and not demand that they be something else.

4. God’s Love Is Not Jealous – Our supreme concern must be for our young people’s growth and not that they just attend our youth program or our activities.

5. God’s Love Does Not Brag and Is Not Arrogant – We must not spend our energies building up ourselves, but remember that servanthood is making the other person successful.

6. God’s Love Does Not Act Unbecomingly – We are not to try to act like teenagers. Teens do not want leaders who act like them, but leaders who act like leaders.

7. God’s Love Does Not Seek Its Own – Our desire must be to put others first. If we cannot do this then we cannot expect our young people to do it either.

8. God’s Love Is Not Provoked – At times this becomes a great difficulty, but we must learn as the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 2. He stated that in every disappointment he learned to use that situation to reaffirm love for the person who disappoints him.

9. God’s Love Does Not Take Into Account a Wrong Suffered – Jesus suffered much wrong and rejection and we, too, must be willing to experience that same suffering.

10. God’s Love Rejoices With the Truth – Our young people will easily see our values by what we get most excited about.

11. God’s Love Bears and Believes All Things – We must expect the best and see people as God sees people – for the potential they can become with Christ’s help.

12. God’s Love Hopes All Things – We need to memorize Philippians 4:8 and recite it daily to ourselves.

13. God’s Love Endures All Things – Many heartaches will come our way, and the desire to give up and quit will often pass through our minds. But God’s love for us endures even our shortcomings. How can we do any less’ (1 Corinthians 13 – Bible.org)

Tertullian the early disciple wrote,

It is our care for the helpless, our practice of lovingkindness, that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents. ‘Look!’ they say, ‘How they love one another!’ Look how they are prepared to die for one another.”

People do not care how much we know
until they know how much we care
.

Is patient (3114) (makrothumeo from makros = long, distant, far off, large + thumos = temper, passion, emotion or thumoomai = to be furious or burn with intense anger) (See study of related word makrothumia) literally describes prolonged restraint of thumos, of emotion, anger or agitation. It means one’s temper is long (as opposed to “short tempered) and does not give way to a short or quick temper toward those who fail. It describes holding out of the mind for a long time before it gives room to action or passion. The picture of this word is that of a person in whom it takes a long time before fuming and breaking into flames!

Trench adds that this word refers to one who has the power to avenge himself and yet refrains from exercising this power.

Makrothumeo describes manifesting a state of emotional calm or quietness in the face of provocation, misfortune or unfavorable circumstances. Love never says, “I’ve had enough.” It suffers indefinitely. It is longsuffering and continues in spite of conduct likely to quench it. This continuance often, but not always, shows itself in restraining anger.

Makrothumeo describes especially patience towards people who act unjustly toward us. Another verb meaning to be patient is hupomeno which describes patience under circumstances, although there can be some overlap for circumstances often involve people. In other words the emphasis of makrothumeo is not so much a call to patience with circumstances as to patience with people. The action indicated by both verbs is essential to development of our Christian character, for patience with people is just as important as patience with circumstances. Patience is the righteous standard God expects all believers to conform to no matter what person he places (or allows) into your life or whatever trying circumstance you might face.

NIDNTT has an interesting note on the noun makrothymia

Positively it expresses persistence, or an unswerving willingness to await events rather than trying to force them. Although perseverance and persistence were familiar to the Stoics, and were, in fact, highly valued by them, makrothymia does not figure in their vocabulary. This was possibly because of the widespread though erroneous belief that its basic idea was one of passive resignation. It must be said that in ancient Greece makrothymia is concerned primarily with the moulding of a man’s own character; it is not a virtue exercised towards one’s fellows. (Brown, Colin, Editor. New International Dictionary of NT Theology. 1986. Zondervan)

Vine has this note on makrothumeo writing that…

Longsuffering is that quality of self-restraint in the fact of provocation which does not hastily retaliate nor promptly punish; it is the opposite of anger and is associated with mercy, and is used of God, Exodus 34:6, LXX; Romans 2:4 (note); 1 Peter 3:20 (note). (Vine, W. Collected writings of W. E. Vine. Nashville: Thomas Nelson)

Richards adds that the word group makrothumeo and makrothumia…

focuses our attention on restraint: that capacity for self-control despite circumstances that might arouse the passions or cause agitation. In personal relationships, patience is forbearance. This is not so much a trait as a way of life. We keep on loving or forgiving despite provocation, as illustrated in Jesus’ pointed stories in Mt 18. (Richards, L O: Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Regency)

Makrothumeo is found 2 times in the Septuagint (LXX) (Job 7:16Proverbs 19:11) and times in the NT…

Pr 19:11 A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger (LXX = A merciful man is long-suffering), And it is his glory to overlook a transgression.

Matthew 18:26 “The slave therefore falling down, prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience(aorist imperative) with me, and I will repay you everything.’ 29 “So his fellow slave fell down and began to entreat him, saying, ‘Have patience (aorist imperative) with me and I will repay you.’

Luke 18:7 now shall not God bring about justice for His elect, who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant (Comment: Patience with an element of constraint and thus forbearing).

1Thessalonians 5:14 (note) And we urge you, brethren, admonish (present imperative) the unruly, encourage (present imperative) the fainthearted, help (present imperative) the weak, be patient (present imperative) (makrothumeo) with all men.

Hebrews 6:15 (note) And thus, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise.

James 5:7 Be patient, (aorist imperative) therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient (present tense) about it, until it gets the early and late rains. 8 You too be patient, (aorist imperative); strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. (Comment: In this context makrothumeo includes not just being patient but with an element of expectancy. The idea is to remain tranquil while waiting.).

2 Peter 3:9 (note) The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patienttoward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Hodge writes that love is

slow to be roused to resentment. It patiently bears with provocation and is not quick to assert its rights or to resent an injury. (Ibid)

Makrothumeo means to be longsuffering, slow to anger, slow to punish, exhibiting the element of restraint, forbearing and not seeking to retaliate. It is the ability to be inconvenienced or taken advantage of by a person over and over again and yet not be upset or angry! It demonstrates a willingness to take someone’s unpleasant character traits in stride and to exhibit enduring patience. As God is forbearing with us (see note Romans 2:4), so we must tolerate our fellow man. Writing to the saints at Ephesus Paul exhorted them…

Therefore (because God in Christ also has forgiven you) be imitators of God, as beloved children and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. (See notes Ephesians 5:15:2)

It is fascinating to note that in the Greek world self-sacrificing love and non-avenging patience were considered weaknesses, unworthy of the noble man or woman. Aristotle, for example, taught that the great Greek virtue was refusal to tolerate insult or injury and to strike back in retaliation for the slightest offense. Vengeance was actually considered a virtue! The world has always tended to make heroes of those who fight back, who stand up for their welfare and rights above all else.

Lenski notes that…

Only “longsuffering,” makrothumia and never hupomone is naturally ascribed also to God. Men may resist and antagonize God and thus arouse him to anger. When he withholds his anger he “suffers long.” Mere things cannot arouse God; trials, tribulations, persecutions do not apply to God, hence he cannot manifest hupomone, literally, “remaining under.” When Paul thus names the ability to suffer long as the first feature of love, we should note that this is a Godlike feature. The world is full of evil men, and even in our brethren much evil meets us. When this evil strikes us, and our natural reaction would be resentment, indignation, anger, bitter words, blows perhaps, then love steps in, “suffers long,” keeps calm, endures, and does this continually no matter how long the offense may persist. (Lenski, R. C. H. The interpretation of St. Paul’s First and Second epistle to the Corinthians. Minneapolis, MN.: Augsburg Publishing House)

Barnett notes that makrothumeo

is a metaphorical word, literally ‘long burning’, as of a decent log burning for many hours in an open fire, as contrasted with light pine kindling that fizzes and sputters, sending showers of sparks in all directions. (Barnett, P. W. Focus on the Bible: 1 Corinthians)

Makrothumeo focuses our attention on the idea of restraint or the capacity for self-control (Spirit control for believer) despite circumstances that might arouse the passions or cause agitation. In personal relationships, patience is forbearance. This is a way of life especially as highlighted by Paul’s use of the present tense (calls for continuous action) a characteristic action made possible by the Spirit for…

the fruit of the Spirit is (present tenselove (agape), joy, peace, patience (related noun makrothumia), kindness(chrestotes), goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Pritchard explains that selfless love that is always patient…

describes the person who has been wronged, who has it within his power to get even, but chooses not to use that power. During the early days of the Civil War, Edwin Stanton was outspoken in his criticism of Abraham Lincoln. He held Lincoln in utter contempt, calling him a gorilla and a cunning clown. Although he knew about the slanders, Lincoln never retaliated. And when the time came to choose someone to oversee the war effort, Lincoln chose Stanton. When asked why, he simply replied, “Because he is the best man for the job.” After the president was assassinated in April 1865, Stanton stood weeping over Lincoln’s body and declared: “There lies the greatest ruler of men the world has ever seen.” Patient love won in the end! (Why Love Has a Bad Memory – sermon by Dr. Ray Pritchard)

An early church father, Chrysostom said that makrothumeo

is a word which is used of the man who is wronged and who has it easily in his power to avenge himself but will never do it.

Makrothumeo expresses the capacity to be wronged and not retaliate. It is the ability to hold one’s feeling in restraint or bear up under the oversights and wrongs afflicted by others without retaliating. It is manifest by the quality of forbearance under provocation. The related noun makrothumia is used of God’s patience toward sinful men (see note Romans 2:4) and of the attitude which Christians are to display.

Patience, long-suffering or being slow to anger is an attribute of God (Ex 34:6Nu 14:18; see Ro 2:4note1Pe 3:20note). In many places, God’s people are called upon to be patient (see notes Eph 4:2noteCol 3:12note1Th 5:14note).

The person exhibits makrothumeo who bears with annoyances or inconveniences without complaint and does not lose its temper when provoked but instead steadily perseveres.

Regarding the character of love that “Suffereth long, and is kind” the Pulpit Commentary writes that

Passively it endures; actively it does good. It endures evils; it confers blessings. (1 Corinthians 13 Commentary )

J Vernon McGee writes that the idea is

“long-burning”—it burns a long time. We shouldn’t have a short fuse with our friends and Christian brethren. We shouldn’t make snap judgments.” (McGee, J V: Thru the Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson)

Evans writes that this word group (makrothumeo, makrothumia)

could be translated “large emotions,” signifying wells of endurance that will not dry up, no matter how much is drawn from them. The Christian with this patience will have refreshing water to sustain continual effectiveness even in the face of unrelenting pressures. Those with such patience and faith are those who receive or “inherit the promises.” (Briscoe, D. S., & Ogilvie, L. J. The Preacher’s Commentary Series, New Testament. 2003; Thomas Nelson)

Matthew Henry describes the makrothumeo of love noting that…

It can endure evil, injury, and provocation, without being filled with resentment, indignation, or revenge. It makes the mind firm, gives it power over the angry passions, and furnishes it with a persevering patience, that shall rather wait and wish for the reformation of a brother than fly out in resentment of his conduct. It will put up with many slights and neglects from the person it loves, and wait long to see the kindly effects of such patience on him.

Wesley wrote that…

The love of God, and of our neighbour for God’s sake, is patient toward, all men. It, suffers all the weakness, ignorance, errors, and infirmities of the children of God; all the malice and wickedness of the children of the world: and all this, not only for a time, but to the end. And in every step toward overcoming evil with good, it is kind, soft, mild, benign. It inspires the sufferer at once with the most amiable sweetness, and the most fervent and tender affection. ( Wesley, J. Wesley’s Notes)

Pastor Steven Cole writes that in this section Paul teaches us that…

Selfless love is the priority for every Christian. These verses are the most eloquent and profound words ever written on the subject of love. To comment on its parts is a bit like giving a botany lecture on a beautiful flower–if you’re not careful you lose the beauty and impact of it. In verses 1-3 he shows the preeminence of love, that love is greater than all spiritual gifts because without love, gifts are empty. In verses 4-7 he shows the practice of love, how love is greater than all spiritual gifts because of its selfless characteristics. In verses 8-13 he shows the permanence of love, that love is greater than all spiritual gifts because it outlasts them… While in English most of these words are predicate adjectives, in Greek they are verbs. Love is not talk; it is action. We’re all prone to apply verses like these to others: “My mate and my kids could sure use a lesson in love. But me? I’m basically a loving person. I’m really easy to get along with.” But I ask each of you to forget about everybody else and ask God to apply these verses to you. (Sermon on 1Corinthians 13:4-7) (Bolding added)

George Herbert (1593–1633) captures the notion of love as waiting patiently for the understanding of the beloved

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d any thing.
‘A guest,’ I answered, ‘worthy to be here.’
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, the ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.’
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes, but I?’ ”
(Herbert, Love, stanzas 1 and 2)

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Illustration of Love is patient – Paul Tan (Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations) illustrates this trait writing that during the late 1500’s, Dr. Thomas Cooper edited a dictionary with the addition of 33,000 words and many other improvements. He had already been collecting materials for eight years when his wife, a rather difficult woman, went into his study one day while he was gone and burned all of his notes under the pretense of fearing that he would kill himself with study. Eight years of work, a pile of ashes! Dr. Cooper came home, saw the destruction, and asked who had done it. His wife told him boldly that she had done it. The patient man heaved a deep sigh and said, “Oh Dinah, Dinah, thou hast given a world of trouble!” Then he quietly sat down to another eight years of hard labor, to replace the notes which she had destroyed. Next time you think you’ve arrived at being patient, Dr Cooper’s example will give you something to imitate!

LOVE IS KIND: chresteuetai (3SPMI): (Nehemiah 9:17Proverbs 19:2231:20,26Luke 6:35,36Ephesians 4:32Colossians 3:121Peter 3:82Peter 1:71John 3:1617184:11)

Love is kind – The idea is that the kind person is disposed to be useful or helpful, even seeking out the needs of the other person in order to selflessly meet those needs without expectation of being repaid in kind! This quality of love inclines one to be of good service to others.

Is kind (5541) (chresteuomai from chrestós = useful, gracious, kind and is related in turn to chráomai = to furnish what is needed) means to provide something beneficial for someone as an act of kindness. To be kind and gracious. It is an attitude of being willing to help or assist rendering gracious, well-disposed service to others. It is active goodwill. It not only feels generous, it is generous. It describes one’s “gentle in behavior” (A T Robertson) Such a person not only has the attitude of generosity but manifests it in their actions. He or she not only desires others’ welfare, but works for it.

In the second century the example of Christian love was so stunning to the pagans that they referred to Christians not as “christiani” but “chrestinai”, those made up of mildness or kindness. Would it be that such a name would be given to Christians in our day.

The present tense calls for this component of love to be a believer’s lifestyle, one that is only possible as we yield our rights to the Spirit Who controls us and brings forth this fruit.

Lenski

Trench remarks that this benignitas was predominantly the character of Christ’s ministry, which dispensed deeds of gentle kindness among all the lowly and the needy with whom he came in contact. Thus to Godlike “longsuffering” there is added Christlike “benignity.”

Paul does not describe love to us in the role of performing great, wonderful, and astounding deeds; he prefers to show us how the inner heart of love looks when it is placed among sinful men and weak and needy brethren. He does not picture love in ideal surroundings of friendship and affection where each individual embraces and kisses the other but in the hard surroundings of a bad world and a faulty church where distressing influences bring out the positive power and value of love. (Ibid)

Although this is the sole NT use of chresteuomai, it is interesting to see a use by Clement of Rome who wrote an epistle to the Corinthian church in which he quotes a saying of Jesus…

As you are kind, so will you be shown kindness. (1Clement 14:3)

Hodge comments that love is…

inclined to perform good deeds; it is good-natured. The root of the Greek verb means “useful,” and hence its primary sense is “disposed to be useful.” The excellence indicated here is the positive side of that already mentioned. Love is not quick to resent evil but is disposed to do good. (Ibid)

When Jesus commanded His disciples (that includes all believers beloved!), to love their enemies, He did not simply mean to feel kindly about them but to be kind to them or show kindness toward them, declaring…

And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two. (see notes Matthew 5:405:41).

The hard environment of an evil world gives love almost unlimited opportunity to exercise that sort of kindness! How are you doing in this area?

Even the English dictionary definition of kind is convicting where kind is described as affectionate, loving, of a sympathetic or helpful nature, of a forbearing nature, gentle, arising from or characterized by sympathy or forbearance or of a kind to give pleasure or relief!

Chresteuomai is not merely passive but it is actively engaged in doing good to others. It’s the picture of a person who spontaneously seeks the good for others and shows it with friendly acts. It is considerate and helpful to others, is gentle and mild and always ready to show compassion.

Matthew Henry describes this kindness as…

benign, bountiful; it is courteous and obliging. The law of kindness is in her lips; her heart is large, and her hand open. She is ready to show favours and to do good. She seeks to be useful; and not only seizes on opportunities of doing good, but searches for them. This is her general character. She is patient under injuries, and apt and inclined to do all the good offices in her power. And under these two generals all the particulars of the character may be reduced.

Spicq observes that chresteuomai

suggests the warm, generous welcome the Christian always gives his brothers … does his utmost to be thoughtful, helpful and kind, always in a pleasant way … , and confirms the element of magnanimity in agape. (Agape in the NT, St. Louis and London: Herder, 1965)

Chrysostom sees this aspect of love as that which breaks the spiral of passion, anger, and resentment by showing kindness explaining that those who love this way do so…

not only by enduring nobly, but also by soothing and comforting do they cure the sore and heal the wound of passion. ( 1Cor. Homily, 33:1)

Ray Pritchard has the following thoughts on a selfless love that is always kind writing that chresteuomaimeans…

something like “sweet usefulness.” Love is quick to help others and eager to reach out to those in need. Perhaps you’ve seen this famous quote:

“I shall pass through this world but once. Any good thing, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer it, or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

Mark Twain called kindness

“a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can read.”

He was absolutely right. Everyone can understand the language of love. It is truly the universal language, comprehended by people from every nation, by the rich and the poor, by the old and the young, by both male and female. Kindness is a universal language for it does not speak to the intellect, but directly to the heart.

In one of his news reports, Paul Harvey told about a man named Carl Coleman who was driving to work when a woman motorist, passing too close, snagged his fender with hers. Both cars stopped. The young woman surveying the damage was in tears. It was her fault, she admitted. But it was a new car… less than two days from the showroom. How was she ever going to face her husband? Mr. Coleman was sympathetic but explained they must note each other’s license number and automobile registration. The woman reached into the glove compartment of her car to retrieve the documents in an envelope. And on the first paper to tumble out, in a heavy masculine scrawl, were these words: “In case of accident, remember, Honey, it’s you I love, not the car.” (Why Love Has a Bad Memory – sermon by Dr. Ray Pritchard)

Cole writes that chresteuomai was used to describe…

mellow wine, and suggests a person who is gentle, who has an ability to soothe hurt feelings, to calm an upset person, to help quietly in practical ways. (Ibid)

MacArthur notes that…

The first test of Christian kindness, and the test of every aspect of love, is the home. The Christian husband who acts like a Christian is kind to his wife and children. Christian brothers and sisters are kind to each other and to their parents. They have more than kind feelings toward each other; they do kind, helpful things for each other—to the point of loving self–sacrifice, when necessary. For the Corinthians, kindness meant giving up their selfish, jealous, spiteful, and proud attitudes and adopting the spirit of loving–kindness. (MacArthur, J: 1Corinthians. Chicago: Moody Press)

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Dress For Success – In 1975, John Molloy wrote a book called Dress For Success, which became the fashion guidebook for many people trying to climb the corporate ladder. Molloy’s advice centered on a basic premise–always dress like your boss. Every day, for work, school, or recreation, we all have to decide what to wear. And even in the dress-down 90’s, people strive for the right look.  But we must also make choices about another wardrobe–our attitudes and actions. If we claim to be followers of Christ, our spiritual apparel is of far greater significance than our physical clothing. Take a look at God’s dress code for us. As His chosen people, we are to clothe ourselves with “kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering” (see note Colossians 3:12). We are to demonstrate patience and forgiveness (see note Colossians 3:13). And above all, we must “put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (see note Colossians 3:14). Do I begin each day by acknowledging Christ as the Person in charge, the One for whom I work? Do I take time to clothe myself with attitudes that please Him? Am I wearing what people are most longing to see–compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and love? If so, I’ll be dressed for success in God’s service. –DCM (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

O to be like Him, tender and kind,
Gentle in spirit, lowly in mind;
More like Jesus, day after day,
Filled with His Spirit, now and alway. –Ellsworth

Kindness is Christianity with its working clothes on.

AND IS NOT JEALOUS: ou zeloi, (3SPAI): (1Cor 3:3Genesis 30:137:11Matthew 27:18Romans 1:2913:132Corinthians 12:20Galatians 5:21,26Philippians 1:151Timothy 6:4Titus 3:3James 3:1415164:51Peter 2:1)

Now Paul begins a series of 8 negative definitions that do not spring from love, for love and jealousy, etc, are mutually exclusive. Where one is, the other cannot be.

Shakespeare called jealousy the “green sickness.” And even today we hear someone say “So and so is green with envy”! Love is the best antidote for jealousy in that it “does not envy”.

Is (not) jealous (2206) (zeloo from zelos [word study] = zeal in turn from zeo = boil; source of our English word “zeal”) means to be fervent, to “boil” with envy, to be jealous. It can be used commendably to refer to a striving for something or showing zeal.

Lenski

When love sees another prosperous, rich, high, gifted it is pleased and glad of his advantages. Love never detracts from the praise that is due another nor tries to make him seem less and self seem more by comparison. The practice of the world is the opposite. he negatives used in Paul’s description suggest corresponding positives. Instead of being envious love is satisfied with its own portion and glad of another’s greater portion. (Ibid)

Thiselton adds that zeloo

applies the notion of burning or boiling metaphorically to burning or boiling emotions, stance, or will for earnest striving, for passionate zeal, or for burning envy. Whether it is constructive zeal or destructive envy depends on the context… The envy which is carried over from a status-seeking, non-Christian Corinthian culture into the Christian church is not “of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 3:1–3), and is deemed to be incompatible with love, which does not begrudge the status and honor of another, but delights in it for the sake of the other. (Thiselton, A. C. The First Epistle to the Corinthians : A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W. B. Eerdmans)

Zeloo takes the notion of burning or boiling and applies it metaphorically to burning or boiling emotions, stance, or will for earnest striving, for passionate zeal, or for burning envy. Thus Williams translates this passage “Love never boils with jealousy.” People who are filled with the Spirit and have learned to love don’t begrudge others their earthly goods, their positions, or their spiritual gifts.

Whether zeloo is constructive zeal or destructive envy depends on the context. In 1Corinthians 13:4 zeloo clearly is used in a bad sense of a hostile emotion based on resentment which is “heated or boiling” with envy, hatred or anger.

Zeloo in the bad sense can be manifest in two forms, one in which the person sets their heart on something that belongs to someone else or a second form in which one has intense negative feelings over another’s achievements or success.

Zeloo is used 28 times in the Septuagint (LXX) (Gen. 26:1430:137:11Num. 5:143011:2925:1113Deut. 32:19Jos. 24:192 Sam. 21:21 Ki. 19:10142 Ki. 10:16Ps. 37:173:3Prov. 3:314:146:623:1724:119Isa. 11:1113Ezek. 31:939:25Joel 2:18Zech. 1:148:2) and 11 times in the NT

Acts 7:9 “And the patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt. And yet God was with him,

Acts 17:5 But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and coming upon the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people.

1 Corinthians 12:31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way. (Comment: Because zeloo often has the negative connotation of coveting jealously or enviously and because the Greek indicative and imperative forms are identical, the verse could be translated, “But you earnestly desire the greater gifts” a rendering which seems much more appropriate to the context and is consistent with the tone of the letter and the sin of the Corinthians who clearly prized the showier gifts, the seemingly greater gifts. Thus it would seem foolish of Paul to command them to do what they already were eagerly doing.)

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,

1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 39 Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.

2 Corinthians 11:2 For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy (noun – zelos); for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.

Galatians 4:17 They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out, in order that you may seek them. 18 But it is good always to be eagerly sought in a commendable manner, and not only when I am present with you.

James 4:2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.

The Pulpit Commentary writes regarding jealous that…

Its negative characteristics are part of its positive perfection. Envy—“one shape of many names”—includes malice, grudge, jealousy, pique, an evil eye, etc., with all their base and numerous manifestations. (1 Corinthians 13 Commentary )

Augustine wrote that…

The reason why love does not envy is because it is not puffed up. For where puffing up precedes, envy follows, because pride is the mother of envy.

Johnson writes…

How miserable is that envy which is made unhappy by the good fortune of another. Cain is an example. Love excludes it. A mother does not envy her child. (The People’s New Testament : With Explanatory Notes).

Matthew Henry comments that…

Charity suppresses envy: It envieth not; it is not grieved at the good of others; neither at their gifts nor at their good qualities, their honours not their estates. If we love our neighbour we shall be so far from envying his welfare, or being displeased with it, that we shall share in it and rejoice at it. His bliss and sanctification will be an addition to ours, instead of impairing or lessening it. This is the proper effect of kindness and benevolence: envy is the effect of ill-will. The prosperity of those to whom we wish well can never grieve us; and the mind which is bent on doing good to all can never with ill to any.

MacArthur writes that…

The second sort of jealousy is more than selfish; it is desiring evil for someone else. It is jealousy on the deepest, most corrupt, and destructive level. That is the jealousy Solomon uncovered in the woman who pretended to be a child’s mother. When her own infant son died, she secretly exchanged him for the baby of a friend who was staying with her. The true mother discovered what had happened and, when their dispute was taken before the king, he ordered the baby to be cut in half, a half to be given to each woman. The true mother pleaded for the baby to be spared, even if it meant losing possession of him. The false mother, however, would rather have had the baby killed than for the true mother to have him (1 Kings 3:16-27). (MacArthur, J: 1Corinthians. Chicago: Moody Press)

Barclay phrases it this way writing that…

There are two kinds of envy. The one covets the possessions of other people; and such envy is very difficult to avoid because it is a very human thing. The other is worse—it grudges the very fact that others should have what it has not; it does not so much want things for itself as wish that others had not got them. Meanness of soul can sink no further than that. (1 Corinthians 13 Commentary)

How significant is the sin of jealousy? Proverbs explains that…

Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, but who can stand before jealousy? (Proverbs 27:4)

It is therefore not surprising to observe that the Bible is filled with illustrations that portray the disastrous effect jealousy has on personal relationships, beginning with Cain’s envy of Abel resulting in his murder of his own brother! (Ge. 4:3-8).

Moses records the jealousy of Joseph’s brothers writing…

And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind… 20 “Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, ‘A wild beast devoured him.’ Then let us see what will become of his dreams!”… 27 “Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. (Genesis 37:112027)

In the NT Luke records other jealousy motivated acts (in Acts) writing that…

the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy and they laid hands on the apostles, and put them in a public jail. (Acts 5:17-18)

But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. (Acts 13:45)

What you are filled with clearly will control you. When one is filled with jealousy, their actions are controlled by that green monster. Not surprisingly we see that the divine antidote for one filled with jealousy is to continually be being filled with the Holy Spirit, Paul instructing the saints at Ephesus…

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. (See notes Ephesians 5:185:195:205:21)

Spirit borne Christian love does not manifest this attitude, again the present tense signifying this negative trait is never to be a part of the Christian’s “wardrobe”. Love does not desire for itself the possessions of or control over people. A loving person is never jealous but is glad for the success of others, even if their success works against his own.

Prichard writes that jealous

This is the sin of those who think others have too much and they have too little. By contrast, love is generous. It does not begrudge others their gifts. How do you respond to the good fortune of others? If they do better than you, if they prosper when you don’t, if their family seems happy while yours is torn apart, how will you react? If they achieve what you cannot, if they gain what you lack, if they win where you lose, then the truth will come out. Can you lose gracefully? Can you walk away from the contest without bitterness?

If you live long enough, you’ll probably find someone who does what you do better than you can do it. You’ll meet people with your talents and your gifts-only much more of them. You’ll find people who surpass you in every way. What will you do then? This is one test of love. And if you live long enough, you are certain to encounter people who are less talented and less gifted than you in every way, yet they seem to catch all the breaks and end up ahead of you in the great game of life. How will you respond when an inferior person passes you by? This is an even sterner test of love. (Why Love Has a Bad Memory – sermon by Dr. Ray Pritchard)

How do you react when other Christians receive blessings or benefits that we lack? Do you allow the sparks of envy to burn and then come to a full flame?

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No one is more miserable than someone filled with jealousy or envy. They rob us of happiness and make our good accomplishments seem bad. Furthermore, they exact their own punishment.

On the wall of a chapel in Padua, an old city in northeastern Italy, hangs a painting by the Renaissance artist Giotto. The painter depicted envy with long ears that could hear every bit of news of another’s success. He also gave to Envy the tongue of a serpent to poison the reputation of the one being envied. But if you could look at the painting carefully, you would notice that the tongue coils back and stings the eyes of the figure itself. Not only did Giotto picture Envy as being blind, but also as destroying itself with its own venomous evil.

Jealousy was one of the sins hurting the church at Corinth. The people had divided into factions because they were jealous of one another’s gifts. Each believer strove for preeminence. Paul therefore instructed them to follow the “more excellent way” of love (1Cor 12:31), telling them that “love does not envy” (1Cor. 13:4).

If we resent the success and accomplishments of others and find ourselves striking out at them with damaging words or insidious innuendoes, we have a problem with jealousy. But God wants to administer the antidote of love. That alone will keep us from becom­ing jealousy’s victim. —D. C. Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

If we shoot arrows of jealousy at others,
we wound ourselves.

LOVE DOES NOT BRAG: [e agape] ou perpereuetai, (2SPMI): (1Samuel 25:21,22,33,341Kings 20:10,11Psalms 10:5Proverbs 13:1017:1425:8910Ecclesiastes 7:8,910:4Daniel 3:19202122)

  • Selfless, sacrificial love does not brag
  • (love) is not pompous (NAB)
  • It doesn’t sing its own praises (GWT)
  • (Love) makes no parade (Moffatt)
  • (Love does not) play the braggart (Moulton and Milligan)

Does (not) brag (4068) (perpereuomai from a word not in the NT = perperos = vainglorious, braggart) means to talk with conceit or to behave as a braggart or windbag, exhibiting self display and employing rhetorical embellishments in extolling one’s self excessively. Love doesn’t try to prove itself and say, “Watch how loving I can be” but instead works behind the scenes. Love does not parade its accomplishments. Christian love does not vaunt (is derived from Latin vanus = vain and means to make a vain display of one’s own worth or attainments) oneself so as to parade one’s imagined superiority over others.

In the context of spiritual gifts being discussed in this section of the letter, love does not vaunt itself even regarding the gifts which it really possesses. Paul is issuing an indirect (perhaps direct) rebuke of those believers in Corinth who were prone to use their spiritual gifts for display or self-aggrandizement. In stark contrast to self-aggrandizement, Spirit empowered Christian love produces a genuine self-effacing stance (attitude) and not a “stifling” air of supposed superiority. Beloved, do you ever catch yourself, vaunting yourself, in a sense reaching around to “pat yourself on your back”? It can happen very subtlety and suddenly, for though the old tyrant, Sin , is in fact dethroned and “defanged” as it were, it is nevertheless, ever crouching at the door of our heart ready to pounce (cp Ge 4:7fallen flesh) (I know – I’m confessing that to you as you read this note).

Ostentation is the chief idea and ostentatious boasting leads easily to the next point (arrogance).

Lenski rightly comments that love…

never becomes a perperos, a braggart. The very idea is foreign to its humble nature. (Ibid)

Thiselton writes that…

Again the verb underlines the issue of status seeking and triumphalism at Corinth. Even believers seemed to come to act the part of braggarts, which was at odds with cruciform, Christlike love. (Ibid)

BDAG says this word means “to heap praise on oneself, behave as a perperos (‘braggart, windbag)” (Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature)

Love is not a windbag or an exhaustively talkative person who constantly talks about themselves.

The Pulpit Commentary adds that…

The meaning would probably be most nearly expressed by the colloquialism, does not show off. It does not, for instance, “do its alms before men to be seen of them” (see note Matthew 6:1). The Latin perperus, which is from the same root as this word, means “a braggart,” or “swaggerer.” Cicero, speaking of a grand oratorical display of his own before Pompey, says to Atticus, “Good heavens! how I showed myself off (eneperpereusamen) before my new hearer, Pompeius!” (‘Ad. Att.,’ i. 14). (1 Corinthians 13 Commentary )

Love does not parade before others any supposed superiority of our own. When one boast of superiority, the result is separation, whereas the result of selfless love is unity!

Barclay writes that…

There is a self-effacing quality in love. True love will always be far more impressed with its own unworthiness than its own merit. (1 Corinthians 13 Commentary)

Thiselton comments that…

Again the verb underlines the issue of status seeking and triumphalism at Corinth. Even believers seemed to come to act the part of braggarts, which was at odds with cruciform, Christlike love. (Thiselton, A. C. The First Epistle to the Corinthians : A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W. B. Eerdmans)

Kistemaker adds that…

Such a person parades his embellished rhetoric to gain recognition. His behavior is marked by egotism, subservience toward superiors, and condescension toward subordinates. A braggart exhibits pride in himself and his accomplishments. But such bragging is devoid of love to God and to one’s fellow man, and is a blatant sin. Further, bragging and arrogance go hand in hand. (Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. NT Commentary Set. Baker Book)

MacArthur has an interesting note explaining that…

Bragging is the other side of jealousy. Jealousy is wanting what someone else has. Bragging is trying to make others jealous of what we have. Jealousy puts others down; bragging builds us up. It is ironic that, as much as most of us dislike bragging in others, we are so inclined to brag ourselves… C. S. Lewis called bragging the “utmost evil.” It is the epitome of pride, which is the root sin of all sins. Bragging puts ourselves first. Everyone else, including God, must therefore be of less importance to us. It is impossible to build ourselves up without putting others down. When we brag, we can be “up” only if others are down. (MacArthur, J: 1Corinthians. Chicago: Moody Press)

AND IS NOT ARROGANT: ou phusioutai, (3SPPI) : (1Cor 4:6,185:28:1Colossians 2:18Philippians 2:12345)

(love) is not pompous, it is not inflated (NAB)

(love) gives itself no airs (Moffatt, Goodspeed)

(love is not) inflating its own importance

nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance (Phillips)

It is difficult to surpass the vivid picture drawn by the KJV’s rendering that love is “not puffed up” with the implicit emphasis on its own importance.

Wesley wrote that love

yea, humbles the soul to the dust.

Goodspeed has a colorful paraphrase writing that love

gives itself no airs.

J B Phillips also nicely conveys the idea with his rendering that neither does love…

cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.

Arrogant (5448) (phusioo from phusáo = breathe, blow, inflate from phusa = bellows) means literally to puff up (like a pair of bellows) and is used figuratively to describe one who becomes “inflated”, proud, haughty or puffed up with pride. It means to cause one to have an exaggerated self-conception. In the passive voice as in this verse phusioo means to become conceited or proud. Love protects us from having an inflated view of our own importance.

As noted the Greek uses the absolute negative (ou) for each of these negative attributes and couples it with the present tense which means that this is never to be a trait of agape love.

Lenski

Behind boastful bragging there lies conceit, an overestimation of one’s own importance, abilities, or achievements. Hence the next step: “is not puffed up.” From envy to boasting, from boasting to puffing oneself up is a natural sequence in the psychology of love-lessness. He that exalteth himself shall be abased; he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Thus in this case the positive virtue is Christian humility and lowliness of mind. (Ibid)

Hodge explains that arrogance

is the root of boasting. Anyone who has a high opinion of himself is apt to be boastful and to desire praise. Love, on the other hand, is modest and humble—modest because humble. (Ibid)

Barclay illustrates the complete opposite of arrogant writing that…

Napoleon always advocated the sanctity of the home and the obligation of public worship—for others. Of himself he said, “I am not a man like other men. The laws of morality do not apply to me.” The really great man never thinks of his own importance. Carey, who began life as a cobbler, was one of the greatest missionaries and certainly one of the greatest linguists the world has ever seen. He translated at least parts of the Bible into no fewer than thirty-four Indian languages. When he came to India, he was regarded with dislike and contempt. At a dinner party a snob, with the idea of humiliating him, said in a tone that everyone could hear, “I suppose, Mr. Carey, you once worked as a shoe-maker.” “No, your lordship,” answered Carey, “not a shoe-maker, only a cobbler.” He did not even claim to make shoes—only to mend them. No one likes the “important” person. Man “dressed in a little brief authority” can be a sorry sight. (1 Corinthians 13 Commentary)

This ugly trait of puffing one’s self up, of overestimating or of flaunting one’s self was clearly a problem in Corinth. Love however is free of this vice which characterized the Corinthian Church a vice Paul repeatedly alludes to…

1Cor 4:6 Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.

1Cor 4:18 Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you.

1Cor 5:2 And you have become arrogant, and have not mourned instead, in order that the one who had done this deed might be removed from your midst.

1 Cor 8:1 Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant (phusioo), but love edifies. (Comment: Kistemaker concludes that “Without love knowledge degenerates into obnoxious arrogance; with love it is a valuable asset. Arrogance is inflated selfishness, while love is genuine humility. Arrogance is devoid of love and love is devoid of arrogance; indeed both are mutually exclusive.” – Ibid)

The only other NT use is Colossians 2:18 (note) Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,

Thiselton comments that…

Paul hammers home the incompatibility of love as respect and concern for the welfare of the other and obsessions about the status and attention accorded to the self. How much behavior among believers and even ministers is actually “attention seeking” designed to impress others with one’s own supposed importance? Some “spiritual songs” may appear to encourage, rather than discourage, this preoccupation with the self rather than with others and with God. (Thiselton, A. C. The First Epistle to the Corinthians : A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W. B. Eerdmans)

Matthew Henry adds that those who exhibit agape…

will do nothing out of a spirit of contention or vain-glory, but in lowliness of mind will esteem others better than themselves, Phil. 2:3 (see note). True love will give us an esteem of our brethren, and raise our value for them; and this will limit our esteem of ourselves, and prevent the tumours of self-conceit and arrogance. These ill qualities can never grow out of tender affection for the brethren, nor a diffusive benevolence.

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THE CRY FOR LOVE – A father sat at his desk poring over his monthly bills when his young son rushed in and announced, “Dad, because this is your birthday and you’re 55 years old, I’m going to give you 55 kisses, one for each year!” When the boy started making good on his word, the father exclaimed, “Oh, Andrew, don’t do it now; I’m too busy!”

The youngster immediately fell silent as tears welled up in his big blue eyes. Apologetically the father said, “You can finish later.” The boy said nothing but quietly walked away, disappointment written all over his face. That evening the father said, “Come and finish the kisses now, Andrew.” But the boy didn’t respond.

A short time after this incident the boy drowned. His heartbroken father wrote, “If only I could tell him how much I regret my thoughtless words, and could be assured that he knows how much my heart is aching.”

Love is a two-way street. Any loving act must be warmly accepted or it will be taken as rejection and can leave a scar. If we are too busy to give and receive love, we are too busy. Nothing is more important than responding with love to the cry for love from those who are near and precious to us. Henry G. Bosch (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Lord, teach us the secret of loving,
The love You are asking today;
Then help us to love one another –
For this we most earnestly pray. – Anon.

Nothing is more costly than loving -except not loving.

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LEARNING HOW TO LOVE – Tracey Morrow, who goes by the name of Ice-T, delights in his role as a controversial rap singer whose lyrics are blasphemous and obscene. Yet, inspired by a truce between two violent gangs in Los Angeles, the Crips and the Bloods, he wrote a surprisingly sentimental song, “Gotta Lotta Love.”

Orphaned when young, and brought up by relatives who considered him a burden, Ice-T never experienced loving care. “I first found the word love in a gang,” he told an interviewer. “I learned how to love in a gang, not in a family atmosphere.”

No matter how little or how warped the love we may have known in childhood, it is never too late for any of us to learn how to love. In God’s sovereignty we may catch a glimpse of love through some individual or a support group (even a gang!). But to learn the full meaning and reality of true love, because [Jesus] laid down His life for us” (1John 3:16). The death of Jesus, in all of its sacrificial unselfishness, discloses the heights and depths of love.

We will know better how to show love when we think of how much Christ loves us, and when we trust Him as our Savior and Lord. -Vernon C. Grounds (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Unfailing is Christ’s matchless love,
So kind, so pure, so true;
And those who come to know that love
Show love in all they do.- Dennis J. De Haan

We learn the true meaning of love
when we look at how much Christ loved us.

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THE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENT – A third-grade science teacher asked one of her students to describe salt. “Well, um, it’s… ,” he started, then stopped. He tried again. “Salt is, you know, it’s… ” Finally he said, “Salt is what makes French fries taste bad when you don’t sprinkle it on.” Many foods are like that — incomplete without a key ingredient. Imagine pizza without cheese, strudel without apples, a banana split without bananas.

The Christian life also has an essential element: love. Paul emphasized its value as he wrote his letter to the Corinthians. Right in the middle of a section about spiritual gifts, he paused to say that even if we have gifts of service, speech, and self-sacrifice but don’t have love, we are nothing (1 Cor. 13:1-3). We’ve missed the “more excellent way” (12:31). A follower of Jesus should love his family, his friends, his fellow believers, those who don’t know Christ, and even his enemies (Lk. 6:27-31). A true Christian is
known by his love.

Doctrinal purity is important. Faith is a magnificent quality, as are actions of obedient service to the Lord. But without love, we’re about as bland as French fries without salt.

Ask God to help you grow in love until it flows from your heart to others. That’s the essential ingredient. — David C. Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Lord, grant me a loving heart,
A will to give and share,
A whispered prayer upon my lips
To show I really care.– Brandt

As Christ’s love grows in us His love flows through us.

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When To Speak Up – Good communication is essential for a happy marriage. Poet Ogden Nash seems to have hit on a formula to help us remember how to communicate effectively. Nash, in his witty style, wrote:

If you want your marriage to sizzle
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it;
Whenever you’re right, shut up!

There’s some immensely helpful truth in that four-liner–truth that is supported by Scripture.

Let’s look at the two major points. First, if we are wrong we need to admit it. Not only marriage, but all relationships benefit from this kind of honesty (Pr 12:22). Protecting ourselves when we’re wrong makes resolution impossible.

On the other hand, we can be equally hard to live with if we insist that we’re always right–and afraid to let our spouse know that we are fallible. According to 1 Corinthians 13:4, “[Love] does not parade itself, is not puffed up.” No one likes to be around someone who always seems to be patting himself on the back.

Two simple guidelines for a marriage that pleases God: Admit wrong and keep quiet about being right. It’s a good way to keep the relationship strong. –J D Brannon (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Button up your lip securely
‘Gainst the words that bring a tear,
But be swift with words of comfort,
Words of praise, and words of cheer. -Loucks

Let your speech be better than silence; otherwise be silent.

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CONCRETE LOVE – The story is told of a child psychologist who spent many hours constructing a new driveway at his home. Just after he smoothed the surface of the freshly poured concrete, his small children chased a ball across the driveway, leaving deep footprints. The man yelled after them with a torrent of angry words. His shocked wife said, “You’re a psychologist who’s supposed to love children.” The fuming man shouted, “I love children in the abstract, not in the concrete!”

I chuckled at the alleged incident and groaned at the play on words, but the story rang true for me. While I agree in principle with the concept of self-giving love, I find myself failing to express it to the people I live and work with each day.

First Corinthians 13 describes Christian love in terms of its tangible expression: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil” (1Corinthians 13:45).

As a theory, love isn’t worth much; as a practice, it is the world’s greatest treasure. When footprints are in the driveway, people discover whether our love exists in the abstract or in the concrete. –D C McCasland (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Follow with reverent steps the great example
Of Him whose holy work was doing good;
So shall the wide earth seem our Father’s temple,
Each loving life a psalm of gratitude. –Whittier

Love is an active verb!

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A man selling individual books of the Bible was stopped and robbed one night as he passed through a forest in Sicily and was ordered to burn his wares. After lighting a fire, he asked if he might read aloud a brief portion from each before surrendering them to the flames. Given permission, he read from one the twenty-third Psalm, from another the Sermon on the Mount, from another the parable of the Good Samaritan, and from another Paul’s hymn of love in 1 Corinthians 13. After each excerpt the outlaw exclaimed, “That’s a good book. We won’t burn that, give it to me.” So none were destroyed but all were taken by the thief. Some years later the robber appeared again, but now as an ordained minister. Reading the Bible had accomplished the miracle.

Courtesy of Precept Austin at https://www.preceptaustin.org/1corinthians_134#Love

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The Fourth Soil of the Heart: The Good, Tilled, and Fruitful Soil

Now let us return to the Parable of the Sower for a discussion of the final and most important soil of the heart. This fourth soil of the heart is what every Christian should strive for in their walk with God for this is the fertile ground that bears fruit for our Lord. In this soil the Word of God abundantly grows and flourishes and produces a bumper crop that blesses, nourishes and strengthens the heart. The critical question for the health of our heart is how do we cultivate this fourth soil in our heart?

The Three Soils Did Not Prevail

Here is the first important key of getting to this fertile soil. The other three soils were not allowed to dominate the heart. The soil of the heart was not so hard that the Word of God was taken from it and devoured by the Enemy. It was not so shallow that intense pressure and persecution caused the Word of God to shrivel away and die. The heart did not allow any of the five thorns to take root, spread and dominate its soil to the point where it choked and suffocated the Word of God. To get the fourth soil, we must vigilantly guard our heart against the dangers of the other three soils. Any of these soils ultimately causes the death of the Word of God in the heart and no production of fruit for the glory and honor of God.

It is easy for the soil of our heart to be contaminated and either remain or regress into one of these spiritually hazardous soils. But the soil of the heart can change. It is never doomed to stay in any of these soils for a lifetime. Even if your heart is the fertile ground of the fourth soil, there is no guarantee that it will not lapse into one of the other three soils.

We can never be careless with the soil of our heart for the soil determines whether the Word of God will produce fruit. Our heart is God’s field and we are farmers together with God. We must cultivate the soil of our heart with Him so that it continually produces a harvest to His glory.

In this parable Jesus gave some additional keys on how to keep the soil of our heart in this forth category where it never ceases to yield fruit.

And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience. (Luke 8:15, REV)

As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:23, ESV)

And those sown on the good (well-adapted) soil are the ones who hear the Word and receive and accept and welcome it and bear fruit—some thirty times as much as was sown, some sixty times as much, and some [even] a hundred times as much. (Mark 4:20, AMP)

Hear, Receive, Understand and Hold Fast

We must hear the Word of God, gladly receive it into our hearts, understand its message of truth, then hold fast to it in order to bring forth fruit reaping a harvest thirty, sixty, a hundred times of what has been sown. This is the pattern in Scripture.

We must first hear the Word of God. But we cannot hear it if we rarely read and study it. I am not talking about a simple devotional where one verse is read a day or the Bible is only opened on Sunday to follow the Pastor’s sermon. We must devote a significant amount of time to the reading, studying, meditating and confessing His Word if we want our heart to reap the harvest of the fourth soil.

Open the Book! Let it speak to our hearts! Hear what it is saying! Jesus Christ commanded us to “search the Scriptures” for in them are hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God (John 5:39). The words in the Bible are spirit and life, and they contain the revelation of the heart of God. It is the most exciting and amazing book ever written for God breathed life into every word. Every time we read and study His Word, we should rejoice with great anticipation of what God will teach us.

For the heart to enter the fertile territory of the fourth soil, we cannot be disproportionately filling our heart with newspapers, novels, magazines and Internet articles and only reading the Scriptures a few minutes a week. We must be like the believers in Berea who according to Acts 17:11 received the Word of God with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily. As the prophet Isaiah declared, we must “seek out the book of the Lord and read it,” knowing that not one word of His promises shall never fail us (Isaiah 34:16).

According to 2 Timothy 2:15, we must study the Word of God with all diligence showing ourselves approved of God as we rightly divide the word of truth. To hear God, we must open the Book of Life daily and allow God to sow His words into the soil of our hearts. We must prepare the soil of our heart to seek the Word of the Lord and keep the ear of our heart tender and receptive to hear Him speaking through His mighty words.

Receiving the Word with Great Love, Joy and Excitement

We must also receive this word into our hearts to enter into this blessed fourth soil. The Greek word for “receive” means to accept deliberately, willingly, favorably and readily and to embrace with favor and delight. It is far more than an indifferent or apathetic reception, but is a loving reception with great delight and love. Picture a beautiful homecoming where a child or close family member is lovingly welcomed home with great celebration and joy. Our heart must roll out the welcome mat to the words of God sown in our heart. With abundant joy and gladness, we lovingly embrace the Word of God and take it close to our hearts. Like beloved children, we receive it with great respect, adoration and meekness. We allow it to become engrafted to our very being as we digest and assimilate it into our heart.

So get rid of all uncleanness and the rampant outgrowth of wickedness, and in a humble (gentle, modest) spirit receive and welcome the Word which implanted and rooted in your hearts contains the power to save your souls. (James 1:21, AMP)

So do away with all impurities and remnants of evil. Humbly welcome the word which has been planted in you and can save your souls. (NJB)

Welcome ye the word fitted for inward growth, which is able to save your souls. (EBR)

The Tilled Field

In order to properly welcome the Word of God into our hearts, where it can take root and grow without obstruction or hindrance, the soil of our heart must be prepared to receive the implanted Word of God. Charles Spurgeon said, “our heart by nature is a waste field and a waste field produces no harvest.”[1] The condition of the heart in this state cannot produce one single piece of fruit to the honor and glory of God, as it is overgrown with weeds, thorns, thistles, and wild grass. The heart is a barren field that produces no harvest and is desperately in need of a master farmer to till and prepare the soil for the seed. The heart must be made ready in order to become a beautiful vineyard for the Lord.

O Lord prepare the soil of my heart! Plant your vineyard in the center and make it fruitful and strong for you! God is the master farmer our heart so urgently needs. He cries out in Ezekiel 36:9: “For behold, I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown.” God’s great desire is to till the field of our heart and then sow the seeds of His Word. As a fellow-laborer with us, He wants to nurture the seed until it grows into a strong tree of righteousness.

We are God’s most beloved sons and daughters in Christ. He has turned to us in love and is ready to be the chief agriculturist of our heart. We are God’s tilled field according to 1 Corinthians 3:9. Only God Almighty can turn the wasteland of our heart into an amazing vineyard of luscious fruit and abundant harvest. For the heart to receive the Word of God and begin the wonderful journey of growing into the garden of God that never ceases to produce fruit, it must first be tilled. Charles Spurgeon in his sermon The Vision of the Field describes this wonderful process of God’s tillage on the human heart:

So, when God turns to any man in His mercy, there has to be an operation, a tillage, performed upon his heart! The farmer, unless he is a fool, would never think of sowing his corn upon a field that remains just as it was when it lay fallow. He plows it first … Now, what is the plow needed for? Why, it is needed, first of all, to break up the soil and make it crumble. It has gotten hard—perhaps it is a heavy clay and then it is all stuck together by the wet and all baked and caked together by the sun that shines on it … and the more thoroughly pulverized it becomes—the more hope there is that the seed will take good root. In such-like manner must human hearts be broken. “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” The more thoroughly pulverized the heart becomes the better … Thus you must be tilled, then, that the heart may be broken, for the Seed of God will never get into an unbroken heart! And the plow is also needed to destroy the weeds, for they must be killed. We cannot have them growing. To spare the weeds would be to kill the wheat. The plow comes and cuts some weeds in two. Others it turns over and throws the heavy clods on and leaves them to lie there and be buried. It turns the roots of others up to the sun, and the sun, by the brightness of its shining, scorches them and they die. Some soils need cross-plowing—they need to be plowed this way and the other way, and then they need someone to go through the furrows, afterwards, and pull up the weeds, or else they will not be all rooted out of the soil.[2]

For the heart to be the fertile soil to receive the seed, it must be plowed first. Then God can sow the living seed of the Word of God into the tilled soil of our heart. This fertile soul is perfectly fitted for inward growth and a harvest of abundant proportions.

We are fellow-laborers with God in the husbandry of our heart. With the help of God and His mighty holy spirit that lives within us, we must clear the soil of our heart and get rid of any weeds, thistles and thorns (impurities, wickedness and remnants of evil) that have not been planted by our Heavenly Father. We must repent and turn from our sin, and allow God to purify the soil of our heart by His heavenly tillage.

Epidemic Crop Failure in the Hearts of Christians

Simply being a Christian, does not guarantee that the soil of your heart is in this fourth category. We have a responsibility before God to guard the soil of our heart and, as James says, “get rid of all uncleanness and the rampant outgrowth of wickedness.” We must put off from the soil of our heart all evil and corrupt ways of thought and behavior. We must not allow sin to exercise any power by standing firmly in Christ and his finished work on the cross.

This is what the LORD says to the people of Judah and Jerusalem: “Plow up the hard ground of your hearts! Do not waste your good seed among thorns. (Jeremiah 4:3, NLT)

I said, “Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you” (Hosea 10:12, NLT)

The Word of God is too precious to waste. Yet there is an epidemic crop failure in the hearts of Christians today. The treasure of the seed of God’s Word is failing to produce fruit because the soil is hard and overgrown with massive thorns. The time of plowing is now! The plowing begins when we seek the Lord and turn from every sin that has corrupted our walk before God. The weeds of bitterness, unforgiveness, lust, greed, envy, jealously, strife, gossip, pride, anger and idolatry must be plowed over and uprooted. When the soil of our heart is broken up and the weeds and thorns are rooted up and removed, we can receive the Word of God in perfect humbleness. The tilled soil will allow the seed to take root, grow and produce fruit. The seed becomes the engrafted Word in us, and this living, powerful Word changes every part of us.

James says this implanted, engrafted Word will “save the soul” (James 1:21). The Greek word “save” has the basic meaning of rescuing one from great peril. This word also means to protect, to make whole, to preserve life, to deliver and to heal. It means to make a person whole and complete in every respect. This is what the Word of Truth is able to do: delivering believers from the destructive consequences of sin.

The Word of God is the greatest medicine on earth for the human heart. It has the power to deliver us from all physical, mental and spiritual bondage. The Word of God imparts the life of God into the soil of our hearts. We should receive it gladly! We should welcome it by plowing and tilling the field of our hearts so that nothing can hinder its growth. The Word of God should be the joy our hearts and we should rejoice in receiving it more than if we found the greatest treasure on earth or won the biggest lottery. We should receive the Word of Truth like a country that has a royal reception for its king, for the King of Kings is coming home to occupy his rightful throne. The Word of God prepares the heart for the presence of the King. The Word of God prepares the heart to praise, worship and serve the one true God. Oh, what a welcome reception we should have for the Word of Life, for it will transform the inner chambers of our heart to be a magnificent garden and vineyard of the King.

Understanding the Word of God

The Word of God must also be understood if we to abide in this fourth category of soil. All spiritual growth comes by the way of understanding the Word of God. Without understanding, the seed cannot grow and produce fruit.

So what is “understanding” and how do we obtain it? The Greek word translated “understanding” means the special faculty of intelligence or insight, which discriminates between the false and the true, and grasps the relations in which things stand to each other. Understanding is an acute spiritual discernment and comprehension of the heart of God concerning His words in Scripture. Understanding is the flowing together of concepts, ideas, images, words and truths where you comprehend their meanings, relationships and impact. It is reflective inspired thought where you grasp the meaning and purpose of God’s truth, and see how it all relates.

Picture many creeks, tributaries and streams that wind through the countryside and finally flow together into one mighty river. All of Scripture fits together perfectly, and the mighty river of understanding sees the whole amazing tapestry of the Word of life and all the building blocks of truth.

The Hebrew word adds critical insight into the meaning of “understanding.” The Hebrew word encompasses understanding, discernment, comprehension and righteous action. In the Hebrew to exhibit understanding is to act in accordance with God’s revelation. Understanding is not intellectual knowledge alone, but involves hearing, obeying and applying the truth to your life. From the Hebrew perspective you do not understand until you are obedient to what you received. Understanding is putting revealed truth into action in our lives.

Psalms 119:100 proclaims: “I understand more than the aged, because I keep Your precepts [hearing, receiving, loving, and obeying them]. Psalm 111:10 says: “A good understanding have all those who do His commandments.” Spiritual understanding cannot be separated from obedience to God. This is exhibited in turning our hearts away from evil as Job 28:28 declares, “to turn away from evil is understanding.”

As we see with our spiritual eyes the precious gems of Scripture and the panoramic picture of the God-breathed Word, we cleave to it as a great treasure, and observe, follow, and act upon it. Psalm 119:34: “Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.” If we simply feed our fleshly appetite and turn to our own way and seek our own selfish gain, we have no understanding, even if we are a self-proclaimed shepherd or pastor of God’s people (Isaiah 56:11).

There is a desperate need for a reformation and awakening of true spiritual understanding in the Church. A.W. Tozer in The Root of the Righteous says that the lack of spiritual discernment and understanding is the real cause of most of our spiritual troubles and the reason Christianity is suffering such a rapid decline in our times. He says:

I have observed one significant lack among evangelical Christians which might turn out to be the real cause of most of our spiritual troubles … The great deficiency to which I refer is the lack of spiritual discernment, especially among our leaders. How can there be so much Bible knowledge and so little insight, so little moral penetration, is one of the enigmas of the religious world today … Why? The only answer can be from a lack of spiritual vision. Something like a mist has settled over the Church as “the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations” (Isaiah 25:7) … He cannot trust His work to blind men … We must have a new reformation.[3]

The Apostle Paul saw this great need in the early days of the Church and some of his dynamic prayers in the Church epistles deal with the urgent plea for spiritual understanding and enlightenment for the Christian believers.

I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, Asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. (Ephesians 1:16-19a, NLT)

So you will understand that since we heard about you we have never missed you in our prayers. We are asking God that you may see things, as it were, from his point of view by being given spiritual insight and understanding. We also pray that your outward lives, which men see, may bring credit to your master’s name, and that you may bring joy to his heart by bearing genuine Christian fruit, and that your knowledge of God may grow yet deeper. (Colossians 1:9-10, PHILLIPS)

Paul prayed day and night for the Christian believers that God would give them spiritual insight and understanding and that their hearts would be flooded with light so they would see as God sees and understand the incredible truths of the gospel. Then their outward lives would bear genuine Christian fruit bringing joy to their Lord. Paul knew that without spiritual understanding there is no spiritual growth and no fruit for the Christian. He admonished the Church to grow up and be mature in their spiritual understanding so that they would know God’s will and live in a fruitful way.

Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature. (1 Corinthians 14:20, NKJV)

Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:17, KJV)

The words of Jesus Christ “are you still without understanding” sound out to the Church today and set forth one of the greatest crises that plague the Church and hinder spiritual growth. There is no excuse for a child of the living God to have little or no understanding of the Scriptures. Spiritual blindness is a disease of the heart that has been rampant in the Body of Christ for way too long. The veil must be lifted and we must see with our spiritual eyes and hear with our spiritual ears and seek understanding with all our hearts.

Without understanding, the Christian walk crumbles, opening the door for the religious doctrines of men and the philosophies of this age to take root and darken our spiritual understanding. This lack of spiritual understanding must come to an end if the Church is ever to advance the kingdom of God on the earth.

So how does the heart obtain spiritual understanding? Is it a product of our own human reasoning? Do we all have to go seminary and get degrees in theology? Can we go to a college campus and find the secret of spiritual understanding? Does it come from harnessing the powers of my mind? Absolutely not! The source of all true spiritual understanding is God and only from His heart comes the fountain of understanding. There is no limit to God’s understanding as the Scripture declares that no one can measure the depth of His understanding (Isaiah 40:28; Psalm 147:5). Who better comprehends His Word than God? The words of God come from the very breath of God, and only He can breathe understanding into our hearts.

But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding. (Job 32:8, NIV)

For the Lord gives wisdom. From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 2:6, NIV)

And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore. (1 Kings 4:28, ESV)

Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything, (2 Timothy 2:7, ESV)

Spiritual understanding is a revelation from God Almighty of the breathtaking thoughts, nature, will and purposes of God in the heart of a person. It awakens the heart to see with the eyes of God. Spiritual understanding requires the birth of the gift of the holy spirit in a man, woman or child. Unless we are born again we cannot perceive the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Without the Spirit of God dwelling in a person, there is no comprehension of the things of God, for the Holy Spirit must reveal and teach them to us. Romans 3:11 says that mankind is under the weight and curse of sin, and there is no one who understands for they do not seek after God. Their understanding is covered with complete darkness and deprived of any spiritual light. They will remain in a perpetual state of spiritual blindness until they open their hearts to the light of the glorious gospel of Christ. Every heart in the world needs the mighty gift of the Spirit of God living and breathing in them and enlightening them. Jesus Christ said the Father would give us the Spirit of truth and it will dwell within us, teaching and guiding us into all truth (John 16:13).

And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:2, ESV)

These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, For, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:10-16, NIV)

Only the Spirit of God knows the thoughts and deep things of God. The Spirit of God searches out all the wonders of God and teaches us the beauty and depth of the words that are in the Bible. All revelation of the heart of God comes from the Spirit of God, which we have received as a free gift from God at the time of our new birth in Christ so that we can understand the magnificent things that God has given us. The Spirit of God enables us to understand what God is thinking, what He is feeling and what He desires. Once we are born of the Spirit, we have infused into our heart the very mind of Christ, where we have the ability to think, see and understand like He does. We can spiritually discern what is really going on and make spiritual judgments based upon Christ’s understanding.

One of the most exciting adventures of the Christian life is growing in spiritual understanding and exercising the mind of Christ in all we think, say and do. How breathtaking and awe-inspiring is it to awaken our heart to the spiritual reality that we have the mind of Christ and the Spirit of understanding, wisdom and knowledge dwells in us as a vital part of our new life in Christ. The Spirit of God prepares the soil of our heart to bring forth an abundant harvest of spiritual fruit to the glory of our God.

Holding Fast to the Word in an Honest and Good Heart

The next requirement of this fourth soil of the heart is that we keep and hold fast the Word of God in an honest and good heart. The Greek word for “keep” means to hold firmly to avoid relinquishing something, to take possession and to not let go, and to seize something and embrace it tightly. It is the tenacious clutch of the heart on the words of God. The same word was used in Luke 4:42, when Jesus went to a secluded place and the crowd was searching for him. When they found Him, they held unto Him and tried to keep Him from leaving. The word is also a nautical term in the book of Acts describing a ship that steers toward the right destination and is holding fast to its course.

Our thoughts, imaginations, and hearts are always holding to something throughout the day. The tragedy of many a Christian’s life is that they hold onto fears, worries, anxieties and other evil things more than they hold unto the precious words of life from their Lord. The ship of their hearts is off-course because our heart has embraced the wrong image or things instead of the words which God magnified above all His name. We should hold tightly to the Word of God in the same manner as we will hold fast to Jesus the first time we meet face to face in the heavens. As Simon Peter said in the Gospel of John, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!” Proverbs 4:13 exhorts us to take hold of God’s Word of instruction and to not let go, but firmly embrace them as the prized possession of the heart. The Apostle Paul urged Timothy to hold fast and retain the standard of sound words, which Paul had taught in faith and love (2 Timothy 1:13).

For the words of life to have a transforming impact, we must hold unto them and not let them drift away. Often we are blessed with a tremendous study of Scripture, but within a few hours we have forgotten everything we have studied. We have not held unto the words of God as our minds are bombarded with daily distractions of living, causing them to fade away. There is no spiritual growth if we do not hold fast to the words of God. We must exercise discipline of mind to think, mediate and hold firmly to God’s promises for our enemy is trying to rip those words from our hearts. We must set our eyes to the heavens for eternity is not as far away as it seems. The day of Christ is approaching. As we hold fast to His marvelous life-sustaining words, God will write them on the tables of our hearts. His words become etched in the very fiber of our beings. Spurgeon said in his sermon Holding Fast our Profession: “That exhortation ‘Let us hold fast’ might well be written on the cover of every Christian’s Bible.”[4]

Jesus said in order for the seed of God to bear abundant fruit, it must be held fast in a good and honest heart. This kind of heart soil is fundamentally different from the other three soils described in the Parable. The soil of the good and honest heart is fertile and rich, presenting the perfect condition for the Word of God to grow and produce fruit. This is a heart made good and honest by the labor of the heavenly husbandman who tills and cultivates it to receive the seed. God has prepared the heart that trust in Him, softening and enriching its soil with His grace and love. The soil of this heart has been purified by God through faith, cleansed from all idols, and infused with the Spirit of God. It is ready to be the habitation of God.

The Greek words for “good” and “honest” are agathos and kalos which give us a deeper understanding of the type of heart Jesus required in order to produce fruit, Agathos means intrinsically good, inherently good in character, moral and spiritual excellence, and goodness that is beneficial, useful, and benefits others. Bullinger, in A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, defines agathos as “an inner harmonious perfection, which is its own standard and measure and belongs to God.”[5] Agathos is uprightness in heart and life according to God’s right standard. John MacArthur in Galatians says: “Agathos is the internal goodness produced by the Spirit in the hearts of obedient believers, which then finds expression in external goodness spoken by the mouth and performed by his hands.”[6]

Kalos means a perfect inward nature manifesting itself in an outward shape that is exquisite, beautiful, and genuine. Kalos is the visible and outward manifestation of goodness that produces something beautiful and magnificent. A.T. Robinson, in Word Pictures in the New Testament, says that kalos “calls attention to the beauty in character and service.”[7]

Wuest, in Word Studies from the Greek New Testament, further explains the difference between these two words:

Agathos which speaks of intrinsic goodness and kalos speaks of goodness as it is seen from without. The word kalos has also the idea of “beautiful.” It was used by the Greeks of anything so distinguished in form, excellence, goodness, usefulness, as to be pleasing. Hence, it can refer to anything which is handsome, useful, excellent, suitable, commendable, excellent in its nature and characteristics, and therefore, well adapted to its ends … Kalos is a goodness seen on the outside as it strikes the eye, a beautiful pleasing goodness. It was work that … possessed true moral beauty … Agathos always includes a corresponding beneficent relationship of the subject of it to another subject … Kalos speaks of goodness as seen from the outside by a spectator.[8]

The Agathos Heart

The Word of God must be kept in a heart that has moral character and spiritual excellence according to God’s righteous standard. It is a heart where God lives and His character abounds in words and actions. It is an upright, undivided and focused heart that obeys God without reservation. It is a heart that has been purified by the fire of God and circumcised from sin by the Master’s hand. The inner sanctuary of this heart has been made ready to reflect the glory of God.

It is not a perfect heart, but one in which God is moving, sculpting and molding into His image. This heart closely resembles the heart of God in love, kindness, tenderness and compassion. It is constantly reaching out with the heart of God to touch the lives of others. The soil of our hearts is most fertile when it is living love by helping, caring for, rescuing and comforting others. This heart gladly lays everything on the line as a living sacrifice for others. This heart is a wonderful image of the goodness of God, having no selfishness, pride or self-exaltation, but is broken for others. It longs to be a spiritual rescuer in the darkness of this world, becoming the hands, feet and mouthpiece of God to our generation.

The following verses paint a wonderful picture of the agathos heart of the Christian.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:5, 36, 40, RSV)

For I assisted the poor in their need and the orphans who required help. I helped those without hope, and they blessed me. And I caused the widows’ hearts to sing for joy. Everything I did was honest. Righteousness covered me like a robe, and I wore justice like a turban. I served as eyes for the blind and feet for the lame. I was a father to the poor and assisted strangers who needed help. I broke the jaws of godless oppressors and plucked their victims from their teeth. (Job 29:12-17, NLT)

If our hearts are hard toward others and not compassionate to their needs, then the soil of our heart is not conducive for the Word of God to take root and grow. Without a heart dedicated to service to God and others, we cannot produce fruit for God. The essence of the gospel is being redeemed and reconciled to God so we can go to a dying world and allow God to bring restoration, salvation, deliverance and liberty through our lives. We become the instruments of God to bring his glory and love to a world in desperate need. This is the agathos heart.

The Kalos Heart

Secondly, the Word of God must be kept in a heart that is a beautiful representation of Jesus Christ so people can see our good deeds and glorify our Heavenly Father. This is a heart that is the light of the world, a city upon a hill that shines brightly in the midst of this crooked and perverse world. This heart is a visible manifestation of the majesty, beauty, glory and goodness of God.

Skip Moen in Spiritual Restoration, Volume 3, says: “Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to live as pure men and women so that the entire world will marvel at the acts of God through us.”[9] This is a heart that is a picture frame and the character of God is the beautiful photograph. This is a heart that reflects the masterpiece of God’s love and grace in word and action. The light and glory of God are brilliantly seen drawing people to Jesus Christ. This is a heart that is free from hypocrisy and deceit and wears no mask to hide its true condition. This is a heart where you see the face of Jesus Christ.

Eric Ludy said in When God Writes Your Love Story: “We are here on earth to know God intimately, fully, correctly and contagiously; to house His holy person in our bodies, allowing him to showcase to the world around us His loving nature, His attitude, His thoughts, His emotions, and His actions through the way we live every moment of our lives.”[10] Oh how the Word of God thrives and grows in this kalos heart.

Psalm 1 illustrates the agathos and kalos heart where the Word of God is kept as a treasure day and night. This heart never ceases to bear fruit and never withers or fades for our Lord.

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. (Psalm 1:1-3, NLT)

Bringing Forth Fruit with Patience

The last requirement of the fourth soil of the heart is that it brings forth fruit with patience. The Greek word for “patience” means steadfastness, perseverance, and to remain or abide under. It portrays a picture of steadfastly and unflinchingly bearing up under a heavy load, and describes that quality of character which does not allow one to surrender to circumstances or succumb to trial. It is the characteristic of a person not swerved from the holy purpose and calling of God on his life, and he remains loyal to his faith even in the face of the greatest trials and sufferings. The spiritual endurance of the new life of Christ is unshakable, immovable, and unbreakable. It stands firmly with unswerving strength, never growing weak in resolve, enduring to the very end.

Patience is spiritual staying power that endures with vibrant hope, for its eyes are focused on the glories of eternity. It is rock-like perseverance that contends triumphantly with the tribulations, persecutions and pressures of this world and the inward desires and passions of the flesh. It does not flinch. It does not cave in. It does not give up. It is not discouraged. It does not lose heart. It does not throw in the towel. It does not burn out. It never breaks under pressure. It never surrenders to the enemy. It stands firmly on the rock of Christ and is not moved. The cry of patience is “I shall not be moved!” We cannot bear fruit for God and do His will without this patient endurance.

We live in a society that lives and breathes impatience. This worldly attitude has seeped into the church and contaminated many a Christian’s hearts. We have forgotten the beauty of waiting on the Lord. We have become the microwave generation where we want everything instantly and demand our needs and wants be met now. This age has bred human hearts that cannot stand trials, pressures or conflict of any kind. They go into meltdown mode at the slightest resistance to their agenda. The hearts molded by this age break into pieces and are crushed by the weight of any burden. When tested by fire they crumble into ashes. Oh how the heart needs a spiritual infusion of godly patience to fortify the heart with the steel of God Almighty so it can endure the storms of life with the rock-like steadfastness of Jesus Christ.

Romans 15:5 states, our God is the God who is the source of all patient endurance. Only through Him will patience ever blossom in our hearts. Our generation has become weak and intoxicated with impatience, and this has caused an epidemic of people wearied with life, discouraged in the midst of adversity, and losing heart.

God’s great exhortation to His children is “Don’t lose heart; don’t faint; don’t be moved; don’t be discouraged; don’t be troubled; don’t be weary; hang in there; I will strengthen you; wait on me, I am here, I am with you; I am in you; be patient; I am the faithful one who will never forsake or desert you!”

As Andrew Murray said in Waiting on God:

Give God His glory by resting in Him, by trusting Him fully, and by waiting patiently for Him. This patient honors Him greatly; it leaves Him as God, on the throne, to do His work; it yields self wholly into His hands … Patience then becomes our highest blessedness and our highest grace. It honors God, and gives Him time to have His way with us. It is the highest expression of our faith in His goodness and faithfulness. It brings the soul perfect rest in the assurance that God is carrying on His work.[11]

Patience is proof that we believe God is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do. He is faithful to His promise of a coming harvest of spiritual fruit if we obey and trust Him without wavering. We cannot allow tribulation, persecution and pressure to cause us to faint and lose our hearts in the day of adversity for the appointed season of reaping is coming. At the heart of patience is this rock-like confidence of waiting on God.

And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint. (Galatians 6:9, AMP)

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31, ESV)

In your patience possess ye your souls. (Luke 21:19, KJV)

There is a great harvest of blessed fruit awaiting those who do not lose heart and faint, but in patience possess their souls and wait upon their Lord with great joy. We shall reap the fruitful harvest if we steadfastly abide in Him and cleave to Him, never letting go of our patience. We cannot lose courage and become cowardly in the midst of tribulations, pressures and trials for we have the Lion of Judah on the throne of our hearts.

The Patience of the Farmer

Look at the patience of the farmer! He does not plant his seed and then rushes to his window the next day expecting to see a full harvest. The growth of the seed takes time. He knows the harvest is coming. The farmer is not impatient with the growth process. We must trust the God of the Harvest that His wonderful fruit is coming in His season not ours. All spiritual fruit originates from God, and is part of a day-by-day growing process that is completely in His hands. God’s desire is that we bear much fruit, and this is His faithful promise. But we cannot fast-forward the process or speed-up the timetable.

But be patient, my brothers, as you wait for the Lord to come. Look at the farmer quietly awaiting his precious harvest. See how he has to possess his soul in patience till the land has had the early and late rains. So must you be patient, resting your hearts on the ultimate certainty. The Lord’s coming is very near. (James 5:7-8, PHILLIPS)

Do not, therefore, fling away your fearless confidence, for it carries a great and glorious compensation of reward. For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, and thus receive and carry away and enjoy to the full what is promised. For a little while (a very little while), and the Coming One will come and He will not delay. (Hebrews 10:35-37, AMP)

At the root of patience is the wonderful assurance that the Lord is coming. This hope gives us strength to endure as we await the precious harvest. We look to the heavens and see the wonders of eternity. Our heart soars in hope of the coming glorious day of the Lord when He sets up His eternal kingdom and we live and reign with Him forever in a perfect heavens and earth. Our heart needs steadfast patience and endurance to finish the race God has called us to and fully accomplish the will of God in our lives. Then we will receive and enjoy the rich harvest of spiritual fruit that the soil of our heart is producing. Without this patient endurance our heart’s soil will fall into the second or third category of soil in the parable of the sower and the seed. It will either be scorched and wither away by the heat or be choked and suffocated by the thorns.

The Patience of Jesus Christ

No one exercised more patience when he lived upon the earth than Jesus Christ. He is the rock of patience and was immovable and unshakable when it came to doing the will of God. Timothy 1:16 says Jesus has unlimited patience. If we are to follow in his footsteps and have a heart like his, we must walk in patient endurance in all of life’s trying circumstances.

Jesus Christ even approached the agony of the cross with patient joy, for He saw the great prize of our redemption. He is the source of this supernatural patience that needs to flow through our heart.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, who have borne testimony to the Truth, let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us. Looking away from all that will distract to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy of obtaining the prize that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds. (Hebrews 12:1-3, AMP)

Only when we look to Jesus can we run the appointed race with patient, steadfast endurance and not grow weary, faint, or lose heart. We must strip off everything that hinders, enslaves and entangles the heart and let patience do its perfect work. Patience allows God to perform His transforming work in our hearts and finish his purpose for our lives. Without patience we become incomplete in fulfilling our calling to manifest the glory of God in all that we say or do. Without patience we never become the outward masterpiece that represents and reflects the amazing grace of God given us in the new birth and the treasure of the living Christ within us. We are like the unfinished house that the Master’s hand was preventing from completing because we had no steadfast patient endurance, and we failed to wait upon the Lord. When we are impatient we are telling the Heavenly Sculptor to stop His precious work. Our lives become the piece of marble that never captured the vision in the heart of the sculptor. We need patience so God can mold our hearts into His image. How many lives have been wasted by a lack of patience!

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4, NKJV)

The Extraordinary Harvest

When all of the requirements of the fourth soil are met, Jesus makes an astounding promise that we shall reap a harvest thirty, sixty to hundred times what was sown. This is a yield of three thousand, six thousand and ten thousand percent. This phenomenal harvest of fruit is reaped where the seed was sown and that is in the human heart.

Have we been seeing this type of harvest in modern day Christianity? Is this the return that we are having in the church? Do you see this overflowing crop of spiritual fruit in your own heart? What would be the impact of Christianity in the world if we saw a harvest that was thirty, sixty, to a hundred times greater than what was sown? The church would shake the very gates of hell and wreak havoc on Satan’s kingdom to a degree that has not been seen in our generation.

No wonder the Devil marshals his entire kingdom to attempt to hinder and prevent the growth of the Word of God in the human heart. This is his strategy. He always tries to steal, kill, and destroy the Word of God in the heart. This is the bottom line of every scheme of the enemy. This has been the Enemy’s modus operandi since the Garden of Eden with his deceptive remark to Eve “Did God really say?” The Word of God must be stopped at all costs from living in the heart for this type of harvest is too dangerous for his kingdom.

Can you imagine a human heart that blossoms with the spiritual fruit of love one hundred times more than the seed that is sown? The world would be turned upside down! A spiritual revolution changing lives of countless souls and igniting a move of God like the world has never seen would flow from this abundant harvest of love. This is the type of growth the Word of God promises. Do we dare to believe it?

Think about this type of harvest with the spiritual fruit of kindness. How different would our churches be if we had a harvest of kindness with a ten thousand per cent yield? The ramifications of even one heart with this abundant crop of kindness would rock Satan’s kingdom to the core. Lives would be touched, causing a radical turning to Jesus Christ. Loving deeds of service would alter lives. The true heart of God would be manifested upon the earth. Are we ready for this type of harvest in our hearts?

How about a radical harvest of immense proportions with the spiritual fruit of self-control? This spiritual fruit of self-control is the ability to take a grip of oneself and have power over one’s passions, appetites, and desires. It is restrain and control over the sin nature. It is a supernatural inner power to control the cravings of the old nature inherited from Adam. Self-control is to get a grip of our thoughts, words, and actions so they reflect Christ in us. It holds off the sudden impulses of the flesh, resisting the urge of the flesh to do the works of the sin nature. We hold off anger and pride; we hold off sarcasm and strife; we hold off envy and bitterness. With God’s help, we take power over all actions that do not bring glory to God.

Would Christians be addicted to pornography if they had this overflowing harvest of self-control? Would sin be wreaking havoc on so many Christian lives and destroying their testimony if their hearts were producing a hundredfold return of the spiritual fruit of self-control? Would so much corrupt communication come forth from our mouths hurting others if our hearts demonstrated a radical transformation of self-control? Would our emotions be running wild, setting in motion the kingdom of hell, if we reaped self-control in such abundance that God was in perfect control of our hearts. We would live what Jesus accomplished in his death and resurrection by crushing the power of sin, and not allowing it to exercise one ounce of power in our hearts. The devil’s plans would be harmed beyond repair.

We have not even examined the other spiritual fruit of joy, peace, faith, longsuffering, meekness, and goodness. Can you imagine a yield of ten thousand percent with any of these amazing fruits! Oh how that heart would brilliantly reflect Jesus and shine like the brightness of the sun in the cold night of this world. A Christian’s life should not have just one of these fruits, but all nine in such abundant proportions that the distinctive character of Jesus Christ comes bursting forth from the heart. This is the growth that Jesus promises when the soil of our heart is in this forth category.

So Few Have Reached the Fourth Soil

Sadly, very few Christians have ever reached this forth soil. The condition of their hearts languishes in one or a combination of the first three categories and they have never experienced the breathtaking glory, majesty and power of a heart that is producing a thirty, sixty and hundredfold bumper harvest of spiritual fruit. I think it is time for a spiritual awakening of our hearts so the soil is fertile, waiting for the Master husbandman to produce His astounding harvest in our hearts. The world with all its philosophies, mantras, formulas, and education can never manufacture, replicate or create the fruit of the spirit in the human heart. Only God can, and only when we meet the conditions set forth in His Word, and obey Him without reservation.

Our heart is like the farmer’s field and will either produce the fruit of the flesh or the fruit of the spirit. The soil of our heart is the key to which fruit is being harvested as the condition of our heart is always directly tied to what type of soil dominates it. Tell me the soil of your heart and I can tell you the condition of your heart.

This is why the Parable of the Sower is one of the greatest of all parables for in it lays the key to the condition of our hearts. It perfectly illustrates the four basic conditions of the heart of every person that ever lived. You must now choose where your heart will abide. What is the soil of your heart? What is the soil producing? Everything in our Christian life is directly tied to the condition of the soil.

It’s time you get alone with God and allow Him to reveal to you the true condition of your heart and the content of its soil. God will show us the results of His soil testing and the way to this forth soil so that our hearts can be a beautiful representation of our Heavenly Father. We earnestly desire for our hearts to be like His, so that out of it flows the very life of God in all its amazing colors. I pray that in our homes, families, churches and communities, the forth soil of the heart becomes the prevalent soil in Christianity again. What a glorious day that will be for the kingdom of God!

 

[1] Charles Spurgeon, The Vision of the Field, A Sermon published August 16th, 1906, delivered at the Metropolitian Tabernacle, Newington, 1864.

[2] Ibid.

[3] A.W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous (Camp Hill: WingSpread Publishers, 2006), Kindle, 1132.

[4] Charles Spurgeon, Holding Fast our Profession, Sermon delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, 1886.

[5] E.W. Bullinger, A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), 336.

[6] Ibid.

[7] A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2000), 137.

[8] Kenneth Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company 1961).

[9] Skip Moen, Spiritual Restoration: Reclaiming the Foundations of God’s Word, Volume 3 (Maitland: Xulon Press, 2008).

[10] Eric and Leslie Ludy, When God Writes Your Love Story (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2009).

[11] Andrew Murray, Waiting on God (Radford: Wilder Publications, LLC, 2008), 73.

Excerpt from Tim Rowe’s book “The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life”

 

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Destroying the High Places: What Altar Do You Have in Your Heart?

One of the subjects consistently addressed throughout the Bible is idolatry. References abound in connection with Israel’s struggle with the gods of their neighbors, gods that could be seen, as opposed to their invisible Yahweh. Time and time again, the children of Israel gave in to the temptation to conform to the values of their neighbors rather than stand out and be different. Interestingly, one of the meanings of the Hebrew word for “holy” is “different” or “apartness.” The Israelites were called to be separate because they were adopted by the Creator, the one true God, whom they knew as Yahweh, their personal Lord.

The New Testament is equally insistent that idols have no place in our lives: [1]

1 John 5:21
Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

This article will set forth the New Testament perspective on dealing with idols and idolatry, and then take a look at “the high places” in the history of Israel and the difficulties they had because their leaders failed to destroy them as God commanded them to do.

Idols can take many forms, as overt as a statue of a god or as subtle as having greater trust in one’s talents or abilities than trust in the Lord. Because we do not have a statue of Baal in our backyard does not mean we are free from idols. It behooves every Christian to deeply consider if there are any obstacles in his or her heart that prevent intimacy with God.

To be in a personal relationship with the Creator is to recognize Him for who He is, the one true God. Unless He is elevated to this place in our heart of hearts, our relationship with God will suffer. To elevate anything or anyone to the same level as God in our hearts is to bring division in our relationship with Him and diminish our experience of His power and presence. That truth is highlighted over and over again throughout the Bible, and should be enough to get our attention and cause us to consider the state of our own hearts. The Apostle Paul addresses this issue in detail in 1 Corinthians 8 and 10. And in 2 Corinthians 10, Paul identifies some very specific keys to removing these idols that we would be wise to reflect on:

2 Corinthians 10:4 and 5
(4) For the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds.
(5) We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.

Let’s unpack this passage that is just loaded with insights. The first thing we learn is that we are armed and in a war, whether we like it or not. Are we mentally prepared for this level of opposition? Any kind of “war” is for real, and there are real casualties. To be successful in this fight, we must be armed properly and practiced in the use of our available weapons. We should be very interested in finding out what our weapons are. Ephesians 6:12 and following identifies our one offensive weapon as “the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.” In the above passage, three more weapons are identified, which all relate to the Word of God:

We destroy arguments.

We destroy every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God.

We take every thought captive to obey Christ.

First, we destroy arguments with the sword of the spirit. What are these arguments? They originate from Satan, “the father of lies,” and are promulgated by the worldly systems of human ideas and imaginations. These arguments are promoted via words and images in the media, public schools, by parents and friends, or anyone who is presuming to educate our conscience. We cannot do much about these arguments insofar as they are outside of us, but we can and must destroy the ones that have taken hold in our minds and moved us away from God’s Word. There can be no “peaceful coexistence” with an enemy bent on our destruction.

To demolish these internal arguments we need to pay attention to what we say in our hearts about ourselves (our “self-talk”), and compare that with God’s Word written to us and about us. It is the power of the Word of God believed in our hearts that demolishes these arguments that we elevate against God. We may not be responsible for the arguments coming into our minds, but we are responsible for removing them.

For instance, we may have believed the argument that people cause pain and therefore we don’t need others in our lives. If we swallow that argument, we will isolate ourselves from others, or at least enough to prevent our being hurt. But what does the Word of God say? It argues that we are to be connected to others in the Body of Christ and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We can’t very well do that by ourselves.

What if we accept the argument that we are unlovable or unworthy of God’s blessings? We will rebuff whatever love is extended to us and continue to believe a lie, resulting in our own spiritual impoverishment. If we think we are unworthy of His grace and blessings, we will feel distant from God and not go to Him in time of need because of our feelings of unworthiness. Thus, we will not experience His grace and mercy. We must stop arguing with God in our hearts and learn to accept His love.

Or what if we think we are without sin, either in general or regarding specific behaviors, and are living in denial? Then we must demolish those arguments that shield us from conviction for sin and prevent us from getting honest, growing in faith and grace, and being delivered from sin’s tyranny.

In short, we must identify and demolish any argument that disagrees with God’s opinion of us, our abilities, our value, our acceptability, our hope, our sinfulness, etc. We must accept and declare God’s arguments concerning who we are and what we can be.

Second, we destroy every proud obstacle (“pretension”—NIV; every proud and lofty thing”—Amplified; “every high thing”—KJV). This sure sounds easier than it actually is! These prideful obstacles are like concrete bunkers built into the stone walls of our unregenerate hearts and it will take some serious dynamite to dislodge them. Fortunately we have dunamis, “inherent power” via the holy spirit, the detonator of God’s Word, and the fuse of faith (to stretch a metaphor to the explosive point).

We must understand that pride is protean, [2] and comes in many forms. It can show up as an elevated opinion of oneself or one’s abilities. This face of pride says, “I don’t need to change, I’m okay the way I am.” Or it might say, “I can’t change, I’m hopeless.” But how can we ever say that when God is there to help us be transformed by the renewing of our mind? What He commands, He will help us to do. He commands us to “be transformed,” and He will therefore be there to help us in the process if we have faith. Who is Pride to contradict God?

Pride also comes in the form of a low opinion of oneself, lower than God’s opinion. But how can you be proud when you feel like a slug? Well, if God says you are one of His holy ones, filled with the power of His Son, and you believe you are a slug, in direct contradiction to God’s Word, that’s another face of pride because it elevates its opinion above the opinion of God Almighty. This is something to think about, especially for those of us who like to throw pity parties and think that we can never change. To grow, we must see that we are arrogantly elevating our perverse opinion of ourselves above God’s. That is a “high thing” that must be torn down and destroyed.

Third, we take captive those thoughts that contradict the knowledge of God. What comes to mind when you think of taking captives? Is this a nice, friendly process in which both parties are cooperating with each other? Not hardly. To take a captive, you usually have to be armed with a weapon. “You’re coming downtown with me, creep,” Dirty Harry sneers as he drags his prisoner off to jail at gunpoint. Once we identify a destructive thought or “house of thoughts” (i.e., a “stronghold”), we need to have an aggressive attitude to take them into custody and remove them from our mind. How do we do that? We put the gun of truth to their heads, so to speak, back them out of our head, lock the prison door, and throw away the key!

How will we do all that if we do not have an accurate knowledge of God and His Word filling our head and heart? We must saturate our minds with the truth about ourselves from the parts of Scripture that tell us who we are in Christ. This we find primarily in the nine Church Epistles (Romans through Thessalonians).

If we don’t take these unruly thoughts captive, they will be like escaped criminals running loose through our heads and hearts. We have to put out an APB (all points bulletin, for those who never watched a cop show), and apprehend these bad boys. We can’t let them run loose and unidentified. We look at our thoughts and make them identify themselves: “Friend or foe?!”

The KJV phrase, “Every high thing” reminds us of the external warfare against idols that is a big part of the Hebrew Scriptures. Let us look at a few of the many verses that refer to “the high places” to learn something about the commitment that it takes to bring these down.

God first referred to the high places in the context of a stern warning in the Levitical law after He had reminded the Israelites of all the blessings that would be theirs for obeying Him. If they would disobey Him and serve idols, He would destroy their high places. What that meant in reality was that He would find someone obedient to Him who would get the job done. This would prove to be much harder and take much longer than it should have:

Leviticus 26:30
I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars; I will heap your carcasses on the carcasses of your idols. I will abhor you.

This general warning later became a very specific prophecy, which was actually carried out by God’s servant, Josiah, about whom we will read shortly. These “high places” are identified in Numbers as places of pagan worship that belonged to the peoples the Israelites were to drive out:

Numbers 33:50-52
(50) On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the LORD said to Moses,
(51) “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan,
(52) drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places.

God’s Word was very clear. When they went into the Promised Land, they were to destroy the high places, which were shrines and altars built on mountaintops and elevated places in order to be closer to their pagan gods. This was a common practice among the unbelievers, and God did not want His people to corrupt themselves by thinking that they were going to be closer to Him by being on a mountain. [3] God had drawn near to His people by giving them His Word, spoken to them directly and through the prophet Moses. The physical elevation of the high places was symbolic of an attempt on people’s part to approach God based on their own ideas and not on the basis of what He required.

Unfortunately, this simple directive to demolish the high places almost never got done, as we will see. First, we should note that Joshua, who led the children of Israel into the promised land, did not bring down the high places. Neither did any of the Judges bring them down.

Saul, the first king of Israel, not only did not bring them down but died upon them in battle with the Philistines:

2 Samuel 1:19
Our glory, O Israel [King Saul], lies slain upon your high places! How the mighty have fallen!

Even in the time of David, the high places were not removed.

1 Kings 3:2 (KJV)
Only the people sacrificed in high places, because there was no house built unto the name of the LORD, until those days.

David’s son Solomon not only did not remove the high places, but eventually restored their use as places to worship pagan deities.

1 Kings 3:3 (KJV)
And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places.

Solomon’s compromise of God’s Word proved to be disastrous, and his great wisdom became folly as he devoted himself to the pagan gods of his wives, just as he had been warned against.

2 Kings 23:13 (KJV)
And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile.

After his death, Solomon’s son Rehoboam clashed with Jeroboam and the kingdom split. Jeroboam became the king of Israel, and led the people into idolatry by erecting golden calves in Bethel.

1 Kings 12:32 (KJV)
And Jeroboam … placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made.

Instead of being faithful to God’s command that only Levites be priests, Jeroboam even let anyone who wanted to be a priest be one (1 Kings 13:33). But in the midst of all this idolatry an unidentified man of God prophesied against the altar on the high place, and spoke of a king to come named Josiah who would destroy the high places:

1 Kings 13:2 and 32 (KJV)
(2) And he cried against the altar in the word of the LORD, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the LORD; Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men’s bones shall be burnt upon thee.
(32) For the saying which he cried by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel, and against all the houses of the high places which are in the cities of Samaria, shall surely come to pass.

King Asa [Jeroboam’s grandson] was a good king of Israel, but also failed to remove the high places. He is one of a few kings of both Israel and Judah who were described as being good kings except for the fact that they failed to remove the high places. This shows God’s grace and mercy upon those who were not exactly living up to His expectations, but who were nevertheless pleasing Him in some ways. Others were terrible kings who openly worshiped pagan gods on the high places.

1 Kings 15:14 (KJV)
But the high places were not removed: nevertheless Asa’s heart was perfect with the LORD all his days.

1 Kings 22:43 (KJV)
And he [Jehosaphat, Asa’s son] walked in all the ways of Asa his father; he turned not aside from it, doing that which was right in the eyes of the LORD: nevertheless the high places were not taken away; for the people offered and burnt incense yet in the high places.

After Jehosaphat there were a string of kings that also failed to remove the high places. How easy it is to see the power of example. What each king did not do made it easier for those who followed to ignore also.

2 Kings 12:3 (KJV)
But the high places were not taken away: the people still sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places.

2 Kings 14:4 (KJV)
Howbeit the high places were not taken away: as yet the people did sacrifice and burnt incense on the high places.

2 Kings 15:4 (KJV)
Save that the high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burnt incense still on the high places.

2 Kings 15:35 (KJV)
Howbeit the high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burned incense still in the high places.

2 Kings 16:4 (KJV)
And he [king Ahaz of Judah] sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree.

2 Kings 17:11 (KJV)
And there they burnt incense in all the high places, as did the heathen whom the LORD carried away before them; and wrought wicked things to provoke the LORD to anger:

Samaria was a place made particularly notorious for mixing of all kinds of pagan worship with the worship of Yahweh.

2 Kings 17:29 (KJV)
Howbeit every nation made gods of their own, and put them in the houses of the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in their cities wherein they dwelt.

Remember in John 4:20 when the Samaritan woman at the well asked Jesus about where to worship? He told her not to worship on a mountain but “in spirit and in truth.”

The Samaritans had been among those who continued the practice of worshiping in the high places.

One of the only kings who really got the job done for God was Hezekiah.

2 Kings 18:4 (KJV)
[Hezekiah] removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.

But Josiah was the king who did the best job of pulling down the high places. He was the one who had been prophesied about many years before, as we read before in 1 Kings 13:32. 2 Kings 23 goes into great detail about all that Josiah did to get to the root of the idolatrous practices and destroy every last vestige of them.

2 Kings 23:4-5, 8, and 19-20
(4) And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel.
(5) And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.
(8) And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beersheba, and brake down the high places of the gates that were in the entering in of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on a man’s left hand at the gate of the city.
(19) And all the houses also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the LORD to anger, Josiah took away, and did to them according to all the acts that he had done in Bethel.
(20) And he slew all the priests of the high places that were there upon the altars, and burned men’s bones upon them, and returned to Jerusalem.

Josiah, then, was the agent of God who fulfilled the Word of the Lord spoken back in 1 Kings 13:2. Josiah is clearly a type of Christ, the king who would love God enough to do the hard work of removing all the idols and places of idolatrous worship from the land, no matter how popular or conventional they had become.

It is easy to imagine how a young Jesus reading about Josiah would have internalized the lesson of this good king’s life—that sometimes you have to dig deep and be willing to buck the system in order to bring needed changes. Perhaps this fueled his passion when he overturned the tables in the Temple, incurring the wrath of the authorities that eventually contributed to his crucifixion.

An interesting verse in 2 Chronicles shows how subtle and persistent idolatrous worship and practices had become in Israel.

2 Chronicles 33:17 (KJV)
Nevertheless the people did sacrifice still in the high places, yet unto the LORD their God only.

They probably thought that they were really making an improvement by worshiping only Yahweh at the high places, but they had completely compromised His Word! Instead of removing the high places according to the Word of the Lord, they used the altars to worship the Lord contrary to His Word. In doing so, they were only “rearranging the furniture on the Titanic,” as it were. They maintained the forms of pagan worship as the platform for worshiping the true God, contrary to what God wanted them to do. If one is going to worship God, shouldn’t he or she do so in a way that blesses God? He wanted them to pull down the high places and not think that they were getting closer to Him by standing on hilltops! Getting closer to Him was and is a matter of the heart, and of obedience, not physical elevation or any other fleshly condition.

We believe and pray that we can be a ministry that pulls down the “high places” where biblical truth has been supplanted by pagan philosophies. This requires fortitude and an uncompromising attitude that will not be popular. But “mainstream” Christian doctrines that are the result of compromise with pagan philosophy will have to be removed for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be relevant, powerful, and as influential as it ought to be.

The Protestant Reformation did many godly things to restore truths that had been lost for generations, but the reformers did not get the job done. They failed to get to the root of the problem of mixing pagan ideas with Judeo-Christian truth in the early centuries after Christ.

On the practical side, which is how we began this article, there are also “high places” in our personal lives that must come down if we are to please God. If we want His wholehearted approval now and at the Bema, we must continually be transforming ungodly beliefs and behaviors that contradict God’s Word. We must determine to climb up to the high places and destroy them. And whatever is lifted up against the knowledge of the true God we must identify and replace, no matter how comfortable we are with it or how long it has been around.

We are called to be faithful to our God and to our Lord. We are being called to go all the way and remove all the high places, those “proud obstacles” to intimacy with God and Jesus Christ. No half-hearted effort will suffice, just as it didn’t suffice for Israel and Judah. We need to manifest the heart of Josiah, or better yet, the heart of Jesus Christ, as we go forth on this quest.

Like it or not, we are locked in a battle with the enemies of God and Christ, and they seek to pervert and water down the Good News of Jesus Christ in a multitude of ways. There can be no compromise with such spiritual terrorists. As it is written in Ephesians 6, we wrestle against wickedness “in high places.”

Ephesians 6:12 (KJV)
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

It is interesting that this phrase “high places” occurs here in this context of the spiritual battle. Perhaps this helps us understand why God wanted the “high places” removed, because they represented the influence and activity of demonic forces dedicated to the destruction of Israel and thus the Christ line. This is why God told His people to destroy them, because He knew their idolatry would weaken and destroy them otherwise. Israel’s persistent compromise with idolatry led to their captivity by a string of foreign powers and the total loss of their kingdom and sovereignty as a nation. “Jacob’s trouble,” the time of tribulation still to come for Israel and chronicled in the book of Revelation, is another consequence of their disobedience and failure to honor God as the only true God (see Jer. 30:7 and Dan. 9:27).

Let us resolve to be individuals, and an assembly of believers, who seek above all else to be faithful to God and His Word, both the Living Word, Jesus Christ, and the Written Word, the Bible. Let’s stand for what is true, and share it with others in true love. We are blessed to be a part of this high and holy calling with you, and we appreciate your support and your stand with us.

We may be an outnumbered group, like Gideon’s 300, but we are a threat to the Enemy—maybe more than we will know until we “know as we are known.” Let’s keep stickin’ it to him by submitting to God and pleasing Him first and foremost at whatever cost to our comfort and convenience.

Endnotes

[1] It is interesting that the word “idol” never occurs in the Gospels, even though Jesus often addressed the idea of putting God first. No doubt he had in mind Israel’s history of idolatry when he taught them to love nothing more than God. See Luke 10:27.
[2] Proteus was a sea god in Greek mythology who could change his form at will to avoid detection.
[3] It was common for the pagan peoples to associate their gods with the physical features of the land, and the true God was discouraging that idea in favor of a more spiritual relationship mediated by His direct involvement by miracles and by the prophets. Illustrating this idea is 1 Kings 20:28, which records God’s judgment against the Arameans.

This article is a wonderful study from the website http://www.truthortradition.com

The link to the article:  https://www.truthortradition.com/articles/destroying-the-high-places

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The Parable of the Sower: The Fifth Thorn: The Pleasures of This Life

The fifth and final thorn in the Parable of the Sower is the “pleasures of this life.” The Greek word for “pleasures” is “hedone” which means delight, pleasurable sensation, and sensual pleasures. Hedone is pure self-indulgence and lack of control over the physical appetites. In the New Testament hedone always has the meaning of sensual gratification. Hedone is an unrestrained pursuit of anything that over stimulates the senses, stopping at nothing to gorge the body’s sinful inner cravings.

The English word “hedonism” comes from this Greek root and is a philosophical way of thinking where pleasure is the highest good in life and must be pursued with relentless abandon. A hedonist has an absolute devotion to pleasure and indulges their appetite with mindless abandonment. Pleasure becomes their way, their truth and their life. It is all about the feeling. It is all about losing the heart in the sensation. Hedonism is pleasure without boundaries. Hedonism is the pursuit of pleasure no matter what the cost, even if it means losing the soul. Hedone emphasizes the pleasure that arises from feeding the flesh’s appetite. It is always a companion to lust as these two powerful thorns of lusts and pleasures constantly work together to bring the heart into captivity.

The thorn of the pleasures of this age is an obsession with physical appetite and sensual gratification. One word perfectly describes this thorn and that is “gluttony.” This thorn is gluttony of the flesh where we have an overwhelming desire to consume more than we need in order to satisfy our cravings. Gluttony is passionately craving something for pleasure and enjoyment other than Almighty God. Gluttony is an attitude of heart that does not care what God says in His Word concerning the requirements for a spiritual healthy heart, but recklessly indulgences the flesh oblivious to the dangerous consequences. Gluttony cries out “Feed me!” as I must have this, I want this, and I deserve this! This thorn of gluttony is all about our belly as it is the height of the sin of self-entitlement. Our belly is our god and we are engrossed in our appetite, which drives and controls our heart. We have become a spiritual prodigal who wastes what we have been entrusted by God as we serve the pleasures of sin for a season. Disappointment and misery soon follow as we find out that the fleeting pleasures of the flesh are like a shooting star that burns brightly for a few seconds, but ultimately fizzles out into the darkness of the night.

Are pleasures what we should devote our life to? Are we spiritual vagabonds and gluttons who have decided that the best and most pleasurable way of living is to gorge our physical appetites? Our hearts need to listen to the words of one the wisest men to ever live, King Solomon, about the pursuit of pleasure. King Solomon engrossed himself in more pleasures than we could ever imagine. He had it all as every pleasure was at his fingertips. His eyes were finally opened and he saw the true colors of this wicked thorn.

I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. And what does pleasure accomplish?” I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:1-2b, 10-11, NIV)

How this thorn of pleasures causes us to waste our lives in the pursuit of meaninglessness! Chasing after pleasures of the flesh accomplishes nothing in life and does not contribute one iota to our spiritual growth and our relationship with God. There is not one measure of goodness that comes to the heart from the blind worship of pleasures. Solomon the greatest king of his times, with unmatched wealth, power and possessions, denied himself not one single pleasure that the mind could imagine. Yet he gave the somber assessment that there was nothing to gain from the pursuit of pleasure as he was simply chasing after the wind and throwing his life away.

Oh that Christians would take these words to heart! The pleasures of this life will suffocate the life of God’s Word from our hearts. The pleasures of this life will cause our heart to become stubborn, rebellious and hard against God and the holy commandments of His Word. The pleasures of this life will turn the heart away from God, as it becomes enslaved in self-appetite and self-indulgence. God did not purchase us on the cross so we could return to being gluttons of the flesh with no self-control or self-discipline. It begins with the pastors, leaders, and shepherds of the church. They must set the example that they will not give themselves up to the pleasures of sin, leading a double life and destroying their ministries.

The Lesson of Jeshurun

The Bible warns us repeatedly of the spiritual dangers of indulging our hearts in the pleasures of this life as a substitute for knowing God on a deep, personal level.

Then Jeshurun (upright one referring to Israel) became fat and rebelled—you became fat, bloated, and gorged. He abandoned the God who made him and scorned the Rock of his salvation. They provoked His jealousy with foreign gods; they enraged Him with detestable practices. They sacrificed to demons, not God, to gods they had not known, new gods that had just arrived, which your fathers did not fear. You ignored the Rock who gave you birth; you forgot the God who gave birth to you. (Deuteronomy 32:15, HCSB)

Jeshurun was at one time upright and walking with the Lord. But Jeshurun’s heart turned and he became a glutton who was fat, bloated and gorged as his main focus in life was satisfying his appetite. Gluttony is a state of the heart where we crave for something more than our desire for God. It is an obsession in satisfying immediately our fleshly cravings and demanding instant gratification at all costs. It greatly hinders our heart from having any spiritual growth in Christ and being pleasing to Him.

Look at what happened to the spiritual walk of Israel and their relationship with God when their self-appetite and inner cravings for pleasure controlled their existence. They abandoned God and scorned the Rock of their salvation. They provoked God to jealousy and enraged Him by their detestable practices of idolatry. They substituted God Almighty for a new god as they ignored and forgot God who gave them birth as a nation of His chosen people.

Why do we think it will be any different with our hearts? Why do we think we can allow our hearts to serve our appetites and blindly pursue the pleasures of this life and not suffer any damage to our relationship with our Heavenly Father? First we will ignore God, then we will forget God, then we will abandon God, and then we will scorn God and hold Him in contempt. Finally we will replace God in our heart with a new god that is birthed from our gluttony. This is the pattern of Scripture and it is no different in our times.

The spirit of Jeshurun has now been revived and lives in the church. We have become like Esau who had a careless disregard of the high value of his birthright in favor of immediate sensual gratification. His wrongly directed hunger caused him to cast his back on the sacred and despise what God had given Him. God has given us immeasurable riches and a glorious salvation in Christ where we are literally birthed into the family of God as a royal son or daughter of God. We despise this amazing birthright and give it little esteem in our hearts when we cast it aside hungering after things that can never satisfy.

It seems like every day we are reading about another pastor that has sold his birthright and calling to gorge himself as a glutton in immediate sensual gratification. The pleasures of this world became more important than the eternal pleasures at God’s right hand that He gives to those who delight in Him. The emerging mark of the church and the mantra of our generation is that we have become “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” We are hungrier for pleasures than we are for God.

The sin nature that dwells within us is always hungry and wants to be fed. What hunger are we satisfying? Are we feeding our old nature in Adam or our new nature in Christ? We should be hungering and thirsting after righteousness and the Bread of Life Jesus Christ and not the fleeting pleasures of this age. The Bible is full of examples of men and women who allowed their hunger and self-appetite to consume them and the tragic consequences that followed such as Solomon, Amnon, Tamar, Adonijah, Gehazi, Joab and Lot’s wife to name a few. A sincere and passionate longing for God was absent as an overwhelming desire to indulge the flesh in the pleasures of this life caused God to fade from their hearts. We too must learn this lesson if we are ever to be true guardians of our heart: an uncontrolled appetite spells disaster for our spiritual health. These unrestrained hungers turn us into a glutton and we no longer submit ourselves to God or resist the Evil One. “Glutton” is not the name God wants for His beloved children.

The belly god

One word in Scripture that describes this horrible condition of the heart is “belly.” The “belly” in Scripture is the inner core and center of our appetites. It is a descriptive term of self-entitlement and self-indulgence where our sole desire in life is to satisfy our fleshly appetites. Our heart has become all stomach as we have a voracious hunger to feed our desires and cravings.

The belly is a symbol of the curse pronounced on the Devil in Genesis 3 where we eat the dust of the earth for our satisfaction. The appetite for the earthly has replaced the appetite for the heavenly. The curse on creation caused by the sin of Adam and Eve has as its enduring mark the exaltation of the belly as the central focus of life. The belly cries out, “It is all about me! My life is mine! I am my own god! I will follow and serve me above all else! I will not deny my body and my soul anything that it craves! I am hungry and I must be fed now with whatever my heart desires! I do not need God! I only need me!” The battle between the belly, which is at the heart of our sin nature, and the Spirit and words of God, is a central theme throughout all of Scripture.

It is interesting that in the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, which contain the heart of God’s instructions to His chosen people Israel recording the journey of God’s people from the fall to the covenant in Abraham, to God’s great deliverance from Egypt, to the trials in the wilderness and glorious triumph into the Promised Land, that the middle word in the Torah is “belly.” The midpoint letter in the word “belly” was enlarged providing the scribe a device to insure that there are precisely 152,402 letters before this enlarged letter and 152,402 letters after this enlarged letter. There is a powerful truth to God’s people by this marking in the Torah that the exact middle of His God-breathed instructions was the word “belly.”

Whatsoever goeth upon the belly, and whatsoever goeth upon all four, or whatsoever hath more feet among all creeping things that creep upon the earth, them ye shall not eat; for they are an abomination. For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy. For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. (Leviticus 11:42, 44a-45, KJV)

In the book of Leviticus, which in the Hebrew literally means “And He called,” God is emphasizing in our spiritual walk, we cannot eat and digest things whose source is the belly. The belly is an abomination to God, and if we are to ever fulfill His calling on our lives, we must not let our belly be our god. To be holy is to be whole and to perform the function that God has designed for our lives. We belong to God and we cannot love and serve Him if our belly rules our life and is the source of the thoughts, emotions and feelings in our hearts.

For they that are such, serve not Christ our Lord, but their own belly; and by pleasing speeches and good words, seduce the hearts of the innocent. (Romans 16:18, Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)

Such men are no servants of Christ our Lord; their own hungry bellies are their masters. (Knox Bible)

The Greek word for “serve” means a slave who is totally surrendered and devoted to his master. The slave’s every thought, breath and effort was consumed in the will of his master. The Greek word emphasizes the slave’s close, binding ties with his master as belonging to him, and obligated to do his will, living in a permanent relationship of servitude to him. The slave is completely controlled by his master, and the master’s commands were to be obeyed at all costs.

In the Hebrew culture, a slave was one who willingly commits himself to serve a master he loves and respects. We must examine our hearts and ask ourselves this critical question: “Are we a slave to the Lord Jesus Christ or our own hungry belly?” Does Jesus Christ or our belly control every motive and effort that comes forth from our heart? Do we desire to do the will of our Lord Jesus or are we consumed with the will of our own appetites and indulgences? Who controls our actions and whom do we obey and serve? Jesus Christ or our belly? We cannot serve both.

We must not allow the belly thorn to enslave us and consume us. For far too long Christians have been enslaved to their own bellies and have turned to serve their self-appetites rather than the Lord Jesus Christ. Pastors and leaders in the church have set the worse examples as so many have been reckless slaves to their belly and have brought great hurt and damage to the Body of Christ. The Bible does not sugar coat the seriousness of this state of the heart for if we are slaves to our belly we become enemies of the cross of Christ.

For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. (Philippians 3:18-19, ESV)

If we are truly to be the disciples of Christ, we must affirm that we have no allegiance, loyalty and commitment to our belly, but we take up our cross daily and only follow Him with passionate devotion. Idolatry has run rampant in Christianity because we have allowed our belly to be our god, and we have served our belly more than our Almighty God. The thorn of pleasures and sensual gratification has taken over the rulership of our heart, as we set our thought-life on the things of this earth ignoring the heavenly realities of His Word.

The Word of God is clear that if our belly is our god and the focal point of our devotion that the end of such foolish action is destruction. “Destruction” in the Greek means an utter and hopeless loss of all that gives worth to existence. It refers to the total ruin of your purpose for existence where one becomes spiritually bankrupt and useless to God. It is to waste away one’s life and perish without ever fulfilling the magnificent calling God has placed on our lives. When the god of our existence is our belly we will bring our heart to utter ruin as we fall woefully short of the glory of God being manifested in our lives. We wander off the path God has beautifully designed for our Christian life and become a spiritual vagabond that wastes our lives on the pursuit of instant gratification. Our love for God turns ice cold, and our hearts harden to the voice and touch of God in our lives. The belly drives one to worship the sensations of the flesh and causes our old sin nature to thrive. The belly-god suffocates and chokes every remnant of the true God and His Word from our heart. The belly-god is the great destroyer of our calling in the Body of Christ and our purpose for God in our generation. All of us in our Christian lives will come face to face with the belly-god quite frequently and each time we must render it dead and nailed to the cross.

Cultivate the Fruit of Self-Control

We must cultivate the fruit of the spirit of self-control and allow the Spirit of God to be the controlling factor over our appetites, desires and emotions. If we do not exercise this supernatural self-control birthed out of the Spirit of God, then our heart becomes like an ancient city whose walls are broken down where the enemy has free access.

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive). (John 7:37-39a, KJV)

Out of our belly should flow rivers of living water that will quench every appetite. Only God can satisfy our thirst. Only God can satisfy our hunger. Only God can satisfy our appetite. God promises in Psalm 36:8 that we shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of God’s house and He shall make us drink from the river of His pleasures. We will never thirst again when we drink of His living water and the river of His pleasures.

Why do we thirst after worldly pleasures when God is crying out to our heart to thirst after His pleasures? What pleasures do you think are better: the world’s or God’s? The pleasures of God are so magnificent, breathtaking, splendid and wonderful that words fail to describe them. The pleasures of God do not fade, run dry or come to an end. The pleasures of God are forever. Nothing in this world compares to the pleasures of God.

Henry Scougal in The Life Of God in the Soul of Man says: “The soul of man … hath in it a raging and inextinguishable thirst … Never does a soul know what solid joy and substantial pleasure is till, once being weary of itself, it renounces all property and gives itself up to the Author of its being.”[1] This raging thirst is never quenched until we find Him, the only satisfier of the heart, and experience His love, grace, mercy and peace. No temporal pleasure of this earth can ever satisfy our heart or give life meaning.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:2, 11, ESV)

How the heart yearns to know and experience the pleasures of God. We must seek His presence and path of life for therein is joy so full that it overflows. His eternal pleasures will forever delight the soul. The greatest pleasure in the entire universe is to know and enjoy God in all His greatness, goodness and majesty.

Oh God awaken our hearts to the joy of knowing you! Our hearts were made to know, love and delight in Him. This is why we exist, not to get wrapped up in the pleasures of this age, but to enjoy our God and the infinite pleasures of our relationship with Him. Seeing and savoring our awesome God changes our appetites, desires and actions profoundly. To fix the gaze of our heart on our glorious God and His pleasures is the great key of transformation and the vital key to resist the belly god with its selfish appetite. The most ravishing pleasures and substantial delights of the heart are only found when we lose ourselves in God and His heart becomes our heart, His desire our desire and His pleasure our pleasure.

Michael L. Brown in Whatever Happened to the Power of God? It’s Time to Rock the Boat states:

Are you willing to become consumed to the core of your being with desire for God? Are you willing to let Him strip you of all confidence in the flesh until you get to the point of total dependence upon Him? Are you willing-in brokenness and humility-to stand out from the crowd that is apparently satisfied with leftover bread? Are you willing to be emptied and emptied again so that God can fully fill you? The choice is entirely yours. How far are you willing to go?[2]

Never let this fifth thorn of the pleasures of this age suffocate and choke our desire for God and His matchless Word. Let our hearts always be consumed with God and filled with all His fullness as we turn from the fleeting pleasures of this age.

The Crown of Thorns

One final truth that will thrill our souls is that this same Greek word for “thorns” in the Parable of the Sower and the Seed is used another time in the gospels that has an enormous impact on our study. As Jesus was led into the judgment hall called the Praetorium, a cohort of four to six hundred soldiers cruelly mocked, beat and tortured our Lord. They wove together a crown of thorns and thrust it unto his head causing excruciating pain and profuse bleeding as it pierced his head and scalp. As Jesus went forth to Calvary to be crucified, he was wearing this crown of thorns and as he was hanging on the cross he was bearing the regal crown of thorns for you and me. Jesus Christ bore the crushing weight of every one of these five thorns at Calvary so they would never have to plague the heart of men and women again. He took the full blow of these thorns that have grown out of the curse of our sin nature and conquered them. He obliterated the power and strength of these five thorns with his death and resurrection so they never exercise dominion in the heart again. In Jesus Christ and his finished work on the cross, the authority and reign of the thorns of the heart were destroyed forever. Never again do they need to raise their foul head in our hearts for we have the ultimate victory over every thorn that has ever grown and flourished in the soils of our hearts.

We are super-conquerors and triumphant in Christ because he paid the price and bore our crown of thorns. This is the crowning glory and wonderful truth that must burn in our hearts, that our Lord and Savior lovingly took every painful, destructive and hurtful thorn and bore their agonizing pain for us. In this triumphant act, he forever ripped away their claim to our hearts. Through his power and strength, the soil of our heart can be free from every thorn that is bent on its destruction. In Jesus Christ our rallying cry is “Thorns no more!”

Excerpt from “The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life” by Tim Rowe

[1] Henry Scougal, The Life Of God in the Soul of Man (Eastford: Martino Fine Books, 2010), 26.

[2] Michael L. Brown, Whatever Happened to the Power of God? It’s Time to Rock the Boat (Shippensburg: Destiny Image Publishers 1991), 31.

 

Chapter 13: The Fourth Soil of the Heart: The Precious Good, Tilled and Fruitful Soil

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Parable of the Sower: The Fourth Thorn: The Lust for Other Things

The fourth thorn in the Parable of the Sower are “the lusts for other things.” The Greek word for “lusts” is epithymia and means a passionate and strong desire or longing for something and an unbridled craving that attaches itself to the object of its affection. It conveys the picture of explosive desire with the intensity of an erupting volcano. It is desire excited to the point of uncontrollable arousal. It is an impulsive and intense sensual desire contrary to the will and pleasures of God.

In its oldest root, this Greek word is associated with the violent movement of air, water, earth, animals and men. It has the meaning of boiling up emphasizing excessive indulgence, impulsive passions and frenzied desires. It is often associated with sexual appetite and conveys the image of lascivious passion built on animal desire for sexual indulgence. Lust is excessive desire that has gone overboard and adrift from the heart of God that seeks self-satisfaction, self-gratification and self-pleasure as its ultimate thrill ride. Lust has no perception of eternity and no realization of its deadly consequences to the heart. Lust is blind to the spiritual ramifications of its actions. Lust puts the heart in direct rebellion and mutiny against the rule of God.

Skip Moen, the Hebrew scholar, gives a thought-provoking definition of lust in his article Sleeping with the Enemy:

Epithymia is used to highlight the sin of longing for desires outside the will of God. Epithymia is … a deliberate violation (violence) against the will of God … a sin of willful disobedience marked by violent overthrowing of God’s expressed will … Epithymia is a manifestation of sin that dwells in man and that controls him, for although unholy desires are kindled as a result of the presentations of the world, it is the internal resolution to self-will, stirred up in impulsive motion that causes violence toward God’s rule. Lust is nothing less than the spiritual outburst of anxious self-seeking. Lust characterizes man as he really is, apart from God as a being who is at any moment willing to erupt in a burst of self-proclamation and self-determination … Therefore, the New Testament contains dire warnings against the danger of lust and instructs Christians to fight against such impulses. Here is instruction to use spiritual warfare and resistance against a great enemy of God, namely, the desire within us to create our own world. James 1:15 says that when lust conceives, it brings forth sin … James makes it clear that the very presence of epithymia is the seed bed for the propagation of sin. What James is saying is simply this: the presence of lust (epithymia) is pregnant with sin. Lust always conceives. There is no numinous condom that prevents lust from impregnating its recipient. If you and I allow lust to penetrate our lives, we have already assented to the dominance of our will in opposition to the will of God and that can mean only one result – the birth of sin. No wonder we are exhorted to violent action against such an enemy. There is no passive acquiescence here, no humble supplication. This is war, a war of self-will against the divine will and the prize is none other than our very being. Lust is not subtle. It is aggressive, violent, impulsive, explosive, demanding, commanding and overpowering. It wants only one thing – the object of its desire. And this is the antinomy of God’s way. Let us not be deluded. Lust is a powerful, cunning enemy, hideously concealed within our very being.[i]

Lust is an intense longing and hunger for something that is contrary to the will of God. It is the obsessive desire to eat and partake of the forbidden fruit that God has warned us about. Lust is a craving for the unholy.

The Kingdom of Lust

The Devil is the father and originator of all lust that spreads like wildfire throughout the earth in the hearts and minds of the human race. The Devil was the first being in the heavens and earth to lust in his heart, and he allowed lust to consume him, which resulted in him rebelling against God and causing a war in heaven. One third of the angels followed the father of lust in his mutiny against God and were cast out of heaven to the earth. Lust destroyed their heavenly calling and thrust them from the throne of God into utter darkness and chaos.

The kingdom of darkness was borne out of lust in the heart of God’s head archangel and cherubim, and lust is the centerpiece of all the works of this wicked kingdom throughout the earth. Unbridled lust always results in the downfall of the human heart. Lust is the precursor to rebellion against God and His Holy Word and causes the Word of God to be choked and strangled from the heart. When lust controls one’s thoughts and actions, it is a sure sign that one’s heart is not abiding in the truth and has wandered from the true way of God and His commandments. As a rapidly spreading disease, lust consumes the heart with its wicked desires, corrupting everything in its path. This prickly and poisonous weed may be the fastest growing thorn ever known to the heart as it spreads like a forest fire destroying all life in its path.

Lusts War against the Soul

Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul. (1 Peter 2:11, KJV)

Divinely loved ones [loved by God], I beg of you, please, as aliens and those who have settled down alongside of pagan [unsaved] people should, be constantly holding yourselves back from the passionate cravings (lusts) which are fleshly by nature [fleshly in that thy come from the totally depraved nature], cravings of such a nature that, like an army carrying on a military campaign, they are waging war, hurling themselves down upon your soul. (WUEST)

Lust is in constant war against the heart, attempting to turn it from God and contaminate it with impurity, wickedness, and unrighteousness. Lust is the great poison of the heart that suffocates the life of God and His Word. Lust causes the heart to war against God and keeps godliness from taking root in the heart. Lusts always corrupt and deteriorate the inner life of the heart.

The Greek word for “war” means to perform military service, to serve as a soldier in the army, to carry on a military campaign, and to lead soldiers to battle. This verb does not just imply mere fighting, but all that is included in military service. Lusts carry on a daily military campaign against our hearts, which will rage on until the return of Christ. Lusts march off to war as soldiers in active military service against their enemy, the soul. Lusts have a great military strategy at every turn of the battle, which is to destroy the heart for God. Lusts have devoured more human lives than all the wars in world history combined. In the church especially, lusts have ruined more ministries, destroyed more callings and wasted more godly potential, than anything upon the earth.

The statistics are staggering as it has been estimated that 50% of Christian men and 20% of Christian women are addicted to pornography as the lust problem is escalating in the church with devastating consequences. The Christian heart that is supposed to be a pure, honorable and glorious inner sanctuary devoted wholly to God has become a den of lust, and the entire body of Christ is affected by this contamination. Thorns of lust are multiplying at an unprecedented rate in the hearts of Christians and suffocating the life of Christ from growing. Instead of shining as lights in the world we are living in darkness because we have allowed the lusts of our sinful nature to control our thoughts and behavior.

Lust is a heart-killer and every moment of the day it has its aim on the soul. We must be vigilant to stand at the door of our heart and diligently guard it against lust ever entering its chambers. One of the greatest weapons of Satan’s kingdom against the lives of Christians is lust. When lust thrives in the heart, we cannot truly love God for our heart has turned passionately to something else that it craves more than God. Lust steals a Christian’s love, passion and devotion away from the Lord. Lust is constantly crouching and banging at the door of our heart demanding to be let in, enticing us to open the door and welcome it.

We must raise the shield of faith to quench the fiery darts of lust that are relentlessly being hurled at us. We must take the breastplate of righteousness and protect our heart and wield the sword of the spirit to cut the luring promises of lust into a million pieces. It is only by the great, precious promises of God’s Word, vibrantly alive in the heart by confession, study, meditation and prayer, and walking by the mighty gift of the holy spirit of God, which dwells in us, that we can escape the corrupting influence of lust.

Lust the Destroyer of Relationships, Cultures and Nations

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:4, KJV)

It is through him that God’s greatest and most precious promises have become available to us men, making it possible for you to escape the inevitable disintegration that lust produces in the world and to share in God’s essential nature. (PHILLIPS)

All the corruption in the world that is bombarded daily across our computers, radios and televisions has its root in the thorns of lust. Lust always corrupts and causes the disintegration of godliness in the heart. Lust destroys relationships, societies, and nations.

Every part of our heart matters to God, and we cannot give lust a part of our heart where God cannot enter. Jesus Christ has to be Lord of every room of our heart for every square inch is His dwelling place. When we harbor lust in our hearts, we are limiting our intimacy with God. Lust is never governed, regulated or guided by a supreme love, adoration and worship of God. Lust only falls to its knees before the object it craves and is blinded to the magnificent glory, grace, and love of God.

Lust never originates in the heart of the Heavenly Father, but in the world system orchestrated by the god of this age. Lust drives the heart to love and treasure the world. Lust always entices and leads the heart into idolatry. If lust dominates our thoughts and passions, then the love for our Heavenly Father does not abide in our heart. Our heart has become closed off from the love for God and the desire to do His will when the thorns of lust are the crop that our heart is producing. Lust always suffocates our fellowship with God.

May our heart cry out: “I only have one passion, one love, one hunger and one craving and it is for God alone!” We must never erect a golden calf of lust in our heart and dance around it with passion. God wants our whole heart, and we must utterly exterminate every lust of the flesh which stands against the glory of God living radiantly in us. God must be the only king of the inner court of our heart.

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17, NASB)

Lust: The Chief Characteristic of Our Sin Nature

To fight off these military campaigns of lust, we must understand where lust originates, how it operates and how to overcome it. The most basic question is why is there such a natural tendency and impulse within me to be pulled into the world of lust?

Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts. And put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22, 24, RSV)

No, what you learned was to fling off the dirty clothes of the old way of living, which were rotted through and through with lust’s illusions. And, with yourselves mentally and spiritually re-made, to put on the clean fresh clothes of the new life which was made by God’s design for righteousness and the holiness which is no illusion. (PHILLIPS)

But I say, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall no way fulfil flesh’s lust. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these things are opposed one to the other, that ye should not do those things which ye desire; But they that are of the Christ have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts. (Galatians 5:16-17, 24, DARBY)

As Christians, we have both a new nature in Christ and an old sinful nature inherited from Adam, and they are at war within us for control of our hearts. Both natures are born into our very being, the fleshly sinful nature at our physical birth, and the new divine nature at our spiritual birth when we are born again and come to Christ. These two natures are in constant conflict and struggle against each other as each one tries to dominate our lives.

There is intense warfare raging within us daily between our fleshly nature and our spiritual nature with each trying to take the territory of our heart. Both natures want to desperately win this war and advance in military might seizing the reign of the kingdom of the heart. The stakes are high in this spiritual conflict. This is the monumental internal struggle between good and evil in the human heart. This is a battle for the purity and character of the Christian heart and whether the heart will be transformed into the beauty and likeness of Christ or be conformed to the wickedness of their sin nature and the ungodly lusts of this world. This is a battle for what fruit will adorn the Christian’s heart and define his witness for Jesus Christ. This is a battle of eternal consequences, as the future rewards of the kingdom are at stake.

Lusts are the essential ingredient to the operation of our sin nature. The fleshly sinful nature is fueled by the thorns of lust, and its passionate cravings feed and drive the flesh into action. The old man nature inherited from Adam is corrupt, according to Ephesians, because of deceitful lusts. The Greek word for “corrupt” means to waste, wither, decay, shrivel and pine away. It is to corrupt by inner degeneration and decay. The Greek word is in the present passive participle, which means is it being corrupted more and more each day by lusts, and characterizes a progressive condition of decay like a decomposing corpse. Rogers and Rogers in The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament vibrantly illustrate this Greek word “corrupt”:

The whole character representing the former self was not only corrupt but ever growing more and more corrupt … Every trait of the old man’s behavior is putrid, crumbling, or inflated like rotting waste or cadavers, stinking; ripe for being disposed of and forgotten.[ii]

When the thorns of lust dominate our heart, it is like having rotting, stinking garbage or a putrid decaying corpse living within the very center of our being. Lust causes this horrible condition of degeneration and always leads to a worse state of corruption eventually causing the heart to waste away. Lust has an insatiable hunger and is never satisfied, always demanding more. When we sow the seeds of lust, we will reap the fruit of corruption. This is why Jesus warned in the Parable of the Sower to not allow the thorns of lust to grow and flourish in the heart because they will produce a putrid harvest of corruption, decay and destruction.

It is interesting that from the Greek root for “corrupt” we get our English word diphtheria, which is a contagious disease that produces a toxin that causes inflammation of the heart and nervous system. Lust is very contagious and toxic to the spiritual life of the heart. Lusts harden the heart causing it to lose all sensitivity to the voice of God and indulge in every kind of impurity that causes our growth in Christ to decay. The flesh dominated by lusts always corrupts His way upon the earth and in the human heart.

The Pregnancy of Lust Ready to Give Birth

But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished (brought to completion), it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. (James 1:14-16, NASB)

Temptation is the great indicator of who possesses the throne of our heart. Temptation shows what our heart is rooted in and what our heart hungers after. Temptation will gauge our spiritual strength and is a measuring stick of our growth in Christ. Temptation reveals where the gaze of our heart is directed. Are our inward eyes beholding the beauty and majesty of our God or the lusts of this temporal world? If our inward gaze is upon Jesus, temptation and lusts fall by the wayside and fade into the night.

Temptation feeds off of our lusts and can only lure us from the heart of God and His Holy Word when the fires of lust are burning in our souls and the gaze of our heart has turned away from God. Temptation will test the deepness of our relationship with God and always tries to lure us to another altar where God is not worshipped. Lusts flourish in the heart of a person who does not know God and the awesome nature of His character. Lusts abound in the heart of a person who has not seen the breathtaking beauty of God’s Word, which He magnified above all His name. Lust always carries the heart far from God into the darkness of a world where God is forgotten.

Lust is deeply embedded in the impure passions of the flesh and yearns to give birth to sin in every level of human activity. If we cannot control and mortify our lusts, then we will never be able to resist temptation. Temptations to disobey God are constantly hurled at the heart like piercing arrows, and we must know how to shield our hearts from their enticing offers. All temptation is an invitation to forsake God, and the only way temptation is successful in getting us to follow its bait is through appealing to a variety of different lusts of our flesh. Lust is what entices us to give into the temptation.

We are to watch and pray at the gateway of our heart so lust does not enter and carry us away into the den of temptation. Sin is crouching behind every lust waiting to pounce and bring us into bondage. We become a traitor to our God and play a dangerous game when we allowed the enemy access to our heart through unbridled lust.

When temptation and lust are joined together, a conception takes place, and sin is borne from this dreadful union. Lust is always pregnant with sin and if not dealt with in the human heart, it will give birth to sin. It is amazing to think that all sin is caused by lust. Lust is the precursor, forerunner and foundation of all sin. Without lust there is no temptation to sin. The bait and enticement to sin is always through lust. Lust is the proud parent of sin. Sin is the child and progeny of lust. All of the works of flesh mentioned in Galatians 5 and Colossians 3 have lust at its core. Anger, strife, envy, jealousy, impurity, idolatry, witchcraft, sexual immorality, slander, hatred and stealing all are caused by the lusts of our flesh. At the exact center of everything unholy are the flames of lust.

Runaway Lusts Have Caused Great Damage in the Church

Lusts are incredibly powerful and can cast the heart into spiritual darkness and change its entire composition. Lusts are one of the primary weapons of the Devil because when they get ahold of us, they will consume everything we are and everything we love. Uncontrolled consuming lusts destroy lives and wreck everything in their path. Runaway lusts have ruined more marriages, more families, more churches, more callings, more destinies and more nations than anything upon the earth. The heart consumed with lust will move heaven and earth to protect its unholy passion. No cost is too high. No price is too great. Soon our lives come crumbling down in a heap of corruption because there is nothing good, holy and pure in the lusts of our flesh. They always lead to death in some form as they destroy godliness, morality, honor, respect, virtue and holiness. Lust is a lethal enemy that cannot be allowed to grow as a thorn in the heart.

Becky Tirabassi in Sacred Obsession says:

Perhaps there is a lie you will buy. You believe you are entitled to chase after that which you think will make you feel alive-full of real, living passionate feelings. But you know, as I knew that these things or persons, pornography, illicit sexual relationships, greed-don’t make you more alive … they make you numb. They actually steal from you. They steal your joy, your peace, even your money! They use you. They take from you. Eventually (sooner, rather than later) they will ruin your reputation, smother any affection you might have for God, and ultimately destroy your purpose for living … If you have opened your heart to the unholy, you will soon close your eyes to the deception involved. But if you can still hear the plea of a sojourner who once loved sin and found it empty, please hear me say, “It cannot save you; it cannot satisfy you completely; it is not your friend. It is a stealer, a killer and destroyer. It seeks to own you. It has a nature, a purpose, a passion to possess you. It cannot love you. It hates you-and hates the holy. Instead I know only one way to be free from it-run from it. Hate it. See it as the poison it is … Run toward the holy God … relinquish the unholy passions in your life.[iii]

Jesus Christ: The Liberator from Unholy Passions

There is no release from this vicious power of lust without the Lord Jesus Christ. The power of the sin nature and all of its lusts have been forever crushed and defeated at Calvary through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He has freed us from this insidious law of sin and death that works in the lusts of our flesh and given us a new divine nature. We must put on this new nature and put off the old. We must adorn our heart and mind with this new clothing of the divine nature that was created in righteousness and true holiness and cast off the filthy, putrid rags of our old sin nature.

It is a new day for Christians where we no longer have to live helplessly enslaved to the unholy cravings of lusts. The glory of the Lord has shined in our hearts, and our God will be exalted above all the lusts of our flesh for our desire is only for Him. We are dead to sin and lusts and our heart is now alive to God! Sin is no longer the king of our hearts making us bow to the passions, cravings and lusts of the flesh. We are sons and daughters of God and we now offer our bodies, minds and hearts to God as a living sacrifice to accomplish His will upon the earth as we magnify God in our thoughts, words and actions. We have decided to arm ourselves with the mind of Christ and to live the rest of our lives not to the lusts of the flesh, but to the will of God (1 Peter 4:2). God has made us a new creation in Christ, and the old habits of lust have passed away. We have been made lovely, acceptable, righteous, justified, sanctified, holy, and redeemed in Christ and the lusts of our flesh can never compare to the glory of God that has been revealed in us. We are now the living habitation of God, and our inner heart is God’s holy of holies where there is no room for any impurity, lust, and unholy passion.

Reckoning the Lusts of Our Flesh Unemployed

We were buried therefore with Him by the baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, so we too might habitually live and behave in newness of life. For if we have become one with Him by sharing a death like His, we shall also be one with Him in sharing His resurrection by a new life lived for God. We know that our old, unrenewed self was nailed to the cross with Him in order that our body, which is the instrument of sin might be made ineffective and inactive for evil, that we might no longer be the slaves of sin. Even so consider yourselves also dead to sin and your relation to it broken, but alive to God, living in unbroken fellowship with Him, in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore rule as king in your mortal, short-lived, perishable bodies, to make you yield to its cravings and be subject to its lusts and evil passions. Do not continue offering or yielding your bodily members and faculties to sin as instruments tools of wickedness. But offer and yield yourselves to God as though you have been raised from the dead to perpetual life, and your bodily members and faculties to God, presenting them as implements of righteousness. For sin shall not any longer exert dominion over you, since now you are not under Law as slaves, but under grace as subjects of God’s favor and mercy. (Romans 6:4-6,11-13, AMP)

So kill, deaden, deprive of power the evil desire (lust) lurking in your members [those animal impulses and all that is earthly in you that is employed in sin] … (Colossians 3:5(a), AMP)

And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Galatians 5:24-25, KJV)

Those who belong to Christ have crucified their old nature with all that it loved and lusted for. If our lives are centered in the Spirit, let us be guided by the Spirit. (PHILLIPS)

We yield our hands, feet, mouth, eyes, ears and heart as tools of righteousness to our God, and never allow our body to be an instrument of sin. We must not allow the thorns of lust to exert dominion over our heart for the grace of God teaches us that we deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world (Titus 2:12). We walk in newness of life according to our divine nature giving us the power to escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. We render the lusts of our flesh unemployed, as sin is a dethroned monarch in our heart. We refuse to yield to lust’s evil passions, impulses and cravings. Lust is dead in the heart of the Christian that walks by the Spirit.

The Heavenly Emancipation Proclamation

God has issued the Emancipation Proclamation from the legal court of heaven, and in Christ we are no longer slaves of sin and all its corresponding lusts. The edict has been proclaimed that we are forever free from the corrupting power of lust through the redeeming work of Christ. In His salvation, lusts have no strength or vitality, for we are now moved by our yearning for Christ. Our new nature operates by love not lust, and God has poured His love into our hearts. We can love like Jesus loves and no longer have to lust like Satan lusts. Our new spiritual heritage is to love God and love people with a selfless love as we no longer run on the course of this world, recklessly fulfilling the lusts of the flesh and of the mind.

Why would we want to lust for other things when we have God as our Heavenly Father? Why would we want to lust after other things when we have Jesus as our Lord, brother and Savior? Why would we turn our hearts over to lust when Christ is in us? Christ’s life, power, and love abide within us waiting to be brilliantly manifested to the world through our faith. Do we want to be a vessel of honor or dishonor to our God? Don’t we yearn to be a vessel of honor shining brightly as lights in this crooked generation, demonstrating to the world that our awesome God is infinitely better than anything that the world lusts after?

But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also utensils of wood and earthenware, and some for honorable and noble use and some for menial and ignoble use. So whoever cleanses himself from what is ignoble and unclean, who separates himself from contact with contaminating and corrupting influences will then himself be a vessel set apart and useful for honorable and noble purposes, consecrated and profitable to the Master, fit and ready for any good work. Shun youthful lusts and flee from them, and aim at and pursue righteousness (all that is virtuous and good, right living, conformity to the will of God in thought, word, and deed); and aim at and pursue faith, love, and peace (harmony and concord with others) in fellowship with all Christians, who call upon the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:20-22, AMP)

Do you want to be set apart from the world and useful for the noble and honorable purposes God has ordained for your life? Do you want to be consecrated and profitable for your Lord, fit and ready to do every good work that He has called you to in your generation? Then you must cleanse your heart from every lust that craves for attention. You must separate your heart from the contaminating and corrupting influence of lust. You must shun and flee from lusts with the speed of an Olympic runner and aim your heart at your glorious God, pursuing His righteousness, love, and peace with the intensity of a spiritual athlete. As Christians we must all call upon the Lord out of a pure heart free from the control of earthly lusts. As the Body of Christ we must pledge to live a holy life that is no longer enslaved to the sins and lusts of our old flesh. Oh what a magnificent day it will be for Christianity when lusts fade away in the glory and power of our new life in Christ.

[i] Skip Moen, Sleeping with the Enemy, Hebrew Word Study: Skip Moen, http://skipmoen.com/2007/03/05/sleeping-with-the-enemy/

[ii] Rogers and Rogers, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1998), 442.

[iii] Becky Tirabassi, Sacred Obsession: What You Chase After You Become (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2006), 21.

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The Third Thorn in Parable of the Sower: The Deceitfulness of Riches

The third thorn in the Parable of the Sower is “the deceitfulness of riches.” Millions of people have been corrupted, ruined and destroyed by the deceitfulness of riches. Wealth has a strong tendency to cause the heart to cry out “I don’t need you God! I have my riches! I have everything I need!” and therein lies the grave danger to the spiritual health of the heart. Riches can turn the heart away from God quicker than almost anything on earth.

John Wesley said wealth had destroyed the godliness of more people than other thing. This thorn illustrates the eternal truth in the Sermon on the Mount that “where your treasure is there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34). Spurgeon said: “The heart must and will go in the direction of that which we count precious. The whole man will be transformed into the likeness of that for which he lives.[i]” It is when riches become the precious treasure of our heart, and we crave them with intense passion that the heart becomes overgrown with these thorns.

Nothing in the material realm has the power to satisfy a person’s spiritual needs. Nothing in the material realm can ever compare to God Almighty, and it can never quench the thirst of the heart to have an intimate relationship with Creator of the heavens and earth.  God warns us in Psalms 62:10 that if riches or wealth increase not to set our heart upon them. As certain as the sun rises every morning, God promises in Proverbs 11:28 that if we trust in riches, we will fall. The love of riches leads us into worshipping them in adoration of their power and affluence. The passion for riches is like a habit-forming drug that we shoot into our heart giving us a momentary euphoria, but eventually we come crashing down enslaved in its wicked snare. Riches are an illusion of strength, security, and success, but are as flimsy as a paper house. The heart that is consumed with the love of wealth and accumulation of riches is on a path of spiritual destruction. The love of riches is a destroyer of relationships with friends, family, colleagues, and ultimately God, which is the biggest tragedy of all. This thorn is a destroyer of everything godly in the heart and needs to be rooted up, if we are ever to live a life that pleases God.

This third thorn is not simply riches, but the deceitfulness of riches where we are deceived into giving our allegiance to the pursuit of wealth above everything else. The Greek word for “deceitfulness” means to seduce by false promises and persuasion, to cheat, beguile, deceive or delude, to give a false impression by appearance, statement or influence, and to lead astray and seduce into error. In the Septuagint, it is the same root word used in Genesis 3:13 when the serpent deceived Eve and illustrates that the author of deceitfulness is the Devil. He weaves the web of deceit concerning riches to lead the heart astray on this deadly path. Riches are so deceitful because they give the false impression that they bring life, status, happiness and everything a person will ever need to have a meaningful life.

The Deep Root in Every Heart

A.W. Tozer in The Pursuit of God explains the deep root in every heart to possess which is at the center of the deceitfulness of riches:

Before the Lord God made man upon the earth He first prepared for him by creating a world of useful and pleasant things for his sustenance and delight. In the Genesis account of the creation these are called simply “things.” They were made for man’s uses, but they were always meant to be external to man and subservient to him. In the deep heart of the man was a shrine where none but God was worthy to come. Within him was God; without, a thousand gifts which God had showered upon him. But sin introduced complications and has made those very gifts of God a potential source of ruin to the soul. Our woes began when God was forced out of His central shrine and “things” were allowed to enter. Within the human heart “things” has taken over….There is within the human heart a tough fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets “things” with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns “my” and “mine” look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant. They express the real nature of old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do. They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease. The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution. [ii]

Our culture of greed is a living illustration of this monstrous substitution of “things” taking the place of God in the throne room of our heart. This is the driving mantra of our age as the hearts of so many are consumed with the desire to be rich and famous. Everyone wants to be a star, or an American idol, having fancy cars, big houses and a never-ending supply of new playthings. This is simply the old root of our sin nature raising its ugly head in the fierce passion to possess more and more things. Unfortunately we so often mark success in our culture by how many things we possess.

Exploitation of the Poor: One of the Major Reasons for the Flood

God is the source of all blessings. He gave so many blessings to Adam and Eve so they could rise to the fullest potential of life with their Creator. But when sin poured into human nature, human need changed to lust and the pursuit of things became the obsession of the heart. God’s gracious gifts became misused and distorted, as wealth was accumulated and hoarded at the expense of others namely the poor and less fortunate. By the time of the Noah, the deceitfulness of riches reached an enormous peak and played a major part in causing the earth to be completely corrupt before God and filled with violence. The deceitfulness of riches helped to corrupt God’s way on the earth. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states:

Genesis 6:11,13 describes the socio-economic conditions prior to the Flood in terms of the earth being “filled with violence.” The word rendered “violence” in Hebrew was used by the prophets to describe the exploitation of the poor by the rich (Amos 3:10, Micah 6:12). Thus it appears that exploitation was a major reason for God’s destroying the earth with a flood.[iii]

God’s heart as expressed in the Mosaic Law was that each person and family was entrusted with the blessings of God, which included things like land, food, drink, livestock and material goods. Each person had the opportunity to express His faith in God by dealing justly and responsibly with what God had given to him by not hoarding their wealth, but by helping others in need. When we realize that everything we have is a gift from God, we will not spoil His generosity by turning His gift into personal accumulation. Luxury causes the heart to be ungrateful, arrogant and full of pride and blinds the eyes to see the hand of God and His blessings. God’s gifts are to be shared and given as a blessing to others. It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). Jesus talked about the rich man in the parable who wanted to hoard everything he had for himself with no concern for others.

And then, turning to the disciples, he said to them, “Notice that, and be on your guard against covetousness in any shape or form. For a man’s real life in no way depends upon the number of his possessions.” Then he gave them a parable in these words, “Once upon a time a rich man’s farmland produced heavy crops. So he said to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have no room to store this harvest of mine?’ Then he said, ‘I know what I’ll do. I’ll pull down my barns and build bigger ones where I can store all my grain and my goods. And I can say to my soul, Soul, you have plenty of good things stored up there for years to come. Relax! Eat, drink and have a good time!’ But God said to him, ‘You fool, this very night you will be asked for your soul! Then, who is going to possess all that you have prepared?’ That is what happens to the man who hoards things for himself and is not rich where God is concerned.” (Luke 12:15-21, PHILLIPS)

Rich Toward God

We do not truly love God and serve Him on a heart level if we hoard all our possessions for ourselves and do not reach out to those in need. No one can take his riches with them when they die. No one can take their possessions into eternity. The deceitfulness of riches hardens the heart to protect their riches at all costs and only use them to build their empire of vanity. It creates a false superiority over others and causes the heart to look in disdain to the poor, the struggling and those who do not have many earthly possessions. Pride fills the heart with cruelty and indifference as one is deceived into living in the world of luxury without any regard for God or others. Deceitfulness of riches causes the heart to be deceived into thinking that their rich lifestyle will go on forever and blinds the heart to the vital truths of eternity. The heart is darkened and foolishly does not realize that the bubble could burst at any moment, and then you must stand before the judgment seat of Christ where money and riches have no power to buy eternal life. They are filthy rags compared to the righteousness of God and the eternal treasures of His Word.

Life is Not Measured by Our Possessions

A person’s life is never measured by their possessions or wealth. God could care less how big your bank account is. The bigger question is what are we doing with the blessings that God has given us? Are we building bigger houses to store all our playthings or are we advancing God’s kingdom by being rich toward God and reaching out to bless others from our abundance? We are stewards of what God has given us, and He is to exercise His lordship over all our possessions so that we honor God with our giving. We are to become generous, like Christ is generous, for “in their generosity, believers reflect the character of God, who is the giver of all good things” (James 1:17). Then things do not control us for we are willing to let go of them for the glory of God in order to do His work upon the earth. Things no longer deceive us for we know the source of our blessings and our heart is ready to share those blessings with others. These thorns cannot survive or grow in this type of environment of the heart.

But we must never underestimate the power of riches to lead the heart to ruin. Money appeals to the flesh, as it wants to be master of the heart. Money demands allegiance. Money demands our first love. Money demands loyalty and devotion and has a strong pull on the heart to be lured into its trap.

No One Can Serve Two Masters

Jesus made it clear that we must decide whom we are going to serve. There comes a crossroad in a person’s life when they must make this critical decision: Am I going to devote myself to material things or God? Am I going to pursue money or God first in my life? What is my definition of success? Is it a life rich toward the treasures of this world or rich toward God?”

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24, KJV)

Mammon is an Aramaic word for wealth, property and anything of value. It refers to total wealth, which includes money, property and possessions. It is interesting in the Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible it capitalizes Mammon as if it were a god and in essence Jesus is saying “You cannot serve God and the god of possessions.” We cannot love wealth and love God at the same time. Both riches and God demand our time, energy, and devotion. Only one can hold and capture our heart. Only one can be the Lord of our heart. Only one will command our love, worship and reverence. One will be crowned king of our hearts and the other will be banished as insignificant. One will have our utmost loyalty and faithful service while the other will be relegated to the bottom of our priorities.

The Greek word for “hold” means to hold firmly, to strongly cling to, and to literally hold in front of one’s face. The Greek word for “despise” means to look down upon with contempt or aversion, to consider not important, to think little of, to neglect and not care for. It is pushing something aside because it is thought to have no value.

Ponder the meanings of these words for a moment and ask yourself which word describes the condition of your heart in relation to God and which word describes the condition of your heart in relation to possessions. We will strongly hold fast to one and place it continuously before our face. We will push aside the other one in contempt thinking it has no value. Do we hold fast to God or the god of possessions? Do we push God aside in contempt because we think He has little value or do we push aside the god of wealth and possessions? Which has more importance to us? Which has more value?

Too Little of God and Too Much of Things

Will we have the fruit of a life rich toward God or will the thorns of the deceitfulness of riches suffocate the life of God from our heart? Which one is our master? That which we love most, we worship as our God. God is always to be loved above all other things. Do we love things more than we love God? Too many of us have too little of God and too much of things.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions-is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17, ESV)

Where is Your First Love?

God commands us not to love the things of the world and not to have pride in our possessions for it will cause our love for our Heavenly Father to depart. Both loves cannot live within our heart. One love will suffocate and destroy the other. One love will crowd out and push the other from the heart. There is no room for double occupancy of both loves in the heart. They cannot live in peaceful co-existence. So the critical question for all eternity is: “Where does our first love lie?”

The Greek word for “love” is agapao, which is used to describe the unconditional, sacrificial love of God that He expresses for all men, women and children on earth. It is a love, which is awakened by a sense of value in the object that causes one to prize it. It springs from an appreciation of the preciousness of an object. It means to cherish with deep affection.

1 John was addressed to Christians in the church fellowship and contains one of the most important commandments ever pertaining to the heart. If we break this commandment, then our heart will turn from God and fall into great peril. There should be a huge warning sign beside this commandment. The breaking of this commandment contained in these three short verses will allow the enemy to gain control of our heart and enslave us in the trappings of this world. We are not be fooled by the mesmerizing and alluring display of what wealth and possessions have to offer. It is an illusion. It is such a glitzy presentation, but we do not realize the dangerous thorn and dagger that lurks right below the surface. Most Christians cannot resist. Most succumb to the temptation. Most sell out their love for God for gold. Most allow possessions to become the prize of their life, and God takes a second seat and becomes insignificant in their daily living. Most allow themselves to be deceived by riches and it chokes every trace of the Word of God from their hearts.

Lovers of Money More than Lovers of God

How this must hurt the heart of God when “things” replace God as our first love. We must guard our heart to never set our affection on the things and possessions of this world. We must never take this wonderful agapao love that is meant for God first and instead embrace the “things” of the world with it. This is at the heart of the deceitfulness of riches: the monstrous substitution of agapao love for God being replaced by agapao love for possessions.

We have become lovers of money more than lovers of God as our secular, materialistic society has contaminated our faith and corrupted our hearts. I pray God that this thorny weed of the deceitfulness of riches never is allowed to flourish in our hearts for it always contaminates our love for God and strangles it from our hearts.

We must ask our heart these questions daily: “Whom do I reserve my agapao love for today: God Almighty or the god of possessions?” “What do I prize as my most beloved possession: God or riches?” “What captures my affection and is the valuable treasure of my heart: God or our prideful possessions?” Both crave our love. Both crave our attention. Both crave our devotion. Both are jealous and want to be loved more than anything else. Which one will you choose?

Are we like the rich ruler in Luke 18 that desperately wanted eternal life, but he loved his riches so much that he refused to sell all that he had and give to the poor so he could accumulate great treasure in heaven? He went away very sorrowful from the presence of Jesus because his riches were more precious to him than Jesus. He cherished his possessions more than he cherished God. His wealth has such a hold on his heart that he walked away from eternal life!

Even Jesus was tempted by the Devil to sell his soul for the all the riches and power of the kingdoms on earth, but the Lord God Almighty was the treasure that Jesus’s heart worshipped. He would not bow his knee to the god of possessions and allow its thorny weeds to destroy his heart.

Our heart should cry out like Job 22:25-26: “Yes, the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver. For then you will have your delight in the Almighty and lift up your face to God.” God must be our delight and joy. He is our precious gold, silver and treasure. God’s riches of love, grace and mercy are a thousand times more valuable than the riches of this world. What does it matter if we gain the whole world and all its possessions, but lose our soul? What does it matter if we have all our possessions, but lose our love for God?

Money cannot buy us eternal life or an intimate relationship with God. Money cannot buy us treasures in heaven. Money cannot buy joy, love, peace or even true happiness. Money is temporal and is like a vapor that is here today and gone tomorrow. Possessions pass away quickly and we cannot take them with us when we die. God is eternal and is from everlasting to everlasting. His magnificence, glory, grace, mercy, love and faithfulness are infinite and never perish. We have to be complete fools and absolutely deceived to place our heart in the hands of the god of possessions.

Wake up Christian church to this monstrous deception and cast down every vestige of gold from our hearts. Promise God that you will never worship our golden calf again. We must blazon this eternal truth in our souls and write it with a pen of iron on the tablets of our hearts: Nothing in the heavens and earth compares to our God! Nothing is greater, nothing is stronger, nothing is wiser, and nothing is more glorious that our Almighty God. He alone is what we should glory in. We should never waste the life of our heart on the temporal things of this world.

Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24, ESV)

The Riches of Our Inheritance in God

Do we know the riches of the inheritance we have in Christ? Is our heart acquainted with the riches of the glory of Christ, which dwells within us? Do we know that the Bible declares we are heirs of God and joint heirs of Christ? Money is nothing and mere fool’s good compared to this.

Paul prays in Ephesians that the eyes of our understanding may be opened wide to see and know in no uncertain terms the riches of His glorious inheritance in the Christian believer. If we understand this mind-boggling truth, the riches of this world and their value will fade away into oblivion. The heart that understands these heavenly treasures in Christ will never be overgrown by the thorns of the deceitfulness of riches. There will be no deception because our eyes have been opened, and we have caught a glimpse of the heavenly glory of God’s rich inheritance that He has invested in each one of us.

The Example of C.T. Studd

C.T. Studd was born into immense riches and also became the most famous cricket player in England. He was the like the Michael Jordan or LeBron James of his generation, and he had it all: riches, fame, and luxury. However, he gave up everything to become a missionary in China, India and Africa.

What would lead a person to gladly leave riches, celebrity, and possessions to proclaim the gospel in some of the most remote areas on earth? He endured daily insult, danger, sickness, and extreme conditions of poverty when in China as even his bed was infested with scorpions. C.T. Studd could have been living in a stately mansion in England with his every need catered to, but he gave it all up, even living in tents in the deepest parts of Africa.

At the age of twenty-five, he was to inherit a large sum of money, yet he gave it all away. What would compel him to such a radical act of giving to win souls for Christ? Could it be that his heart beheld the living, glorious Christ and he knew him in such an intimate way that few ever experience. Something happens in the heart of a man or woman when they behold the cross and see the resurrected Christ in all his glory. C.T Studd beheld Christ, and his heart grabbed a hold of Christ, and his eyes were opened to the futility of a life sold out to possessions. He had experienced what the Apostle Paul had experienced, and he could not remain the same.

Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One). (Philippians 3:8, AMP)

Nothing on earth compares to the priceless privilege of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord in an intimate and abiding relationship. This is the greatest possession a person could have and the greatest treasure to abide in the heart. C.T. Studd dedicated His life so others may gain this great possession, the pearl of great price Jesus Christ. Listen to the heart of C.T. Studd:

I cannot tell you what joy it gave me to bring the first soul to the Lord Jesus Christ. I have tasted almost all the pleasures that this world can give. I do not suppose there is one that I have not experienced, but I can tell you that those pleasures were as nothing compared to the joy that the saving of that one soul gave to me.[iv]

Norman Grubb in C.T. Studd, Cricketer and Pioneer wrote:

C.T’s life stands as some rugged Gibraltar—a sign to all succeeding generations that it is worthwhile to lose all this world can offer and stake everything on the world to come. His life will be an eternal rebuke to easy-going Christianity. He has demonstrated what it means to follow Christ without counting the cost and without looking back. The riches of Christ are eternal, glorious, and precious beyond measure and the lure of the riches of this world fade into the night in comparison. CT Studd lamented the fact that so many heeded the call of gold over the call of God: “Last June at the mouth of the Congo there awaited a thousand prospectors, traders, merchants and gold seekers, waiting to rush into these regions as soon as the government opened the door to them, for rumor declared that there is an abundance of gold. If such hear so loudly the call of gold and obey it, can it be that the ears of Christ’s soldiers are deaf to the call of God? Are gamblers for gold so many and gamblers for God so few?”[v]

So many do not even give a second thought to selling out for gold, and so few even consider the thought of selling out to God. C.T. Studd’s life stands as a shining example that worldly possessions and riches can never compare to the satisfaction and joy of living for Christ. Riches can never deceive a heart that has beheld the glory of Christ and has abandoned all to know and love Him for all eternity. A few stanzas of C.T. Studd’s timeless poem should ring in our heart.

Only one life, yes only one, Soon will its fleeting hours be done; Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet, And stand before His Judgement seat; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice, gently pleads for a better choice Bidding me selfish aims to leave, And to God’s holy will to cleave; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.[vi]

Two Attitudes That Allows This Thorn to Take Root

Let’s finish our examination of this third thorn of the heart by examining 1 Timothy 6 that pulls no punches in describing exactly what the love for riches will do to the human heart.

But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. (1 Timothy 6:9-12, NLT)

The Bible speaks of two attitudes in these verses that will open the door for the thorn of the deceitfulness of riches to take root in the soil of our hearts. The first attitude is to “long to be rich” and the second attitude is to “crave money.”

First Dangerous Attitude: Longing to be Rich

This first mindset is characterized by the attitude that we earnestly desire to seek riches as the main purpose of our lives. This always signals there is an immense amount of trouble and devastation that lies ahead on the horizon. The Greek word for “long for” means decision, purpose or plan, which is the result of inner deliberation. It describes something that has been reasoned and planned with intelligence. It is the weighty consideration, which precedes the effecting of the will.

This is not a fly by night decision of the heart. It is not wishful dreaming. It is not hoping that we may win the lottery someday. This involves much inner deliberation, consideration and reasoning to come up with a master plan to be rich. It consumes the heart. Nothing is more important. Everything in the heart is directed to utilizing all resources to accomplish this purpose. The heart cries out, “I must be rich! I must have many possessions! I must live in luxury with everything I need in the material realm! Nothing can stop me! I want to be a millionaire and enjoy the fruit of my money!”

The Second Dangerous Attitude: Craving Money

The second attitude of the heart is to have an intense craving for money. The Greek word for “crave” means to stretch one’s self out in order to grasp something, to passionately long for, and to give oneself up for something. It is interesting the same word is used in Hebrews 11:16 to describe the heroes of faith craving for their eternal home, the heavenly city that God has prepared for them. Their eyes were set on things above, not on things of this earth. However in these verses Timothy instead of being directed toward eternity, their craving is turned toward money. They love it with all their heart. They stretch their entire body and soul out so they can grasp the gold of this world. They crave it so much they would give up everything to obtain it. It is an unbridled passion that consumes the heart. The heart must have it. The heart is obsessed with it. The heart will not rest until it worships it as its own. They are obsessed with it and will not let go. They believe this is the precious treasure that gives life meaning and everything must be sacrificed to get it.

When we have either one of these attitudes of heart, the thorns burst forth from the soil suffocating and crowding everything in their path. The heart falls into the trap and is plagued by many foolish and hurtful desires that plunge it into ruin and destruction. The Greek word for “plunge” means to sink into the deep, to drag to the bottom, to submerge, and to drown. It is like a ship sinking to the bottom of the deep or a person drowning in the sea. It is in the indicative mood in the Greek, which is the mood of certainty, stating something as a fact that has occurred or will occur. The words “ruin and destruction” according to The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament are used “in the sense of ruin that suggests irretrievable loss.”[vii]

When we deliberately purpose to be rich with great longing, our heart is going to take the big plunge. It is guaranteed that we are going to sink. Our life is going to be dragged to the bottom of the deep and we are going to be drowning in ruin and destruction. We will suffer irretrievable loss both in our earthly lives and in eternity.

Is it worth it to sacrifice everything for the fleeting glimmer of gold that is full of empty promises and temporary satisfaction? The Word of God promises life and the love of riches promises a life that will ultimately be irretrievably lost in ruin. The Bible says this is a fact that will absolutely occur if our heart is sold out to riches. This is where the subtlety of the thorn of the deceitfulness of riches comes into play for only when the heart is deceived can it make such a foolish choice. The heart is seduced into error and becomes blind to the destructive nature both now and throughout all eternity of a life that serves the god of possessions. God is giving us a stern warning of the danger to the heart of the passionate love of money. In the end you will drown in the hopelessness of a life that puts the service to money ahead of the service to God.

The Love of Money Establishes a Root of Evil in the Heart

The love of money establishes a root in the heart and from this root all kinds of evil grows. This root anchors the heart to evil. So many evil words, actions, and attitudes spring forth like budding plants from this root. Pride, arrogance, bitterness, rivalry, lust, greed, covetousness, indifference and hatred are just a few of the evil works that spring forth from the root of the love of money. A root is embedded deep in the soil and if it is not uprooted will constantly produce these thorns. It is like a cancerous tumor that spreads its disease throughout the heart and contaminates it with evil. This root will cause disastrous consequences if allowed to remain and flourish in the heart.

The love of money seeks wealth as a solution to life’s problems. We see this attitude in the buying of a lottery ticket because we think if we win the lottery, it will solve all of our problems. Ironically just the opposite happens as the love of money brings a mountain of problems, hurt and devastation.

The love of money has severe and eternal consequences.  This is why Hebrews 13:5 (NASB) says: “Let your way of life be free from the love of money, being content with what you have…” The love of money creeps into the heart when we desire to have more than what God gives. The love of money slithers in when we forget that life is a gift from God. Our heart should be content and thankful for what we have, and we should make it our aim to pursue godliness not riches. There is incredible freedom in the heart that is content and not wrapped up in the rat race of possessions. If we have food to heat, clothes for our body and a roof over our head, our heart should overflow with joy and thankfulness to God.

The love of money also has the tragic consequence of causing the heart to wander from the true faith. The Greek word for “wander” means to cause to go astray, and to lead away from the truth to error. The love of money can have such a powerful influence on the heart that it can cause you to walk away from God, from the lordship of Jesus Christ, and from the body of Christ. God is cast aside in order to bow at the altar of the god of possessions. Our foolish heart becomes darkened as we turn from the light of God and His Word and are led astray into the darkness of this world. We hopelessly stumble and wander as we have left the truth path of God. We have lost our eyes to see and our ears to hear. The heart will ultimately be pierced with many sorrows and consuming grief. The love of money will destroy any fruit for God in our hearts, suffocating the tender plant that is trying to produce fruit. Is it worth it to lose our hearts over money?

The Tragic Lesson of Judas

There is no greater example of this in the Word of God than Judas. Judas was one of the original twelve disciples that Jesus had chosen and throughout Jesus’s entire ministry on the earth, he was part of Jesus’s inner circle. Judas lived, ate, traveled and ministered with the Master. He witnessed amazing miracles on a daily basis: the dead raised, lepers healed, demons cast out, sicknesses healed and the captives set free. He was present for the Lord’s teachings and instructions and time and time again had the awesome privilege to hear the Lord share his heart to his disciples. Jesus gave Judas power over devil spirits to cast them out, to heal all manner of sickness and disease and all power to tread over the devil and his kingdom. Judas was sent out with the twelve to minister with this amazing power in the name of the Lord.

Can you imagine how astounding and exhilarating this must have been to witness firsthand the glory of God manifested! He lived and breathed in such closeness to the Son of God that he saw and heard the Lord Jesus in an intimate matter that only a few had the honor to be part of this inner sanctuary. This is the long awaited Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings! Think of what a magnificent and breathtaking experience this must have been!

But even in the midst of living with the Messiah and experiencing the Lord of Glory in his wonderful earthly ministry, the love of money and the god of possessions began to work on Judas’s heart. Judas was keeper of the moneybag for the ministry of Jesus and began to steal from it according to John 12:6. The love of money began to take root in his heart as he became a thief and stole from the Lord Jesus. Judas’s heart was beginning to wander and be led astray by the enemy and the thorn of the deceitfulness of riches was beginning to raise its ugly head and grow in the soil of his heart. This thorn began to rapidly increase suffocating any plants growing from the seeds of the Word of God sown by Jesus. The door was opened through the thorn of the deceitfulness of riches for Judas to be receptive to the devil’s promptings.

Oh how dangerous, deceitful and powerful is the love of money to cause Judas, one of the original twelve, to betray the Lord Jesus! Jesus even reached out to Judas at the last supper by washing his feet, giving him the sop which was given to the most beloved guest, and giving him the opportunity to repent. But this thorn was so strong and the love of money had established such an evil root in the heart of Judas that the Bible says Satan entered into him. He left the presence of Jesus to sell him out, driven by the love of money. It was the dark night of his heart.

The love of money had such a hold on the heart of Judas that it drove Judas to seek out the enemies of the Lord Jesus and make the mind-boggling statement: “What will you pay me to betray Jesus?” There is no more tragic statement of the heart in all Scriptures than this: “What will you give me to throw down the love, light, teaching, and ministry of God’s beloved Son and trample them under foot?” Psalm 41 states in prophecy that Judas was a close friend of Jesus in whom he trusted. But Judas threw it all away for the love of money. Money was more important to Judas than the Lord Jesus. Money had become the god of his heart. His heart had turned dramatically as he became a lover of money more than a lover of God.

It did not take much money for Judas to betray Jesus. He sold out the Savior for the paltry sum of thirty pieces of silver which according to Exodus 21:32 was the fine to be paid when a man’s ox gored another man’s servant and injured him. Only thirty pieces of silver, the lowest price of a slave, was the price paid for the betrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Judas had been led astray from the faith and seduced into the most egregious sin and error in human history by his greed and love of money. This should be a sober lesson to us all as God pleads with us in Ephesians 5:3 to not have one hint of greed or covetousness in our heart. The idolatrous sin of the love of money should never once be named in the chambers of our heart or in the body of Christ. It is too dangerous to even allow a sliver of this monstrous thorn to abide in the heart.

It is interesting according to The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia that Judas was called “Iscariot” and it could have been a descriptive nickname for Judas meaning “Man of the Lie.”[viii] Is there any greater lie promulgated today than money is more worthy of our devotion than God? Is there any greater deception today than we should sell our souls for the pursuit of the Almighty dollar and its promises of fame and fortune? Everyone wants to be a millionaire no matter what the cost. God demands that we renounce all other lovers if we are to serve and worship Him. Are we going to be lovers of God or lovers of money? God has the exclusive right to the love of His children and He will tolerate no rival. He will not accept our heart as rooted and grounded in any other thing than Him.

[i] Charles Spurgeon, The Gospel of the Kingdom: A Popular Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1893), 37.

[ii] A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (New York: Start Publishing LLC, 2012, originally published in 1948), 18, 19.

[iii] International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Volume Four: Q-Z, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1988).

[iv] Norman Grubb, C.T. Studd, Cricketer and Pioneer (Cambridge: The Lutterworth Press, 1970), 33.

[v] Ibid., 127.

[vi] C. T. Studd, “Only One Life, Twill Soon Be Past” (1860-1931).

[vii] Rogers and Rogers, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998), 498.

[viii] International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Volume Four: Q-Z, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1988)

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