In Brooklyn this fall, my daughter and I attended a street fair centered around the arts — In one particular open air building, several people were giving away large, colorful bags. A few other people were handing out orangeade and lemonade sodas — for FREE! We were even allowed to come back for seconds — yes, the sodas were very good! on a hot day in New York.
David the psalmist sings:
“For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.”
Of course, the difference between the street givers and the Lord is immense — the street givers are actually advertisers; they expect you to purchase their products at a later time and in great quantity. They hope this, anyway. On the other hand, God truly gives. Yes, He has expectations. His hope is that you will accept His gift so He may have a relationship with you through His Son, Jesus via His Holy Spirit.
And no need for seconds — this relationship lasts your lifetime and His!
Charity is benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity, generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering, and lenient judgment of others.
Remember what the angel and the heavenly host say to the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth?
“10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:10-14, KJV)
Paul reminds us to support each other “in charity,” writing:
“with all meekness and mildness, with patience supporting each other in charity [with patience supporting, or up-bearing, together in charity]”
Paul also tells us that “now abideth faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (1 Corinthians 13:13, KJV) Charity — benevolent good will, lenience in judgment, willingness to alleviate suffering.
Whose charity comes to mind? If you do not immediately see Jesus healing all who came to Him, raising the dead, feeding the hungry crowds, dying on the cross for you; then you’re missing the true meaning of charity.
The person on belay at a climbing wall is the ‘servant’ and the ‘last’ of all. The climber rises securely from hand-hold and foot-hood to hand-hold and foot-hold while attached by rope to the one ‘on belay’ below. The one on belay — the belay-er — catches the falling climber, and so saves him or her from injury or even death. The climber reaches the top while the one on belay remains on the ground, diligently protecting the one rising above.
“And [Jesus] sat, and called the twelve, and said to them [and saith to them], If any man will be the first among you, he shall be the last of all, and the minister of all [and minister, or servant, of all].”
How does the one who remains on the ground, serving the one rising to the top become first? Believe me, if you’ve ever belayed you do not feel like the one getting the ‘best deal!’ Belaying is hard work, especially when a climber falls repeatedly. You must be ready to catch the falling body, and long before it falls to strike the ground. Catching a falling climber can be gut-wrenching, both physically and emotionally. It’s a bit scary to see someone lose footing or hand-hold and fall even a few feet. And, if you are not well anchored yourself, the climber’s fall can literally yank you off your feet and put both of you in danger.
Jesus calls each of the twelve to be last, to be the servant of the others. He expects each to be well anchored in truth so as to keep his footing.
If, as servant to all, you keep your footing, then you being ‘first’ is beside the point. Isn’t it?
For Adam and Eve, knowing God is easy in contrast to us, who must come to know God through a veil of shadow, sin, and death. Why do you think the veil between us and the holy of holies is ripped asunder when Jesus dies? The veil is torn in two to demonstrate we no longer need struggle; from now on we know God because He knows us. We love God because He first loves us.
“[I Am] a Spirit, and it behooveth them that worship [Me], to worship in spirit and truth.”
“For why My thoughts be not your thoughts, and My ways be not your ways, saith the Lord.”
Worship of God, who is Spirit, must proceed from our spirit. Our flesh is incapable of worshiping the Lord. Indeed, the Holy Spirit within us is the One who actually worships God in and through us. This is similar to allowing a current to carry you down a river; the more you struggle the more you disrupt the flow and the more likely you are to sink.
Leave the flesh worship behind. Worship God in spirit and in truth.
Images abound of the ‘armour of God’ we are to put on and take up — Paul envisions helmet, breastplate, shield, shin guards, and sword as if we are soldiers standing in battle.
“For why striving is not to us against flesh and blood [For striving, or battle, is not to us against flesh and blood], but against [the] princes and potentates, against governors of the world of these darknesses, against spiritual things of wickedness, in heavenly things. Therefore take ye the armour of God, that ye be able to against-stand in the evil day; and in all things stand perfect.”
We are to “against-stand in the evil day; and in all things stand perfect.”
Notice against what we are to stand — not “against flesh and blood.” Rather our battle is against “spiritual things of wickedness, in heavenly things.” And what is “the armour of God” that makes you “able to against-stand in the evil day?”
The most readily available piece of armour we own is the Word — the Word indwelling, the Word written. With the Word of God, we “in all things stand perfect.”
James calls us to be humble, modest, meager, self-effacing, submissive, despirited, or broken willed “in the sight of the Lord.” He writes:
“Be ye meeked in the sight of the Lord, and he shall enhance you.”
If you’ve ever had the privilege of seeing monks in prayer while prostate on the floor before the Host, then you understand “meeked” as used by James in his letter to Jewish Christians living among Gentiles outside Palestine. Trappist monks, in particular, live meager, modest, humble lives of hospitality and silence. The more submissive, the more self-effacing, the more “broken-willed” and “despirited” a monk appears “in the sight of the Lord,” the more God appears to enhance the man.
You may notice this enhancement in the eyes or in the easy smile. But, you will become aware of God’s handiwork.
“All who are appointed for eternal life believe.” (Acts 13:48, NIV)
Luke records the truth that Paul and Barnabas “have to speak the Word of God to [Israel] first.” (Acts 13:46) Only Israel’s rejection and their inability to “consider [themselves] worthy of eternal life” open the door for Paul and Barnabas to take the good news to the Gentiles.
Israel is God’s own people. They are appointed — decided on beforehand; designated — for eternal life. Among the Gentile nations are people “appointed for eternal life,” and these people believe when they hear the good news. How can they believe if no one preaches? asks Paul.
How offensive is God’s sovereign choice? How disturbing is the good news? When the Gentiles hear Paul say “the Lord commands us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47) “they are glad.” (Acts 13:48) Those designated beforehand honor the Word of God, and believe just as God decides.
“[Christ] comes to that which is His own, but His own do not receive Him. Yet to all who receive Him, to those who believe in His Name, He gives the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:11-13)