Thursday, December 19, 2013


An Attitude of Gratitude

I was thinking back on a recent article comparing how God's complete renovation in our lives is similar to the work done on the TV show Extreme Home Makeover.  If you have ever seen that show, then you know how the homeowners are often overcome with gratitude once they are presented with their new home.  There are usually tears flowing as they express amazement at the transformative work done while continuing to thank the carpenters for the work.  Why?  Because of the largeness of the gift they have been given.  They have not earned it; they only had to receive it.

It is the same for us.  When God changes your heart into a reflection of His own and grants you new life in Him by His Spirit, the natural result is gratitude (Psalm 26:7, 100:4; Jeremiah 30:19; John 2:9; II Corinthians 4:15, 9:11; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 2:7, 4:2).

However, when you have (outwardly) conformed yourself into your own image by your own soulish power, the natural result is pride. I once had a discussion with a young believer who claimed to be "proud" of her growth in the Lord.  I cautioned her to reflect on whether the sources of that "pride" were really God's work at all.  How is it possible to take pride in something over which you did not perform?  And if you performed it, then perhaps that is the indication that you need to turn it over to the Lord for Him to perform His work.  He is the Potter, after all.

All aspects of the flesh needs to be turned over to the Lord...even our own perceived "right"eousness.  If we do not, then the manifestation of this defiled fruit will show itself in our lives, including how we interact with others. A heart born of gratitude will be imbued with gentleness; a heart born from pride will filled with condescension.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23

Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit! It is one of the evidences that we have been born again.

The word for gentleness here is the Greek word "chrēstotēs" which means: moral goodness, integrity, benignity, and kindness.  It comes from a word meaning "fit to use, manageable".

"But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us." I Thessalonians 2:7-8

We often think of women as gentle, but you don't hear that often applied to men.  Consider the text above.  Here the Apostle compares their ministry to that of a nurse cherishing her children.  There are false depictions of manhood which might not align with this description, but the Apostles' ministry with those in the church was gentle, loving, and affectionate.  Perhaps the idea of gentleness and its place in ministry is not what we have thought it to be.

Here gentle is the word "ēpios" meaning affable, showing warmth, pleasant to talk to.  The same word is referenced in the verse below.  The word "cherisheth" to which the ministry is compared means to keep warm and foster with tender love & care.

"And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will." II Timothy 2:24-26

Are we gentle to just those who agree with us?  Or to just our brothers and sisters in the Lord?  No.  We are to be gentle to all men.  Why?  It directly impacts our ability to teach others and lead them into the faith.

"To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another." Titus 3:2-3

Here is the crux of the matter.  If you have truly been renewed by the Spirit of God, you have gratitude towards God in your heart.  Knowing then that God saved you in spite of yourself, you can have compassion on those who are lost because you remember the condition from which you were saved. You don't talk down to them because you know that, but for the grace of God go I.

This word for gentle is "epieikēs" and means: seeming, suitable, equitable, moderate, and fair.  This gentleness is also listed as one of the criteria for a bishop (I Timothy 3:3).

"But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." James 3:17

Gentleness is also declared to be a quality of Godly wisdom.  We do not have to hit people over the head with the truth, nor call them names or degrade them.  Such will only drive them away.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God in and of itself (Romans 1:16).  God's wisdom changes man's heart because it is pure words, easily intreated, merciful, bearing good fruit, and without hypocrisy.  It is simply the truth and stands on its own.  If our "wisdom" does not reflect these characteristics, then it is not wisdom from above.  It is carnal wisdom from below (James 3:15).  The Spirit of God Himself will do the work as we proclaim His words.

"Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you: But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh." II Corinthians 10:1-3

When we are gentle with others, are we just being weak?  No.  We are reflecting the Spirit of Christ who Himself was meek and gentle.  Even in the context of addressing correction and a spiritual war, the gentleness of the Apostle is still present in his pleadings. How so?  By not being self-assertive.  It is always the work & will of the Father being done, so there is no need for arrogance or condemnation. It is not himself he is defending (or his position), but he is presenting the wisdom and truths of God. 

While the word of God is a sword, the word should never be used to try and cut others down. It is the difference between Peter using a sword to cut off the High Priest's servant's ear (John 18:10) and the Lord using the sword to divide between soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12).  The first instance is a carnal work where the person is so maligned by the sword that they are inhibited from even hearing God's word.  In the other, it is in internal work where the sword removes the hardened & calloused part of the heart so that the person can spiritually live.  There is a difference between the concision and the circumcision (Philippians 3:2-3).  Even in the heat of battle, the man and woman of God is always under the temperance of the Holy Spirit.

Note that nowhere in Scripture is gentleness defined as being walked upon, taken advantage of, or a shrinking violet.  These are worldly depictions.  Gentleness is not the same as weakness; it is not an effeminate character trait, nor is it mushy sentimentality.  It is a fruit of the Spirit of the living God and should be present in all of God's children.  It denotes quiet strength...power under control...disciplined authority.

A visual representation might be that of a stallion who has been broken so that he can be ridden.  The horse is no longer a wild creature, doing as he wills; his strength and power has been harnessed under the hand of his Master.  Gentleness means being fit for God to use, having integrity and kindness, embodying fairness and equity.  You cannot try to be gentle; that is just the work of the flesh.  Being gentle is not being soft, it is simply being under the control of the Spirit.  As we are led by God's Spirit, we will find gentleness increasing within us (as with all fruit of the Spirit), coming from a heart of thanksgiving to the Lord.

We do not war after the flesh.  People are not our enemy, but the Devil and his horde of demons are.  Have no mercy for the Devil, but may our conversations with each other be seasoned with salt.  Our goal is to save as many from Satan's bewitchment as would be saved.  May God continue to teach us how to wage war with, and give us victory over, the Devil while saving those whom he takes captive at his will.

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