Daily Light – March 13, 2020

Don’t Face Unbelief Alone

Article by Jon Bloom, Staff writer, desiringGod.org

We all very much need other trusted Christians to help us fight for faith and against unbelief — and most of us know this. The problem is, the truth has a tendency to lose its obviousness to us when we most need to trust it. What we very much need, we often very much want to avoid.

Sinful desires, irrational or exaggerated fears, the discouraging and anxiety-producing pall of doubt, and the blanket-darkness of despair all have great power to distort our perceptions of reality. But when we are experiencing them, they appear and feel very real to us. Sin’s promise can look very alluring, the threats of fear and doubt can feel terrifying, and the temptation to despair can appear compellingly inevitable. When we’re in these states, we really need the help of trusted, wise brothers and sisters to discern what’s real and not real.

But when we’re in these states, that’s often when we least want to expose what’s going on inside. We know Scripture teaches us to “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). But when our need for this is most acute, we often experience the most acute internal resistance to pursuing it or receiving it.

And so, we must take hold of another truth: trusting in the Lord with all our heart and not leaning on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5) is not something we merely do on our own; it has a communal dimension. We need our trusted brothers and sisters to help us trust in the Lord, even when we’d rather struggle alone.

Resistance from Within

Why can we feel such resistance to pursuing or receiving the help we really need? Three major contributors are typically pride (e.g. my perception of what’s true is more trustworthy than I believe yours will be), shame (e.g. I don’t want you to see my evil or weakness), and fear (e.g. you may reject me, or I may yield some control to you that I want to keep).

Whenever the sin of pride is present, its trajectory is destruction (Proverbs 16:18). But shame and fear are usually complex emotions, fueled partly by various sinful and/or weak tendencies in us and partly by external factors, such as damaging painful past experiences. The net effect is that these responses distort how we view those who might help us, undermining our trust in them and producing instead resistance toward them.

If we listen to the resistance, you can see the confusing, dangerous place this leads us. Sinful desires, misplaced fears, doubt, and despair undermine our trust in what God has spoken to us in his word, and pride, shame, and fear undermine our trust in our brothers and sisters. Unbelief can become a vicious cycle, leaving us isolated and increasingly vulnerable to more and more deception.

Distrust Your Inner Resistance

You can see how crucial it is, when it comes to unbelief and resisting the wisdom of other trusted Christians, that we really take seriously the biblical command to not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). The Bible’s warnings about this could not be clearer.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
     fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)

Be not wise in your own eyes;
     fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. (Proverbs 3:7)

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
     but a wise man listens to advice. (Proverbs 12:15)

The ear that listens to life-giving reproof
     will dwell among the wise.
Whoever ignores instruction despises himself,
     but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.
The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom,
     and humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 15:31–33)

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
     he breaks out against all sound judgment. (Proverbs 18:1)

Listen to advice and accept instruction,
     that you may gain wisdom in the future. (Proverbs 19:20)

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool,
      but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. (Proverbs 28:26)

Those who lived in the time these proverbs were written weren’t fundamentally different from us. They were subject to the same temptations to disbelieve God and felt the same kinds of resistance against seeking the sound counsel of others, whether out of pride, shame, or fear. And the proverb writer(s) calls giving in to those impulses foolish.

We are not made to lean on our own understanding. We are made to fear the Lord and listen to the counsel of those who have proven themselves trustworthy. Which means we must cultivate a healthy distrust in our resistance to trust wise brothers and sisters.

Trusting the Lord by Trusting Others

Eighty years ago, in the dangerous, disorienting, distrustful days of the Third Reich’s reign of terror, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to his fraternal Christian community:

God has willed that we should seek him and find his living word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of a man. Therefore, a Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. (Life Together)

This is true. A Christian needs another Christian to speak God’s word to him. We need it more than we know, and we especially need it when we’ve become disoriented regarding what’s real and true and we feel strong internal resistance to sharing it with another Christian. Because trusting in the Lord with all our heart is not something we merely do on our own; we also do it with others, in the community the Lord provides for us.

When We Are Most Vulnerable

There are graces the Lord provides to us only through our brothers and sisters. As Paul wrote, “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). And “as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” (Romans 12:4–6).

Therefore, the Lord requires us to humble ourselves and confide our sinful desires, irrational or exaggerated fears, the soul-shaking doubts, and dark despairing thoughts in trusted members of our community of faith, distrusting the resistance we feel to doing this. Because he has ordained that we receive the Spirit’s help through them. For it’s when we’re on our own that we are most likely to be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He is author of three books, Not by SightThings Not Seen, and Don’t Follow Your Heart. He and his wife have five children and make their home in the Twin Cities.

Daily Light – March 12, 2020

Whoever does not honor the Son …

Devotional by David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher, Evansville, IN.  David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning study time (study, observe, apply, pray).

John 5:19-29  

19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.   ESV

In the two verses right before this the Jews wanted to kill Jesus for calling God/Yahweh his Father. Just this week I heard of a “liberal Christian” who said Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God. In :25-27 Jesus said “the son of man” (his favorite title for himself, which comes from Dan 7:13-14 about the Messiah who will rule over everything) is “the Son of God” and the Father has given Him/Jesus the right to give Eternal Life and to judge the world at the end of time! And if that was not enough, Jesus said if they didn’t honor Him (remember, they are trying to kill Him) neither did they honor the Father. Even people in graves will hear the voice of Jesus and spend eternity based on what He says about them! 

Lord Jesus, thank You for taking my judgment and giving me eternal life so I don’t fear Your wrath. Thank You for opening the eyes of my heart to understand who You are and what You have done for me. I desire to fully honor You at all times. Use my life and words to help many others realize that if they do not honor You as God, they do not honor the Father either. And use me to lead others to trust, honor and worship You forever!  Amen

Daily Light – March 11, 2020

Jesus’ second sign

Devotional by David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher, Evansville, IN.  David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning devotional study (study, observe, apply, pray). 

 John 4:43-54  

43  After the two days he departed [from Samaria] for Galilee. 44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) 45 So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast. 46 So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. 51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. 54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.   ESV

Jesus spent two more days with the Samaritans, and I’m sure those were exciting days! The woman he met at the well, and many people from the town were thrilled to have the Jewish Messiah in their midst – though they never would have thought of that before. He almost certainly healed people and taught the scriptures like they had never heard. They felt valued, and they valued Him. 

He then left the warm reception He had in Samaria and continued North to Galilee, where he had been cooly received before, because He was a local boy. Mark 6:1-6 appears to be a further explanation of this and says that because of their unbelief He couldn’t do many miracles there. It amazes me that even though He was/is God Almighty who created the universe, he “couldn’t do many miracle there”. I’m sure He had the power to do them, but He limited what He did to the faith of the people.  

I’m not sure of the timing of all this. It seems like he was doubted on an earlier visit, but that some of the people from there in Galilee saw what He did in Jerusalem, and that is why they were more favorable to Him on this visit. So Jesus said “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” But one father was so desperate he traveled the 20+ miles from Capernaum to Cana and begged Jesus to come heal his son. Jesus showed His power and compassion more than if He had gone physically to the boy. He merely spoke the word and the boy was healed “long distance” at that very moment. So both signs there in Galilee, turning the water into wine and healing the boy, showed the power of His words, and the compassion for people in their times of great need. John’s main point is that it was further evidence that He was the Messiah, and that all the people in that household believed in Him.

Lord Jesus, You cared about hurting people and You demonstrated the power to meet needs. You understand my/our weak faith when we ask for You to heal and/or help and You do not answer the way we ask. But I believe You still do care and still have the power to do anything. Help me trust You with everything, so that You are not hindered by my lack of faith. And for me, I believe You want me to show my faith primarily by obedience, rather than by my requests. Mostly, help me live in such a way that my words and actions show that I believe You are my Savior, and the Messiah – the King of kings and Lord of lords! Amen

Daily Light – March 10, 2020

“This One Thing I Do….”

Philippians 3:13,14:  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Article below: Days of Heaven Upon Earth — Rev. A. B. Simpson

One of Satan’s favorite employees is the switchman. He likes nothing better than to side-track one of God’s express trains, sent on some blessed mission and filled with the fire of a holy purpose.

Something will come up in the pathway of the earnest soul, to attract its attention and occupy its strength and thought. Sometimes it is a little irritation and provocation. Sometimes it is some petty grievance we stop to pursue or adjust. Sometimes it is somebody else’s business in which we become interested, and which we feel bound to rectify, and before we know, we are absorbed in a lot of distracting cares and interests that quite turn us aside from the great purpose of our life.

Perhaps we do not do much harm, but we have missed our connection. We have got off the main line.Let all these things alone. Let grievances come and go, but press forward steadily and irresistibly, crying, as you haste to the goal, “This one thing I do.”  

Daily Light – March 9, 2020

Salvation is from the Jews

Devotional by David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher, Evansville, IN.  David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning devotional study (study, observe, apply, pray). 

John 4:16-26   

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”   ESV

When Jesus told her details about her life that a mere man could not have known, she knew He was from God, but she did not want to talk about her life of sin and pain, so she asked a safe theological question about the acceptable location of worship. Jesus told her that God is Spirit, so geography is not as important as the inside of a worshipper. External rituals are not sufficient. If takes a clean and open heart to connect spiritually. But, it is not just “spirituality” that connects a person with God, it also requires truth – a knowledge of the true God and the acceptable way to approach Him. It can be from anywhere, but it is only through faith that the Righteous God will accept a substitutionary atonement on behalf of the sinner. When Jesus said “salvation is of the Jews” He was being very narrow. Other religions do not  and can not offer a sinless substitute. “Devout Samaritans” would not be acceptable unless they believed in the Jewish Messiah. It reminds me of about 35 years ago I was speaking to a group of Jewish women at the synagogue and one of them asked me if they had to believe in my Jesus to be saved. I replied that actually it was the opposite – that I had to believe in their Messiah to be saved. That is what Jesus meant by “Truth”. It takes more than good intentions and spiritual tingling. It takes faith in God’s one and only provision. Jesus said He was the Messiah and He was telling her “all things” required to be an acceptable worship of Yahweh.

Lord Jesus, Thank You for being “the Truth” and speaking the truth to that woman. Nicodemus was one of the best and most highly regarded people in Israel, and this woman was one of the worst and least esteemed people in Samaria, but You offered her the same Life and forgiveness you offered to Nicodemus. They both needed You and Your atonement. Thank You that You have given me/us the same offer that You gave to those two so long ago. Thank You for revealing the necessary Truth, and for Your Spirit transforming me/us from death to Life! What a privilege to worship You from anywhere, and to know others are also worshiping You all around the world, now and forever! Heaven will be wonderful joining others redeemed from every people group, and all worshiping You in spirit and in truth.  Amen

Daily Light – March 6, 2020

No God but One

Baal, Yahweh, Amazon, and Me

Article by David Mathis, Executive Editor, desiringGod.org

The oneness of God is under relentless assault today — though not in the way we might expect.

At least in the West, very few try to make a public case for traditional polytheism. There is little pressure in the mainstream to affirm many gods (at least not formally). Rather, the pressure which continues to rise with each generation, and each passing year, is the pervasive assumption of secularism — the pressure to sideline any talk of the one God and live together as though there were none.

In the ancient world, various pantheons of gods abounded. In Canaan. In Egypt. In Babylon. In Athens. In Rome. Everywhere God’s strange monotheistic people turned, they encountered polytheists. They were tempted incessantly to adopt the world’s gods to try and improve their lives. Against this pressure, the Hebrew Scriptures, again and again, assert the oneness, and supremacy, of the true God, not many gods. But today, the mounting social pressure is to believe in (or at least to live as if there were) no God at all.

As much as we may think (and keep telling ourselves) that we’ve progressed as a society, in the end, our modern secularism shares a common root with ancient polytheism. The two amount different guises for one fundamental rebellion. Secularists are the new polytheists.

No God Today

We have Amazon and Apple. We google and tweet. And one of the great delusions of the modern world is that we tell ourselves, in subtle and overt ways, how much wiser we are today, and how foolish our ancestors must have been. We assume the dead, who cannot defend themselves, must have been far inferior to us. While outwardly we may seem to be progressing through technology, inwardly however we are wasting away, generation after generation, under the ongoing curse and devolution of sin.

Two psalms begin with the basic declaration of folly not against polytheists, but against secularists:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:153:1)

If anything, we are deeper into Romans 1 in our day than the ancients who dreamed up other gods. At one level, at least, they were honest enough with themselves to perceive “eternal power and divine nature . . . in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20). Not that they weren’t fools themselves (Romans 1:22–23). We, however, dig new and deeper depths of folly when modern secularists and materialists “suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18) to such a great extent that they acknowledge no divine power in this manifestly designed and personal world.

If the fool says in his heart, “There is no God,” then how much more the one so bold as to say it with his mouth, and pretend to live like it?

Many Gods Then

Before the Scriptures establish threeness in God, they start with his oneness (especially in the Old Testament, and clearly confirmed in the New). From the very beginning, the one true God reveals himself to his people, and the nations, despite their speculations, as the one and only true God. The first claim of the first document in the Scriptures is not ambiguous: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

Any “progress” we might sense in the Scriptures from “henotheism” (the worship of one god, while not denying the existence of others) to genuine “monotheism” is not progress in divine revelation but in human understanding. The God of the Bible does not reveal himself as just one among others, en route to making more exclusive claims later on. He did not share with other gods in creation. He does not share with other gods in ruling his creation. He alone is God. Any traces of so-called henotheism are described (Genesis 31:33–35Exodus 18:11), not prescribed.

Stubborn and prone to relapse as God’s people may prove to be, God’s own revelation is clear from the start. From the very first verse, the God of the Bible is in a class of his own. He is the Creator. “In the beginning, God.” He alone is God; there is no other.

Monotheists All the Way Down

The mention of monotheism, which is not a biblical term, raises the question today of what kind of monotheism? Is Christian monotheism fundamentally different than that of some ancient Greeks, or that of Islam?

As Christians, we are monotheists all the way down. We believe in and worship one God. And we are monotheists who receive the one God as he has revealed himself to us, rather than determining through our own reasoning whether his oneness means he cannot also be three as well. In one sense, Christians are very much, we might say, strict monotheists, in that we do not fudge or compromise at all with God’s oneness. There is one God, and no other gods besides him.

However, compared with non-Christian Jews and Muslims, we might say we are monotheists with an asterisk — though not because we’re open to polytheism in any sense. We believe that the one God has revealed himself supremely in the person of his Son, in the man Jesus Christ, and in the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. There is one God, who has shown himself to us as tripersonal: Father, Son, and Spirit. There are not three Gods, but three persons in one God. And when we turn to the world that exists, a world of both unity and plurality, neither more ultimate than the other, we find how neither polytheism, nor mere monotheism — nor secularism — explains our world like the God who is both one and many.

No God but Me

But if ancient humans were, in fact, on the whole, no dumber than us moderns — and likely less foolish in many ways — what was the allure of polytheism? And what is the allure today for more than a billion Hindus?

Perhaps it’s the sneaking suspicion in fallen humans that our lives are too complicated for just one God to handle it all. To bring it closer to home, we professing Christians should ask ourselves, in our age of specialization, do we assume that the one Creator, and the one Bible, and the one church and her pastors, need to stay in their lane with regard to so many of our modern problems? Our secular age conditions us to run to other gods, to the experts and specialists, to handle the various aspects of our personal lives. And at the level of social discourse, to explain away what God might be doing in wildfires and volcanoes and hurricanes and heat. Today’s answer, of course, is climate change, and nothing more — no space for a warning from the one God of heaven who commands all sinners to repent lest we likewise perish.

Even deeper than the seeming complexity of our lives, and our penchant for specialization, is the moral convenience of sidelining the one God. Because we ourselves want to be God, at least in the ways we so choose. We want to have control. We want to be our own authority. Beneath the veneer of polytheism is another form of monotheism called autotheism: the pretense that I am God.

Polytheism, without exception, glorifies the flesh. Polytheism keeps me in control, as no god can claim my all. Polytheism keeps each god at arm’s length, enough to keep me comfortable. As does secularism. It’s a new dress on the same ancient rebellion. Both polytheism and secularism, in the end, reduce to the evil root of pride and self-worship. Different confessions, but the same heart.

One God Forever

But for thousands of years, the one true God has confronted the evil of our self-worship with the invitation, and summons, to worship the one for whom our souls were made. When the one true God calls us to worship him, and him alone, he is bidding us to enjoy the glory and joy for which we long and cannot experience by turning inward, or elsewhere.

The fundamental confession of God’s first-covenant people was Deuteronomy 6:4–5: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” And there is no fundamental difference for us today in the age of the Spirit.

The oneness of God calls for a oneness in us. The one true God is not divided. He is one. So also he bids us not be divided but one — to love him with heart and soul and mind and strength. To have him as our one Lord, our one Master (Matthew 6:24Luke 16:13), our one God — and his Son our one mediator (1 Timothy 2:5).

In a world tempting us to bow the knee elsewhere, or inward, at every turn, the one God calls us to make him wholly, in theory and practice, our fundamental allegiance and our greatest treasure.

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org and pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.

Daily Light – March 5, 2020

Love Tells the (Hard) Truth

Article by Tanner Swanson, Guest Contributor

Recently, I asked my friend a question without thinking much before I spoke. As only the closest of friends can, she responded, “I love you, but that was a stupid question.” We both laughed as she described the inconsistencies of what I had said.

Quickly the chuckles fizzled out. The nods stilled. I began to think about how the thoughtless things I say often rise because I am quick to speak and slow to hear (James 1:19). If I abided in James’s counsel, I probably wouldn’t have blurted out what I did. Though not in sin, I remembered that “when words are many, transgression is not lacking” (Proverbs 10:19). When speech hurries along, sin often tailgates.

As we talked about how Christians must mind what they say, we realized that another false idea had made its way into our conversation. This time, it laced the words of my friend: “I love you, but . . .” But what? What opposed her love for me? In that moment, the truth did. Were these to be seen in opposition to one another? If love didn’t move her to speak the truth, then what did?

How Love Speaks

Some can only imagine love and truth being thrust into the Colosseum together as adversaries. Love, the protagonist, awaits the wily beast that is truth to emerge from the pit. The wrought-iron gate cackles as it rises: truth steps into the light, a fearsome sight to behold. One will win out; they cannot both stand.

For the Christian, however, love does not war against truth — love reigns through truth. Simply look at the way that Jesus speaks to the rich young man in Mark 10. Falling to his knees, the man asked the Messiah the question poised on all religious lips: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). Jesus responded with a list, a portion of the Ten Commandments (Mark 10:19), to which the wealthy young man replied, “Teacher, all of these I have kept from my youth” (Mark 10:20).

Perhaps the man rose from the ground, eye to eye with Christ. And then,

Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

Jesus looked at him, and Jesus loved him. He did not say, “I love you, but you still lack one thing.” As a result of his love for the man, Jesus told him the truth.

Truth Chisels

For Christ, love did not stand against truth; it mobilized the only truth in the universe capable of saving a lost sinner. Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through” him (John 14:6). The way of truth is life. And Christ shows us that love must speak the truth.

Still, the rich young man did not like what he heard. In fact, Jesus’s response “disheartened” him, causing him to go away “sorrowful” (Mark 10:22). Surely, this didn’t catch Jesus off guard. He must have expected that the man might hang his head. But Christ counted momentary discouragement in the man as nothing compared to the everlasting joy that he could have — if only he knew and loved God above all else (Philippians 3:8). And to get to that point, the rich young man needed to know the truth.

Sin covered this man’s eyes like cement does a city. Christ used the chisel of truth to scrape it away. His toolbox? Love.

Where to Start

We don’t know where the rich young man went after Christ spoke to him. Did he join the ranks of first-century believers? Did he step through heaven’s gates? Regardless, we do know where he certainly would have gone, had Christ valued conversational comfort over “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15): hell.

Apart from Christ, we are all rich young men and women. The fall parched us of love for God and the truth that flows from him (Romans 1:25). Even as believers, we can sometimes prefer a kind of “love” that has little to do with the truth. So how can we rightly exercise the command to speak the truth in love?

We must begin with ourselves. Jesus commands us first to address the sins that assail the person we face in the mirror each morning (Matthew 7:3–5). But of course, we cannot pump love-begotten truth into ourselves. Neither love nor truth originates from us. Both love and truth take root in God (1 John 4:7–8). Through the reading of Scripture and prayer, however, God saturates us with himself. He matures us in the expression of his communicable attributes. He equips us to address ourselves — and then others.

Where to Go

Two kinds of “others” fill the world: believers and unbelievers. A person’s relation to Jesus will tailor the way that we speak the truth in love. We do not change the truth — just its use. We are either compelling unbelievers to stand on the Rock of Ages or reminding believers how sweet it is for their feet to be planted upon it.

When we speak the truth in love to other believers, God uses our words as loving spurs. We encourage Christian brothers and sisters to “hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering” (Hebrews 10:23). Yes, we need to point out sin (Galatians 6:1). And a million times yes, we need to remind each other that God alone “satisfies the longing soul” (Psalm 107:9). Joy in him is the key to a life of obedience.

When we speak the truth in love to unbelievers, God uses our words as capsules that carry the good news to hearts and minds foreign to Christ. Be they strangers or neighbors, family members or lost friends, God commands us to tell the people we know, “I love you, and . . . I want to tell you the best news in the world.”

To be a follower of Christ is to be a fountain. Whether we sit across the table from a believer or an unbeliever, love that images Christ will shower others with gospel truth. Sometimes, people will bask. Sometimes, they will recoil. And yet, if we consider an eternity spent with God worth more than sparing ourselves “light momentary” discomfort (2 Corinthians 4:17), then in love we will speak the truth.

Tanner Swanson teaches fourth grade and blogs regularly. She and her husband, T.J., live in Denver, Colorado.