Friday, August 2, 2013

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Balance: The God of Love and Justice

Spending time with the Lord, seeking His wisdom and instruction, is more precious and exciting when we come to Him with an expectant heart. O that I would listen more often to His voice calling me to come dine with Him to feed upon His precious word and bask in the joy of His sweet presence. The balance that He brings into our lives is unattainable from any other source. Time spent with Him is never a waste, but is always more than just satisfying. My heart leaps within me to know that the joy that I have experienced is but a little taste of that which is to come when we finally go home to be in His presence for eternity. I began my time with Him this morning searching through Proverbs to see what bits of wisdom and understanding He might impart to me this day. No matter how many times I read His word, He amazes me by showing me something brand new in the very verses that I had already read. Then I wonder, “How did I miss that before?” He makes His word new and alive to us each time we truly seek His face. I have a sneaky suspicion that He does this in order to show us that we have never learned all there is to know of Him, and He has so many more ‘goodies’ in store for us. I smile and feel like giggling in sheer joy as I think, “Lord, what kind of surprise have you got for me today?” I feel like a little girl, sneaking a peek to see what kind of treasures may be found under the branches of a Christmas tree.

What morsel of truth will I find today that will keep my life in balance with the will of the Lord? Then there it is: that word balance.

It seems that there is always a search for God’s view of what true balance is without the contamination of a false sense of what is fair and right in the eye of my old nature. As a parent, teacher, and in governing my own life, it has always been a struggle for me to learn how to keep the right balance between love and discipline. Whether it is self discipline or administering discipline of others, I know that one of the necessities is to be consistent and therein lays my problem. Just when I think I’ve got it down pat, something comes in like a tendency to be too lenient or too harsh which always brings in confusion. How can I keep a true balance between godly love and godly justice through discipline in my own life or when trying to instill it in others, if I’m always changing the rules?

That’s where God’s example and instructions for our lives is so pure, and yet so hard for me to emulate. God never changes. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. His word is true and His commandments and statutes are clear. His word is the ‘owner’s manual’ of instruction for the living out of our lives. He tells us what is right and what is wrong. He stays consistent, and doesn’t use switch and bait to change the rules on us at the drop of a hat, or a change of the wind.

Two things I’ve learned, though I was not always successful in being obedient to it: never discipline in anger, and refusing to administer proper discipline is more of a sign of self love than true godly love for the ones that I was supposed to be nurturing in the admonition of the Lord. Both of these principles are dependent upon whether I love God first so that I can be led by His love. The fear of the Lord is the key to all matters in life. I don’t mean fear like ‘God’s gonna get you for that!” In stead, knowing that God has loved us first with an unconditional love, are we always seeking His wisdom and knowledge that we may be led by His word by the power of the Holy Spirit to do that which is pleasing in the sight of the Lord. After all, if we truly love Him, would we really want to purposely disappoint Him? He always knows what’s right, so doesn’t it just make sense to obey Him rather than doing what seems right in our own eyes or in the sight of society any given time and place? Jesus said He always did that which the Father would have Him do – even to the point of going to the cross and dying for you and me. In the eyes of Satan, he thought he had destroyed Jesus and any hope of salvation for all of God’s creation. However, from the very beginning, the death and resurrection of Jesus was God’s plan of redemption for our salvation.

God’s love for us is demonstrated in both forgiveness and chastisement. When we are disobedient He is quick to forgive when we repent, but He is also just as quick to chastise us in order to correct us so we won’t continue in the way that can only bring us harm. It is popular today, even among some believers, to emphasize the loving side of God’s character, while ignoring the just side of God. Some will even say that since God is a loving God; all are saved whether they believe or not; therefore, all are going to heaven, and there is no Hell. Both ideas are not substantiated by the word of God and are therefore seducing and deceiving lies of the devil. This false teaching leads one to believe that one can ignore the commandments and statutes of God, living in any way we wish without any accountability or consequences, completely ignoring the judgment of God. The need for understanding and practicing a right balance between love and discipline is readily exemplified even on just a human level. Where there is love without discipline and correction (accountability and judgment), chaos and disorder reign.
Parents who are raising children in such an atmosphere, wind up creating a generation of selfish and self-centered brats who have no idea of what it means to respect their own parents, much less for having the proper ‘fear’ (awesome respect) of our heavenly Father.

This erroneous and conflicting perception of the God’s nature depicts Him as some kind of weak and ineffective parent that is a mushy, spineless push-over who is both undeserving of respect and lacking in any judgment or authority. How sad for each of us as our society marginalizes God’s judgment which results in evil being called good and good being called evil. More often than not, one who takes an uncompromising stand on the word of God is now called a hater and a bigot. Love without justice creates in us a divided nature that has no compass of right and wrong, good or evil. We become Christians that are neither hot nor cold, without the will or desire to take a stand for the ways of the Lord. Departing from His truth, we become a people without a vision and no defense against the powers and principalities of the darkness of this world. We settle for the false idea of “Can’t we just all get along and love one another,” giving the appearance of following God, but without the power to do so.

Yes, God does tell us to love one another, but He does not tell us to condone and love sin. Just the opposite, He loves the sinner but hates the sin. Like the woman at the well, He did address the sin in her life and told her to “go and sin no more.” As believers, we too must not make the mistake of not confronting sin in our own lives or sin within the body of Christ. Too often, when we are confronted with sin in our life, we try to cover up our own sin by accusing another of being judgmental. As Christians, we are supposed to ask the Lord to ‘search my heart O Lord, and let me know if there be any wicked way in me.’ We are also supposed to go to one another in love with reproof and rebuke to help encourage one another to stay on the straight and narrow path. I don’t mean we are to go around telling everyone about the ‘splinters that are in their eyes while there is this big log protruding from our own.’ There is that word ‘balance’ once again, and nothing can be done without the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Have you ever heard a sermon and think, “He’s talking directly to me?” Immediately, somehow you know that the Holy Spirit is using the pastor’s words, or the words of another, maybe even a stranger, to convict (not condemn) you of sin in your life leading you to repent and make the necessary corrections? This is what I believe the Lord is speaking of when He says: “Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man and he will increase in learning. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.” (Prov. 9: 8, 9) Those who really love you, they will speak truth in love to you. Whereas the one who does not truly love you, is always willing to tell you just what you want to hear whether it’s going to bring harm to you or not. Test the spirits as the word says; He will always confirm the truth by two or more witnesses.

In the end, it’s all a part of being diligent to keep the word ever before our eyes and in our hearts endeavoring to be obedient that we may do the will of God. Balance between godly love and godly judgment can not be obtained without first observing to keep the Lord and His ways first in our lives. Being willing to hear and receive a word of correction, even when it may be uncomfortable, can be one of the most valuable gifts God may give you and me today. Make the time to be with the Lord, be willing to learn from Him. God is a God of order; requiring a right balance of His love and His justice. Judgment, or discipline, is not a sign of hatred but of love. His judgment, meant for our good, not evil, is that part of His love which is used to call our hearts back to Him when we have strayed. It’s His way of saying; “Stop, turn around, you’re going the wrong way. You’ve forgotten that you are my people, and I am your God.” God’s love and judgment are always in balance with one another. He is full of mercy and grace, but He is also a just God so we can not separate His love and His judgment. We can not have the one without the other.

If there is any doubt about God or His word in your life, be willing to ask Him for wisdom and understanding. Be willing to confess, “I do believe Lord; help thou my unbelief.” Spend time with Him. Let Him fill your heart with joy and gladness. Let Him whisper His sweet words and thoughts into your very heart and soul that you may have ‘The Mind of Christ’ to keep you in all your ways.

**After I wrote the preceding theme, the thought occurred to me that perhaps understanding might be enhanced if a brief discussion and definitions of a few key terms were included:

Wisdom – the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It is the search to see or perceive things from God’s perspective thereby enabling one to determine the best course of action to take.

Fear of the Lord – to have reverential awe of God. We are exhorted to fear the Lord for He is a jealous God. That is He is ‘jealous’ in the sense that He cares for us with much vigilance and zeal. He has provided His Spirit and His Word to be our guide to protect us from danger and harm. He has sent His Son as our Savior and Lord to redeem us from sin and death

Judge (judgment) – to pass sentence, punish, or condemn. As Christians, we are not supposed to judge others as God alone can judge the heart of man. Judgment from God is not a bad thing if we recognize it as a sound of alarm from Him telling us to stop, turn from evil ways, turn our hearts back to Him in obedience and follow the straight and narrow path. Continual refusal to repent and hearken unto the voice of the Lord can only result in our own destruction.

Discern (discernment) – to discover or recognize; the ability to recognize the difference between good and evil. We are commanded to study the word of God that we might be able to be a ‘workman that need not be ashamed’, using discernment to rightly understand the word of God which leads us into all truth, guarding us against deception, doubt, and unbelief. When one lacks godly discernment the result is complete lawlessness and depravity for then there is no right or wrong. A society without godly discernment is recognized by its attitudes of “if it feels good, do it,” “everybody’s doing it, so go for it,” and “a man’s ways are right in his own eyes.”

Forms of criticism:

Reproof – rebuke; criticism for a fault.

Rebuke ¬– to reprove or reprimand; to turn back or keep down

Correction – chastisement; to set right with remedies, revisions, reforms
As Christians, we are exhorted to use godly discernment in ministering correction, reproof, or rebuke unto ourselves and other believers to encourage one another to separate ourselves from our old sinful nature that we may become more Christ-like. Do not mistake this for being judgmental; they are not one and the same. Sometimes people will refuse to receive correction and accuse the messenger of being judgmental; thereby, removing any accountability for their own actions and refusing to accept their need to repent and make the necessary corrections in their own lives. Hopefully, all is to be done in love, but regardless of how it is done or received, it is better to hear the truth from a friend, than to hear a lie (or what we want to hear) from one who doesn’t care, no matter what harm it may bring to us. Receiving positive criticism, even though it may make us feel uncomfortable, is one of God’s tools to encourage us to rid our lives of those things which are unpleasing in the sight of God. Naturally, not all criticism may be true or positive. But we are better off if we listen and consider the possibility that truth may be revealed for our own good. If it is truly of God, He will confirm it by two or more witnesses.

“Try the spirits.” (I John 4: 1)

Hopefully this will bring more clarity to our understanding. Learning from the Lord is a continual process. I’m sure this is not an exhaustive study, and He will probably have me revisit this topic to obtain further treasures from His Word. “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Ginger Rahn