This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.
The Holy Spirit’s Spring-Cleaning
A man’s character cannot be summed up by what he does in spots, but only by what he is in the main trend of his existence. … In Matthew 7 our Lord is dealing with the need to make character. First up: The uncritical temper.
Criticism is part of the ordinary faculty of the man, he has a sense of humor—a sense of proportion, he sees where things are wrong and pulls the other fellow to bits; but Jesus says, “As a disciple, cultivate the uncritical temper.” In the spiritual domain, criticism is love turned sour. In a wholesome spiritual life there is no room for criticism. …
No human being dare criticize another human being, because immediately he does he puts himself in a superior position to the one he criticizes. … That is never the work of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost alone is in the true position of a critic; He is able to show what is wrong without wounding and hurting. … If we let these searchlights go straight down to the root of our spiritual life we will see you why Jesus says, “Don’t judge”; we won’t have time to. Our whole life is to be lived so in the power of God that He can pour through us rivers of living water to others. …
Jesus says of criticism, “Apply it to yourself, never to anyone else.” … It is impossible to develop the characteristics of a saint and maintain a critical attitude. The first thing the Holy Spirit does is to give us a spring-cleaning….
From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount
The dictionary defines criticism as the act or art of analyzing and evaluating or judging the quality something. Jesus is looking for disciples whose character-in-action brings glory to our heavenly Father.
One area in which we all need to have the loving, penetrating searching of the Holy Spirit is in the area of our criticism We can criticize—but only ourselves; never others. We can criticize ourselves—but only in the loving eyes of the Holy Spirit who knows best how to give us a proper spring-cleaning.
Have you ever heard the word simpatico? It means to be like-minded. The idea is being on the same page with someone else, ideally someone that is a positive role model. Peter calls himself a leader in the church (Greek word presbyteros) but then says he is simpatico with us (sympresbyteros).
And this isn’t just for leaders in the church, because the same appeal he makes to leaders is the same appeal he makes to both young men and to all of you.
Although Peter didn’t use the phrase servant-leader, that’s exactly what he describes. In fact, for Christians, the words servant and leader are really one-and-the-same idea! Peter says God’s leaders are:
Three key concepts that Peter brings out are all seen in the life of Jesus: clothing, example, and humility…
Jesus set the example for us when He said the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:25-28).
When Jesus was incarnated in human flesh, He literally made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, which means He put on the clothing of a servant. He completely humbled Himself (Philippians 2:3-8).
Jesus most clearly demonstrated this when at the last supper He wrapped a towel around His waist (i.e. clothed Himself as a servant) to wash His disciples’ feet, and then told us to follow His example (John 13:2-5; 13-17).
That’s why Peter tells us all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another. The word Peter uses for “clothe” means keep on doing this every single day.
God opposes the proud [those unwilling to be simpatico with Jesus] but gives grace to the humble [those choose to be simpatico with Jesus].
So here are two questions I’m asking myself—
“The modern tradition is that the proper reason for marrying is the state described as ‘being in love.’ … Doesn’t the modern emphasis on ‘love’ lead people either into divorce or into misery, because when that emotion dies down they conclude that their marriage is a ‘failure,’ though in fact they have just reached the point at which real marriage begins.”
“There is a terrible comment on this in I Cor VI 16 ‘he that is joined to a harlot is one flesh.’ You see? Apparently, if Christianity is true, the mere fact of sexual intercourse set up between human beings a relation which has, so to speak, transcendent repercussions—some eternal relation is established whether they like it or not.”
“Agape is best seen, I think, in the words ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ i.e., by an act of will, aim at your neighbor’s good in the same way as you aim at your own. Now you don’t ‘love’ yourself because of your own ‘lovable qualities.’ You may, in moments of vanity, attribute lovable qualities to yourself, but that is not the cause of your self-love but one of the results of it. At other moments, when you dislike yourself, you still wish for your own happiness. This attitude to one’s own self is dictated by nature: towards other selves it has to be acquired.”
“The great thing in friendship as in all other forms of love is, as you know, to turn from the demand to be loved (or helped or answered) to the wish to love (or help or answer).”
“When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.”
“I take it that in every marriage natural love sooner or later, in a high or low degree, comes up against difficulties (if only the difficulty that the original state of ‘being in love’ dies a natural death) which forces it either to turn into dislike or else to turn into Christian charity. For all of our natural feelings are, not resting places, but points d’appui, springboards. One has to go on from there, or fall back from there. The merely human pleasure in being loved must either go bad or become the divine joy of loving.”
“It is right and inevitable that we should be much concerned about the salvation of those we love. But we must be careful not to expect or demand that their salvation should conform to some ready-made pattern of our own. … God has His own unique way with each soul.”
“The real trouble about the duty of forgiveness is that you do it with all your might on Monday and then find on Wednesday that it hasn’t stayed put and all has to be done over again.”
Did you know that you were only born with two fears: the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises? Yet the DSM-5 has a whole section to help mental health professionals diagnosis the specific phobia that may be limiting someone’s life. That might be because some places list upwards of 500 recognized phobias that constrict people’s lives!
Since only two of our fears are innate fears, that means the rest of the fears that trouble us are learned fears. Since God repeatedly says “Fear not!” throughout Scripture, that must mean He also tells us how to overcome our fears.
Christians—as aliens and strangers on this Earth—should have an alien response to earthly fears. So if we are going to unlearn some of the fears that have cramped our lives we will need to learn and relearn what God says to us.
Peter asks what might seem like a rhetorical question, “Who is going to harm you if are eager to do good?” Think about it: who wants to punish someone for doing the right thing? Apparently some people do because Peter goes on to add, “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened” (1 Peter 3:13-14).
So even if people insult Christians for doing things God’s right way, God’s blessing is on them. Sadly, people without God’s blessing on their lives often give in to the FOMO (fear of missing out) and they end up lashing out at those being blessed. That lashing out is directly rooted in their fears.
Abraham Maslow proposed a hierarchy of needs that humans have, and obviously, there would be fears associated with any of those needs not being met. At least, that would be the Earthling response. Christians need to unlearn those fears by learning and relearning why God tells them to “Fear not!”
Since Jesus overcame all the things that could cause us fear, Peter counsels us to “arm yourselves with this same attitude” (1 Peter 4:1). The Greek word for arm yourselves only appears here, and it means for us to repeatedly remind ourselves of God’s truth. The Greek word for attitude is only here and in Hebrews 4:12, where we are reminded that the Word of God helps our minds unlearn, learn, and relearn God’s truth.
Have the borders of your life been squeezed by your fears? Do you feel like you’re missing out on the “abundant life” that Jesus said you could have? The Word of God can help you unlearn those fears, and fellow Christians would love to come alongside you to help you continue to relearn that truth over and over again until your fears are banished from your life!
Please join me on Sunday as we continue our study of how Christians are to live as aliens and strangers while on Earth. You can join me in person or on Facebook Live.
[Each chapter in the Book of Proverbs contains thoughts that fit into a theme; they are not just random thoughts gathered together. In this “Saturday In The Proverbs” series, I will share a theme that I see in each chapter. But the cool thing about God’s Word is that you may see an entirely different theme. That’s great! If you do, I would love for you to share it in the comments below.]
The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes (Proverbs 21:1).
“There is no wisdom or understanding or counsel against the Lord” (v. 30). God always has the final say.
And you’ve probably heard the tried-and-true cliché—If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.
Here are five attitude-adjusting thoughts and one key question about failure and success from John Maxwell:
John then asks: “The key question on your bad day is: Are you going to give up or get up?”
What are you going to do with failure?