October 15, 2012

Faith, Hope, Love

Those who believe in Jesus Christ are not to live as others do. We are supposed to trust God, look forward to the fulfillment of His promises, and love others as He loves us. 

This means being alert to the dangers around us. Life runs contrary to the Word of God so we are tempted on all sides. Others disappoint us and our love for them is threatened. Sometimes being a Christian feels utterly impossible. Yet God encourages us to press on.

So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. (1 Thessalonians 5:6–10)

While the Bible instructs me to “put off” my old ways, that is not enough to resist temptation or keep me from faltering. I’m also to “put on” the new way of life that God has given me. This is not a passive resistance to sin but an active life of faith, hope and love. In fact, these three become my protection against all attacks to my heart and my thinking. 

These verses call faith and love a breastplate because they protect the vitals. It calls hope a helmet for it protects me from stinkin’ thinkin’ so that I can function as I ought, soberly and with godly thoughts and actions.

Love is putting the eternal well-being of others above my own wants and needs. When my heart is set on that, no selfish and sinful temptation can lure me. However, I cannot do it if I doubt that God will take care of me while I focus on others. Faith is integral to biblical love. Who can put others first if they are more worried about themselves?

Hope is included in this trio of defense against sin because biblical hope is not that “I hope so” wishing of ordinary life. Instead, it is more like anticipation. This kind of hope is not based on my wishes but on the promises of God. An example of this anticipation might be the smell of supper cooking. I can see the scene of a table set and ready and know the feast is already there. All that remains is to enjoy it.

The promise of salvation is like that. I have it already in the sense that God has changed my heart and made me a new creation. He has also given me Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. They only part that I do not have is being removed from the presence of sin and being fully transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. Then I will be set free from all temptation and failure. God’s promises assure me this will happen and with the small taste that I enjoy now, I can eagerly focus on the victory that is to come. 

In the meantime, the grip of sin and temptation is loosened and my mind is protected from Satan’s lies. None of his schemes can hold me when I walk in faith, hope and love.  

Father, this morning You tell me to put my armor on. Although I do not know what the day will bring, I gladly say yes to Your protection, trusting You that I will need it and trusting You to protect me from whatever might attack my faith in You. Fire up my hope for total victory over sin and temptation. Keep me focused on the needs of others rather than on myself and any self-indulgence. Thank You for Your precious promise for my destiny!

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