April 20, 2019
And whatever you do, in word or deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus...
Acting in Jesus
For many years we lived in an Asian country and became familiar with the saying, “Do good – receive good in return.” For some, this is just a saying; for others, it is part of what they firmly believe and hold on to.
In a recent Bible study, we were studying the Beatitudes, particularly the second one: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4) John Stott writes as an introduction to the study: “It is plain from the context that those Jesus promised comfort are not primarily those who mourn the loss of a loved one, but those who mourn the loss of their innocence, their righteousness, their self-respect.”
What does this have to do with today’s passage? It only hit me when we were relating this Beatitude to Paul’s struggle where he says, Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me and he concludes that in his sinful nature he is a slave to the law of sin. (Romans 7:19, 25) If it were just about me, I would do what I want to do. But with the Holy Spirit present, he compels me and helps me to do the things God wants me to do.
For example, why would I want to help people affected by HIV/AIDS? After all, I am not affected myself, and nobody in my family is. On the other hand, there are different ways that people become infected with this virus; I could have been infected without my own doing. But when I reflect on Paul’s words above, I realize that even if I want to do good, evil is right there. At any time, I could decide to follow the temptation of sin and, for example, be infected by HIV through my own wrongdoing.
That is where I lose my innocence, my righteousness. I can now see, that if there is anything good coming from me, it is not actually because I am good or because my intentions are good. I am a sinner and my natural intentions are not good. But thanks to God’s intervention and the presence of the Holy Spirit I have the freedom to do the good God wants me to do. It is a decision, a resolution for every day: God, help me to do the good you want me to do.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me love my child even though she does not do exactly what I expect her to do. Help me rebuild the relationship with the neighbor who has just offended me. Help me visit the friend in hospital even though I don’t think hospital visits are my gifting.
And then if I can do all these things, is it to my credit? Of course not. It is not me doing it but it is the work of the Holy Spirit in me. It is the result of what Jesus has done for me by dying on the cross for my sins. Is that not reason to be thankful? Do good in little things, bigger things, very big things, but do everything in the name of Jesus, thanking him for what he has done and what he continues to do in us.