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A Sixth Love Language

You’ve heard of the five love languages; I believe there is a sixth. Since first publishing his enduring work, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, author Gary Chapman has raised our awareness to the various ways in which people most deeply and openly receive love. Some of us embrace words of affirmation, while others cherish quality time. There are those among us who experience love through receiving gifts, and still others are moved through acts of service, an intangible kind of gift. And some people feel most loved through physical touch. (Mine are quality time and words of affirmation. No doubt, you have yours, too.) Yet I mentioned a sixth love language, one that I believe belongs to God alone—faith.

Have you ever noticed faith warms God to the core and stirs Him to action? How are we saved from eternal separation from God and united with Him forever? Simply by entrusting our lives to the loving and atoning work of His Son.1 When the daughter of Jairus died, what did Jesus say to this grieving synagogue ruler? “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”2 Who makes up the “great cloud of witnesses”3 that surrounds us, but those who have gone on before us, all of them united by one common trait: faith. With no faith at all it is impossible to please God4, yet even faith the size of a mustard seed is enough to move the God of all creation to respond to us in great power.5

Why does God treasure and esteem faith so highly? We would have to know His mind to understand completely, but we can be certain of this: faith aligns us with what is true—that God is good, that He is worthy of our trust, and that at great cost and in great love He has made us His own. Faith confesses both the unfathomable darkness of the sin from which God saved us and the unblemished purity of God’s holiness to which He has raised us; these together drop us to our knees in humility and praise. In short, faith squares us with reality. So then why is faith such a challenge for us? Why is faith so hard? We’ll be returning to the topic of faith over the weeks and months to come, exploring what faith is, exposing some challenges we encounter along the way, and considering the life lived by faith. For now, though, we rest in this: whether God proclaims His love for us in five languages or a thousand, we return His blessings in a tongue He loves to hear—the love language of faith.

Father, thank You for Your gift of faith. Fill us with Your Spirit and find us to be good stewards of this gift, that it would grow in us and flow from us, bearing much fruit for Your Kingdom. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

1 John 3:16
2 Luke 8:50
3 Hebrews 12:1
4 Hebrews 11:6
5 Matthew 17:20

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Grace Works

An international student friend was trying to comprehend a relationship with God based on His love and grace instead of earning His approval through good deeds. Peggy asked her, “When you first arrived from your country and we picked you up at the airport, what if we had told you that we did it only because we were being paid to?” “I still would have appreciated the ride,” our friend replied, “but it wouldn’t have been the same.” Truth is, even believers in Christ wrestle with grace and works at times: we know we cannot earn salvation (so as to obligate God to pay us our due), but that we are freed from the penalty of our sins only in entrusting ourselves entirely to Jesus’ willing sacrifice for us. Yet Jesus himself said, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”1 This may sound as though we must earn God’s love, so how do we reconcile grace and works?

We gain life not by trusting in ourselves, but by entrusting ourselves to Jesus. “A person is not justified by the works of the law,” wrote Paul, “but by faith in Jesus Christ.”2 As we believe, “the Spirit gives birth to [our] spirit.”3 Exclaimed Jesus to the crowd, “Whoever believes in me . . . rivers of living water will flow from within them.”4 “By this,” explained John, “he meant the Spirit . . .”5 For God had foretold through the prophet Ezekiel, “I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”6 Indeed, the Spirit’s presence in our life produces “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”7 The Spirit will never lead us in the ways of the world, but always in the good and right ways of God. We keep God’s commandments of love not to earn our way into His presence, but because He has graciously established His presence in us.

Which brings us to works. Paul wrote that we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do,”8 which is to say our birth in Christ is not the end in itself, rather the beginning of a new, purposeful life. For God’s love is proactive love: He has warm, tender feelings of love, certainly, but God’s love acts and speaks. In Him there is no gap between loving feelings and loving deeds; there is no feeling without doing. “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds,” argued James.9

What then do we do? Draw close to God, conversing with Him in prayer and receiving from Him through His Word. Listen to the voice of the Spirit, which speaks to our heart. Watch for God working in people around us, and accept His invitation to join Him. Act and speak. For grace works.

Father, thank You for saving me in Your grace. Lead me to the works You have prepared for me, and strengthen me in Your Spirit to do them. Be glorified through this life. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 John 15:10
2 Galatians 2:16
3 John 3:6
4 John 7:38
5 John 7:40
6 Ezekiel 36:27
7 Galatians 5:22-23
8 Ephesians 2:10
9 James 2:18

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Why Wait?

Lying in the hospital bed and not permitted visitors, I had a lot of time to think. My illness was not even remotely life-threatening, but the reality of mortality consumed my thoughts. “I’m a lot closer to my ‘omega’ than my ‘alpha,’” I silently pondered, “Even if I reach my mid-eighties, that’s only 20 years away, and I’ve lived long enough to realize 20 years is short.” To be honest, I was frightened. It is one thing to ponder our demise and the hereafter in a conceptual sense, but like a mountain range, death looms larger as it draws nearer. And in the words of rhythm and blues guitarist and singer Albert King, “Everybody Wants To Go to Heaven but Nobody Wants To Die.”

Except, perhaps, the apostle Paul. Writing to the Philippian church, he poured out his heart to them: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”1 Paul realized that life in Christ has already begun—“to live is Christ,” he said—and to be with Him in heaven is better yet. So how do we hold to the same confidence that eternal life in Christ has already begun in us? “We know it by the Spirit he gave us,”2 wrote John. Christ lives in all who believe, and we gain confidence for the life to come as we experience His presence in the here and now.

My time to go has not yet come, so I’ve been thinking about how to prepare for it in the meantime, that is to say, to experience God today. Here are a few things that have proven to be helpful. Spending time with God in the Psalms is highly relational. Recalling Old Testament prophecies already fulfilled in Christ, such as Isaiah 52: 13 – 53:12, assures us today that God will keep His promises for tomorrow. Open conversation in daily prayer is refreshing and reassuring—relational, like personal psalms pouring out from within. God speaks to the heart of each of us through His Word for all of us, which is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.”3 Finally, consider the difference He’s already worked in us and in so many others who walk among us as living testimonies to changes only God can make. In other words, experiencing the presence of God begins now. Why wait?

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.4 Amen.

1 Philippians 1:21-24
2 1 John 3:24
3 Hebrews 4:12 ESV
4 John 6:68