St. Paul enunciates the controlling principle and passion of the Christian’s life.
The dominant attitude is reverence for Christ - the honour of his Name - upheld at all times and at all cost. The prevailing attitude is regard for the glory of Christ in his majesty and mercy. How beautifully these two characteristics of the divine nature are melded together and harmonised in the Lord Jesus, the self-expression of God. His majesty would affright us from approaching him, but accompanied by his mercy he chooses to invite us. Jesus is the lovely combination of the strong and the sweet. The leading aspiration of the believer is to maintain the dignity and worth of the Redeemer.
The Christian’s supreme aim is to maintain the due respect and recognition of the wonderful Name that is the Lord Jesus. His deepest regret is to tarnish the reputation and fame of Jesus and fail to represent him as he deserves. Our sins soil not him personally but public perception of him.
There is such lamentable weakness in ourselves, and such opposition from daily life in the world, that we often lapse in our resolve to live primarily for Christ and extoll his excellence in our being and behaviour.
Paul shared our frailty and struggles. No spokesman for the Lord is above the strife of temptation and the vulnerability of nature. They all wrestle with the issues common to every believer and are never immune from human foibles. Paul knew the daily difficulties encountered and the compromising circumstances that cause us distress and counter our faithfulness and loyalty to the Lord.
The world wields its weapons of opposition to the Saviour with deftness and craft and believers tremble at the subtlety of the mastermind behind evil attacks. He smirks as he works. He holds the highest qualifications in harassment. Ridicule or rage are hard for us to bear for the sake of our God. Belittlement is bitter. Put downs are painful. Insults can be excruciating. Therefore enticements to compromise or craven quietness in standing our ground for him are many and discomforting. Satan contrives to make human words sting and anything persecutory is injurious to our spirits.
In Christ our peace with God can never be destroyed, but our peace within can be seriously disturbed when we endeavour to live with our inconsistencies and note our imperfection.
Hence Paul counsels an overriding approach to life - carefulness, preparedness, watchfulness, and constant reliance upon Christ. He warns us that confidence in our ability to stand through human resources is a sure way of heading for a fall. Immaturity in Christ cannot handle spiritual elation when it occurs without getting puffed up. It is exceedingly easy to relax our guardedness, our alertness to moral danger, and our conscious communion with Christ. We can so easily slip in our spiritual integrity and stamina - our flesh and devilish foes are always awaiting an openness to assail us. Satan is a superior psychologist.
The wisdom that secures us is the mind stayed on Christ and the primacy of the safety of the soul committed to his protection. Distractions come in droves from every direction and we are diverted from our heavenly calling. Paul advises us to take every opportunity of resorting to Christ. Wherever we are, he is there, permanently with us - and our thoughts may turn to him in reflection upon the truths of his word - the things we know of him and all that he intends for us.
The maintenance of mature understanding prevents the foolishness that would entrap us in every form of folly or departure from godliness. The influences that would take us off track are legion and the enemy of our souls knows the likely inclinations of our character that can cause us to go astray. There are so many avenues to our minds and motives that can penetrate to the springs of our thought and behaviour. The practices and speech of those associated with us, the insinuations and suggestions they can offer, may catch us up in a bewildering net of that which is contrary to our desired holiness. The menu of the ever-present media can conflict with and distract from concentration on things divine. Various pursuits - sometimes quite legitimate - can, through over-emphasis and exaggerated importance, imperil the health of the believer’s heart.
Potentiality for departing from God is everywhere if we sacrifice the priority of dwelling upon him and his ways. Paul alludes to a very conspicuous danger for human kind. Not the fantasising with selfish gratification so much, the speculations of unbelief, or the sense of the presence and possibility of sin - that is, thought not centred upon God, but the escapism of excessive consumption of wine and intoxicating beverages that dull the mind and expose us to behaviour that can be unsavoury, unseemly, and immoral - unguardedness can lead us to laxity and bring great grief of soul before God. Paul’s prescription for spiritual wellbeing is the fullness of the Holy Spirit that excludes any rivalry for the possession of our hearts.
Speech among us ought to be comely and edifying - that is a difficult discipline to uphold consistently, but it does not require gloominess or sombreness. Disciples do not have to be dour. The Christian disposition can be merry in the Lord and hearts can make music in contemplation of his goodness and gracious gifts and promises to us. Our souls may sing the pleasures of knowing God and ring out with joy at the myriad benefits he bestows through and because of his Son and the Son’s action on our behalf. The internal and vocal melody of praise can become infectious as we each encourage and support the other in a mood of thankfulness and appreciation before a generous God. The habitual exultation in the Lord can exalt and lift up the human heart in an awareness of God’s lavishing of his varied grace upon us in so many ways.
We ponder in positive terms that rouse the heart and mind to joyous apprehension of the Lord and all the privileges that come to us from his own liberal heart and open hand. He is extravagant in his mercy and provision. Hearts that dance with delight in God, and which revel in our glad dependence, become humble and naturally assume the posture of humility.
In our willing submission to him we defer to the wellbeing and dignity of our fellow believers. Mutual honouring and cherishing is the divine ideal and we cry for the grace to make these things actual in our fellowship with each other.
We have such inducements to gratefulness before God and generosity of spirit among ourselves. May God increase in us the love of his Name and our love for each other.