|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2000|
|Humility, gentleness, patience, forebearance. Each of these words it to define how we "walk worthy." Dr. Barber explains how each of these characteristics should work themselves out in the Christian’s life.|
We are talking about walking in a manner worthy of the calling that God has given to us. I heard the story many years ago of the young lady who was working by herself in a third world country in a leper colony. She was called of God to do this. A millionaire was on a vacation in that country, and he decided that he wanted to see a leper colony. As he went over to see the leper colony, he saw this young lady working with those lepers and said to her, “Ma’am, I would not do what you are doing for a million dollars.” She looked back at him and said, “Sir, neither would I.” He said, “Well then, why are you doing what you are doing?” Tears formed in her eyes, and she looked at him and said, “It is the love of Christ Jesus constraining me.”
Folks, the way you live depicts your view of salvation. The way you give depicts your view of salvation. The way you relate to others depicts your view of salvation. If you don’t have a high view, then you are not going to have a worthy walk.
When we have a high view of salvation, we begin to realize something I call the exchanged life. Have you ever heard that terminology? I realize what I can’t do, but I also realize what He can do and I exchange me for Him. That’s not a bad exchange, is it? All that we are for all that He is. Paul said, “I want you to be filled to the fulness of God.” Can you imagine? When we die to self, we enter into His fullness. He, in us, does through us what we could have never done before. You ask, “Is it a passive life?” Oh, no. It is the most active life you will ever have, but the kind of activity is simply your surrendering and your obeying and your trusting. The rest of it is up to Him, and the results are all His. The exchanged life is the only way to live a worthy life. You can’t live a worthy life unless you have exchanged your life for His. That is his prayer in 3:14-21.
Verse 1 of chapter 4 tells us that we are to walk worthy. What does it mean to walk worthy? Well, the word “worthy” means to balance the scales, to measure to a standard. It means the intrinsic value of something. I may have an appraised value of something, but the intrinsic value is its inherent value. Therefore, to walk in a manner worthy and to live in a manner worthy, conduct yourselves in a manner that measures up to the value of our salvation. It implies a lifestyle for all of us.
Look in verse 2. Each one of these words in the verse builds upon the other. We looked at the word “humility” in our last study. That is one of the attitudes we need. Secondly, there is the attitude of gentleness. Whereas humility is a proper attitude towards one’s self, gentleness is the proper attitude towards God. Now it may fool you. The word “gentleness” there is the word praotes. It is translated in many translations as “meekness.” What does meekness mean? What does it mean to be gentle or meek? It does not refer necessarily to your outward expression. Certainly there are outward expressions. The word has less to do with our expression to one another and our disposition toward one another than our inward disposition towards God. As a matter of fact, the reason it is translated “gentle” carries the idea that there is such a calmness inside of us because we are right in our relationship with God. That is incredible to me.
Are you stressed out, full of anxiety and just scared to death what is going to happen tomorrow? You haven’t learned yet that you can trust God. Get yourself out of the way. Realize you can’t do it. You know He can. Exchange your life for His and all of a sudden that divine attribute begins to give you calmness in your spirit. Evidently you are in the dark, but I am in the light. I can see. Gentleness is an inner disposition of calmness towards God. Humility is an attitude towards self, but gentleness is an attitude towards God. It is the attitude of being broken in our wills and being submissive to whatever God is up to in our life. Because of that submission whatever offense happens in our life, we don’t get anxious over it. We have a calmness in our spirit. We trust God completely. The attitude of meekness means we have been broken to trust the One who has mastered us.
You see here in the word “gentleness” the picture of a wild horse being broken. The picture here of being tamed is the idea of being meek or the idea of being gentle. The horse is okay as long as he is under the reins of the one who has mastered him. When the Lord Jesus masters us, when we come to that place of exchanging our life for His, when we come to that place of not thinking of ourselves anymore, His heart now causes us to see others around us. He has tamed our spirit so that whatever offense comes to us, we are calm in our spirit because we know we are under the control of the One who has Mastered us. That is a beautiful attitude one can have towards God.
However, it has another side to it. It also has the idea of virtue. Aristotle said it is a virtue. It is something that stands between two extremes. It doesn’t get angry and explode, and it doesn’t stay passive. In other words, not only do you trust God when an offense comes to you, but you never cast your anger towards the person who caused the offense. You hate the sin but you keep on loving the sinner. Now that is an incredible heart beat for a person, an incredible attitude that a person can have when he is humble, when he is gentle, when he is meek, when he has been tamed by the Master. Once I have been tamed you can offend me, and I won’t even hate you. I hate your sin, but I won’t hate you! There is something in me that allows me to love you in spite of what you do to me. When circumstances turn against me, I have a calmness in me to know that God is allowing it and will work the good out of it. That is a tremendous attitude! Now, remember it only comes in the exchanged life. It is a divine ability that God puts within you and me. Do you see how that protects the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?
It is a very beautiful thing when you begin to see what that exchanged life means to you and me, when a person starts walking worthy of that which God has done in his life. The very heart of God begins to beat within him. He has a humility and a proper attitude towards self. He has a gentleness about him that has a proper attitude towards God. He trusts God.
Remember when the fellow came out to curse David as he was leaving Jerusalem. Joab pulled his sword out and said, “I’ll get that rascal. I’ll cut his head off.” David said, “No, hold it. God sent him to me with a message that I need to hear.” Oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could look at life that way? Somebody may offend us and cause some provocation in our life, but all of a sudden we realize that when we exchanged our life for His, we don’t really hate that person any more. We are looking more at God and saying, “What are you trying to tell me through this individual? God, how are you going to work good from what this person has done to me? God, thank you that I don’t hate him. Thank you that I can just hate his sin. Thank you, Lord, that you have taught me to direct my anger at the right thing.” Scripture says be angry but sin not with your anger.
So we have two attitudes here that help preserve the unity in the Spirit, humility and gentleness. One is the right attitude towards self and one is the right attitude towards the Lord.
Third is the word “patience.” The word “patience” is a right attitude towards those people who have caused you the problem. It is the word makrothumia. It comes from two words, makros, meaning long and thumos, which means wrath or anger. It is the ability to suffer someone’s wrong doing for a long period of time. Do you know whose character it is? It is the character of God. Well, how can you do that? Because He lives in you. You have exchanged your life for His. You have chosen to be that way. Now that you have decreased, He has increased in your life. You can be that way if you will depend upon the Spirit to strengthen you with that divine ability. It also has the idea that at any time you are able to avenge yourself, but you choose not to do it because you are trusting God and you are not going to give up on that person.
Do you feel oneness in your church body? Please understand what I am saying. You cannot make it happen. I cannot make it happen. It is something God has already made happen. We don’t produce it. We just get in touch with it and preserve and maintain it. It is already there. You are my brother. You are my sister. You start seeing that you are linked together. Nothing is worth causing a person to take up an offense. Nothing is worth dividing and tearing down the unity that the Spirit has given.
Well, let’s look at these attitudes again. Humility is never thinking of yourself higher than you ought to think. It is a proper attitude towards self. Gentleness is being calm in your spirit when offenses occur because you trust God. If you go to work and somebody in the body of Christ gives you trouble, just say, “Well, God, what are You teaching me today? There must be something in this.” Then ask God to give you the ability to not hate that person but to hate that sin and never let that sin get into your own life. We have ways in which we can even approach that from other Scriptures about restoration. Then the word “patience” is the word that means a right attitude towards other people. You are always able to avenge yourself, but you refuse to. You continue to believe God and do not give up on the person who is causing you the trouble. Do you know what that sounds like to the world? Absolute foolishness.
There is an attitude emerging today that doesn’t match with God’s Word. It says you have got to stand up for yourself at all times. Have you heard that? Perhaps you have been in a restaurant and have ordered something. Do you believe God is sovereign or do you not? You order beans, but they bring peas and they’re cold. You get upset with the person who brought them. What right do we have to do that kind of thing? The world says, “Well, you are paying for it, so you’ve got a right to do it!” Oh, folks, when we have exchanged our life, we have got to understand that God is in control of even those kinds of things.
You don’t have to go through life taking up an offense for everything that goes on. Why? Because you have exchanged your life. You have a gentle spirit. You are patient. You have humility in your life. You know that even when it doesn’t turn out the way you want it to turn out, God will weave it into His design somehow. What kind of view do we have of our salvation? “Oh, salvation doesn’t work now. There are too many problems that salvation doesn’t touch any more. You have got to have other things to help you out.” Where is that in God’s word? The problem is we have such a low view of salvation that we have added in all this other stuff. We don’t believe in the sufficiency of Christ any more. We don’t believe in what God did for us at salvation any more. We don’t seem to understand that His eternal purpose has been to bring us into His kingdom. So we walk out, and it effects our lifestyle. The way you live is absolutely determined by your view of salvation and your view of the Christ who saved you. When we start exchanging our lives, a humble spirit is going to come out. All of a sudden we are not worried about what somebody is not doing to us. We are more concerned about how we can minister to somebody else. Where does that come from? It comes from the Holy Spirit who lives in the inner man who strengthened you with an ability you haven’t had before. We are going to have that meekness because we have been tamed by Him and are being tamed by Him. We don’t mind anymore because He has the reins on our life. We are allowing Him to go ahead and rule us because we trust the One who has the reins and has tamed us. We have patience even when people treat us like dirt. We don’t give up on them. We suffer long because we know that somehow we could have avenged ourselves, but we have chosen not to for the sake and for the cause of the One who has called us.
There’s one more thing I want to show you. In the last part of verse 2 it says, “showing forbearance to one another in love.” The more I have studied that word “forbearance” the more I believe it sums up the other three. I don’t believe you can possibly forbear until you have that patience, that humility and that gentle spirit working for you. The word “forbearance” means you don’t fold. You are able to hold on. You are able to stand up against whatever it is that comes to you. One particular lexicon said this word “forbearance” means you are able to bear up, not only while someone is provoking you, but until the whole provocation is over. In other words, all the way to the end. Folks we have so many misconceptions as to what we think Christianity is. It is exchanging our life for His. It is Him being who He is in our life. Do you think you need to defend yourself? Then how come He hasn’t done that with us? When He was reviled, He reviled not back, Peter tells us. He kept entrusting Himself to the One who judges righteously. If His example was to do that, why are we better than He is? We have these attitudes that enable us to forbear. We have these attitudes that enable us to hold up against whatever it is going on in our lives, no matter what offense comes our way. That only comes when we have exchanged our life for His life, when we have entered in to His ability.
Paul says to examine yourself. I really believe a lot of divisions among people are in the breakdown of these attitudes somehow in their lives. If one breaks down, they all break down. In other words, if you are not exchanging your life, if you are not letting His Spirit give you this divine ability daily, then obviously these things aren’t there. So divisions, factions and problems occur. I honestly believe in my life and your life that if we would go back to where we have departed and ask God to forgive us, we could go to the person we have offended and ask them to forgive us. Folks, He cleans us up.
Jesus did the very same thing for you. He was patient with you. He was gentle with you. He has been very humble in His approach to you. He gave up His glory to come down here to die for you. He forbears until it is over. He continues to sustain His love in your life. Now He wants to do that in you and through you to someone else.
James 3 says we all offend in many ways, don’t we? If we would start looking at sin as serious as God looks at it and start taking a high view of salvation and start dealing with sin when the Holy Spirit brings those things to our attention, we could preserve unity so much that the world would be starving to get in. What is wrong? Is it the Spirit’s fault? No. It is our fault if we are not living humble lives, if we are not living with gentleness, if we are not living with patience, if we are not forbearing, if we are taking up an offense every time somebody does something that bothers us. We are grieving the very Spirit of God. Whatever else we do, call it church, but don’t call it Christianity until we start dealing with relationships.
Maybe you were miffed years ago. You are still upset. Things have bothered you and you have not yet dealt with that under the blood. You have not even been to a brother to make it right with him. God wants to get us to where we are so open, transparent and clean before Him that He can exchange His life for ours. Then whatever takes place will be that potential we have not yet experienced. Then we can enter into the fact that He is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond what we could ever ask or think.