The word began with my husband, but from the start I knew it was more. It was also us together. Us…as in you and me. Us…as in sisters and brothers in Jesus’ family. Us…as in the Church. This is the year—God willing—for us to do life
I think we’re all anticipating a 2024 with plenty of potential for things to get dicey. Angsty. Things just might become tense. Again. But does this have to be true about us? Or can we be different together?
Paul wrote this to his buddy Titus—
For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another (Titus 3:3 CSB).
Implied: we too were once… but not anymore.
When God gave me my end-of-2023 nudge, it was specifically related to seeking the Spirit with my husband. And there is absolutely no doubt in my mind… this is also the secret sauce for all of us who are in God’s big family. There is only one way for us to stick together, and that is most certainly through our shared Holy Spirit.
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:4-6).
And here is why this matters. Switching gears away from Paul for a minute, and taking our cues from David—
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who has not appealed to what is false,
and who has not sworn deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord,
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who inquire of him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
I read this Psalm on the second day of the new year, and initially I was stopped short by a question:
How can I avoid appealing to what is false in 2024?
Which is to ask… in a world… in a country… a culture… a moment… when deceit is assumed and overwhelming… when one thing we agree on is the prevalence of falsehood and lies…
How can we (together) keep a pure heart?!
It is this. We inquire of him. We seek his face.
Jesus was quite clear when he said the world would know his disciples…would recognize his family…by one defining characteristic…
And that is LOVE (John 13:35).
The world identifies true Christians by their love. And the converse is also true. If love is not present, the world may assume our faith is untrue.
Wrapping back to Paul…
For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another. I say, then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:13-16; 22-26).
So I ask—will you seek the Spirit together with me?
At the start of the new year I’d like to invite you to join Christians around the world in a full year meditation on the Sermon on the Mount produced by BibleProject. Click here to find out more.