Practical Proverbial, from Galatians, 26 April 2022. Today’s topic: Hello, My Name Is…

But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?  Galatians 4:9 (NIV).

Paul asked this question of his friends in Galatia nearly two thousand years ago.   Could he be asking it of you today?

Have you watched “The Chosen” lately?   We’ve discussed it here before.   It’s the crowd-funded show about Jesus.   In the very first episode, we meet Mary Magdalene, who is possessed by demons and leading a life of sin.   Jesus heals her, calls her to follow Him, and changes her life.   Sometime later, in a different episode, though, Mary goes back to her old ways.   She goes back to the red-light district because she just can’t seem to shake the effects of things that had happened before.  Mary knew she’d been a slave to sin, but she chose to leave Jesus – JESUS, God Immanuel, who she knew face to face, who had personally rescued her – and go back to the illusory comfort of pet sins.

Hello, Mary, my name is Dave; hello, Mary, my name is friend reader.   We’re very much alike.

Here in Galatians, Paul is asking his friends why they have begun to turn back to old ways of Judaism that have been superseded by the Christ’s atonement and resurrection.   The behaviors required by those codes seem trivial by today’s standards.   Observing Jewish festivals, holy days, special celebrations:  what’s so wrong with that?   After all, modern companies, even modern churches, go out of their way to do that in our time.

What’s so wrong with it?   Everything.   It’s rejecting the salvation of Jesus in favor of legalistic traditions, codes, and rubbish.  The churches in Galatia might as well have been Mary Magdalene, returning to a life of drunkenness and whoring.  She couldn’t simply dabble in the old ways:   she jumped in fully.   Just like the churches in Galatia.   Just like us.  Do it long enough and we wouldn’t know God.   Do it long enough and we wouldn’t even know ourselves.

That’s why Paul chided his friends this way; it’s why it’s also a good warning for us.  Jesus doesn’t force us to follow Him.   He doesn’t compel us; He doesn’t threaten us for falling away.   But He does state the truth that, if we don’t know Him, we embrace sin.   We can’t simply have a little taste of sin.   It won’t let us, and Christ knows this.   He asks each of us to follow Him, knowing it will be hard to deny temptation and that sometimes we’ll feel pulled to go backwards.  But He asks us anyway, knowing that, if we let Him, He will remake who we are.

For further reading: 1 Corinthians 4:3, Colossians 2:20, Galatians 4:10

Strengthen me when I am weak, Lord, that I might follow You closer.

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Practical Proverbial, from Galatians, 25 April 2022. Today’s topic: No God, Aren’t Free

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.  Galatians 4:8 (NIV).

It’s an awful thing to not know God.   It’s like not knowing the sky:   it’s there, it’s obvious, you can’t honestly ignore it, but you choose ignore it and, in doing so, look like a fool while cutting yourself off from the benefits of sunshine.   So it is with choosing to not know God.   You live, you breathe, you have a life (maybe even the façade of a ‘moral’ life), you have rights, you have liberties. You have all the things God gives, but it’s a half-life because you’ve chosen to ignore the obvious, to ignore who gave you life and breath, who gives you your rights and the nature in which you exercise them, who teaches the difference between liberty and being libertine.

You’re an easy mark.   In ignoring God, you open yourself up to the evil one, who is just as real as God but who you choose to ignore as well.   That’s just what he’s looking for.   Your life is fertile ground for being swayed by temptations and calamities.   Mind you, you might believe you’re being moral, that you can still make wise choices, good choices, to avoid these kinds of things.   What you don’t understand is that all of western morality springs from God because it was He who originally gave it.   It wasn’t a fairy tale:  its history.   He even said it: “apart from me, you can do nothing.”   Apart from Jesus, you really don’t have morality, and you don’t have a foundation on which you can rely when things go south.  You have no temporal or eternal hope.  Apart from Him, you’re a vulnerable target for the very real devil to attack you and lay waste to your phantom morality.

Thus, you’re a slave to whatever the world tells you your fate will be.  Pandemic?   You’ll have to settle for fear.  Anger?   Let it run its course.   Adultery and lust?   Why stop?   If you don’t believe in God, there is no reason to deny yourself these emotions, these temptations, because all things are open to those who believe only in themselves.   You become a slave to all those things.   They rule you; they become your master.   You really aren’t free, or moral, at all.

Rousseau, Nietzche, Hegel, Marx, and other atheists believed this, and they lived vacant lives; lives that left their mark on humankind but without kind humanity, without hope or love, without what is best in mankind, without a real future.  Without God.

What an awful way to live.  There is a better way.

For further reading: 2 Chronicles 13:9, Isaiah 37:19, Jeremiah 2:11, John 15:5, Romans 1:28, 1 Corinthians 1:21, 1 Thessalonians 4:5, 2 Thessalonian 1:8, Galatians 4:9

Lord, I put all my faith in You alone, not in the world or my own choices.

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Practical Proverbial, from Galatians, 21 April 2022. Today’s topic: Clean Your Room, Slave

So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.  Galatians 4:7 (NIV).

Many teenagers (and quite a few adults) equate tidiness at home with slavery.   To them, it is forcible drudgery to clean the house.  When my kids were young, my words imploring them to clean their rooms brought eye-rolls, blank indifference, or complaints that it was akin to slavery for me to ask them to clean their rooms.

But my kids are heirs.   They are heirs to the current and eternal life God gave them.   They are heirs to the promise made to Abraham, through adoption into Christ’s family of believers.   And they are my heirs, who will inherit whatever belongings I leave behind when I die.  As a dad, I was (still am) fastidious and a neat-freak.   I like a tidy house and wanted my kids to toe the line to what I consider tidy.   That didn’t work out well.   They’re their own people, and my wife & I raised them to be independent.   I wanted them to inherit my fondness for cleanliness, and, in their own ways, they did.   But different from me.

Yet even though we’re different people, they’re still heirs.   They aren’t slaves to my compulsion to keep things picked up.   They aren’t slaves to my repeated commands (which they usually ignored) to keep their rooms clean.   They aren’t slaves to my sins even as they become slaves to their own (if they so choose).   They aren’t slaves:   they’re heirs

In Romans, Paul spends considerable time talking about how believers used to be slaves to sin.   He then completes that discussion here in Galatians 4, reminding us that Christ set us free from our punishment as slaves to sin.   He who is our Savior had no natural children, yet He makes us His spiritual heirs by the sacrificial death and resurrection only He could deliver.  He made it possible for this to happen, for us to be able to go unafraid to our heavenly Father – His Father – and address Him as Daddy.  He grafted us onto His family tree.  

People don’t do that for slaves.   Outside fiction, the best that could happen to a slave was to be freed.   That wasn’t usually the case.   Slaves were (and are) captured and held against their will, forced to do the bidding of their masters.  When we choose sin, we’re choosing to be sin’s slave, absorbing whatever consequences that sin entails.  The moment we come to faith in Jesus, however, He frees us.   He already did the work; we simply accept it.   And when that happens, we realize the benefit of being made His heir.  Tell that to your teenager the next time you tell them to clean their room.

For further reading: Romans 6:15-23, Romans 8:17, Galatians 4:8

Lord, all praise to You for making us Your heirs.

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Practical Proverbial, from Galatians, 20 April 2022. Today’s topic: Abba Daddy Father

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”. Galatians 4:6 (NIV).

“Abba” isn’t just a Swedish rock group.   In Hebrew, “abba” means “daddy.”   Not just “father”, which is more formal, maybe even stern.   Daddy.   Jesus called His holy Father in heaven “daddy.”   Jesus enabled adoption of we believers fully into His family as co-equal sons of God, our Father, our Daddy.  Daddy adopted us.

If you’re a pious, long-time follower of Jesus, does this make you uncomfortable?   My kids are grown.   Occasionally, my daughters will still call me “daddy” but my son never does anymore.   It is just how we interact with each other, how we all grew.  “Daddy” seems like a more innocent way of intimately addressing one’s father.  That’s not how we’re supposed to think of God (especially if we’re Amish, Catholic, or conservative Lutheran, which are, in some practices, quite similar).  He’s God and we aren’t!   He isn’t touchy-feely!  

If you’re uncomfortable, take it up with Holy Spirit.   Tell Him you’re not feeling too copasetic, that you, as a grown adult, don’t feel right calling the holy, formal, all-powerful Father “Daddy.”   Maybe He’ll respond, “that’s ok.   Daddy understands.”

Daddy Father wants us to be intimate with Him.   Personal.   Fully disclosed, fully revealed, fully cradled in His strong loving and powerful arms.   He made each of us to reflect His character; He made each of us through His own Son, Jesus.  Abba Daddy Father wants us to revere, honor, and respect Him but only as a way of worshipping Him, not in fear or dread but in love and peace.   He looks at us through the lens of His perfect Son and sees us as He made us.  He loves us fully and lives for us to love Him that way in return.

Jesus made it possible to approach Abba Father as an innocent child would.   The Spirit of Jesus and Abba Father gave us knowledge of Him so that we might love Him that way, sharing His love with others in doing so.  He loved us enough to let the best part of Him be murdered as a total innocent so that He could redeem us and bring us to Him.  It wasn’t done on a whim:  it was a centuries-old plan of salvation that only He could accomplish, going back to the very beginnings of mankind. 

If it makes you uncomfortable relating to God the Father this way, take comfort.   Jesus did, there in Gethsemene, in His toughest moments.   He went to His Father in the most intimate way possible during the most serious prayer of His life.   And the Father heard Him.   Take comfort in Abba Daddy Father.   Our Savior did.

For further reading: Mark 14:36, Acts 16:17, Romans 5:5, Romans 8:15-16, Galatians 4:7

Abba, Father, I place my heart, trust, and all love in You.

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Practical Proverbial, from Galatians, 19 April 2022. Today’s topic: Adopted Like Grandma

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Galatians 4:4-5 (NIV).

The nicest, sweetest person I’ve ever known was my grandmother, Mildred.   I can’t recall a single instance where she raised her voice, spoke harshly or unkindly, encouraged any kind of violence or anger, or said or did anything to make another person deliberately cross.   I find that amazing given that she lived with my grandfather, who was her temperamental polar-opposite.   He was a good man, a very good one in my book, but still her complete opposite in many ways.  I find her disposition even more amazing given that she also suffered from manic depression for most of her last 30 years.   Whole books could be written on how her condition was diagnosed (or mis-diagnosed), and how she suffered but still persevered throughout it all, never complaining.   Grandma was a woman of deep convictions rooted in the deepest faith.

She was also adopted.   She was born in a Salvation Army hospital in St. Paul in 1905.   We don’t know whether my great grandfather fathered her out of wedlock while he lived alone in Minnesota (before bringing his wife there in 1906), or whether she was simply the daughter of another woman, born into poverty.   My great grandparents adopted her and raised her as their only child, taking her on travels between their ancestral home in western Pennsylvania and their adopted home of central Minnesota.   When she grew into adulthood, Grandma first came to know about faith through Christian Science.   But she found that faith system didn’t meet her deepest needs, and she soon drifted into the Swedish Lutheran church in the town where she was raised.

When I think of Jesus, I think of Him giving His life as the adoption papers so that you and I could be called “sons of God” despite our years of sin and rebellion.  When I think of adoption, I think of that, and Grandma Kornmann, who clung to faith in this Jesus even during hard times, during years of disillusionment in her own life, during times of change, and during her sunset years of illness.  She’s with Him now because she believed in Him then. 

Jesus adopted her, bringing her into His family just as surely as Harvey and Mae Kimling did.   Jesus provided her heart with a home, as surely as He provided the means for the Kimlings to give her a physical one.   Jesus does the same thing for us.   You and me, because we believe in Him, we’re adopted into His family, too.   Because of what He did.

For further reading: Mark 1:15, Luke 2:27, John 1:12, John 3:17, Romans 3:24, Romans 5:6, Ephesians 1:10, Galatians 4:6

Lord, thank You for adopting us.   And say hi to Grandma.

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Practical Proverbial, from Galatians, 18 April 2022. Today’s topic: Elementary or Jesus?

What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world.  Galatians 4:1-3 (NIV).

How does it work out for you, Paul comparing “before faith” to being underage?   In a way, Paul is saying, “we grow up when we have faith in Jesus.”   That means that the folks who don’t believe are immature, like uninformed children.   And, uninformed children are at the mercy of “the elemental spiritual forces of the world.”

Those forces are anything that isn’t Christ.   Per my Concordia, they’re “false, worldly, religious, elementary teachings.”   Elementary?   When you read Galatians 4 and Colossians 2 together, you see that “elementary” refers to things that are of the world, not referring to ‘elementary school’ or youth in general.   But the word also does infer that those who choose to not follow Jesus, meaning reject Him or not know Him, also are indeed childlike, not innocent, but spoiled, temperamental, and undisciplined. 

It’s why children aren’t given their inheritances until they are of-age, educated in the ways of life.   Yesterday was Easter.   We rejoiced at the official annual celebration of the fact of Jesus’ resurrection.   It wasn’t a Bible story:   it’s recorded human history, substantiated by timely accounts, archaeological proofs, and cultural phenomena.  As followers of Jesus, we’re glad He rose, glad He made possible the way forward both in this world and into eternity.  As Christians in a markedly un-Christian world, we get to live our lives as reflections of this joy, soldiers of Christ’s army of the faithful, and keepers of the knowledge of Him.

And professors of that knowledge instead of just possessors of it.   We get to teach others, share what we know and believe of Jesus.   Our first, best students are our families, especially our children, grandkids, and neighbors.  In this un-Christian world, it’s safe to assume that most everyone else (by six to one odds) doesn’t know or doesn’t care about Jesus and His Easter message of salvation and peace.   Most everyone else might be childish slaves to the sinful world; most everyone we meet may be those undisciplined spiritual children.   Will we be harsh teachers, wielding an iron rule, or will we be gentle but firm like Jesus, brandishing His strong peace and His welcoming truth?  Most of the world is at the mercy of un-Christlike elemental forces, being quietly subdued by the evil one, who many mistake as a friend.

On Easter Monday, what will we teach today:   childlike elementary words or our risen Jesus?

For further reading: Colossians 2:8 & 20, Galatians 4:4

Risen Savior, teach me Your holy truth so I might better teach others today.   You are risen!

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Practical Proverbial, from Galatians, 14 April 2022. Today’s topic: Paths and Slaves

What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father.  Galatians 4:1-2 (NIV).

Let’s talk about being a slave.   About thinking you’re more than you are.   If you read my post from yesterday, you (rightfully) might have gotten the impression that I sometimes think I’m more than I am.   It’s true.  I sometimes think what I do and say is more important than it actually is.   My work is great; I do great things.   So do most people, though.  I was passed over for a promotion and maybe, just maybe, that was the right thing for the company to do.   The best lesson I can draw is to find my meaning in Jesus and not in a job, this blog, or anything else.

In this, I’m like an heir.   I’m like the second and third-tier generations of families whose vast fortunes let them think they are better than anyone else; hello Disney family, hello Walton family, hello Hilton family; hello me.  The underage members of wealthy families are no better than the employees, even servants, of the places where they live and work.  They are subject to trusts, guardianships, and legal relationships that preserve their status as heir but, in a way, deny them the full independence that comes with someday actualizing their inheritance.

What Paul is saying is that, when we lived without faith in Jesus, we were poor heirs.   We were like an heir or heiress to a vast fortune, living off the family name.  We were on the family tree, but we didn’t get the benefits of it.   We had the promise of the inheritance (because the hope of Jesus is a promise of real salvation) but hadn’t yet taken possession of it.   To end the analogies, we’re like the 4th or 5th Duke of Whateverdom: we get the family name without the biggest perks.

Coming to faith, or being brought to faith, changes that.   In that moment, we realize the inheritance that is faith.   We have been made adopted princes and princesses, modern saints, by the redeeming life, death, and resurrected life of Jesus.  He took our low-level ignominy and made us into His heirs.   We don’t become God; only He is God.  But we are made to be His brothers and sisters, friends and compatriots, disciples and teachers of His love.  We might still look like stones in the road but, in reality, we’re transformed into integral parts on the path of salvation.  We become part of that path He leads folks on.  He makes us slaves to His righteousness instead of slaves to the dead-end destination of sin.

For further reading: Romans 6:15-23, Galatians 4:3

Lord Jesus, all praise to You!   You made me an heir in You.

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Practical Proverbial, from Galatians, 13 April 2022. Today’s topic: Jesus Promotes

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.  Galatians 3:26-29 (NIV).

Paul reminds us of what John the Baptist said (as recorded in Luke 3).   There, John told his Pharisee challengers that God could create “children of Abraham” out of stones in the road.

Is that what we are?   Are we stones in the road?  Are we pavement that people walk over, ignominious, ordinary, and unremarkable?   Or are we something that God can transform in a miracle?

So, I’ll lay out a confession.   I’m a little down today.  I got a good pay-raise this year, and my workload has increased.  I’ve been doing work well above my grade for awhile now.  My billable project is greatly expanding, thanks mostly to my efforts.  But, yesterday, when the promotion list came out, my name wasn’t on it.   I’m disappointed, feeling let-down.  Good folks who earned it were promoted, but I thought I earned it, too.  Today, I feel like a stone in the road:   unremarkable, useful but no big deal. 

That’s not how Jesus sees me.   With Him, I’m promoted every day.   I matter to Him.  He is using me to reach out to thousands of people through this blog.   He’s using me to reach friends and strangers through my side-work in driving, baking, and Sunday lessons for our church.  He has me leading my family.  And at work, He’s using me to mentor others, to build something lasting for people who need that; to put in place processes, changes, and more:   all while being His disciple.

Give me the title then show me the money, Jesus?   He already has.   He calls me “saint.”  Not only, He provides for me (and you, and all of us) generously and consistently every day.   Because He does this, it’s reasonable for me to cling to the knowledge – not a wish, not a guess:  tangible knowledge – that He uses me for His best purposes right now.  

But I still want the title; I crave affirmation.   We talked about wanting to be on the red carpet just yesterday.  Jesus is already affirming me, recognizing me every day, urging me to find meaning in His purposes, His mission, not just what my company decides.  If I’m a stone in the road, Jesus has already made me an important one, needed where I am.  People sometimes do walk on me but they don’t wear me down.   Congrats to all promotees.   I’m on the right path, too.

For further reading: Luke 3:8, 1 Corinthians 3:23, Galatians 4:1

Lord, I give You and You alone all praise.

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Practical Proverbial, from Galatians, 12 April 2022. Today’s topic: We Matter to Jesus

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Galatians 3:28 (NIV).

This is another of one of the more famous verses in the entire Bible; you’ve likely heard it before, even if you aren’t a follower of Jesus.  Read it and re-read it several times.   It means that Christ is the freedom, equality, peace, and everything else you’ve been looking for.   You matter to Jesus.

This past Sunday, Pastor Anthony talked about awards shows, specifically the red carpet.   Most folks I know (myself included) don’t care much for awards shows anymore, but we’re all star-struck (to some extent) by the red carpet.   We like to see who’s walking it, maybe be on it ourselves.   That red carpet isn’t always a celebrity thing, either.   Awards at work; recognition for something you’ve done; just someone to notice you.   We all want someone to notice us in some way.  Yes, Jesus notices me, and I’m never alone.   But sometimes I/we just want someone else to notice, to tell us that we’re important or we matter.  

From now on, when those feelings of loneliness or envy start to creep in, I’m going to remember Galatians 3:28.  I think this verse is quite comforting when someone is feeling unloved or unnoticed.   Paul reminds us that, in Jesus’ house, there is no red carpet.   There are no celebrities or ‘beautiful people’ or glitterati.   There’s nobody who thinks they’re better than anyone else, and there’s nobody who feels alone.   In Jesus’ house, everyone is one because of Jesus.  

Jesus lives matter.

In Jesus, you and I matter, you and I are significant, you and I are loved.   Sure, there are people who do more or say more or use their opportunities more than I do.   But Jesus doesn’t love them more because of that.   He loves them because He’s Jesus and, to Him, they’re special.   Just like you.   Just like me.   To Jesus, we matter.   The proof happened on the cross.   Look at the holes where the nails were.   Look at Jesus’ hands where the holes still are.   He hung there, died there, rose from there because we matter to Him.

God, who created each of us, who made us male and female, who sees us as Jew or Gentile, or slave or free, He loves us each enough to provide everything for us, to send His Son to die and rise for us, to send His Spirit to us to give our lives meaning and purpose.   Because we matter.   Because Jesus matters.   Because we matter to Jesus.

For further reading: Genesis 1:27, Genesis 5:2, Joel 2:29, John 10:17, John 17:11, 1 Corinthians 12:13, Ephesians 2:14-15, Colossians 3:11, Galatians 3:29

Lord, bless You for loving me.   Thank You.   Your love is more than I can imagine or repay or hold on to.   So I’ll share it.

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Practical Proverbial, from Galatians, 11 April 2022. Today’s topic: O Baptism, What Art Thou?

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  Galatians 3:26-27 (NIV).

Paul begins to summarize chapter 3.   He circles back to the fact that followers of Jesus are children of God, inheritors of the promise made to Abraham.   He has spent the chapter explaining how this is so, how Jesus made it so.   Here, Paul tells his Galatian friends that our baptism (into faith) clothes us

In the last words Jesus speaks before He ascends to Heaven, He says to “go and make disciples, baptizing.”  Jews had been ritually cleaning for hundreds of years.   While not for the purpose of spiritual sanctification, this washing purified the worshipper of uncleanness before he or she came to God.   When John the Baptist began baptizing people in the Jordan, the idea of being cleansed from uncleanness (sin) was one with which people were already well familiar. 

Yet when John baptized Jesus, the practice gained new meaning.   The death and resurrection of Christ then fully complete this transformation of baptism into something new, something actually made new by Jesus.  Through baptism, we receive spiritual life.   Our human life, already alive, is given (by God) the covering of Christ’s Holy Spirit because, in the water, God sanctifies us for His own.  In this way, we gain new covering, new clothing, new attire in which to live our lives.

We are clothed in Jesus.   When the Father sees us, He no longer sees just sinful us.   He sees us clothed in Jesus’ righteousness, in Jesus’ blood, in Jesus’ baptism, in Jesus’ life; in His own life.  To quote my friend Wayne Vogt, baptism is the start of Christian life.   It’s the point where God imparts His Spirit into ours.  

And that’s when the tough work begins.

There’s a part in “O Brother Where Art Thou” where Delmar, one of the prison escapees with George Clooney, gets baptized.   When Delmar comes out of the water, he says, “well that’s it, boys, I’ve been redeemed…the preacher says all my sins is washed away, including that Piggly Wiggly I knocked over in Yazoo.”  

Ok, yep, that’s true.   ALL our sins are washed away.   From there on out, however, it’s up to us to grow.  To learn, mature in the faith.   We learn to pray; we remake old habits; we follow Christ and His example, His teachings.  We take on the heart of a servant by replacing the heart of the selfish.  We clothe ourselves in Jesus by choice because He remade our inmost being by His grace.  And we learn to wear that clothing well, to care for it, so Jesus might better welcome sisters and brothers, wherever they are (or art).

For further reading: Matthew 28:19, Romans 8:14, Romans 13:14, Galatians 3:28

Father, all praise to You for clothing me in Your Son’s holy righteousness.

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