Week 3: March 19

Gospel Fluency in My Heart

by Mark Shuey

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Let’s begin the week by aiming high, with a perplexing question that has captivated many including the greatest minds in history.

Here it is: What is love?

We can certainly define love by looking up Webster's dictionary definitions such as this one.

Love- “a deep and tender feeling of affection for or attachment or devotion to a person or persons” I think we all know that love is much larger and more profound than these words.

The feelings we felt when we first fell in love were far more impacting. It’s a difficult word to define for several reasons. Number one is that love is the most powerful force known to man. Words are simply not completely adequate to fully capture its essence. The second reason is that our culture has grossly overused the word love to encompass everything from the commitment of a 50 year marriage to feelings about our favorite foods or sports teams. No one feels the same affection or attachment to their wife as they do pizza or the Steelers, but we often use the same word, don’t we? A third reason love is difficult to define is the elusive way we love different things and in different ways. We have to seriously reconsider our definition of love and take into account what and how we actually do love.

One indicator of what you love is simple. What do you like to talk about? What

has captured your affections and devotion to a point where you have a great need to talk about it. What has captured your heart? What we love and how we love was a primary concern for Jesus, therefore it should be a primary concern for both you and me. We must be much more aware of what has captured our hearts. What do we talk about? What do we think about? What do we love? Jesus is so intent on seeing that we love well that he gave to us very specific words on who we are to love; it's called “The Great Commandment” and it is the ultimate message to all of mankind on how to love well and how to live well. When asked which is the greatest commandment in the law, Jesus replied:

 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all

your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it:

 "Love your neighbor as yourself”– Matthew 22:36-40.

Jesus is the eternal incarnation of God’s love. He who embodies love is telling us how to love, so that fact alone should grab our strict attention. You will notice that there is an order and sequence to Jesus’ words. He tells us to love God first and foremost and then we are to love others as we love ourselves. This is a love in the proper, God designed, order, for we will never learn to love well and live well by simply working it up in our own hearts, but only by having more of Christ and his love in our hearts and lives.

Before moving on to the portion of the devotional that calls you to reflect on Scripture and questions, please take a moment to pray that God, the author of love, will open your heart and mind to His vast and extravagant love and teach you a more expansive way to live and love by loving Him.

A Verse for Reflection:

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” - 1 John 4:7-11

Questions for Consideration:

1. What is it that you most enjoy talking about?

2. How often do you think about Jesus and His presence in your life?

3. What or who do you trust?

Day 2

As you pondered yesterday’s question, “what do I like to talk about?”, you may have noticed that most of what you talk about are things that you enjoy, have impressed you or things that have worked out well for you in your life. I’ve always had a passion for books, therefore I love to talk about the books that have made an impact on me. On the other hand, after struggling (a charitable term, I assure you) with mathematics for my entire student career, I don’t ever expect to join a discussion on algebra. Ever! We tend to like and gravitate towards things that work in our lives and steer clear of what doesn’t seem to work in our lives. Fortunately, we have a Creator who has designed us and knows us more intimately than we know ourselves. God knows what works best in our lives and He knows what does not. Sometimes we think we might know how to achieve the best life, even better than God. But we don't, do we? Among all the competing voices for our time and desires; it is God who knows what is best for our lives. In the Book of John, Jesus describes himself as The Good Shepherd who guides and protects His flock from outside dangers so that we may flourish in life.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” 

– John 10:10

Life to the full. That’s what we desire and that’s what Christ promises. Our society makes the same promises of its own. Simply watching one hour of TV will give you an idea as to how many messages we receive which make the claim that a product can instantaneously provide a better life than for us. But it’s only Jesus who delivers on His promise of abundant life. We were created by God therefore only Jesus knows what will fulfill human life. Jesus wants us to be captivated by Him for He knows that the end result is a life of love, joy, peace; a life of the Spirit, a life we were designed by God to live. A life where Christ lives His life in us.

“ I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” - Galatians 2:20

If we love most of what works in our lives then shouldn't God, who designed each one of us, be the object of our love? He knows how to satisfy our desire through His love and guidance, therefore, shouldn’t we then embrace, proclaim and talk about the work, the change and the beauty God has affected in our lives?

We are living a truly remarkable story. A story of redemption, rebirth, salvation and the present and eternal glory of living as a child of God , but in the everyday grind of life we often overlook the magnitude of our story. We were enemies of God, hopeless and adrift. Mankind needed a savior and down from heaven comes Jesus to give us the life we could never achieve on our own. He conquered Satan and paid for our sins so we could live a life of the Spirit; free, forgiven and loved and called to love others. The life Christ provides is life how it is meant to be lived. It's why the Gospel of Jesus Christ is known as the Good News. It’s actually The Great News! As we intentionally live out Christ in our lives and begin to see more and more how the gospel enlarges our lives, we will become more prone to talk about Jesus and what He has done in our lives. Our hearts will now overflow with His love and goodness, which we live out each day carrying with us the noble claim of Child of God. Before moving to reflecting on Scripture and questions, please stop and pray, thanking God for the magnificent story He has included you in and the beauty of living in His light and love.

Scripture for Reflection:

‘For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:14-15

Question for Consideration:

What has God done in your life that caused your life to” work better?”

Day 3

We have all heard the saying, “you are what you eat.” If one believes that is true, then that’s a simplistic way of looking at life. In reality, our identity is bombarded continually by a wide range of stimuli that can impact the “you are” part of the quote. What we read, watch on TV, hear from our family and friends, what websites we visit regularly, all the external stimuli we allow our eyes to view and our minds to dwell upon has the potential to significantly affect who we are. There is a great deal of competition for the attention of our hearts and minds.

As Christ followers it is essential that we establish a foundational view of who we are, so that we will not be swayed or tempted to allow the culture to influence the most important and most basic element of life…who we are as a human being. There are forces aligned against us that would love to say ‘who we are’. The Bible describes “the world” as something far different than this round orb we live on. The world, in the view of the Bible is where the rule and reign of Satan exists and is directly opposed to the rule and reign of God.

"You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against

God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God."

- James 4:4

The “who we are” of life impacts everything. It affects every relationship, every choice, every decision, every aspect of life. Who we are is important to Jesus. He offers us the abundant life that He has promised. So if the “who we are” is poisoned by the world, our entire life will be skewed away from the abundant life of Christ. What if we could put a filter in place that would take all that we see and hear and the messages of “the world” and re-calibrate our thoughts to align them with Christ? The Bible tells us that we do have that capability. God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in each one of us for the battle of our true identity and desires.

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

- 2 Corinthians 10:5

We overcome the enemy by taking every thought captive in order to obey Christ. It’s like taking a wild and dangerous animal and putting it in a cage. So how exactly do we do that? We begin by taking a close look at our thoughts. Take into account what we are thinking and why. Be intentional about your inner world and ask yourself questions, such as:

What thoughts are going through my mind and why am I thinking those thoughts?

What are my fears and anxieties?

What do I believe about God?

What are my views on Jesus and the work He does in my life?

Do my thought patterns align with the character of Christ or not? When do they line up with Christ and when do they not?

By making every thought captive to Christ, we are being intentional about our inner thought life, a life that aligns with what is true about Jesus. We are using the truth of God as a prism through which we see the world and all of its messages. An aspect of gospel fluency is learning to recognize what is NOT of God.

A self-analysis may consist of this brief checklist.

Does this thought elevate Christ? Is this a thought that would come from the mind of Christ?

Does this thought bring me or others down or does it lift and elevate?

The lies that Satan and the world are so prolific, can cause great damage to our souls. We need the truth of Christ to protect us. Defeat the lie by first, proclaiming it to be harmful, false, unproductive and against the character of Christ. Kill it before it grows. Second remember that who we are and who we are becoming is important to God. We are dearly loved, Children of God. We are pilgrims on a journey of discipleship living a life in Christ, a life in growth; a life to the full.

Before moving onto the question and Scripture portion of today's devotional, please take some time to pray that God will give you the discernment and power to capture thoughts, and allow Him to define who you are.

Scripture for Reflection:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the


– John 10:10

Questions for Consideration:

1. What do I allow to define me?

2. What are some of my healthy and unhealthy thought patterns?

Day 4

As fellow travelers on this journey we have covered a lot of ground over the past three days. We have looked into some incredibly important topics such as our loves and desires and how they affect the way we live. We examined our inner life and its importance to how we live and who we are. And in all this, we have sought to keep God first and foremost in our hearts. As we allow Him to shape us and conform us into the image of Christ we experience His abundance and live for the sake of others.

Today, let us take some time to meditate on the following truths by reading the following scripture slowly and considering some questions. As we contemplate, we invite Christ to shape and form our hearts and minds. Before answering the questions, please pray for honesty and transparency with God. Invite Him to give you the strength and courage to grow, persevere and fight for the life He wants for you.

Questions for Consideration:

1. What do I get most excited about?

2. How have my desires and affections impacted my life?

3. Has Jesus captured my affections? Why or why not?

4. Why is it so important to protect my heart and mind?

5. How does Jesus want to develop my inner life at this time?

Scripture for Reflection:

Prior to reading the following selections of Scripture, please pray that God will ignite your heart through His Word. Ask Him to open your eyes so that you may see the wonder and beauty of God through a love saturated relationship with Jesus, as you read these sacred words.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. 

– Proverbs 4:23

“Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” 

– Colossians 3:1-4

‘Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so’.

- Romans 8: 5-7

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is

pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” 

- Philipppians 4:4-8