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Three Ways We Walk Worthy of the Lord (Col. 1:10-12)

To Bear Much Fruit

No Unfruitful Christians (Phil. 1:11)

It is one of the remarkable prophecies of our Savior’s reign that the “desert shall blossom as the rose garden” (Isa. 35:1). We are here taught to pray for this very thing – that in the desert of our lives, Jesus Christ the Vine will make us fruitful in every good work. This is the first of four verbal phrases the Spirit uses to describe what it means to walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing. In praying this, first, we recognize that we are the barren desert and unable “to be fruitful and multiply.” We can beget children and build earthly lives, but the higher and eternal fruit of “knowledge, righteousness, and holiness” is completely beyond us. Sin has cut off the vine of life at the root, and we must be born again by God’s Spirit. Second, Jesus Christ works in us what we cannot do in ourselves. When we believe in him, we not only receive justifying righteousness as a free gift but also “fruit unto holiness” (Rom. 6:22). The Lord Jesus makes all his branches to bear fruits of righteousness (John 15:1-8; Phil. 1:11), and we must ask him for those fruits. All fruit is drawn from him – not any strength in us, or personal charisma, or earthly works that celebrate man. His true kingdom is found within us (Luke 17:21), as the kingdom of sin and Satan is thrown down in our lives. In union with Christ, faith, godliness, and love gloriously flourish! We were once a desert. Christ Jesus makes us a lovely garden. 

Abounding in Good Works (Acts 10:38; Eph. 2:10; Tit. 2:14)

And there are many flowers in his garden, much righteousness to be and do, much love to show that our Father may be glorified (Matt. 5:16). This is the reason that the Holy Spirit encourages us to “be careful to maintain good works” (Tit. 3:8,14). Our Lord Jesus went about “doing good,” and we are his disciples. Whatever is needful in the present hour to manifest his grace and reign, whatever will bless and love those around us, and whatever glorifies God according to his word, this is a good work. We are created in Jesus Christ to do good works. These do not merit salvation but they manifest his grace and verify our union with him. Instead, therefore, of equating God’s kingdom with great human movements and memorials, let us learn to see it in the grace of God that teaches us to deny ungodliness and to devote ourselves to doing good. Serve all around you. Wear yourself out not with worrying and complaining but with serving in Jesus’ name. See in everyone you help, a cup of water you are giving to your Lord, the way you wash his feet and say “I love you.”

The emphasis upon bearing fruit in good works means that we are to pray to be more loving to one another and to all men (Gal. 6:10). We do good works because our Father is a giver (James 1:17). More frequent consideration should be given to whether or not our lives are manifesting God’s true character in doing good. It is true that men often deserve a bad turn, but, so do we, and the Lord does us much good despite our unworthiness (Gen. 32:10). Do we think of others as obstacles to us getting our way? If so, we are not likely to think on them “for love and good works” (Heb. 10:24). Do we disdain the company of others or view every gathering as an opportunity to thrust ourselves forward into the limelight? To please our Savior, we must walk as he walked, and he walked supremely in love. He did good to others, offered them a helping hand, responded compassionately to their grief, and did innumerable acts of kindness, small and great. We must ask to be made like him, to have our selfishness dethroned and Christ enthroned so that like him we love others and look constantly for opportunities to serve rather than to be served (Mark 10:45). A life of service makes us less self-obsessed, better friends, ready to serve in families, more attractive families, and opens many doors to speak of Christ. Even if no open door for love appears, at the least we should pray to think kindly upon others, rather than disdainfully, being constantly reminded of the Lord’s pitiful heart toward us.

To Increase in the Knowledge of God

Knowing God Makes Us Fruitful (John 17:3)

If we are to be fruitful in good works and truly love others, we must increase in the knowledge of God. This is the second petition we make as we seek to please our Lord and walk worthy of him. Help us to know you better! The simple truth here is that knowing God changes our lives. The knowledge of God is eternal life (John 17:3). The “knowledge of the holy is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). To know him makes us fruitful. We cannot know God without being changed. Increasing knowledge of God is not a speculative knowledge about God, as if this prayer is answered if we become expert theologians. The more we make the Lord the object of our study, meditation, and worship, the more we take his word into our hearts, the more our lives are changed. Consider God’s holiness. No one who knows and adores God for his holiness can live complacently with sin. He hates his sins, is undone by them, as Isaiah was, and takes whatever steps are necessary to kill his sin and dedicate himself to serving the Lord. He is horrified also at the sins of those around him and seeks to honor God by overcoming evil with good.

Consider God’s love. We cannot know his love for us and have his love poured into our lives by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5) without being made more loving ourselves. What, the holy God loves me? It is knowledge of God’s love that fills us with his fullness (Eph. 3:19), for his love is overwhelming. Pray to know more of his love. It is humbling, inspiring, convicting, and transforming to know God as he has revealed himself. And, he has revealed himself as existing in three persons. To know him means that we know the Father who loves us and wills our godliness. Second, he sent his Son in love to pay for our ungodliness and restore us to God’s favor and family. The Son of God “loved and gave himself for us.” Third, the Father and Son sent the Spirit to indwell us and seal us so that God’s image is restored in us. The Spirit loves us and desires fellowship with us and works all good in us. We must pray to know God more, for then we shall love more and walk worthier of our Savior.

Knowing God Increased by Holiness

Knowing God increases holiness, and at the same time, holiness increases our knowing God. Can we say that we really know him if we are indifferent to his holiness? If we take his holiness seriously and seek his grace to be holy as he is holy, he reveals more of himself to us. This is as the Lord said it would be. “He who has my commandments and keep them, it is he who loves me. And he who loves me, will be loved by my Father; and I will love him, and will reveal myself to him” (John 14:21). Holiness and knowledge feed off one another. “I understand more than the ancients, because I keep your precepts” (Ps. 119:100). Obedience brings more light into our lives, as our Father’s blessing upon our seeking and trusting and obeying him. The more we seek to be in our Savior’s fellowship and obey him, the more he reveals himself to us. The more we know him, the more motivated and strengthened we are to pursue holiness, real holiness, not the fake holiness of man-made works but simple obedience to the will of God revealed in Scripture. We are in a relationship with him. He is our Father and is renewing us in his image. Know him better, learn more of him, and you will be more fruitful in holiness and more joyful in obedience and more exuberant in worship.

To Be Strengthen by God’s Glorious Power

God’s Power the Source of all the Christian’s Strength

This third petition reminds us that our faith is heavenly, based upon our Father’s goodness, faithfulness, and power, not upon man’s ability or worth. It is completely beyond us to please our Savior and walk worthy of him. All the fruitfulness unto good works comes from him. He has to reveal the Father to us, or we cannot know him (Matt. 11:27). This comes to full expression in our plea to be “strengthened with all might.” It is parallel with Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:16: “that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” We must pause here and reflect carefully. All strength comes from the Lord. At some vague level, all believers know this. How easily, however, do we revert back to trusting what has worked before, trying to live on yesterday’s manna, or gritting our teeth and trying to muddle through the best we can. This prayer, praying itself, assumes that we have no strength. None. “Without me, you can do nothing.” The Lord has so set up his kingdom of grace that he reveals many glorious promises and duties to our faith, without assuming any strength, intelligence, steadfastness, or strength in us to obtain the promises or live worthily. He will help us. Actually, he does the work in us. “Yet, not I,” Paul gloriously confessed, “but the grace of God in me” (1 Cor. 15:10). Or, “Whereunto I also labor, striving according to his working which works in me mightily” (Col. 1:29). We pray to be strengthened by God’s power, whatever the duty, trial, or temptation before us, because he is pledged to help us. He is our helper and our shield (Ps. 33:20). Christian living is not about what we can do but what God by his Word and Spirit does in us, as we depend upon him, commit all our ways to him, and live obediently by faith.

But we must go one step further. The measure of the strength for which we are to pray is God’s omnipotence. In the Ephesians prayer, he compares the power for which we are to pray with God’s power when he raised his Son from the dead (Eph. 1:20). We never reach a place where it is our strength by which we please our Savior and walk worthy of him. It is always the Lord’s strength – like Enoch’s pleasing God, Sarah’s giving birth to Isaac, David’s slaying of Goliath. The godliest men are completely dependent upon the strength of the Lord. And he invites, encourages, commands us to ask for his strength. He is willing to give it to us. We must seek it trusting Jesus Christ, for in him are all the blessings of salvation (Eph. 1:3). Never must we forget that we have this treasure of grace in fragile containers. Why? So that we and all will know that it was God’s power fulfilling, God’s power upholding, God’s power guiding by which we are saved, parent patiently, love fervently, honor our Savior, and walk to heaven (2 Cor. 4:7). The more we trust in him, look to him, and call upon him, the more he will show us his strength. Our Father promises that he will strengthen us by his own omnipotence in the path of faith and holiness. Think of the hardest duty facing you. It is likely a common, daily one that is wearing you down. Are you asking the Lord for strength? Do you depend upon his strength? If we are grumbling, we are not trusting. If we are angry, we are not depending upon him. We want him to help now, resolve the issue now, or make the trial and temptation go away now. He has a different end in view.

A Different Kind and Goal of Strength

When Daniel returned to his room to pray, he was not preserved from the persecution that followed. When David was forgiven for his wickedness, his child died, and his family was marred by his actions. Mary was blessed to be the mother of the Savior of the world, but a sword pierced her heart. In each of these instances, the Lord sustained by his power, but his power did not deliver from having to suffer or from tears. His power did exactly what is here mentioned – it gave patience and longsuffering. Perhaps these closely related ideas are joined here for emphasis. God’s power does not take away our crosses. His power gives us strength to bear them, without complaining, becoming bitter, or lashing out at others. God’s power delivers us from sulking, impatience, and moroseness. God’s power helps us bear our crosses, as our Savior did, with joy. God’s power in us by the Holy Spirit does not turn us into spiritual superheroes. It makes us walk as our Savior did – pleasing his Father, trusting his Father, saving the thief while suffering for us, providing for his mother as he was surrounded with the terrors of death and hell. God’s strength in our lives is not to give us the life we want, but to form in us likeness to his Son – steadfastness in the fire, patience instead of frustration and anger, and forgiveness. Longsuffering means we forgive the wrongs committed against us, rather than try to avenge them. The Lord is our avenger, not us. As our Savior, we must answer kindly when reviled by others, love our enemies, do them good, and forgive their offenses (1 Pet. 2:21-23). Our faith is not of this world. We live by a heavenly rule, our Savior’s golden rule, the same rule of love that saved us.

Perhaps joyfulness is the most challenging word in this prayer. Ok, we might say to ourselves, I’ll endure and not strike back, but I do not have to like it. Actually, God’s power is such that as we pray for his strength and learn to live by it, we can take pleasure in infirmities, trials, and even insults for Christ’s sake. This is not smug superiority or flying above life without feeling anything. It is not a hyper-spiritualism that walks about with a mystic smile upon one’s face or with feet barely touching the ground. Our Savior’s joy was very practical – joy in carrying his cross, joy in Mary’s perfume on his feet, joy in the children that his disciples turned away but that he welcomed and blessed, joy in doing his Father’s will. This is the joy for which are to pray – a joy that releases us from the idolatry of requiring all things to go as we wish before we can be happy and speak a kind word to anyone. It is a joy that delights to do God’s will, even when that will leads through the valley of the shadow of death, or when his will is to remain in prison for the gospel so that others can hear the good news. Closer to home, it is a sense of pleasure that will grow in us as we pray and make pleasing him our pleasure – when we must discipline repeatedly a wayward child. What a privilege to keep pointing them to Christ! Or, when a nagging health issue keeps us on our face seeking Jesus Christ – there is joy. And this is the purpose of God’s power working us. He frees us from the love of self, the foolishness of trying to carve out our little heavens on earth, and instead teaches us the joy of all our troubles and sorrows, for they lead us to him. Learn to depend upon his strength (2 Cor. 12:9-11). Ask him to strengthen you for the right purpose. Ask him to give you a holy joy in doing his will, living for your Savior, and loving others, as he has loved you.

This kind of strengthening unto endurance with joy is a goad to the flesh. Without God’s strength, if you try to rejoice in your trials you will likely hear inner ridicule and feel paralyzed by a soul division. This is not the kind of strength or joy that in our fallenness we would prefer. We want the joy of the magazine covers, or of the great victories of the past, or of a consumerist paradise with a little sprinkling of spirituality. The Lord works differently. He would have us pray differently. He would have us pray, “Thy will be done” – not our will, not the easy path, the cross-less path, the “I want everything beautiful path.” This is not God’s path. If he gives it to you, you will be miserable in it, for only his path truly satisfies. You do not want what happened to the Israelites to happen to you: “He gave them their heart’s desires but sent leanness unto their souls” (Ps. 106:15). The vessel through whom the Lord communicated this prayer to us openly confessed his wretchedness on the account of his sin (Rom. 7:24). He was not an impressive man, short, likely a little squint-eyed, and not a good public speaker. He knew firsthand that the gospel of Jesus Christ is something very different from the “white-washed tombs” of his Pharisee fathers. They had a form of godliness, but they knew nothing of God’s power. It is the same with all ritualism and externalism since – the appearance of godliness, but no power to subdue the flesh. Dietary rules, monastic rules, saints’ days, crusades against the infidels, priestly vestments, magnificent buildings – all the trappings of godliness without any of God’s strengthening unto cross-bearing with joy. Later in this letter, Paul will speak of this kind of religion in this way: “which things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in will worship and humility and neglecting of the body; not in any honor (value, worth) to the satisfying (indulgence) of the flesh” (2:23).

Thus, we need real religion and real praying. First, we must all confess that without God raising us from the dead to new life and faith, we remain dead in sin. If you are still dead in sin, held fast in the grip of sinning and love of sinning, unable to overcome sin and deny yourself, come to Jesus Christ. You do not need any good works, any money, any resolutions to do better tomorrow – you need him to clean you up, deliver you, and make you acceptable to the Father. This is his office as Savior. Renounce any ability to save yourself, cleanse yourself, or deliver yourself from your least sin. Come to Jesus Christ and ask him to deliver you. Second, cast yourself upon him as your only deliverer. Trust his power and promise to deliver you. Then, commit yourself to be ruled by him. Pray daily and hourly, “Lord, strengthen me by your power. Give me understanding to do your will. Teach me more about you, so that I can be fruitful and love others.” This is who the Savior of the world is. He does not give us forms of religion, pretty, shiny baubles to adore and make us feel better. He gives us inward renewal and power to deny ourselves and take up our cross with joy and follow him. This is who Jesus Christ is. Keep coming to him, trusting him, asking for him to fulfill his joy in you as you love and obey. And finally, give thanks to the Father for his grace to you and resolve in his strength to live by his power and word. Live thanking him. Not seasonal, not when all goes your way – thank him especially when life does not go your way, for then he is reminding you of the truth. He is working all things according to the counsel of his will, and he is reminding us to trust him, trust him through the tears, and depend upon his strength when we are at our weakest.

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