Two Ways that Shape Our Lives

All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. (Proverbs 16:2)

We pursue what we think is best in our lives. If something is not right, we will only do it when we convince ourselves that the short-term gains are worth it. Overall, we order our lives according to what we think is best, or the highest good. But, as we realize through the prophet Jeremiah’s guidance, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). We struggle to know ourselves and to accurately weigh our pursuits and desires. It is only by God’s grace that we can accurately see and know our ways.

And so, there are two ways forward. The first is the way of humility. In this way, we invite God, who weighs the spirit, to make known to us the rightness or wrongness of our ways. This is the way the psalmist takes in Psalm 139, where recognition of God’s ultimate knowledge leads to a request for insight:

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24)

The way of humility is marked by openness, confession, and a willingness to change. We have openness to what God may speak. We take up the practice of confession to identify our sin before God and to be willing to transformed before God’s word. We hold our lives before God, knowing that the life with God is always growing, developing, and changing for God’s glory.

The second way is the way of pride. In this way, we resist God’s revelation about our life’s way. We choose to harden our hearts to the Holy Spirit’s conviction and prompting. Instead of confession, we suppress God’s word and work, seeking instead to give full rein to our desires. It is here that our resistance will lead to a great revelation of our wrongs either in our earthly life or, ultimately, at the end. Jeremiah goes on to tell us:

“I the Lord search the mind
and try the heart,
to give to every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:10)

Our life is a response to this contrast of ways in every moment. Our life is made of the many decisions and actions we take each day. Will we take the way of humility or the way of pride?

Putting on the Character of Christ in Divided Days

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” (Ephesians 4:1)

In Ephesians 4:1, Paul urges the Ephesians—and us, through them—to live a life worthy of the calling we have received. The unity of the church in divided times is tied into putting on the character of Christ. The verb here is “to walk.” We need to walk worthy. We’re to walk it out. Live it out daily. What does that look like? Well, Paul tells us in verses 2-3.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:2-3)

We are to put on the character of Christ. What is that character? Well, let’s just walk through it slowly with some application to our current moment.

“Be completely humble”

Paul urges the believers toward complete humility and this is a very challenging word. Who has arrived at that? None of us. The sense of the phrase is that believers are to have a wholly humble opinion of themselves. And when we think about the way we live together in the church, we must remember that if we are quick toward a high opinion of ourselves and lack humility, unity will be destroyed.

“and gentle”

Gentleness is a strange word to us today. Who has ever heard a political leader or a CEO start their campaign or new job by saying their agenda would be gentleness? It would not usually be well received. Now there is a related word to gentleness, which we encounter in the Beatitudes, and that is “meekness.” Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). Our experience tells us that is not true, but Jesus shows a different way. In fact, this first phrase of Paul in Ephesians 4:2, “Be completely humble and gentle,” may remind us of Jesus’ own description of Himself when He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart…” (Matthew 11:28-29) If we forsake gentleness and meekness, we do not look like Jesus. If we forsake gentleness, the unity of Christ’s people will be destroyed.

“Be patient”

If the first two words didn’t get you, this one will. Patience means long-suffering. One additional shade of meaning on this word is that such a person is slow to take vengeance. This is good because the Lord has said that vengeance is His, not ours. But if you didn’t notice, we live in a vengeful culture. Be careful of what you say or what you do. It may come back to haunt you. In fact, you may be crucified by those who accuse you. But don’t worry, the accusers usually become the accused in a culture cycling through vengeance. But the body of Christ is to exhibit a different way. We are to be patient. If we forsake patience, if we are quick to anger and swift to revenge, then unity will be destroyed.

“Bearing with one another in love”

The image here is to hold something up as one stands erect, sustaining something or, here, sustaining one another. Believers are, in a sense, to stand shoulder to shoulder, upholding one another. How do we uphold one another? In love. I really appreciate how the New Living Translation renders this: “making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Have you ever seen another person’s faults in the church? Have you ever seen your own? Make space…bear with one another. When we do, unity is sustained and upheld.

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3)

And to cap it all off, Paul says that we have to exert ourselves to keep unity. Here is an important idea: unity does not happen by accident. The natural tendency of human existence is toward disunity and disorder. Just look at your apartment or house over the course of a week. It does not become cleaner on its own, but it does become dirtier. In like manner, the gravitational pull in human relationships is toward disunity and disorder. Unity happens only through focused exertion toward that end. But also notice how Paul emphasizes the exertion is partnered with the Holy Spirit. This is not merely a human work; it is a spiritual work of God within humanity. If we do not work at it, relying upon the Holy Spirit, unity will be destroyed

These days have been hard for everyone. Churches are feeling the tension during these days. But the church is supposed to be a diverse community, with young and old, local and international, rich and poor, many professions, many ethnicities, and many opinions. We must make space for one another around Jesus and the Cross, but also choose to put on the character of Christ in our relationships.

Please pause and consider some personal reflection questions about this in the midst of the divided days:

  • how does our character match up with Paul’s exhortation here?
  • how is our humility, gentleness, patience?
  • how well are we bearing with one another in love?
  • are we exerting ourselves toward unity…or are we hoping someone else will sustain it if we speak or act impatiently, live with pride, open our mouths in gossip, and generally lean into our flesh?

May God help us to walk with Christ and in Christ as one.

A Litany for Pastors based on Matthew 23

I wrote this litany for those who are in ministry after reading Jesus’ sharp rebuke of the Pharisees and teachers of the law as recorded in Matthew 23. Every one of us in ministry struggles to live our calling faithfully, yet we also must let the Holy Spirit regularly search us and lead us to repentance. May this series of prayers help all of us in ministry continue to grow with God and serve others for His glory out of the overflow of humble and repentant lives.


O Lord, deliver us from the hypocrisy
of the teachers of the law and the Pharisees.

Save us from burdening others in how we present Your truth
and help us to practice what we preach.

Rescue us from practicing our spirituality for others’ eyes
and focusing more on externals than true inner change.

Humble us that we might not seek position or title
but might learn to be servants of all.

For the ways we make Your kingdom hard to enter
and for how we lead people toward ourselves instead of Your kingdom
—forgive us, O Lord.

For the ways we discriminate about trifling matters
and miss the most important things like justice, mercy, and faithfulness
—forgive us, O Lord.

For the false righteousness we build in external things
and the dead places within us that have not yet been transformed
—forgive us, O Lord.

For the ways we honor the Word of God and Your messengers
while our lives are at odds with You and Your ways
—forgive us, O Lord.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Almighty God, the Creator of all things and preserver of life,
heal and transform us, forgive and deliver us,
that our lives and ministry might reflect the joy of Your kingdom
and that those we encounter and under our care
might know You, the One true God better
and thrive in the good life of Your kingdom.

All this we ask through Jesus Christ,
who, with You and the Holy Spirit,
are One God,
both now and forevermore.
Amen.

The Way of Jesus and the Way of Herod

This past weekend we began a new series “Power in Preparation” at Eastbrook Church. This begins the second part of our extended journey through the Gospel of Matthew. This message is a study in contrasts drawn from Matthew 1:18-25 and Matthew 2:1-18.

You can view the message video and outline below. You can follow along with the entire series here and the devotional that accompanies the series here. You could always join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under.” (Matthew 2:16)

A Conversation about Ways

  • What it means to choose a “way”
  • The consequences of certain ways (Proverbs 14:12)
  • Jesus: “I am the way…” (John 14:6)

The Way of Herod

  • disturbing power (2:1-8)
  • knowledge and deception (2:4-8)
  • controlling through violence (2:16-18)

The Way of Jesus

  • incarnate power (1:18, 20)
  • grace and truth (John 1:14)
  • saving through humility (1:21)

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into the contrast between Jesus and Herod in one or more of the following ways:

A Prayer for Christlike Service

Jesus washing disciples feet (Ethiopian)

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:26-28)

Lord Jesus Christ,
King of all kings and Lord of all lords,
teach me to live in Your servant way
as I walk with You upon this earth.
Help me to approach my life
not out of selfish ambition or prideful clamoring,
but with the same attitude You had
as You took the downwardly mobile path of the Cross.
I confess this is difficult for me
and seems to cut against our human nature
as shaped by the self-will of the Fall
and the prideful ladder of success.
Purify me of the ways in which this seeps
into Your church and into ministry,
where agendas and pride are baptized
with a thin veneer of religious words and actions.
Purify me and sanctify me
that I might become more like You
from the inside out, oh Jesus,
my Servant King.