The 5 Marks of the Spirit (part two)
Updated: Nov 4, 2020
Last post we covered the first two marks of the spirit (growing esteem for Christ and a discernible spirit of repentance) and this post is going to cover the last three (tenacious devotion to the word of God, interest in theology and doctrine, and an evident love for God and neighbor). Remember, the point of these marks isn’t to compare believers with each other, but rather to take an honest look at our own and our friends’ walks with God and lovingly help each other take a step closer to Jesus by growing in these different ways!
3. Tenacious Devotion to the Word of God
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the council of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the word of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” Psalm 1:1-2. That says it all right? I’m done here? Just kidding, but that verse does directly state that we need to be spending time in the Bible. Psalm 1 goes on to compare people that spend time in the word to a fruitful and well cared for tree, while those who don’t read their Bibles are blown away easily like leftover seeds or husks of corn. As people who love Jesus, we should also love being solid in what he’s told us. The only way we can be sure of what God’s word says is by reading it! We want to be tall, solid trees, planted by a river and growing fruit, and the only way to achieve that is by reading God’s word.
That all sounds really easy, but there’s just something so hard about actually opening our Bibles and reading them. It’s important to have alone time in the word, but if you’re struggling to do that, start with reading through the Bible with a friend or two! Our community groups are going through 1 Corinthians together and joining one is a simple way to start getting into the word at least once a week. Some small things that might encourage you to read first thing in the morning are putting your Bible on top of your phone, setting an alarm as a Bible time reminder, or asking a friend to check in on what you’ve been reading.
Something else holding you back from reading the Bible might be that you have no idea where to start. That’s completely understandable! The Bible is a big book with so many places to start and that can be super overwhelming. Some good starter chapters are John, the Psalms, or Romans. The Gospel of John is especially good for new believers because it covers who Jesus is and what his life on earth looked like. There’s no wrong place to start in the Bible, so talk with a friend that’s already faithfully in their Bible; they can help you figure out what’s best for you!
4. Interest in Theology and Doctrine
The words theology and doctrine are kind of like repentance, they sound weird and confusing, but aren’t actually too difficult to understand once you’ve got the meaning. To have an interest in theology and doctrine is really as simple as having an interest in researching the beliefs of Christianity. For example, we worship a god that is three in one. That doesn’t make any sense unless you research what it means and even then it’s kind of confusing. Titus 2:1 says “but as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” We can’t teach sound doctrine (as we’ve been called to) unless we KNOW sound doctrine and we have to know sound doctrine, so we can teach sound doctrine. Plus, knowing more of what you believe about Jesus and why you believe it helps you love him even more!
You might be feeling a bit overwhelmed. After all, there is so much about the Bible and Christianity that can be a little bit, or a lotta bit, confusing and requires some learning. It’s okay! We aren’t called to perfectly understand everything about God. That’s impossible! Start wherever you’re comfortable with. Does the trinity sound like too big of a topic to figure out right now, but you’re interested in the Old Testament laws? Start reading the Old Testament laws! Are you curious about what God says about dating and marriage? There are some great books to read about exactly that. There are helpful books for anything from sabbathing to the end times.
The trick is making sure you’re researching with a heart longing for the truth of God. Sometimes, people are able to argue really well for what they believe in, but then you go to the Bible and find out that they’re totally wrong. Everything you’re learning should be held to the standards of what God says in the Bible above all else. Always, seek the truth of God in theology and doctrine over what you wish to be true.
5. Evident Love for God and Neighbor
Having a love for God and neighbor seems fairly easy at the surface level. Loving people is just being nice to your friends and occasionally smiling at strangers on the street right? Love as we define it is really easy, but we could never love at a level anywhere near to God’s love for us. That doesn’t excuse us from loving others either. 1 John 4:21 commands us that “whoever loves God must also love his brother”. MUST. Not just when we want to or when it’s easy for us, but always. Dying on the cross wasn’t easy or convenient for Jesus, but he did it because he loves us enough to sacrifice for us. How are you sacrificing for God and others?
The key word in this mark is “evident”. How is your life showing clear evidence that you love God and love others out of that? Think about the people in your life that you know love you. What do they do that shows you that love? They probably spend unhurried time with you, ask how you’re doing (and want the actual answer), send you things that made them think of you, and tons of other little actions that end up meaning a lot. No one shows love better than Jesus does. Look in the Bible at how he shows love to his disciples and friends. He challenges them when needed, listens to their questions, gives them the answers they need over what they want, and most importantly sacrifices for them. Loving people looks different than we might expect or want it to, but God finds joy in us loving others, so we must.
That’s all five marks of the spirit! Take a look at your life and figure out at least one mark that you could grow in. Talk to a friend and hold each other accountable to make solid steps in growing to love Jesus more together. As always, if you have any questions or are interested in talking with someone, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Gabi Houk