Posts Tagged ‘fellowship’

Living in God’s Favor

August 18th, 2017

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance, in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love, in truthful speech and in the power of God… (2 Cor. 6:2b-7a NIV)

Would you like to live in the favor of God?

Such a question entices some to think of earthly rewards and we must be clear about this, that such thoughts are very likely to come from Satan. The Bible says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15 NIV). The first trait of living in the favor of God is that it is just that – God’s favor and not ours.

So the first requirement is to be committed to His causes and to lay aside our own desires. We have a God that we may call to for our “daily bread,” who has promised to provide for “green pastures” and “quiet waters” but this is so that He may also lead us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. We have a God who even prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies and anoints our head with oil, and causes our cup to overflow. But it is so that we may dwell in the house of the Lord for ever, and not so that we may follow the dreams and schemes and values of the world.

Paul lived in God’s favor because he lived for God. We are prone to think highly of those who entertain us or move us emotionally. We will spread the word about a “Christian comedian” or a “Christian performer” who has a beautiful voice. Paul was none of these things, in fact people criticized his speech saying “in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing” (2 Cor. 10:10). Yet his commendation to people was simply that he sought none except his sacrificial service.

The first requirement to live in God’s favor is to daily die to self and to live to Christ. “If any man would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow after me” (Luke 9:23). Each day our ego will rise to challenge the authority of Christ. We will be tempted every day to put our reputation ahead of His, our will ahead of His, our agenda ahead of His, our desires and goals and aspirations ahead of His. Every day we must take all of these self-centered thoughts and submit them to Christ, dying to ourselves, and taking His purpose and His life and His goals upon ourselves.

Paul lived in God’s favor because he was committed regardless of the cost. Some are committed for a while, but fall away when it gets difficult. Or they are willing to do something for Christ, but not just anything whatsoever. But Paul was willing to do whatever it took for Christ to be magnified in His life and ministry. He was not some deranged psychotic who enjoyed pain – he clearly did not – yet he was willing to do it if God would be glorified through it.

Are you totally committed? Are there limitations you have set to how far for Christ you are willing to go? Christ went to the cross for you. He had no preconceived limitations, rather He was willing to do whatever it took.

Parents do this at the birth of their child – at least the good ones do. They commit themselves in their heart, as soon as they see that little wrinkled body, to do whatever it takes for that child to live and to have a good life. How far will a good mother or good father go for the sake of their child? They will go as far as it takes, do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes.

Paul lived in God’s favor because he did not seek to serve God alone, but had a community of fellow devotees as well. Committed people search out other committed people, and seek to serve God together with them. Notice that he did not say “I commend myself in every way,” rather he said, “we commend ourselves in every way.” Truly devoted people lift others up, strengthen their brothers and sisters, learn from them, and love and support one another. Spiritual people are quick to forgive and restore one another. They are patient with weaknesses and maintain a positive hope for all believers.

Paul went so far as to state twice to the Corinthians that God had only given him and his companions authority for building others up, not for tearing them down (2 Cor. 10:8 and 13:10). So his approach was embracive and encouraging.

These three principles will keep us focused on the things of God: living for Him, committed to Him no matter the cost, and supportive of others.

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The Respect of Love

March 29th, 2017

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. (1 Timothy 5:1-2 ESV)

Paul was not speaking of the elder of the church but older people in the church. He went on to speak about younger men, as well as older women and younger women, so it is clear from the context he speaking about generational differences, not leadership.

One of the realities of the church is the multi-generational spread of its members. Most of the time we are with people our own age, but church, like family, involves all ages, and this reality is a significant factor in understanding and serving within a church. The principle he taught is respect for one another born out of love. The ones older than us we should treat like our parents, or perhaps our older brother and sister. The ones younger, like our younger brothers and sisters, or perhaps even like our children if we are old enough.

Why do we respect each other in the Christian family? Why do we care for one another? Several reasons can be given. First, because we have all been purchased by the blood of Christ. Each one of us is precious in that sense. Each one of us is redeemed through His death on the cross and as such are of inestimable worth and value.

How do we love Christ? How do we love anyone? By loving and respecting those things that they love.

If we came into someone’s house and saw precious and expensive items there, we would be careful not to bump into them, to knock them off their shelves, or to break them. We would recognize that this was something very important to the owner, bought at a high price. Surely we should think the same way about one another in the church. Each Christian has been purchased by the same blood, and is enveloped by the same eternal love. Each is of inestimable value. Regardless of how much we might like or dislike one another (based on our flesh, of course), we should love and value one another based on the love of Christ and the payment of His life for each soul.

Second, we should love and respect one another because we also desire love and respect from them. If we disrespect them they will return it in kind. Christ said, “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:2 ESV). If we respect them, they will also respect us.

If you think about it, not only are we to love everyone else in the family of God, but they are to love us as well. They are commanded as much as we are commanded. So it would be our obligation to make our selves more lovable, easier to deal with, more gracious, more approachable, more endearing. We should do this not in an insincere or manipulative way, not for our sake alone, but in the spirit of unity and for the sake of the transformation of life. We should be as nice as the Holy Spirit seeks to make us to be.

Third, we should respect one another because this enables us to work together more effectively. When there is division and hurt feelings in the church it is difficult to bring people together. So, we must be considerate to one another for the sake of God’s mission.

Finally, we should respect one another because the church is meant to be a family and not merely an organization. Every family has more than a mere functional connection. Family means relationships, fellowship, love, compassion, sharing together of life’s great and sometimes difficult moments. The church of Jesus Christ is like this – a family that does not merely function but one that loves in the name and by the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

Do you have a problem with someone at the church? Ask God to give you the grace to see them through His eyes. Develop His love and compassion for them. Let Him take the burden of dislike off of your heart. Love them as a precious soul that Christ died to save. Treat them with respect and consideration. And you will find that they will treat you with the same respect.

There certainly is a time and a place for discipline when someone persists in sinning, unrepentant of his or her actions. (See Matt. 18:15-20 and 1 Tim. 5:20.) But that is a discussion for another time. Our first obligation when a brother or sister fails is to pray, and then to seek in gentleness and love to win them back to Christ by love (Gal. 6:1-2).

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