In this time of confusion, sorrow, and unrest, when many of us may have forgotten what it’s like to sing with the brethren in worship, there is one thing that binds believers together. We are all learning the same words of the song we will sing together on Mount Zion. Our study doesn’t include traditional methods of voice instruction—no scales or enunciation practice. When we serve one another in Christ through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, we leave behind the distinctions that divide. We lay aside our prejudices and idols; we build harmonies and practice heavenly graces that rise up to God’s ears as ethereal melodies. (This post originally appeared at Servants of Grace.)
Although we reside in the Lord’s garden, the inclination of our still-fleshly lives is to choose our own path for growth. We strive for reproduction of ourselves—more of me! more of me! But God has a way to strengthen and beautify us, drawing forth applause and glory—more of Him! more of Him! And as happens in the cycle of growth, that often involves deadheading and affliction.
Sins keep people, those people we see and talk to every day, separated from God, in direct line of His wrath, and at risk of damnation forever if they don’t repent. Some of them, in God’s mercy and providence, may be your brethren not yet revealed. And when they are reborn and come to Christ, they will need discipleship and, very likely, encouragement and help in their struggles against the most addictive of these sins. They won’t need jokes that trivialize their sin. Sin is not funny business. Theirs nor yours nor anyone’s.
Don’t let conduct or conversation steal away opportunities to proclaim freedom to those enslaved to sin and life to the despairing. (originally published at Servants of Grace)
When God acts in history, he does so to highlight his glory and to govern and preserve his people. He manifests his purposes through the voluntary and involuntary actions of the spiritual body and its members. We generally are not aware of it, though. We just thread the needle. We just drive the car. We just breathe.
If I disregard the protection my blood pressure medication affords me or neglect the exercise of regular dosages or leave it in places where it would get lost or stolen, I am making my heart an easy target for stroke or attack because of weakened and malfunctioning systems. When we disregard the value of the graces the Lord has provided, or fail to put on the spiritual armor available to every believer, or neglect the benefits in growth and maturity accessible through the body of Christ, the church, then we make ourselves easy targets for the side-of-the-road attacks from the fiends of temptation, affliction, and sin.
Who says Christmas has to come to a close? Who says that just because the boxes and bags get broken down and packed away for use next year that we can’t intentionally and carefully prepare beautiful presents and packages of love and ministry for others?
No good can come from calling fellow believers enemies. These are people we fellowship with at the table of the Lord, meet with in corporate worship, lay our burdens down together before the throne. To determine that they are enemies when God Himself has declared them His friends at the expense of the blood of His Son is to pronounce that relationships operate on your rules and terms, regardless of what God has done. And because it’s possible that those you suspect are behaving badly are not believers, it’s still not grounds for alienation if all they’ve done is give the appearances of enmity. They are without the spiritual tools needed to do conflict well. Witness to them of the greatest work of reconciliation done in all of history and rightly inform them they are enemies to God—as you once were—and that they can be bought and washed and made new—as you are now.
Here is the shared experience of those who travel Christian’s road, whether new or old in the faith: wrestling with “right” decisions, fighting doubts, putting off behavior and thoughts of the old man that do not honor Christ, grappling with understanding theology and God’s commands. These struggles threaten to steal any joy from living this life, and they don’t even come close to the battles that thousands upon thousands of worthy Pilgrims fight every single day for the sake of the gospel.
Imagine how equipped an army hospital would have to be to deal with the tribulations that Christian experienced. Consider how ill-equipped many of us are to minister to the wounds and trauma inflicted in Apollyon’s battle against the church. But according to verse 17 of John 15, we do have one balm and solace to offer our stricken comrades: These things I command you so that you will love one another.