You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also, if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops.
2 Tim 2:1-6
One of the things I was brought up to be, was that the church and your faith was what you did. If we went anywhere or did anything, it was with people from church or those of faith. I guess what was instilled in me was that either you were all in, souled out, or you were not in at all. So, when I was in my teens, and rebelled against church and God, I got out completely. But when I came back, it was with all I had. No middle road. No sitting on the sidelines watching. Both extremes came with bumps and bruises by those didn’t agree with me, but it was who I was and brought up to be whether it was intended or not. I know one verse that has stayed in my mind my whole life is where Jesus spoke to the church in Laodicea about being lukewarm, "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth” Rev 3:15-16. Other than the picture of being spit out of the Lord’s mouth, the thought of being wishy-washy was taken from my character, and replaced with taking a side and staying with it to the end or proven wrong. In fact, my dad used to say to me, “Stand up for what you believe in and don’t give up, unless you find out you’re wrong, then be the first to admit it and apologize.” Paul in the above passage has been telling Timothy everything he knows is true about the Lord and wants Timothy to take on telling this truth to others. He needs to prepare for this quest and be souled out for the Lord to accomplish this task. There’s no being lukewarm for the Lord!
First of all, we need to be strong in the love and mercy the Lord gives to all who are willing do what He calls us to do. Love and mercy from the Lord is grace. To me, this means that you’re going to make mistakes taking on this quest for the Lord, but He isn’t going to punish you for it. He’s going to lift you up so that you can make another try to do what’s right. The Lord doesn’t want you to fail, and you won’t fail, unless you give up. He wants you succeed. He’s like the coach on the sideline of a football game who is cheering you on. If you get hurt, He will do everything to get you well again, and the good thing is that all get to play, and you aren’t going to get cut from the team for not being good enough. You’re always on the Lord’s team if you’re willing to play.
Next, we need to prepare ourselves to be the best we can be. But it doesn’t stop there. We need to be able to teach others to teach others. Jesus in the Great Commission, tells His disciples to make disciples in all nations through baptism, AND to teach them to obey all that Christ commands of them (Matt 28:19-20). Making disciples to make disciples. Teaching other to teach others. Look at our military services. They are constantly bringing in new recruits, teaching them to be good at what they do, and moving them up to teach others to be good at fighting and protecting. It isn’t enough for you to prepare yourself, but you have to relay what you know to someone else to help them to be prepared. What’s the most important part of this strategy? Making sure you teach what is true and the best for the one you are bringing along. You don’t want them to learn bad habits or things that are not true. Think about how this pertains to the church. Make sure what you are teaching is according to God’s handbook for soldiers of Christ. Make sure it’s the truth. If it’s not, be the first to admit it, apologize, and start teaching the truth.
Next, we need to realize we are going to endure hardships, so Christian up. Please don’t follow the myth that because you are in Christ that everything is going to go perfect all the time. Jesus didn’t teach that, "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” Matt 5:11-12 and "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” John 15:18-19. Just because you are a follower of Christ doesn’t mean that you are going to have it easy. In fact, if you are doing God’s will it will be just the opposite, because the world will be faced with the truth of their sins and hate you for it. But Christian up, because you are in good company! They treated the prophets that way, they hated Jesus, and they made Paul and the other apostles suffer. Don’t let it make you give up.
The farmer analogy is so great. He prepares, he plants, he nourishes, and he reaps sometimes a great crop and sometimes not so great crop. But he is an example to us of patience and endurance. He goes through all of these steps and waits for the Lord to bless his work. But he isn’t done is he. He prepares for the next season of crops, and the next season, and so on. He will study to see how to grow his crops better and more efficient. He will always hope for a better crop even though he might not get it. He doesn’t usually give up because things didn’t go so good, but learns from his mistakes and looks to improve. Patience and endurance. It’s amazing to me, when someone will try something once, and if it doesn’t work out as they hoped, they give up and say it won’t work for anymore or for anyone. What did Edison say about his failures in inventing the light bulb? He was asked why after an incredible amount of failures he didn’t give up. His response was that he had just found how many ways it wouldn’t work, but he knew that eventually he would come across a way it would work, and kept on until he found it. Or something like that. It’s close J. Many times, it takes us being patient and enduring failure, to find a way for something we know is right, to be able to get it to work. Don’t stop trying just because you didn’t get the result you hoped the first time you tried.
This is a message to all churches of Christ and especially to our congregation. We have many workers who did their best, and a great job, but are at a point where they can’t do what they used to. There are some of us who need to become the leaders and workers, and help mentor/teach others to step up and help build up our congregation. We need more workers. What will you do to plant the seed, nourish it, so that the Lord can give the increase (1 Cor 3:5-8). In the same analogy as the army or other military services, there are going to be those who have served and ready to retire, but new recruits need to come in to keep an active army productive. Training needs to keep happening to make them the best army possible. Morale needs to be kept at a high level so the soldiers don’t get discouraged. What will we do to build up our congregation? Don’t look at someone else. What will you do to help build up our congregation? The time of excuses of the past are up, they are not productive, we need to be ready to serve today, and make sure the enemy does not win in our part of the world. Join with me in being souled out for the Lord. There is much to do. There is work for every hand.
“For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Gal 2:19-20
There is always something that we devote ourselves to in our lives and it can change over the years. We might devote our lives to our spouse, our children, our careers, garden, career, or any of a number of things. But how devoted are we to Christ as His followers? How serious do we take the calling He has given to us as His disciples? I know that even as a preacher of God’s word, I get sidetracked with other things that takes my sight off of Christ and His calling for me. Of course, Satan’s powers in this world are hard at work to do just that in all of our lives. To be less devoted to God. To get sidetracked to make other things, although good things, more important than what Christ has called us to. Does that mean you give up other things that are important? No, it means to make God part of everything you do. But, if that thing that is important to you, takes you away from God and what Christ has called to, then it either needs to be realigned or possibly let go in favor of the One who gave His life for you.
In the passage above we have a statement by Paul as to his devotion to Christ’s calling in his life. The calling was probably more direct than any of us went through. Paul (Saul at this time) was taking on Christianity to wipe it out with a vengeance. He was a devout Jew, he was a Pharisee, and he had the backing of the Jewish Sanhedrin. With Jesus coming to Paul on his way to Damascus to hunt down followers of Christ, his life does a complete 180 degree turn. He goes from upholding the Law of Moses to preaching Christ anywhere he is sent. Paul is a man who is going to be fully devoted to something, it’s who he was as a person, so he was the right one to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. In Galatians 2:19, he says that “he has died to the old law that he might live to God”. The law was what Paul had devoted his whole life to. Then he goes on to say that he had shared in the death of Christ “so that it was no longer him who lived but Christ now lived in him”. Is this how you feel about your life in Christ? He goes on to say that his life, while he is still alive in this world, “would be lived by faith in Christ”. Why? Because God loved him enough to have His Son die for him and that Christ was willing to die the worst Roman death so that Paul would have the chance to live for God. This passage makes me all goose-pimply thinking about that kind of devotion to our Lord. I want to stand up and yell “Yeah, Paul, me too”, but am I willing to live it as Paul did? No excuses. No justifications. But the willingness to give our lives for Christ as He did for us.
If we read on in other letters written by Paul we find that the above statement wasn’t just a one-time occasion when Paul was feeling really emotional. There’s a few passages in the second Corinthian letter that backs up what Paul said in Galatians. In 2 Cor 4:7-12, Paul admits that we are just humans, but that if we will allow ourselves to be molded like clay, then God can use us in the way he sees necessary to complete His will: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed, always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you.” We have a treasure that is inside of us. For Paul, it was having “the dying of the Lord Jesus” in him, so that the life of Jesus would be made known in his life. Our life, if we are willing to join Paul in this proclamation. For Paul, Christ died so that He can live in those who take on His name. Does this mean we need to live the same kind of life as Paul did? Paul would say no; he would hope that you wouldn’t have to suffer like he did, but he would urge you to be like him in devoting your life for the cause of Christ. How will that look in your life? You won’t know until you give your life completely over to God and His Son.
The question is, how far are we willing to go in allowing God to use us for the cause of Christ? There may come a time in this life when we have to stand up for our faith under difficult situations. How will we react? How far are we willing to go to teach and bring the lost to Christ? Look at what Paul and those ministering with him were willing to do: “We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” 2 Cor 6:3-10. It’s not taking up arms against those who oppose us. Paul is speaking of a greater strength than that. He is saying to keep doing what Christ has called us to do no matter what happens to us. Paul, and many others in the first century, the beginning of the church, gave up their lives for their faith in the gospel of Christ. How far are we willing to go? Most of us haven’t experienced very much persecution. It’s been fairly easy to be a Christian. Will we stand firm when our faith is challenged? Some give up because of personality conflicts. Will we give up that easy? I hope not.
Paul lived a life that seems like it was one suffering after another as a minister of God’s word. It seemed like everyone was trying to hurt or even kill him. But there was something about Paul, that I think if you were to ask him if it was all worth it, he wouldn’t hesitate, but say “Yes, and much more, if it meant living for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. Were there times when Paul felt overwhelmed by the persecution he was experiencing? Yes, but the Lord helped him understand that it needed to happen. Paul writes later in the same letter, “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” 2 Cor 12:7-10. This is a strange thing for Paul to let us know, since he had written throughout the letter of all the suffering he has gone through in his ministry. We don’t know what this “thorn in the flesh” was. Was it something other than the other sufferings he wrote about? It must have been pretty bad. Or was it a prayer concerning one of the other situations that he has already told us about? We don’t know, and it would be speculation on our part to pin it down to something which really doesn’t matter in the long run anyway. What we do know is that Paul went to God about something that was troubling him and that it seems God wasn’t willing to take it away, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is make perfect in weakness.” Not what you really want to hear from God when you pray about suffering. But let’s unpack this a bit to get below the surface of what it’s saying.
As Paul struggles with this “thorn in the flesh”, God is saying that His grace (mercy, love, compassion, patience) is sufficient for him. “No matter what you go through, Paul, I am always with you, and no matter what happens, you will be with Me for eternity”. There are sufferings that we will go through in this life and we need to remember that God has not forsaken us. Remember when Christ was on the cross and had taken on all the sins of the world (past, present, and future), He cried out asking God why He had forsaken Him. When we are suffering with sin or hurting from physical, mental, or spiritual pain, God is there telling us that we can make it if we will put our trust in Him and not the suffering. God says that He does some of His greatest work for us when we are feeling weak. Why is that? It may because we are willing to let our defenses down and allow Him to do His will in our life. “Okay God, I’ve tried everything my way and it isn’t working, so I submit myself to your will to take care of this situation”. It looks like Paul came to that conclusion with the reply he received from God. “I’ll take pleasure in all the sufferings I go through, because I know that when I make myself weak (submission) it makes me strong (God working in his life). We might conclude then, that when bad things happen, it’s God trying to get our attention to let Him come into our life, or for us to give the situation to Him and allow Him to work through us. Paul understood this. Bad things and suffering are going to happen in this life when we take Christ to the lost. The question is, how will we react to it?
This takes us back to the beginning of this article. Paul was willing to give up his past life of opposing Christ, thinking he was doing it for God, to submit to God’s will as a Christ-follower. It meant dying to Law of Moses (or to the past), by being crucified with Christ, so that Christ would live within him, and that he could really do the will of God. What will it take to get us to come to the same understanding? Will we keep trying to do this “Christian thing” on our own terms, or will we renounce ourselves so that Christ can truly live within us? Just for fun; when do you think Paul came to this faith statement in his life? Was it after he had been beaten down by numerous sufferings? Or was it towards the beginning of his ministry so that he was prepared to do whatever it took to present Christ in his actions and words to those who were without Christ in their lives? I believe he wouldn’t have made it very far if he didn’t submit his heart, mind, soul and strength completely to Christ. How far are you willing to let Christ come into your life? When you were baptized into Christ, do you believe that you were crucified with Him, buried with him to the world, and was raised up in newness of life, to live for Him and allow Him to live in you? Life if full of decisions. If you haven’t put the world of sin to death in your life, or you haven’t really been devoted to Christ like you know you should, then maybe it’s time to make a faith statement like Paul did in your life, so that you can start living for Christ by allowing Him to live in you. May we not give up or give out until our journey ends. I love you all, Doug.
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10
Sometimes we don’t recognize the position we are in as Christians in Christ’s church. It’s hard to know when to be humble and when to stand up and let it be known that Jesus Christ is Lord and we serve a God that is over all things. It’s a good thing to be humble and meek, but if it is keeping us from advancing the cause of Christ, then we might be taking it too far. Advancing the cause of Christ is sharing the gospel with those who are lost and offer them an opportunity to obey that gospel and become a child of God in His holy kingdom. This is an inclusive kingdom that is willing to take in all who choose to be part of the kingdom of God. Jesus, in His ministry, invited people to be part of this kingdom, “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel’” Mark 1:14-15. What is this kingdom of God? It is the church of Christ that was built on the confession by Peter (Matt 16:16-18). We are to proclaim this same message for our Lord Jesus Christ today.
It sounds pretty empowering when you read what Peter wrote about the church. A chosen generation, not just then, but every generation that was to follow. There isn’t one generation that is better than the next in Christ’s church. They are all a royal priesthood, a holy nation, Christ’s own special people who are in His church. We are not called to be inactive and just wait for the Lord to return, but to “proclaim the praises of Him who called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light”. Proclaim in the KJV is to “show forth” or to “tell forth” how great our Lord and Savior is. In that respect we are all called to be evangelists to tell what the Lord has done for us (bringing us out of darkness) and what He can do for those who are still part of the sinful world. God had a new plan for being with His people after the exile into Babylon of the Old Testament. He would build a new temple that He would dwell in and with.
When God called back the people, who He punished for being unfaithful to Him, they rebuilt the temple but God did not enter that temple as He had the tabernacle with Moses or the temple Solomon had built. God had bigger plans for a way that He could dwell on earth as He does in heaven. Jeremiah wrote of God’s word to him:
"Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." Jer 31:31-34
A time when it won’t be about a physical tent or building, but God dwelling within His chosen people. It wasn’t for those people at the end of the exile, but when the time was right to where all could be fulfilled through Christ, so that God’s new kingdom could be established. Those who choose to be in God’s kingdom will become the temple that the Spirit of God dwells in, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's” 1 Cor 6:19-20. This brings us back to the idea of being a chose people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation because we are the Lord’s and His Spirit dwells in us.
Now don’t let that go to your head, because that’s what got the priests of Israel in trouble. What it does is give you responsibilities to perform. So, what does a royal priesthood mean anyway? The Hebrew writer said, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast [keep] our confession” Heb 4:14. Christ is the high priest and we are His priesthood who take on the duties of worshiping God and being witnesses of the Lord to all people in what we say and do. We are royal because Christ is the King in God’s kingdom, “They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers” Rev 17:14. As a royal priesthood we have access to God through Christ, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” 1 Tim 2:5. The veil has been torn in two, “Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” Mark 15:38 when Jesus died on the cross. This was what separated God from the priests that came to Him on behalf of the people of Israel. We don’t have that separation anymore and we shouldn’t think that God is up in heaven away from us. Like I said before, being in God’s kingdom, we now have Him dwelling in us through His Holy Spirit.
As God’s chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation we ought to be praising God for the redemption that has come through Jesus Christ. We ought to live a life that brings honor and glory to Him, by being a light set on a hill (Matt 5:15-16). We ought to be proclaiming the Lord to those around us, to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ, and to tell those who are in darkness how to come into the light. How we became the people of God and show what that looks like. Not tearing down who they are, but helping them see what they can become. To show how they can obtain mercy from God for what they have done and who they used to be. We are all priests that help people come to God through Christ. What will you do in the kingdom of God? You are chosen, priests, and holy! That is not something to hide or keep to yourself. It is something to shout about to everyone to encourage them to become part of the Lord’s people. May we never be ashamed of who we are as Christians, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith" Rom 1:16-17. Let your faith grow and be shared with others so that all can live by faith.
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load. Gal 6:2-5
I’m a person who needs to have people to talk to and confide in. If I try to hold things inside it boils over and makes a mess. I can keep others burdens confidential, but my own burdens I need to talk to someone about. I want to know if my thinking is going in the right direction or if I’m off que a bit or a lot. I’m sure that sometimes I’m not a very comfortable person to be around, but I need to work things out, and I have a hard time doing that all by myself. Peggy probably gets tired or listening to me, especially with my medical “weird Doug things”, but she’s an absolute gem and I love her so much. I really appreciate the men I go and have coffee with. They listen and challenge me in my thinking. I also like to hear where they are in their lives so that I might help them as much as they help me. I’ve also been known to go to a therapist to help sort things out. But the greatest avenue I have to sort out my life is my Father in heaven. I need Him to talk to Him and to find out what He has to say to me in His written word. But for me, it isn’t just taking God’s word for myself, but it is to internalize it and use it to help others. The passage above can be perplexing because it seems to be a contradiction. How can we bear one another’s burdens (v.2) while bearing our own load (v.5)?
First of all, we need to take into consideration that Paul uses the term “Law of Christ”. Christ’s law is based on love. The two greatest laws are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, strength, and the second is like it, to love your neighbor as you love yourself. If we love God with all we are we will also love one another because we are all the children of God. We need to help one another whenever there is a need and hopefully it will be reciprocated when we are in need. How do we do at being concerned about others or is it all about ourselves? Does it seem that we are constantly going through crisis after crisis? Paul says, in this inspired word, that it’s not all about you. We need to be watching out for one another and helping when we can and be willing to be helped. Yes, we are to bear our own load, but we all need help now and then.
Possibly an understanding of the difference between burden and load would help at this time. The Greek word for burden here is sorrow due to sins or misfortunes. During a time like this we can definitely use help, of some kind, to get us through. What we need is understanding, compassion, and patience; not to receive a slap on the back and be told to “buck up it will get better”. It’s on the same level as James telling the rich to help the poor and not just tell them to be warm and filled and think you have done a good work. People need someone to hold their hand, to pray with them, and to hear encouraging words on how they may be able to overcome their difficult time. Now don’t go overboard with what you think are encouraging words but in reality, you are really trying to fix them. No one likes to be fixed when they are feeling burdened! Use your words wisely so as not to overwhelm and make the burden worse and realize that sometimes less is more.
The Greek word for load is associated with the responsibilities we have in life as a man or woman, husband, wife or child, employer or employee, rich or poor, and we could go on. Each person has responsibilities; it goes with life. Each one of us is to take care of those responsibilities to the best of our abilities while leaning on the Lord for strength. We are to make sure that we can take care of the responsibilities we have been given before taking on more. But, sometimes our responsibilities escalate and become more than what we believe we can handle. During these times, they may become a burden that needs to be shared, but still with the knowledge that it is still our own responsibility, and that someone else is there just to help you in this time of trouble or “overload”. A problem that can occur during these times is to give up trying to bear our own load and expect someone else to take care of it for us. I believe this is Paul’s point here. We need to bear our own responsibilities as a human being, but to also know we have people in our lives that have our back if things get out of kilter, until we are able to get our responsibilities back in line.
Some of the negative things that might result during these times, which Paul points out, is thinking that since we have our lives and responsibilities in order that everyone else ought to also. Some people even come up with the thought that those who are having problems with their responsibilities are slackers and just need to get their acts together. They think more of themselves than they ought to. You can see this most in the difference between generations; probably more in today’s society than ever. What I see, (you can disagree with me, but you’ll have to write your own article J) is a couple of younger generations have missed out in some way (this could vary in many ways according to what you know) the ability to take on their own responsibilities and deal with them. It could be that they grew up in a household that didn’t prepare them to be adults, married, or to have children of their own. They could have come from a household that relied on the government to aid their family, this might be for good and honorable reasons, but they think that as they become adults, married, and have children that the government needs to take care of them also. Now, you can take this as far as you want, as long as you don’t start looking down on them for how they don’t take care of their responsibilities, because they still need to be helped to learn how God wants them to be responsible in their lives. What is the best way to help these people that seem to have lost (or never knew) their way in life? I’m sure that there is not only one answer because it is a many faceted problem.
Paul says that each person needs to come to a knowledge of their own situation and how they can make it right. Education seems to be always the root of dealing with personal and societies problems. How can we give a person a hand up without taking their responsibility away from them? I believe that it takes an understanding of where they are coming from to be able to help them to get where they need to be. If they are having problems with their finances, then to have people of the church help them to understand how to budget their money and make better financial decisions. But also, realizing that some financial matters are beyond one’s control. If there are couples with marriage problems, then there should be instruction from the church on how to deal with those problems. This can be done through classes, video series, or Christian counseling, but we as the church need to find a way to supply it for those in need. If there is a problem with parents knowing how to bring up their children, let’s sit back and complain to one another about it – NO! Let’s help them by giving them encouragement. Most, if not all, of us have had children. We know that it is not easy. We know that every child is different, and though children are children whatever the times we are in, it is different raising kids today than when many of us had small children. We need to practice compassion and patience in encouraging parents and their children.
Nothing good will result in complaining about these situations just mentioned. It will take all of us to help bear each other’s burdens and to learn to bear our own load; but it takes us all working together as the church to help build stronger people that are part of our church. We have a responsibility to each other in the church. It’s not all about the older people, the young people, the single people, the widowed people, the preacher, but all of us coming together to help one another. To build each other up in the Lord and to provide each other with the tools that are needed, and supplied by the Lord, to help those that make up the church to become the church that Christ intended. We can do it, and need to do this, if we want our congregation to grow and bring in those who are lost in a world of sin. I love you all, Doug.
But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Gal 6:14
“It’s not all about me.” That’s what I have to keep reminding myself of over and over. Boasting, or bragging, about oneself is habit that is hard to overcome. I see it in other people, but I’m not so good at seeing it in myself. We want to “Boost by Boast” a lot of the time. Making ourselves seem bigger and better than we really are by bringing up things that we have done well. Look at how it affects our whole society. Build yourself up on your resume, on your Facebook site, or to your friends and family. The biggest problem is that we can inflate our self-worth to others making up for the low self-worth we feel inside of ourselves. This kind of thinking backfires on us though, because we know that it isn’t all true, it’s a façade, that ends up lowering our self-worth even more.
Paul, in the passage above, says that the only thing he wants to boast in is the cross of Christ, why is that? The great thing that has happened for mankind is God coming to earth as man and revealing the Father to us. It is about taking what Christ said and did in His life and applying it to our lives. Of anyone who had the right to boast in this world, it was the true Son of God, but He didn’t. He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” Phil 2:7. Peter said, “Since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” 1 Peter 4:1-2.
Jesus humbled Himself and did not want to build Himself up in people’s eyes, but pointed them towards God the Father, so that they would live for the will of God. Christ suffered for us in the flesh, so that we would follow His example, not so that we would not have to suffer. Jesus wanted us to pick up our cross and follow Him. It is hard to live without sin in our lives, but if we are willing to follow Jesus, and suffer as He did, then we can rise up against the world of sin and live for the will of God by crucifying ourselves to the world’s desires. If there is anyone or anything we ought to boast in, it is the cross of Jesus Christ. We have a Lord and Savior who leads our lives, by sacrificing Himself on the cross for us, so that we can have the hope of eternal life. Christ died the worst of deaths of anytime in history. Many of us would be willing to die for a loved one or a friend, but Christ died the ugliest death available, for all people – the best and the worst. We may be willing to drown to save a child, take a bullet for a friend, or die in one of many ways, but no one would be willing to be crucified for someone else. It was a long drawn out death that could take days to complete. It was being tortured before they ever nailed you to the cross to be lifted up into the air and hang defenselessly. It was to humiliate you beyond imagination so that others would not want to follow you. I doubt anyone would have to die this way anymore, but if Christ was willing to go through that for us, what will be willing to go through for Him? Could we give up the habits that take us away from following Him? Would we be willing to go out and make disciples not only in all nations, but in our own community? What are we willing to sacrifice and boast in as Christians who live in this world? Well it takes giving ourselves to God through Christ. Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” Gal 2:20. Do you feel that you have been crucified with Christ? Paul wrote this to the church in Rome, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” Rom 6:3-4. So we went through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ when we were baptized in to Him, but what does that really mean and is it producing the follower Christ is looking for?
Paul wrote to the Ephesian church, “That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” Eph 4:22-24. Also, in Romans, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” Rom 12:1-2. Brothers and sisters, it’s not all about us, but what we can become in Christ. We need to change from a person that looks like the rest of the world and become an image of Christ here on earth. It’s not about just sitting back and being perfectly good, but to carry on the cause of Christ to all we meet. Not that they will be like us, but that they will be like Christ also. Are we boasting about the cross of Jesus Christ enough? For Paul it is not about receiving anything from this world but what he was laying up in heaven. We see in Philippians 4:11, that Paul said that he had lived a life of plenty and now he was living a life that was anything but plenty in a material sense. Paul takes a moment in 2 Corinthians 11:22-33, to boast about his life in Christ. It was no ordinary boasting, but boasting about his suffering as he followed Christ. Back in Philippians 4:13, Paul explains that he can do all thing through Christ who strengthens him.
How much am I willing to suffer for Christ knowing that He will strengthen me and get me through all situations? I’m afraid not as much as I should be. I’ve got a pretty good life and it is hard to do anything that will “rock the boat” or cost me anything in return. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and I just don’t have the strength to go out where I might receive any discomfort. Maybe you’re young and you don’t think that you can do anything without seeking approval from older people who don’t want to “rock the boat”. Maybe you’re seeking approval from the wrong place. I remember the story of the disciples being out on the lake in a boat when a huge storm came upon them. They were terrified and didn’t know if they were going to make it back to shore. They looked to Jesus for help and He is sleeping in the bow of the boat. What? Yeah, He’s being rocked to sleep in the boat. They wake Him up, twelve frightened full-grown men, woke Jesus up for help. He rebukes the weather – “Peace, be still” and then rebuked them for having little faith while having the Lord with them in a time of storm. Jesus possibly goes back to sleep and the disciples sat there in amazement that He had strength to control earthly elements. Jesus didn’t seem concerned about the boat rocking; should we? I’m afraid that many times in the church we are just trying to keep the peace and not willing to shake things up once in a while so that the church can grow.
I think about our brother Jim telling about one of his apple trees that wouldn’t produce fruit. When he asked someone about it, they told him that the tree need to go through some stress to wake it up, so that it would grow and produce fruit. He took a 2X4 and beat the trunk of the tree and put some scars on it. It worked, the tree started producing like it was intended to. Maybe the church needs to be smacked with a holy 2X4 once in a while so that it will grow. That’s kind of scary isn’t it? But I believe it’s true. We can try and keep the peace so much that there is finally a R.I.P sign posted on locked doors to our building. Are we willing to shake things up to grow as the church or are we content to die with church? I, for one, want to see the church grow and to go on for many generations past me. I don’t want to just see it though; I want to be part of it. Paul, in the passage at the top of this article, seems to be one who is willing to do something radical to make Christ’s church grow. He wants to boast in the Lord, boast about the cross of Jesus, he wants the whole world to know and he is not ashamed of it! So he writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” Rom 1:16. What can we do together to grow the church of Christ in our area?