There’s nothing like being with Christians.

“For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:18, 19 ESV).

Over the last weekend I’ve been away on a Christian youth camp called KYCK. It was excellent. I went 2 weeks ago and got the chance to hear the talks, which were really good (it’s always good to hear the gospel preached, but especially when it’s preached to 2000 youth). But this weekend I went to volunteer.

The thing that struck me the most was that even though I had never met the guys I was working with, because of our trust in Jesus it didn’t take us long to become quite close. Paul says in the passage above that because of Jesus, all Christians have access to God. He then goes on to say that we are no longer strangers and aliens, but fellow citizens – God’s family.

I experienced that reality over the weekend, and as we drove home I read that verse and it struck me as deeply true. When we become Christians we really do move from being enemies of God into being his children. And as part of that we are automatically part of a massive family. Here are some reasons that being with other like-minded Christians is so encouraging:

  • You can rejoice together about the salvation that is in Jesus. It is the centre-piece, the reason that we can come together as family instead of strangers.
  • You can discuss God’s word with them – learning from their knowledge and encouraging them also.
  • You can know that the relationships you have will last for eternity.
  • There’s an automatic understanding of one another – you can understand each other’s ideas and world-views, you have heaps to talk about straight away and there’s a type of trust that flows from that very quickly

Of course there are Christians who you will meet who you don’t get on with. There will be things you disagree on. But spending time with like-minded Christians who you’ve just met is super-encouraging, and what struck me most was the simple honesty that we could have with one another as we worked to serve God together and learn about him.

Over the weekend I got a glimpse of the truth expressed by Paul in the verse above. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, like being with fellow Christians – because if you and they are both seeking to know God better and to learn, then there should be nothing but mutual encouragement between you. Obviously this should be true of our relationships at church, but also in our relationships with other Christians. Is it true for you? Have you experienced this fellowship?

We still live in a fallen world. A world full of disagreements and goodbyes. But the reality is that because of Jesus we are entirely forgiven, and we can look forward to the reality of heaven, where there will be no sin or suffering or hardships. Where we will be in perfect, selfless fellowship with other Christians in the presence of our God and glorifying him together.

What a wonderful thing that is. Are we looking forward to it?

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Standing Together: The perfect Example of Humility – Jesus.

In my last post we looked at pride as one of the biggest enemies of unity between Christians (You can see that post here). Because of this, Paul continues on this theme, giving us the perfect example of someone who was humble – Jesus.

Philippians 2:5-11 – Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus is God. He is the creator of the universe. He was enthroned in heaven, in perfect relationship with the other 2 members of the trinity from eternity past. He deserves all glory and honour, all praise. He placed the stars into space with his words. He created life by speaking.

And yet, instead of claiming that praise and honour, he willingly became a man. He was born in a stable – his creation didn’t even make room for him at his birth. He took the form of a “servant” – in the original language (as far as I know) this is better translated as a slave. But Jesus didn’t only do that. He humbled himself further – he willingly died one of the most shameful deaths that there was for us. The creator of the universe, the one who sustains us every second of the day, was beaten, mocked, spat on and then hung up on a tree to die.

Why did he do that? So he could save us. We are sinners. We have disobeyed God’s perfect law, and as a result we deserve his punishment (hell). Nothing we can do can save us from that – we’ve already stuffed it up. But Jesus didn’t sin. He was God and he was man at the same time, so he took our sin and he took God’s punishment for that sin on the cross. He died in our place – in the place of those who had rebelled against him, who hated him, who were his enemies, so we could be forgiven and to show forth God’s character – his justice and perfection along with his mercy and grace and love.

But that doesn’t automatically make us saved. No, God calls us to respond to this free gift – to put our trust in Jesus as the only saviour and to repent of our sins.

Jesus humbled himself completely for God’s glory. In the same way we should be willing to give up our wants for the sake of those around us. We will never be able to meet what Jesus did for us (and that’s not the aim) – so we have no excuse to be proud and selfish. We need to be ready to even suffer for fellow Christians in order to help them. Humility hurts. It’s not an easy thing we’ve been called to. But it is glorious, and it is far better than pride because it glorifies our Father in heaven instead of ourselves.

Jesus is the perfect example of humility. Will I follow that example even when it hurts? Will you?

God Bless!

Nat.

 

Standing Together: Enemy #1 – Pride.

Have you ever tried to work with someone who’s completely arrogant? I don’t mean just a little up themselves, I mean so self-absorbed that it’s just impossible to do anything worthwhile with them. Someone who does all they can to get whats best for themselves, without caring what effect it has on you?

Well the truth is we’re all proud. We’re all arrogant, doing things for our own gain instead of others. Some are openly arrogant. Others seem less so. Others hide it behind a crafty veneer of humility or self-righteousness (that’s usually the category I fit into). But we’re all proud. And pride is one of the biggest things that keep us from working well together as Christians – thats why Paul talks about it in Philippians 2:3-4

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Basically, as I’ve already kind of mentioned, Pride is looking at ourselves instead of others. That can be us thinking we are better than others, but it can also be by looking at ourselves and thinking how bad we are – pride is all about comparing ourselves to others.

Instead of focussing on ourselves out focus should be on others, for God’s glory. Instead of focussing on what we want and on bettering things for ourselves, we should be looking at others, seeing what they need and how we can help them. And we should do that so that God will be glorified – so we can encourage fellow Christians and help them come closer to God.

But note: Paul doesn’t say that we can never do what we want to do. No, we need to “also” look at the interests of others. It isn’t wrong to realise we want something and to achieve it. But out priority needs to be to serve and glorify God, even if that means giving up what we want for the sake of someone else getting what they want.

If this happened perfectly then our own needs would get catered for as well, because others would be looking after us. But that rarely happens in the world – people fail, we fail. Does that mean that we shouldn’t live this way? No, of course not! Just because it doesn’t work out how it should (for our benefit and for the benefit of others) doesn’t mean we don’t keep obeying God. We need to obey him to glorify him – not so that others will meet our needs, and we trust him that he will provide what we need – even if he chooses not to provide what we want.

Paul gives us an example of this with the Corinthians. He freely taught them the gospel and worked hard so that they wouldn’t have to support him with money. And even when they questioned his motives and claimed he was just trying to get personal gain he kept teaching them freely – because he wanted to teach them the truth, not get his own way.

As Christians we need to work together so that we can serve God effectively. That will only happen if we look after each other. We can’t just act like islands, seeking our own benefit. We need to be looking at the needs of others and helping them as best as we can – and if all Christians did that then our own needs would be catered for as well.

So how are you doing in the area of Pride? It’s one of the things I struggle with heaps. Are you looking at the Christians around you and asking what you can do for them? Or what they can do for you? Are you seeking God’s glory or your own?

Standing Together: So we don’t give up.

In the last two posts in this series we looked at how standing together helps us encourage each other to live godly lives and not fear. In this post we will be looking at the third way Paul says standing together as Christians will help us: It helps us not give up.

Philippians 1:27-30

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Verses 29 and 30 tell us that we will suffer for our faith in Christ. It’s almost a certain reality – if we are obeying Jesus and putting him first in our lives, if we’re sharing the gospel and living how God instructs us to, then people will hate us. In some countries, like Australia where I live, this isn’t as obvious yet – but thats the exception, not the rule.

We need to “stand firm in one spirit”, encouraging each other so that when we suffer we won’t give up. It’s a fact of life – when we are trying to do thing alone it’s far easier to give up. But when your working with other people it’s easier to be encouraged by their example and to push on even though its tough. It’s like going for a jog – it’s easier to convince yourself to stop running when the pain starts if no one is around. But if you jog with a friend, it usually becomes easier to push on.

As Christians the same applies. When we work together we can encourage each other by reminding each other of God’s promises.We can pray for each other. We can know that we are not alone, and so we can push on far easier, even when its tough.

Are you finding it tough to stay on track as a Christian? Could it be helpful to you if you surrounded yourself with godly friends who you would be honest with and who would be honest with you? 

Standing Together: So we don’t fear.

https://i2.wp.com/www.psdgraphics.com/file/paper-people-background.jpgPhilippians 1:27-30

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

These verses bring us our second reason that we need to stand together as Christians: So we don’t fear. (You can see the previous post here).

Paul is very honest about the fact that if we are Christians we will be persecuted. We will face opponents and we will face hardships because of our faith in Jesus as both saviour and Lord. And the truth is these hardships and this opposition can be demoralising. It can be scary. It can throw us off track and make us want to forsake Christ like Peter did in order to save ourselves.

But when we stand together with other Christians it becomes easier to persevere. Fellowship with other Christians who are also suffering should be like a safe haven to us. A place where we can just rest and recuperate. Where we are surrounded by people we trust. People who will support and love us, who will not throw stones at us like the world does, but who will help shield us and comfort us from the persecution that we face. People who will act like penguins in the cold – working together to shelter one another against the cold outside.

But the truth us that although Christian community should be like this, often it is now. Often we Christians don’t care for each other as they should. We don’t stop to make sure the other person is alright. We don’t take the time to comfort those who are fearful. And as a result when one individual faces persecution, hardship or fear they can often feel at least as if there is no one to help them.

Isolation is one of the things Satan tries to convince us of and to destroy us with – and that’s why Peter says in 1 Peter 5:8-9

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him,firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

As Christians who suffer, we can trust that other Christians are also suffering. But on the flip-side of that, we need to be honest with one another so that we don’t have to battle alone. Because battling alone is a sure way to fall into the trap of fear, and it is far easier to give up in hard times when it seems no one else is interested in helping you through it. As Christians, we need to stand together – working first to serve God, and because of that we need to love each other dearly, because we know that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).

So here’s three questions for you: How are you going at standing together with other Christians? How are you going with loving one another and being honest with others about your struggles? How are you going at comforting those around you who are suffering for their faith? 

We will suffer for Christ. The question is, will we try to battle it out alone in the harsh and bitter cold? Or will we huddle together like penguins and comfort one another, pointing one another to the glorious promises of Christ, and to the marvellous fact that he has taken our sin and will return to bring us into glory?

Standing Together: To encourage each other to live godly lives.

https://i2.wp.com/www.psdgraphics.com/file/paper-people-background.jpgPhilippians 1:27-30

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Paul starts these verses by calling the Philippians to live a life worthy of the gospel. If they claim to be God’s people they need to reflect that claim by living as his people. We are God’s representation on earth. We are being watched, and what we do gives an impression (whether true or false) of who God is to those who see us.
One way to live rightly as one of God’s people is to work with other Christians to do it. When we try to do something on our own, it’s hard because we only have our own ideas and thoughts to go off. We have no one to keep us on the right track, no one to challenge our ideas, no one to show us when we are subtly justifying to ourselves something that is wrong.
That’s one reason that we have to stand together as God’s people: We need to stand together so we can help each other to live a life that reflects who our God and saviour is. We need help to be holy as God is holy. Now obviously it is only by God’s grace and the work of the Holy Spirit that we can be saved and it is only by him that we can be learning to obey him better. And our ‘good deeds’ certainly don’t make us more worthy of salvation. They are simply a response of love to his fantastic grace in saving us when we didn’t deserve it.
It’s much easier to obey God when you’re doing it with other Christians – seeing their example and following it, encouraging each other to resist sin and being able to talk about particular temptations you have and pray for each other. Part of working together is being selfless and humble. We need to work with other Christians to help ourselves obey God, but we also need to work with them in order to benefit them. We can’t be self-obsessed – that’s something we’re bad at in our western culture.
We weren’t created to serve God alone. Even in the garden God gave Adam a partner – Eve. If Adam needed a companion when he was perfect, how much more do we need to help each other when it’s a struggle to obey God?
So I have two questions for you: Firstly, How are you going at obeying God? And secondly, are you spending time with other Christians being real and honest with them? Are you looking to help them to live for God, while also humbly looking for their help in your own life?