Monday, June 29, 2015

Paul's counsel for Christians living in these days

These words from Paul's letter to the first century church at Rome are ones that challenged me during my devotions this morning. They also strike me as an important admonition for we Christians, generally, in these days:
Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” (Romans 15:2-3)
This is "inside baseball" talk. In other words, Paul is addressing it to Christians regarding their behavior toward those who are not Christians (along with fellow believers). Others.

Paul doesn't mean that we are to please our neighbors through a kind of spineless acquiescence to wrong.

He means, I think, adopting the same attitude as the One Who saved us from sin and death, the attitude of Christ Himself.

Christ confidently walked with God the Father, compassionately helped those in need, listened patiently to those who were without God in their lives, upbraided those who claimed faith but behaved hypocritically, and always, whatever His behavior toward others, sought to "build them up."

Building up others is not some self-esteem thing.

It means serving our neighbor, going out of our ways to be helpful.

It means building them up by allowing them to see God's truth revealed in Jesus Christ working in our lives.

It means being prepared at all times to give them an account of the hope that Christ has planted in us.

It means taking the time to pray for and with them.

It means taking the time too, with the neighbor who is willing, to read and study and explain God's Word so that they too, can trust in and live with the God of the universe.

As we do so, we can count on receiving the same kinds of insults that greeted true God, true man, Jesus. Along with the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and the promise of a resurrected life with God, earthly insults are part of the deal. Bank on it.

But just as Jesus only achieved His mission through a cross, we who follow Him must endure the cross...
...the cross of honest repentance before the Lord,
...the cross of accepting God's will and not our own over our lives,
...the cross of others' misunderstanding of our faith
...the cross, maybe, even death for our faith.

Resurrections--whether the little resurrections we experience along life's way, or the grand resurrections we will experience one day--are always preceded by crosses.

But we can be assured that all who endure their crosses with trust in Christ always will know resurrection.

These times call for Christians to build up our neighbors through our service and our love.

We are to speak the truth in love and be servants, just as our Lord Jesus has served us.

These are not times for hurling insults or political plotting or self-indulgent sulking.

These times also call for Christians to "cheat." 

Don't rely on the political or judicial systems to vindicate you. 

Don't rely on presidential candidates or media campaigns to uphold or "legitimize" you. 

Instead, Christians, cheat, by which I mean, employ the power that God gives to all who bear Christ's name--who have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever

  • Steep yourselves in God's Word, so that God's supernatural power resides within your human frame, and pray to God in the name of Jesus. 
  • Pray that God will help we who make up His Church to love and serve others. 
  • Pray that God will give us the wisdom we need to speak truth to the misinformed and needy majority in our land. 
  • Pray that God will use our service and our words to plant seeds of repentance and new life that comes through faith in Jesus Christ alone to our neighbors. 
  • Pray for strength, for peace, for hope, for revival. 
  • Pray that God will help you to be ready for anything.
  • Access the wisdom, guidance, and power of God that every Christian has the privilege to claim through their relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Love. Serve. Pray. Study God's Word. Do it for your neighbor even more than for yourself. Be ready for the insults. God's Word...and do it for your neighbor even more than for yourself.

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