Do you live life with a checklist mentality? Do you get distracted from loving others with Christ like love?
It’s easy to go through life just checking things off your to do list. Life gets busy. We have jobs, friends, family, school, church, and everything else that makes up our everyday lives. That’s not bad stuff. Lots of times busyness is caused by some pretty awesome blessings. The problem comes when we get distracted by the busyness and get caught up in our own selfish agenda. It’s then we can miss what really matters. And what really matters, is loving others like Christ loved us.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 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. 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. – Philippians 2:1-8
Christ is the perfect example of a servant. He was in the form of God but He humbled Himself and became flesh to reconcile us to Him. He died the most shameful death possible so that we might have life. Because Christ died for us and we live by His spirit, we are called to live our lives like Christ. As Christians, we are to be by definition “followers of Christ.”
One of the most challenging parts about this scripture and the key to truly loving others is loving them more than yourself and considering them more highly than yourself. That doesn’t mean we should go around with an “I’m not good enough” mentality or that you should have a bad self image. What we should do is view others with so much love that we see them as cherished and beloved children of God just as Christ viewed us even when we were still sinners.
Growing up I always watched Tom and Jerry. The basic episode would always have Tom, the cat, chasing Jerry, the mouse. These two would try and kill each other! In some episodes they would have a big ol’ dog named Spike. Spike would always protect Jerry and beat up on Tom because dogs hate cats and cats hate mice. Sometimes, Tom, the cat, would catch Spike off guard. In some episodes, Tom would tie a stick onto Spike. The stick would have a string with a steak attached to the end of it. Then Tom would wake Spike up and Spike would start chasing that delicious wonderful steak around in circles while Tom continued his pursuit of Jerry. So what does this mean for us? When we get caught up in our to do list and our selfish agenda, we get distracted just like Spike. We only focus on the great things in our lives, like the steak, and the call to love others gets blurred in the background. We lose our focus on why we’re doing what we’re doing. We forget where that blessing and great thing is from in the first place.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
When we have great blessings in our lives we can be good stewards of those blessings by working our hardest to bring all glory to God and by pointing others in the same direction. We can do that by showing them Christ-like love. The distractions in our life, the busyness, tiredness, selfishness, even the string and the steak tied to our backs, will keep us from showing genuine christian love to one another. Until we can clip that string and focus on loving like Christ loved us, all earthly accomplishments, gifts, talents, and ideas of success are meaningless. The moment we clip the strings of distraction in our lives is the moment we realize we are called to live lives full of love as humble servants just like Christ.
Anyone who’s gone to school knows about the scientific method. While the scientific method is mainly used in, as you can probably guess… science, we can use this method in many different aspects of our life. The two things that stick out to me are the variables and the constants that you have in an experiment. Your variables are the objects in an experiment that are subject to change. Variables are the things that will be affected. The constant is never changing. The constant is your compass, so to speak, for going in the right direction. In our lives and in the world around us there are variables that are always changing, breaking us down, misleading us, and causing us to stumble. But the constant in our lives as Christians, is Christ. When we go through the changes, the obstacles, the pain, the suffering, and hard times in life, we are equipped to conquer them because we are in Christ.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” – Romans 5:1-11
While we were still sinners, we were ENEMIES OF GOD. But because of his VAST LOVE for us, He reconciled us through Christ WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS and saved our lives. Now, because Christ lives in us we are adopted children of God. If this isn’t grace then I don’t know what is. If while we were enemies God loved us so much to humble himself, take on human likeness, and die to give us life, how can He love us all the more now that we are reconciled?? GRACE. By His grace He loves us even more. Every blessing, every gift, every talent, every opportunity is an overflow of the Father’s love. BY HIS GRACE FOR HIS GLORY.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
In our insufficiency Christ interceded and made us sufficient through him.
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
We are in Christ. Christ is our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, our redemption. It’s by grace we have been saved. God didn’t just stumble across us and pick us up. He wasn’t obligated to come down in human likeness so that we might decide to live in Him. He CHOSE us. In the midst of our foolishness, our weakness, and our sin He chose to save us. It’s by His love that we are saved, by His mercy we are cleansed, and by His grace we are righteous, sanctified, and redeemed IN CHRIST.
The Bad Kind of Change
Change can be viewed 2 different ways: good or bad. But good change is always pretty easy to deal with. It’s the bad change that can be hard to deal with. The hard change is the kind that tests our faith, the kind that stretches our trust in God. A perfect example of someone enduring change and hardship is Job. In Job Chapter 1 God is practically bragging about Job to satan saying how faithful of a servant he is. So satan destroyed Job’s life! And in the midst of all this Job says…
” You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit. Yet these things you hid in your heart; I know that this was your purpose.” – Job 10:11-13
Through all of Job’s hardships, anger, loss, and straight up torture He still acknowledged God as the steadfast and faithful God He is.
“Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5
God is always faithful. Regardless of our circumstances and how we handle them, God will always be there. Even when you turn your back on Him or give up on Him, He’s always there chasing after your heart. No matter what type of change, trials, and hardships we go through, His love and grace are more than enough.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” – Matthew 7:24-27
Our theology or our knowledge of who God is directly impacts how we live our lives everyday. If we view God as unjust, angry, and as the big man upstairs out to get us we won’t see Him as very faithful. When we see God for who he really is, steadfast, loving, faithful, just, good, and trustworthy, nothing will shake our foundation. A foundation that is laid from the truth of the gospel and a right view of our God.
The Watering Can
When you grow a plant it starts out as a seed. You plant the seed in a small pot with a little soil and water it until its roots grow too big for the pot and the plant needs to be moved to a bigger pot. When you uproot this plant here’s the dilemma. For the short time of change in that plants life it’s suffocating. Cut off from its life source. It seems as if the plant has been left to die and suffer all alone. But when the plant is placed in the new and different pot, it can grow and flourish like never before. The one thing that always kept the plant alive, that gave the plant the ability to grow stronger, that gave it the ability to make more plants, is the watering can. This watering can is God. Like the seed and plant, we are always changing where we are in life. When we’re uprooted from where we want to be or from our current situation it’s easy to feel alone and abandoned. But God is faithful and just in his ways. So when we get in our new “pot” His grace and love abound all the more. Our roots grow deep, our foundation grows strong, and we bear much fruit.
What do Jealousy and envy look like?
Jealousy and envy are two words with very similar meanings. I like how Rory explains it in the chapter. “Envy occurs over something you want that somebody else has, while jealousy occurs in trying to protect what you already have against a rival.” It’s kinda weird thinking of different scenarios where that occurs because they’re so similar, almost interchangeable. The easiest way for me to understand the difference is by thinking of the character of God. We are told God is a jealous God. This means he already has us but is trying to protect us from a rival (that’s our sin). Of course, because it’s from our God, this is a healthy jealousy but I think it paints a clearer picture of the difference.
Why is it bad?
Jealousy and envy are stepping stones to further sins. We see it in the story of Cain and Abel, we see it with Joseph’s brothers, and we even see it with King David and Bathsheba. It might start as an angry thought, escalate into total jealousy or envy, and next thing you know, we’re acting on those angry thoughts. Our actions are a result of what we’re filling our hearts with. If we’re filling our hearts with anger, jealousy, envy, and hate, we are going to act out of hate and be full of bitterness. If we fill our hearts with love, compassion, and kindness it will result in Christ-like living.
1 Timothy 1:5 says, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
What can we do about it?
If we have total faith that God has placed us exactly where he wants us, with the exact gifts he wants us to have, at the exact moment in time that he has us in, what is there to be jealous of? Our insecurities lead to jealousy and envy. Our lack of faith and trust lead us to question if God is really in control. We wonder if He’s taking a break for a little while our world spins out of control or our enemies triumph over us. THAT’S NOT THE CASE. God knows exactly what He’s doing with your life. There is a reason and a purpose. Wherever you are in life is exactly where God wants you to be, it’s just a matter of being a faithful servant where you are and with the GIFTS he has given you.
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” -Matthew 25:14-30
We are to be faithful servants and good stewards with the gifts God has given us. These gifts are not our own. Just like in the parable they were the masters talents, our gifts are God given meant to be used to further his kingdom and give the glory to him. Each gift was given to us according to what we can handle. Some people are going to be more talented than others but it doesn’t make them better. If we’re good stewards of what God has given us, we leave no room for jealousy and envy in our hearts. If we viewed ourselves as God views us jealousy and envy wouldn’t even exist. If we realized we are instruments of God’s mercy, grace, and love to be used to give him glory; to spread the news of the gospel; to tell people the message of a kingdom that will not be shaken, then we would be nothing but faithful servants. Then we would know that God has us right where he wants us.
How do you get rid of jealous and envious thoughts?
What does being a faithful servant look like to you?
This week I’m helping out with the worship for a church camp. Growing up I went to church camp every year and it reminded me a lot of my own church camp experiences. For everyone who’s ever been to church camp, you know about these experiences. You come to camp with baggage, burdens, brokenness, and heartache. About midweek after dealing with those issues, we have “come to Jesus moment” or a mountain top experience. All the burdens we once had, all the baggage we were carrying is suddenly lifted, and it’s as if we can see everything in our lives more clearly. The theory of the mountain top experience is that it doesn’t last. When we get back home, about a month later, we forget our groundbreaking come to Jesus moment and everything we got from camp seems like a lost cause. Now this mountain experience is God’s grace. So what does it look like to respond to God’s grace, or the mountain top experience?
If you go up the mountain you have to come back down. This is where our response to grace matters. Our life is like a mountain range. We go through life with baggage, burdens, brokenness, and heartache. We’re surrounded by the same scenery or struggles all over the mountain. Then Jesus intercedes and gives us a mountain top experience. This is where grace happens.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:1-10
Jesus takes our baggage as his own, heals our wounds and brokenness on the journey there, and says “I’ll take it for you.” Jesus not only offers you freedom from all your burdens, he promises a new path that leads to eternity with the Father. Start to finish, mountain top to valley low, any height or depth, Jesus will be there bearing your baggage saying follow me. I’ll give you life. Because of God’s great love for us, he saw our brokenness and made a way for us to be whole. This is grace.
How do we apply it?
The scenery doesn’t change. It’d be nice to take an easy stroll after our mountain top experience but that’s not how it works. There are going to be obstacles. There is going to be pain. There will be struggles, brokenness, all the same “scenery” from before, but one factor is different. Jesus is going to be there! Situations may change and come and go but the truth of the gospel never does. Do we just give into sin when we fall down? Do we stay down and give up? NO! That’s cheap grace and that’s not what God is about.
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” -Romans 6:1-14
We need to press on toward the goal. We need to push through the struggles, obstacles, and pain. We are to push through and follow Jesus on the new path he has laid for us that contains more than we could ever hope for or imagine. Philippians 3:14 says, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” When we crash through those quitting points we will see God’s unbelievably amazing new path for us.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” -Ephesians 3:20-21
Through all our wild scenery and heavy baggage, the scrapes, the bruises, and the failures, God loves us. In fact, He loves us all the more because of them. He gave us a new life and gave us a way to be great for His name’s sake.
What are some obstacles that get in your way of living in God’s grace?
What are some practical ways that help you press on toward the goal?
How we take criticism says a lot about us as a believer.
Over the past few weeks we’ve picked apart different characteristics of our faith and how they influence our walk with Christ. How we take criticism is no less important. What may be surprising is the role our response to criticism plays in each of the characteristics we’ve studied.
An authentic Christian looks to gain more and more knowledge of Christ. If we think we already know everything or can’t improve, what’s our motivation to learn more? What’s our motivation to study the word? What’s our motivation to grow in our faith? Having a know-it-all attitude isn’t at all a representation of Christ. We don’t know everything. And as believers, we can and should be consistently learning and growing. A huge part of that growth is taking criticism well. We should use criticism it to help produce character.
The inability to hear healthy criticism probably means that to some extent you view yourself above others. Does that reflect a true servants heart? If you think you’re better than everyone else, you’re going to see them as a lesser individual. You may even fall into the trap of treating their opinions like they don’t matter. Yes, you may be a better vocalist, drummer, or speaker than the person providing the criticism but taking pride in that doesn’t show servanthood. Remain humble in your strengths remembering that God sees us all the same. It’s with his love that we’re all covered: 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. We should extend that same love that Christ showed us to others.
Community is a feeling of fellowship with others because of shared attitudes or interests. If someone takes offense to every suggestion, opinion, or comment shared, can community happen? Of course not! It’s impossible to build community when people feel like they have to walk on eggshells when they’re around us. What’s the solution then to building community? We must give and take criticism with grace and love.
Excellence not perfection
You’re not perfect! That may be news to you, but it’s true. None of us are perfect. We can always improve. When we’re unwilling to learn or better ourselves, when we think we’re the best of the best, when we don’t listen to the advice of others, that’s our perfectionism showing. We’re not called to perfection. We’re called to work excellently for the Lord: Colossians 3:23-24. Our goal then should be to take criticism and apply it to what we do as we strive for excellence.
Closing thought: Take all criticism with a grain of salt.
In 1 Samuel 8, Samuel took offense when the elders of Israel came to him demanding a king. He was upset that they wanted a king rather of his sons as judges. He cried to God asking why they were rejecting him. God responded that it wasn’t Samuel they were rejecting but God. Samuel had taken the criticism personally and gotten offended. How often do we do the same thing? We take offense to things even if they’re not meant to be offensive.
Ultimately what you do with criticism is your call. Keep in mind that how you take it says a lot about your walk as a believer. Through it all, continue serving to the best of your ability with a humble, loving heart.
Why is it difficult to take criticism well?
What area of your Christian walk is affected most by the critic of others?
Are you a perfectionist?
It’s easy to be a perfectionist and not even realize it. A perfectionist is a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection. And for those of you who are perfectionists you know that WHEN, not if, we fall short, we will tear ourselves down. A perfectionist has a hard time looking at the bigger picture or focusing on the positives. If you were to look at a newspaper real close up you would notice that each letter is made up of little tiny imperfectly misaligned dots, but when it’s all put together and you look at the word, paragraph, or newspaper as a whole it looks great. A perfectionist only sees those close up dots. Perfectionists refuse or are unable to see the positives or the greater scheme of things. Since they’re so focused on being perfect, they can’t focus on what they’ve done good.
So how does being a perfectionist affect our worship?
When we seek to be perfect we are seeing ourselves capable of being our own Gods. In all reality we aren’t enough, aren’t perfect, and aren’t capable of being perfect. But we are capable of being excellent. We are to have excellence because Christ made us excellent according to the grace given to us.
Philippians 3:12- Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
While reading through the chapter this week I remembered something I read from the book “Grace” by Max Lucado…
“But if you were adopted, your parents chose you. Surprise pregnancies happen. But surprise adoptions? Never heard of one. Your parents could have picked a different gender, color, or ancestry. But they selected you. They wanted you in their family. You object: Oh, but if they could have seen the rest of my life, they might have changed their minds. My point exactly. God saw our entire lives from beginning to end, birth to hearse, and in spite of what he saw, he was still convinced “to adopt us into his own family by brining himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure (Eph. 1:5) Your identity is not in your possessions, TALENTS, tattoos, kudos, or accomplishments. Nor are you defined by your divorce, deficiencies, debt, or dumb choices. You are God’s child. You get to call him Papa. You may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Eph. 3:12). You receive the blessings of his special love and provision. And you will inherit the riches of Christ and reign with him forever.”
We serve a perfect God. This perfect God saw our broken lives and how jacked up and imperfect we are and loved us all the more because of our brokenness. We are God’s chosen possessions. Our sins, our failures, our imperfectness are all just stories of God’s grace. God saw our brokenness and made it beauty because through him, in his grace, we can be excellent. In our weakness, He is stronger.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
What’s the difference between perfection and excellence to you?
Colossians 3:23- Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men
We serve a God of excellence. Look at creation. God saw that it was good. We need to accept that we serve a perfect almighty God that made a way for us to be great. Through Jesus he made us excellent, we aren’t able to be perfect or even excellent on our own, but through Christ we are made more than enough. Through our spiritual gifts, our worship, and our entire lives we are to live them to the best of our ability, which is excellence is God’s eyes.
What are some applicable ways we can strive for biblical excellence?
Practice. Spiritually prepare to be used as a better instrument for God’s PERFECT glory. Physically prepare. Give your all in everything you do.
Mark 12:41-44- 41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.[f] 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Like that widow let us give our all because of the knowledge we have of our perfect God and because of the grace given to us that made adopted children of God able to do amazing things for and by God.
How can you practice biblical excellence?
Do you need to combat perfectionism in any areas of your life?
But how can we build community?
3 ESSENTIAL ACTIONS:
1. Unity – (1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12:3)
Scripture refers to us as one body. We each have different gifts and different skills. As the scripture says, we are different parts of one body.
Each part plays a specific function in unified body. Just as each skill and gift is used to glorify God together, as one body (the Church).
If we tie a band around our arm and cut off all the circulation to it, what is it’s worth and function? When we put other things before God we are essentially cutting that circulation off. We are putting walls around our hearts and putting up a barrier to building unity.
2. Encouragement – (Hebrews 3:13, Romans 15:1-7)
Community with other believers is impossible without encouragement and edification of each another.
Hebrews 3:13 says, “But exhort [encourage] one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
This is a call to DAILY encouragement: not just every once in a while, not just when we feel like it, not just when we’re in a good mood, DAILY.
How do we encourage others? By modeling our love of others after Christ. See Romans 15:1-7 for details.
3. Discipline – (Colossians 3:16)
This doesn’t mean disciplining or reprimanding others, it’s discipline in our faith walk.
In Colossians 3:16 we’re told… “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
If we’re not disciplined in filling ourselves with the Word and growing spiritually on our own, how can we grow in unity with other believers? How can we contribute to the body? We can’t!
If we’re not living authentic Christian lives as servants to Christ, the church, and each other, community with one another is impossible.
Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we are now all one body with Christ. Each one of us has a different spiritual gift, given to us by the grace of God. We are called to live authentic Christian lives, using our gifts to glorify the One who blessed us with them. When we don’t, we starve the Spirit living in us and cut ourselves off from the body to which we belong and we remove ourselves from community.
What part of community is most difficult? Unity? Encouragement? Discipline?How are you currently building community with others?
A servant shows HUMILITY
The gospel screams humility. Jesus came to earth to be a servant to all: the great, the powerful, the lowly, and the hurting. He came to serve because he LOVES.
Philippians 2:1-11 illustrates Christ’s humility and challenges us as believers to imitate that humility. When we serve others we build our character to look more like Christ, the most humble of all servants.
A servant swallows their PRIDE
Being humble doesn’t come naturally. Our flesh nature is prideful. We were given gifts to use for glorifying our Father, the One who gave these gifts to us so freely. But it can be easy to use them for selfish gain or to seek glory or praise when serving.
Proverbs 27:21 warns that we are tested by our praise.
When our talents are praised, how do we respond? Do we let pride get in the way? Are we looking to bring glory to ourselves or do we respond with graceful humility that points people to Christ?
Pride and truly serving simply cannot coexist. Our character is either full of pride or full of humility. When we live in that pride we stiff arm Gods grace and cripple our ability to be used by Him.
We are called to be a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). A sacrificial life means choosing to humble ourselves and give ourselves for a greater purpose.
When we live a sacrificial life of service we are living inside the grace that has been given to us. This grace covers us and makes us holy and acceptable in God’s sight.
An attitude of service is our worship. It’s not just our music, our prayers, our speaking, it’s an attitude of sacrifice, “holy and blameless” that is our worship.
A servant avoids FALSE HUMILITY
When we downplay the gifts God has given us, it’s like shouting “I don’t believe in the confidence you have you have given me.”
We are called to be confident in the Spirit of God (2 Corinthians 3:1-6). Yes, our accomplishments are too little. But, we serve a Savior who made us holy and acceptable in God’s sight. Yes, our sin is too great. But, we serve a Savior who is more than enough.
What’s your biggest struggle? Showing humility, swallowing pride, false humility? What steps can you take this week toward being a more Christ-like servant?
What is the character of a believer? Christian love. Check out Romans 5:3-4 and 1Timothy 1:5. The qualities that make us different are perseverance, love, a pure heart, a good conscience, a sincere faith, and AUTHENTICITY.
What is AUTHENTICITY lived out daily?
- It’s being real. Not hiding your struggles but acknowledging them and knowing Jesus is the solution.
- It’s knowing your role as a sin filled human but knowing the power of the blood of Jesus even more.
- It’s truly reflecting Christ. This means intentionally growing our character to look more like Him. When we do this, we are seen as more than merely guitarists or worship leaders but as servant leaders using our talents to glorify God.
It’s only when we live a life filled with integrity, aiming to please God not man, that we can be used as instruments to glorify our Creator.Let’s look at the life of Moses as an example. In Exodus 35, Moses is explaining to the Israelites what God commanded as requirements of the Tabernacle. But why is this important? Well the Tabernacle was the Israelites way to worship God. It was how sins were forgiven. The Tabernacle was their way of intimacy with God.
In Exodus 35:10 Moses says,”Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the Lord has commanded.” God calls the most skilled craftsmen to build his place of worship. He’s doesn’t ask for something thrown together last minute. He demands something done at the very best level possible.
That’s how we should treat our worship and all we do in our lives. We should give God our very best because he deserves it. In verses 30-31 Moses appoints Bezalel as the head builder for the tabernacle because he was filled with the spirit of God and was a very skilled craftsmen. Not only does God want our best work that we have to offer but he wants our hearts.
He wants us to be authentic children full of character that reflect His son. He wants us to live a life of integrity, filled with the spirit of God, so that we can be used as His instrument. That may mean creating a worship environment suitable and worthy for His praise or sharing His love with a grieving friend. He’s not looking for the perfect production, the perfect solo, a perfect vocal run, or the perfect person. He wants a willing person who will give their everything because he deserves our everything.
Look at the lyrics to this song by Beautiful Eulogy called The String that Ties Us:
“Let’s suppose that a kite could come to life and develop its own personality. On the one hand it would feel the exhilaration that comes from the surges of wind that direct it through the sky. On the other hand, it would almost immediately take notice of something annoying: The tugging of the string at its center, the feeling of constraint, resistance. Soon the kite begins to think to itself ‘if only I could detach, than I could really fly.’ To the kite you see it seems that the string is limiting its full experience of freedom. But as any boy or girl who has ever flown a kite knows, were that string to suddenly snap, the kite wouldn’t soar free for very long. It would dart to and fro for a minute, maybe two, but very soon thereafter it would end up on the ground in a pile of broken sticks and torn paper never to fly again. Rather you see, it is the taut line between the kite and the one holding it that enables the kite to fly, that allows all the principles of aerodynamics to come to play so that the kite might achieve its full purpose. Christian love performs the very same function as a kite string. You take away the stabilizing force of Christian love and every towering gift, every supernatural power, every sacrificial act, every musical performance, you name it friends. It will all end up on the ash heap of eternal insignificance, without love.”
- Pastor Art Azurdia
Our kite string is our Christian love… our character, our authenticity, our integrity. Here’s the beautiful thing about this analogy for us…
The more string we let go of, the stronger the kite flies.
The more string we let go of, the higher the kite flies.
The more string we let go of, the better the kite flies.
The more we allow Christian love to rule in us, the more we intentionally grow our character to look like Christ, the more God will be able to use us as an instrument for his Glory.
In what ways has your character been tested?
How have you grown through those experiences?