Who Do You Love?

I want to be involved in church, but I don’t want to be around that person.

I want to serve on this team, but not if that person is in charge.

I want to engage with God’s Word, but not if that person is preaching.

I want a community of people to grow into Christlikeness with, but not if they’re older than me or younger than me or they go to private school or go to public school or vaccinate their kids or don’t vaccinate their kids. They better be just like me if they want to be in community with me.

Have you ever felt or thought any of these things?

If we’re real honest with ourselves, the answer would certainly be yes.

I definitely have. More often than I care to admit.

Here’s the deal though.

That doesn’t sound like love to me.

It just doesn’t.

To refuse to listen to preaching, or serve, or be in a small group because there’s someone you don’t like is about one of the least loving mindsets you and I can have.

Today I want us to be reminded of one of the more misunderstood passages in the New Testament. I’m talking about the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13.

Let’s read part of it together.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

One of the most important steps of studying the Bible is understanding the context of what you’re reading.

Where have you heard this passage taught?

Most likely at a wedding. This is one of the classic wedding messages.

This isn’t sinful or heretical or wrong, but it does skew our view of what this passage is about.

If you open up your Bible, you’ll see by looking around the immediate context of this passage that this is not primarily about romantic love. It’s about congregational love.

This is a description of what love should look like in the church. The last time marriage was mentioned is in chapter seven. A lot has come up since then. Just previous to this chapter is a long discussion by Paul about the role of spiritual gifts and diversity in the body.

The body of Christ.

This text is not about romantic love, it’s about congregational love.

How we doing?

How are our churches doing at this?

How are you doing at this?

I recently read a quote that was pretty abrasive.

God is looking for mature men and women to carry on His work, and sometimes all he can find are little children who cannot even get along with each other. – Warren Wiersbe

Talk about some convicting stuff.

Do we exemplify mature or childish behavior?

I’ll tell you, there’s much room for improvement in my life when it comes to loving the body like Paul teaches us to here in this passage.

I’ll be honest, my heart breaks when I hear of petty disagreements, turf wars, drama, disunity, cliques, and all the like. My heart breaks when I’m culpable in such matters.

We are called to be patient and kind. To all people. We are called not to be jealous of others. We are called to not be prideful.

We are called to not be self-seeking. The church isn’t about what any of us can gain from it. It is about what we can give to it. If anyone had the right to be self-seeking, it was Jesus. The whole universe was his. But instead of taking from the people of God, he gave his life for the people of God. Are you trying to create your kingdom of sand in your church, or are you giving your life for it?

We are called to not be easily angered. Let’s be honest with ourselves. What is at the root of the issues that fire us up? Is it about the glory of God and health of his church, or is it about  our own egos or preferences?

We are called to not be a keeper of wrongs.

This does NOT mean that you are to be a welcome mat, treated poorly over and over.

This does mean that you shouldn’t hold a grudge, but instead you should forgive them. This isn’t an easy process, it doesn’t happen in an instant, but it is what you’re called to do.

Regardless of what someone in the church has done to you, it is a far cry to all you’ve done in your rebellion towards God, which was forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

Reconciliation is the desired end result here.

Divisions and disunity, cliques and squabbles, pettiness and immaturity. These grieve the heart of God.

Love protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres.

Before you think that this is an idealistic view of the church, let me remind you what the church in Corinth was like. This was a messed up place. Yes, more messed up than the church you left or the church you’re in. There was incest that wasn’t being addressed, and the people were suing one another in the church. I’d say that’s some pretty grotesque and intense stuff.

Yet, Paul doesn’t give them a way out here.

He doubles down and tells them to love one another. To be the body.

I’ll be honest, few things break my heart more than seeing the people of God full of hate for each other. Sure, there are people you will get along with better than others. There will be some that you never have a deep relationship with. There will be some that are not easy to get along with.

You know what?

You’re still called to love them.

Let us all set an example for the world around us of a people who aren’t petty, who aren’t angry, who aren’t envious or self-seeking. Let us be different. Let us be loving.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Into God’s Word

There are many days when I feel old, when I feel like I should have grown up in a different generation. Especially in Evangelical Christian circles. Especially when it comes to Scripture.

For me, I’ve always had a love for Scripture. Whether it was stealing away into my backyard as a teenager in order to study in quiet, or spending too much on books or Bible studies, I have always enjoyed studying God’s Word. That’s just the way I was made. I acknowledge that.

That being said, I feel more and more lonely in my view and approach to Scripture.

Here’s what I mean.

These days, I see three prevalent approaches to Scripture in the greater evangelical Christian community. And, to be frank, they make me feel isolated when I don’t adhere to them.

Approach 1: Brain Power

The first approach to Scripture is the intellectual approach. I have just finished my first year of Seminary, and I have come face to face with how countless men and women in academic circles have put Scripture on the cutting block. As a result, the supernatural is traded away for myth and legend. In conjunction with this view of Scripture is the intellectual pride that saturates so many men and women who are my age (including myself). What I mean is that we bicker and argue about things that are unnecessary. We make mountains out of molehills. We argue on Facebook and Twitter and clap back at one another. The intellectual approach to Scripture is one where the Bible is studied deeply and genuinely, but it is mostly a textbook to be dissected instead of the Word of God to be followed. The following passage has pushed me out of this approach.

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. – John 5:39-40

Approach 2: Pixar-ism

The second approach to Scripture is the emotional approach. It could also be called the self-help approach. This is the demographic in Christian circles that wants to have some emotionally-dripping experience every time that they get into God’s Word. Feelings are king. So if you are in worship or prayer or Bible study but don’t have some heaven-opening, emotionally powerful experience, doubt creeps in and you are shaken. This leads to churches programming their services in order to manipulate emotions and produce a revival-like experience each and every week.

Even worse, when emotionalism and intellectualism combine, Scripture’s authority over the life of a Christian starts to crack. If the Bible can’t surely be the very words of God, and parts of the Bible make me feel bad, then it is no longer authoritative to me. What I’ve come to realize is that the Bible is often going to make me feel ‘bad’.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

According to Scripture itself, it’s going to rebuke and correct me. My feelings cannot be king. They can’t decide what parts of Scripture are authoritative or not.

I’ve been married for close to six months, and I’ve quickly learned that I am a selfish turd. I’m horrible at serving around the house without being asked. So when I read in Scripture that we are to put others’ interests above our own (Philippians 2:4), I’m confronted with this truth. And I feel ‘bad’ and have a choice to make. I can either change my behavior accordingly, or I can claim that this part of Scripture is no longer authoritative over me.

Approach 3: Forget-About-It!

The last approach to Scripture is by far the most frustrating, disheartening, and draining to combat. This final approach to Scripture is to simply ignore it. I’m not talking about the world at large, I’m talking about in the lives of followers of Jesus.

I have been in ministry for just a few years, and I have seen the stark reality that a significant portion of our faith communities has no desire to read, study, or adhere to Scripture.

I see this when 10% of my students bring their Bible to church. I see this when I hear complaints about Bible study programs at our church that require homework. My heart breaks at this. We have become so busy and so preoccupied with the things of earth that the thought of taking time to study God’s Word is now a burden instead of a joy. Even as I write this, my heart feels overwhelmed. This subject is something I could write about for hours and hours.

I am an imperfect man who falls short in so many ways all the time.

That being said, I cannot wrap my mind around how our churches are full of people who don’t even open their Bibles during the week (or even on Sundays!). Those in our faith community that are younger than us are looking up to us to see how we walk out our faith. The responsibility is on us to lead the next generation. If they see us with no desire to grow in our knowledge of Scripture, they will follow suit.

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also the honey and drippings of the honeycomb. – Psalm 19:10

My prayer is that more and more followers of Jesus would say this about God’s Word. That it is sweeter and more valuable than anything else in their lives. Not because it is ultimate in our faith, but rather because through studying it we learn to love God and love others more and more. It is supremely sad to me that countless people could arrive in heaven one day, meeting a stranger in Christ rather than a friend. No, Bible immersion is not what saves you.

Approach 4: Grace-Powered Saturation

I never want to criticize and condemn, rather I seek to convict and empower. While I see these above three options as prevalent, there is another way.

We can be men and women who, by God’s grace, saturate ourselves in the Word of God. Scripture is extremely clear that the desire to be with God is brought about by God Himself (Romans 3:10). What that means for us is that if we don’t have a yearning for God’s Word, we should pray and ask God for the grace and strength to get into the Word. Then, after relying on God’s grace for strength, we simply start. Start small.

For instance, this next week, read one chapter each morning, or five mornings of the week. Don’t stress yourself out with some elaborate reading plan. Instead, just simply begin. Even when you don’t feel like it. I can assure you, if you put in the effort, God will bring the illumination and the continued desire to keep getting in God’s Word.

For the rest of my life, my desire is to see people view God’s Word rightly and to fall in love with the One who wrote it.

In His Name,

 

A Model Church

1 Thessalonians is a book of the Bible that sometimes goes unnoticed, unless you’re talking about end times and the like. But embedded in the book of 1 Thessalonians is a picture of what a model church should look like (a church that is being talked about all throughout the region [vv. 7-10]). Taking a cursory glance at the first chapter of this book will show us three truths that I pray are present in the church that I am a part of. My intention is not to tease out every theological truth present in this passage. Rather I pray that through reading this short synopsis, your heart would be stirred and that you would commit to laboring after Jesus over the coming days. I’d encourage you to have your Bible open as we dive in together. fbc

BE COMMITTED TO CHRIST. 

In verse three, Paul praises the church at Thessalonica for their work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul is praising this church for their commitment to Christ. The lie we can so often fall into is that the Christian’s walk is one of ease, slumber, and natural growth in godliness.

This is simply not the case. Becoming more like Christ takes work. Discipleship is labor, it is work, and it takes endurance. In a previous blog on Psalm 1, I acknowledged the fact that I am prone to drifting away from the Lord when I’m not being intentional in my spiritual disciplines. Yes, there are seasons of my life where I’m walking closely with Jesus and am naturally desiring to come into His presence. But what normally happens is that when I don’t start my day in His Word with focus and drive, I’m going to neglect His Word, I’m going to neglect prayer.

The church at Thessalonica was known for the way that they were committed to Christ, even in the midst of severe suffering (v. 6). As we move ever closer to the return of Jesus, suffering will continue to rise for our faith. I’m not naive and I don’t have a persecution complex. We in America have it easy in regards to how we’re treated for our faith in Jesus. But should suffering come to Vernon, Texas, my prayer is that we would be a body of believers joyfully suffering for the cause of Christ, because we are just that committed to Him.

BE COMMITTED TO YOUR CONGREGATION. 

You are going to disagree with people in the church you attend. I disagree with people in the church where I serve as a youth pastor. Here’s what I know to be true though, I am called to love, support, and equip every single person who is a member of my local congregation of Christ-followers.

The church at Thessalonica was known for its commitment to one another. Not only that, but Paul and Silas and Timothy set an example for how to serve the church, as verse five will tell us our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. The rest of this book will tease out just how Paul and his companions lived among the church of Thessalonica, but we do know that they lived with fatherly discipline, motherly nurturing and care, and brotherly love.

Not only that, but the Thessalonians would become imitators of them and thus of the Lord.

In a world that is fractured by divisions, one of the greatest witnesses to Christ that we could paint as the body of Christ is one of unity, love, of outdoing one another in honor and respect and service. We are not called to agree on how we worship, how we vote, how we parent, etc. We are called to love one another. So be committed to your congregation. Every member.

My prayer is that FBC Vernon would become a place known for its unity and its commitment to one another.

BE COMMITTED TO YOUR COMMUNITY.

The Thessalonians church was also committed to its community. It was well known for the way that they were turning from idols and serving the living and true God (v. 10). They were not silent about their faith. They definitely had struggles and fears, as they worried that the Lord had already come back and had simply left them in need. But they still served their community to the point where their church became well known all throughout Macedonia and Achaia.

This is hard to do sometimes. But the church should not be outside the community it finds itself in. Rather, the church should mirror the community. By no means are we to sacrifice truth or the gospel message in order to reach our neighborhoods for Jesus. Instead, we should be bodies of believers that are more focused on serving the people outside of it’s walls than it is hunkering down and waiting for Jesus to make all things new at the end of time.

Paul is writing this letter in hopes of stirring up the hearts of the Thessalonian church to  be focused in their present purpose, even as they place their faith in the future hope of Christ’s return.

May we fight the desire to hunker down and wait out the rest of our days. May we be men and women of Jesus Christ who charge forward into our communities, meeting needs and ministering to people who are messy, just as Jesus did.

The church at Thessalonica was a model church. They were committed to Christ. They were committed to their congregation. Lastly, they were committed to their community.

It is my daily prayer that FBC Vernon becomes a place known for these three distinctives as well.

For my followers who do not live here in Vernon, may your church become known for these three distinctives as well.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

– I appreciate any and all feedback, and you can follow my blog via the menu. If you enjoyed this blog, give it a share.