Why do we need others to live the Christian life?

Growing up I attended a small private school in Savannah, GA. When I was in fifth grade, we were given the option of taking choir. I say we were given the option of taking this class because you had to miss recess in order to attend. Since recess is kind of a big deal for a fifth-grader, they gave you the option. At first, I wasn’t going to take the class. Recess was way more important to me than singing in the choir. But all my friends were signing up. Recess is only fun if your friends are there, so I decided to sign up as well.

My stint in the choir didn’t last all that long. I wasn’t doing well in one of my other subjects, I can’t remember which one it was, but I wasn’t doing well, so I had to go to tutoring. To this day I distinctly remember the comment the choir director made when he heard I wouldn’t be coming back. He said, “Oh, that’s fine. It’s probably for the best anyways.” While hearing him say that hurt my ego a little, it was true. It was for the best because I was always out of step with the rest of the class. I’m tone-deaf. I can’t carry a tune to save my life.

While it hurt my ego to hear that from my choir teacher, I’m glad I learned early that I was out of step when it came to music, or else I might have ended up on American Idol or something like that as one of the blooper reels. I’m glad someone was honest with me.

We need people who are willing to be honest with us.

Not just when it comes to singing but when it comes to how we are living life. We all need others who are willing to come alongside us and speak the truth in love. If we don’t, we will end up going through life thinking we are great at everything. That is not only dangerous when it comes to our talents, but also the Christian life.

We must have others to whom we are accountable.

We must have others who are willing to speak the truth of God’s Word into our life. If we don’t, we won’t grow. Even worse, we might end up following a false teacher or living contrary to the gospel.

When we live contrary to the gospel and God’s Word, we not only hurt ourselves, but we hurt others as well.

It might not be our first instinct to believe our actions harm the community in which we run because we are conditioned by our culture to think of ourselves and ourselves alone. We are very individualistic in our outlook. While that is how our culture has conditioned us to think, that is not reality. Our actions affect the community in which we live, work, and play. That not only applies to other church members, but it also applies to those we are attempting to reach with the gospel.

If we are living out of step with the gospel, and we don’t have anyone who is willing to tell us we are out of step with the gospel, we are in trouble.

How are we to build ourselves up in the the faith?

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,” Jude 1:20

How are we to build ourselves up in the the faith? We talk a lot about God building us up. The Spirit working monergistically in us and on us. How are we to build ourselves up in the faith?

One way in which I believe Jude, the author of this short letter, has in mind that we build ourselves up is by understanding that their are false teachers whose desire is to destroy our faith. We build ourselves in the faith as we not only understand their teaching and why it is false, but when we grow in our understanding of our own faith. We will never guard against false teaching if we do not know our own faith.

Knowing our own faith is where many Americans, and Christians, struggle. Many are not able to answer simple questions like, “What is the gospel? Who is God? How were Old Testament saints saved?” We must, however, have a simple understanding of the Bible, its doctrine and theology. We must know how to answer our critics and why a particular teacher’s teaching is false. If we don’t, we open ourselves up to deception.

Christian, build yourself up in the faith!

Love for neighbor creates unity in the community and we should seek unity.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Gal 5:13)

In Christ we have been set free from the demands of the law. Not that we set the law aside in that we shouldn’t follow God’s Word. No, we must and we should follow God’s Word. A disciple is someone who follows a master. Jesus is our master. We are His disciples. We should follow Him. But we are free from the law’s bondage over us. It is no longer our tutor, teaching, training, restraining and pointing. It has accomplished it’s goal in that it has pointed us to Christ.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the law. He embodied it perfectly, never breaking a single command. As a result, He is able to be our perfect sacrifice, fulfilling the law on our behalf so as to make those who believe in Him through faith righteous.

Having experienced the freedom Christ provides, we should not use your freedom to satisfy the desires of our flesh. In fact, the opposite is true. Having been set free from the bondage of sin, we should use our freedom to follow Jesus in living according to God’s Word.

Not that it is a bad idea, but we don’t need to memorize all the commands in God’s Word in order to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. The whole law, as we are told in verse 14, can be summed in their phrases, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal 5:14). Paul is playing off Jesus’ answer in the gospels to a question regarding what is the greatest commandment. Jesus answered it is to love God and the second greatest was to love your neighbor (Matt 22:36-40). I believe both ideas are implied here, but the specific focus of the passage in on community, which is why the second greatest commandment is quoted.

It is wrong to say that you love God, while at the same time hating your brother. If you love God, you will love your brother. You will not use your freedom to bite and devour them. Instead, you will use your freedom to show love and care for them. If we seek to devour another instead of living in unity with them, we will be devoured ourselves. So as others attempt to take a bite out of us, we should press into love.

Love for neighbor creates unity in the community and we should seek unity. It is what the law, although imperfectly, was seeking and what we are capable of now that we are freed from the bondage of sin in Christ. We are capable of loving and living in unity with our fellow brothers and sisters. We must press into unity in our community by loving others as we would love ourselves.

Godly grief is healthy grief, it produces repentance and growth in Christlikeness

“As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.” (2 Cor 7:9)

One of the things wrong with today’s society is the desire not to offend or cause someone grief. We go out of our way to make others comfortable, even if making them uncomfortable for a time is what is best.

I believe these desires are birthed out of selfishness not love. We selfishly don’t want others to tell what we are doing wrong, nor do we want to deal with the difficultly that comes with telling others they are acting in the wrong. Conflict, even if it is good and healthy, is difficult. We have become a society, a people, who avoids conflict at all costs, even if it means not doing what is best for another.

Paul, however, didn’t avoid conflict. He spoke the truth in love to the Corinthians. It grieved them for a time, but Paul rejoices because it resulted in repentance and growth in Christlikeness. His words of love caused them to turn from their sin. They ultimately resulted in them living in community in unity with others in a way that builds others up rather than tears down.

I believe if we are going to grow as the church, we must get to a place where we are ok with causing others godly grief. Accountability, speaking the truth in love to others, is biblical, as well as it is necessary. We will never grow if others don’t tell us how we need to grow.

Godly grief is healthy grief, it produces repentance and growth in Christlikeness.

Self Denial is the Result of the Spirit’s Work in Your Life

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Luke 9:23

Jesus calls us to daily deny ourselves to follow Him. You can’t live half in and half out. You must be all in. You must be willing to die to your own self-interest and live life fully for Christ if you are going to be a follower of Jesus.

Thinking about Jesus’ call reveals our need for Him. We can’t live for Jesus in a self-denying way without Him first changing our desires. The change in desire from self to Jesus reveals the work of God in our life and assures us of our salvation.

Do you see self-denial and Christ-centric living in your life? Do you put Jesus before all other things? Are you willing to give up all for Jesus? If so, you can be assured of your salvation. You would and can only do those things because the Spirit is at work in you.

Rely on the Spirit to live “on mission”

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”

John 15:26-26

We are able to live life “on mission” because the Spirit dwells within us and empowers us.

The degree to which we rely on the Spirit is the degree to which our mission will be successful.

Relying on the Spirit doesn’t look like us sitting on our hands. Rather it looks like us depending on Him to provide us the Words to say in difficult or foreign situations.

It looks like us trusting He will bring people into our paths. A “divine appointment” if you will.

It also looks like us petition the Spirit to change the hearts of those whom we know and asking that He would use us as His instruments to bring about change.

It further looks like us trusting that the Spirit will convict, convince, and regenerate.

Instead of seeking to build the church and make disciples in a man-centered way, we must rely on the Spirit and align ourselves with God’s will found in God’s Word.

Jesus sends the Spirit for a reason, let’s not deny His existence and power. Instead, let’s allow the Spirit to empower us to live life “on mission” for Jesus, making disciple-making disciples of all peoples.