Most of us truly enjoy being together with our family at the holiday season – but apparently we don’t represent all of modern American society. I searched the blogosphere a few days back, and apparently, the family gatherings of a significant number of Americans are froth with danger and apprehension. Martha Beck wrote for Oprah Winfrey’s online magazine these words:
In the Uncle Remus story of the tar baby, Brer Rabbit picks a fight with a lifelike doll made out of tar and turpentine. The tar baby is so gluey that when the rabbit punches it, his fists get hopelessly stuck. He tries to kick his way free, trapping his feet, then finishes off with an infuriated head butt that renders him utterly helpless. I can’t think of a more fitting metaphor for family life in the 21st century. There’s nothing in the world as sticky as a dysfunctional family. You can put half your life’s savings into therapy—good therapy, effective therapy—and, 15 minutes into a holiday reunion, you still become hopelessly enmeshed in the same old crazy dynamics. Your assertiveness training goes out the window the minute your brother begins his traditional temper tantrum. A mere sigh from your grandmother triggers an attack of codependency so severe you end up giving her your house. For many people, family get-togethers require strategies for staying out of such sticky situations.” Wow! Reading that makes me deeply appreciate the family God has given me…
I kept looking, and found on “Web MD” an article that deals with the “holiday family get together” as almost some kind of modern disease when Dr. R. Morgan Griffin wrote:
“There’s this idea that holiday gatherings with family are supposed to be joyful and stress-free,” …“That’s not the case. Family relationships are complicated. But that’s doesn’t mean that the solution is to skip the holidays entirely.” The doctor went on to describe five reasons for the anxiety of family get assemblies: 1) Unhappy memories. Going home for the holidays naturally makes people remember old times, but for you the memories may be more bitter than sweet… 2) Toxic relatives. Holidays can put you in the same room with relatives you avoid the rest of the year… 3) What’s changed. The holidays can highlight everything that’s changed in your lives — a divorce, a death in the family, a son who’s making his first trip back home after starting college…4) What’s stayed the same. For others, it’s the monotonous sameness of family holiday gatherings that depresses them — the same faces, the same jokes, the same food on the same china plates…5) Lowered defenses. During the holiday season, you’re more likely to be stressed out by obligations and errands. It’s cold and flu season and your immune system is under assault. It’s getting dark earlier each day. You’re eating worse, sleeping less, and drinking more. By the time the family gathering rolls around, you’re worn out, tense, and fragile. The holiday stress makes it harder to cope with your family than it might be at other times of the year…”
That’s right, they must be sick of each other because of a low tolerance to the flu! Is he serious? Ah yes, the holiday season…Time to fret, fight and feel terrible. Doesn’t America sound like a warm and friendly place these days? Well, our world is filled with struggling families that are trying to keep things together. I shudder to think about it, but it is true… and we need to consider how deep this wound goes, and not gloss over it… Truthfully, I don’t want to try to settle the domestic issues of the home in this lesson, but I do want to run at problems of A FAMILY – your church family! Our text deals directly with this critical subject of “life in the fellowship of believers” and offers a sobering truth…
Key Principle: When the family comes together, we must face the fact that some issues (and some people!) need to be dealt with.
We are going to look at how we deal with five different kinds of people, and the issues they bring to the family gathering in the final chapter of Galatians:
- Each believer needs to deal with weak brothers – those who are caught in sin and need release.
- Each believer needs to deal with self-reliant believers – those who are deceived into thinking they don’t need the rest of the body.
- Each believer needs to deal introspectively and regularly with their own heart.
- Each believer needs to deal with the variety of personalities and gifts found within the church community – without being “wrung out”.
- Each believer needs to deal with ongoing agitators outside the body that are poking at the church with Biblical truth and gracious outreach until they make it impossible to do so.
The chapter opens with those who have fallen into sinful behaviors, who will need assistance to get back on the path of walking with God. We will call them…
Dealing with the “CAUGHT”:
These are people who asked Jesus to be their Savior, but after a time they found themselves unable to follow through on their walk in some area or behavior. Sometimes it was due to slipping back into a pattern of their old life, and sometimes the slip came because of flaws that were not yet addressed in their character growth as believers. Let’s read about them:
Galatians 6:1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
The term “caught” in 6:1 was prolambanó, a compound word that paired “pro” (before) and “lambano” (to take). When paired together, they mean in this case “to come upon in advance” as a thief would be discovered or overtaken by an owner of the household. The term “trespass” is “paraptóma”, another compound word that properly meant “a fall beside or near something” but when used figuratively (as in this use) meant “a lapse or deviation” from right behavior; as in a sin. We looked at these words to help us truly grasp WHO Paul was referring to when he wrote. It appears they were people who were discovered in the midst of involvement in something they did not plan to do, but rather fell into. In the strictest sense, they made a choice, but not with great extended intent to do so.
Let’s say it this way: They were CAUGHT in something that seemed to have power over them, and the behavior or action was causing them to SLIP AND FALL back into a sinful pattern or behavior. Wise is the man or woman of God who recognizes how fragile our faithfulness to God truly is! Galatians 6:1 offers five details of the restoration process:
• First, the work is distinct – the violator must be a brother or sister in Christ (“brethren”). The address is to believers about believers, and teaches NOTHING about interaction between believers and those who do not follow Christ.
• The work is also determined – both the violator must admit the behavior is NOT God honoring (“trespass”) and the responders must agree by Spirit-led and Biblical understanding it is a violation (“spiritual”). Nothing is to be gained by putting people who are in sin together with people who do not have the maturity to identify the behavior as a violation of God’s Word. This is one of the reasons we need to be careful to be a part of a local church where the Bible is carefully studied, and where you have confidence the leadership truly recognizes Biblical truth and error. Nothing will do more harm to a person who is caught that to have that person affirmed in their wrong actions because they were with leaders who did not recognize the truth of their behavior!
• The work is deliberate – with a goal to bring back to proper use (“restore”). The term “restore” is katartízō from katá, “according to, down,” and artizō, “to adjust”. Together, the word means to be adjusted back to good working order. The PURPOSE of the gentle work of godly brothers is to get the wayward brother or sister back on track and walking with Jesus.
We must be careful here. It is easy to gracelessly confront someone when they are wrong because we are annoyed, or embarrassed at their behavior in front of others we care about. That isn’t our call. Our Lord instructed brokenness in our hearts toward the caught one, and a goal of restoration. I want to illustrate the idea of restoration if I can…
A few Christmases ago a twenty-four year old son of Christian parents began a terrible killing spree at the “Youth With A Mission” Headquarters that ended hours later with his injury and subsequent suicide at a second location – the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Matthew J. Murray was responsible for shooting several people in the church parking lot and in the church building – a spree that left three dead and three wounded. Earlier that day, he had entered the “Youth with A Mission” Headquarters in suburban Denver, shooting four and killing two. The tragedy shook New Life Church that had just started to come out of the painful and very public story about their former nationally known Pastor’s sexual sin (that was Ted Haggard). Now they were faced with this terrible tragedy. Sometime after those events, Christianity Today published an article that offered a stunning picture of Jesus and restoration…
It seems that after the tragedy, Pastor Brady Boyd, then Senior Minister of New Life Church, called Matthew Murray’s parents (the shooter) and asked if they would like to come to New Life and see where ‘their son had passed away.’ They said they had wanted to, but had refrained from doing so because of their concerns for the church. They were also asked if they would be willing to meet with members of the family who had lost two teenage daughters that morning. They said yes. The same invitation was extended to the victim’s family, the Work’s. They said “Yes”. After showing the Murrays around the church where the tragic events took place, they met with Mr. and Mrs. Works in Boyd’s office. “What happened there in the two hours in my office … was the most significant ministry moment I’ve experienced, maybe in all of my life,” Boyd said. When they first entered the office, the two families embraced. They sat, wept, and cried together, Boyd said, for “I don’t know how long.” Then they prayed together. Later Jeanne Assam [the security guard who shot and wounded Murray before he committed suicide] joined them. When Jeanne, who had undoubtedly saved many lives but had been forced to shoot the Murray’s son, walked into the room, “the Murrays embraced her and hugged her and released her from any guilt and remorse. Matthew Murray’s dad looked at Jeanne and said, “Please know we’re so sorry that you had to do what you did. We’re so sorry.” The article concluded with these words from Boyd, “We can talk philosophically about repentance and redemption and going forward with God,” Boyd said, “but what I saw in that room in my office was the greatest testimony of forgiveness and redemption that I have ever seen. It was a testimony that God really can restore and redeem.” (adapted from a message by Pastor Jim Kane, taken from sermoncentral.com).
I recognize the boy wasn’t there, and I understand that he wasn’t restored. The purpose of the illustration was to highlight the deep emotional nature of restoration. These families were not fractured from one another, but were drawn together at the foot of the Cross. That is the way restoration should look when a CAUGHT ONE is restored as well.
• The work is delicate, and must be handled with deep sensitivity (“spirit of gentleness”). Did you notice the “spirit” of the work? The word prautés is meekness (or “gentle strength”). Though it takes STRENGTH to confront sin, it takes GENTLENESS to restore one who has been caught in the snare. That may seem counter-intuitive. Let me suggest a secret: brokenness over sin. If we are truly broken FOR our brother, their correction is for THEM, and not to preserve our reputation, or to indignantly defend Jesus. If we come with broken hearts and a hunger to see the violator restored to a place of blessing – the caught one will know it.
• The work is dangerous (“looking to yourself” and “tempted”). There is a danger of smugness that sows the deep seeds of arrogance within those who correct a straying brother – so Paul warned them to be careful!! The spirit of the Pharisee, who stood on the corner and prayed aloud: “Oh Lord, I am glad I am not as that other man!” lives inside us all – and we must be careful to guard our heart.
If the one overtaken in sin is restored, we have added a new joy to the household of God, and removed a cancer that could have spread rapidly. Nothing is served by God’s people ignoring sin in the family… nothing! At the same time, there are others that will need to be “dealt with” as well…
Dealing with the DECEIVED:
There are people who believe they are self-sufficient in Messiah, and do not grow to recognize their responsibility of involving themselves in caring for the needs of others – but they are deceived. Paul wrote:
Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
God placed in every church those who need help. Some are overtaken by a specific sin, and others are simply weakened by living in a sin-sick, fallen world. Look closely at verse two, and you will learn three important truths about dealing with deceived people in the church:
• The work is planned: Believers are called to SHARE the load of those who are unable to carry it themselves (i.e. “bear one another’s burdens”). In truth, God deliberately gives some among us a burden to carry that is quite large, so He can draw together those who are in the body beside them. Often, troubles keep the team together, but there is even a greater benefit. Those who feel “too important” to care for others are exposed as deceived. The greater need is not found in the one who had a burden too large, but in the one who had a deception so hidden. Self-sufficiency is not the mark of following Jesus, sensitivity is.
• The work is prescribed: It is a matter of OBEDIENCE, not choice or preference (note the phrase “law of Christ”), particularly because it helps reveal some who have a self-deception based on inordinate confidence (“deceives himself”). We cannot claim we “don’t feel called to help each other” because we are commanded to do so.
• The work is piercing: It calls for people who are involved in the process to look honestly and deeply within (‘deceives himself”). The person under restoration dare not think they can do this without help – because pride is part of the sin formula. The same is true of those who think they are too good to get their hands dirty.
Here, though, is the really “tricky part” of load bearing. When am I ENABLING another, as opposed to properly helping them with their load? Look closely at the text, or we will fall into soft-minded emotionalism that lets people do wrong and blame the people around them. The context is someone who is CAUGHT in a sinful behavior (6:1), or to keep the imagery solid TRAPPED under a load. The load is clearly sinful behavior, and it is something both THE TRAPPED ONE and the RESCUERS see as a collapse that can and must be moved. The load is removed when the sin has been set aside.
Let me say it this way: Johnnie and Suzie met and were married. Johnnie grew up in church, but he wasn’t a Christian in the Bible sense of asking Jesus to live and reign in Him. Suzie was largely unchurched, and also had made no commitment to Christ. Johnnie was deeply involved with pornography since he was a young man, and Suzie had little resistance to his participation, since she really didn’t see this as a problem. Johnnie and Suzie were both befriended by a new couple that moved in next door. They were impressed with this couple, and really appreciated their humor, and their integrity. In time, Johnnie and Suzie were led to Jesus by their friends. For a while, Johnnie set aside his pornography because his excitement in his Christian life helped him to really enjoy Suzie in new and deep ways – as they both grew in their walk with God and each other. They connected now on a level neither could quite understand. About that time, Johnnie’s work situation changed. He was moved from his day shift to an all night shift schedule. His world was turned upside down. Suzie worked days, he worked nights – life got strained. Time apart led him to feeling unattached again – and the porn became his coping mechanism. Suzie came home early one day and discovered Johnnie feeding the old habit again. She was crushed! She went to some of her believing friends and asked for help – and two guys came to see Johnnie. They didn’t shake their finger at him – they understood the problem and really tried to help get Johnnie out from under the load of guilt and the threatening cracks to his marriage. They were sensitive to his feelings, but they still directed him to get out from under the load. If Johnnie chose to admit the problem, and turn from it – the load was lifted. If he chose to refuse to eliminate it from his life – and he continued to do the wrong thing, he was not restored. If he decides to “‘DO IT ALL BY HIMSELF” – pushing away the help of others, he will likely overestimate his own strengths and abilities to cope with his desires. In any case, he cannot claim victim status and say, “They don’t really care about me!” if he refused to turn from the sinful practice. Bearing any burden that comes directly from a choice to remain in sin would be sharing in that sin and enabling it.
Perhaps one of the hardest people in the church to deal with is the person inside our own skin…
Dealing with MYSELF:
Verse four seems to continue the look within that was opened in verse three with the idea of “deceives himself”. One problem we may have is self-deception in the area of OVERINFLATED EGO – but that isn’t the only self-deception we must guard against. A second one may be found in CONSTANT COMPARISON. Instead of heeding the Word in our own lives, we can easily become numb to our own walk and focused on the walk of others around us.
Some believers come to church with the wrong tool in their hand. It is easy to get used to coming to church with a shovel, hearing truth and passing it out to people without pulling it toward us (as with a rake). We hear something, and before we even allow ourselves to apply it, we are tossing it to someone we believe needed to hear it more!
Paul charged the Galatian believers to self-examination…Galatians 6:4 But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. 5 For each one will bear his own load.
This self-examination is a productive work: In dealing with another rightly, I must inspect myself closely. God not only provided the one who was over-burdened to draw us together, but to make us see our own frailty and weakness, and keep us seeing ourselves clearly.
The nineteenth century theologian and Pastor, Albert Barnes’ made this note on Galatians 6:4-5:
The man who forms an improper estimate of his own character will be sure to be disappointed. The man who examines himself, and who forms no extravagant expectation in regard to what is due to himself, will be appropriately rewarded, and will be made happy. … Compare Proverbs 14:14; “A good man shall be satisfied from himself.” The sentiment is, that … In an approving conscience; in the evidence of the favor of God; in an honest effort to lead a pure and holy life, he will have happiness. The source of his joys will be within; and he will not be dependent, as the man of ambition, and the man who thinks of himself more highly than he ought, will, on the favors of a capricious multitude, and on the breath of popular applause.
Let’s be clear about what Paul is calling for. Paul told the Galatians NOT to examine another without examining themselves – just as Jesus told His followers to remove the LOG from their own eye before judging another. Yet, that was not the END of the saying. The Apostle went on to make clear to the Galatians that they SHOULD then turn to deal with erring believers, while seeking to keep their own house in order. The modern believer may draw the conclusion that identifying sin in another is “judging another” – and conclude it is intrinsically wrong to do so. Yet, that is not what the Bible truly teaches. On close inspection, such judgments ARE to be made, if we are to fulfill our call to show practical love. We MUST judge our own actions, but we are also called to clearly call sin what it is in BOTH self and others, on the way to attempting to rescue a fallen brother. We will not boldly attempt any such rescue to which we were called if we fail to recognize the peril to the life of the one caught in sin. If we allow another to continue in sin’s trap without attempting rescue because we thought we “didn’t have the right to judge their behavior”, we will fail to follow all the commands related to attempting restoration of the ensnared. That gently pushes us to dealing with others in the family of believers…
Dealing with MY BELIEVING FAMILY:
Paul wrote to the believing family some important words about doing good to one another in the church family:
Galatians 6:6 The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him. 7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. 10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.
First. Paul made it clear that believers who were growing were to share “all good things” with those who were sowing spiritual truth into their lives. In the first century when this command was written, it may have been hard for some in the house-church of the period to recognize the work involved in equipping and training believers by elders who were by-vocational (they worked another job all day). Some believers were slaves and had little to offer their teaching elder to compensate for the extra hours of work to train them in Christ. What they COULD offer, and what they were TOLD to offer, included more than just support. It included encouragement. It included sharing with their teacher the lessons God was using in their lives. The “all good things” isn’t just money – it includes a host of other encouragements as well.
Second, in the middle of the point about sharing good things, Paul reminded the Galatians of a truth believers often forget: we will reap what we sow. If we invest hours in fleshly pursuits, but neglect the pursuit of knowing God’s Word – we will not be transformed by the renewing of our minds, but be “pressed into the mold of the world”. Tragically, I see many believers who are harming the cause of Christ in the public square because they know Him, but not His teaching. They have spent hour on secular education, but have been contented with minutes a week in God’s Word. They have sown the principles of a world that is fading away, but not learned of the world that is emerging after. They have a conscience that has been seared and tailored to modernity, but not transformed by Christ. Rather than offer help to the church, they often become those who cause most of the problems – even though they do not mean to do so. They don’t see SIN as SIN – because they have learned the world’s fluctuation definition of “right” and “wrong”, “fair” and “unfair”, “just” and “unjust”.
These are the “friends” on Facebook that decide offer pronouncements like: “Jesus never spoke out on things like abortion or same-sex marriage, the church must be off base for spending time on these things”. They mean well, but they haven’t studied well. They forgot that Jesus was the same Lord as the One at Sinai, or He is not “the expressed image of God Himself”. They forgot that when Jesus lived, the Law took care of such things. The word for those involved in such a “marriage” was “stoned” outside the city gate. They forget that when Paul, who lived in the Roman world outside the parameters of the standard of God’s Torah Law encountered these ideas, he had very stern judgments concerning them, commanding people not to allow them a meal among them (1 Corinthians 5-6). Believers who sow worldly learning harm the spread of the Word’s transformational power.
Third, because the world buffets against the spirit and because even some of the believers refuse to be careful to sow to the Spirit by learning the Word – walking with Jesus in the context of the body can become exhausting. Paul told those who were tired not to allow themselves to “lose heart” in well doing. Remember, we don’t own the world – we just work for the One Who does. People who fail to walk with Christ aren’t primarily failing US – they are failing the Master. We should pull from within LOVE not ANGER. We should answer their failure by PRAYER for them, and while keeping our house in order, careful outreach to them. Yet, there will be another group we must keep a steady eye upon…
Dealing with AGITATORS:
The phrase we use for agitators is often “playing the devil’s advocate” – and that is a good terminology. The problem is, that many of us don’t see why that is a problem any longer. We are very comfortable listening to the devil’s argument up close. Paul knew them. The agitators were attending the small house church fellowships in Galatia, and diverting attention from the balanced teaching of God’s Word. He wrote:
Galatians 6:11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. 17 From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus.
Paul ended the letter with a few warnings about two kinds of agitations that have popped up in the church since its inception. The enemy uses these all the time, and we need to help young believers sort out these sneaky approaches to pull them away…
The first is “Agitation by Confusion”: Paul made sure they knew HE wrote the letter, at least at the end of the scroll where it would show he personally endorsed the contents. It appears that some agitators had already spread a “false scroll” in Corinth, and Paul identified this trick and worked to thwart it.
Today we see this same method – with young or poorly taught believers being “hacked” by confusion-geared arguments.
World views are shaped in the education system that is increasingly being reworked at the foundational level to retrain the thinking of our youth. Much of the post 1960 re-engineering of American culture began as social experimentation in a classroom. Let me offer a simple example. Train young people to think this way: “Those who oppose sanctioning under law the lifestyle choices of other people are bigots” and you will produce a generation that believes it is intrinsically wrong to make value judgments about behaviors in the public square. Relativism will be enshrined in their thinking. When they grow up, as voters, they will believe that no one has the right to judge any lifestyle choices and behaviors of another – and their state will be forced to mandate all choices as equal under the law. They will fail to understand that such judgments are necessary to operate a stable republic and stop a cultural decline. They will lack the long term understanding to know that routinely licensing behaviors that are harmful to the whole of the community will only cause the community to lose the bonds that held it together. The end is the death of the connected community itself. In one generation, they will hail the rise of the un-bonded “test tube baby” without regard to the crying young people that filled Oprah’s set in search of their parents and their biological identity a generation later… They will fail to think long term about the outcomes of social experimentation.
Closer to the training in the Scriptures, sometimes unsuspecting and young believers are sucked into the internet discussions that offer a distilled version of two thousand years of attacks against the Bible. They are tugged to conclude that the Bible has “many interpretations” as if God was somehow unclear. They don’t recognize that most all of the attacks on the Bible now are repeats of earlier attacks over the centuries that were long ago answered. Previous generations of Christians took time to learn the Bible well at an early age in their faith and those attacks didn’t gain such ground as they do now. Today the church is filled with the legions of the untaught and retrained thinkers, as susceptible to attack as the weakened body is to infection. While cults will introduce “another testament of Jesus Christ”, others will introduce young Christians to the “lost Bible books”, like the Nag Hammadi documents, etc. This is an old ploy of our enemy – to deceive with false words and water down true words. Paul shot back in 6:11 by making sure they knew what was authentic – because he spotted the attack. May we be so diligent.
The second is “Agitation by Controlling interests”: Paul made clear the attempts at abuse of those who wanted to gain control of the fledgling house church groups that were following Jesus. He made clear (cp. 6:12) how to recognize them – “those who… compel you to be circumcised”, because that was THEIR ISSUE. Paul explained their real purpose – to boast in their control over you.
Paul warned that Judaizers wanted to control the believers. Today, I would suggest that American political forces have done this with Christendom in our country. The right hearkens to the evangelical movement, while the left beckons the liberal movement. Neither political framework, of itself, cares a whit for the Christ presented in the Bible, and the spread of the Gospel. Each are using religion to prop up their point of view and gain followers, and to keep saints enraged by the other side’s abuses. Their ultimate angle is control… I am not suggesting that each side doesn’t have some positive moral concepts within their framework – quite the opposite. The right emphasizes responsibility (and that is needed) while the left reminds the citizenry of the less fortunate and needy (another Biblically important concern). My point is this: Christians must not put our trust in the bonds forged between political entities and Christianity – they are short lived and constantly shifting. We mustn’t look for media outlets to truly defend Jesus – they will only do so if the ratings and income make that a good thing for them to do in the short term. The world and its organizations are not where Christian energies should peak – but rather they should invest appropriate energy in the public issues only after undergirding themselves in the spiritual disciplines of prayer, study, quiet reflection and engaging in the practical neighborly help of those in need.
These are heavy words, and important teachings that help us DEAL WITH OTHERS in the church family. At the same time, they can lead us to a negative feeling about life – and that is not what Paul desired, nor what the Spirit wants. Let’s end our study with the same sense that Paul did… a spirit of grace and a trust in God’s plan. He ended with JESUS – not simply with the believer! He wrote a simple ending sentence to the Galatian believers:
Galatians 6:18 “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.”
Paul ended with words of God’s grace – of the undeserved favor of Jesus Christ to those of us who have experienced the depth of His love! The message of Christ is not the prevue of a select few professional ministers – it never has been! The qualification for effectiveness in helping the body stand well is to be in love with the Savior, and follow His directions. I close with a simple illustration of that very truth from American history:
In 1857 there was a 46 year old man named Jeremiah Lamphere who lived in New York City. Jeremiah loved the Lord tremendously, but he didn’t feel that he could do much for the Lord until he began to feel a burden for the lost and accepted an invitation from his church to be an inner city missionary. So in July of 1857 he started walking up and down the streets of New York passing out tracts and talking to people about Jesus, but he wasn’t having any success. Then God put it on his heart to try prayer. So he printed up a bunch of tracts, and he passed them out to anyone and everyone met. He invited anyone who wanted to come to the 3rd floor of the Old North Dutch Reformed Church on Fulton St. in New York City from 12 to 1 on Wednesday to pray. He passed out hundreds and hundreds of fliers and put up posters everywhere he could. Wednesday came and at noon nobody showed up. So Jeremiah got on his knees and started praying. For 30 minutes he prayed by himself when finally five other people walked in. The next week 20 people came. The next week between 30 and 40 people came. They then decided to meet every day from 12:00 to 1:00 to pray for the city. Before long a few ministers started coming and they said, “We need to start this at our churches.” Within six months there were over 5000 prayer groups meeting every day in N.Y. Soon the word spread all over the country. Prayer meetings were started in Philadelphia, Detroit, and Washington D.C. In fact President Franklin Pierce started going almost every day to a noonday prayer meeting. By 1859 some 15,000 cities in America were having downtown prayer meetings every day at noon, and thousands were brought to Christ. The great thing about this revival is that there is not a famous preacher associated with it. It was all started by one man wanting to pray. People have been seeking God, and seeking a relationship with God through Jesus Christ for centuries. (From a sermon by Rich Anderson, Seeking The Face Of Jesus Christ 2/18/2011)
Every believer has a Savior, His Spirit, a set of gifts and a calling to serve the Master well. We also have a family in Christ, for better or worse! We must remember…