IS YOUR CHURCH LOVING?

How To Help Your Church Abound in Love

I certainly hope so. It should be. Jesus declared love the distinguishing mark by which all others would know that we are His disciples (John 13:35).

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But here’s the deal. Paul prays in Phil. 1:9 that their church’s love may abound more and more. He exhorted another church very much the same way:

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more (1 Thess. 4:9-10, emphasis added).

It seems we can’t afford to rest on our laurels when it comes to the degree of love operational in our congregations.

Here are seven ways you can potentially affect the abounding of love in your church so as to ensure its peace and unity:

  1. Admit to the Lord any failures on this front, believe the gospel again, and determine to obey in His strength in the future.
  2. Embrace the commandment to excel in love as just that–marching orders from Jesus. We can’t treat this virtue as optional. Also, regard it as the A-priority responsibility it is. Why else would Peter write: Above all, keep loving one another earnestly (1 Pet. 4:8, emphasis added).
  3. Never assume you have arrived on this front. The Bible doesn’t make room for complacency in our love performance. Ask the Lord to help you push the edge of envelope in ways you haven’t done so before.
  4. Make it a habit to do loving things. Build your love muscles by practicing kindness. Alexander Strauch calls kindness love with work clothes on. Write notes. Give gifts (even little ones). Make a phone call. Buy someone lunch. Drop by for a visit (ask first).
  5. Practice hospitality. Texts teaching about love often include the exhortation to open our home to others. For example, Paul exhorts, Let love be genuine in Rom. 12:9. Then in v. 13 he adds, Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
    We find another example of this combo in Heb. 13:1-2. One commands, Let brotherly love continue. Then v. 2 quickly follows with, Do not neglect to show hospitality. Few things say love more persuasively than sharing a meal with others around your table.
  6. Pray for one another in your church to grow in love for one another. Last Sunday we studied that text in Philippians (1:9) where Paul prays for their love to abound. So this week I am praying through our member/attender list for each household for the same thing. Your church has such a list, doesn’t it?
  7. Finally, and most importantly, meditate often on the love of God for you in Christ Jesus. I think Paul prays in Eph. 3:18-19 the way he does for this very reason. He knows if we can even remotely comprehend the breadth, length, height, and depth of Jesus’ love for us, it cannot help but overflow through us to refresh others.

Churches that love well in Jesus advertise well for Jesus. And members who abound in love are the kind of members who excel in helping preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace in their churches. Go for it!

Question: What’s one thing you want to do this week to push your love for others towards an abounding level? You can leave a comment here.

Toughest School Ever (2)

In my first post on the virtue of content, I likened it to schooling that takes place over one’s lifetime under the providence of God.

In this post and those to come, I wish to continue working the same metaphor describing various aspects of the curriculum from the Scriptures.

The place to begin, I believe, is with the nature of this discipline as a compulsory subject. Anyone who has done any higher education grasps the difference between required courses and electives. I loved electives in college. I got to pick and choose what I liked. Motivation wasn’t an issue. When it came to the required stuff, I had no choice. I either took the class or faced dropping out.

Certain texts make it clear that we can’t do an end-around on the school of contentment. Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have.” There’s no denying it. God commands that we stay clear of the desire for more stuff and find satisfaction in whatever He has given us, big or small, or in between.

Then we have Paul’s words in First Timothy 6:8. “But if we have food and clothing, with these will be content.”  Really? Talk about setting the bar low when it comes to your possessions. He doesn’t even include shelter in his short list. Grub in the belly and clothes on the back. Enough for me. Satisfied. No problemo. Yikes!

But here’s the kicker in that same context. If you back up to verse 6 you read this: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” You can’t miss the duty in v. 8, nor back in Heb. 13:5. We have an obligation to pursue contentment. It’s a gospel necessity. We can’t skip this course. We can’t clep out of it. We’ve got to take the class, if we belong to King Jesus.

But don’t miss the glory of it, as my new-found friend Jeremiah Burroughs would say. For that we go back to First Timothy 6:6 where Paul touches on what makes for great gain. Anybody NOT interested in great gain? I didn’t think so.

He doesn’t say that godliness in-and-of-itself amounts to great gain; he contends that godliness with contentment is great gain. Here’s how I read that. Without contentment, whatever gain belongs to godliness isn’t as great as it is with contentment. As for me and my house, not settling for less than great gain!

Of course, all this begs the question “What is contentment?” I can’t improve on the old Puritan’s definition. I’ll end with it:

Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.”

Have you enrolled? The course is not optional for followers of Jesus. It is decidedly compulsory.

Submit to the duty, but go for the glory.