In parts one and two of this series, we learned that our Lord has perfectly orchestrated the best way for Christians to grow. At salvation, He gives each Christian spiritual gifts and places them into His body to use them for the edification of the church. We also found that the Christian will be stunted in their growth if they attend the gathering only to sit and listen without seeking fellowship and service to the body. As such, if you are committed to growth in Christ, then you must be committed to being equipped, to fellowship, and service. This week we will start giving some practical imperatives you must pursue if you desire to grow in Christ.
You Must Cultivate Your Love for Christ and His Church
Your love for God’s people–the church–manifests your love for our Lord. In the Gospels, Jesus summed up the Law of God with the two greatest commandments. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). As such, our horizontal love for others reveals our vertical love for God, who in turn, provides ample opportunity to love the brethren as we gather to serve one another in love. We accomplish this through intentional fellowship – simple church attendance is not enough. When we actively participate in the gathering and take advantage of service opportunities, we are provided with many chances to love the Lord and the brethren as we practice what we are learning from God’s word.
Your love for Christ will also manifest itself in loving what He loves. In Acts 20:28, Paul exhorted the Ephesian elders to shepherd the church of God which Christ purchased with His own blood. He also wrote to the church at Ephesus reminding them that Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25). As such, we demonstrate our love for Christ when we love what He loves. We cannot deny the difficulty of loving the church, but we also cannot deny the necessity of loving the people for whom Jesus gave His life to redeem.
You Must Cultivate Gentleness, Patience, and Humility
We need plenty of gentleness, patience, and humility as we attempt to love other church members. Amazingly, we demonstrate our love for the brethren as we scrape against one another during difficulties. Each hard situation allows us to react negatively or positively toward one another. Negatively, we can succumb to harshness, impatience, and pride considering ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, as more important than others’. As Paul exhorted the Philippians:
Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27).
The Philippians were struggling to live in harmony with one another. However, Paul called for them to “make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” In doing so, he encouraged them to stop merely looking out for their own interests, but for the interests of others. Later in the same chapter, he used the example of our Lord’s suffering on our behalf to demonstrate the need to die to self.
Therefore, we must learn to react to one another in gentleness treating the other person with Christlike love especially when they hurt us. We must also bear with them in patience especially when they have wronged us. Loving and bearing with others is easy when they love us back, but very difficult when we experience trouble with them. In doing these things, we must be humble and understand that we too sin and fall short of the glory of God.
Come back next week for the final three imperatives you must pursue if you desire to grow in Christ.