September 1, 2020 | by: Scott Denny | 0 comments
“How long, O Lord?” was David’s cry in Psalm 13. No less than 4 times in 2 verses does he pen those words. “How long, O Lord?”
No doubt many of us have asked the same kind of question in one form or another during these past several months – hoping and praying that the Lord would intervene and take what seems wrong and make it right.
In the face of a global pandemic and world-wide protests, the church in America has been impacted on a scale that not many of us have experienced–maybe none of us.
I know as pastors we have sought to respond to current events in a way that condemns what is evil and upholds what is right. We have sought to exercise wisdom and discernment on matters that are not clearly outlined in the Scriptures. We have sought to exhort and encourage the church to fight to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We have upheld the Scriptures as sufficient for all matters pertaining to life and godliness, and we have sought to equip you with biblical truth so that you might grow in exercising your spiritual muscles and learn to walk in wisdom and in truth.
Over the past several months there have been varying opinions expressed through social media and other mediums on the topics of social justice, riots, protests, police officers, racism, Covid-19, government authority and the list goes on.
The ways in which those opinions have been communicated by believers both inside and outside Grace Bible Church grieve me when the tone appears to have a lack of humility, gentleness, kindness and peaceableness. As pastors, we have also sought to address what we observe by pastoral exhortation and encouragement through the pulpit, through this newsletter and through the PastorCast.
I have personally spoken to people who have been wounded by others within this body over matters that have absolutely nothing to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and everything to do with preference and an unwillingness to hear someone else's perspective on matters that connect little to the gospel, if at all.
Brothers and sisters, it ought not to be this way. We are called to unity and we must fight to preserve that unity rather than to fight for uniformity or to conformity to one's opinion. Unity is rooted in humility. Uniformity is rooted in pride.
I think we would all do well to be reminded from Paul’s letter to the Church at Ephesus, where he exhorted the church to conduct themselves in a way that reflected who they are and how they are to live with one another.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
I have read this passage countless times. I have preached on this passage and I have taught through this passage in counseling sessions. Only now, as I write this article do I see Paul’s heart in this passage. Do you see it?
He pleads with this church. He begs them. He entreats them to live with each other in such a way that matches what God in Christ Jesus has done to them and for them. I urge you. I beg you, brothers and sisters, to give heed to what follows.
The scriptures exhort you and me to live with each other in such a way that it magnifies the mystery and the majesty of the power of the gospel. A gospel reality that declares we were all without hope and without God [Ephesians 2:12]. A gospel reality that declares there is none righteous, no not one [Romans 3:10]. A gospel reality that says you and I were once aliens and strangers [Ephesians 2:12] and yet by the amazing grace and love of God we have been brought near and are called holy and beloved [Colossians 3:12; Ephesians 2:13]. A gospel reality that breaks down barriers between us [Ephesians 2:14]. A gospel reality that unites people from every nation, tribe and tongue [Revelation 7:9] and calls us to live in a manner with one another that displays this amazing grace that has been shown to us [Ephesians 4:1].
Yet, we so easily forget that our lives are not our own [1 Corinthians 6:19]. We have been bought with the precious blood of Christ [1 Peter 1:18 -19] and therefore we must strive – we must be eager – we must be diligent to preserve and to protect the unity of the church in the bond of peace rather than at the expense of peace.
If we are to pursue unity – and we must – then the pursuit of unity must be characterized by grace filled lives with one another. Paul writes that we are to preserve unity with a certain disposition directed toward other people.
Humility. Gentleness. Patience. Loving Forbearance. These are all graces given to us by God through His Spirit. Notice that every one of these graces means that we must deny our own wants, our own desires, our own preferences, and practicing these graces forces us outside of our comfort zone and into the lives of preferring other's interests ahead of our own.
Humility engenders unity. Pride destroys. Pride puffs up and exalts self.
Pride insists on your own preferences. Humility insists on seeking to look out for the interest of others.
Think for a moment. Are you responding humbly to others who think differently about what’s going on in the world around us? Are you insisting that others hear you? Or are you willing to be quick to listen and slow to speak? Are you willing to recognize that we may not know who’s right about the seriousness of this virus, for example, for another decade perhaps?
Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit. The Greek word here is literally the idea of power under control. The idea of a conscious decision to exercise self-control.
Think about a lion with his mouth wide open and the trainer sticks his head inside. That lion is exhibiting power under control. He could easily snap the trainer's head clean off, but instead we admire the lion’s gentleness, and we are amazed at its self-control.
What does gentleness look like in the body of Christ as we seek to preserve unity?
It means, for example, you use self-control and restraint with the words of your mouth. It means you’re careful and thoughtful about what you say and how you say it. It means you show restraint and use your words to build up and not tear down.
Think about how we are talking to one another about the current pandemic. Think about how we are lording our own opinions (Yes, opinions!) over other people’s. Think about how we speak about pastors of God’s church who have differing opinions about how to handle this current shut-down in California.
I believe humility and gentleness capture the heart of Christ. Christ spoke this way about himself in Matthew 11:29.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
I believe the greatest demonstration by Christ of these two virtues is through His death on the cross.
In humility Christ, the eternal Son of God, put on the frailty of humanity and died the death you and I deserve. In gentleness, the eternal son of God, who created all things, and had the power to heal the blind, to turn water into wine, to cease storms, cast out demons, and raise the dead, in all gentleness, He made a conscious decision to not retaliate against the ones who betrayed Him, beat Him and hung Him on a cross.
Consider for a moment that what humility and gentleness might look like in your life right now within this body? Would anything change about how you speak to or about others? What temptations must you resist as you look to the humility and gentleness of Christ?
Brothers and sisters, we must look to Christ, not to ‘talking heads’ or ‘experts’, as we seek to engender in each of us the humility and gentleness necessary to preserve unity within this church.
Patience literally means to suffer long with people in the body of Christ. Patience makes allowance for people’s shortcomings and endures with people.
Patience forces us outside of ourselves, and outside of our comfort zone. Patience causes us to think less of ourselves and compels us to look to the One who is longsuffering with us as we wait upon Him to work and to move in the lives and hearts of people.
Forbearing in love is very similar to patience in that forbearance requires us to depend upon God for grace to tolerate those things that make us uncomfortable and uneasy.
We may not agree with one another about this shut-down or the severity of the coronavirus or the necessity to wear face masks, or the need to social distance, but are these the hills we’re dying on as a church? Are these the issues of the day that we’re choosing to break fellowship over? Are these the issues that we’re unwilling to prefer the interest of others ahead of our own? May it never be!
I urge you. I beg you, for the sake of our Lord, to be passionate about preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Walk humbly with one another. Walk gently. Be Patient and lovingly forebear with your brothers and sisters. The world is watching and they will know we are lovers of Christ by how we love one another [John 13:35].
Scott Denny is a Pastor at Grace Bible Church
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