At the end of his life Paul, the man, wrote these words:
Do your best to come to me quickly. Demas has fallen in love with the present world and has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus has gone to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark, and bring him with you. He has been a big help to me in the ministry. I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, bring along the coat I left with Carpus in Troas. Also bring the scrolls and especially the parchments. Alexander, the craftsman who works with metal, has really hurt me. The Lord will pay him back for what he has done. But watch out for him, because he opposes our teaching. No one took my side at my first court hearing. Everyone deserted me. I hope that God doesn’t hold it against them! But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength…
No one took my side… Everyone deserted me. I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit included these words for me to read today. Sometimes I forget that the great Apostle Paul, was still Paul the man. Paul the man had real feelings and emotions like me. He even felt alone in his ministry at times.
There are days when our ministry leaves me feeling like no one is on my side and everyone has deserted me. I feel like throwing in the towel because I’m not really making an impact. There are seasons of our work that this feeling in nearly unbearable.
So what makes it so hard? What makes serving God’s people such a difficult task? Daniel and I were talking about this today. These don’t come from a place of loftiness, but of real hurt that is a result of real problems.
Think about what we have in Christ: the encouragement he has brought us, the comfort of his love, our sharing in his Spirit, and the mercy and kindness he has shown us. If you enjoy these blessings, then do what will make my joy complete: Agree with each other, and show your love for each other. Be united in your goals and in the way you think. In whatever you do, don’t let selfishness or pride be your guide. Be humble, and honor others more than yourselves. Phil. 2:1-3
Sometimes just getting people to value assembling together as a body is difficult, let alone having them agree, show love and be united in goals and thinking.
And because each member has been placed there by God (1 Cor. 12:28) it hurts when that design is marred. It hurts when part of the body isn’t functioning. It hurts when a part of the body is handicapped. It hurts when part of the body is cut off.
Church Hoppers and Splitters
People that come to be served and not to serve deliver a fair share of pain. When their needs aren’t met or they feel slighted, they simply leave.
I’ve heard it said that division among the body of Christ was the most serious heresy for the early church. Read through Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth sometime. They were loaded with problems- from drunkenness during the Lord’s supper to a guy sleeping with his dad’s wife. But have you noticed something. When Paul writes his second letter to them, they are still ONE body. There isn’t a West Side Corinth church and an East Side Corinth church. There’ s not an Apollos church or a Paul church. There is just one church.
Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other. And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. The peace of Christ must control your hearts—a peace into which you were called in one body. Col 3:13-16
Brothers and sisters, don’t say evil things about each other. Whoever insults or criticizes a brother or sister insults and criticizes the Law. If you find fault with the Law, you are not a doer of the Law but a judge over it. There is only one lawgiver and judge, and he is able to save and to destroy. But you who judge your neighbor, who are you? Jm. 4:11-12
Yes, there are plenty of Christians who appear to be one thing on the outside that they are not on the inside. Instead of striving for purity and holiness they fill the body of Christ with gossip, covert sin, and an unwillingness to confess and repent. Jesus said it’s like a white washed tomb, beautiful on the outside, but full of dead men’s bones. It hurts deeply to see someone who was once zealous to claim Christ give up the pursuit of holiness for the club scene, sex without marriage, or whatever of the world seems better at the time.
Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Eph. 2:20-21
What’s a Pharisee anyway? They were a group of religious people who watched Jesus in order to trap him. They accused him of eating with scum, being of Satan, and violating the Sabbath. It was these men who plotted to kill him. They hated Jesus because his approach to the Law turned their stringent, ungodly ways upside down.
“Watch out!” Jesus warned them. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “You have so little faith! Why are you arguing with each other about having no bread? Don’t you understand even yet? Don’t you remember the 5,000 I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of leftovers you picked up? Or the 4,000 I fed with seven loaves, and the large baskets of leftovers you picked up? Why can’t you understand that I’m not talking about bread? So again I say, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’”
Then at last they understood that he wasn’t speaking about the yeast in bread, but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
They might not call themselves Pharisees, but we still have people who neglect grace and want to maintain a systematic structure of law.
So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. Gal. 5:1
But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. Jm. 1:25
Tomorrow… what next?