What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
— 1 Corinthians 14:26
Have you ever had a weird day? I mean like weird, weird? The kind of day where you end up with a stranger’s blood in your poison ivy rash? OK, maybe that’s just me. But have you ever ended up on the other side of a day that has changed you?
I had a day like that today.
After having been plagued with several sleepless nights of poison-ivy-rash torture, I decided to finally head into a Give Me Care Right Now kind of place for a giant steroid shot before I clawed my skin off. Don’t feel too sorry for me. Never intentionally rub a suspicious plant on your skin just to see if it’s actually poison ivy. It is.
After pulling out of the clinic parking lot, with my steroid-injected hip still stinging and my skin still burning, I felt mighty sorry for myself and decided to drown my sorrows in a Diet Dr. Pepper at the closest Sonic. As I reached out to hand my debit card to the teenage girl behind the window, I saw her horrified recoil at my arm of leprosy. I pretended not to notice and fixed my gaze forward at the street in front of us.
As I intentionally stared forward, a small green car suddenly skidded across three lanes, flipped, and came to rest upside-down about 50 yards from me. I was momentarily dumbfounded. The girl forgot about my leprosy as she handed me my Diet Dr. Pepper, and we both stared forward, she hanging her head out of the drive-through window. My first thought: Man, I’m already late for work. My second thought: I’m going to be even later.
I pulled into a parking space and walked the few feet onto the pavement, where the driver was suspended upside down by his seatbelt. He quickly released it, fell, righted himself, and then busied himself with finding his cigarettes and lighter inside his destroyed car, dripping blood everywhere from his injured arm all the while. I forgot about my leprosy.
As I began speaking to him in an attempt to move him a safe distance away from the wreck — with a handful of other helpful people also trying to convince him that moving was a good plan — he turned and looked at me without even a hint of recognition that I was actually speaking words to him. His mind was completely somewhere else. He stared at me for several seconds with his eyes glazed over and his face void of expression. Convincing him to move away and sit on the curb required a hands-on, group effort where we all steered him to the curb. Words were useless.
Once seated, the guy immediately began to surmise and lament his situation. We were all still recovering from the fact that we had just walked a live person over to the curb, instead of dragging a dead body from a car, while he attempted to convince us that this was the worst day of his life. The boy was sure that, due to outstanding warrants for his arrest, he would soon be taken to jail when the police arrived. He lamented aloud over what he had done to his girlfriend’s only car. He had no driver’s license and no insurance, and he was sure this would cost him greatly. And he was right about all of those things. But, needless to say, we were a tough crowd. We couldn’t be persuaded that this was the worst day of his life, especially while his blood was still all over us. This boy was alive for a reason. Hallelujah.
In the midst of that tiny little group of random people — hairdressers, nurses, Sonic workers, and a broken young man — all waiting for the EMTs and police to arrive, sitting a few feet away from broken glass and placing our hands on a broken body with a broken life, a prayer circle erupted while his blood continued to slowly drip onto the sidewalk. We all prayed for this boy’s physical healing, the mercy of the courts in his situation and for the revelation of God’s purpose in his life. We prayed while the boy worried.
After the whirlwind of police and EMTs had finished with their questions, strapped him to the gurney and whisked him off to the hospital, the rest of the group finally looked at one another. There were various races, various sizes, various tattoos, various colorful hair choices, old and young, all smeared in some area or another with the boy’s blood.
We were strangers 20 minutes prior, and now we were joined to one another by God, prayer and the blood of a broken and scared young man.
That is the church.
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
— Colossians 3:9–17
This passage is talking directly about what it’s like to do and live life with one another in the Church when Jesus is at the center of all of our lives.
It starts off by describing how Christians have taken off the old self and put on the new. This is describing what happens through our conversion. We put aside a life that is consumed by chasing after worldly aspirations because, now, Christ is at the center of all of our works and interactions.
It then goes on to say in verse 12, “as God’s chosen ones,” that we are not given this new self by any work of our own, but we are transformed by the saving work of our God. We can not boast in anything we have done, but we all meet together on the same playing field. This is so important because it removes the distinctions that often separate us in life. The things that make us distrustful, suspicious, jealous, or puff out our chests are removed by Christ’s being all and in all. When we meet with other Christ followers, we are united only by the boasting of the work of Christ.
There is something unique about meeting with other people whose lives are centered on “Christ is all, and in all.” Some of the greatest and most fulfilling times in my life have come by the way of my Community Group (CG). That being said, an hour before it’s time for CG, I often find myself wishing that it would be canceled for that night. I sit thinking about how busy I am, and how CG takes up another night when I could be getting things done or spending much-needed time with my family. Then often, the same night after wishing I didn’t have to go, I leave CG so satisfied, fulfilled and fired up about the work that God is doing in my life.
Community Group helps develop “Christ is all, and in all” in me. My old self struggles with significance, happiness and security in relation to other people. But my new self is only identified by the work of Jesus Christ. As I gather with people weekly with the same identity, I am reminded of and rejuvenated by the like-minded work that Christ is doing in our lives.
It says in verse 10 that we are in the process of “being made new.” In other words, as John Piper says, “Christ is all that he might become all-in all." We are constantly being transformed into this way of living. Community is one of the main tools that God uses to reach the potential of this new self.
Community Groups are where we struggle with questions such as, How is Christ my all when I lose my job? How is Christ my all when someone in my family dies? How is Christ my all when I keep on sinning, even though I do not want to?
Community Groups are a place to live life with one another in a way that reminds our fellow brothers and sisters that Christ is all in all. We get to love one another, support one another, walk with one another, and pray with one another through all of the different areas of life. Through this type of living, God is constantly making us new through other Christ followers in the image of our creator.
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,”] and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
— Romans 13:8–10
It has never been easier to borrow money than it is today. Many believe that there is an impending financial crisis that will be the result of such a highly leveraged populace. The stock market can face historic swings as a result of investors who are buying “on margin.”
Therefore, the fluctuations in the market are primarily a result of reckless lending and irresponsible borrowers. The financial sector may well experience the meltdown that guys like Larry Burkett predicted. People are living way beyond their means, and that party has to come to an end.
The Bible is very interesting when it comes to the issue of debt. There is no question that non-secured debt “enslaves” the borrower to the lender and we must make every effort to avoid it. If that debt is allowed to grow, then it will eventually paralyze us in a type of self-initiated captivity. Compounding interest is great when you are an investor, but horrible when you are the borrower.
In the passage above, we are warned to steer clear of debt but admonished to remain in debt when it comes to loving our neighbor. In other words, we are not just supposed to respect our neighbor, but to serve our neighbor. This means that we can’t be satisfied with avoiding murder, slander or burglary. There is a proactive element to love — we must step out and serve others like we clearly serve ourselves. This is particularly true when it comes to those inside the “household of faith.” We should view our brothers and sisters in Christ through the lens of love.
So, as you go out today, ask yourself, “How can I express love to those around me?” Tim Sanders, the Chief Solutions Officer for Yahoo, wrote a book called Love is the Killer App. I think he may be on to something — something biblical. In these times of instability, people are feeling like failures, and many of them are spiritually bankrupt. Their only hope is a bailout. You and I had our debt canceled and, perhaps, today we can introduce someone else to the one who set us free. After all, isn’t this what the church is all about?
Saturday morning, around 10 a.m., there was a knock at our door. Neither my wife nor I were expecting anyone, so we did what most people under the age of 40 do: we freaked out. We told our daughters to be quiet, raced to turn off lights, and quickly reviewed if the garage door was closed. We know what an unexpected knock at the door means!
We have seen enough of Dateline, 20/20, and the nightly news to know that a knock at the door is not always a good thing. The only time a knock at the door is a good thing is during Girl Scout cookie season. Fortunately, I was able to quiet our family enough to convince our visitor that no one was home.
The person eventually left, but she left a tract behind. It was a tract to learn more about the Jehovah’s Witness religion. Have you ever been in this situation? Have you ever found yourself stuck on what to say or how to respond? A core teaching of the Jehovah’s Witness is this:
“Jesus Christ is a created being, and therefore, Jesus Christ is lesser than God.”
That statement is a direct contradiction to what we believe at c|Life. So, how should an evangelical Christian respond?
1. Start with a compliment
It is always good to start a conversation with a compliment. Compliment them for taking time out of their day to share their faith. Christians could learn a lot from followers of the Jehovah’s Witness religion for their faithfulness and devotion to sharing their beliefs. Their commitment is admirable, but let me be clear: faithfulness does not imply truthfulness.
2. Point to Scripture
As believers in Jesus Christ, our source of truth is God’s Word. When trying to establish the identity of Jesus, the most authoritative source is the Bible. In refuting this doctrine of Jehovah’s Witness, the main text to use is John 1:1.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
— John 1:1
The Word that John is referring to there is Jesus. In writing his account of the life of Jesus, John makes the deity of Jesus Christ clear from the start. In reading John 1, there is no confusion that John is stating that Jesus Christ is no mere mortal, but God in the flesh. Notice that John refers to the Word as God (capital G). In response to this clear teaching, the Jehovah’s Witnesses were forced to have this verse retranslated. Their version of the Bible, the New World Translation, reads “…and the Word was a god,” instead of our version of the Bible, which reads, “… and the Word was God.”
That small grammatical change reveals a major change in doctrine.
So, the next time you hear a knock at the door, remember the clear teaching in John 1:1.
I have a love-hate relationship with Amazon. I love it because, if I’m running low on toilet paper, I can hit one button and, two days later, I have some waiting for me at the door. It’s great. But I hate it because I’m pretty sure I have a drawer in my closet full of things I’ve seen on Amazon, proceeded to buy, and then realized two weeks later that I definitely didn’t need. My problem is (aside from maybe spending too much time on Amazon) that I see something, think I need it, then later realize it’s not that great anymore.
This isn’t just with shopping. We do it with a lot of things: gifts, cars, houses, and sometimes, even people. We get something new or get into a new relationship, love it and then, as time goes by, we find ourselves paying less attention to it.
What’s amazing to me is that Jesus never does that with us. His love isn’t something that is here one second and gone the next. It’s forever. 1 John tells us that God is love. It isn’t something he does, it’s quite literally who he is. And because he is the same yesterday, today and forever, who he is and how he loves will never change.
Think about how wild that is. No matter what we do, no matter how much we sin, no matter how far we stray, his love is still strong, steadfast and consistent. Never buy into the lie that you’ve strayed too far or done too much to be loved by Jesus.
No matter what you’ve done, Jesus still loves you.