All In It Together

In chapter 3 of I Corinthians, Paul rebuked the Corinth church for their carnality as they divided over the personalities of different church leaders—Paul, Apollos, and Peter. He reminded the believers in Corinth that Jesus Christ is the one foundation as he wrote, “And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (3:23).

In chapter 4 Paul began by imploring the Corinthians to consider him and others spiritual leaders as simply servants of Christ, bound to their Lord and Master. This Greek word was used to describe a galley slave, those that would spend their lives below the decks of Roman warships, tirelessly rowing for the "good" and "glory" of Rome. They were the lowest class of all slaves in the 1st century. They were not to be exalted. Paul was stating that you do not exalt one slave over another slave, we are all simply servants. 

He then described himself and other leaders as “stewards.” This implies a responsibility. Paul stated that they were responsible for the mysteries of God—the revelation of God and specifically the Gospel of Christ. The Gospel and the believer's responsibility to propagate its message was to be the focus of both individual and church life.

Paul finally declared the true test that every servant and steward of Christ ought to be judged by and accountable for—faithfulness. God does not want education, brilliance, personality, or popularity from His servants. He simply wants faithfulness.

So what can be learned and applied to the lives of those that hold themselves accountable to Faith Baptist Church as members? Three principles immediately come to mind.

1. In Christ's church, no one is better than another. In Paul's words, we are all galley slaves unworthy of exaltation above a fellow slave. Regardless of spiritual gifting, personality type, or even leadership position every believer can only claim the status of a servant. Automatically, this puts our wants and needs on the lowest shelf. This ought to humble us and help us recognize our dependence upon God's Word for direction.

2. In Christ's church, the Gospel ought to be preeminent. Paul declared himself and others as stewards of the Gospel. He would later write that all believers are given the ministry of reconciliation. While Scripture provides both explicit commands and implicit principles to guide our life, the Gospel is to be the primary principle we live by. Whatever can be done to propagate the Gospel without circumventing clear teaching of Scripture ought to be prayerfully considered as an avenue of personal and corporate ministry.

3. In Christ's church, faithfulness is what matters. Paul laid out this simple requirement of stewards and servants. When we recognize our rightful place as servants and actively strive for the Gospel, the results can be left to a sovereign God Who will work all things for His pleasure and glory. What counts is how faithfully we "row" together as the body of Christ to share the message of Christ.

I invite you to join us as faithful "under-rowers" of the Gospel. Recognize your place that is no greater than anyone else in the family of God and seek to faithfully spread the Gospel alongside fellow believers at Faith!

- Pastor David

The Double Sided Sword of Influence

Several times in the NT Paul wrote some form of this statement- follow me as I follow Christ. To different groups of people he loved and exhibited spiritual care for, he gives this conditional imperative. Consider for a moment what is taking place- Paul tells them they are to give entrance into their lives to him.  His influence was to guide their direction and decisions.

Such entrance had to be grounded in the reality that its end-state produced the pursuit of Christ.  This would be manifest in a tender, teachable heart   It would elevate Christ’s Lordship over their life.  It would promote an eternal value system.  It would lend itself to telling others about Christ. 

If the above stated wasn’t taking place, it wasn’t godly influence.  Even if Paul seemed right, sincere, or quasi-spiritual, following Christ was the criteria for the continuance of his influence in their lives. It isn’t a stretch to say that Paul, without words, was also saying to quit following him if this ever changed.  

So what does that mean for us? We must be careful how we leverage our influence as we are someone's "Paul".  This means that we ought to be sober about the "what we say", "when we say", and "how we say" as these choices form narratives.  These narratives need to direct people to Christ, the furtherance of the Gospel, and the unity of the Church; if we aren't careful, these narratives can do something less than these things.

We must consider who is receiving recognition from our influence-  His desire was that his influence would merely be of assistance in growing their pursuit of Christ.

In church (also in the larger view of the family of God), sometimes those who influence us; struggle, change, or even depart.  What then? Go to Christ with your hurt - He is your contentment, sufficiency, strength, and comfort.  

  • Be slow to make any significant decisions based upon their influence - We have all seen it in our church experience, a person of influence leaves and several families go with them or they remain but with suspicion in their hearts.

  • Be on guard for temptations against them or toward others. Who loves disunity?  The devil.  During these times, he seeks to make us resentful towards those who were influencing us or make us angry at whoever they have targeted as their problem.  

  • Be faithful- continue following Christ.  You can’t change what others choose but you do control your choices.  Keep seeking Him, His Gospel for others, and His edifying work in others.   

  • Remember - those who influence us are just struggling sinners also.  Even the most respected individual in our lives can heed temptations, if ever so subtle.  These temptations, if heeded, produce self-importance, they produce division, and they take our focus off Christ.  It distracts us with that which appears to be legitimately spiritual.  

Be mindful of the above-stated struggle without being suspicious or cynical. The reality is your favorite pastor, staff member, deacon, bible class teacher, or friend could fail prey to temptation; that’s a biblical reality.  Let that not discourage us, let it insulate us so we follow others as they follow Christ.

- Pastor Paul

Spiritual Friendship

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. Proverbs 27:17

Earlier this week Pastor Paul and I had the opportunity to gather together as part of a Baptist fellowship meeting near Chicago, IL. While I enjoyed the preaching and singing that took place during the meetings, what most encouraged me was the time spent with a good friend and fellow laborer in Christ. It was actually quite the surprise, for neither of us expected the other to be in attendance. Surprise quickly led to joy and edification as we spent several hours together throughout meeting talking, reminiscing, praying, and considering our current paths in ministry. It was truly a blessing.

Our time together led me to many people at FBC have that kind of meaningful, spiritual deep relationship with a brother/sister in Christ? A friendship founded foremost in Christ, with transparency and honesty towards each other? Hebrews 3 describes the need for and practical reality of this kind of relationship.

Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:12-13

Church family, I want to ask just a few introspective questions as I close.

1. Do you recognize your need for this kind of relationship, due to the deceitfulness of sin? 2. Who could you actively invest in through exhortation in the body of Christ? 3. Who have you allowed transparent entrance into your life for your own edification? 4. If FBC was full of these kinds of relationships, what differences would be seen in our assembly?

Pastor David