March Letter 2017

March Letter 2017

Dear Faith Partners,

 

Today, I believe we are seeing a major shift among many believers in Christ. It is as if Christians are more concerned about things for themselves than others. By all means, God wants you and your needs provided for and met. However, meeting your needs should not be your absolute focus causing you to be unconcerned with the interests and needs of others. That selfish way of living is how the world and unbelievers view life; as followers of Christ you and I are expected to live by a higher standard. If the body of Christ is to be relevant today and grow, being effective in the community, there has to be genuine concerns for others as well as involving ourselves in the transformation of community issues.

Jesus’ ministry went beyond any one individual and was not limited to the “local church”. He had and showed an interest for all.  In Luke 19:1-10, Jesus had an encounter with a tax collector named Zacchaeus; a man who had been taking advantage of many people. However, through Jesus’ visitation, the tax collector received salvation and his heart changed causing him to compensate everyone he had ever taken advantage of. That is the example of the church concerned with others. There are a lot of social issues going on throughout this nation and this world’s system is not the solution. The church cannot overlook what is occurring and we cannot just pray and hope that things will get better or go away. I believe we have a mandate from God to be a light in this world, operating as the hands and feet of Jesus in the earth.

Recall Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV), Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Later in Philippians 2:4 (NASB), the Apostle Paul instructs, “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” While it is easy to “just” focus on your own life and your own local church, God’s Word is filled with Scriptures that reveal that is not His desire or your mandate. The Body of Christ is bigger than just the arms or the nose – it is an entire body.

The challenge is that as a Body and as individuals in the Body, we must get out of self and think more about the benefit of others: that is the beginning of selfless living. It is a matter of focus. As King James Version says, “look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” (Philippians 2:4) The Message Bible says it this way, “Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” What an encouragement toward unity and community is this call to look out not only for your own interests, but also for the interests of others. When the community of believers cares for one another just as they would care for themselves, the mutual service will cause disunity to fade.

Selfish ambition is a work of the flesh, and has always been the source of division within families, relationships, and the church. I can prove it through the Scriptures, look at Galatians 5:19-20 (NLT). “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division.” Being selfish in your ambitions causes division in your family, church, and community.

I really believe the early church had a revelation, a clear understanding of the importance of being concerned beyond self to the concerns of others. Listen to Acts 2:42-47 (CEB), “The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. All the believers were united and shared everything.  They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them.  Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved.” That is the interests I believe God wants believers to have between each other; believers drawing unbelievers to Christ, by sharing and finding commonality through looking out for the interests of others.

You can further see the value God places on looking after the cares of others as Paul in Philippians 2:19-22 commends Timothy concerning the concern he had toward the church. “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.” Timothy, Paul’s son in the faith, had proven his interests and concern was for the welfare of the believers and not primarily for himself.

The truth of the matter is your interests can be divided, permitting you to focus on more than one thing.  However, the key is to ensure the focus is balanced and in line with God’s Word. Paul spoke on this in I Corinthians 7:33-34 (NIV), as he was discussing the relationship between the husband and wife: “But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world how he can please his wife. And his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband.” Again, it is important as a believer, a follower of Jesus Christ, that your interests remain balanced; concerned with your affairs while at the same time concerned with the affairs of others.

Let’s invest a little time studying Philippians 2:1-5 (NIV), “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:” Jesus is the absolute example for you and I in how to operate and live selflessly. When it came to dealing with others His perspective was always to add to their life never devaluing. I believe, the Body of Christ must return to a time when we valued others. A time when we looked at the heat and were not moved by what we saw, understanding our purpose was to esteem others. To esteem others better than yourself simply means to value them more than you value yourself. To some, that may seem impossible, but it is very possible. You have the example of many who set aside their own interests and desires in favor of others, and Jesus leads that list. Paul used the model of Jesus’ life for what he was preaching in Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV), In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” If Jesus, Who was God in the flesh, could humble Himself and value the good of others and their interests above His own welfare, then you and I should certainly be able to do the same. However, it will only begin with the personal decision to die to self and live to God.

As we enter the third month of 2017, I challenge you to take inventory of your life and allow God to show you where you are more consumed with things of this earth than what He has assigned to your life. Where you find error, repent and begin to correct. I say again, if the body of Christ is to be relevant today and grow, being effective in the community, there has to be genuine concerns for other as well as involving ourselves in the transformation of community issues.

Janice and I appreciate your continued commitment to all that God has called you to do. Stay encouraged and focused, your labor is not in vain.

Your Partner and Friend,

Richard B. Peoples, Sr.

 

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