Friday, August 08, 2014

How the Gospel Changes Relationships: Church Relationships Become a Priority

24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  Hebrews 10:24-25
Christians have a responsibility for the love and good works of other Christians.  According to Hebrews 10:24-25 we need to be thinking about how we can get our brothers and sisters in Christ loving more and doing more good deeds.  Not Christians in general, but the ones you choose to gather with each week.  Verse 25 makes that clear.  This is a command we are to pursue in the context of our local church; a command requiring our presence if we're going to carry it out.

We've all heard about the 80/20 principle in church volunteerism.  Normally, the people who think they're carrying more of the burden than other people say, "20% of us are doing 80% of the work."  The 20% says it with frustration and even exasperation that the 80% isn't pulling their weight.

I think Hebrews has something radical to say about the 80/20 principle.  Hebrews says that it may be the 20%'s fault for not considering how to spur the 80% along to love and good works.  Hebrews says quit pointing fingers and start spurring.  The word consider means what it says.  It means think about it and figure it out.  Try one thing and if that doesn't work try something else.  It may be different methods for different people; that's what we're called to consider and figure out.  Hebrews 10:24-25 asks us to find ways to get others involved in more love and more good works.

You carry a responsibility for the love and good works of others in your local church.  You, not just your leaders.  Hebrews says, "Let us  . . ."  This is one reason, of many, why committing to a local body is so important.  Other Christians need you.  They need you to look at them and consider how you can help them along.  Oh, and by they way, you need them to look at you too!

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

How the Gospel Changes Relationships: Everyone Else Becomes More Important

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4 ESV)

When a Christian walks into a room they should view themselves as the least important person there.  That's easy if you were to walk into the Oval Office, but can be more difficult when you set foot in a homeless shelter.

Here is a list of 7 things that this command does and does not mean:

It does mean:

1.  You should be really good at asking questions.

This is one of the most practical ways to live this out.  Ask people questions about their life - their family, job, interests, hobbies, and their favorite sports team.  It communicates your desire to learn about them.

2.  You should be a good listener

This is kind of obvious in light of number 1.  If you're asking questions, but not listening to the answers, then you're not really interested in what the person has to say.

3.  Your weekly schedule should reflect intentional investment in other people (neighbors, friends, wife, children, grandchildren)

If you get to the end of the week and realize the vast majority of your time was spent pursuing your own interests to the neglect of others, then you need to adjust your schedule.

4.  You should pursue people, not demand to be pursued.

Often it's easy to fall into the trap of being the friend that wants to be pursued; waiting on the phone call or the invitation.  But, if we treat others as more significant than we are, then we should pursue them so that we can be a part of looking out for their interests.

5.  You should be teachable.

A teachable spirit demonstrates that you believe other people have valuable feedback to offer.  It's rare for someone who views themselves as the most important person in the room to listen to advice from other people.

It doesn't mean:

1.  You never take time for yourself.

Jesus retreated to the places of solitude, even fleeing from the crowds, to spend time in prayer.  Sometimes the most loving thing we can do for others is prepare our hearts to serve them.

2.  You never talk about your needs.

If obedience to this command meant never sharing struggles with others, then no one would ever know how to pray for each other.  But, it does mean you shouldn't get into those all too familiar "one up" struggle competitions where you try to show how much worse your situation is than theirs.

What are some other practical ways we can live this out?

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

How the Gospel Changes Our Relationships: Introduction

Last week I was invited to lead a breakout session at a youth conference in town themed “The Gospel Changes Everything.”  The conference explored all the different aspects of life that the gospel transforms, relationships being one of them.  Of course, most of the students assumed relationships meant dating.  That became clear when the girl to boy ratio for each session was about 7:1.  Nevertheless, I wanted to look at relationships from a more fundamental perspective, then apply what we learned to specific types of relationships.

I posted the outline last week, but thought it would be good to treat each of those areas individually in posts over the next week or two.

Relationships weave through every area of our lives; parents, spouses, friends, co-workers, peers, cashiers, waiters, bank tellers, and on and on.  Some of these we choose and others we don’t.  Some hold greater importance than others.  All of them matter.  The Gospel has something to say about all of them.  

Relationships are difficult for numerous reasons from selfishness to lack of communication to presumption to pride.  Those are all internal reasons.  But, we cannot ignore the fact that those internal desires are fed through the IV of television, internet, advertising, pop-psychology, music, and even friends and family.  They sustain and feed our view of relationships and most often the slow drip giving life to our unhealthy views goes unnoticed.  They shape how we think about marriage, dating, co-workers, revenge, etiquette, parenting, love, affection, forgiveness, self-esteem, and priorities, all manipulate how we relate to other people.  Our challenge, therefore, is to be sure our relationships are not defined by these shadowy influences, but from the Word of God.

The Bible challenges our assumptions about relationships. We'll look at the following:

  • Treat other people as being more important than yourself
  • Church Relationships become a Priority
  • Neighbor Redefined
  • With whom do you pursue friendship?
  • Submission to Authority
  • Genuine Happiness for the Joy of Others
  • Forgiveness
  • Servant to All
  • Purity and Devotion in Relationships

What do you think are some specific aspects of relationships that have been led down an unhealthy path by cultural influences?