February 15, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Devotional Sharing, Submitted by Matthew Kim, Gracepoint Berkeley

How does the gospel make possible the essential shift away from self to others envisioned in these passages?

It all begins with the fact that God forgives me, a wretched sinner, who deserves nothing but death and eternal separation from God.  It also begins with a deep sense of gratitude and understanding that but for Christ and his death on the cross, my life is empty, meaningless, rotten and full of regrets.  As a recipient of such grace, the only proper response I have is to love God and his people.  It’s a natural overflow of having received God’s love.  How can I not forgive others for petty crimes done to me, when I have committed multiple or thousands of capital crimes against God but received forgiveness?

Gospel reminds me that not only other people are fellow sinners who are in need of love and forgiveness, but they are also my brothers and sisters for whom Jesus bleed on the cross.  How can I hate, dismiss or look down on the precious souls for whom Jesus came to die.

Read each passage carefully and write what the passages teach about how each member is to be toward the others in the church, making personal applications as appropriate.

One thing that stands out from all the passages is that loving others is a command from God.  It’s a very clear and direct command that I must obey.  There is no ambiguity or condition about this command.   I am not to wait for certain conditions, circumstance, responses from people, or even acts of love towards me before I obey this command.

Galatians 5:13

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Loving others inevitably involves limiting my rights and freedom.  It’s not limiting or curtailing my rights and freedom just a little bit in order to love people with some “left-overs.”  But rather, the call is to serve others.  It’s changing my identity from being a free-person with personal rights to a servant whose rights are relinquished for the benefits of others.  It’s a change of attitude from the belief that my freedom and rights belong to me. Instead, as a servant, my freedom and rights belong to others. I must use my freedom and rights in order to serve their needs and not mine.  It’s an attitude that my time and money do not belong to me.  They belong to the needs of others.

Sometimes, it’s easy to think that certain times of the week or certain portions of money belong to me.  Sometimes I find ourselves thing thinking that “this is my time, I need this time to for myself and my family, etc.”  Or I think that I have complete control of our disposable money paying tithe and offering.

However, once I start claiming time, money, resources and even personal space as my own, I can quickly become self-indulgent and self-focused.  Instead, I am called to use what I perceive as my time, money and resources in order to serve others.  In fact, relinquishing my rights on these matters is probably the best way to combat and protect myself against sin of self-indulgence and laziness.

Devotional Sharing, Submitted by Emily Kim, Gracepoint Berkeley

How does the gospel make possible the essential shift away from self to others envisioned in these passages?

The gospel makes it possible to shift from myself to others because it addresses my greatest need and solves my biggest problem.  Because of what Jesus did on the cross, I am forgiven of my sin, and restored to a right relationship with God, my creator.  Because the biggest, most important issue of my life has been settled, I can shift my eyes from myself and look outward to others.  I don’t have to live a self-focused life – driven by fear and anxiety – in which I am scrambling to gather the most money, attention, time, or other resources for myself.  I have been freed from myself, and my sin, and as Galatians 5:13 says, I can and ought to use that freedom to serve others, rather than indulge my sinful nature.

The gospel orients me properly, and I recognize my position as a forgiven sinner before God.  Seeing how much I have wronged God and been forgiven by him, I can have perspective about all the ways I have been supposedly or even actually wronged by others.  Then and only then can I “forgive as the Lord forgave [me]” (Colossians 3:13).  The gospel is what enables me to be kind and compassionate, to offer hospitality without grumbling, and be reconciled to people with whom I have argued.

Read each passage carefully and write what the passages teach about how each member is to be toward the others in the church, making personal applications as appropriate.

These verses call believers to be kind, compassionate, forgiving, patient and loving.  There are a lot of people who aren’t Christians who are all of these things.  But the crucial part is that we are to forgive “as the Lord forgave you.”  We are to “love each other deeply” – our measure is Christ on the cross.  He is the picture of loving deeply to cover over all of our sins.

This means that it isn’t enough to be kind, compassionate, forgiving, patient and loving in a humanistic, surface-level sense.  In some ways, it’s easy to be those things, because we were raised to be polite and all.  But the question is, am I dying?  Is the Me that is so strong dying as I serve others, rather than serve myself?  I can go through the motions of hospitality, but what about the grumbling in my heart?  Am I bearing with in love, or just barely tolerating? Am I loving deeply, covering up sins, or am I keeping a record and being critical and judgmental?

As all of the DTs on the church and Christian community have reaffirmed my commitment to building up the church so that God’s vision of accomplishing His salvation work in this world can happen through our unity, these passages challenge me in the day-to-day concretes of my interpersonal relationships.  These verses show me that my part in ‘being the church” isn’t so much about the specific role – whether apostle, teacher, preacher, etc. – but about whether or not I am forgiving, loving and serving my brothers and sisters.  And this is very hard work, because naturally, my way of dealing with conflicts is to try and sweep them under the rug.  If I have a hard time bearing with someone, I will just avoid that person.  And though it shames me to admit it, I will then vent to someone else about it, rather than deal with that person directly.  My natural way of being is exactly opposed to the verses on how I am to treat my brothers and sisters in the church.  To that extent, I am tearing down the unity of believers, and the church cannot function as God intended it to, as a demonstration of His love and power to forgive, restore and reconcile.

Matthew 5:23-24 shows just how seriously I need to take my relationships with others in the church.  God is not pleased with any of my religious offerings if there is stuff going on between me and another believer.  Do I take these verses seriously?  When I look at my life, it is so possible for me to go to worship service, prayer meeting, sing songs of praise and worship, pray and even engage in ministry week in and week out, all the while not being compassionate towards a friend in need, grumbling in my heart towards someone I am annoyed with, or holding a grudge rather than forgiving as I have been forgiven.  I need to repent, because I am disobeying God’s commands in this regard, and living like the unmerciful servant.

These verses convict me once again of the reality that church isn’t something spiritual that remains “upstairs” and is about religious deeds, but it is very much about how I am treating the brothers and sisters in my life every day.  What can I do to help me die to myself and love others as I have been loved?  I need to reflect on the gospel, the simple and clear gospel each and every day.  To the extent that I am regularly marveling at the fact that I have been forgiven and loved by God, I will be able to love and forgive my brothers and sisters.

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