The unity we experience as believers should be prevalent and obvious to those around us. Ephesians 4:4-6 Paul says, 4 There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. In reality, many times we experience anything but unity. We focus on majoring in the minors and fail to look at the big picture. If we cannot see the “big picture” message of Christ, which is to love God and love others, then we fail our mission from Him. We need to focus on the things that bind us and not on the things that divide.
People who have influence over our lives matter. On rare occasion there are minor acquaintances who have minimal influence, but anyone who has access to us can be influential in how we live our lives and whether we live for God or for our selfish desires. In Psalm 101:6 David says, My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he whose walk is blameless will minister with me. Friends and associates who have influence in our lives should be faithful to God and should help us grow closer to Him.
Three times the writer repeats his call to God in Psalm 80:3,7,19, Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved. Restoration into relationship with God is a continuous process. While grace was granted to us all through Christ, fellowship with Him requires effort to building a strong relationship with God. To many people salvation only serves the purpose of eternal life, but God’s ultimate purpose of Christ’s sacrifice for our salvation was to give us a way to a personal relationship with Him. If we miss this, we are missing out on a life of purpose.
In today’s reading we are in the short book of Philemon. This book is a letter Paul wrote while in prison to Philemon, who was probably a wealthy member of the Colossian church. The purpose of the letter was to try to convince Philemon to forgive his runaway slave Onesimus. While Paul does not condemn slavery, which was very common in the Roman empire, he does make a radical statement in the beginning of Philemon 1:16 no longer a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. Paul calls Onesimus Philemon’s dear brother. This is important to all of us. No matter who we are or where we stand in society, as believers we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.
I had many thoughts as I read 1 Corinthians 12:27 this morning, Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. First, none of us is more important to the body and community of believers than the other. Even the pastor in your church does not have more importance than you or anyone else. Second, when one part of the body hurts, so does the rest of the body. The body rejoices and hurts as a whole. It is for this reason it is important to work as one unit and lift each other up. There is no room for gossip and petty arguments because it is being done to itself. It’s like having the right hand beat up the left had. In the end, the body is still hurt.
One of the most important ways to stay strong in our journey as believers is through community. When Paul was in Corinth, the Lord reminded him of this in Acts 18:9-10, 9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in the city.” This is a great reminder to us of the importance of community and relationship with others as we live our lives as believers. We are there to pray and encourage one another and to remind each other that God is with us through it all. If you are not part of a community group through your church or on your own, let me encourage you to find one. There is nothing more valuable than walking with other like minded and loving people.
The picture of God’s love for us and how happy he is when we come to Him is painted beautifully in Matthew 18:12-14, 12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hill and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost. God does not want to see anyone lost. His desire is to have all of us to have a personal relationship with Him. God is constantly looking for each person and He is happiest when they finally come to Him.
Psalm 84:10, Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. We have all heard these lyrics written by Matt Redman sung a hundred times by other Christian artists and in worship at our churches. This verse reminds us that being in God’s presence is more important than anything we could ever want or imagine. Let us all invest our time and energy in the things that matter instead of the things that leave us empty and longing for more.
We are becoming a society where we are more “social” online, yet we are becoming less social in reality. The following video is a poem depicted in a love story showing how we continue to find ways to make it easier to connect with one another through technology, but always results in us spending more time alone and ultimately risking the potential to miss out in the life we are intended to have. God intended for us to be social and supportive in community. You can’t do that through your smart phone as much as we may try.
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Today we read the relatively short book Philemon. This book is actually a letter written by Paul to Philemon who was probably a wealthy leader of the Colossian church. The purpose of the letter was to try and convince Philemon to accept and forgive his runaway slave, Onesimus, and to hopefully accept him as a brother in Christ. While Paul does not condemn slavery in any of his writings, he does make a bold statement when when he calls Odesimus Philemon’s brother in Christ. No matter what our status in life, whether financial or social, we are all equals in the body of Christ. More importantly, as a body of believers we must be intentional in our acceptance of all people no matter where they are in comparison to us individually.