A growing church

2 Thessalonians 1:3-12

Whatever God is going to do with those who don’t believe is God’s doing. You and I can’t determine what that is, what it looks like or who, exactly, should be expecting it. 

What we can do is reflect on what we can do.

And that is to trust God’s work in our hearts. To, like Jesus did, turn our attention to the way of the cross. When our eyes our fully on Jesus, it’s then the things of earth grow strangely dim. As they do, the light of Christ shines more within us.

To be sure, that is all God’s work. You may pray. You might get yourself to church on Sundays. You are the one who cracks open a Bible or an app. Yes, that is something you do; keep it up, by the way. But how our hearts change in worship and through prayer and meditating on scripture is God’s doing. 

The more we open ourselves to that reality, the more our church grows into what God desires it to be. For too long, we’ve asked programs and gimmicks to do what they could not do. We thought they would make us relevant and attractive. On a superficial level, they did. But it was always superficial and never lasted. We also put pressures on ourselves that God never intended.

So, what does last? How can we expect our churches to grow? What are we even growing into? One word: Love.

Listen again to some of the opening of 2 Thessalonians. We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing (2 Thessalonians 1:3). 

If our church isn’t growing in love, we aren’t growing at all. And we aren’t being God’s church. When Jesus said the entirety of God’s commands rests on loving God and loving neighbor, he meant it. 

Love doesn’t need to be relevant. Who doesn’t want to be loved? Now, love can be creative, and it must be genuine. When it is, people notice. It’s the evidence of just how good God is.

Stay blessed…john

A challenge, not a burden

1 John 5:1-5

Jesus said, “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). That has been an encouraging invitation for many weary souls. And for good reason! It removes the burden of having to prove yourself worthy of salvation and love. You aren’t and you don’t have to be. Jesus has done and is everything needed for you.

In turn, you can now love freely and wholly. Love God and love others with all your being.

To be sure, to love that way requires faith and obedience. First, faith in who Jesus is. That will also strengthen your faith in who God has called you to be. I can’t help but think of Jesus on the shore after his resurrection. When he asked Peter three times about his love, it feels like it was an assurance Jesus had in who Peter would soon prove to be. Obedience is also an important response. Obedience to God’s way. Love is something you feel, but it is also an action you take for someone else. Scripture shows us how tightly wound love for others is with love for God. 

Now, let me assure you, as you learn to love God and others with everything you have, you will be challenged. You’ll be challenged to consider who you love and why you love them. The boundaries of your love are fair game as well. Your pride and selfishness will not go uncontested along the way either.

The faith God gives us conquers the world (1 John 5:4). Again, you don’t have to conquer anything yourself. It is finished. That also means we don’t have to submit to the powers that be because Christ has overcome. Of course, when we find that we fall in line with those powers, that part of our life is overcome as well. Our fancy theological word for such a transformation is sanctification. We’re being made more holy, sanctified, as our faith perseveres.

Yes, that can be a hard process. But it isn’t a burden. That’s what 1 John 5 reminds us. Following God is not a burdensome chore to accomplish or achieve. It is a freeing grace. A conquering gift. An assurance of God’s love for us. 

Stay blessed…john