As this is a new year for all of us in service for the Lord, we should make a responsible, ongoing assessment as to who we are and what we are as a church. Our aim is to always seek the will of God and to reach out to those who visit our church. In our effort to make visitors welcome with our greetings and our hospitality, we must consciously make sure that they are all treated equally, without regard to their stature or circumstances, just as Christ did the same for those He encountered. Keeping in mind that we need to make those persons who visit our church as welcome and as comfortable as possible, we are to love those who would be deemed unlovable by the world’s standards. To love someone has a cost. You invariably have to give up something in order to love someone. It is hardly a sacrifice to love someone who already loves you. “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48).”
To love someone (with an agape love) is to do so with the understanding that Jesus Christ wants that individual to know the Lord as his or her Savior. While the recipient of the overtures of a church, a pastor and its members may make one wary or suspicious of such treatment, our hearts are to express love not for the unbeliever, but love and concern for the unbeliever’s soul. After all, it is the person’s eternity that is at stake. “Above all, keep your love for one another at full strength, since love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).” We are not to be concerned with a worldly response where the person you are trying to love uses you or even tries to take advantage of you, for God will certainly replenish what you have as you trust in Him and continue to operate in His will. Think of how Jesus Christ loves us unconditionally, and has met us time and again where we were…in our sin, our our own failures and in our moments of despair. We are to remember how to love others in the same way that Jesus Christ loves us (John 5:12, 15:9-14). True agape love means setting aside our own judgments and moving in the Spirit as Christ would have us to do.
In doing this, we, as a church, should have a desire for the Lord that continually challenges us to grow in our understanding of Him. “As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:1-2)” There needs to be a strong desire for God and His wisdom in our lives. When you have a passion for God, He will have a passion for you. God wants us, in our trust of Him and in our obedience, to see the fruits of our desire for Him. A fulfilling relationship with Jesus Christ is the result of your dedication to Him. He will gladly meet all of our needs according to His riches (Ephesians 2:7). God also wants us to grow in Him and live for Him. This occurs when we allow His Word to teach us and provide instruction and direction. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)” God wants to shower you with His favor, His wisdom, and His knowledge. We will always continue to learn more about God in our lifetime and throughout eternity. Our prayer is that you will use this new year as an opportunity to grow in Christ. “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8).” The more knowledge of God that you acquire, the more that God can use you in service for Him. You become more valuable to God as you learn more about Him. In order to do this, we need to move away from those things that can distract us from maintaining a close relationship with God (1 Corinthians 13:11).
Our ultimate goal, as a church, is to give Christ the priority in our lives. “He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything (Colossians 1:17-18).” (See also Revelation 22:13; John 3:31; Job 42:1-5.) This means that, in trusting God in everything, it means turning over everything to Him, including our finances. If Jesus is first in our lives, He is more than able to provide for us. He wants us to place our service to Him and for Him as a priority. The more we, as individuals and as a church, learn about the Lord through our Savior, Jesus Christ, the more we can flourish in our service for Him because we know that He has a plan for us in His will and in His purpose. Take the time to listen to Him through His Word, and allow Him to speak to you. You will see the hand of God moving in your life.