Healthy, Devoted Relationships

Lord Jesus, You're our Teacher and our Pattern. It is our prayer as we're gathered around You that the seeds of Your Word about devotion to one another would clarify our hearts and our minds and our actions. Our desire is that all of Your Work be done Your Way, in peace and in love and humility, with diligence but with all the sensitivity You had. We want to follow after You in the Way that You functioned in raising up men. Please help us. We trust You that You will. You have not left us without a shepherd, but You are our Shepherd and our Teacher. We're glad that we don't have to shoulder the burden of understanding exactly how everything needs to be. Instead, we can follow the Lamb wherever He goes. We will follow You, Jesus. You'll help us. Please let Your Word increase and reign in our hearts and in our minds. Teach us how to submit to You, Your Spirit, and Your eternal, immutable Word. Amen.

Birth Pains for Each Other

Paul said to the Galatian Christians, "I'm in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you." And to the Colossians he said, "I want to fill up in my own flesh the afflictions of Christ as it relates to you, the church, His body." That's passion! He also said that he was "wrestling to present every man perfect in Christ."

That kind of commitment requires more that a dipsy-doodle life of sitting in a chair, singing choruses, and then just waiting until the next meeting is called. Shame on you if your life doesn't consist of anything more than that! You're making a serious mistake. Unfortunately, that mistake has been made for generations on all six inhabitable continents in the name of Christ. But it is unbiblical and wrong, so I want to encourage you to snap that habit! Pursue making a difference in people's lives in a real way.

Every last person who reads these words is a priest of God, if he or she is truly a believer. And that calling doesn't have to do with chiming in during a meeting every so often—that's not what a priest is. A priest, as the Bible defines the term, is a servant of God with the assignment of bringing God to man and man to God. That responsibility doesn't mean you are going to save anybody! "There is one mediator between God and man, Jesus." I don't mean that anybody can ever be Jesus for someone else. But you can do what Paul did: wrestle to present everyone perfect in Christ. Like him, you can be in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in people who are already believers. You can say with him, "I'm in the pains of childbirth until the Anointed One is formed in you—until you are brought into the image and the fullness and grace and freedom of the Son of God. I cannot leave it alone! I'm dying a thousand deaths until I see true Life in you."

Now if you picture yourself solely on the receiving end of that statement, you are making a mistake. It's not that everyone else should be in the pains of childbirth for you. If that's how you are thinking, then you are walking in the Old Covenant instead of the New. In the Old Covenant you had a core group of mediators out there someplace—a collection of prophets, priests and kings—and you basically sat around and let them serve you. But that's not the way it is in God's New Covenant, where He is building a kingdom of priests (1 Peter 2:4-10, Revelation 1:6). Active participation in that priesthood is God's intent for you.

You'll never know what it means to be free in your own life unless you devote yourself to helping other people know God better. You'll never even know what it means to abide in Christ if you don't live for that purpose. Really, if you think you have a relationship with God and you're not living to bring others closer to Him, then you are self-deceived. On the authority of the Word of God, you don't really have a relationship with Him if you don't have the heart for others that Jesus had.

As Jesus Himself put it, "If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you will bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." A life of devotion to God's work in the world around you is the fruit and the overflow of abiding in Christ. You're not truly remaining in Him if deep down inside your heart isn't stirring towards that end. You're missing the heart of God in a serious way if you don't genuinely care for others. Your prayer time isn't directed entirely to the God of the Bible! You might spend a lot of time praying, but according to Jesus, abiding in the God of the Bible will yield a clear result: having a heart for serving others and bringing them higher into His ways. That's "bearing much fruit to the Father's glory—fruit that will last."

So, to sum up: having that passionate heart, caring deeply for others, and being involved in their lives means taking risks. We dare not sit back, thinking we're to be the one on the receiving end of that kind of passion. We must thrust forward in faith and in humility—and it does take both. Trusting God and laying down our lives for other people is a rare thing, but it's inseparable from biblical Christianity.

The book of Acts says that the early Christians went everywhere "gossiping" the word of God. The Greek word for "speaking" there is literally "gossiping." Sharing God's word and His love was their heart and passion. They lived for it. So reject the idea that you can sit in your home with a scripture verse hung over your toaster and a plaque on your front door, have a great prayer time in the morning, listen to praise and worship songs all day, and show up at a meeting every now and then, and that's what Christianity is all about. Frankly, you haven't had a great prayer time if it doesn't result in a passionate heart to heal the wounds of the broken hearted and to loose the chains of those in bondage to sin. That is the heart of Jesus of Nazareth, and that is your heart if you are connected to the Head. It's automatic.

So really stretch yourself. Search deeply within to root out anything that would hinder that kind of heart. Crucify the fear and the selfishness and the lifestyle expectations and the busyness that the world and satan would want to impose on you. Reject any self-righteousness or laziness that would stand in the way. Get rid of all the excuses. Begin by "'fessing up." Then get rid of all the excuses in your life that would keep you from really being about the Father's business.

Jesus actually lives inside of you if you are really born from above, and His heart is consumed by zeal for the Father's house. It's a consuming fire—not a religious, glassy-eyed stare into the heavens every morning followed by a few pious statements at a meeting, offering some platitude or trite religious wisdom. Instead, lay down your life and make a difference, even in unglamorous ways. That's just basic Christianity.

We really have to be about our Father's business, for real, in our own lives, personally—not just as part of some group. We're not talking about a group; we're talking about your personal life. Don't hide behind "I'm a mother" or "I'm this" or "I'm that, and so it won't work for me." All those excuses have been tried. But in the end, it is only the Jesus who lives inside of you being released that threatens satan to no end. Let me encourage you to be that kind of person, by God's grace. With a heart that is open to Him, to let go of everything that stands in your way.

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