A Unifying Christ
by Katherine Britton, crosswalk.com
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God – Romans 15:6,7
A couple years ago, I spent two weeks with missionary friends in France. Over the course of those days, I learned a bit about buying baguettes, European clothing sales and measurements, and where to watch for pickpockets. I picked up a couple helpful phrases, (often falling back on the always-applicable “pardon” and “bonjour”), took the RER train system, and frequented the French version of Walmart (it’s called Auchan). I got used to hearing a language that made little sense to me in the streets. But two weeks did not instill a sense of belonging. I loved the experience, but the language barrier was too great to tempt me into staying.
The most nerve-wracking moments – for us unilingual Americans – came the day our hosts had other commitments. We were left to attempt a trip into Paris on our own, without our erstwhile friend/guide/translator. In reality, the abundance of English-speaking Frenchmen should have made us easy, but we still felt painfully and distinctly not French. It was intimidating to jump on the RER with its quiet passengers, who knew the route better than we did and would immediately identify us if we opened our mouths. We stuck with “pardon” for the train ride, though we later chickened out and ask the restaurant’s waiter if he spoke English. He said, “Yeah, sure.”
Perhaps the most rewarding evening of the trip was a birthday celebration at our hosts’ home, when several of their French friends came for dinner. The language barrier still existed, but its unease lifted during that evening. We all made linguistic blunders – some of which were funnier than others. But for all of us, we were united in our mutual friendship of the hosts, and our implicit trust that, well, if he’s friends with them, they must be wonderful people. The unspoken bond carried even further in some cases, when we knew we shared a common faith as well as friend.
Our Parisian adventure eventually ended back in Dulles International airport—not the most exciting or warm place in the U.S. But did we ever fell at home! We felt so welcomed and at home. Everything was written in our own language! We could understand the passing comments of strangers! We could joke in line at Starbucks! We could speak without translating in our heads! We could revel in our Americanness because we were home. Our language unified us with total strangers after the immersion of two weeks in France.
Being back in our home culture with our native language made me feel like old friends with total strangers, who probably gave me an odd look at the time. But the unity of our common understanding was wildly apparent to me, and I couldn’t help feeling joyful at the strangeness of hearing my own language again.
Compare this to the miracle of Pentecost, when a chaotic world market suddenly burst with understanding. Those standing the cosmopolitan heard a unifying call where they least expected it. They said,
“How is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs–we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (Acts 2:8-11)
After Peter’s presentation of the Gospel, three thousand people were convinced of the truth of Christ and believed in Jesus. How does something like that happen?
Through The Bible Devotions
Genesis 25:23 (NIV) 23The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”
The unnamed servant of Abraham went to Haran and sought out a wife for Isaac. If we follow the analogy of Isaac being a foreshadow of Christ, then this servant is like the Holy Spirit seeking the bride of Christ. He found Rebecca and took her from her father’s house without delay. When Rebecca was joined with her husband, she found a war within her. Is that not true of us, the bride of Christ. The flesh is warring against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh (Galatians 5:17).
The custom of that day was for the firstborn to receive twice as much as any other heir along with the responsibility and authority of the father. That has carried down to this day in many Eastern countries, but God reversed the order with Abraham’s sons and Isaac’s sons, and others. The picture is that the firstborn, the flesh, must serve the second born, the spirit. There must be a separation as God predicted to Rebecca. We have to set the flesh aside, crucify it with Christ, and refuse to serve it. Even more than that, we must master it.
Which one is the stronger? If we look physically, by sight, we would say Esau. Notice the prophecy says ‘one people will be stronger’. If we look at the people descended from them, the Jewish people have been stronger spiritually and in persistence. These two are at war, even as I write, through the nations they have become. There is a war within you, Christian brother or sister. You must set the flesh aside. The Spirit is stronger. Don’t for a moment believe the flesh is. The older will serve the younger. See that it is so by yielding to the life of Jesus in you every day.
Meditation: “For sin shall not be your master.” Romans 6:14a (NIV)
The fainting warrior
By: Charles Spurgeon
Suggested Further Reading: Galatians 2:1-13
It is Paul the apostle, who was not less than the very greatest of the apostles—it is Paul, the mighty servant of God, a very prince in Israel, one of the King’s mighty men—it is Paul, the saint and the apostle, who here exclaims, “O wretched man that I am!” Now, humble Christians are often the dupes of a very foolish error. They look up to certain advanced saints and able ministers, and they say, “Surely, such men as these do not suffer as I do; they do not contend with the same evil passions as those which vex and trouble me.” Ah! if they knew the hearts of those men, if they could read their inward conflicts, they would soon discover that the nearer a man lives to God, the more intensely has he to mourn over his own evil heart, and the more his Master honours him in his service, the more also does the evil of the flesh vex and tease him day by day. Perhaps, this error is more natural, as it is certainly more common, with regard to apostolic saints. We have been in the habit of saying, Saint Paul, and Saint John, as if they were more saints than any other of the children of God. They are all saints whom God has called by his grace, and sanctified by his Spirit; but somehow we very foolishly put the apostles and the early saints into another list, and do not venture to look on them as common mortals. We look upon them as some extraordinary beings, who could not be men of like passions with ourselves. We are told in Scripture that our Saviour was “tempted in all points like as we are;” and yet we fall into the serious error of imagining that the apostles, who were far inferior to the Lord Jesus, escaped these temptations, and were ignorant of these conflicts.
For meditation: Are there Christians—missionaries perhaps—to whom you look up in the wrong way? These deserve your respect, but they need your prayers, not your pedestals. They surely feel their own weakness and very probably look up to their own Christian heroes! The apostles knew their own and one another’s weaknesses and pointed away from themselves to their God (Acts 14:15).
Be a Comforter
“Miserable comforters are you all! … I also could speak as you do, if your soul were in my soul’s place … but I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the comfort of my lips would relieve your grief.” – Job 16:2-5
To Job’s friends, the source of his problems seemed clear. Having listened and observed, they were critical, identifying mistakes and recommending changes. Job understood their point of view but was frustrated. They missed the point. Having endured great difficulties, he urgently needed to be encouraged and comforted. Instead, he felt attacked.
Job’s plight should make us conscious of a common problem. Most of us have opinions about world events and how others react. It can be easy to criticize and judge. We observe mistakes we think others are making and develop ideas about how they should change and react instead.
But the Bible warns us against being dominated by a critical spirit. We need to remember Jesus’ words that we should be careful before being judgmental. We will be judged based on the standard we use to judge others (Matthew 7:1-2).
One of the primary roles of each believer is to provide comfort. In fact, Jesus promised that He would send the Spirit to be our Helper, our Comforter (John 14:16). We need to remember that, like Job, people need comfort and encouragement. And we need to be led by the Spirit and on guard against being critical.
Ask God to give you a spirit of discernment and compassion. Be sensitive to the needs of the people around you. Be ready to be an instrument of His Spirit and encourage others.