Most know that I’m a huge golfer. I enjoy so much my time on the golf course with my buddies or son, but the golf course is not the best place to be. Typically, my family vacations somewhere around a beach. That week away at the beach has become our time and place to rest and relax. With that understood, please know this, the beach is not the best place to be. We can continue to list destinations that will never qualify as the best place to be, such as Disney World, a cruise ship or anywhere else in this world.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”(Rom.8:1). Did you get that? Paul just told us that the best place to be is in Christ Jesus. We all deserve condemnation but those in Christ will not face condemnation. That means if you’re in Christ God will not hold your sins against you. There is forgiveness for all sins for those who are in Christ. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses”(Eph.1:7). The best place to be is in Christ because if I’m in Christ, one day I’ll be in heaven.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”(Rom.6:23).
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God”(II Cor.1:3-4). At any given time, someone somewhere is hurting and in need of comfort. I think it’s safe to say that you know a friend, family member or friend of a friend who is hurting and in need of comfort at this time. We live in a fallen world full of hurting people who desperately need comfort. Maybe it’s pain from the loss of a loved or suffering from an addiction. It could be family issues or job problems. Whatever it is, we are literally surrounded all the time by hurting people who need and strongly desire comfort.
Sadly, many hurting people seek comfort in worldly things that will only bring them more hurt. From a bottle to pills and even illicit relationships, these are just a few places hurting people may turn to for comfort, only to find more pain. What this world needs to understand is that true comfort comes from the “God of all comfort”. God comforts us no matter our affliction or struggle. We have to remember God as the comforter and bypass all the worldliness and look to Him for true lasting comfort. A beautiful thing that comes as a result of God’s comfort is that we can comfort others who are hurting. When God comforts us, He then uses us to be a comforter to others.
Are you hurting? Seek comfort from God. Do you know someone who is hurting? Comfort them with the comfort you received from God. “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint”(Isa.40:30-31).
As I look back several years to my early days as a young minister, I’m forced to accept a harsh truth. That truth, that is so difficult to acknowledge and accept, is that as young minister there were times when I did more harm than good. As a rookie minister I didn’t understand that there are times when it’s best not to say anything. I believed then that whatever season in life a church member was in always called for wise words from their preacher, me. The problem with that is that my words weren’t always wise, needed or expected. I’m sure that I did more harm than good at those times. Fortunately, I’ve learned over the years that there are times when there are no adequate words.
I remember as a young preacher being so excited and fired up about preaching and teaching that I often didn’t consider how my words would affect my audience. I knew that my teaching was Biblical, so why would it matter how it was received by the audience. At least that’s what I thought back then. I’ve since learned that without an audience I will not be preaching and teaching. Have I become soft in my older years? Am my advocating watering down the truth of Scripture for the sake of pleasing the audience? You know, the itching ears scenario (II Tim.4:3).
I will tell you emphatically and plainly, NO! No, I haven’t become soft in my preaching. God has matured me and given me wisdom through many experiences over the years. No, I’m absolutely not for watering down the truth of God’s Word. Instead, I’m for preaching the truth of God’s Word in love. It matters how you say it, because if you come across as judgmental and critical you’ll lose your audience. Then what? It doesn’t matter that you are teaching the truth of God’s Word if you don’t have an audience.
We preach and teach God’s Word to move and motivate people. But, if there is no audience then how can we motivate anyone spiritually? If we turn people away from God by our words or methods of teaching the Bible, then we have done more harm than good. I encourage us all to know the Scriptures, know our audience and know how to teach the truth of God’s Word in love. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person”(Col.4:6).
“And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all”(Eph.1:22-23). “And he is the head of the body, the church”(Col.1:18). The church is the spiritual body of Christ. The church is made up of those who have been baptized into Christ. The church is the people, you and me, and all who are in Christ. The church is not about bricks and mortar, it’s not the building. The church is the saved who meet in that building to worship our Lord.
I share this to drive home this truth; the church is not something we do, it’s who we are. Society has almost conditioned us to believe that church is simply another weekend activity no different than a ball game or dance competition. Do Christians today view church as something we do, and only that, when we’re in town and nothing else is going on? Brothers and sisters, we are the church. Being the church means we are a called out and different people who are to live every day for our Lord Jesus. Having this understanding about the church should challenge us to live out our faith every day. When we see ourselves as the church, the church becomes more than a calendar item and more impactful on the lives of others.
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins”(Col.1:13-14).