I love encouragers in the faith, and our Pastor is one such man. He can expound the truth of the gospel and leave you both convicted, yet encouraged. He has just the right amount of salt and sugar in his delivery. Yesterday’s sermon from the book of Philemon stuck to my soul like glue and I thought I’d share some of my thoughts from his message in hopes of encouraging you.
Yet for love’s sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ. I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:
Onesimus was a servant of Philemon who had, for whatever reason, wronged Philemon and packed his panties and hit the road. I know that analogy is wrong on so many levels, but he left Philemon without so much as a “fare thee well” and Philemon was still upset. From the opening address of Paul’s letter to Philemon we know that he is a respected man of God, a fellowlabourer as Paul calls him, not a slacker by any means. He’s not a disgruntled church worker, Philemon’s a servant in good standing in the house of the Lord, albeit he’s still human. Hmmm… can it possibly be that good servants still have bad days? Follow me around for more than 15 minutes and you’ll find out.
Paul’s letter is packed full of so much wisdom for the leaders and the lead that an entire gospel conference could be held in its honor. It’s truth!
The nature of the beast of a congregation of believers is an argument waiting to happen on every given day that we’re together because we all come with an opinion and it usually differs. Were it not for the almighty grace of God and the realization that none of us are worthy it wouldn’t work. There has to be a level of humility in the church for it function as God intended, it has to be done for “love’s sake”.
I love the congregation of Victory Baptist Church. It’s been a family to me for 19 years. I have not always agreed with everyone in the congregation, but I love them. I’ve upset people, but they loved me in spite of it. We’ve had people who have left our congregation much like Onesimus, without so much as a fare thee well, and I was hurt. They didn’t leave on good terms with the congregation of the Lord and even though I’m a “good fellowlabourer” in Christ, I was upset. Not that they left… but the way they left. God calls people to other congregations, to other places of service; but He never calls anyone out of church. Why would He? He died for the church.
There are some evangelists that I love listening to. They stir my soul and encourage me in the faith, but they’re not my Pastor. This isn’t a message to puff up my own Pastor, this is a message that God laid on my heart this morning to encourage you to be faithful to your own church, lest Paul needs to write you a letter. It’s my letter both to the Philemon and Onesimus of any given congregation, likely every congregation.
When I left the home church on February 18th 1996, that I was raised in, I was an Onesimus. I wasn’t saved and God needed me in another location to get me saved, a place where my tender heart would accept the gospel and a place where I would be discipled. That was Victory Baptist Church. I didn’t leave like I should have, but I really didn’t know I was leaving. I thought I was “visiting” another church. Who knew I’d visit for almost 20 years! Since that time much has happened in my life spiritually, I’ve grown in the grace of Christ and I think that my fellowlabourers in that congregation have forgiven me. My point of that story is… I wasn’t saved when I left.
When unsaved people leave our churches, our hearts should be broken, but not angry. And we should take a long look at ourselves first and see if we could have done more, or something else within the guidelines of scripture so that they would stay. But when a saved person leaves the congregation of the Lord, and not for the purpose of another ministry that is when I need a stern talking to from the Lord. Because I’m upset. And I didn’t realize that I was that upset until my God filled Pastor preached to my heart yesterday. So what’s the solution? I can’t make the people return, but I can stop being upset. Paul was a literal prisoner in jail because of his service for Christ but I’ve been somewhat of a prisoner in my own thoughts by not releasing those emotions.
Paul said that for love’s sake he was reaching out to Philemon to try and restore his relationship with Onesimus. For love’s sake I needed my relationship restored; even though it’s only restored on one side.
What an awesome lesson for me today… perhaps you too. If I’ve been an encourager in your faith please share this message…. For love’s sake. And if God lays it on your heart to encourage me with a comment, please do!
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