The apostle Paul has always fascinated me. I’m sure I don’t stand alone in that and I’m not the only one who finds his ministry incredible and intriguing. Maybe it’s because Paul is loud… I’m loud.
Or maybe it’s because Paul was once a vicious rebel completely against anything good that would intentionally bring God glory; and that Jesus literally invaded his life and saved him. That happened to me once as well.
Or maybe it’s Paul’s brutal honesty and intentionality; I gotta say, I love that.
Paul planted a bunch of churches. Paul went into cities where he had once slaughtered Christians and he planted churches. It’s funny, Paul actually did what God wanted him to do, and Paul actually obeyed the Father… radically.
Not only did Paul plant churches, Paul was continually involved in the growth and building up of those churches and people. Paul once wrote to one of his churches that many of them had probably heard him. That they had probably heard of that murderer who was radical in Judaism and how everything he was and and everything he was about was Judaism.
He’s writing this to a church who now sees his heart changed and now sees him radical for the cause of Christ, and they want some of that.
Paul committed himself heavily to the equipping of the saints. He committed all that he had in visiting churches and writing to them to get their butts back in line with what the Gospel was doing: with or without them.
What if that’s what our lives were like today? And I guess I’m really just asking that to pastors and those who have been saved. Saints, what if we committed ourselves truly to the Body of Christ rather than be exclusive to our own “Baptist” circles. And our goal in the Body of Christ was to see the other members grow rather than have our own preferences met?
In one of Paul’s greatest and most popular letters, he unapologetically wrote:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
And that was their need: growth and discipleship.
“The goal is disciples, not converts.” -Matt Chandler
What is it that we find so hard about that? He says, “here is who I am talking to, here is what you are supposed to do, and here is why.” So what is the purpose of the church? To “build up the Body of Christ.”
So maybe that is what I like so much about Paul. Maybe I like the fact that He can say something in one letter, and in all of his others, we see him actively engaged in doing just that. You can go to 1 Corinthians; and what is his point there? To walk up in there and pretty much tear into the rear ends of some people who remained evil in their hearts. Or go to Galatians, in that letter he says, “you fools, why are you forsaking this Gospel? There is no other but Christ!” In that letter, he doesn’t just stop at tearing into them, he follows up his truth with more truth, in a more loving way, by telling them in chapter 3 that Christ became what we could never become. Christ has set you free.
But we all must see his intent in this. Paul had no other intent than God’s Glory. His method? To build the churches up, get the wolves out, and see Christians who would become zealous for Christ. He wanted to see these people just use some common sense. He loved them.
I’m not sure how I feel about this “Love is a Movement” thing. Movements have as strong of a mortality rate as humans. They die. It’s pretty popular to say “only love” or “all we got to do is love them to Jesus.” First of all, our love can do nothing to revive a dead heart(Eph 2:1). Only by the power of the Holy Spirit can a heart be drawn to Himself. Loving God and others is the greatest of all the commandments, God knows my heart and knows I am not speaking against that proclamation. But we must see one of Paul’s greatest tactics in loving people: telling them the truth! You can’t say you have love yet allow a person to continue in their sin. Even deeper, we must see a way of love Christ had for others, who was the perfect example. Jesus looked at his disciples in the boat and said,”where is your faith at?” Shut up and be still! We must realize that a “movement” was not what Christ came to accomplish.
Here’s what Jesus did. Jesus said, “alright, most of you know it is good to keep the law. So don’t kill each other. Ok y’all are still good… But wait, here’s what I would say to you: any of you who hate your brother, your guilty of murder.” Or here’s one, “so you Pharisees have kept the law great in not sleeping with your friends wife or sleeping with someone who is not your wife.. Y’all are lookin’ clean. But wait, any of you who look at woman and are adulterous in your heart, you are guilty of adultery.”
Jesus came and did something the OT hadn’t seen yet. He came and pursued and demanded our Hearts.. The Father isn’t about our movements. He’s not about our unworthy gifts to him. Movements aren’t Biblical; way of life and Holiness is. He is after our hearts. So this unworthy sacrifice of us giving love to each other is not what Jesus wants from us. He doesn’t want our hands full of our “sweated over” and unworthy love. He wants our entire being, our entire hearts.
It ironically seems that love is in high demand when someone has offended us or done something to us and we either demand love from them; or in attempts to be the “bigger” person, we say, well Jesus says love, so I’ll love… Without there being any genuine love in our hearts for them.
So it is our hearts that Christ demands…and love is what’s expected from the overflow.
And here is Paul’s method of love and encouragement to his churches: loving them deeply by telling them truth they needed to hear- even when it hurt.
Jesus wrecked into Saul’s life and got up in his business. He blinded him, changed his name, and more importantly, changed his heart. That was a painful process. Paul’s sanctification was a painful process. As we recall, he spent a lot of time in prison. Yet, he chose to praise the Father.