The Immeasurable Love of ChristFriday, October 28, 2022
The Immeasurable Love of Christ
Paul finished his masterful dissertation on the church of the Christ, and he began to close the “doctrinal” section of his letter to the Ephesians before beginning the “practical section.” In this transition, he penned a prayer on behalf of his brethren, in which he made at least five distinct requests. The fourth desire in his list is that God “would grant” them to “be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge” (Eph. 3:14-19). Ponder, for a moment, the love of Christ. There is no greater subject on which to meditate! How much can you stretch your mind around it?
The width of Christ’s love. Perhaps this is to draw our minds to the truth that the love of Christ embraces all people, regardless of race, culture, social status, economic status, education, etc. When Jesus died on the cross, He literally stretched His arms as wide as they would go to demonstrate the all-encompassing love He has for mankind (Rom. 5:8; Heb. 2:9; 2 Cor. 5:15). No one is excluded!
The length of Christ’s love. Perhaps this is to draw our minds to the truth that the love of Christ “never fails” (1 Cor. 13:8). From eternity past (before the foundation of the world, 1 Pet. 1:19-21) into eternity future (if we can use such terminology), His love for you always has been, currently is and always will be! How far has He gone to prove His love?
The depth of Christ’s love. Perhaps this is to draw our minds to the truth that the love of Christ compelled Him to leave the splendor and glory of heaven (John 17:5) to come down into the depths of the earth (Phil. 2:5-8), in order to reach down and save the vilest of sinners (1 Tim. 1:12-15; 1 Cor. 6:9-11). Even though we were “dead in trespasses and sins,” “His great love with which He loved us” (Eph. 2:1-4) drove Him to incomprehensible depths!
The height of Christ’s love. Perhaps this is to draw our minds to the truth that the love of Christ raises one up from the waters of baptism and honors him to wear the name that is above every name—the name of Christ (1 Pet. 4:16), and makes him to “sit in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6)—i.e., the church (Eph. 3:21). Even more, He has “reserved” (1 Pet. 1:3-5) an eternal home “in heaven above” (cf. Deut. 4:39).
After talking about “the width and length and depth and height” of the love of Christ, Paul then says that it “surpasses knowledge” (i.e., it extraordinarily exceeds any scale on which we could place it)! That is why I wrote with each expression, “Perhaps this is to draw our minds.” The reality is that we will never be able to measure and fully comprehend the immensity of the love of Christ! What a thought!
Showing Up Isn’t SufficientSaturday, October 22, 2022
Showing Up Isn’t Sufficient
For the last several weeks we have been discussing some things that we have learned or can learn about worship from the gym. I hope that in the short time that we have been engaged in this study that we all are in better shape spiritually. In this lesson, we will see that showing up at the gym or worship services by itself is a good start, but it is not sufficient.
There are folks at the gym who are working out. Imagine that! They get it. However, there are others who are just hanging out. They are sitting on a piece of exercise equipment looking around or texting. “Well, at least, they are there” some might say. True. Others might add, “Well, at least they aren’t at the movies with a bucket of buttered popcorn.” True. However, I believe that you will agree that being at the gym and sitting on a piece of exercise equipment will do little for a person, unless they work out while they are sitting there. All the activity in the world around them won’t burn any calories or build any muscle for them. They are just fooling themselves and others if they believe that their presence alone will profit them.
I wonder how many people do the same thing when it comes to worship. They come to the church building faithfully. They are there in body, but not in mind. They are seated on a pew, but they are not worshipping. Like those we talked about at the gym, they are just hanging out. “Well,” you say, “at least, they are at worship.” True. They are at the right place and assembled with the right people (Heb. 10:25). Others say, “Well, at least, they are not at the movies or at the gym or on the golf course or still in the bed.” Very true. However, I think that you will agree that worship will not benefit them if they are not engaged in it (Mat. 15:7-10). As you likely know, worship is a verb. It involves action. Those who sit on a pew at church for an hour without worshipping are the spiritual equivalent of those who sit on a piece of gym equipment for an hour without working out. Just as others can’t work out for you, others can’t worship for you. You have to sing, give, commemorate, study, and pray in order for worship to profit you (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1-2). If you think that by showing up that you have done enough, then you are deceiving yourself. Others might also be deceived, but not God (John 4:23-24).
As we get ready to worship this week, we must do more than show up and sit down. We must worship. We must be an active participant and not a passive spectator.
Don’t Forget To StretchSaturday, October 15, 2022
Don’t Forget To Stretch
For the last several weeks we have been discussing some things that we have learned or can learn about worship from the gym. In this lesson, we will consider the importance of stretching.
Some people come into the gym and immediately begin working out. Others take some time to stretch before beginning. Science is behind stretching. Stretching slowly wakes up and warms up your muscles for the work that they are about to do. Stretching can improve performance, increase your range of motion, prevent injury, and reduce soreness. Even if you are crunched for time, raring to go, or ready to get the workout over, it is wise to take time to stretch. It pays benefits before, after, and during the workout.
Just like the gym, many just enter right into worship. They don’t do any pre-worship stretching. Of course, I am not talking about physical stretching. Although, that would probably be a good idea. It might help to keep folks awake for the sermon. I am talking about spiritual stretching. I am talking about doing little things before our worship that might improve our worship. For example, taking time to pray before worship. I know that we are going to pray during worship, but I am talking about praying in preparation for worship. Prayer helps to get our hearts and minds ready for worship. In the long ago, David prayed, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer (Psa. 19:14). Prayer frees us up from the cares of the world (1 Pet. 5:7) and allows us to focus on the Caregiver. It frees us from hatred and grudges and unauthorized anger (Mat. 5:22-24, 44; 6:12, 14-15). It frees us from self and from sin (Lk. 18:9-14). James wrote, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (Jam. 4:8). Another thing that we can do in preparation for worship is to read God’s word and to meditate upon it. John wrote, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Re. 1:3). To Timothy, Paul wrote, “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all” (1 Timothy 4:13-15). Reading and thinking about God’s word will help us to draw near to God in reverence. David wrote, “For who in the heavens can be compared to the LORD? Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to the LORD? God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, And to be held in reverence by all those around Him” (Psa. 89:6-7). A final thing that we can do to prepare for worship is to count our blessings. David wrote, “Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, The God of our salvation! Selah” (Psa. 68:19; Cf. 139:17-18). Counting our blessings will help to prepare us to praise God. Again, David wrote, “Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalms 103:1-5).
As we get ready to worship this week, let’s not forget to stretch. Stretching will help us to give more in our worship and to get more out of it.
The Importance of Becoming a MemberFriday, October 07, 2022
The Importance of Becoming a Member
For the last several weeks we have been discussing some things that we have learned or can learn about worship from the gym. I am convinced that in just a short time, we will all be in better shape spiritually. In the first lesson, we noticed that we usually feel better after we go to the gym/worship. In the second lesson, we noticed that going to the gym/worship helps us to make better choices. In the third lesson, we noticed that going to the gym/worship needs to be about growth and not about comparison. In the fourth lesson, we noticed that the gym/worship meets a number of needs. In the fifth lesson, we noticed the need to avoid clanging. In the sixth lesson, we saw that two are better than one. In the seventh lesson, we saw that there are a number of tests that will show whether or not the gym/worship are working. In the eighth lesson, we saw the importance of not skipping any part of working out or worship. In this lesson, we will focus on the importance of membership.
One of the first things that people think of when they think of the gym is membership. Although a gym might let a person visit a time or two to decide if they want to be a member, they will not let them do so indefinitely. For one thing, the gym would not survive very long without requiring membership. Gyms need members who attend regularly and contribute financially. An empty parking lot would not entice or produce new members. Empty coffers would not keep the doors open or the lights on. For another thing, it would not be fair to require membership of one person, but not of another. Next, it would discourage commitment. People who are not invested tend to drift and disappear. There is nothing to anchor or keep them attending. Finally, gym membership is about authority and accountability. When a person becomes a member, they agree to submit to the rules of the gym.
When we think of the church, we also think of membership. As you know, the church is described as a body that is made up of many members (Eph. 1:22-23; Rom. 12:4-5). Sadly, many today want all the privileges of membership without any of the responsibilities. They want to float in and out as the mood strikes them and throw a few dollars into the plate. The local congregation can’t count on their attendance (Heb. 10:25) or their contribution (1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 9:7). They are not invested in the local congregation and feel no duty to it. This concept is foreign to the New Testament. God wants each congregation to have elders that oversee it (Tit. 1:5) and He wants each Christian to submit to those elders and to obey them (Heb. 13:17). Certain Christians were connected with certain congregations in New Testament times (Rom. 16:3-5; 1 Cor. 16:15; Col. 4:15; Phile. 1:1-2). If you are floating between churches, it is time for you to place membership. It is time for you to settle down for worship and work. It is time for you to let the elders and members know that they can count on you.
As we get ready to worship this week let’s focus on the blessings and the responsibilities of membership. People need to know that they can count on us.
Don’t Skip Leg DaySaturday, October 01, 2022
Don’t Skip Leg Day
For the last several weeks we have been discussing some things that we have learned or can learn about worship from the gym. I am convinced that in just a short time, we will all be in better shape spiritually. In the first lesson, we noticed that we usually feel better after we go to the gym/worship. In the second lesson, we noticed that going to the gym/worship helps us to make better choices. In the third lesson, we noticed that going to the gym/worship needs to be about growth and not about comparison. In the fourth lesson, we noticed that the gym/worship meets a number of needs. In the fifth lesson, we noticed the need to avoid clanging. In the sixth lesson, we saw that two are better than one. In the seventh lesson, we saw that there are a number of tests that will show whether or not the gym/worship are working. In this lesson, we will see the importance of not skipping any part of working out or worship.
People who work out often joke, “Don’t skip leg day.” Of course, the reason that this is funny is because we have all seen guys at the gym with huge chests and bulging arms walking around on tiny legs. They look comical; though, you might not want to say that too loud. Although, if necessary, you could probably outrun them and/or out climb them. After all, they have tiny, underdeveloped legs. Plus, they are top heavy and would probably topple over chasing you. They have put all of their time and attention into one area of their bodies to the neglect of others. They have skipped multiple leg days and it shows.
When it comes to worship, many people do the same thing. They focus on one area to the neglect of others. For example, some focus on the Lord’s Supper. Granted, the Lord’s Supper is extremely important. It is the reason why we come together on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). It is when we remember the death that Jesus died for us (1 Cor. 11:23-26). Yet, some emphasize it above all other acts of worship. In fact, I have known those who stayed in worship only until they had observed this act. Then, they left. In their minds they had done the most important thing. Spiritually speaking, they skipped leg day. I have known others, that didn’t sing or give. They watched others do these things, but they don’t join in (1 Cor. 16:1-2; Eph. 5:19). Spiritually speaking, they skipped leg day. Others bow their heads for prayer, but just listen to the man leading (Acts 2:42). They are not praying with him. The are not mentally adding in the names of the sick that they know or giving thanks for the blessings that they have received. They are skipping leg day. Finally, some are not engaged in the study of God’s word. They are not turning to passages to read along or to check to see if what the preacher is saying is correct (Acts 17:11). They are not taking notes to focus their attention or to retain the study for future reference. They are skipping leg day.
As we get ready to worship this week, let’s focus on each of the acts of worship. Let’s not skip any of them or merely go through the motions in any of them. Let’s give each of them the attention that they deserve.