Go Deeper with Andy B, as he looks at 2 Corinthians 13:11, which explains that we need to grow up as Christians in maturity, love, peace, and in unity with other Believers.
So GoDeeper, with Andy B today, and we're looking at Finally, dear brothers and sisters. Which is straight out of Scripture. As we're coming to the end of this particular season of Endurance, we were thinking how can we encourage, and edify in the best way that we think we can. And this is what we came up with. Let me read this out. So this is 2 Corinthians and it's chapter 13 verse 11.
"Finally brothers rejoice. Aim for restoration. comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you".
Now that's the ESV version. Let me just read out of my good old faithful NIV, because it word is slightly different. It's quite interesting. So this is the same thing to Corinthians chapter 13, verse 11, but this is the NIV.
"Finally brothers, goodbye. Aim for perfect aim for perfection. Listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you."
And I think, as we consider the last, it feels like decades of COVID lockdown, and some countries are still enforcing almost a totalitarian approach to lockdown. 'And you will do what we say'. And we've got societies fracturing and breaking because there is no peace, generally through society.
When you're in a nation, and there are many around the world where use of an unreasonable force by police, or the military, to force you to do what the government says, well, that's a dictatorship! And what's really tragic is we're seeing countries that state 'we are a democracy' acting in the worst of non-democratic ways. What's that got to do with living in peace and 2 Corinthians 13 v 11 And "finally, dear brothers", when all the stuff that we're seeing around the world, the turmoil of COVID lockdown, government's using as an opportunity to pass laws and bills and, and resolutions that really they should not be doing in this time, as always happens in a crisis. This, that isn't new. But that's what the government's have been doing.
We've seen churches forced to shut their doors.
We've seen churches still forced to lock their doors and shut down.
We've seen, in China in particular, an increasing, ever levels of increasing, amounts of persecution against the Christian church.
Just recently, China went to Apple, who said, 'we are all about free speech and all that kind of stuff'. And Chinese government said, we want you to ban a Bible app and the Quran app. 'Oh, okay, we'll do what you say'. Interestingly, the BBC forgot about the, the the Bible part, they just said the Quran had been banned. But we see this going on around the world, and it's terrible, and it's chaos. And it's forcing people to behave in a particular way, by people who are supposed to be leading by consent, especially if it's a democracy, not acting in a democratic way at all.
So, how does this piece of Scripture help us in a life of turmoil that we see around us in the world? Yes, some nations now, thankfully, have removed their restrictions. And so they should. But there are many countries where persecution still happens. And it's not easy to be a Christian. There's disagreement
And we've seen that haven't we? Through COVID "we should wear masks". "No, we shouldn't". And this is just church folk. "If you don't wear a mask, you're sinning". "If you wear a mask, you're sinning." There's a lack of peace because Christians are quoting scripture that doesn't exist. Or using scripture as a baseball bat to the head of someone they disagree with.
But what's Paul's command?
"Finally, brothers, aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind and live in peace."
Scripture tells us that we will know Christians by their fruit. So, what's that? That's the fruit of their lives. How they live their lives. The actions of their lives. And that's how we tell if someone's a Christian or not.
On the one level, no, we can't know if someone's going to heaven or not, and that's true, and that's biblical. But actually, the scripture does tell us that we should look at people for the fruit in their life. Are they exhibiting self-control, and joyfulness, and peace, through the difficulties? That is the testament of a Christian, a Christ follower, a disciple of Jesus Christ, somebody who has yielded their life to Jesus Christ.
Difficulties and turmoil will come. COVID isn't, isn't, isn't the first time we've seen governments use unreasonable amounts of pressure or force to get what they want, against the will of the people. It's not the first time we've seen that. It won't be the last. It's been going for a very long time.
But we need to live in peace as Christians. How do we see the fruit while we'll see that fruit by the actions? How does that fruit get created? Well, it gets cultivated by us having a right relationship with Jesus Christ. And as we pursue that right relationship with Jesus Christ, as we're doing that, that fruit of the Spirit grows within us. We don't grow peace. We don't grow joy. We don't grow faithfulness. We can practice being faithful and we can practice being joyful. But our relationship with Jesus Christ is what enables us to have that fruit in the spirit. So, when we're thinking of how do we find the Christians? Who do we who do we know is a Christian? How do we know they're aChristian? Well, that fruit comes from God, into us, because of a relationship with Jesus.
A long time ago, here in the UK, there were people who wanted to kill Christ followers. So, you can go to houses today, old historic houses, and you'll see, particularly on the chimney breast, at the top, there's this weird odd pattern of bricks. It looks like a mistake. And it wasn't! It was done there, deliberately, so people could see that chimney breast and know that this is a house that is safe to come to. It's a physical sign of a Christian household. Now the household can change, obviously. But it was a physical sign. And, in a sense, there are physical signs of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And when we live in peace, and we are of one mind, people will be drawn to Jesus.
Let me just flip back to the ESV translation.
"Finally, brothers rejoice, aim for restoration comfort, one another."
How much time have you spent I wonder comforting other Christians who are struggling?
Do you agree with a mask mandate, and every Christian who doesn't wear a mask is evil and sinful? Well, if that's your perspective, then you're not living in peace, and you are failing in your, in the, in what God is asking you to do.
If you believe you shouldn't wear a mask, and people are wearing a mask, and they're evil for not doing so, then you're wrong, just as much.
We're supposed to live in peace and love.
What does that look like in, in real term as well? It would mean no disagreements. My church tradition growing up was Baptist, so we had church meetings. Church meetings, you'd have votes. And we would, we would pray, hopefully, and we would vote as a church. What is it we believe God's calling us to do? And it always baffled me, as a young believer, that we can have 300 people in our church, voting on one issue, and 150 vote this way, and 150 people vote that way. It's, like, how is it possible that we are so opposed to each other? And it's because they weren't, they were not of one mind. They weren't pursuing unity.
Now, I want to do a little thing on unity in this, because I've seen unity as a really good thing. And I've seen unity really used as a really evil way of forcing people to believe, and behave, the same way in a church. That is not unity. That is just a dictatorship. That's spiritual bullying. We're not supposed to be forced, to be united, to agree. We're supposed to have unity, and a belief of Jesus Christ. So, for each one of us, we have an individual relationship with Jesus Christ. Therefore, that relationship is gonna look different. How we interact with each other, and with God, is gonna be different. But we're all parts of one body. What else does it say in scripture? Well, it says that one person that wants to eat meat, and one person doesn't. Well don't cause your brother to stumble. If you're still struggling with whether you should wear a mask, or not wear a mask, and we should, and we shouldn't, consider your brother and your sister. Are you causing them to stumble? That is living in unity. Not the 'we all do the same thing', but that we're united in a passion to not cause each other to stumble,
It says elsewhere in Scripture that we're not supposed to, sorry, it says elsewhere in scripture that when somebody has come to Christ, and they're a new convert, we can be responsible for causing them to walk away from God. What is one of the number one causes, in my own mind, a lack of unity in the church, not a lack of agreeing and doing the same things. What a boring church that is! But we need to be united in a common belief that God is the Lord of Lords ,and King of Kings. That Jesus rules Supreme.
Maybe you feel you're a liberal Christian, or a progressive Christian, or maybe you consider yourself a conservative Christian. Well, they're all wrong, because we're not supposed to liken ourselves to anything other than Jesus. If your Christian faith comes second to what you see yourself as. 'I'm a hip hop star, but I happen to be a Christian'. No, you're a Christian, or you're not. There's no if, but or maybe. There's no half measures. You can't half believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose again.
We need to be united in a common pursuit of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. We need to make sure that we're not ashamed of the gospel, 'for it is the power of God'.
"Finally, brothers, rejoice, aim for restoration"
How many churches have I seen split because people would believe one thing, and other people believe another thing. 'And you're not doing what I want'. 'Well you're not doing what I want'. And all of a sudden, you've got anger, and hatred, and I've watched it happen, in one church, pretty much three times in a row. And it was just arrogant people who wanted what they wanted, and didn't care about the brothers and sisters in Christ. They were not comforting one another. They were not edifying one another. They were not aiming for restoration. They were aiming for destruction. They were aiming for power and control.
'Live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you'. Being a peaceful person, doesn't mean you get washed over or you get walked over. It doesn't mean to say that you don't have an opinion, or that you can't get passionate. Jesus was always at peace. But He went into the temple, in a very deliberate way, 'cos He went off and made a whip. It wasn't like he had it to his hand and lost the plot. He went off and made a whip and brought it back and started beating people in the temple. He was still at peace. Peace is about the heart attitude.
If you think about King David, well, he wasn't a very nice guy, look at what he did. He had people killed, and murdered, and he did this and. He was a man after God's, God's own heart. He wasn't perfect, but he pursued Jesus Christ, well he pursued God.
Let's just read this one last time and let the scripture speak for itself.
"Finally, brothers, rejoice, aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you."
And if we do that same scripture, 2Corinthians 13 v 11 in the NIV, it renders it this way.
"Finally, brothers goodbye, aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you".
As we come to the end of a season of have Endurance, and these GoDeepers, our encouragement for you, is, make sure you're right with the people in your church. Make sure that you're pursuing Jesus Christ. Make sure that unity is not 'we all agree to do the same thing', but unity is Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. Because we're all going to have different opinions.
And as we continue to come out of COVID, let's love each other, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Why especially love our brothers and sisters in Christ? Because when we have a shared love, and passion, for each other, to edify one another, to build one another up, to cover each other's faults, to be united in our passion for Jesus Christ, that, that, right there, is what's going to draw people to Jesus Christ. Because they'll see that love of Jesus, that warmth that we get from the Holy Spirit exuding out of us, and exuding out of their right relationships.
A long time ago, in a church, I was out, we were quite big and busy, and there was lots going on, and it was really good! And there was always quite a lot of witchcraft against that particular church. I'm not gonna say what they used to do, but it was very obvious there was witchcraft. And they tried to get into the church. And they, one of the things you will find about Wiccan is they get into a church to destroy it. And it's really easy when there's no love of brothers and sisters. Where they fail to destroy a church is where the brothers and sisters in Christ, put each other first, love each other, are united for Jesus. Because then hatred can't grow, bitterness can't manifest itself, gossip doesn't happen.
Let's love one another in unity.
Let me close with this scripture, as we come out of Endurance for another season. 2 Corinthians chapter 13, verse 14,
"May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen."
Written by Andy B