"A Church Worth Protecting"

Colossians 2: 1-5
Theme:  What Paul sought to protect in the church at Colossea teaches us what we should seek to protect in our own church family.

(Delivered Sunday, January 25, 2001 at Bethany Bible Church.  All scripture quotes, unless otherwise noted, are from the New King James Version.)

INTRODUCTION.

     The apostle Paul was not only a man of great intellect, but also of great passion and love. He was a brilliant scholar and theologian, as well as a great systematizer and articulator of the revealed truths of the faith. But he was far more than that. He wasn't merely "analytical" and "rational" about it all. The truths of the gospel message had set his heart on fire; and a profound love for his brothers and sisters in Christ motivated him to see them firmly grounded and built up in those truths. No man ever walked the earth who had a greater theological mind or a more thorough scholarly grasp of the truths of the gospel than Paul; but it's hard to imagine that there could have been another redeemed sinner who had more emotion for the church of Jesus Christ than him either.

      He once spoke of the depth of concern he had for the church in his letter to the Corinthian believers. He told them about how much he had suffered to expand the Kingdom of Jesus Christ among the Gentiles - about how he had been repeatedly whipped, beaten and stoned by his own countrymen; about how he had been frequently shipwrecked, and had spent the night lost at sea; about how he had to travel around in dangerous places, and had to face the continual threat of wild animals, and robbers, and hostile opponents to the gospel; about how he felt the continual strains of physical exhaustion, and hunger, and sleeplessness, and exposure to the elements. And on top of all this, he adds; "besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation" (2 Cor. 11:28-29). He made the welfare of the church his daily concern - in spite of the fact that it nearly cost him his life on a regular basis. What can you do but marvel at the sincerity of such love? He told Timothy, "... I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory" (2 Tim. 2:10).

      But even though he suffered and endured so much for the church, he did so joyfully and gladly. He told the Corinthian believers, "... I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls ..." (1 Cor. 12:15). He told the Philippians, "... If I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all" (Phil. 2:17). Paul suffered for the church he loved; but he considered it a privilege to do so.

      There are some folks who are so indifferent to church that they wont even show up if it's a rainy Sunday! What was it that made Paul different? Why did he love the church so much that he'd sacrifice himself for it as he did? The answer is very simple: he loved the church as much as he did because the church is the great love of his Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus, as the Bible tells us, "loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having any spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:25-27).

      Paul felt the impact of Jesus' love and sacrifice for the church very strongly - so strongly, in fact, that it translated into his own commitments in ministry. He once urged a group of pastors, "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28). Jesus died for the church; therefore, these pastors were to follow Paul's example, and give themselves over to protecting it. How could anyone like Paul, who so deeply loved the Savior, not also deeply love the church for which the Savior shed His own blood? How could someone like Paul be anything else but protective of the church? How could he help but defend her against whatever might compromise her pure devotion to the Son of God?

      I suggest that you'll never be able to understand the apostle Paul until you understand his overwhelming love for the church. And you'll certainly never be able to understand his love for the church if you don't understand how much Jesus - Paul's Lord and Master - loves her and gave Himself for her.

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      Appreciating that love for the church helps us to appreciate Paul's letter to the Colossians. Paul wrote this particular letter out of love for the church. In fact, he wrote it while in prison; suffering in chains because of that great love for the church. He told the Colossian believers;

I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints, to them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. And to this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily (Col. 1:24-29).

      Look at those words again, and you can see how Paul displayed his love for the church. He said that he 'rejoiced' in his sufferings for the believers in Colossae, as he 'filled-up in his flesh what was lacking in the afflictions of Christ' for the church. He said that he 'labored' for the church with 'striving'. Paul would never have understand the passive indifference some people display toward the church. He was deeply in his love for the church - filled with emotion toward it; and he suffered gladly and willingly for the church that he loved so much.

      The passage I'd like us to zero-in on this morning is an expression of the intense, sacrificial love Paul had for the church. It shows us that his love for the church was a jealous love - a love that was protective of the church. He saw the church as the bride of Christ - betrothed to Jesus alone (2 Cor. 11:2); and his love for the church wouldn't permit him to tolerate anything that threatened to come between Jesus and His precious bride. He wrote to them and told them;

For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power (Colossians 2:1-10).

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      I'm an advocate of something that - for lack of a better name - I like to call "church-esteem". I believe that people need to feel that their church is a good, strong, healthy church in the areas that are important to the Lord Jesus. When people understand and cherish the sort of things that please the Lord in a church, and when they see those qualities present and growing in their own church family, then they develop a healthy sense of "church-esteem". They feel very positive and excited about their church. They're eager to join in when the church family gathers; and they're enthusiastic about inviting other people to come too. I believe a healthy church grows when it's members hold it in esteem.

      Marilyn and I had a wonderful experience of "church-esteem" recently. We had dinner with another couple from church; and as we ate and chatted away, we soon found the conversation turning to our wonderful church family. We all had a great time thinking together about the delightful qualities of our church, and all the people that have come to mean so much to us there. We left that evening feeling affirmed that ours is a genuinely unique church family. We had a strong sense that there's much about it that's pleasing to the Lord.

      As the pastor of this church, I think a lot about Paul's example of intense love for the church at large. I think much about how excited he was about the things in the church that pleased the Lord Jesus; and about how serious he was about protecting those things. I think about how he loved the church so much that he was prepared to suffer anything for it. And though I'm far from where I should be, I've tried to embrace his sense of zeal and apply it to my ministry to Bethany Bible Church. I've tried to understand how important it is that I love our church as Paul loved the church at Colossae. I've tried to cultivate a sense of protectiveness toward our church; and I hope that, by God's grace, I'd be willing to suffer anything for it as well.

      And I think, too, about how important it is that all of us, as members together of this church family, grow to appreciate what it is about our church that gives the Lord pleasure. I think it's crucial that we all work together to protect and preserve those things about our church that are precious to Jesus.

      I suggest that this passage - particularly verses 1-5 - tells us what some of those things are. I believe we can learn what it is that pleases the Savior about a church, by looking carefully at the things Paul here says he sought so eagerly to protect in the church at Colossae. And as the Holy Spirit helps us in our look at this passage, I hope that we can grow together in our own commitment to protect those things in our own church as well.

      First, please notice ...

1. FOR WHOM IT WAS THAT PAUL WAS CONCERNED (v. 1).

      He says, "For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh ..."

      Many scholars take this statement to mean that Paul had never, himself, actually been to Colossae. And the fact of the matter is that it was another man - Epaphras - who first brought the gospel message to them. Earlier in his letter, Paul wrote to them about "the grace of God in truth; as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit" (1:6-8). He had a deep friendship with some of the folks from Colossae, as we can clearly see from his letter to his beloved friend Philemon (Philemon 7, 17, 19 and 22). But nevertheless, he himself had never actually met most of the believers in Colossae.

      But though he'd never met them, he deeply loved them and cared about them. Epaphras came to Paul while he was in prison and told him about the Colossian believers' faith in Christ through the gospel, and about their intense love for the other believers, and about their joyful hope of heaven (1:3-5). And that was all Paul needed to know. As far as Paul was concerned, he was suffering what he was suffering as if for them - and rejoiced that there was anything at all that he could do to help establish them and build them up in the faith.

      Paul told them, in verse 5, "For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit ..."; as if to say, "Though I can't be with you physically (because I'm in prison for the cause of Christ), I certainly wish I were with you; and I just want you to know that, in my heart, I am right there with you." And as far as we know, he was never able to visit them and actually be physically present with them; but if you think about it, we do know for sure that he's with that particular group of believers now - and will be with them in the presence of the Lord forever in glory! Paul certainly knew, as he wrote to them, that such would one day be case; and perhaps that's one of the chief reasons why he was able to express such a great affection for a group of people he had never met. You tend to love people that you're sure you're going to spend an eternity with.

      I believe Paul would have felt a close affinity with anyone who was in Christ. It didn't matter whether or not he had actually had a chance to meet them in the flesh; they were still his brothers and sisters in Christ, and he loved them deeply. He felt that way about all the believers in Colossae; and about the believers in the nearby city of Loadicea (whom he mentions five times in this letter); and about all the rest of the members of the body of Christ that had never seen his face in the flesh. The apostle Peter once wrote about the Lord Jesus; "whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8). If we sincerely love Jesus, whom we haven't yet seen, then it's perfectly understandable that we would also be able love a group of people that our beloved Redeemer loves - even though we haven't seen them either.

      Paul genuinely loved the saints in Colossae and in Laodicea, "and for as many people as have not seen my face in the flesh". And by the way: do you notice that Paul's list would include us as well? Paul may not have been thinking about Bethany Bible Church specifically, nineteen-and-a-half centuries into the future, when he wrote those words. But the fact is that we, too, are among those who had never seen his face - and yet for whom he had 'great conflict' in his heart. We're a part of the one, great church that Jesus died for, and for whom Paul gave himself with such sacrificial love. What he has to say in this passage - concerning the timeless qualities in a church that please the Lord Jesus - applies to our church family as much as to the saints in Colossae. And if Paul were in the flesh on earth today, he'd be just as eager to protect those things in us as he was in them.

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      Second, we see - not only for whom Paul was concerned - but also ...

2. HOW IT WAS THAT PAUL WAS CONCERNED (v. 1).

      He says - as if speaking to us, just as much to them - "I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you ..." The word Paul used, that's here translated "conflict" (or "struggle", as it's translated in some versions), is the Greek word agn. It's the word that the English word "agony" comes from. This particular Greek noun was used to describe a strenuous athletic competition or race; and it came to be used in a figurative sense to describe anything that was a struggle or that involved a strenuous personal fight. Paul used the verb form of this word in 1:29 (there translated "striving") when he said, "To this end I labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily".

      This teaches us something of the seriousness with which Paul sought to fulfill his ministry toward the church. He didn't hesitate to suffer or sacrifice for it; but with the same sort of attitude that would characterize a world-class athlete, he gave himself over to struggle, in an intense personal conflict, for the advancement of the church. He was prepared to fight tooth and nail to see to it that his beloved brothers and sisters in Christ were established and built up in the faith.

      Second, we see that he was not only willing to give of himself in a great personal conflict for these believers, but he was also very concerned that they be fully aware of that conflict. He said, "For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you ..." And it wasn't because he wanted their sympathy; or because he wanted to look good in their eyes. He wanted them to know about his "conflict" for them because their awareness of his own readiness to contend earnestly for their establishment in Christ would help motivate them to also take that conflict seriously themselves!

      When we see someone like Paul making such deep personal sacrifices to protect and advance the church - even to the point of suffering imprisonment for it; and expressing a willingness to lay down his life if need be (Acts 21:13) - shouldn't that cause us to take the church seriously? Of course it should; and that's precisely why Paul wanted the believers to know about his suffering for them. He once wrote to the Philippian believers - again, from prison - and he told them about how glad he was to be able to suffer on their behalf, and of how God was using his situation for the advancement of Christ in others. Then, he said,

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me (Phil. 1:27-30).

      And thirdly, we see that Paul's conflict on the behalf of these believers was intentional and purposeful. It was motivated by a desire to protect them. He says in verse 4 that he tells them all that he's telling them, "lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words".

      This reminds us again of the whole point of this letter. Paul rejoiced that the church family in Colossae was a healthy and strong one; but he also felt the need to warn the believers there concerning a potential danger. A false teaching had arisen - one that threatened those things about the church that were precious to Jesus. It was a false teaching that expressed the idea that Jesus Himself, and a relationship with Him through faith, wasn't enough to make us acceptable in the eyes of God. It taught that "something more" than Jesus alone was needed in order to have favor with God. Paul said, in verse 8, "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him ..."

      Paul wanted to warn these believers not to allow themselves to be drawn away from a simple confidence in the sufficiency of Jesus alone to save them. He said, in verses 18-19, "Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head ..." - that is, to Jesus Christ Himself.

      The Colossian believers were at risk of being lured away from a faith in the simple message of the gospel; and Paul was ready to fight - with all he had in him - to protect their devotion to Christ.

* * * * * * * * * *

      Given the seriousness with which Paul expressed his concern for the church, how do you feel toward it? Do you share something of the intensity of love Paul had for the church? Do you have a sense of how much the Savior loves His church. Do you see it as something worth protecting?

      This leads us to our next point concerning Paul's love for the Colossian church. This passage shows us ...

3. WHAT IT WAS ABOUT THEM THAT PAUL WAS CONCERNED TO PROTECT (v. 2-3).

      Paul said that he wanted them to know about the great conflict he had for the members of the Body of Christ, "that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (vv. 2-3). These are the things that he knew Jesus wanted to see in His precious church; and so, they were the things that Paul labored so hard to protect within her.

      First, we see that he was concerned that their hearts may be encouraged. A good, healthy church is a place that encourages the hearts of those who are in it. Obviously, a church that pleases Jesus isn't going to be one that seeks to make people 'feel good' about the things they shouldn't feel good about. A healthy church deals with sin in a realistic and serious way. It doesn't try to minimize the fact that our sins put Jesus on the cross; and it teaches its members that turning to Jesus for salvation involves turning away from the sins He died to save us from. But a healthy church is also a place in which people who have been hurt by the ravages of sin can safely come and get better. It's a place characterized by grace and forgiveness. It's a redemptive, healing place, because it helps people develop a vital, personal relationship with the Redeemer. A healthy church is an encouraging, uplifting, life-giving place for forgiven sinners to be.

      Paul's passion was that the members of the Body of Christ be encouraged in a deep and substantial way - that is, in their hearts. And I believe the encouragement he sought for them included the idea of a hopeful expectation for the future. He wanted them not only to be encouraged by the fact of God's forgiveness of their sins of the past, but also by the prospect of heavenly glory in Christ that God held out to them for the future. Paul told them that he was praying they'd be characterized by joy; "giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light" (1:12). He urged them, "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory" (3:2-4).

      The false doctrine that threatened the believers in Colossae was such a destructive thing, in part, because it threatened the basis of their encouragement. It suggested that Jesus was not sufficient as our Savior; and therefore, that their salvation from the sins of the past and their hope for glory in the future is uncertain. That's why Paul was so eager to protect them from its negative influences. He wanted to establish them and see them grow in the sort of encouragement that is pleasing to the Lord.

      Second, we see that Paul was concerned to protect their sense of unity in love for one another. He spoke of their being "knit" together, or "united" together in love. It was the idea that their lives and hearts were woven together in a warm, affectionate, loving relationship with one another. He used this same word in verse 19, when he spoke of the members of the body of Christ being "knit together by joints and ligaments" because of their union with Christ.

      As believers in Christ, we share a spiritual unity with one another. In spite of whatever differences their might be between us, we're bound together by certain realities in Christ that make an essential, fundamental unity possible. Paul said that we're to bear with one another in love, "endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Eph. 4:3-6). Paul here mentions seven unifying realities that are true of all believers in Christ. And he doesn't say that we need to work hard to 'create' a state of unity among ourselves. Instead, he affirmed that essential unity already exists because of those seven unifying realities; and so, he calls us to endeavor to "keep" the unity that we already have in Christ.

      And when we allow room for one another's "lessor" differences within the context of that fundamental spiritual unity, the church grows! God calls us to love one another; and He uses many of the differences that exist between us to edify each other. Paul said that speaking the truth in love to one another, we're to grow up in all things into Christ our Head - "from whom the whole body, joined together and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes the growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Eph. 4:15-16).

      Paul was eager to protect the fundamental, essential unity that joined the believers in Colossae together in the Savior. And he was eager to see that unity maintained in a spirit of mutual love between the believers there. He wanted to protect that unity as something that was very precious to the Lord Jesus.

      Finally, we also see that Paul was concerned to protect the assurance of their understanding in the knowledge of Christ. In the face of all the false teaching around them, Paul affirmed that in Christ alone was hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Their great need was to know Him more deeply. In knowing Jesus Christ, they would know "what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (1:27).

      The false doctrine that Paul was contending against claimed that true wisdom and insight couldn't be found, in a complete way, in Christ. This false teaching claimed that it offered the Colossian believers the opportunity to advance a few steps higher in 'spiritual wisdom and insight' than they could go on the basis of their faith in Christ alone. But this was a phony offer. Paul warned them not to allow themselves to be cheated out of their sufficiency in Christ "through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the traditions of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ" (2:8). Instead, Paul insisted that in Christ are hidden "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (v. 3). There's nothing to be had of 'spiritual wisdom and insight' outside of Him. It's all found in Him alone.

      Paul was eager that they attain to "all riches of a full assurance of understanding". He didn't want them to settle for something "less" than what they could have in Christ alone; and he didn't want anything to rob them of all that was available to them through the full assurance of understanding in Him. He wanted them to grow to attain to nothing less than the knowledge of the mystery of God - that is, Christ. Paul was prepared to fight against this false teaching, because it threatened the ability of the Colossians to enjoy all that can be had of "a full assurance" of understanding that comes from Christ. He was eager to protect and advance that full assurance; because it was something very precious to Christ Himself.

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      An encouragement of heart in Christ; a unity in love in Christ; an assurance of understanding in Christ - these are the things that Paul was so intensely concerned to protect in the church at Colossae. I wish I could stress enough how important those three things are in a church family! Our church needs to be characterized by them in an ever-growing, ever-expanding way. They're the qualities make our church a pleasure to Jesus and useful in mighty hand; and they're very much worth protecting and advancing.

      That leads us, finally, to consider ...

4. WHY PAUL WAS SO CONCERNED TO PROTECT THESE THINGS IN THEM (vv. 4-5).

      He goes on to state the reason why he was so intent in protecting these things; "Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ" (vv. 4-5). When he says, "This I say ...", he's most likely pointing backwards, not only what he had just said in verses 1-3, but to everything he had said in the letter up to this point. His whole motivation in writing this letter is summed up in the next few verses that follow.

      Paul was insistent about the sufficiency of Jesus. He was deeply concerned that these believers cling to Jesus Christ, and Him alone, because it was in Him alone that they were made complete (vv. 9-10). And so, first of all, he was concerned to protect these things in them because of the forces at play that were designed to pull them away from Christ. He stressed these things, "lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words".

      I read about a story recently that was told by the famous preacher Harry Ironside. It concerned a Christian woman who was being approached by the follower of a cult. This cult member went on and on in talking with this poor woman - dumping all sorts of flowery, esoteric, pseudo-philosophic 'mumbo-jumbo' on her - all in an attempt to make the teachings of the cult she belonged to sound attractive. The believing woman couldn't make any sense at all about what this cult member was saying. Sometimes it all sounded right; but most of the time it sounded all wrong. Yet it still didn't make any sense to her.

      Finally, the Christian woman got to the point where she stopped the cult member and said, "So much of what you're saying is over my head. Can you just please boil it down to a simple statement of what it is you're asking me to believe?" And the cult member said "Well; in the first place you must get hold of this: God is a principle not a person. You see, my dear, we worship a principle -"

      That certainly cleared things up for the woman! It cut through all the deceitful and persuasive words and revealed this religious system for what it really was. She was relieved and said, "Enough, then. That would never do for me. I worship a personal God revealed in Christ, my blessed, adorable Savior."

      That's the devils way of working. He doesn't come to us and plainly, straightforwardly say, "I am trying to get you to abandon your faith in the sufficiency of Jesus Christ alone, and persuade you to chase instead after things that will never do for you what He alone can do for you." Instead, he seeks to draw us away with "persuasive words" - pseudo-spiritual double-talk that has the sound of being "true", but in the end is nothing but a pack of lies. Paul wouldn't be concerned to alert the believers to this if it weren't for the fact such words really had "persuasive power". That's why he was so concerned to protect what the Colossian believers had going for them already.

      But Paul was also concerned to protect them because of his own sense of delight in them. Though he wasn't present with them, he nevertheless delighted to "see" in them (most likely through the report of others) their "good order" (that is, their mutual sense of submission; and willingness to rank in order with one another), and the steadfastness of their faith in Christ. These qualities were a pleasure to Paul, because they insured the protection of those things that were precious to Christ, who died for the church. Therefore, Paul was personally motivated to protect and preserve them; as well as desirous to do so out of love for his Savior.

CONCLUSION.

      Dear brothers and sisters in Christ; our church family is something very precious to the Lord Jesus. It's a part of the larger body of Christ - the church that Jesus purchased for Himself through the shedding of His own blood. He has permanently established the basis of the encouragement of our hearts, of our unity in love, and of our enjoyment of all riches of a full assurance of understanding that comes from knowing Him. These things are worth protecting because they're both precious to Jesus and a blessing to us.

      We need, then, to share the same sense of protectiveness and love for our church family that we see exhibited in Paul. We need to model his love for the church - the church at large, as well as a local church such as our own. We need to be as earnest in our care for it as he was - striving with a sense of conflict for it. We need to grow in our appreciation for the things that make it a pleasure to the Savior. And we need to labor to protect our church from those things that would harm it, and to preserve those things that will enrich it in Christ.

      May God develop in us a passion to do so; and may Jesus be glorified in us as a result.

(copyright 2001 by Pastor Greg Allen and Bethany Bible Church. Reproduction without permission, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.)

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