Well, the end is near. In fact, it’s only two days away. I still can’t get over how fast it went by, now that I’m looking back at all that God has done since I’ve been in Brazil. When we first got here, the interns were trying to explain to us how it would all seem like one long week- almost like a dream. At first, I dismissed them as crazy, but now I know exactly what they’re talking about!
This week is our “sending off” week, where we are being prepared and equipped to go out into the world and preach Jesus. How appropriate that we are studying the book of Acts. It is filled with stories of imperfect people, delighting the heart of God, by doing acts of ministry through the power of His Spirit. And, that’s what each of us is called to do. I think we have a tendency to forget that- at least I do. My purpose on earth is to glorify God by doing works through His Spirit. Just doing good works doesn’t cut it.
Pastor Chet said today…so what if you built a house? If you built a house for someone and didn’t preach Jesus along the way and plant seeds, it’s all worthless because they’re still going to hell! Too often, the church gets focused on social work and not on preaching Christ. The social work is to open a door for preaching Christ- we don’t do it just to do it. We do these acts of service to share the love of Christ with others. We get so busy doing that we forget why we do what we do.
And, I try it all on my own. What Christ calls us to do, the way He calls us to live, is impossible in my own strength. I struggle and strive until I finally rely on Him to do what He said He would do from the beginning.
Instead, I want to be known for a reputation of faith. You see, in Acts 9:30, Saul is sent to Tarsus after his conversion. He is sent away for a time of spiritual growth and building. He had a reputation of cruelty for Christians, but it would become a reputation of love for Christ. This short season of time, Paul was invested into, and he was set apart to pursue God and prepare for ministry. In the same way, God “exiled me” to the “island of Patmos for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:9).
I was too puffed up with me, too full of myself, and God had no room. I could ask God to fill me all I want, but if there isn’t any room, He won’t come in. These three months have broken me and shown me just how far off the radar I am when it comes to my faith in Christ. Praise God for His grace and mercy! He didn’t give up on me, instead, He called me to Patmos to rebuild on a firm foundation. 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 says, “We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But, whoever loves God, this one is known by Him.” I thought I knew it all. In reality, I knew nothing, because I didn’t build upon love.
No matter what I do, it must be rooted in the love of Jesus Christ. My motivations were off, my heart was prideful, and I thought it was okay. It definitely wasn’t. “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). I don’t know about you, but the words “abhor” and “cling” sound like strong action words to me. Whatever is not of God, I must hate. I must cast it as far away from me as possible. And whatever is of God, that, I must cling to with every last ounce of energy that I have in my body. Those are two polar opposites, and one cannot be done with the other.
There’s no more riding the fence. Paul knew the Scriptures, but he didn’t live them. His conversion and time in Tarsus built him up so that in Acts 11, Barnabus (“the son of encouragement”) sought Paul “that for a whole year they assembled with the church AND TAUGHT a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26). After Paul learned, he spread the knowledge and the Word. He taught others the revelations that God spoke to Him in His time of seclusion. That’s what God has also called me to do.
I have been built up, not for my own edification, but for the edification of the body. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my team here at Patmos, it’s that we need each other to survive. It’s the same with the body of Christ. We all have to show up, and we all have to contribute our gifts and talents.
“4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:4-8)
In this way, we fulfill what Christ calls us to do at the beginning of Romans, chapter 12: “present your bodies a living sacrifice” (v. 1). “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) If we aren’t ours in the first place, why do we still live as if we are?
The tide has changed, and I pray that God will continue to keep my heart set steadfastly on pursuing Him and Him alone. It’s not that He will fail in His promises, it’s that I might fail in my responsibility. If I seek Him, He will be there. But, I must purpose to seek Him above all, regardless of the circumstances and situations that surround me. I must “set my face like a flint, and know that I will not be ashamed. He is near who justifies me; who will contend with me? Let us stand together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near me.” (Isaiah 50:7-8).
“And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us, and if our God is with us, then what can stand against?”