December 2019

From The Pastor's Heart

Heading into 2020, let’s “fervently love one another from the heart” (1 Pet. 1:22).

By Charles F. Stanley

Among Jesus’ parting words to the disciples were two of His greatest commands: “Love one another” (John 15:17) and “Preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). Since then, it’s been our duty and privilege, as the church, to live out His instructions with commitment and joy until He returns.

I wonder if we realize how intertwined those two commands are. The gospel is not only an invitation to salvation and eternal life in heaven. It’s an invitation to join the church, Christ’s body, here on earth (1 Cor. 12:27). When we understand that to be a Christian is not just to have membership in a certain denomination, but to be grafted into the worldwide family of His believers, we begin to more deeply understand our faith.

The Christian family is bound together by the blood of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. It’s a single spiritual unit that lives, works, hurts, and grows together just like a physical body (1 Cor. 12:26). Ephesians 5:30 says, “we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones” (KJV). Since we are so interconnected, Christ’s command to love one another is essential. Division and strife injure the body, but when we seek to nurture and build up, the church grows strong and healthy—a powerful witness for the gospel and a welcoming home for new believers.

When Christians work selflessly to love each other and live for the Lord, individuals grow in Christ, find their spiritual gifting, and become all God intended them to be. So how does a unified church preach the gospel well?

First, we must help each other understand the true gospel and maintain our own faith. The Bible warns, “Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings” (Heb. 13:9). Today more than ever, false doctrine is a danger, and Scripture encourages us to help each other avoid it (James 5:19-20). Furthermore, the enemy is always trying to undermine our faith, but the inspiration of other believers can keep us strong (1 Cor. 14:26, Col. 3:16).

Second, we motivate each other to share the gospel. Believers can remind one another of Jesus’ command to proclaim forgiveness in His name to all the nations (Luke 24:47). We should also “stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24). And what greater act of love is there than to tell those destined for eternal punishment of the hope found in Jesus Christ?

When we have the joy of salvation, we want to share this good news with others. The more Christians spend time in harmonious and supportive fellowship, the more this joy will overflow.

Paul wrote to the Philippians about his sacrifices while serving the Lord, saying, “I rejoice and share my joy with you ... Rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me” (Phil. 2:17-18). The joy of his fellow believers would spur him on through the difficult times as he shared the gospel.

Finally, we must find our own spiritual gifting so we can contribute to the proclamation of the gospel in the role to which God has called us. Evangelism is the work of official ministries and organizations, as well as individuals, and we’ve each received talents to be used for the kingdom. It’s within the church that we discover what those gifts are and how they fit into God’s plan for a powerful and well-equipped evangelizing force. As Paul told the Romans, “we have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is … serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully” (Rom. 12:6-8 NIV).

Not everyone has been called to be a pastor or an evangelist (Eph. 4:11), but we’re all important in the work of spreading the good news. As we operate within our gifts, we strengthen each other for service. And we can all pray for the lost and contribute to individuals and ministries who faithfully proclaim the gospel (Phil. 4:18).

Furthermore, while you may not be called to the pulpit or the street corner, the Lord gives each of us opportunities to tell others about Christ—whether it’s family members, co-workers, friends, or strangers. So what keeps us from speaking freely about our Savior? Oftentimes it’s fear of not knowing what to say, creating a strained relationship, and alienating people from the gospel. We should remember that we can pray for God to open doors to His Word (Col. 4:3) and guide us in what to say (Luke 12:12).

When we shine the light of Christ so all can see our joy and indomitable strength and love, some will want what we have. Scripture tells us to “always [be] ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15). Instead of being fearful about the results, we should speak of our great Savior with happiness and conviction, trusting God for the rest. And the support of other Christians will add greatly to our confidence as we witness.

That’s how we work together as we focus on the Lord’s command to make disciples of all the nations (Matt. 28:19-20). A church held together by love has the “perfect bond of unity” (Col. 3:14) and will flourish as a light for Christ. Heading into 2020, let’s embrace His instructions and “fervently love one another from the heart” (1 Pet. 1:22), building a strong body to march across the street and the globe, inviting the world to receive His peace and His salvation.

Prayerfully yours,

Charles F. Stanley

P.S. As this year draws to a close and a new one arrives, we rejoice in what the Lord has done through In Touch Ministries and look forward to what He will accomplish in 2020. Thank you for your gifts and prayers on our behalf, and may the Lord bless you in the coming year.

17 This I command you, that you love one another.

15 And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

27 Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it.

26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

30 because we are members of His body.

9 Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.

19 My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back,

20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

26 What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.

16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,

17 But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.

18 You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.

6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;

7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching;

8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,

18 But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.

3 praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned;

12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say."

15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,

20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,

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