Living in the Past (Exod. 32:1–14, 28; 1 Cor. 2:14)
In the book of Exodus, God’s chosen people openly disregard His covenant as they worship the golden calf. The past life of bondage in Egypt seemed but a fleeting memory as they were caught up in their selfish lusts and propensity for pagan worship. As they continued to live in the past, not forsaking their old ways, the people suffered a fatal blow in Exodus 32:28 when “the sons of Levi did according to the words of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day” (NKJV). Instead of serving God through worship and keeping His commandments, they chose to serve fallible gods and their carnal indulgences.
It is a life to be lived.
The church today faces similar setbacks. Besides the common distractions of day-to-day operations, many are caught up in their personal agendas and disputes. In 1 Corinthians, Paul addresses the problems, pressures, and struggles of a church called out of pagan society. In his words of counsel he states, “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Cor. 14:33, NKJV). He beseeches the people to love the church and the people in it so that they can show that love to the community.
Transformed to Serve (John 3:16; Rev. 14:12)
When we surrender our lives to Christ, we become transformed and understand that the gospel is not just a mere set of facts to believe; it is a life to be lived. The life of a Christian is a life of service. God’s remnant people are referred to as “those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). To keep God’s commandments, we must love Him, and to love Him is to serve Him. The foundation of our very existence is love.
In John 3:16 Jesus tells Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (NKJV). God’s love for us is unconditional, but we do not fully comprehend what this means: There is nothing we can do or say to earn His love. We need to believe and serve—not to be saved but because we are saved. As God continues His work in us, His character is revealed and we become more like Him. It is through this transformation that we can do His work with sincerity and passion.
The Gift That Keeps on Giving (1 Cor. 13:3; Rom. 12:10)
God’s love is the gift that keeps on giving. As Christians, having experienced this love, we ought not to keep it to ourselves. It is with great consideration that we must take heed to the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 12, where he beseeches the people to present themselves as living sacrifices to God, serving Him with spiritual gifts. Paul also encourages to “be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (verse 10, NKJV).
Now comes the outworking of love, which can sometimes be challenging even for the church. For can we love others and not serve them? In Paul’s words, “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing” (1 Cor. 13:3, NKJV). For us to minister to those in need, we need to understand this love and experience it ourselves. God knows our hearts, and if we do His work with an insincere heart, it will certainly displease Him. The love of God needs to abide in us. Only then can we be motivated to manifest this love to those within the church and the community.
Excel in Giving (Gal. 6:9; Heb. 10: 23, 24)
As a community of servants for Christ, we must also be generous and do good without complaining and disputing (cf. Gal. 6:9). As we live before the world, to excel in giving, we must not become disheartened by the evil that surrounds us. We must keep our focus on God, the One who gives us all that we need to serve Him in the church and in the community. God’s work must continue, even with the challenges that may appear from time to time.
Paul writes, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb. 10:23, 24, ESV). The church must understand that its main function is to serve as a beacon of light in a world of darkness, guiding the lost men and women to a place of protection and safety: the sanctuary of God. To guide the lost, we are to encourage one another in love and mingle with the community as Jesus did in the Gospels.
Jesus ministered to the people at their point of need but not from a distance. He went out and met with them. He spoke to them and showed compassion. It is by His example that we must serve among the brethren and minister to those in our community.
1. What are some ways you can show love to the people in your community?
2. What should you do if you are challenged by showing love to those in your community?
3. How would you minister to someone in need who does not believe in God?