I shared the following article with the congregation of Hebron Baptist Church on my last Sunday, September 20, 2015.
“Moving Forward for Spiritual Health and Growth”
Biblical and Pastoral Reflections, Dr. Joe Alain
September 20, 2015
The following biblical principles are ones that I have sought to incorporate into my life and ministry the past ten years and they continue to be areas that I strive to see become a reality in my daily life. These thoughts would be my prayer and desire for every member of HBC. Unless noted, all Scripture references are from the NIV (1984) and my emphases are made throughout.
1. Choose love over law. The central theme of the Gospel is God’s love. 16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” (Jn. 3:16-17). Jesus was often in conflict with man’s regulations because He always placed people over policies. Let love be preeminent in all that you do, it’s the main thing! The way of love is “the most excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31) and is the virtue above all others, “But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Gal. 5:6). “But the fruit of the Spirit is love . . .” (Gal. 5:22).
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:1-2).
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 Jn. 4:7). “We love because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19).
2. Use your speech to build others up. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their need, that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph. 4:29). Refuse to participate in gossip and negative and destructive speech. “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Prov. 12:18). Use your speech to bless God and others. “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Ps. 34:1, NKJV).
3. Do not grieve God’s Spirit. Sin hinders our spiritual health and growth. We must recognize sin and repent (“Get rid of”) and walk in God’s way (“Be” different people).
30 “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other,
just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:30-32).
4. Remember where you came from. 8 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – 9 not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Remembering that you were once without hope and without Christ allows you to be more humble and patient with others, grateful to God for your blessings, and sensitive and gracious to those who are still without Christ.
5. Keep yourselves from idols. Idols are “God-substitutes” and can include traditions, people, material items, even religious busyness. Be careful “whom” and “what” you worship (value) because you become like the God you worship (Jer. 1:5). John affectionately pleaded, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 Jn. 5:21).
6. Seek to include not exclude people. God desires all people to be saved (1 Pet. 3:9).
The Gospel is to be inclusive of all people and the church is to be at the forefront of including others, especially people who may be different from us. Jesus has broken down the walls of hostility that divide us (Eph. 2:14). The church is to reflect the composition of heaven where there will be people “from every tribe and language and people and nation”
7. Pray continually. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17, NKJV). Pray and pray some more! Why pray? First, God answers prayer. Second, God changes you in prayer. It’s impossible to truly pray and remain angry, bitter towards people, or uncaring about God and what He desires to do in your life. And third, prayer builds your faith and confidence in the sovereignty and faithfulness of God. Prayer frees you from anxieties and allows God to surround you with His peace that transcends all human understanding (Phil. 4:6-7).
8. It’s all about the Kingdom. Jesus said that seeking the kingdom of God is to be our
priority and passion (Matt. 6:33). Our only agenda is God’s agenda, to spread the Gospel and to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19-20). We are to follow the kingdom model of Jesus who said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). Making the kingdom of God our priority means sacrificing any personal agendas for “Love is not self-seeking” (1 Cor. 13:5).
9. Don’t miss God! “Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I, too, am working’” (Jn. 5:17). Find out where God is at work, celebrate the work, and join in! God is wonderfully at work and in some of the places you might not expect. He’s at work in a simple prayer meeting. He’s at work as basic human needs are met and spiritual conversations take place at the clothes closet or food bank. He’s at work through a Christ-centered word shared in a Spanish-speaking ministry. He’s at work through a dozen other places and conversations each week through Hebron’s members and ministries. Don’t miss God at work! “Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest?’ I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (Jn. 4:35).
10. Keep your heart pure. Purity leads to clarity of life and wholeness in your relationship with God and others. No one is greatly used by God unless he or she desires holiness of life. To be holy is the recognition that “You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Holiness is not gained through human effort, it is becoming like Christ as we live daily in God’s purifying presence. This is why Peter could say, 15 “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;
16 for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Pet. 1:15-16). “It is God’s will that you should be holy” (1 Thess. 4:3).
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matt. 5:8). “The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever” (Ps. 19:9a).
“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).
God “who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time” (2 Tim. 1:9).
"For His Glory, By His Grace