The New Year offers us a new chance to embrace the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ for ourselves and others. And this ‘heart of the gospel’ is simply the forgiveness of sins and renewal of life. Because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and because we all continue to “fall short” in the various individual ways that we do, we must continually take hold of the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation and renewal of Christ our Lord.
There is no doubt that in 2013 we have each succeeded and failed, stood up and fallen down, within our relationships at home, at work, at church and elsewhere. Consequently, the need for forgiveness and renewal is ever present. But the good news is that the power of Christ’s forgiveness, reconciliation, love and renewal is forever and ever present. And this power of our salvation in Christ empowers us to forgive ourselves and others as well.
In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. – [The Holy Bible, First John 4: 10-11]
When we dwell in unforgiveness (toward ourselves or others), this becomes toxic to our souls, to our Christian fellowship, and to our Christian witness. However, when we seek to forgive and be forgiven according to the reconciling love of Jesus, then our souls heal and our Christian fellowship and witness flourish.
We all have expectations of others, and these expectations can be both good and bad. Without a spirit of forgiveness and renewal, our expectations can become what I call ‘premeditated disappointment’ and ‘premeditated resentment.’ But if we (as the Body of Christ Jesus our Savior and Lord) are motivated by a desire to help one another in our various roles in life and build up one another, then we will all benefit from this — both individually as believers and corporately as the Body of Christ together.
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip all of the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of instruction, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole Body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the Body’s growth in building itself up in love. – [The Holy Bible, Ephesians 4: 11-16]
Choosing to focus on the positive of who each one of us is (each person’s gifts), rather than on the negative of who each one of us is not (each person’s shortcomings), we take a first step toward building up the Body of Christ in the unity of the faith, knowledge and love of Christ. In addition, choosing to help each other grow by speaking truth to each other in a spirit of respectful directness and constructive love, then we will abide together in “the measure of the full stature of Christ.” And, as a result, our shared Christian life (our discipleship, ministry, mission and witness) will thrive.
Together in 2014, by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, we can all be made into instruments of God. As we pray in the St. Francis Prayer, where there is hatred, we will sow love; where there is injury, we will sow pardon; where there is discord, we will sow union; and where there is doubt, despair, darkness, and sadness, we will sow faith, hope, light and joy.
May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. – [The Holy Bible, Romans 15: 5-6]
Together in Faith and Mission, Pastor Tim