Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.
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Unconnected

We need each other.

Barriers to Encouragement (7)

But now indeed
there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 1 Corinthians 12.20-22

The courage of our convictions?

When Paul arrived in Ephesus for his first visit, he asked the “disciples” he found there, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” When they responded that they hadn’t so much heard as there was a Holy Spirit, he asked, “Into what then were you baptized?” They replied, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul then explained that, while that was a good start, it wasn’t the whole of the Good News. Then he told them about Jesus, and they immediately believed and were baptized into His Name (Acts 19.1-5).

Notice that Paul did not question the sincerity of their faith. Indeed, he affirmed their beliefs, as far as they had gone. But he did not leave them with John’s baptism, which was unto repentance from known sin and good works in line with that repentance. It was good they had come that far. But to bring the work of John to completion in their lives, they had to believe in Jesus, be baptized in His Name, and thus receive the Holy Spirit.

Being baptized unto repentance and good works is one thing. Being baptized into the Name of Jesus Christ is quite another matter. Jesus has destroyed the power of sin and death. He is ruling at the right hand of the Father to advance His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. He shows Himself to all who believe, that they might see His glory and be transformed into His image. And that transformation empowers them to bring glory and honor and praise to God in everything they do, and makes them determined witnesses for Christ.

When we who believe in Jesus Christ begin living up to our convictions – about Jesus, His Kingdom, the power of God’s Spirit, our calling as witnesses, and our determination to live for God’s glory – three things happen. First, we realize that we have discovered true and abundant life, life filled with joy, fruitful for righteousness, gushing with gratitude to the Father, and overflowing in words and deeds to bring refreshment and renewal to others. Second, some people who are impacted by our witness will be drawn to Jesus. The hope that is within us excites and interests them, so that some will join us in the Body of Christ (1 Pet. 3.15). Then third, there will be those who do not embrace our convictions, who become upset and irritated at the suggestion they need to repent of anything, and who will do their best to put us off, put us down, or put us away.

That’s precisely what happened in Ephesus (Acts 19.8-10), and it’s what Christians in every generation have experienced. And this means that being a Christian always requires courage. We are companions in the Kingdom and tribulation that goes with it (Rev. 1.9). There will be mockers, scoffers, threats, and even persecution. We know this. Thus, if we intend to live up to our convictions, we’re going to need courage.

Happily, the Holy Spirit within us is always working to give us courage. Very often, He will do that, as he did with Paul in Ephesus, through His work in fellow believers and members of the Body of Christ.

Encouragers all
Ask believers today, “What did you believe when you trusted in Jesus?” and you’re likely to hear something like, “In His death and resurrection for the forgiveness of my sins, and that He is preparing a place for me in heaven and will come again to take me to Himself forever.” For many believers today, this is the Gospel. This is salvation. Forgiven, saved, born-again, going to heaven when I die, even so come, Lord Jesus.

This is the Gospel of salvation, and it’s a true and good start in living out our convictions.

But the Gospel of salvation – the Gospel that goes this far and no further – is not the Gospel Jesus preached. It’s not the Gospel Paul preached. Jesus and Paul preached the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, where righteousness, peace, and joy in the power of the Holy Spirit are wrought in us and through us, taking every thought captive for obedience to Jesus Christ, and making all the nations disciples (Rom. 14.17, 18; 2 Cor. 10.3-5; Matt. 28.18-20). That Good News is our salvation, and we should expect it to grow and expand into every area of life, all our relationships, roles, and responsibilities, where Jesus is making all things new by making us all-new disciples in every aspect of our lives (2 Cor. 5.17).

And as was made clear to Daniel, the people who receive this Gospel can expect to know opposition and oppression from the unbelieving world. That’s because everything they are and do challenges the presumed autonomy of those who, though they know God at some level, refuse to give thanks and serve Him, turning to idols of their own making instead (Rom. 1.18-21). Those who have turned away from God will turn on us in one way or another. We’ll need courage to stand firm in the face of their hostility. Yet we know the Kingdom we have received will ultimately prevail through all the earth (Dan. 7.18-27).

In these days of increasing indifference to and hostility toward all things Christian, it’s going to take real courage to live our convictions about Jesus as Savior, Lord, King, and He Who makes all things new.

And that means we need one another in the Church. Being unconnected to the Body of Christ can be a major barrier to courage. Each of us needs courage, and each of us can be used by the Spirit of God to encourage our fellow believers to hold fast to their convictions and stand firm for Jesus in every aspect of their lives. But only to the extent we work hard to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4.3; Jn. 17.21), and work together in our churches for the increase and maturing of our congregation into Christ (Eph. 4.11-16).

Give to receive
In this study of encouragement we have learned two very important lessons. First, encouragement is a work of the Spirit of God, the Encourager. He dwells within all who believe in Jesus, as Paul explained to the Ephesian “believers.” He’s there to make us new people and to give us the courage and power to live as witnesses for Jesus by our words and deeds. He is at work within us, exceedingly abundantly beyond all we could ever ask or think, to make us willing and able to do that which is the good pleasure of God (Eph. 3.20; Phil. 2.13).

Second, we have learned that the Spirit often uses other believers, in whom He lives and is working, to strike a lightning bolt of encouragement in our soul, thus completing His work of giving us the courage we need to live for the glory of God in every aspect of our lives. We need one another. We need to be connected to other believers, and not just to enjoy our friendship in Christ. We need to sharpen and encourage and edify and pray for and support and lead one another into the fuller life and ministry of the Kingdom of God.

The Spirit encourages us by bringing other believers into our lives. We need to seek them out and together with them, seek Jesus and His Kingdom, listening for and anticipating the Spirit’s work of encouragement in and through each of us. If we will work hard to give encouragement to our fellow believers, we will find that the Spirit of God will encourage us through them as well.

And when we are, as members of Christ’s Body, filled with the courage of His Spirit, then we will experience more of Jesus making all things new in and through us, to the praise of His glory and grace.

For reflection
1. What’s the difference between the Gospel of salvation and the Gospel of the Kingdom?

2.  Who are the believers God has put in your life for you to encourage? Do you pray for them regularly? Do you seek ways to encourage them?

3.  What can keep us from connecting with our fellow believers for mutual encouragement?

Next steps – Transformation: What will you do to be more consistent in encouraging your fellow believers?

T. M. Moore

The Gospel of the Kingdom
The Gospel of the Kingdom includes, but is much larger than, the Gospel of salvation. Want to learn more? Order a copy of The Gospel of the Kingdom and The Kingdom Turn at our bookstore. They’re free.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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