Dec6WedDecember 6, 2017
Christmas shopping poses a unique challenge. A great gift, in my opinion, is a gift that is both needed AND wanted. Needed gifts (like new socks) can be appreciated but aren’t very exciting. Wanted gifts (like new toys or gadgets) bring excitement but eventually lose their appeal if they’re not really necessary. Therefore, the greatest long-term gifts are the ones which someone needs AND wants. Oh, if there was an easy way to figure that out! Fortunately for us, the Lord is an excellent gift-giver. He always gives the best gifts because He knows our wants and needs.
As I was reading through Hebrews 3 from our Daily Scripture Reading, the Lord brought to mind His three most precious, and best gifts...at least according to my perspective.
The gift of Jesus himself, of course, is primary. Jesus came in the flesh and offered himself as the substitute for our sins (see Hebrews 2:17). We need that!
Secondly, the Lord sent the Holy Spirit (as mentioned in Hebrews 3:7) who fills, leads and bears fruit within those who trust in Jesus. We also need that!
What is the third most valuable gift from the Lord? I am convinced that the answer is ‘one another’ – meaning authentic, Christian community…or His Church. Now, I don’t exactly mean the ‘institution of the church’ or even the larger, weekly gathering – for, sadly, it is possible to ‘attend church’ without ‘being the church’. I’m referring to the relationship between Christians who are deeply committed to following Jesus together in mutual community. Unfortunately, the depths of this gift remain unopened for many North American Christians.
This precious gift is realized when Christians are willing to engage in one of two spiritual activities. The first activity is meeting together for mutual encouragement in faith and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25). Through spiritual encouragement, we are less prone to be deceived by sin (3:13) and more prone to running with endurance the race of faith set before us (12:1). This is what many of us like about the gift of Christian community.
The second spiritual activity is equally necessary, but it is much less desirable. Christians are also called to “teach and admonish one another with all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16b). The precious gift of ‘brotherhood’ is realized when we are willing to be taught, rebuked and corrected by another Christian in love. Unfortunately, as church planter Gary DeLashmutt observes is his book Loving God’s Way, “admonishing is tragically absent from [the Christian] view of love...Those who admonish other Christians run the risk of being called intrusive at best, and spiritually abusive at worst.” Therefore, many avoid the gift of truth-speaking even among their most trusted Christian friends.
Do you have any Christians in your life who have your permission to ask deep, probing questions without you taking offense?
Anyone who can lovingly correct your behavior?
This topic is near to my heart this week because one of my closest brothers-in-Christ, with whom I have met monthly for nine years, is moving away. However, I am thankful for other close, Christian brothers in our church and community who have taught me the value of this gift. If you do not know the value of Christian community, I encourage you to consider asking the Lord to lead you to a fellow disciple who also desires this gift. When two or three gather together to encourage and, when necessary, admonish one another, out of reverence for Christ the third gift of God is realized and authentic, Christian community becomes both a need and a want…and becomes oh so precious!