We’re Not Our Own

by Pastor James Lee

Frank Sinatra once sang, “I’ll do it my way.” Miley Cyrus now sings, “This is our house, this is our rules… we run things, things don’t run we, don’t take nothing from nobody.” Is it any surprise that one of the first things that comes from the lips of our children is “mine”, and keeps coming from ours, just in a more sophisticated way? That’s me. That’s you. That’s all of us. Let’s be honest about it. I believe we would all agree that there is no shortage of things to repent of on a daily basis in light of His grace. At the very least, we are far more independently minded than we realize, especially as those who publicly profess Jesus as “Lord”… with the added irony, that we succumb by default to some temporal servitude elsewhere. We’re not nearly as “free” as we boast, but when life hits our self-appointed demi-god status, we get upset with said freedom. Our remaining flesh insists on being captains of our own ship. That’s the madness, insanity, idolatry, irrational nature of our shackled “emancipation”. The tune of our Western post-Enlightenment edict screams the maxim “It’s My life! My choice! My body!” Of course, we know it’s nothing new. It’s as old as sin, “Did God actually say… you will not surely die!” Yet, that’s the song of our own arrogance and self-sufficiency when it surfaces. Whether we’re teenagers yelling at our parents because we think we know better, or we question God’s perfect wisdom by worrying, or we think we deserve better in life, or the ways we approach church commitment, or how we disregard godly counsel for what we want, or assume that something is ultimately our accomplishment and possession – our degrees, our opportunities, our homes, our money, our stuff… Thus, we tend to enthrone our own timetables, expectations, desires, standards, not with a conviction of accountability to God, but with an attitude of autonomy from Him.

But we’ve never been our own. And what we have has never been our own. Thus, every time we think that, we believe the age old lie of our supposed self-autonomy. We couldn’t create ourselves, let alone sustain ourselves. We live and breathe as the universe is held by His personal power without a sweat. We need to eat and sleep. God doesn’t need. We struggle to consistently love others like we would want to. We can’t figure out our problems that we ourselves created, only to have the audacity to blame God despite everything good He has given us and everything bad that we puny and fallible and limited and fallen sinners have made a muck of all on our own. It’s a divine miracle and mercy that Louis Armstrong can sing “It’s a Wonderful World.” It’s not as bad as it could be, but we looked at the creation, and knowingly suppressed the truth about the Creator (Romans 1:18ff). In the midst of that blindness, our loving God intervened!

If left to myself, I would have never sought after God – I did not find Him; He found me! He did not stumble across me by accident or hope or wait for me to ask for His mercy or wish that I as a spiritually dead person (Eph 2:1) with no desire for Him at all, then would somehow one day “return the favor.” Rather, He set His loving affections on the criminally undeserving and stopped us from continuing on the path we were on. Romans 5:8 declares, “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He has loved us, loves us, knows all our sorrows, cares for us as we experience the consequences of our own sin and of living in this fallen world. He commits to love us, and we’ve done nothing to merit or earn it. He set His affections on us, formed us in our mother’s wombs, preserved us, called us, saved us, gave us new life! Creationally, not just consequently by redemption, we’re not our own. Our lives belong to the Lord!

Here are at least 8 reasons why we’re both joyfully and soberly not our own:

1. We’re Not Our Own… Because We Were Never Our Own

  • Genesis 1:27 – God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
  • Revelation 4:11 – “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.

2. We’re Not Our Own… Because He Chose to Redeem Us Before We Ever Came to Be

  • Ephesians 1:3-4 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 – He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

3. We’re Not Our Own… Because We Have Been Freed to His Loving Lordship

  • 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
  • Galatians 5:13 – “Do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh.”

4. We’re Not Our Own… Because He Bought Us Back At An Incomprehensible Cost

  • Romans 8:32 – He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
  • 1 Peter 1:17-19 – If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

5. We’re Not Our Own… Because He Adopted Us Despite Who We Once Were

  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
  • Galatians 4:4-5 – “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

6. We’re Not Our Own… Because We Belong to Him Completely and Eternally

  • Romans 6:5,11 – For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection… So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
  • John 10:28-29 – I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

7. We’re Not Our Own… Because We Now Embrace Him Willingly, We Love Him!

  • 1 Peter 1:6-9 – In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.
  • 1 John 4:18-19 – There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.

8. We’re Not Our Own… Because He’s Left Us Here With a Privileged Mission to Fulfill

  • Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
  • 1 Peter 2:9 – But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

True freedom is being enslaved to the Lord, and anything outside that is a self-deception that leads to disaster. As a young Christian, I remember hearing Jay Adams ask the question, “Where is the train most free: ‘confined’ to the tracks, or ‘free’ to roll on the dirt?” We were designed by our Good Creator to enjoy the freedom and joy of living in a trusting and submissive relationship to Him. There is a dramatic contrast between the Absaloms, “Oh that I were king,” and John the Baptists, “He must increase, I must decrease.

Alexander Maclaren explained, “Liberty does not mean doing as you like, it means liking as you ought, and doing that. He only is free who submits to God in Christ, and thereby overcomes himself and the world and all antagonism, and is able to do that which it is his life to do.” James Montgomery Boice wrote, “There is no such thing as absolute freedom for anyone. No human is free to do everything he or she may want to do. There is One Being in the universe who is totally free, of course. That is God. But all others are limited by or enslaved by someone or something. As a result, the only meaningful question in this area is: Who or what are you serving? … Since you and I are human beings and not God, we can never be autonomous. We must either be slaves to sin or slaves of Jesus Christ. But here is the wonderful and very striking thing: To be a slave of Christ is true freedom.” Jesus Himself warned in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”

For the child of God, what a joy to confess, that we’re not our own! We belong to the Lord who loves us! What gratitude overflows and strong security to say that we are who we are, by the grace of God! John Piper said, “When we belong to Jesus, we’re finally able to make God look glorious in our lives.” The greatest happiness in life is to be a slave of the glorious Christ! To be a slave of Christ is true freedom!

Are They Israelites? So Am I.

by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

2 Corinthians 11:22

We have here A PERSONAL CLAIM, and one that needs proof. The apostle knew that His claim was indisputable, but there are many persons who have no right to the title who yet claim to belong to the Israel of God.

If we are with confidence declaring, ‘So am I also an Israelite,’ let us only say it after having searched our heart as in the presence of God. But if we can give proof that we are following Jesus, if we can from the heart say, ‘I trust Him wholly, trust Him only, trust Him simply, trust Him now, and trust Him ever,’ then the position which the saints of God hold belongs to us-all their enjoyments are our possessions; we may be the very least in Israel, ‘less than the least of all saints,’ yet since the mercies of God belong to the saints AS SAINTS, and not as advanced saints, or well-taught saints, we may put in our plea, and say, ‘Are they Israelites? so am I; therefore the promises are mine, grace is mine, glory will be mine.’ The claim, rightfully made, is one which will yield untold comfort. When God’s people are rejoicing that they are His, what a happiness if they can say, ‘So AM I!’ When they speak of being pardoned, and justified, and accepted in the Beloved, how joyful to respond, ‘Through the grace of God, SO AM I.’

But this claim not only has its enjoyments and privileges, but also its conditions and duties. We must share with God’s people in cloud as well as in sunshine. When we hear them spoken of with contempt and ridicule for being Christians, we must come boldly forward and say, ‘So am I.’ When we see them working for Christ, giving their time, their talent, their whole heart to Jesus, we must be able to say, ‘So do I.’ O let us prove our gratitude by our devotion, and live as those who, having claimed a privilege, are willing to take the responsibility connected with it.


Weekly Links (2/17/2017)

There is no shame in being hurt and hopeless. The hopeless and needy are the ones who are welcomed into the tender, understanding arms of a God of eternal love. (Dave Harvey, Paul Gilbert, Letting Go: Rugged Love for Wayward Souls)

by Cesar Vigil-Ruiz

Feliz Friday! Another week filled with God’s sustaining grace, and lovingkindness. I hope this week’s links will be an extension of that to you, so here they are:

  • Ever wondered where the Bible predicts the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple in A.D. 70? TMS professor Dr. Michael Vlach presents his list of passages that he believes does this very thing. This may be a good resource for future reference, especially when talking to others about prophecy in the Bible.
  • Over at the Gospel Coalition blog, Aaron Wilson writes about the concept of embryo adoption and the importance of Christians learning and engaging in it, while Russell Moore deals with the false dilemma some Christians may have: whether to adopt or have children of their own.
  • It seems some of the bloggers over at The Cripplegate are getting back into the issue of cessationism vs. continuationism. This week, Eric Davis addresses continuationist arguments made from 1 Corinthians 14. You may want to go over this a few times for that next conversation with your brother or sister with whom you disagree with.
  • Jason Helopoulos spends a little bit of time on the issue of assurance in a believer’s life and when it seems to be fleeting.
  • Simonetta Carr, author of Christian biographies for children, dedicates a post to a reformer that you may have never heard of: Peter Martyr Vermigli. Doesn’t ring a bell? Then you check it out!
  • Is there joy in discipling others? Not surprisingly, David Mathis at Desiring God thinks so, and points out that God thinks so, too.
  • Justin Taylor recently interviewed Lydia Brownback about her new book, Finding God in My Loneliness. She was the first female Christian author I read, and I absolutely loved her writing, so take it for what it’s worth, but this may be something to consider watching (and reading!).
  • Mark Dever recently preached at Bethlehem College & Seminary’s PasCon 2017 (conference for pastors) on evangelism. Enough said.
  • Common in culture today is the idea that abortion is an act of women’s rights. However, as Brian Fisher argues over at Public Discourse, abortion has historically (and still is) a reflection of male dominance.

That’s all for this week! Please be in prayer for both the collegians and youth as this weekend, both groups will be at Pine Valley for their respective retreats. See you Sunday!

Soli Deo Gloria

Teach Them Diligently

by Leah Shen

LBC Nursery Ministry (Fireflies) serves the infants and toddlers of our church. The Fireflies ministry is divided into Nursery 1 (from birth to about 16 months old) and Nursery 2 (from about 16 months old to 3 years old). I am thankful to be able to serve with ladies of LBC through our Fireflies ministry. We endeavor to come alongside the parents and teach the children, at a young age, about God and truths of the Bible. We pray for their spiritual state and aim to be purposeful in the way we speak and interact with the children. We desire to nurture their spirit and continually point them to Christ.

With the seeds of God’s word, we hope to cultivate in them an awareness of God and our need for our savior, Jesus Christ, through lesson time, songs and Bible memorization. One lesson and one Bible verse are taught for each month. With repetition, truths about God are modeled over and over so that they may begin to understand that, for example, God made everything. A few of the other lessons are: Jesus is Alive, God is Everywhere, God Always Wins, God is Good, Jesus Loves Me, Only God is Big, Jesus is Here and Gods Knows Everything. In addition, we also teach the children scripture memorization through music and hand-motions. Parents can even review the songs on the website! For example, one lesson teaches about Jesus and Zacchaeus, and the memory verse from Proverbs 17:17a, “A friend loves at all times.” We use a curriculum reviewed by our children ministry leaders. What a delight to see the children interested and engaged during lesson time and scripture memorization.

During snack time and free-play time, teaching moments can arise. I view these moments as valuable times to reinforce and to teach the child about sharing, taking turns, and showing grace to one another by being gentle and kind towards each another. We also have an opportunity to pray together for the needs of the children. Praise God for His sovereign hand in their lives. Let us all faithfully pray for each one of them and for their salvation.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it,”(Proverbs 22:6). As a mom whose children have benefited from the Fireflies ministry’s dedication and commitment to serving the children, I am greatly encouraged and thankful. I am thankful that they are able to learn about God at a young age and hope they will hold on to His word in their hearts. Even times when my child may prefer not to be in the Nursery due to separation anxiety, the ladies were gracious in taking care of them. I am grateful to have been able to join in corporate worship during our Sunday services while my children were in Fireflies. By God’s grace, during their time in Fireflies, my children have been given more examples of having a high view of God, treasuring God’s word and keeping it in their heart. So as a mom, I am thankful for the children’s ministry at LBC who continually nurture and pray for their spiritual life. And as part of the Fireflies ministry, I am encouraged by the parents’ faithfulness in teaching their children about God and allowing us to come along side them. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” (Ephesians 1:3). Joy fills my heart because my resources in Christ are adequate. Let us be faithful to God and continually pray for one another, especially for the children that they may come to a saving knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that they may belong wholly to God.

Soli Deo Gloria in the Church

by Pastor John Kim

What has been interesting to watch over the years as the Lighthouse churches have expanded is how the members of the church deal with all the changes. Some of the original members are still at their respective churches and have been faithful to continue in growing and serving the Lord. But there are also some who remain but seem to get complacent or maybe just get busy with life and their participation seems to lack passion. There are others who seem to get more critical and complain about how things are and how things were better in the past. There are still yet others who at some point get involved in significant conflicts with others and either just leave or lose heart and it shows.

Why is it that so many churches seem to start off with such vigor and enthusiasm and then see a steady downward trend where there seems to lack the kind of passion and heart that was there at the beginning? It’s almost like marriage for some people – the wedding day is the highlight and it all seems to go downhill from there.

There can be many contributing factors but there is one issue that is always at the heart of such situations. The grand purpose has been forgotten. The greatest good is no longer so great. The pursuit of the glory of God has diminished to a trickle and the pursuit of other things has replaced it.

The most tragic thing that can happen is that the glory of God has departed from a church.

During the time of the Judges in Israel, Eli, who was priest and judge over Israel, was waiting for news of the battle against the Philistines. When he was informed that the Israelites had lost, the ark of the covenant had been taken, and his two sons were killed, he fell over and broke his neck and died. His daughter-in-law gave birth upon hearing the news but she died in the process. As she was dying, she gave the name “Ichabod” to the baby, which means, “the glory has departed from Israel.”

Israel had forgotten about God. It was God who had delivered them from slavery in Egypt and brought them to the Promised Land of Canaan. It was God who sustained them to take over the land and grant them to prosper. But the Israelites were fickle people and as soon as there were times of prosperity, they would give themselves over to idols and worship false gods. The cycle of sin, judgment, and deliverance took place many times.

But this particular story really stands out because of the gravity of perspective. This was more than just the loss of a battle. It was more than the loss of a husband and son. It was even more than the loss of the ark of the covenant, which had been taken into battle almost like a good luck charm. It was the reality that the glory of God was no longer the greatest concern for the people, even for the leaders.

Our Lighthouse churches are still relatively young. It’s not like things have been so bad. But like many churches, we can allow a passive heart to grow when it comes to the pursuit of the glory of God.

If there was one thing that Jonathan Edwards pursued, it was the glory of God. Several of his resolutions reflect this devotion.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

23. Resolved, frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God’s glory, to repute it as a breach of the 4th Resolution.

27. Resolved, never willfully to omit anything, except the omission be for the glory of God; and frequently to examine my omissions.

One writer comments that it is easy to reduce the principle of God’s glory to a call for moral action, which is definitely an application to be pursued. But before we focus on what man is to do, we have to ask the question, “Do we really have a God-centered view of God’s glory?”

In other words, do we see God’s glory in relation to His nature and to see it as Richard Mueller defines as “God’s glory is to be understood essentially, as one of the divine attributes but moreover, as an attribute that eminently reflects and reveals the perfection of all the attributes.”

Edward Leigh writes, “God’s glory is the infinite excellency of the Divine essence…and that God is infinitely worthy to be praised, admired, and loved of all.”

Leigh highlighted the internal aspect of God’s glory which also has an external expression as seen in creation and in the church and God’s people. The glory of God is manifested in various ways but it is always ultimately to make much of God, not the instrument of manifestation.
It is not that we add anything to God by ascribing glory to God. But what it does for us is, as Richard Muller describes, “by taking notice of His excellency, and esteeming Him accordingly, and making manifest this our high esteem of Him.”

As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I would like to encourage you to take a look back and consider the rich heritage we have received from those who walked before us.
While the reformers did not use such statements as the Solas at the time, we can see that their ministries and writings proclaimed a clear message, which is really captured in the phrase “Soli Deo Gloria” or to God alone be the glory.

  • I want to challenge you as the Lighthouse family that we not fall prey to what happens to so many churches.
  • I do not want to see a church where Ichabod reigns, where the glory of God has departed.
  • I want us to be churches where the glory of God is so clearly prized and pursued that it affects all that we do because we are drawn to a great God who is worthy of praise.
  • I want us to seek God in all that we do.
  • I want us to worship God in all that we do.
  • I want our service to be honoring God, not ourselves.
  • I want our witness to proclaim the greatness of God and that seeking first His kingdom and righteousness is of the greatest priority.
  • I hope that the legacy we pass on to the next generation will be such that those who follow us cannot help but notice as well as be challenged to pursue the glory of God with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our minds.

Johann Sebastian Bach is known as one of the most famous composers of classical music of all time. What some might not know is that he was deeply devoted to God and in the process of writing his music, he had the convictions that it was only with the help of Jesus that he could glorify Him through the music he wrote. So before he would even start writing music, he would put the initials J J at the top of the page in the corner. It represented the Latin words, “Jesu Juva,” which translated means “Jesus, help me.” When he would finish the work he would write at the bottom of the page “SDG” which stood for “Soli Deo Gloria,” or “To God alone by the glory.”

My challenge to all the members of the Lighthouse churches would be this – can you follow in the footsteps of Bach by praying the same prayer before all you do, “Jesus help me!” and at the end of all you do to sign off with “Soli Deo Gloria” – to God alone be the glory. While we obviously will fall short at times and forget, it is my prayer that collectively we would be united with this kind of heart and mind, to always seek the help of Jesus and to commit all to the glory of God alone.

Behold, I Am Vile

by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Job 40:4

One cheering word, poor lost sinner, for thee! You think you must not come to God because YOU are vile. Now, there is not a saint living on earth but has been made to feel that he is vile. If Job, and Isaiah, and Paul were all obliged to say ‘I am vile,’ oh, poor sinner, wilt thou be ashamed to join in the same confession? If divine grace does not eradicate all sin from the believer, how dost thou hope to do it thyself? and if God loves His people while they are yet vile, dost thou think thy vileness will prevent His loving thee? Believe on Jesus, thou outcast of the world’s society! Jesus calls thee, and such as thou art.

‘Not the righteous, not the righteous;
Sinners, Jesus came to call.’

Even now say, ‘Thou hast died for sinners; I am a sinner, Lord Jesus, sprinkle Thy blood on me’; if thou wilt confess thy sin thou shalt find pardon. If, now, with all thy heart, thou wilt say, ‘I am vile, wash me,’ thou shalt be washed now. If the Holy Spirit shall enable thee from thy heart to cry

‘Just as I am, without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidd’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come!’

thou shalt rise from reading this morning’s portion with all thy sins pardoned; and though thou didst wake this morning with every sin that man hath ever committed on thy head, thou shalt rest to-night accepted in the Beloved; though once degraded with the rags of sin, thou shalt be adorned with a robe of righteousness, and appear white as the angels are. For ‘now,’ mark it, ‘Now is the accepted time.’ If thou ‘believest on Him who justifieth the ungodly thou art saved.’ Oh! may the Holy Spirit give thee saving faith in Him who receives the vilest.


Weekly Links (2/10/2017)

“A man who loves his wife will love her letters and her photographs because they speak to him of her. So if we love the Lord Jesus we shall love the Bible because it speaks to us of him. The husband is not so stupid as to prefer his wife’s letters to her voice, or her photographs to herself. He simply loves them because of her. So, too, we love the Bible because of Christ. It is his portrait. It is his love-letter.” (John Stott, Fundamentalism and Evangelism)

by Cesar Vigil-Ruiz

Feliz Friday! Praise God for another week of blessings and opportunities of trusting in Him! I hope these links will further your love and trust in Him this weekend. Here are this week’s links:

That’s all for this week! Please be in prayer for Youth and College Life, as they meet tonight, and for those playing in Mission Bowl to avoid injuries and enjoy fellowship with one another! See you all on Sunday!

Soli Deo Gloria

Caring for New Visitors

by Pastor Mark Chin

How often do we consider the connection between our care for new visitors at church and our holiness? In Leviticus 19:1-2, the LORD speaks to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” What follows are the LORD’s detailed commands and instructions for how the people of Israel are to “be holy” like the LORD who created and saved them. It is worth noting that the commands that follow are addressed to the entirety of the congregation or assembly. Holiness here refers not merely being separate from sin but being chosen by the LORD, being like the LORD in all our ways, and being entirely devoted to the LORD with the entirety of our heart, soul, and resources. It is a requisite given by God not simply for the priests or the elders – but for the entirety of the congregation – for the entirety of life. As we come to Leviticus 19:33-34 – we see that God’s standard of holiness includes caring for the stranger among us in the same way that He has loved and cared for His people. “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”

The temptation we all experience every Sunday is to spend the majority of our free church time with our friends. The temptation is to assume that caring for new visitors or strangers is the job of the elders or the Welcome Team. Isn’t that why churches have a Welcome Team? We’ve just spent the week slugging it out at work in a fallen world with fallen co-workers or family members. Sunday is the one day of the week we get a chance to fellowship with believing friends – to enjoy their company and their presence – to catch up on everything we’ve missed in their lives. In truth, this is one of the sweet blessings of life in our Father’s house. However – if the summation of our Sunday is spending time with or serving friends who are just like us – then we’ve fallen well short of God’s standard of holiness, His Gospel, and the way He has loved and cared for us. If we were to take a video or a series of photos of our fellowship Sunday morning, what story would the video or photos tell? Would the video or photos show collections of people who look similar – marrieds with marrieds, parents with parents, collegians with collegians, Asians with Asians, etc… – spending time with one another like any other social club?

The good news of the gospel is that God sent His only Son to live with and die for people who were nothing like Him – for strangers. If our only hope for love and care and time with the Lord was based on our similarities to Him – in spirituality, ethnicity, life-stage, compatibility (whatever that means), common interests – where would we be? As we consider the twelve disciples whom Jesus chose to love and shepherd, we see people who could not be more unlike our Lord and Savior. This, of course, should give each one of us great hope. As we consider our great salvation, we are reminded that Jesus died for us so that we would no longer live for ourselves, but so that we might live for Him – like Him. In fact, the test of true faith, is a life that looks like Christ in every way on every day, including Sundays. As the Apostle Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I know live, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20).

Indeed, as Jesus pointed out in the parable of the Good Samaritan, the test of true God-like love for a neighbor is not a profession of faith or Bible knowledge or position in the church or even a passing greeting. It is the ongoing love and care for the needs of those who are our enemies. One of the saddest confessions that I have heard repeatedly is from church attendees who share that after being at a church for two to three months, they are still greeted like a new visitor. It’s not hard to tell whether the person greeting you really cares for you or whether they are saying “hi” or “welcome” because it’s the right thing to do. As the parable of the Good Samaritan points out, loving a neighbor goes well beyond saying “hi” or “welcome” to a new visitor. It is the sacrificial love that takes time from a busy schedule to learn the neighbor’s needs, to provide for the neighbor’s needs, and to make sure the neighbor and stranger is cared for until he or she is in a safe place and is restored to good health. It is an expression of God’s heart of gospel compassion. Jesus’ standard of care for strangers is a convicting one. We must ask ourselves: is this our standard? If this is the standard of true love and faith, how many of us would be considered Christians? As Sunday approaches, it is worth reading through Luke 10 and spending time in prayer with the Lord, repenting over how far we fall short of His Gospel love and compassion, praying for the strangers who He brings each Sunday to His church, and preparing our hearts by faith to love the stranger among us – even as He has loved us. Caring for strangers is the privilege of every saint, not just the Welcome Team. It is our joy to love strangers in the same way Christ has loved us. It is a testimony to the holiness of the God who has created us and saved us for His glory.