FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS God used the nation of Israel to effect His will for mankind. Through a covenant made with man and later through His dealings with this man’s ancestors, God reveals Himself to all who will attend. God paints a picture as He deals with the people of Israel. This painting reveals that man has a problem that only God can remedy. The problem is sin and God’s remedy is Jesus. Jesus came, lived, died, and overcame the grave. Jesus ascended and is coming again. The command of Jesus until His return is to be used of Him to bring others into the fold. The vehicle God uses to accomplish this command; to complete His will now for all mankind is the New Testament Church. Born again, regenerated believers are positioned in Christ and have a new identity. This identity is corporately referred to as the Church. The objectives of the lives of every Christian must not contradict this new identity as we are used of God to fulfill His will.
The theme for First Baptist Church of Milford this year has been to “excel to the edifying of the church.” The literal translation of this term “edifying” is the act of promoting the growth of wisdom, holiness, and happiness of fellow believers. If we are to “edify” one another we must promote these attributes or characteristics in our brothers and sisters in Christ. Why? So that God can fulfill His will for us which is to be used of Him to expand His kingdom; to help others come to know Jesus as Savior. How does one “excel” at edifying? How does one excel at growing wisdom and holiness and happiness in the brethren? Does it not first start within the heart of each believer? Must we not first examine our wisdom; our holiness; our happiness, before endeavoring to “edify” or grow these traits in others? How is this accomplished?
In Galatians 6:15 we read “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.”
The thought here is not only that we are new creatures in Christ, but that our change is the only thing that “availeth.” The Greek term availeth refers to having force. Paul is explaining to the believers in Galatia that any power of value, any influence of worth is in Christ Jesus; in our newly regenerated position in Him. We find a parallel verse as Paul writes to the church of Corinth:
“Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
Here we again find that the “new creature” is in Christ and that the ability to influence (all things) is associated with our existence in Him. These verses contextually agree and confirm that upon accepting Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection and being placed in Christ, we have the means to change; we literally are new creatures. Our power and influence; our behavior in all things should never be separate from our new identity in the Lord.
Still, there remains a free will in this new creature which must submit to the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Believers must be willing to accept this change so that they are able to use this power and influence for God’s glory. The question is, am I willing to change; am I willing to submit all things to Christ so that my behavior completely reflects Him? Only then can we be assured that our investment, our edification of others replicates Jesus.
In 1 Thessalonians 3:3 we read: “That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.”
Paul, speaks of the “afflictions” that the new believers in Thessalonica must go through and further speaks of the fact that we (the church) are “appointed thereunto.” The Greek term appointed thereunto (keimai) means destined; inevitable. Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is asserting that there is absolutely no escape from having to navigate these afflictions. Now let’s look at the term “affliction.” While there are several Greek definitions for this term, this particular translation is metaphoric for the travail a mother goes through when giving birth to a child. What Paul relates in this passage is quite clear. All new believers; all new church plants must corporately go through afflictions as a new church; as a new local body of believers. Just as all mothers must go through the pain and labor associated with giving birth, so must each believer be challenged upon becoming a new creature in Christ. Am I willing to accept this challenge? Am I willing to go through the labor of living a life set apart for His glory? The Bible clearly shows us that our transformation brings afflictions. Am I ready for this challenge?
Noah Webster defines “champion” (verb usage) as one who is bold in contest; a “champion” of the truth. Churches today need members who will champion the cause of edifying fellow believers. Churches today need Christians who are bold in their efforts to invest in their brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to be bold in contest. There is no doubt that the newly generated, born again believer is immediately entered in a contest. The moment we accept Christ as our Savior we enlist in the battle. The battle is won corporately through believers who are willing to champion the cause. Paul reflects upon the cause in 1 Corinthians 9:23 – 27:
“And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with [you]. Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they [do it] to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring [it] into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
Paul establishes several significant truths in these five verses. First, the rewards the believer obtains upon being victorious are for our Savior. Second, the cause is worth great sacrifice. And finally, any other objective in life is selfish and vain.
What happens after Missions Conference? What happens after 2017? Will the theme for our church change next year? Will our focus change from “excel to the edifying of the church” as we again begin to direct our attention to people groups of a particular continent looking toward Missions Conference 2018? I pray that our priority continues to be one of constantly changing to become more like Jesus. I pray we continually challenge one another to grow in Christ so that we may be better equipped to do more for Him. I pray that First Baptist Church champions the cause to reach more people than we have ever reached before. The only way this will come to pass is if we are a unified body of believers that “excel to the edifying of the church.”