“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:13-16).
Hello again, Beloved! It seems like quite some time since I have written to you all. This past week of July 4-11, 2021, I had the great privilege of serving as pastor at Summer Games camp. Summer Games is a camp for those children going in to 4th grade up to leaving 8th grade. It is a volunteer-run program, with teenagers and young adults serving as huddle leaders, and adults serving as counselors and staff. All these wonderful volunteers work together to create an emotionally safe environment for the children. It is a huge blessing every year to see God’s hand at work in Summer Games.
We can learn from this ministry. Summer games has a rule that when a person speaks an unkind word to someone or about someone, whether in their hearing or not, they are held accountable to “fix” that unkind word. They enforce this rule so that the emotionally safe environment mentioned above might be maintained, that all might know the Love of God, and that the Word of God might be better received.
There is much confusion in the Church today over worldly matters. We have allowed cultural concerns and ideas to divide us. We have allowed our opinions based on what we read on the internet to hold more sway over us than what we read in the Word of God. We see this hold true even in the way we think of, and feel toward, our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Here is a good rule: If the Word of God, our personal ideas, convictions or estimations of truth promote Godly love in us, and we find ourselves moving, in Godly love with service, toward our brothers and sisters in Christ (especially those, who in our flesh, we tend to disagree with), then we are most likely being led by the Spirit of God. If, however our ideas, personal convictions and estimations of truth motivate us to think less of, speak negatively of, move away from our brothers and sisters in Christ, then we can likewise be assured that we are not being led by the Spirit of God. Something else has taken hold of us then (either our own flesh or the influence of the evil one.)
I find it interesting that frequently those who express concern over division in the body of Christ are much more interested in the worldly definition of unity, that is uniformity. They are concerned that the body of Christ be in uniformity under their personal estimations—these estimations not being based on the Word of God, but on worldly matters. The law of “love” for these carnal Christians is simple: “Agree with me that I may love thee.”
But in Christ, by the Spirit, we need not agree in order to live and move in true love and service. It is the world’s way to require agreement. The world “loves” those who love them. The world serves where there will be earthly benefit to the serving. But, the love of God is not like worldly “love.” God’s love is constantly reaching out, constantly serving, loving, caring and dying for those who do not think the same.
We cannot love this way in our flesh. Our sinful nature will lead us away from this type of Love. We are called to walk in the Spirit. We must learn to take captive every fleshly unloving thought, attitude and deed toward the brethren and toward the people we are called to reach with the gospel.
Paul says in Colossians 3:5: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you.” We must crucify unloving thoughts, we must crucify worldly estimations of love, we must crucify all idolatrous service to worldly agendas and ideas and live accordingly to the new life of love by the Spirit.
I praise God for the love seen so evidently in so many at TCC. But, beloved, there will come those who would distract us from Godly love and try to win us to their worldly, fleshly concerns, fears and agendas. There are those who would influence us right out of the way of love and into the way of the world. Very often these ones come to us under the guise of “righteousness.” We must remain vigilant against the schemes of the evil one who desires to use anything to divide the church. He desires to divide us for one purpose and one purpose only—that our effectiveness for the gospel of Christ might be thwarted. To that end, Satan desires that we live not in victory, but in enslavement to worldly concerns, that we might not show the world Christ, but rather show them an inaccurate view of our Savior, twisted by our own failure to live and love by the Spirit and the Word. So, Church, when these fleshly concerns come, when they begin to war for our attention, may we by the Spirit of God, put them to death. And may we live unto Love.
The Scripture makes it clear, if we cannot love differently, then we are truly no different. May we, the church, learn to grasp what Summer Games has grasped: Our God is Agape. Holy Love. He calls us to be as He is. As we journey in an ever-darkening world, may this love be unmistakable, may this love be unshakable, may this love bind us together despite our differences, and move us to bring the gospel to the peoples of our communities, families, and workplaces. May this love move us to lay down our life so that they might know Christ. For Christ laid down His life for them.
Love in Christ,
Pastor Brian Torres
1 John 4:7-12
Matthew 5:44-48August 1, 2021