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By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world…Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both…He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly.

…because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ…we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. We thank God for what He has done for us. We thank God for giving us brethren who live by His call, by His forgiveness, and His promise.

…Even when sin and misunderstanding burden the communal life, is not the sinning brother still a brother, with whom I, too, stand under the Word of Christ? Will not his sin be a constant occasion for me to give thanks that both of us may live in the forgiving love of God in Jesus Christ? Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it is so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can ever live by our own words and deed, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together-the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. When the morning mists of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community, trans. John W. Doberstein (New York, NY: HarperOne, 1954), 27-29.

Forgiveness is a promise. When God forgives a sinner, He does not simply become emotional over his repentance. No, instead, He goes on record that He has forgiven by making (and keeping) a promise to that effect: “Your  sins and iniquities I will remember against you no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).

Every person that has truly trusted in the finished work of Christ and thus partakes in the New Covenant has the promise of forgiveness. It is a promise, solid, sure and done. God never brings it up again to us or too Himself. God never ruminates over our past sins. They are covered by the blood of His Son.

This same forgiveness is to be manifest in our lives as recipients of this mercy. When we grant forgiveness we are making promises,

When one person says, “I forgive you,” to another, he promises

  1. “I’ll not bring this matter up to you again;
  2. “I’ll will not bring this matter up to others;
  3. “I’ll not bring it up to myself (i.e., dwell on it in my mind).”

The response, “Yes, I will forgive you,” then,  is a promise that entails quite a commitment…

Let us forgive our brothers and sisters in the likeness of the forgiveness we have been given by our Lord!

~Quotes from Jay E. Adams, A Theology of Christian Counseling, p. 228, 222-223

“And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire;” (Jude 22-23a)

Often God does not intend for us to know about the spiritual state of others, so that we can make pronouncement about their spiritual state. Warning passages are given so that we can admonish people to continue in faith, not so that we can discern who is truly part of the people of God. Most of us would like to know the future destiny of others, but God does not reveal such information to us when some are straying from the Lord. We are to help them in the most practical way possible, not by speculating on whether they will go to heaven, but by helping them to get back on the pathway to heaven.

Schreiner & Caneday, The Race Set Before Us, p. 257

An excellent post by Ray Ortlund about holding to the doctrines of grace while living with Christian’s who don’t.

What unifies the church is the gospel.  What defines the gospel is the Bible.  What interprets the Bible correctly is a hermeneutic centered on Jesus Christ crucified, the all-sufficient Savior of sinners, who gives himself away on terms of radical grace to all alike.  What proves that that gospel hermeneutic has captured our hearts is that we are not looking down on other believers but lifting them up, not seeing ourselves as better but grateful for their contribution to the cause, not standing aloof but embracing them freely, not wishing they would become like us but serving them in love (Galatians 5:13).

My Reformed friend, can you move among other Christian groups and really enjoy them?  Do you admire them?  Even if you disagree with them in some ways, do you learn from them?  What is the emotional tilt of your heart – toward them or away from them?  If your Reformed theology has morphed functionally into Galatian sociology, the remedy is not to abandon your Reformed theology.   The remedy is to take your Reformed theology to a deeper level.  Let it reduce you to Jesus only.   Let it humble you.  Let this gracious doctrine make you a fun person to be around.  The proof that we are Reformed will be all the wonderful Christians we discover around us who are not Reformed.   Amazing people.   Heroic people.  Blood-bought people.   People with whom we are eternally one – in Christ alone.

Take time to read the whole thing.

From Ray Ortlund:

1.  We can rejoice in one another, because the Lord rejoices in us.

Psalm 16:3 sets the tone: “As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.”  There is excellence to admire in every Christian.

2.  We can create an environment of trust rather than negative scrutiny.

1 Corinthians 4:5 says, “Do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.”  Human eyes are not competent to judge human hearts.

3.  We can judge ourselves, even as we give each other the benefit of the doubt.

Matthew 7:5 says, “First take the log out of your own eye.”

4.  If a problem must be addressed, we can talk to, not about.  Gossip destroys.

Matthew 18:15 says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.”  James 1:26 says, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”

5.  If a problem must be addressed, we can avoid blanket statements but identify factual specifics, offer a positive path forward and preserve everyone’s dignity.

“You are ___________” is too absolute to be fair.  It leaves a person with no freedom to improve.  Better to say, “In this situation, when you _____________, that set us back.  It would be helpful if, in the future, you would ______________.  What do you think?  And is there anything I can do that might help?”

6.  We can always extend kindness.

Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another.”  The word “kind” is used in Matthew 11:30when Jesus says, “My yoke is easy.”  Kindness asks, “How can I make this situation as easy for the other person as possible?  How can I avoid embarrassing this person?  How can I make a positive response as easy as it can be?”

7.  When we do wrong one another, we can say to the person harmed, “I was wrong.  I am sorry.  It won’t happen again.  Is there anything I could do now that might make a positive difference?”

Where a wrong has been done, as the Bible defines wrong, an apology heals and helps.

“Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.”  Genesis 33:4

“The church is not a club for those with similar cultural tastes, political views, ethnic backgrounds, and moral leanings. They do not meet because they share a hobby called spirituality or because they have the same version for transforming culture. Believers gather to be regularly reconstituted as the body of Christ, receiving Christ as their living Head. They do not gather on their own initiative but are gathered by the Spirit through his ordained means of grace.

Unlike voluntary associations (book clubs, political parties, or fans of the opera or garage bands), the church is not made up of peolpe I chose to be my friends. God chose them for me and me for them. They are my family because of God’s election, not mine. Gathered to be redefined by the kingdom of Christ rather than by the kingdoms of this age, we are then scattered again into the world as salt–not huddled together in Christian societies for moral transformation and ecclesiastically sanctioned political causes, but dispersed into the world as doctors, homemakers, plumbers, lawyers, truck drivers, citizens, and neighbors.”

~Michael Horton, Christless Christianity, p. 226

“with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Cor. 4:5)

Why do I build relationships with other people? When I look around I see people building relationships for the purpose of getting something from the other person. Whether that something might be really selfish or maybe not so readily seen as being selfish. Whatever the case, because sin exists in this world we turn every relationship into a means to our own end. I get to know a person because of what they can give me. Now, if they don’t give me what I want then I will get really mad and offended.

Yet, here comes Christ’s kingdom and the purpose of relationships is transformed. You can already hear it in the words from Jesus, “So the last will be first, and the first last” (Matt. 20:16).  There is a paradoxical reversal to the way we normally think. Our normal way of thinking is what was talked about above, “I get to the top by stepping on everyone else.” This heavenly way of thinking goes the exact opposite, “you get to the top by raising everyone else above you.”

It was this crazy way of thinking which is reflected in the verse at the very beginning of this post. I enter into relationships with people for what? To get their service? No. I do it so that I can be their servant! They should understand me not as one who is using them to gain, but using them to pour my service and love upon! Even when they give nothing in return.

How? Why?

Because those who are in union with the one who came not to be served but to serve by giving His life as a ransom for many can’t help but reflect His actions. All our service in relationships is for Jesus sake. He came and loved the unlovable. He served those who hated them. He gave his life as a propitiatory sacrifice so that the ungodly would look godly before His Father. Thus, our service, whether in word or deed, is a pointing to Him! Jesus Christ, who gave Himself without measure to us weak, frail people who had nothing, and still have nothing, to give Him in return.

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