Belong: Find Your Place at the Table
Now the Apostle turns to attitudes and behavior—to manners at the table. This is how you behave at the table of the Lord.
This is the Apostle Paul offering some training exercise for Christ-like morality, Christ-like attitudes, and Christ-like virtues. These are all instructions on how better to follow and emulate the only perfect person who ever walked the planet.
Love with Sincerity
Love must be sincere or it’s not love.
Don’t fake your love. Love should be without pretense, without hypocrisy. In the Greek this is a negative word about a love without pretense. This word, “unfeigned,” is used three times in Scripture as a modifier for the word “agape.” It’s the word from which we get “hypocrite” with the alpha privative added—“no hypocrisy.” Don’t be a hypocrite about your love for others.
- How do you work up some sincerity? If you feel that you lack sincerity what do you do?
- You make sure your behavior is loving. You make sure you are loving in deed as well as in word.
- You fix hypocrisy by changing actions more so than changing attitudes. If your actions line up with your words, then you are not being hypocritical.
I want you to think now about some actions you could take to communicate your love to a person with whom you have been faking it.
Sincere Love includes hate. You have permission—in fact you are commanded—to hate something in this world—evil, or eeeveeeel, as the actors say.
- Love has a horror for, detests, abhors what is evil. It separates itself from that which it abhors. It does not want to be associated with evil.
You know the feeling when you witness something that just turns your stomach? That is this word, used only here in the New Testament.
- “Evil” is poneros which is an active description of what is hurtful or calamitous. Metaphorically it refers to what is diseased. Evil is described by this word as if it is an aggressive cancer that destroys. Sometimes it is translated “wicked” which helps capture the sense of aggression in the word.
- You can identify evil by its aggression. It is sin gone viral like a poison in the soul.
Cling: “Be joined with, keep company with” what is good.
- God is fundamentally good. The goodness of God is the measure by which we judge things to be good or evil.
- We join with and keep company with what is consistent with the character of God as revealed through Jesus Christ.
- We want to be associated with and establish an association with what is truly good.
Right down some activity which you have observed as being very good. Make sure that it is something that is not morally conflicted but “good” in the counsel of God—something godly. Consider pulling closer to that activity.
Keep Your Spiritual Fervor
The Apostle Paul is speaking autobiographically here. He has always been a man of great zeal. He persecuted the church with great zeal.
- The word here translated “fervor” is about keeping something at the boiling point. It is a word about intensity.
- Paul has experienced the difficulty of being emotionally UP all the time. It is hard to always keep any passion at the boiling point. The tendency is to go up and down in your zeal. The Apostle may have experienced the flagging of zeal with the accumulation of years. Maybe the aging process has taken the edge off his own enthusiasm.
- Diligence is the behavior that reflects and bolsters your zeal. Diligence is not tied to emotion but to discipline. You can always be diligent about your walk with the Lord.
Here are some exercises to keep up your zeal. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
- Serve the Lord—the word for serve here is the verb form of doulos, a slave. It is all about obedience. Nothing will depress your zeal more than disobedience.
- Be joyful in hope. Maybe you cannot be joyful about the sorrow or disappointments that have come your way. But you can always be joyful IN HOPE. Hope is what Christ gives us. And it is a hope that can never be taken away. Ephesians 1:11-12: In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. Paul speaks here as if we take our hope and put it in Christ. He is the container for, the holder of, our hope.
- Be patient in affliction. This is another discipline among the manners and behaviors that we are learning as part of the table of the Lord. We are to be patient always and especially in difficulty. We want quick resolution. God’s purpose may not include quick resolution. You can maintain your spiritual fervor by exercising the patience muscles.
- Be faithful in prayer. This is fundamental. Maybe we think it should go without mentioning. But Paul aways mentions it, and we must check it out.
When was the last time you spent time in prayer? How long has it been since you entered a season of prayer? Lent is coming up. Start giving brain time to the spiritual discipline you will initiate on February 10. I will begin a series “Pray Like Jesus.
Share with Those in Need
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality (Romans 12:13).
“Share” is the verb form of the familiar Greek word koinonia, “sharing together in a common possession. This word describes the very heart of the church of Jesus Christ. We are only here together in this room because we share the common bond of Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
Jesus said, “Freely you have received. Freely give” (Matthew 10:8). Jesus has shared his life with us. Now we are sharing life with one another.
Contributing is the verb form. Some people share in the life of the family. But they have trouble “contributing to the needs of the saints.” This word means to distribute something of what you have to others. It is illustrated by the Lord's Table where we receive the bread, take a portion, and pass the rest on to others. This is life in the body.
Needs of the hagios. The word “in need” in the NIV is “needs” of the saints in KJV. It is a noun.
- Jesus was continually responding to the evident needs of people around him. It is how he lived his life.
- Jesus taught us to respond to need as the trained and diligent impulse of our hearts. The stories of the Good Samaritan, the Rich Man and Lazarus, even the Pharisee and the Publican praying in the temple are stories about responding to need.
- We train ourselves to notice and respond. Or we train ourselves to hurry by on the other side of the road. It is a matter of training and habit.
- I am concerned about the downturn in the stock market, the oil industry, and the possibility of a shortfall of funds to care for the needs of God’s people this year. And yet I know that any shortfall in the economy may be compensated by an upturn in generosity from others who are learning to practice sharing what they have with others.
- Most importantly, though, your contribution is about activating your gift in the body of believers. Your spiritual gift may be giving. Then give. If it is serving, then serve. As we contribute what we have and employ or gifts, God lifts us all.
Practice hospitality. People, this is something most of us have to practice. It is like practicing the piano or any instrument. You just have to do it.
Brady is reluctant. But I know that in the end this practicing will bless him for a lifetime. Hospitality is even more so laden with possibilities for your future. The word is philoxenia, “love to strangers.” It is God’s call for you to love those who may be strangers to you. By loving them, you call them into the fellowship, the sharing of the body of Christ.