MARCH 1, 2023

Dear Friends,

Last Sunday, we looked at Jesus’ first trial before Pontius Pilate, where Jesus explained that what Pilate was most worried about (an insurrection) wasn’t what Jesus had in mind, since His kingdom is a different kind of kingdom – a “not of this world” kind of kingdom where bearing witness to truth, not coercion by force, is how the kingdom functions.

And I made the point that in addition to commissioning us to also bear witness to truth as His ambassadors, He is also concerned about how we bear witness to the truth. He wants us to follow both His example and His instruction that we speak the truth in love. Full of grace. We are not to adopt the culture’s tactics in the face of spiritual warfare any more than we should embrace the culture’s agenda.

As I’ve continued to reflect on that passage from John 18, I’ve realized that I left something out.

Not only are we supposed to speak the truth in love to those who disagree with us or who stand in opposition to Jesus’ teaching. We’re also supposed to love those very same people.

In other words, it’s not simply about being nice or polite when we speak to our ideological enemies. We’re actually supposed to care about the people we’re speaking to. To love them.

You remember how Jesus addressed this issue, right? In the Sermon on the Mount, He said “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).

Yikes.

You mean when I see news clips of politicians espousing practices or policies that are contrary to God’s word, I’m supposed to love them and pray for them? What about the angry tweets I read from people who I believe are using Bible verses out of context to promote some agenda? Love them? What about the person whose house I drive by who has the “keep abortion legal” sign in his or her front yard? Pray for them? And not just imprecatory Psalms?

These are the marching orders that come from our King. This is how He says the “not of this world” kingdom works. “Let all that you do be done in love,” we’re told in 1 Corinthians 16:14. Phillip Ryken, the President of Wheaton College points out that according to 1 Corinthians 13, our words have no spiritual value unless we have real, sacrificial love for the people we’re addressing. “No one will hear the gospel from the life of a loveless Christian,” he says. People just hear ‘bong, bong, bong, clang, clang, clang.’”

I was talking to a friend about this earlier this week, and I said “this is hard, right?” And she said “no, it’s impossible – on our own!” She’s right of course. We know we don’t have it in us to love our enemies. But we do have in us the Spirit of God in us. And He will empower us to love our enemies. As we pray and yield to Him, He gives us the love we don’t have – God’s love for the lost.

Yes, there is a day coming when God will judge the wicked. That day is not today. Today is the day of salvation for the lost. “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17).

We need to remember that apart from the grace of God in our lives, we would be a lot like our ideological opponents. Paul reminds Titus as he is ministering in Crete, a place populated by liars, evil beasts and lazy gluttons (Titus 1:12) that he was to “slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people.” And then Paul says “Don’t forget this, Titus. We too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another” (Titus 3:2-3).

The only reason our lives look any different than the lives of those who hate Jesus is because in the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind, He saved us —not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy ​— ​through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:2-5)

As He stood before Pilate, and even as He faced those who mocked, tortured and nailed Him to the cross, Jesus had mercy on them. “Father, forgive them” He prayed as He hung on the cross.

He loved His enemies. And He wants us to do the same.

So the next time you see someone in the news who makes you mad, stop and pray. Ask God to fill you with His love for them.

That’s what kingdom life looks like.

I had the opportunity this week to spend a few days with Jeff Terrell, the Pastor from Ascend Church in Kansas City. Jeff is going to be our speaker the Men’s Retreat (by the way, that’s three weeks away now!).

Here’s what I learned about Jeff that I didn’t know. He played second base and shortstop for four seasons in the minor leagues, playing in the Philadelphia farm system. A year with the Batavia Clippers. A year with the Piedmont Boll Weevils. Two years with the Clearwater Phillies. All true. You can ask him about his stats at the retreat.

Have you registered yet? Now’s the time! I mean right now, tonight. Click here to reserve your spot.

This Friday night is Game Night for students!

The second of three women’s spring Bible studies starts next week. It’s a four week look at the book of Habakkuk, with a week off in the middle of the study for spring break.

There are two study times each week – Monday evenings and Tuesday afternoons. Get more details and register here. The March First Tuesday men’s meeting is next week. Neil Shenvi, the author of the new book Why Believe: A Reasoned Approach To Christianity will join us to help us know how we can better articulate and defend our faith in a post-Christian culture.
And I’ve decided to cook up a big pot of Red Beans and Rice for dinner. New recipe. We’ll see how it goes, right? Last week I told you about our plans for a very special Couples Date Night at church on Friday, night, March 31. That’s just four weeks away. It’s going to be a special evening for married or engaged couples. A great meal (like seriously, a restaurant quality dinner), fun, fellowship and a message about marriage.

This will be a fun evening designed to help you strengthen your marriage. And we want you to bring a couple with you who don’t currently attend a local church or who go only occasionally. We promise the evening will be fun for them and the message will be practical.

The cost for the evening will be $40 per couple for church members and $20 per couple for your friends.

Whether you bring a friend or not, plan now to have a special date night with your spouse (or your spouse to be) on Friday, March 30. Registration is now open. Click here to register. We’re limited to 40 couples. And child care will be provided at no additional cost!Have you ever stopped to really think deeply about life changes dramatically once you realize that God has really, truly forgiven all your sin? What does a truly forgiven life look like? Pastor Cole will take us to Psalm 32 this Sunday to show us what the bible says about living as forgiven men and women.

See you in church.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Bob

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