First of all let me say thank you to everyone who participated in the Hawthorne Family Christmas, approximately 120 people attended a week ago yesterday. Starting this morning a different pastor/leader will be sharing throughout the month of December and I hope you will attend every single gathering. The Eternal Significance articles during the month of December will be written by me and they may or may not have similar thoughts to what our guests share during the Advent season. So don’t look for any common themes, if the article on the back of the bulletin lines up with the Sunday morning message that’s just a bonus.
Every morning I receive a Bible verse to start off the day and Thursday’s verse is what motivated this week’s article. “If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen.” 1 John 4:20 This verse made me think of one of the primary reasons we gather together on a regular basis. It’s quite profound…we gather because we love each other! Seriously, the love of God motivates us to want to be around other followers of the Lord Jesus and if it doesn’t we need to check the motives of our heart. Here is a common statement I heard from new believers about their life prior to becoming a follower of Jesus…they really didn’t like people, they just put up with them. A genuine biblical love for people prior to their salvation did not exist. But because of their new faith in Christ a renewed God-given love for mankind (primarily the body of Christ and everyone else) is self evident.
While living in Northfield, Minnesota I had the opportunity to meet with Jim Bakker. Most of you remember Jim Bakker from his PTL days and the trouble he had. He served his prison sentence in Rochester, Minnesota. He left prison a changed man, and by no means am I questioning his salvation prior to his incarceration. He had a great appreciation and renewed love for those who cared for him during this dark time of life. He mentioned a number of key individuals by name, such as Billy Graham, who visited him and how much that meant to him. Ironically some of his closest friends during his PTL days never even took the time to see him while he was serving his 8 years of a 45 year prison sentence. During our gathering with a number of other pastors Jim mentioned a verse which stuck out to me when as he explained it in light of what happened to him. It is 1 John 3:14. “If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead.” NLT. Such a powerful verse, even as I was reading it, I bowed my head and cried out to God asking Him for a new level of love. People who tell you they don’t need to gather with others don’t know what the Scriptures clearly command us to do. There are no “lone rangers” in the kingdom of God; we are meant to be together. I don’t know what all of eternity will be like, yet multiple Scriptures clearly declare we will spend a lot of time together. Will there be opportunities where we go off and find some remote location for moments of solitude? I don’t know. Right now we are in our training ground for eternity and when we gather we are learning how to love the way Christ wants us to love one another. When someone asks why you attend church, say something different than the normal response, respond by saying “I just love being with God‘s people!”