Monday, April 10, 2006


A People of Refuge
by Larry Rouse
www.cvillechurch.com

The identifying characteristic of God’s people is their love for and their involvement with one another. These identifying marks of the church of Christ are not merely outward beliefs or outward practices found only in our assemblies, but they are, in fact, shown by our willingness to lift up and care for others whenever their time of need arises. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). It is no surprise that Jesus described the separation of the saved from the lost at the judgment day as being determined by service rendered or in service that was ignored to others in their time of need
(Mt 25:44-46).

Make no mistake that every child of God must be determined to do “all things” the Lord has commanded (Mt 28:20). Still it is the human side of God’s commands, the willingness to sacrifice our time, our effort and our money to be intimately involved with others of vastly different backgrounds, that provides the greatest evidence of our faith in God. In order for us to help another, we must first empty ourselves just as our Lord did when He came to earth
(Phil 2:1-8).

Everyone who comes to God understands their need of refuge. Our God provides a refuge, not one in a physical place, but in a spiritual place, a place that He describes as His church. When one is baptized in water he is then added by God to a spiritual family described as the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13). Our primary care comes directly from God through His written revelation, His daily provisions and through the lives of those who were also washed in the blood of Christ. We come to God broken in our sin, rejected by the world and completely empty of any good that would obligate God to us (Matt 5:1-8). It is at this point where God begins rebuilding our lives, and a major tool that He uses in that process is the local church.

The Reality of the World

In this world we will find rejection, exploitation and slander. King David once cried out to God for refuge in a world that wanted to see him destroyed. “Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in trouble; My eye wastes away with grief, Yes, my soul and my body! {10} For my life is spent with grief, And my years with sighing; My strength fails because of my iniquity, And my bones waste away. {11} I am a reproach among all my enemies, But especially among my neighbors, And am repulsive to my acquaintances; Those who see me outside flee from me. {12} I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel. {13} For I hear the slander of many; Fear is on every side; While they take counsel together against me, They scheme to take away my life. (Psalms 31:9-13)”

God responded to David’s call for help by providing such a refuge with Himself and with His people. “Oh, how great is Your goodness, Which You have laid up for those who fear You, Which You have prepared for those who trust in You In the presence of the sons of men! {20} You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence From the plots of man; You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion From the strife of tongues. {21} Blessed be the LORD, For He has shown me His marvelous kindness in a strong city! {22} For I said in my haste, “I am cut off from before Your eyes”; Nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications When I cried out to You. {23} Oh, love the LORD, all you His saints! For the LORD preserves the faithful, And fully repays the proud person. {24} Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the LORD. (Psalms 31:19-24)”

In the New Testament God describes how His people both receive help and give help to those who are weak and wounded. “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, {13} and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. (Hebrews 12:12-13)” What a comfort to find others willing to selflessly extend their hands to assist in my time of need!

Consider the needs of any man that comes to God for refuge.

The Truth about Sin

Jesus pleaded with men to understand the bad news about sin so that they might receive the good news. Any “comfort” that comes without first dealing with the issue of sin is a shallow and empty comfort. Sadly many churches of men have rejected the Bible as being inspired, and as a result, will never address the subject of sin as our Lord did. “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.
(John 8:24)”

The Forgiveness of Sin

Peter instructed those who never knew the Lord to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:37-38). Christians were instructed by Peter to repent and pray to God so that “the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. (Acts 8:22)” What a comfort to find the entire, enormous burden of your sin lifted!

A People to Share and to Stand With

The power of a local church is found in our knowledge of our own forgiveness. Those who fail to grow in the Lord were described by Peter: “For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. (2 Peter 1:9)” Because of this, Christians above all people, will show mercy and be quick to receive and comfort all who repent and turn to the Lord. It is this forgiveness that we have in common and that makes this relationship so rich! We may be laughed at and ridiculed by the world, for the world does not understand the basis of our lives or of our companionship (Heb 10:32-35).

A People that Help Him to Remember and Renew His Faith

The people of God have assemblies for this very purpose. ”Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25)” In addition to these assemblies, the bulk of this encouragement is found in a day-to-day involvement with Christians in our homes and in our lives (Acts 2:46-47).

Have You Found this Refuge?

This refuge will not be found in the wisdom of men nor in their churches. This refuge will come when you find and claim the written promises of God and stand with others who do the same. God wants to provide, but He will only do so for those who look for Him. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)”
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