Would you consider yourself a people person? This goes beyond a simple introvert/extrovert distinction. Our American dictionary would define a “people person” as someone who is outgoing, sociable, compassionate, likes to interact with others, and has good communication skills. Now, this obviously does not describe everyone on the planet. For many of my years, this did not describe me. I was the shy student who sat in the back of the room, never raised my hand to say anything in class, wouldn’t look up as I walked the halls or the sidewalk, and was deathly afraid to speak in public. I use this example for the sole purpose that being a “people person” is not a word that would ultimately describe who I am.
Now, maybe you would also say that you are not much of a people person either, but now think about the kinds of people that you tend to gravitate towards. These are the people you like being around and hanging out with, these could be some of your life-long friends or family members. Now, think of the kinds of people you have a hard time getting along with or relating to. What makes them so hard to connect with? What is it about them that creates a hesitancy within you that can sometimes lead to avoidance? I ask it because I know what that feels like. I’ve been there myself many times both past and present. The question we then wrestle with is: is there is a difference or distinction between being a people person and having a heart for people? I would say that there most definitely is.
This week, we are going to be talking about “Humanity,” as we continue in our Believe series. The focus will not so much be about how we view ourselves, but rather, how we view other people and how God views humanity in general. As a believer in Christ, He calls us to see other people like He does, to connect with them in ways that move them closer to knowing the love of their Savior. If we are each honest with ourselves, that can be a tough thing to do, especially when it comes to people who fall into that latter category of being hard to relate to or connect with. You might not have much in common with those people in your life, but God designed and intended us to be in community and fellowship with one another, learning from each other, growing together, and celebrating our various differences because that’s how He created us.
As a Christian, one may not be classified as a “people person,” but we are called to possess a heart for other people. A heart that longs for them to follow Christ, an energy to come alongside of them in their lives, a passion to share and show the love that Christ continually gives and shows to us. The heartbeat of Jesus is for people and He invites us to share in that with Him.
Ah, church. It’s such a short and seemingly simple little word and yet could more meaning be packed into it? Church is one of those words that are the cause for a lot of thoughts, opinions, ideas, critiques, and many a preconceived notion. What comes to your mind when you hear the word “church?” The variety of connotations that surround this word are amazing and some are even a bit humorous. Just take it from a few of these examples:
Now, these somewhat innocent little jokes just give us a glimpse of the greater picture. People have a lot to say when it comes to church. What is it? Who is it for? What does it do? What should its purpose be? All of these questions are very relevant for our time today just as they were when the church was initially established in the book of Acts. God’s design and plan for His church has been consistent since this first call. The church is to be His hands and feet, continuing on in His ministry in and to the world. The church is to encourage and grow the believer in faith, make disciples, help those in need, and be a place of fellowship and community, among many other things.
How are we doing as the church? In the centuries and generations that have passed since its inception, how have those components of the church been carried out and carried on? It is a refreshing reminder to us that, even though the church is made up of sinful and imperfect people who can very easily make mistakes and mess things up, we serve a God who is perfect. As Head Pastor over His church, He makes up for where we fall short, His Word marches on when ours don’t quite cut it, His purposes, plans, and intent never fail. What a blessing that is as members of His church!
We can each be reassured that God’s purposes and plans for His church include you and me. It’s an honor to be a part of and yet God’s desire is that His church not be seen as a social club with exclusive membership, but a place for the broken, the spiritually hungry, people like you and me who need His mercy, grace, and forgiveness each day. We can be thankful for “church” as God intended it to be because through it, He desires to teach us, help us, and equip us as His children.
Where do you find your identity; that sense of who you are? If we are each honest with ourselves, we can tend to look for the answer to that question in many places. Some people find their identity in their job: “I’m a teacher,” “I’m a salesperson,” “I’m an accountant,” “I’m an engineer,” “I’m a ____________.” Others find their identity in their relationships, whether it’s with their spouse, their parents, siblings, children, friends, etc. Still others find their identity in their achievements and accomplishments, their wealth, status, and reputation, their interests and hobbies. Essentially, many identify themselves based upon something they have made themselves to be. Have you ever done that before? Are you doing that now?
It’s interesting how many different places we can look for what defines us. In each of our journeys through life, each of you may have come to these crossroads or questions at one point in time. Even as believers, we can wrestle with this question: Who am I?
The beautiful part about the promises of God found in the Bible is that we are not defined by what we do, what we have made ourselves to be, our list of accomplishments, our bank account, our trophies, our reputation. We do not give ourselves an identity. The pieces of our life that we would hold up as the thing(s) that define who we are don’t really stack up in the light of the identity that we have in Christ and through Christ.
The Apostle Paul was writing about this very thing to the church in Philippi and he writes about not putting confidence in one’s own self, abilities, and laurels. Instead, Paul writes these words in Philippians 3: 7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
The very things that Paul would have been tempted to rest upon for his identity amounted to nothing more than garbage to him when it came to the incredible blessing given to him by God: to be counted as one of His children. It’s a wonderful promise and reminder for each of us today. That no matter where we are tempted to look for meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in our own lives, no matter where we turn to advance ourselves and make our own names great, we are given a name better than we could conjure up ourselves, we are given a greater place than we could ever achieve on our own, and we are given a grander title than we could ever earn: beloved child of God. Through Christ, you are identified as His. Through Christ, you are called His Son, His Daughter. Through Christ, you are made more and more in His image as you live and trust in Him. What an honor!
There is just something nice about getting a letter in the mail. You go outside, walk down your sidewalk or driveway, open the front flap of your mailbox and gaze inside. You see a pile of bills, coupons, advertisements, your monthly subscription magazine, and plenty of other things you would classify as “junk mail.” But tucked into the midst of this variety of colorful paper and cardstock, something else catches your eye. It’s a letter. This letter is not like the others. There are pen marks that were written out by hand, scratching out the lines and curves of the letters of the alphabet that spell out your name, your address, your home. It may have travelled many miles and been through many hands, but it has reached your doorstep and it’s addressed to you. Maybe it’s from a friend, a family member, or a longtime acquaintance. Whoever it is, there is something special about receiving this bundle of paper. You eagerly tear off the envelope and grasp the lined notebook paper to glimpse at what it could be about…what it will tell you.
This week, as we continue our Believe series, we come to the Bible. What do you believe about the Bible? If you were to go around asking this question to random strangers, you might receive quite the variety of answers. Some would say that it is a book that just teaches some good moral lessons, some might argue that it is old-fashioned, outdated, and really doesn’t matter to someone living in modern society. You might have others who think that it’s a book of fables, tall tales, and images that convey some deeper meanings. You would have others that would say it’s the Word of God, the carrier of ultimate truth that sets the standard and worldview of a Christian. Some may have little to no experience with the pages of the Bible and yet others may have read it cover to cover and have studied it their whole life. What would your answer be? What do you believe about the Bible? And what difference does it make in your life?
While the Bible is quite the combination of history, stories, moral lessons, rules, standards, imagery, and poetry, what if you considered the entire Bible put all together as one giant letter addressed to you? Have you ever thought of that before? That the whole of the Old and New Testaments are God’s designed, handwritten letter delivered and given to you. It’s got your name and your address on it. It’s ready to be opened and read by your eyes and it doesn’t stop there. It rushes into your heart and soul and impacts and influences everything about you. What in this letter would cause such an astonishing reaction? This letter contains the very truth of the universe, the very words that give you assurance and hope, peace and joy, purpose and understanding. This letter tells you about the God who made all that you see and experience, who loves you despite your rebellion against Him, and the amazing reality that He pursues you and longs for you to be His child. It’s quite the journey.
The Bible, this letter from God, invites us to open its pages and read, learn, and grow in our understanding, our appreciation, and our knowledge of who we are, who God is, what He has done, and what He continues to do in our lives. It’s like that letter that you continuously go back to re-read, to be encouraged, to be amazed, inspired, and awakened to how much you matter to the Creator of the Universe.
From one reader to another,
Pastor Ben Bigaouette