A pagan observed an early 2nd century AD church. Here is what he saw.
“They abstain from all impurity in the hope of the recompense that is to come in another world. As for their servants or handmaids or children, they persuade them to become Christians by the love they have for them; and when they become so, they call them without distinction, brothers. They do not worship strange gods; and they walk in all humility and kindness, and falsehood is not found among them; and they love one another. When they see the stranger they bring him to their homes and rejoice over him as over a true brother…
“And if there is among them a man that is poor and needy and if they have not an abundance of necessities, they fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with the necessary food.
“They observe scrupulously the commandment of their Messiah; they live honestly and soberly as the Lord their God commanded them. Every morning and all hours on account of the goodness of God toward them, they render praise and laud Him over their food and their drink; they render Him thanks.
“And if any righteous person of their number passes away from this world, they rejoice and give thanks to God and they follow his body as though he were moving from one place to another. And when a child is born to them, they praise God, and if again it chances to die in its infancy, they praise God mightily, as for one who has passed through the world without sins.
“Such is the law of the Christians and such is their conduct.”
—Athenian Philosopher Aristides, c. 101-200
How things have changed. The church might want to take a step back—way back, and ponder what it is and what it use to be—and how we got from there to here.
What will people remember you for? Even more, what have you done with your life that will outlast you? C.H. Spurgeon, the “prince of preachers”, put it like this…
“What pain to find your life-work to be a lot of wood, and hay, and stubble that will blaze furiously, and die out in ashes! You know what I mean: so much time spent in planning frivolous amusements for the people, so much talent expended in teaching that which is not the gospel, so much zeal consumed upon matters that do not concern eternal things, all this will burn. Beloved, do your Master’s work, win souls, preach Christ, expound your Bibles, pray men to be reconciled to God, plead with men to come to Christ. This kind of work will withstand the fire; and when the last great day shall dawn, this will remain to glory and honor!”
May all your deeds be fireproof.
(Back from Israel and Jordan—you gotta go and I’d love to take you.)
So—what are you spending on others this Christmas?
“And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved,” said the Apostle Paul. In the same way, go before God’s people this day and spend yourself on them—pour out your all. Be fully spent this day on the people He has entrusted to you. Hold back not a single tear or drop of sweat on their behalf. Lay your whole heart on the line for them and do so with a supreme gladness to be able to do so. They may not respond the way we would like, they may not return the affection—the Corinthians did not to Paul—nonetheless, let us be spent for their souls this day for the glory of God. It is my prayer that this verse could be spoken of me, but also you all today—that we gave our all for the souls of the people of God. The Lord strengthen us in order to do so! —Pastor Jim Suttle
Add that to your list.