Text: John 13.34-35
In one of Jesus’ final conversations with his disciples, he gives them this powerful command, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples…” (John 13.34b-35). While the command seems simple, most of us can attest it isn’t easy to live on a daily basis.
This past weekend, guest speaker Matt Heard taught us that this command contains three parts and can be seen as an equation. First, we experience Christ’s love. Second, we express to others that love which we’ve received. Then, as we exhibit his love, the watching world around us is impacted for the cause of Christ. The equation looks like this:
Experience Christ’s love + Extend Christ’s love = Exhibit his love to a watching world.
When we experience Christ’s love and extend it towards others, the world takes notice and is drawn to Jesus. As you open your hands and welcome God into your week, take a moment and commit John 13.34-35 to memory. Let these verses become a foundation for why we’re to love each other.
Text: Galatians 5.22-26
Serving our brothers and sisters in Christ provides a great opportunity for God’s Spirit to produce his “fruit” in our lives: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5.22-23). Demonstrating compassion, unlike anything else, provides spaces for the Spirit to develop these characteristics only he can produce.
This is an important point to remember: we don’t (and can’t) produce these qualities on our own. As Pastor Manion said, “We have outside help.” Only the Holy Spirit can produce them in those who are surrendered to Jesus. As we spend time in The Chair, and as our relationship with Jesus grows, these fruits will be produced: “I [Jesus] am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15.5).
To help you remember the fruit God desires to produce, write Galatians 5.22-23 on a 3×5 card and carry it with you. Pray for God to develop these characteristics as you demonstrate compassion to others.
Day 4 | 1 Peter 3.15
Two specific activities defined the early Church: telling others about Jesus and serving others. “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…there were no needy persons among them” (Acts 4.33-34). They didn’t just preach and they didn’t only meet needs—they did both and did them together.
Typically, we’re good at one or the other of these. We can either comfortably talk about our faith or are willing to jump and lend a hand whenever needed (probably most of us). But both are the highest priority. When we serve, we need to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3.15). What we say is as important as what we do.
As you consider the next time you’ll meet a need, prepare—in advance—to “give an answer” as to why you’re serving. This will take time and planning to do well. One way is to simply engage those you’re serving in a conversation. As you listen, be open to the Spirit’s leading to speak of God’s grace. Be prepared to share your “story” from Day 2.
Text: Acts 5-6
Demonstrating compassion gets complicated. We’re not sure exactly what to do, our motives may be questioned, others will take advantage of us, and people may not change and make better decisions. Situations requiring our compassion are almost always challenging and often involve difficult people. As we step into compassion, we need to be prepared for its “messiness.”
It was “messy” for the early Church as well: a couple lies about the money they give (Acts 5.1-11) and there’s a huge disagreement, ultimately racial in nature, over the distribution of aid (Acts 6.1-7). As Senior Teaching Pastor Jeff Manion reminded us, the early Church didn’t get it right all the time and neither will we. But we still do it, even if imperfectly.
Compassion can be exhausting and frustrating. It often won’t turn out the way we want. But that’s OK—God has it under control. Our responsibility is to reflect God in the process as we make loads lighter.
This leads to this week’s One Big Question . . . Who are you looking out for? If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. It’s the same question we asked last week. We think, if answered honestly, it’ll take more than a week to figure out. So take your time and prayerfully consider who you need to look out for, recognizing it could get complicated.
Text: Acts 4.32-37
In the earliest days of the Church, soon after Jesus ascended to heaven, we see the difference between “have to” and “get to.” With the significant needs of fellow believers in Jesus right in front of them, “…there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales…and it was distributed to anyone who had need” (Acts 4.34-35).
Responding to the grace they’d received from God, those who had the ability demonstrated that grace to those in need. Because someone “looked out” for them, they did the same for someone else.
As recipients of God’s generosity and grace, it wasn’t a situation where these believers “had to” assist the needy: they “got to” help them. We get the sense because they recognized the helplessness from which God saved them, it was only natural they do what they could to alleviate the helplessness they saw with their brothers and sisters in Christ. Understanding the helplessness from which God has rescued us motivates us as we “get to” help others. Grace fuels our compassion.
To better understand God’s grace in your life, and to be able to tell it well, write your story. Spend some time on this and really think it through. Condense it to one paragraph (three minutes speaking). For help, especially if you’ve never done it, go here.
Text: Psalm 145
Our compassion for each other is rooted in God’s compassion. We’re to be compassionate, primarily, because God is compassionate. When we identify with those who are suffering—and move to alleviate that suffering—we’re not only reflecting God’s character, we’re showing the world how God acts toward us.
Israel’s second king, David, highlighted this aspect of God’s character, “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Psalm 145.8-9). One of seven places in the Old Testament where this statement appears, God is adamant that his people know he is compassionate: “To the suffering, the weak, the foolish, the despondent…he feels for them, he feels with them” (C.H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Vol. 3, p. 378).
God’s compassion was just one of many reasons David exclaimed, “I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise you for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever” (Psalm 145.1-2).
In the same way David was driven to worship by God’s compassion, so should we. Listen to Elevation Worship’s “Mercy Reigns” as you begin what may be a very busy week. Welcome God into it by worshiping him for his compassion.