Speaker: Olivier Banza
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we address God as our Father and not just my Father. In so doing we are saying that, as followers of Jesus, we are brothers and sisters in the family of God, not just individuals each pursuing our own journey as Christians. When we look around us at those worshipping with us on Sunday mornings, we need to recognise that we are not just ‘church service attendees’ but brothers and sisters who belong to the same Father and family, the body of Christ.
One thing that characterises this body is that we are all in the process of being changed, transformed into the image of the Son of God. This transformation began when we began to believe in and follow Jesus, and is a process which will continue for the rest of our lives. As we share in this process together as the family of God, we show to the world around us what Jesus is doing in our lives.
The Apostle Paul was so convinced of this process of change that he wrote to the Christians in Rome, “I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14).
Paul had total confidence that the believers in Rome were full of goodness, a word which, in this context, expresses the idea of generosity, total generosity, towards others. It can also imply financial giving, but also suggests the giving of our time and energy for the benefit of others, ways of showing that we care about and have concern for others.
‘Goodness’ is of course one of the characteristics of the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:22) which we should expect to see growing in our lives as the Holy Spirit does his work of transforming us.
As Paul writes in Galatians 6:10, ‘Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers’. Our ability to do ‘good to all people’, is not dependent on our own natural capabilities but on God’s ability in and through us by his Spirit.
Probably the most common excuse we use not to do things is ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘I can’t do it because I’m not good enough’. And this applies to what we are thinking about today, instructing or admonishing one another - ‘I’m not good enough to do that’.
We can even back up our opinion by quoting an appropriate Bible verse, such as Romans 3:10, ‘There is no one righteous, not even one’, or Isaiah 64:6 ‘all our righteous acts are like filthy rags’. Our thinking continues, ‘We know that God’s still working things out in us and we don’t have it all together, so who are we to instruct someone else? I’m not good enough, I’m not going to do it’.
But, importantly, ‘goodness’ is applied to us through what Jesus has done for us, and is not dependent on how ‘good’ we may feel at any given time. Romans 3:22 tells us that ‘This righteousness (goodness in the eyes of God) is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe’. Our ‘goodness’ as followers of Jesus is not something we can earn, but something that is given when we believe. That’s what’s so great about the Good News. We may have traded goodness for sin, but we can receive it once again because of God’s grace shown in his Son Jesus, whose goodness is applied to us when we believe.
So, in and through Christ we can reject ‘I can’t do it because I’m not good enough’ and replace it with ‘I can do it, in His strength’.
As well as making the excuse ‘I’m not good enough’, we tend to also say ‘I don’t know enough’ when we’re encouraged to ‘instruct one another’. We tend to think that in order to share something with someone in the church we have to be biblical scholars, read as many theological books as the pastor, and generally ‘know everything’. That is, of course, thankfully not true.
The most important thing is that we know Jesus, and the Apostle Paul assures us that we are ‘full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14). This doesn’t mean that we ‘know everything’ there is to know, but we do know the One who does!
The Apostle Peter tells us, ‘His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.’ (2 Peter 1:3).
We have the Scriptures, which are ‘God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’ (2 Timothy 3:16-17). So we have the equipment, and when we work together as church family, as part of the body of Christ, we can instruct and help one another to grow, become more and more like Jesus, and express his love for one another and for the community around us.
If any are experiencing problems in their marriage, with their children, in their home or work life, or even in all of these areas, we as a church community can bring help, because we know the one who can best provide that help. His name is Jesus.
With his help we are enabled to help, both practically and spiritually, brothers and sisters who are facing problems of different kinds. We know that the Holy Spirit will lead us to remember those Scriptures which can bring God’s strength and encouragement to those facing difficulties. The ability God gives us to help others is not just based on a series of good ideas we’ve heard, or on a self-help book we’ve read, but is rooted in the Word of God and inspired by the Holy Spirit.
It’s God’s intention that one of the ways in which we are helped to grow in Christ is by learning from one another. The best that we can give to each other is Jesus. Encouraging each other to grow in our walk with God, to know Him better, is ultimately the best help we can give.
There are a lot of charitable groups which can inspire us to good works, mental health organisations to help us deal with mental health issues; we can sign up for seminars to help us handle our finances, our housing and care needs. There is undoubtedly great value in the many sources of help available to us. But the family of God, as expressed in the local church, is meant to be a place where we can serve and help one another not only with practical needs, but also where we can teach, instruct, admonish and build one another up in our walk with Jesus.
Proverbs 19:27 tells us that if we ‘stop listening to instruction,’ we will ‘turn our back on knowledge’ (NLT). In Christ we are full of goodness and knowledge (Romans 15:14), so it is essential for our life in Christ that we ‘instruct one another’.
If we needed help to fix a car, we wouldn’t go to a doctor. Neither would we go to a car mechanic if we needed help with a medical problem. The same principle can also be applied when we need help in our spiritual lives. Where do we go for help?
We do, of course, have a range of options - we can turn to a work colleague, a classmate, a neighbour, but would it not make far more sense for us to turn to those who are ‘full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct (one another)’, because they have God’s word and wisdom to help us and enable us to understand our situation?
It’s so important for us to continue to instruct one another, teach one another, and seek to build one another up so that we can help each other to become more like Christ - and that’s something which will continue to be the case until Christ returns. How many times have each of us been going through a situation in our lives and we have completely forgotten what the word of God has to say to us at that time?
When we are stressed, when we are emotional, it is sometimes very difficult for us to remember even the very basic things from the word of God. We need somebody else to remind us and tell us what God’s word says about our particular situation and need. We have all needed that kind of input from time to time, that brother or sister who will come alongside us and speak God’s word and wisdom. We can all be used by the Lord in this way. It’s part of what ‘one anothering’ is all about.
We can sometimes think that we can only be taught or instructed in our Christian lives by the pastor, because he is the one who is meant to know more. But it’s so important for us to realise that the pastor needs spiritual input into his life too, and that can come from any one of us within the body of the church.
Anyone in a position of any kind of leadership in the church, not just the pastor and elders, needs that encouraging word of support, that expression of gratitude and appreciation, that expression of care and love, that word of wisdom. It’s all part of our ‘one anothering’.
There is always a need for us to be building one another up in our walk with Jesus, regardless of any ‘title’ or function. The most important thing for us to remember is that we are members of the same family, brothers and sisters with the same Father, to whom we pray ‘Our Father………’
What we need as church is not necessarily more scientific, political or cultural knowledge - although there’s nothing wrong in understanding the world around us - but an increased knowledge of the word of God, how to apply it in our lives, and how to share it to help and counsel each other.
The body of Christ doesn’t just end with the local church but extends to brothers and sisters throughout the world, many of whom are facing hardship, persecution and severe difficulties as they live for Jesus. They pray to the same Father as us, read the same Bible as us, and need to grow in their walk with God in the same way that we do. Let’s make sure that we continue to pray for them.
The Scriptures encourage us to ‘instruct one another’. The best way to do that is to do it like Jesus - with love.