DIFFERING PERSONALITIES IN A CHURCH FELLOWSHIP
We have begun 2023. I don’t believe in new year resolutions, but always we should assess ourselves with the Scriptures as the standard. We have no other benchmark other than the Bible, and to follow the philosophy that is in the world, or what the world wants to program for us, is to end in ruin. Above all things, we must be in Christ alone.
This also applies to our fellowship, not just here with us, but universally with the fellowship you may be committed to, the state of it, and those entrusted to care for it. We must all be vigilant, for each year, if the Lord tarries, will see an increase in difficulties, as Paul explained to Timothy – 2Timothy 3:1 “Realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.”
There are a number of things that can ruin and cause disharmony in a church fellowship. In this regard, it is not unlike any other group, committee, society, dog club, or whatever, but the church fellowship ought to be God’s people; therefore, it becomes a whole different basis we work on. Sadly, not all who are attached to a church are truly numbered among the sheep, and some are wild goats who butt the true sheep. Some ruinous points are these:
1.The embracing of wrong doctrine.
2. Ambitious desires the devil uses.
3. Gossiping about members or climbing over them.
4. Lack of commitment or being casual about the things of the Lord.
5. Personality clashes and problems causing conflicts and division.
6. Wanting to lord it over others as Demetrius wanted to do.
7. Having the wrong people in leadership.
We are now going to take a look at three leaders in the New Testament, three men who worked together, men of different personalities. The general theme of this message is “DIFFERING PERSONALITIES.” Maybe each of us can identify with some aspects here.
For centuries, Peter has worn the tag “Impetuous Peter.” He’d always step up to the front and would be out there speaking what he thought. Like our modern WYSIWYG – What you see is what you get. You want volunteers? Peter would be there! He would make mistakes, but so too do they who are in the forefront where action counts more than consideration. No man is exempt from failure, and being in the front line often is to make yourself an archery target for the great number of critics. Self-righteous, attacking critics.
Peter’s character is seen in his ready responses – swiping off Malchus’s ear (John 18:10); in his eagerness to walk to the Lord on the water (Matthew 14:28); so quick to answer the Lord’s question – “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:16); when Jesus revealed He was going to be taken and killed and raised up, Peter jumps in to forbid it as best he can (Matthew 16:22); he burst out on the Mount of transfiguration about making three tabernacles (Matthew 17:4); and the last one: affirmed so strongly in his immediate response that he would not deny His Lord (Matthew 26:33-35).
In a fellowship, he could be the one who has the ideas and wants to try something new and unproven, and that could cause some to get annoyed with him. Peter’s heart blazed with devotion and loyalty but may not have always been logical or well-considered.
WHAT WAS THE INNER PETER? WHAT STIRRED THIS SERVANT OF GOD?
As we look at these points, they are ones we must embrace in our churches, and they would be a good standard for the new year. Consider them carefully and ask the Lord to help us pursue them.
1. A CALL TO ACTION! 1Peter 1:13 “Therefore, GIRD your minds for action; KEEP sober in spirit; FIX your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
1Peter 1:22-23 “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, FERVENTLY LOVE ONE ANOTHER from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.”
2. THE DESIRE FOR THE WORD OF GOD! 1Peter 2:1:22 “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, LONG FOR THE PURE MILK OF THE WORD, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.”
3. FEELING AND EMPATHY FOR PERSECUTED SAINTS! 1Peter 2:20 “For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it YOU PATIENTLY ENDURE IT, this finds favor with God.”
4. A CALL FOR LOYALTY TO THE LORD! 1Peter 2:21 “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to FOLLOW IN HIS STEPS.”
5. ABOVE ALL, LOVE AND HOSPITALITY! 1Peter 4:8-10 “Above all, keep FERVENT IN YOUR LOVE for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. BE HOSPITABLE to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, EMPLOY IT [your gift] in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
Even so, we all make mistakes, including Peter. Galatians 2:11-15: “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I OPPOSED HIM to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews? We are Jews by nature, and not sinners from among the Gentiles.'”
Be careful how you treat a mistake made by a brother or sister in Christ. Some try to address it like raving wolves.
James (The Less):
The James we are considering is known as James the Less. The other James was the brother of John and was put to death by a vile Edomite man – Acts 12:1-2 “Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them, and he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword.”
Something we know of James the Less:
James was influential in the early church in Jerusalem, being considered the leader of the Jewish Christians. It seems he was direct, maybe stern and austere. He held strongly to his Jewish roots and upbringing, and in this, may have been considered inflexible. Change may not have been easy for him. He was the Chairman of the first Church Council/Conference in Jerusalem, convened to deal with the place of Gentiles (Acts 15:13-21). He had a leadership role.
What we know of James comes from the writings of church fathers. He was known as James the Less and James the Just. He was the son of Alphaeus and Mary (the Virgin Mary’s sister). (Cleophus = Alphaeus). That made him a first cousin of Jesus. It is said “his singular virtue procured him the veneration of the Jews themselves.” As to his sanctity, Eusebius and Jerome quote from Hegesippus (110-180 AD) the following account concerning him:
“He was always a virgin, and was a Nazarite, or one consecrated to God, and in consequence of which he was never shaved, never cut his hair, never drank any wine or other strong liquor; moreover, he never used any bath, or oil to anoint his limbs, and never ate of any living creature except when of precept, as the paschal lamb: he never wore sandals, never used any other clothes other than one single linen garment. He prostrated so much in prayer, that the skin of his knees and forehead was hardened like to camels’ hoofs” “Camel’s knees” was a nickname for him.
The Scribes and Pharisees, enraged at this testimony on behalf of Jesus, cried out: “The just man also hath erred,” and going up to the battlements, they threw him headlong down to the ground, saying, “He must be stoned.” James, though very much bruised by his fall, had strength enough to get upon his knees, and in this posture, lifting up his eyes to heaven, he begged God to pardon his murderers, seeing that they knew not what they did. The rabble below received him with showers of stones, and at last, a fuller gave him a blow on the head with his club, such as is used in dressing of cloths, after which he presently expired. This happened on the festival of the Pasch, the 10th of April, in the year of Christ 62, the seventh of Nero. He was buried near the temple, in the place in which he was martyred, where a small column was erected.
In his letter, he is direct, as if delivering edicts from the Lord. His writing has the feeling of precise and authoritative detail. Again, we must note what he said and endeavor to make it our desire to see these points in our churches.
1. CALL TO EXERCISE SELF-CONTROL! James 1:19 “This you know, my beloved brethren, but let everyone BE QUICK TO HEAR, SLOW TO SPEAK AND SLOW TO ANGER.”
2. HE PROMOTED THE RIGHTS OF THE POOR! James 2:5 “Listen, my beloved brethren: did not GOD CHOOSE THE POOR of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” Jerusalem had many poor saints Paul collected for.
3. HIS DESIRE FOR FAITHFUL ACTION! James 2:18 “But someone may well say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without the works, and I will SHOW YOU MY FAITH BY MY WORKS.”
4. HE AIMED FOR PROPER PERSPECTIVE! James 3:13 “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show BY HIS GOOD BEHAVIOR HIS DEEDS in the gentleness of wisdom.”
5. HIS GREAT CONCERN FOR UNITY! James 4:1 “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source YOUR PLEASURES THAT WAGE WAR in your members?”
6. THE WALK WITH GOD IS A SINGULAR WALK! James 4:4 “You adulteresses, do you not know that FRIENDSHIP WITH THE WORLD is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
James sets out a lot of practical matters, and we do well to understand what he is saying. If every Christian in our churches followed his teaching (the Lord’s teaching), there would be better love, better unity, and better harmony.
The beloved disciple who referred to himself as the one whom Jesus loved – that means the close individuality that John knew with the Lord (John 13:23). It should be true of us all. We never read of John speaking out at all, but he was a quieter disciple with a deep spiritual ministry. He was close to the Lord, and that permeated all his life and attitude and writings.
Still waters run deep. John was one everyone would have respected, and no one had a bad word to say. He was a gentle and loving person. He was the quiet anchor, I feel.
What infused his personality that made him, him? A look at his gospel shows us various things:
- He was occupied with the love of God, a key theme in his writings.
- He was grounded in the doctrine of Christ. Notice the doctrinal discourses he featured in his gospel, more than any of the other gospels. It continues in his letters.
- He was tender to the believers, to the afflicted, and careful to detail their stories – Lazarus, Legion, Marriage in chapter 2, and the man born blind in chapter 9.
- He was a person “seated” with God in the heavenlies, and that beauty was seen in John’s personality.
In John’s letters, we see his whole love and careful attention for the believers. These are teachings our churches must have.
1. HE IS CAREFUL WITH THE NEED TO BE WALKING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS BEFORE GOD! 1John 1:7 “But if we WALK IN THE LIGHT as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
2. WE HAVE THE ADVOCATE! 1John 2:1 “My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin, and if anyone sins, WE HAVE AN ADVOCATE with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Jesus pleads for us when we sin. He is a wonderful Saviour.
3. THE NEED FOR A CAREFUL WALK! 1John 2:6 “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to WALK IN THE SAME MANNER AS HE WALKED.”
4. THE NEED TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER! 1John 2:10 “The one who LOVES HIS BROTHER abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.” Recount the story of John in Ephesus – “love one another.”
5. LOVE NOT THE WORLD! 1John 2:15 “DO NOT LOVE THE WORLD, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
6. CAREFUL ABOUT THE TRUTH! 1John 2:21 “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because YOU DO KNOW IT, and because no lie is of the truth.”
7. SO MUCH FOCUS IS BASED IN LOVE! 1John 3:1 “SEE HOW GREAT A LOVE THE FATHER HAS BESTOWED UPON US, that we should be called children of God, and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.”
8. THE KEY IN ALL THE EPISTLE! 1John 4:7-12 “Beloved, LET US LOVE ONE ANOTHER, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that HE LOVED US AND SENT HIS SON to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, WE ALSO OUGHT TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER. No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.”
9. CAREFUL FOR THE WHOLE BODY! 2John 1:7-9 “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. WATCH YOURSELVES, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who ABIDES IN THE TEACHING, he has both the Father and the Son.”
In these 3 men, we have 3 different personalities, but they were united in Christ by the strong bonds of the Saviour. To get the horizontal correct, you first must get the vertical correct. 20 points were given in this message that need to be seen in our churches. Let us work towards that goal.
God uses personalities, but when these personalities are not in God’s control or acting according to the will of God, we can have conflict and clashes that make for wrong moves, which cause hurt and division.
WHAT DO THESE 3 MEN SHARE IN COMMON? The common factor is what they stood for and what they promoted!
3 John v 4 – “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.”
1 Peter 4 v 8 – “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
James 2 v 1 – “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.”
They promoted LOVE, RIGHTEOUSNESS (TRUTH), and RIGHT ATTITUDE for ALL God’s saints.
Let our personalities be transformed in God’s service and used by him to encourage all God’s people, even though it may be difficult and awkward sometimes, and watch out for one another in LOVE. Love will cover a multitude of sins. Love will knit us together and make us slow to speak and slow to act. Let us take on board what the Apostles have written to us.
2023 will not be an easy year, and the world will continue to darken further. The past two years have seen the rapid progression of wickedness in government policies and the rise of dictatorial, arrogant leaders right through the western world. These will not lessen but will increase, as Paul clearly stated for the last days – 2Timothy 3:12-13 “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
Governments and leaders are being demonically deceived by all sorts of pressures and movements, and in turn, they are deceiving the people. Great is the mystery of lawlessness (“iniquity” if you have a KJV), and this godless deception can overtake those who are asleep in the churches. We must remain vigilant in this new year. I believe, in this church fellowship, we have been under attack from the evil forces, but be strong, as we have overcome the world.
The glorious hope, which is the Rapture, draws very close, so stay alert and fix your mind on things above, not on things of the earth. Younger families, of course, have a double loyalty to the Lord and to family, and it is hard to keep focused, but it takes discipline to remain faithful.
May the Lord bless each one of you and hold you in His all-powerful hand until He comes. Amen.
The new year comes with certain cheer
But it contains a doubting fear.
Be not dismayed nor anxious be
For Jesus said, “Come unto Me.”
Whatever circumstance may beat
Upon our lives to bring defeat,
Our Advocate’s always at hand
And perfectly, He understands.
The victory is ours to claim
Through Christ our Lord,
through His great Name
Our love for Jesus must reflect.