8/8/2021 [Thematic Message 130]                                                                                                                                                              www.lifechurchmissions.com  

The Result of the Gathering of Saints <Php 1:5-6; 2:1-5; 4:2-9>

Prelude: In this pandemic, the Lord is continually refining us so that we can overcome the obstacles of gathering. Now, when people start to go back to church, each of them has different reasons and motives for returning to church. Some people obey the Lord’s instructions and observe the Sabbath. Some people feel very lonely, so they yearn to meet up with brethren. Regardless of the reason, we gather because of the Lord’s command, because the Bible tells us not to neglect to meet together <Heb 10:25>. But think about it, why does God pay so much attention to the gathering of saints? How can the church and brethren living established by God benefit us? In fact, through the teaching of the Bible, we can in two areas understand the benefits that the Holy Spirit gives to saints when they gather. First of all, when all saints gather together, we can see our inner heart. In particular, when we interact with people, our hearts and minds will be revealed. It is possible that some people will involuntarily become hypocritical among others, such as only revealing their positive image. Some reveal their inner pride and self, as if to boast about certain things. Some begin to have selfish ambitions and only interact with like-minded people. Some only care about their own affairs and never ask and care about the affairs of the brethren next to them. Over time, they become lonely even among a group of people. In fact, we have many spiritual problems in our inner hearts (the problem of not obeying God), and all these can be felt when we gather together with brethren. Therefore, when we examine ourselves, we will gradually understand that the Lord calls us to gather, not to be served but to serve others. In this way, we can learn true humility. In addition, after gathering, we should also confirm whether we receive strength after gathering because after the Sabbath comes the next six days. <2 Ti 3:5> tells us that when some people are with others, they have the appearance of godliness but deny its power. They may show an outward manifestation of ferventness among people, but they have no strength in practical living. They are unable to bless people with what they think, what they say, and what they do. They also do not have the power to overcome all kinds of temptations and enticement. In fact, we should honestly ask ourselves: what is our state like when we go home after gathering? Do we feel lonely once we leave the crowd? Are we unable to enjoy our quiet time walking with the Lord? Or are we still unable to withstand the pressure of daily life and work? Or instead of bringing blessings to the family, do we display our emotions to them? In that case, do we regard our gathering as a liberation or a way to soothe our mood? Perhaps, in this sacred gathering of brethren, our mind is not illuminated, our spirit is not healed, hence the result after meeting is still powerlessness. Think about it, what is meant by the work of the Holy Spirit in the gathering of all saints? <Eph 3:16-18> tells us the Holy Spirit’s work is when He makes us understand Christ’s wide, long, high and deep love, and this love is rooted and grounded, and is not easily shaken. Neither is it a love that changes due to circumstances and human weakness. The gathering prepared by the Lord for the saints is definitely not one where we meet for a while on the Sabbath, socialize to express our emotions, and then form opinions of one another if there is any friction afterwards. In brethren living, some people gossip a bit here, and talk a bit of right and wrong there, causing unnecessary damage to many relationships that have just been established in Christ. Therefore, when our church begins our vaccinated services to allow more people to return to physical gatherings, we must re-understand the meaning of gathering. Perhaps when we have more people, our serving will also increase, and there will be more people to take care of, and there will be more friction and challenges between people. Therefore, we have to receive more grace in the glorious congregation of the saints.  


1. The gathering of saints is to pursue the heart of Christ, not our own needs <Php 1:5-6; 2:1-5>

1Firstly, church of Philippi was a church guarded by God

No matter how weak or inadequate a church is, perhaps there are many divisions within the church, the more important question is: Is this church loved by God and guarded by God? Such was the church of Philippi. For this, Paul gave them assurance at the beginning of his epistle, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” <Php 1:6> This tells us that the Lord was responsible for the church all the way, and this was a church the Lord would sanctify. This church would not become too horrible that the Lord decides to abandon her. Where did Paul get such assurance? It was on the basis that the church was advancing the gospel <Php 1:5>. A church that does not advance the gospel is not the Lord’s. Today, many churches advance in numbers, community works, psychology, positive thinking, morality, etc. – they are not churches guarded by God, hence they will not be sanctified. They will not humble down because of God’s word, but instead, they will use many human methods to sustain church operations. But the church which God truly guards and sanctifies to the end is a church which is faithful to the gospel and advances the gospel.


2The work of God in the hearts of saints

In <Php 1:27-30>, it is mentioned that the church was facing external struggles, but in <Php 2:1-4> it talks about internal strife. <Php 2:1> is rhetorical, with the purpose to stir believers to think and seek the good and perfect works of God among them. In God, there are surely encouragement, comfort, active participation, affection and sympathy. When we are helpless, have God ever given us encouragement in Christ? When we are defeated and hurt, did God comfort us in love? When we walk with God, have we experienced in our hearts the confirmation and conviction from the Holy Spirit? When we become vulnerable and fall in sins, have we tasted the affection and sympathy of God in our hearts? We truly have them! It cannot be none. If we do not have, it is because we do not seek and hear. The Lord who loves us is surely doing good work in our hearts.


3The work of God in the midst of saints

One who often experiences the Lord’s grace in his heart will first be united with the brethren beside him, for he is of the same mind as the Lord, so he too will receive the same love from the Lord. Think about it: If a person seldom receives comfort from the Lord, how can he comfort others? If in weakness, he rarely hears the sympathy of God, he will be very judgmental when he is with his brethren. He will be curt and unforgiving in his words, neither will he sympathize with others’ weaknesses. Therefore, Paul said, “the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” Besides, he is also aware of things not from God, such as divisions (for personal benefits and not for benefits of all), or coveting vain glory (like seeking the recognition from men). Instead, he is always humble (not self-exalting, and not imposing his ideas on others), always counts others more significant than himself (appreciating others’ strengths), and looks after others’ interest (cares about others). Indeed, such is the heart of Christ – Christ’s heart of humility. That comes from a heart of obedience to God, and a heart that sacrifices for man. It bears the attitude to serve all, not to be served by all. But if the church merely behaves like a social club, with everyone bringing their own desires and needs, wanting to gain some benefits sometimes even at the expense of others, how can such glory appear in our gatherings? Certainly, as humans we are all social beings, but socializing is not the purpose of our gatherings. We gather to receive the heart of Christ, to imitate Christ.


2) The result of the gathering of saints <Php 4:4-9>

1) Rejoice in the Lord always

The most obvious mark in the life of the Christian is “joy”. The Lord’s salvation and promises give us joy, not sorrow. Even if there are temporal hardship and sorrow, yet because of God’s love and help, we can rejoice always <2 C0 6:10>. Therefore, in the communion of saints, we experience God’s working within and between us, as a result, we can become joyful. However, we know that being able to rejoice has nothing to do with our will. That cannot be produced by coercion or pretensions, neither does it come from external environment. That has to do with the content of our heart and mind. For some, their heart and mind will never lead to joy. Because there is no Master in their lives, therefore they need to be responsible for themselves. They may try to adjust their emotions, so that they can have a more positive outlook in life, but that is how those who are perishing seek joy. For those who know truth, that is not the way to keep their spirits up. So, Christians who have a Master, should rejoice, but why do we often lose this joy? That is because the worldly environment and our sinful nature will torment us. Therefore, Paul shows us 3 things that will enable us to rejoice always in his exhortations:

  Because there is a Master in your life, therefore, always bear a heart of gentleness. We must know “relying on the Lord” is form of gentleness. Some people have a strong personality. Whether you see it as stubbornness, competitiveness or perfectionistic, that is not a heart of gentleness. If we do not have a heart of gentleness, we cannot rejoice. In the Philippian church, there were two sisters who were not of the same mind in the Lord. They both loved the Lord, and their names are in the book of life, but perhaps in their personality or working styles, they did not learn the gentleness of the Lord. Therefore, Paul used very wise words – “let your gentleness be evident to all”. Indeed, we are not to show others that we are capable or gifted, or full of drive, but we have to show our gentleness. Gentleness does not mean that we do things in a slipshod manner, but do by relying on the Lord.

  Remember that the Lord is near.  One who is always being reminded and looking forward to the second coming of the Lord will be able to rejoice. Actually, what is relying on the Lord? That is to put our hope on seeing the Lord. Such a person will not suddenly be bound by strong selfish desires, and he will not be overly affected by temporal gains and losses on earth.

  By prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, always overcome all anxieties. In our lives, there will be difficulties and challenges, or tense and anxious moments. Students have the pressure of being a student. Workers have the pressure of being workers. Those who serve the Lord also have pressure. Even if we face them with gentleness, and often remind ourselves that the Lord is near, the challenges before us and the corresponding stress are still real. Some people also have a lot of worries when facing some illnesses. Therefore, we must learn to pour out our sorrows to the Lord, and commit our needs to the Lord. The Lord is our friend, and our ever-present help.


2)  The thinking and life that always guard our hearts

Paul taught believers, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things <Php 4:8>. This is not positive thinking or just looking on the bright side. We live in a sinful world, so we will always be stirred by the sins of man. In church and in our families, we will easily see the weaknesses of people around us. However, Paul did not want us to be overly engrossed in them. What the word of the Lord tells us is, no matter how our heart is temporarily troubled and vexed, when we look to God, we will have the help of His countenance <Ps 42:5>. Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning <Ps 30:5>. Therefore, we must not allow ourselves to remain in depressing and helpless thoughts. We must also not judge our weaker brethren. We have not turned the Lord’s virtue into the fruit of our heart and mind often enough. We do not remember often enough the beautiful work of the Lord in all things. Especially, when we are dealing with people around us, we will easily use a worrying and depressing perspective to look at things. However, isn’t that true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable Lord accomplishing His work? Recently, we see many cases of people with poor mental health. There are student murders, attempted suicide, Olympics participant developing mental health issues, or the ever-changing state of the pandemic bringing challenges to everyone. We know that in this era, we are increasingly under mental stress. In people’s hearts, there are more and more helpless and fearful thoughts. Grumbling and blaming each other become a culture. However, we must not forget that the best protection the Lord has given us is that through the communion of saints, He reveals to us how wide and long, high and deep is His love.


3.  Confirm if our church living is effective

1How is our private state when we go home after church?

There are many singles or single parents in the church. Perhaps, after a beautiful Sunday Service, it is a challenge to go back home to face the four walls. Perhaps we have always find it hard to endure loneliness, so we long to find friends or look for recreation. Otherwise, our entire mood is not right and we easily get into a state of self-pity. Through the message the Lord gives us today, we must not let such a psychological state become a habit. For some of us, our children have already grown up, so we have more free time, how can we be someone who always converses and walks with God, such that we can have a blessed schedule every day? If we always feel restless and bored every time we are alone, and spend our time meaninglessly on the phone the whole day, that means we still cannot guard our hearts and minds, thus our living is not fruitful. Therefore, we still need to continue to receive healing from God’s word, so that hearing the word can lead to living out the word.


2Can we cope with the challenges in daily living?

Some people have very fast living pace, being busy with many things. Thus, they cannot quiet down to think about the Lord’s grace, their hearts also often lose joy due to busyness. As a result, they are always stuck in between, being unable to manage both family and work well. They also cannot integrate their living and serving. Some people feel helpless in such a state; when they focus on one area, they will neglect the other, for example: busy with work and neglect children, or busy with serving and neglect family. Thus, they feel very guilty and helpless in their hearts. In fact, it is not healthy for our spiritual life if we live with such guilt. Because this means that we cannot see God helping us, so we also cannot hope in God. If we are in such a state, we should not come to church to seek liberation of our spirit, but what we need is the power from God – the power of godliness. God’s word tells us that by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, we can make known to the Lord what power and help we need. Sometimes, we can also ask brethren and the faith community to pray for us too.


3Is our relationship with people not only harmonious but also effective?

People around us may not be lovable, but they are surely used by God to bless us. Even Saul who went after David’s life was someone whom God used to bless David, not to mention our spouse, children, parents. Think about it, when we go home after church, what can truly make us joyful? Is it the work which we have no choice but to do every day? We humans are not money-earning machines, neither can we find meaning from work. We humans have a lively spirit. We need to enjoy mutual love, communication, co-working, support, etc, with another living spirit, then we can be joyful and contented. Therefore, the joy of us parents in raising our children is not merely to provide meals for them every day, but the joy lies in being able to interact with them, and when we see them respond to us too, our hearts are satisfied. Our relationship with our spouse is not merely being used to each other’s existence, but when his/her love for us gives us strength to move on, then we can be filled with joy in the Lord. Hence, church living is not to replace our other relationships. In some instances, some people have poor relationship with their family, so they often like to come church to find brethren to chat or pour out their woes. Instead, we must find practical strength from church teachings and brethren’s love to bless people around us, so that we can better enjoy our relationship with our families.