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Living "at home" in the Gospel.

September 16, 2023 -- Adam Pereira

 

Being at someone else's home, whatever the occasion, can be an intimidating experience. We want to put our best foot forward to be the perfect guest. We may not be sure of the customs and culture within that home, so we want to be careful not to overstep our bounds. What a relief it is when our host tells us to "make ourselves at home." Implied in that comment is that we are to consider the host's home our home. We can relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy our stay.

As I think more deeply, I wonder how many of us, even pastors and church leaders, are secretly on edge in our own Christian walk. We are trying to put our best foot forward in the eyes of our congregants, even preaching the deep truths of God, while inwardly failing to apply those same words of hope to ourselves. This fearfulness does not come from God. As our Father, He desires us to make ourselves at home in all that He has provided and prepared for us in His Son (Eph 2:10). This confidence does not come naturally for us to fully embrace in everyday life. We have been taken in as orphans and adopted into a new home, a new family. Yet, our former identity still looms large within us even though it is a past reality. We must, by faith, cling to the fullness of our redemption which is ours because of Christ Jesus. If we are to "live at home" in the gospel, we must see the gospel as an everyday gospel. One that meets us at our highest and lowest points. To live at home in the gospel means...


I must realize I am not all that I think I am. At first, this concept seems rather obvious. As pastors, our lives consistently involve saying "no" to ourselves for the purpose of the good of others. We sacrifice our time, desires, and even emotional well-being to address the concerns of others and the health of Christ's church. Yet, we can do all of this with an unhealthy view of self which detracts our hearts and minds from the gospel. Our hearts are prone to place too much emphasis on "me." Depending on our wiring and perspectives, we have a tendency to see ourselves in unrealistically positive or negative terms.


"If only people saw my true worth."

"If only people really knew how much I sacrifice."

Or the opposite, "How could I ever effectively minister for Christ."

"If only I had the personality, giftings, or situation of the other guy."


On and on we could go. Pride manifests itself not only in self-exaltation but also self-deprecation. Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten the theme, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil 1:21). From start to finish, this life is not simply the story of self but of someone and something better.


Christ is more than I think He is. If the above point is true, this point must naturally follow. Whether we realize it or not, our hearts yearn to declare with John the Baptist: "He must increase, but I must decrease" (Jn 3:30). This is the only focus that will lead to peace and stability in life and ministry. Our default perspective is to belittle Christ and make much of ourselves. We limit His power in our situations (Phil 4:11). We limit His shepherding presence in our lives (Heb 13:20-21). We limit His empathy and compassion for our struggles (Heb 4:15). We limit His transformative work in our hearts and the hearts of others (2 Cor 3:18). We limit His kindness and patience in our deepest struggles (Ro 2:4; Matt 11:28-30). We limit, we limit, we limit. No wonder Jesus said that the faith of a child is the kind of faith that is required for the kingdom of heaven (Matt 18:3). The faith of a child is one of utter dependence and trust. The faith of a child realizes the fragility of self and the need for someone greater. In pastoral/church ministry so many look to you for stability and strength. How great is the need to be reminded exactly where strength comes from.


God has me right where He wants me. Our greatest struggles in life are not meant to cause us to despair or shrink back from God. Rather, they are the very means God is using to heighten the awareness of our need for Him. He desires to draw us into a deeper relationship and dependence upon Him. He does not want us to be content to preach of the power and glory of Himself to others while experiencing the vacuum of God's grace in our own lives. He views us not as "pastor" but as "son." What kind of Father would God be if He was content to give us everything we ever wanted to the demise of our soul? God will purposefully allow us to experience difficult places, people, and struggles to prove to us that He is enough (2 Cor 12:9). He will withhold nothing good from us (Ps 84:11), but sometimes those good things can manifest themselves in and through the worst of situations. So...trust God's character. Look to Him in your weakness. More than that, see those very things as evidence that God is at work in your life not removing Himself from you.


Our existence on this earth is characterized as a life lived by faith and not sight (2 Cor 5:7). The same saving faith we experienced at salvation is the same faith we are to walk in every day. Let us learn, as Christians first then as pastors, to make our home in the glorious truths and promises of the gospel. "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving" (Col 2:6-7).

 

Adam served as Associate Pastor of Covington Baptist Church (Covington, PA) for 6 years before becoming senior pastor in 2014. He was born in Valparaiso, Indiana but lived the majority of his life in Florida. He was raised in a pastor's home and was saved at an early age. In junior high, Adam sensed a calling to the pastorate and pursued that calling. The focus of his ministry is that others may know the wondrous grace of God in all its fullness and for all of life. This passion is summed up by His life verse, "To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8). Adam has been married since 2005 to his wife Rachel and together they have 4 children.

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