by David Buffaloe
"Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain" (Phil. 2:14-16).
A young girl passed me as I left the supermarket the other day, and what was written on her shirt really caught my eye. In red letters across a pink shirt were the words "I hate people." I wondered what would cause a young person to wear such a shirt, or what would cause parents to allow such a thing to be on their children. "I hate people." If you hate people, then isn't it true-since you are a "people"-that you also hate yourself?
This child-not much past her teens-is already soured on people and on life. How sad! Then I thought to myself, "What if this young girl came to our church? Would she find what she needed to draw her away from such low self-esteem and such anger?
What could our local church offer this young lady? What could your local church offer this generation?
Though the Philippian Church was a wonderful local body of Christians, the apostle warned them-and us-of the necessity of a properly-operating local church in any society. Every election year I watch local churches lose their identities and begin to do things that they were never designed to do. Some churches allow and even encourage their pastors to preach polluted messages that have nothing at all to do with holding forth the Word of Life. Others cease serving the Lord and move into sensual carnality, much like the ancient Corinthian Church did. Still other assemblies depart from holding forth the Word of Life and opt instead to hold forth the Mosaic Law. These bodies listen to the Judaizers, just as the Galatians did, and earn the admonition of God: "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the Law: you have fallen from grace" (Gal. 5:4).
When a disillusioned person comes into the assembly of the local church, that person needs to see a unified body of Christ-like believers, all working together toward a common goal. The local church is on mission for the Father, saved by the love of the Son, and empowered by the blessed Holy Spirit of God. As genuine believers, the world needs to see us working together to hold forth the Word of Life. The world needs to see a local church bound together by love, doing what God has told it to do.
The young lady or young man who hates people will not respond to a local church that is divided, argumentative, apathetic, or half-hearted. We offer the Word of Life to the world. We tell the world that Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners, and that we are all sinners. We who are the local church need to behave as those who have life.
Jesus said: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life..." (John 5:24). If that is true, then the world needs to see a local church that has passed from death and into life. Though it is true that no Christian is perfect-for we are all a continuing work of God-there should be more unity and more life in the local church than there is in the world around it. We are commanded to shine as lights in the midst of this crooked and perverse nation.
We can only overcome Satan when we overcome "him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of [our] testimony" (Rev. 12:11).
As missionaries the Church is called to tell others what Jesus did for it. If you are saved then you have a word of life in your testimony. Tell the persons close to you that you love them, then tell them about Jesus. Hold forth the Word of Life to those in your periphery. As missionaries, tell your families about Jesus, and let them see the Lord in how you live your lives. Let holding forth the Word of Life be your primary objective.
Years ago a restaurant had a sign next to its cash register saying: "We have made a deal with the bank. We will not cash checks, and the bank will not make pizzas."
That is wisdom. As the local church, let's focus on being genuine in our calling, doing what God has given us to do. Hold forth the Word of life so that those who are bound to death can see Christ in you. Hold forth the Word of Life, "for it is God Who works in you to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).
David Buffaloe pastors Rock Hill Baptist Church in Lexington, Tenn.