Romans 15:7 says, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (emphasis added). Accepting others is an effective means of praise and worship. There’s no mention of music or phrases of adoration—none of the functions we normally associate with worship. Just accepting others.
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Can you imagine beginning a Sunday morning worship service with this announcement: “Friends, we have gathered today to worship the living God. This morning we’re going to engage in biblical worship. They’ll be no singing or playing of instruments. Instead, spend the next thirty minutes getting to know the person who is sitting next to you, and as you do, reassure him that you accept him just the way he is.”
It would, no doubt, be a unique service, but according to Romans 15:7, God would accept it as pleasing worship.
But does this principle apply only to accepting others? My theory is that the same holds true for all of the One Anothers. I believe that when we engage in any of the various ministries—comfort, encourage, carry burdens, prefer, admonish—God is praised. The following verses seem to substantiate the theory:
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:15–16). Two sacrifices are mentioned: our talk (fruit of our lips) and what we do (good deeds and sharing with others).
“You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else” (2 Corinthians 9:11–13). God sees the “service that supplies the needs of God’s people” as expressions of thanks.
Romans 12:10 - "Be devoted to one another..." The Greek word for “devotion” is philostorgos, which means “to cherish one’s kindred, to be fond of, to be fraternal toward others, tenderly loving, and tenderly affectionate.” Devotion implies a deep level of commitment. It is, perhaps, the only One Another which we can, in some measure, ration out. Through the years, I have developed a deep sense of devotion to certain individuals, but not to everyone. For instance, my highest devotion is to my wife and children. Even among my friends, I am more devoted to some than others. The Lord also had those to whom he was deeply devoted: the twelve disciples. Among the twelve, there were three men in whom he confided the most – Peter, James, and John. Some would suggest that he was closest to John. He didn’t love the three men more than the others, but he did spend more time with them, allowing them to know him in ways the others didn’t. The three men were invited to be with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration, perhaps the highlight of his earthly ministry, and in the Garden of Gethsemane, arguably the lowest point in his life. Jesus didn’t have favorites, but he did have intimates. There are many ways to practically express devotion, but let me leave you now with five suggestions: 1) Value - "I highly value you; you are important to me." 2) Commitment - "I am committed to you; I pledge to be lovingly involved in your life." 3) Priority - "My life, like yours, is multifaceted. However, you are a priority to me." 4) Faithfulness - "Relationally, I'm going to bind myself to you. I hope my deep commitment will make you feel secure." 5) Tenderness - "You are very dear to me."
Photo Credit: Time.com "Men of War"
Out of the furnaces of war come many true stories of sacrificial friendship. One such story tells of two friends in World War I who were inseparable. They enlisted together, trained together, were shipped overseas together, and fought side by side in the trenches. During an attack, one of the men was critically wounded in a field filled with barbed-wire obstacles and he was unable to crawl back to his foxhole. The entire area was under a withering enemy crossfire and it was suicidal to try to reach him. Yet his friend decided to try. Before he could get out of his own trench, his sergeant yanked him back and ordered him not to go. “It’s too late. You can’t do him any good, and you’ll only get yourself killed.”
A few minutes later, the officer turned his back, and instantly the man was gone after his friend. A few minutes later, he staggered back, mortally wounded, with his friend, now dead, in his arms. The sergeant was both angry and deeply moved. “What a waste,” he blurted out. “He’s dead, and you’re dying. It just wasn’t worth it.” With almost his last breath, the dying man replied, “Oh, yes, it was, Sarge. When I got to him, the only thing he said was, ‘I knew you’d come, Jim!’”
Colossians 3:16 - "Admonish one another with all wisdom..."
Most of the One Anothers feel so good to the recipient that it’s hard to mess up how we dispense them. I’ve never offended someone by trying to encourage him. No one has ever resented me for comforting or supporting him.
But admonishing is different.
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When admonishing someone, we must be careful how we do it. That’s why 2 Timothy 4:2 says, “Correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction”. It’s like the difference between driving down miles of straight, open highway and driving in the mountains. When on the open highway, we can put the car on cruise control and take a mental hike. But in the mountains, we must slow down, focus, and continually adjust to the changing terrain. Most of the One Anothers can be dispensed liberally and without caution. But before admonishing someone, we should carefully consider issues such as:
• Does this person indeed need to be admonished?
• Am I the right person to do it?
• When and where should it take place?
• Does this person know that I love him? Here are some practical suggestions for admonishing others: 1. Before admonishing someone, make sure you're not guilty of the same problem! (Matthew 7:1-5) 2. Make sure your admonition is based on Scripture, not on your personal beliefs, preferences or opinions. (Ephesians 5:4) 3. Consider the best time and place to approach the individual. (Ecclesiastes 3:7) 4. Approach the person privately. (Matthew 8:15) 5. Make sure your actions are properly motivated. (1 Corinthians 4:14) 6. Admonish gently. (Galatians 6:1) 7. The admonition should be clear, accurate, and thorough. 8. When we admonish someone, we should not tell him what do to but how to do it, and if possible, be willing to journey with him through the process. 9. Subsequent to admonishing someone, reassure him of your love for him. (2 Corinthians 2:7-8)
In the late 1800s, a large group of European pastors came to D. L. Moody’s Northfield Bible Conference in Massachusetts. Following the European custom of the time, each guest put his shoes outside his hotel room to be cleaned by the hall servants overnight. But of course this was America, and there were no hall servants.
Dwight L. Moody (Credit: Moody Bible Institute)
Walking the dormitory halls that night, Moody saw the shoes and determined not to embarrass his brothers. He mentioned the need to some ministerial students who were there, but was met only with silence or pious excuses. Moody returned to the dorm, gathered up the shoes, and, alone in his room, the world’s most famous evangelist began to clean and polish the shoes. Only the unexpected arrival of a friend in the midst of his work revealed the secret.
When the foreign visitors opened their doors the next morning, their shoes were shined. They never knew by whom. Moody told no one, but his friend told a few people, and during the rest of the conference, different men volunteered to shine the shoes in secret. Perhaps the episode is a vital insight into why God used D. L. Moody as he did. Moody was a man with a servant’s heart, and that was the basis of his true greatness. Galatians 5:13 sets forth a simple but profound directive: “Serve one another.” Here’s the complete verse: “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” Notice that the primary focus of this verse, and indeed the entire chapter, is on freedom. The first verse of chapter five reads, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”
Friends, let me humbly suggest three practical ways to serve others: 1. Be attentive to the needs of others. When we Serve One Another, it’s not about us; it’s about others – their needs, desires, and preferences. 2. Be willing to perform menial, mundane tasks. When we have a deep desire to serve others, we will even delight in doing menial and mundane tasks – routine and commonplace jobs that would normally be outside our scope of interest and responsibility. We’ll be willing to house-sit, run errands, wash dishes, do yard work, or move furniture, simply because we want to serve and help others. 3. Serve others cheerfully. We are often reluctant to serve others, but the Bible speaks of being eager to serve (1 Peter 5:2), serving wholeheartedly (Ephesians 6:7), and serving with gladness (Psalm 100:2 NASB).
Romans 12:10 - "Honor one another above yourselves." We can honor one another in various ways. When we honor someone else, we are saying:
1. I respect you. 2. I recognize and affirm who you are - your unique talents and gifts. 3. I submit to your authority. 4. I value and esteem you. 5. I will give you the advantage. 6. I will give you special consideration and proper recognition. Let me share with you a time that I did not do a great job in following number one above, in respecting my wife... I remember the day I informed my wife that God had called us to another church (which happened to be in another city), so we would be relocating our lives and ministry. Notice the phrase, “I informed my wife.” My lack of respect was both wrong and hurtful. Was God, indeed, calling us to a new work? Yes. But I was still wrong. Did God eventually bless the new work? Yes. But I was still wrong. Why was I wrong? Because, as a matter of respect, before I made a decision that would affect Mary’s life, I should have asked her opinion and seriously considered her input. In some instances, we may not be obligated to abide by another person’s opinion, but we should always seek it and treat it seriously. In a marriage relationship, take that one step further – we must solicit our spouse’s opinion and only under extreme circumstances should we continue unless we are in agreement. The more important a decision is, the more necessary it is to get other people’s input. For instance, relative to family decisions, the decision to relocate to another city is more important than where the next vacation will be, which is more important than the plans for the weekend, which is more important than which dessert to have with dinner. However, respect is always appreciated on any level. In closing, may I suggest some common hindrances to honoring others and encourage you to avoid these pitfalls? Here they are...
Territorialism – “I like my turf and don’t want anyone else on it.”
Preoccupation with self – “I’m so focused on me, I’m unable to focus on you.”
Jealousy – “What if I honor you in an area in which we are both involved and it turns out that you’re better than I am?”
Insecurity – “If I honor the strengths of other people, I might expose my own inadequacies.”
Fear that my needs will not be met – “If I honor other people, who will honor me?”
About ten years ago I was asked to speak at a conference in Tbilisi, the capital city of the Republic of Georgia. At the time it was, at best, a third-world environment; the airport terminal was lit by three light bulbs dangling from the ceiling.
My inbound flight was six hours late so my English-speaking host was not there to greet me. Instead, there were two men holding a hand-made sign with my name on it.
Let me describe what these guys looked like. One was built like a fire hydrant, and his upper body was covered with tattoos. The other man looked as rough as five miles of country road. Both were wearing muscle shirts and neither spoke English. My first reaction was, You’ve got to be kidding. I’m going to get in a car with these guys? They could be Russian mobsters, intent on kidnapping a wealthy American.
Three things happened that put my heart at ease. First, as I approached them, they smiled broadly and gave me a big hug. I immediately thought of Romans 16:16 – Greet One Another. When I got into the back seat of their car, which was the size of a small telephone booth, they both adjusted their front seats to give me more legroom. I thought of Romans 12:10 – Prefer One Another. Several miles outside of town, the driver suddenly stopped the car, got out, and walked into a roadside shack. I thought, Okay, this is when they handcuff me, gag me, and send my wife a video demanding a ransom. Instead, he walked back to the car and handed me a bottle of cold water. He had stopped to buy water. He only bought one bottle, and he gave it to me. I thought of Ephesians 4:32 – Be Kind to One Another. A calming peace enveloped me as I realized that I was being escorted through a dangerous country by believers in Christ. How did I know? It wasn’t because they professed to be Christians; because of the language barrier, we had barely spoken to each other. It was because they demonstrated Christ’s love to me through the One Anothers. Christ taught that “all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” Those men confirmed their allegiance to Christ by acting like him.
Hebrews 10:24 - "Spur one another on toward love and good deeds." Influence. All of us wield some degree of it. People are watching us; some are following our example. This One Another is particularly intriguing because it provides for the perpetuation of the other One Anothers. Notice that there are two directives in this verse: Spur one another on to love and good deeds. I am not only responsible for doing the One Anothers, but I am also responsible for encouraging others to do them. Consider how. I need to think about, strategize, meditate on, and plan how to do the first directive. A Mandate For Parents
Every parent should accept the responsibility of training their children to know and do the One Anothers. Imagine how healthy a child would be – mentally, emotionally, spiritually and relationally – if parents adopted this goal: “Before my child leaves home, I want her to know how to minister all thirty-six One Anothers and be motivated by gratitude to give them to others because she has received them abundantly from her parents.” Hebrews 10:24 gives parents a clear strategy for childhood development. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train a child in the way he should go.” Notice the positive, proactive approach. It doesn’t say, “Discipline a child when he deviates from the way in which he should go” but rather “instruct him in the way he should go.” A Mandate for Spiritual Leaders
Although Hebrews 10:24 is a directive to all believers, it particularly applies to spiritual leaders. The apostle Paul taught that there are several types of ministers given to the church, but they all have the same function: “He gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service” (Ephesians 4:11-12). In the early years of my ministry, I did not understand what my “job” was but now I realize that my primary responsibility is to “prepare God’s people for works of service.” One way to do that is to equip them to minister the One Anothers.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 - "Encourage one another." Did you know that the most frequently mentioned One Another in the Bible is Encourage One Another? In fact, Hebrews 3:13 instructs us to “encourage one another daily” which implies that humans need a lot of encouragement, and need it on a consistent basis!
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We should make it our mission in life to be a constant source of encouragement to those around us. Here are ten practical ways to encourage: 1. Learn to sense when others need to be encouraged.Become adept at recognizing when people are experiencing these times and be available and willing to encourage them. 2. Encourage others by sharing a personal testimony of the work of God in our lives. For instance, in Acts 16:40, Paul and Silas encouraged the church by sharing with them how God delivered them from prison. 3. Encourage others by teaching sound doctrine (Titus 1:9). 4. We can encourage others by our example. In Titus 2:6–8, Paul told Titus to encourage the young men through his integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech. 5. Encourage each other with hope (1 Thessalonians 4:17–18). Hope is future-oriented, so we can encourage others by sharing thoughts about positive, future opportunities. 6. Learn how to speak words of encouragement (1 Thessalonians 4:18). 7. Often, the “ministry of your presence” can make a powerful statement. Your presence at a recital, sporting event, or funeral service can be a potent expression of encouragement. 8. Other acts of encouragement would include: giving a physical or financial gift, defending someone, listening, demonstrating appropriate body language (a smile or hug), sharing a truthful and believable compliment, inquiring as to how someone is progressing toward a goal, praying with and for someone, making an unexpected phone call, or sharing a pertinent verse of Scripture. 9. Encourage others to develop God-given plans and goals and then become actively involved in helping them reach those goals (Hebrews 10:24). Psalm 64:5 speaks of those who “encourage each other in evil plans”; we should encourage one another in godly plans. 10. Use Scriptures to encourage others. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
1 Thessalonians 5:13 - "Live in peace with each other"
Have you ever heard of the phrase - "speak the truth in love..."? It comes from Ephesians 4:15, in a section of Scripture where Paul talked about maintaining peace and unity in the body of Christ. These five simple words provide a helpful and tangible strategy for maintaining peace in relationships, with three important steps to follow. 1 - Speak. When relationships are strained, all parties need to verbalize their feelings and thoughts. We may think that the spiritually mature thing to do is to ignore the problem and be silent, but the apostle Paul said to speak. In every type of relationship – marriage, friendships, family, work – everyone should have the freedom to speak their thoughts. 2 - Speak the truth. When resolving conflict, we are free to speak, but we must be careful to speak only the truth. While most of us wouldn’t tell a bold-faced lie, we may be tempted to distort or exaggerate the facts, make assumptions, or only speak part of the truth. Instead, share only truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. At times, this may require actively pursuing the truth – investigating the details of a situation to get correct and thorough information. Proverbs 18:17 says, “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.” There are usually two sides to every story, so it’s wise to pursue all the facts. Sometimes we may be upset about something because we’re misinformed. Often, just talking out a situation – getting the facts – will resolve the issue. 3 -Speak the truth in love. Some people think that if they are speaking the truth, it doesn’t matter how they speak it. But the apostle Paul said we must share the truth in love. Once in my church, a teenager sang a somewhat questionable song in the service. The following day I received two e-mails about the issue which demonstrate the difference between sharing the truth in love and sharing in a blunt, coarse manner:
Email #1 – Awful!! Not worshipful. Not vocally correct in any way. Do you call that music? Ruined the service for me. Wondering if you ever preview solos before the rest of us are subjected to them? Please reply. Email #2 – I enjoy a variety of musical styles and generally appreciate the contemporary music that is sung in church. However, I was disappointed with the closing music in yesterday’s service. We love you. Here are some other suggestions to follow when you speak the truth in love. • Get to the point quickly; don’t draw out the conversation or build it up to be larger than it is. • Stick to the issue at hand; don’t introduce unrelated issues. • Speak only to those who are directly involved in the situation. For example, if someone has offended you, to share your thoughts with someone other than your offender would be wrong, even though you may be “speaking the truth in love.” • After you speak, give the person you’re talking to an opportunity to respond. Ephesians 4:15 does not give you permission to verbally dump on someone and then leave. Rather, it should be the beginning of a dialogue between both parties. • Be sensitive about when you share. Ephesians 4:29 defines unwholesome words as words spoken in an untimely manner. • Be sensitive about how you share. Use a gentle tone of voice; even your body language should be calm and non-intimidating.
“No one is concerned for me… no one cares for my life” (Psalm 142:4). How is it possible that the "man after God's own heart" felt like no one cared for him? But the mighty king and psalmist, David, at perhaps the lowest point in his life while hiding in a cave, felt like no one cared for him. Have you ever felt that way? It is a hopeless feeling; a sense of being terribly alone in our pain and fear – a feeling of being disconnected and without help, cut off, overlooked, ignored, anonymous. That’s why the Bible instructs us to care for one another. No one should ever have to experience the pain of being alone. Do you know someone who is alone and needs care?
Eder Caves in Israel (Photo Credit: www.biblewalks.com)
1 Corinthians 12:25 - "Have the same care one for another..." In his letters to the churches, Paul created an analogy between the physical human body and the spiritual body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12 says, “But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (vv. 24–26). These verses teach us valuable lessons on how the body of Christ, the church, should function and demonstrate care to its members. Let’s consider a couple of similarities between our physical bodies and the spiritual body of Christ: 1) When one part of the body is in pain, it affects the other parts. Physical body – About once a year, I strain my back. It puts me in bed for several days. Although only one part of my body is hurting, the pain affects my entire body; every part is influenced. Body of Christ – I just received an e-mail from a lifelong friend whose wife has been diagnosed with terminal melanoma. The doctors have given her six months to live. I am saddened by the news. I hurt for my friend. His pain is my pain. 2) When one part of the body is cared for, all parts benefit. Physical body – Years ago, I took one of my daughters to the emergency room because she was feeling lightheaded and dizzy. Fortunately, it was nothing serious. I remember visiting with the young doctor who was on call. The emergency room was quiet that evening, so we had ample time to talk. In the course of the conversation I asked him a question: “When I have a pain in a particular part of my body – perhaps I just banged my finger with a hammer – and I take pain medication, how does the medicine know to go to that particular part of the body?” His answer was, “It doesn’t. The medication affects all parts of the body the same; you just sense relief in the area that was hurting the most.” Body of Christ – This week I talked to another lifelong friend who told me that after eighteen years of trying to conceive, he and his wife are expecting their first baby. They are elated, and so am I.