Six Ways to Grow Closer to Other Christians

Six Ways to Grow Closer to Other Christians

Many professing Christians will walk into church this Sunday, smile at a few people, shake a hand or two, talk about the weather a bit, listen to a sermon, sing a few songs, and walk away believing that they have just fulfilled what it means to live in Christian community. Is this all there is, or should we be looking for more? 

The Apostle Peter addressed the Christians of his day, and us, to go far beyond merely being in the same room as one another for one hour per week. He calls believers to be deeply involved in one another’s lives. 

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing (1 Peter 3:8-9).

In this passage, Peter gives six back-to-back instructions that we all should be striving to possesses personally, and as a local church.

  1. Unity of mind: Sometimes translated, “harmony.” It has been said, that people can only live in harmony by themselves.
    Put any two people in a room for a long enough time, and very soon they will not be in harmony. For Christians, this should not be. We must always let our unity in Christ supersede our differences. The world is a hostile place full of people who are dividing, and fighting, over all kinds of issues. Believers are to strive to live in unity, peace, and harmony with one another. As Paul writes, “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11).
  2. Sympathy: To sympathize with another Christian is not to just be aware of other’s needs, but a deep desire that also results in taking action to help. As believers, we should make sure that no Christian is suffering alone.
    Look at the high level of sympathy which Paul exhorts the Corinthians to express, “but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:25-26).
    If you are the one suffering, let others know about it. If people don’t know, then they cannot help. 
  3. Brotherly love: While we are to honor all people, there is extra special love that we are to have with those who are in the family of God. We are commanded by God to love one another. Other Christians need the love that only other Christians can provide, and loving others is a vital part of fulfilling your purpose in life. Brotherly love cannot, and should not be confined to a building referred to as a “church.” It is a love that should be active all week long.
  4. Tender-hearted: Be sensitive to the needs of others. This is the opposite of having a hard, calloused heart. There is a dire need among Christians to open our hearts and to be sensitive towards one another.
    Is your heart tender towards Christians in your local church? Do you seek to know them and understand their hurts, pains, trials, and sufferings? As a Christian living in community with other Christians, be on the lookout for those who are needing sympathy. Those who hurt the most often hide it the best.
  5. Humble mind: Humility is considering others more important than yourself. This is the polar opposite to the way the unsaved world thinks. They put themselves first; however, you are commanded to put others first.
    Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).
  6. Do not repay evil for evil: Sadly, it appears that this command was given to those within the church. Is it possible for Christians to say bad things about a fellow Christian? Of course, and anyone reading this knows that such a thing can and does happen, but how are you to respond? Peter is very clear. We are not to repay them with evil. He had just instructed the believers to not repay non-believers with evil, and how much more forgiving, patient, and long-suffering should we be with our fellow Christians. 

Summary:

These exhortations by Peter are a punch in the gut to modern Christianity, and maybe even to you personally. Are you striving to live in Christian community with unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, a humble mind, and not returning evil for evil? 

If you have been thinking that attending church is the extent of your involvement with your fellow believers, repent and start incorporating Peter’s instructions immediately. 

Do you want to have a stronger, heathier, more intimate church? Well, it starts with you. 
~ Trey Talley


No one looks forward to suffering, especially unjust suffering, yet, if it does come your way, you need to know that how you handle it matters.

How do you handle suffering?

No one looks forward to suffering, especially unjust suffering, yet, if it does come your way, you need to know that how you handle it matters.

How do you handle suffering?

 
The challenge of Christian suffering, especially the recipient of unjust or perceived unjust suffering, has the potential to wreak havoc in our minds. No one looks forward to suffering, especially unjust suffering, yet, if it does come your way, you need to know that how you handle it matters. In fact, enduring suffering, even unjust suffering, “is a gracious thing in the sight of God.”
 
It is common for Christians to assume that if they live a righteous life they will not have to suffer in this life. However, this is simply not true.
 
What if you truly were the most righteous person on earth, would you still have to suffer? Well, this is precisely the scene that we see taking place in the opening of the book of Job.
 
And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. (Job 1:8-12) 
 
In the following passages, we read that Job suddenly had all of his wealth removed, his servants were killed, and even his children were killed. How does Job respond? We find that he remains the most blameless and upright man on the earth. Even in the face of unimaginable suffering, Job remained faithful. Some time goes by, and it happens again.
Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. And the Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”
So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.
Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:1-10)
 
Job had lost everything and gained pain, sorrow, and suffering. His possessions, family, and health were gone. Yet he still held fast to his integrity and would not curse God.
 
The majority of the remaining chapters of Job have to do with him asking God why he is suffering and his so-called friends wrongly assuming that they knew the cause of Job’s suffering.
 
After many chapters of conversations of these four humans attempting to probe the mind of God, God answers Job. He never directly answered the question of why Job was suffering, but instead, responded by asking Job questions; questions that Job could not answer. However, every question that God asked, caused Job to see that God is sovereign and has a plan for everything, including Job’s suffering.
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
     I will question you, and you make it known to me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
     Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!” (Job 38:1-5a)
 
Job wanted to know, “God, what did I do to deserve all of this suffering?” God answers by revealing that He is omniscient, He is omnipotent, He is in control of all things, and He did so by asking Job question after question. Every unanswerable question that God asked Job caused Job’s eyes to become more aware of the infinite gap between his mind and the mind of God.
Then Job answered the Lord and said:
“I know that you can do all things,
     and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
     things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
     I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
     but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
     and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6)

Recap:

Job suffered immensely, yet he never learned why. He didn’t get to read the first two chapters of the book that bears his name. However, we get to see the earthly struggles of Job and through the window into the supernatural realm, we get to hear the conversation between God and Satan. As we peer into the window of heaven revealed for us in those opening chapters, let us always remember that God is sovereign even during trials, persecutions, and suffering.
 
In the end, Job’s suffering lead to him having a better understanding of God, a better understanding of himself, an even deeper faith in God, and Satan losing. May the same be said of us of us!


Hypocrisy was a way to describe a person in the theater who wore a mask to conceal their real identity. Can Christians be hypocritical as well?

Can a Christian Be a Hypocrite?

Hypocrisy was a way to describe a person in the theater who wore a mask to conceal their real identity. Can Christians be hypocritical as well?

Can a Christian Be a Hypocrite?

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (1 Peter 2:1).

Peter had just told these Christians to love one another earnestly as they are now all born into the family of God. But even in a family that is supposed to be loving, there are enemies of love that must be fought against. Even in a local gathering of believers, like the church, the community can be negatively impacted by individuals who are not putting away their sinfulness. 

Peter listed several individual sins that can affect a person’s ability to love one another as they should. These behaviors decrease love for one another rather than increasing it.

For now, we are going to just focus on “hypocrisy.” Hypocrisy was a way to describe a person in the theater who wore a mask to conceal their real identity. It had to do with a person pretending to be something that he or she was not. Jesus spoke much about hypocrisy. The Pharisees were notorious for pretending to be holy yet they were inwardly wicked to the core. One such example is this passage in Matthew:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:25-28)

These scribes and Pharisees were only interested in looking good on the outside. Their purpose was to pretend to be holy for their audience. However, Jesus could see straight to their soul. He knew every sin that they had ever committed. He could see that they cared more about people’s view of them than God’s. 

What about Christians? Can we be hypocritical as well?

Most of the time, we see hypocrisy in reference to non-believers, the unsaved. However, Peter is writing specifically to believers in this passage.

Yes, even a Christian can wear a mask of holiness. Christians are often guilty of washing the outside but ignoring the sin within. A Christian’s hypocrisy cannot be to the extent of a non-believer’s hypocrisy, as in the case of the Pharisees. However, a Christian may desire to be seen as someone they are not. Perhaps they want to be seen more holy and less sinful than they are in real life. These types of masks are worn often, even among fellow Christians. 

Such hypocrisy is a sin, and it is an enemy of growing love among a community of believers. Such a person cannot genuinely love others because they are consumed with pretending and keeping up his or her fake persona. At the same time, other believers cannot love such a person as needed, because all they see is the pretend person. They end up loving the actor, not the person. They end up not meeting any needs of the actor because the person underneath the mask is not transparent with his or her needs before the Christian community.

Thousands attend church each Sunday with fresh haircuts, makeup, smelling good, looking good, a smile on their faces, and Bible in hand; yet, their insides are polluted with unconfessed and unrepentant sin. They attend church with their mask, pretending that everything is perfect; but God sees right through to their heart. They look good for all to see, pretend that they need nothing, then they leave church, return to their homes, remove their masks, and return to their sins. This should not be, this cannot be, God commands us not to pretend to be holy, but “Be holy as I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).

God knows every detail about you. If you have sin in your life, confess it to God, and turn from it. If you need help doing so, seek help from those around you. Draw on them for support and accountability. Be genuine so that you can love others in need and so that people can see your need and love you, as well. 

~ Trey Talley

 
For more information on this, see Pastor Trey Talley’s sermon here: https://www.thechurchatpecancreek.com/sermons/1-peter-2_9-10-part-a/


A daily Bible reading plan is a great way to feed on the Word of God. You should be able to complete the entire Bible in one year by reading about 15 minutes per day!

Benefits of a Daily Bible Reading Plan

A daily Bible reading plan is a great way to feed on the Word of God. You should be able to complete the entire Bible in one year by reading about 15 minutes per day!

Benefits of a Daily Bible Reading Plan

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

Scripture is the Christian’s spiritual food and we all need daily nourishment. No healthy person needs to be reminded to eat daily meals (breakfast lunch, dinner) because they hunger for food. May our hunger for God and His Word exceed even our appetite for physical food!

A daily Bible reading plan is a great way to feed on the Word of God. You should be able to complete the entire Bible in one year by reading about 15 minutes per day!

Reading straight through the Bible is fine. But let’s say you want to read through the Bible in one year; if you start Genesis in January, it would be around September before you get to the New Testament! That’s OK, but it’s probably not a good idea to be completely deprived of the New Testament for eight months. A daily Bible reading plan allows you to get a good mix of both Old and New Testaments on a daily basis.

It has been said that if you do anything for more than 30 days you will have developed a habit. Reading the Bible daily is a habit to be desired by all believers. It will change your life and deepen your relationship with your Lord. By sticking to a daily Bible reading plan, it is possible to read through the entire Bible several times!

According to Peter, the apostle inspired by the Holy Spirit, we are to be growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This cannot be accomplished if we are not regularly studying the Bible. Reading the Bible, however, we must understand is merely a means and not an end. If we are not careful, we can miss Christ and turn a Bible reading plan into a ritualistic religious activity or a check the box, task-driven endeavor. Christ and the glory of God should be our goal. Our time in the Word should be a time of sweet communion and fellowship between our Savior and us.

Paul, the apostle, wrote in his letter to the Colossians:

”Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:2-3)

If Christ is truly “our life” then He alone must be our greatest priority. This means we should be making time for Him daily, just Him and us. Daily Bible reading is one means, in which we can spend time hearing directly from our Lord.

Here are a variety of bible reading plans put together by Ligonier ministries. My personal favorite is Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System!

https://www.ligonier.org/blog/bible-reading-plans/

  Jeff Patton