Refreshed by One Another

You are Refreshed to Refresh Others

“and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.” Philemon 6-7

In return for being refreshed by Christ and Philemon, Paul asks God to refresh Philemon. Specifically, that God would refresh Philemon by making his knowledge of all the good things he has in Christ, full. Paul is asking God to give Philemon more of Christ. What a prayer! It is a powerful prayer for Philemon who will be asked to show partnership not just with his friend Paul, but with his runaway slave who betrayed him.

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You will only refresh others with the capacity you’ve been refreshed by Christ yourself. Christ refreshes you so that you can refresh others and so that others when refreshed will want more of Christ. Only Christ can bring this level of fullness to your relationships, especially hard, fractured, and strenuous relationships, even in the church, especially in the church. Here there are two implications for you—the church:

First, you cannot truly love Christ if you do not love His church. Christ and his church are two separate things and they are the same thing. They are separate things in that love for Christ and love for his church are different loves. They are the same thing in that love for Christ leads to a deeper love for his church. The more you seek to love Christ the more you’ll find your heart growing to love the very things that Christ loves.

What does Christ love the most? His glory! What is the way Christ displays his glory among the nations? His church. Therefore the more you grow a love for Christ, the more you will naturally grow a love for his church.

More so, Christ and his church are intimately connected so that if you turn away from one you inevitably turn away from the other. God placed this twofold love in the heart of Philemon and Paul loved it, and thanked God for it.

What do you love about the church? Do you feel a love, respect, yearning to be in it and used by God so it grows? Do you want to see its influence spread?

Second, love for the church equates to a love for those in the church. Philemon was not a spectator or attender of the church, rather he was an active and effective member of it. He touched lives. He inspired faith. He refreshed others. He comforted people with his love. Where does that love come from? It comes from Christ. Paul saw the gospel of Christ pouring into him and flowing from him to others. As wise king Solomon said, “Those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:25)

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What if I am not feeling refreshed? What if I feel discouraged, bruised, hurt, drained? First, acknowledge the source of refreshment—Christ himself. He is a river that never stops flowing, a powerful waterfall of refreshment that is never ending, always giving. Refreshment begins with Christ. Sit at his feet. Listen to his words. Let them wash over you.

Second, allow gratitude to remove the plug in the dam of agony (fear, anger, etc.). Paul purposefully began this letter by giving thanks. Gratitude opens the floodgates of refreshment (Colossians 3:12-17; 4:2). Likely, the Spirit of God has brought someone to your mind—a relationship that needs building up. Maybe you should write a letter to them this week. Tell them how you have been refreshed by God through them. Then send mail it (or deliver it).

Third, be an active member of the church family. When it comes to the church we are all bricks. The Bible says we are from dirt or clay. We are messy. No brick exalts itself above another because each brick knows it came from the pit and it’s only by God’s grace he builds those bricks into a something wonderful—the church. Relationships are a messy, but they are a mess worth making. Let’s look at the church as Jesus does—a beautiful bride!

This love that Paul is celebrating in the life of Philemon isn’t an abstract love. It’s not vanishing and changing with our culture. No, quite opposite. Love in the church stands out in contrast. It’s a love that’s demonstrated and lived out by people like you. People who do what Christ commands them to do—to love others the way that Christ has loved you. The greatest sign of this love is the fact that Jesus gave up his life on behalf of others. This is love. It is a messy sacrificial love. It is love that caused Jesus to take on flesh and die in our place. Love was bleeding, broken, rejected, and crucified.

The gospel gets real in relationships. Paul knows the gospel of Christ will impact the world, the church at Colossae, and his little brother Onesimus. Paul says, “Philemon, you’ve got all these great characteristics that remind me of Jesus. Now, act on the gospel with your new brother, Onesimus.” More on this next week!


Questions for Reflection:

Who is able to speak into your life in various areas, both small and great? Who points out things? Who challenges you? And these people are present in your life, are you offended when they do or do you listen, and consider what they say?

How does Paul’s letter to Philemon display the gospel in relationships? Why is this helpful and powerful for your church?

How is church about “we” more than “me”?

Have you ever considered how a short note, a little letter, a text message or an email could have lasting impact on those that receive it? Write a letter of thanks to the Philemon in your life. You may consider mailing it to them this week or holding onto it until next week if you have something difficult to say.

what authority does the church have?

“Today there rages an ongoing debate among Bible-believing Christians about the nature and necessity of the local church…One side has a tendency to emphasize the spiritual or universal church to the minimizing of the local church. The local church is something people can be committed to if they like, but they need not be. When those who hold this view commit to a local church, they often choose a church composed of people with like experiences and interests, affinity clusters based on common culture, age, and so on. Membership is already settled because every Christians is a member of the body of Christ. There are few if any further formal requirements, which are often seen as holdovers from a bygone era or borrowed from civic and social groups like Rotary and country clubs. Local church membership might even be viewed as divisive, contrary to a needed and good catholicity…On the other side are Christians who emphasize the visible, local nature of the church while minimizing the universal or spiritual church. Membership in the universal church is assumed, but must be demonstrated in the local church. Some add that New Testament Christianity makes little sense apart from an active practice of local church membership.” – Don’t Call It A Comeback, 201-202

How do we define church?

Some people think the church means building with a steeple, denomination with a super-structure, or gather of people who sing to God, give their money, and listen to a message from the Bible. Although these might be common definitions for church, this is not how the Bible describes the term church. The Bible says the church [Gk. ekklesia] means “gathering”. It is a gather of followers of Christ universally (Eph.1:22-33) and locally (Gal.1:2). The universal and local church are not incompatible enemies, but a glorious visions of Christ’s glory.

Do I really need to be a member of a local church?

The Bible clearly commands every believer to be intimately involved in the lives of other believers.  Heb. 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” God says that we are not to neglect to “meet together,” but He means far more than simply attending church services regularly.  The meaning of Heb. 10:24-25 is much fuller than that, as the other commands in the passage indicate.  If a believer is not carefully considering how he might stimulate others to love and good works, and encouraging others more and more all the time, then he or she is disobeying the Lord.  The church is intended to glorify Christ and to help believers be what God wants them to be. Christians are meant to live in community [1 Cor. 12; Rom. 12], not Lone Ranger individuality.

The local church is not one of many options for the Christian.  “The church is the primary instrument through which God accomplishes His plan in the world.  The church is God’s only ordained instrument for calling the lost to Himself and the means by which He sanctifies those who are born into His family (1 Pt.2:9-10).  Therefore, God expects (and even demands) commitment to a local church from every believer who claims to know Him.” (Wayne Mack and Dave Swavely, Life In the Father’s House, 6)

What’s in it for me?

In short, the church is not about me, it is all about Christ and the community, however the church bring nutrients to all its connected members. First, God designed the church to care for one other (1 Cor. 12:24-27). He uses local churches to look after His flock. Second, God designed the church to encourage maturity in one another (Eph. 4:11-16). Without the church followers of Christ would remain in spiritual infancy because they would have not structure for personal growth in Christ. As John Stott said, an “unchurched Christians” is a “grotesque anomaly.” The Bible describes a church as a Body with Christ as it’s head. A head without a body is a corpse. Dead and decaying. A church needs a head and a body to be a church. A Christian not connected to the body is not growing or gaining lasting nourishment. What’s in the church for me? Life and growth in Christ together with others committed to Him too.

By whose authority does the church have authority?

That which is given to it by Jesus Christ. He leads the church with humility and grace, but also in power and authority. Maybe you have seen the church abuse it’s authority. Maybe you’ve experienced neglect from church-goers. Maybe you’ve a pastor has not shepherded you with the attitude of Christ. Maybe you have lost respect for the church because of a bad experience? As messy as the church may be, it is still the beautiful bride of Jesus Christ. The church is not always amazing, but it is loved by Jesus. So much so that He died for it.

The Bible reveals the centrality of the church in the life of a believer. Jesus Christ proclaimed that He Himself would build His church (Matt. 16:18) and that not even the gates of death would prevail against it.  He invested it with the authority of His Father (Matt. 18:17-20).  He revealed that in His plan the world would be filled with churches (Matt. 28:18-20).  Furthermore, Jesus Christ died for the church (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25) and lives for the church.  He walks amid the churches (Rev. 1:13) and promises to keep the church from the future wrath of God (Rev. 3:10).  No other institution on earth can claim any of those things about itself. Christ is the authority of the church. Christ is the Creator (Ephesians 2:15), Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20, 21), Bridegroom (Ephesians 5:23-32), Head (Colossians 1:18a), Owner (Titus 2:14), High Priest (1 Peter 2:9), and the Shepherd (1 Peter 5:2-4) of the church.