1st September 2023

John Piper offers



The Value of Relationships

12Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of
    you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away
    from the living God.
13But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is
    called 'Today,' lest any one of you be hardened by the
    deceitfulness of sin.

.... Hebrews 3:12-13

Our mission and Spiritual Dynamic declare that the all-satisfying supremacy of God shines most brightly through sacrificial deeds of joyful love.
The cry of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our people is for a fresh, decisive emphasis on relationships of Love.

Therefore, we eagerly embrace God's call for new, visible manifestations of love toward each other, our guests, and our neighbours. With a fresh openness and outgoing spirit to each other and to all new people, we henceforth put understanding above accusation, forbearance above fault-finding, and biblical unity above the demand for uniformity.

Every church has a personality.
A corporate spirit. An esprit de corps. An atmosphere. It's that indefinable something that you sense. We believe God is calling us to improve that "something". We believe that our family can do better than we have at loving each other and loving the world.

Let me begin with a clarification. We have devoted a lot of time to the theme of love. The key word is relationships. You can show love to someone without having much of relationship.

For example, the Good Samaritan showed love to the wounded Jewish man, but he didn't even know him. And he left him in the care of another even though he paid for the care. That is real love and Jesus commends it.

"Personal" means not just functional.
You can have a functional relationship with someone because they are your doctor or lawyer or plumber or employer or pastor or teammate or teacher, without that relationship being personal.

To be personal would mean that you would relate to each other about personal things, not just professional things. For example, Dennis Smith is by profession an attorney. So we have related professionally several times over the years as he helped me buy our house and draw up our wills.

But a hundred times more important to me is the fact that Dennis and Barb and Noël and I have a personal relationship that goes back 21 years. When we are together, we don't deal with each other as professionals.
What Dennis and Barb are as persons - with loves and longings and values and hurts and joys and convictions and virtues and spiritual depth - these things are the stuff of our a personal relationship.

Jesus had concentric circles of increasingly intimate personal relationships.
There were the seventy that he appointed and sent out. Then there were the twelve that he chose to be with him throughout his entire ministry. Then there were Peter, James, and John.
He took them with him onto the Mount of Transfiguration; into the house when he raised the little girl; and into the seclusion of the Garden of Gethsemane.

He was personally closer to them than to the others.
Finally there was John who was called at least four times "the disciple whom Jesus loved."

The point is that Jesus himself had a cluster of personal relationships in varying depths

One of the realities of a growing church is that neither the pastors, nor anyone else, can have personal relationships with everyone in the church.
Our aim is not that everyone relate to everyone in a personal relationship, but that the atmosphere be so congenial to these kinds of relationships that they form easily and are prized and nurtured - that everyone have concentric circles of personal relationships the way Jesus did.

That would be the kind of church that spreads a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples, and has the inner strength to take up the tremendous challenge.

Lord, do it for the glory of your great name.

Bible references avaiable, on request

John Piper (@JohnPiper)
is founder and teacher of and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Come, Lord Jesus.

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