In Closing

 A number of years ago I was challenged to end our morning services differently than how I was doing it. We always closed with a prayer and then a hymn. But there still has to be something more. It is so weird but you have to tell the people it's ok to leave. I couldn’t just finish the song and just walk out. It seemed so incomplete. So usually I would say something along the lines of “Thank you so much for being here today, you are dismissed.” It kinda just put a bow on everything. But someone challenged me that it could be better. “Dismissed” just didn’t seem to fit right. It is something you may say to a middle school auditorium, but church? So I thought about it. Prayed about it. I tried different things, phrases, verses, doxologies etc. I looked up what other churches did. And I eventually found it! 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” This was the verse! This is the perfect thing to tell the church as I dismissed them! And that is what I have been saying ever since. I am not sure how many people knew I was quoting scripture. Or if they did ,what scripture it was. But this is how I charge the congregation as I dismiss them for the week. I want to break down this verse to get a closer look at what Paul is telling us here. This is a very good verse to remember and apply for all Christians.
Be Watchful. The first command we are given is to be watchful. This word has to do with being alert, to be vigilant, to be awake! As Christians we have a lot to be aware of. We have to be prepared for so much in our walk with Christ. As I have mentioned in other articles we have to be ready for the Lord’s return, to watch our own soul, for the devil, for false teachers, for temptation, for people that may cause us to stumble, watch over our mouths, be ready to make a defense and more! When something happens are we there, ready, willing and able? Are we caught with our spiritual pants down? Are we allowing ourselves to be distracted by the things of this world? Do not be lazy! Prepare yourself! Be vigilant! Stay awake! Be watchful over your soul! A lot of times we trip, fall, stumble and sin because we were not ready. We were caught dozing off, not paying attention. Don’t allow this to happen, be watchful!
Stand Firm. The next thing that Paul commands us to do is to stand firm in our faith. This is more than just trusting in God. This is to have a firm and fixated stance on the truth of scripture. It is not believing in other philosophies and doctrines, but being solely convicted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you think that Christianity could be right, then you will be sucked into believing other things are true that are actually false! You are wishy washy, movable and impressionable to all the wrong beliefs out there. You need to stand firm in knowing that there is only one truth and that is God’s. Relativism is the opposite of this command. We are being reminded that you need to be convicted by the truth of God’s word and not let yourself be deceived by any other thought process. As Charles Hodge would say, the doctrines of our faith should not be an open question. Paul is essentially saying be completely confident in knowing that the Gospel is true. Exercise your faith knowing that all of God’s word is reliable and anything that opposes it is false. Stand firm in your faith!
Act Like Men. Now I normally don’t say this part to the church on Sundays. I don’t have time to explain what it means. If I just arbitrarily say “everyone should act like a man”, that may sound a little sexist. At the very least I'm gonna get some funny looks my way. Obviously Paul is not charging us to act like a male. So then what is he telling us? He is telling us to act like a grown up person. To have courage. The better way to say this would be  “act like an adult”. John MacArthur says about this phrase, “The basic idea is mature courage. The mature person has a sense of control, confidence and courage that the immature or childish person does not have. Again we see that Paul’s command is for the Corinthians to be the opposite of what they normally were. They were characterized by anything but maturity.” We need to take courage! Do not be childish in our conduct. Do not complain, argue, whine, gripe, act selfishly, always take, fight or mope just like a child would. Grow up! Take courage! Act like an adult! Act like men!
Be Strong. Paul now commands us to be spiritually strong. The word here denotes being strengthened. Christians need to realize that we will always fail if we rely on our own power. We like to do things on our own, but that will only lead to trouble. We are very weak and must come to grips with that. It is humbling to realize our shortcomings and that without God we can do nothing (John 15:5). Because of our weakness God has given us a Spirit of power (2 Timothy 1:7). We can accomplish great things for God, but only by God’s power (Philippians 4:13). So be strong by relying on the Lord knowing that you are too weak otherwise. “...be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” (Ephesians 6:10)
Do It In Love. Love brings about the perfect balance and harmony for all of the previous commands. It prevents things being done in a legalistic manner, but still drives us to want to do it and do it well for the Lord. Love gives us the right heart to ensure we do not become prideful, arrogant or self reliant. It covers a multitude of sins and are the two greatest commandments. Turning to MacArthur again, “[Love] is the beautiful, softening principle. It keeps our firmness from becoming hardness and our strength from becoming domineering. It keeps our maturity gentle and considerate. It keeps our right doctrine from becoming obstinate dogmatism and our right living from becoming smug self-righteousness.”
So now when you hear me after the service encourage you to be watchful, stand firm in your faith, take courage, be strong in the Lord and let all that you do be done in love, you will know exactly what that means! Realize these powerful principles are key to spiritual health as you depart from church. We face all types of things that will tempt, ensnare, trip, entangle, wound and misguide us. Once leaving the safety and comfort of our spiritual home, we enter into a battlefield. We will be attacked on all sides, including from within, and from our own flesh! Until you are in the encouraging fellowship of corporate worship; be watchful, stand firm, take courage, be strong and let all that you do be done in love.

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