By Roland W. Keith
Have you ever heard someone describe another person as a “character?” It might have been said with a bit of humor, even admiration, on the other hand it could have meant that he was a crank or a codger or “a real piece of work,” terms that are not so complimentary. However, as we examine what it means to be a person of character today, we have a singular question in mind: are we seeking to attain the moral excellence and firmness of faith that Christ demands we aspire to as His followers?
In his second letter Peter informs us that “His [God’s] divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” (II Peter 1:3-7). It doesn’t matter if we are of low or high character according to worldly standards when we become a Christian, what matters is that we cultivate and grow in the Christian virtues or attributes brought before us in the holy scriptures as an example to us (among them: I Corinthians 13:1-13; I Peter 3:8-12; I John 5: 2-3; Ephesians 4:1-2; Galatians 5:22).
Among the various lists or statements of character in the Bible we find that the Christian is a person of love. Specifically, one who exhibits agape, that is a love for their fellow man that is selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional in nature. Jesus once said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). We are told elsewhere that one who does not love does not know God (I John 4:7-9, 20-21). When we love one another, we are a comfort in troubled times, and a source of strengthening and refreshment when one is weary (Philemon 1:7). The world may hate us for the sake of Christ (I John 3:13), but we bolster our faith and determination through our love, and in turn share that love and faith with the world.
We often speak of our faith as Christians, but without love even our faith will come to nothing (I Corinthians 13:2, 13). In fact, it is because of our love for others that we share our faith. It is through these two attributes that we become effective students and teachers and evangelists (Philemon 1:4-6). In speaking of faith, we are not talking about simple belief. Believing is absolutely essential to salvation, but not all who believe are saved (James 2:19; John 12:42). When God brought the Israelites out of Egypt He did so with great sign and wonders. He led them with a pillar of cloud by day and by a pillar of fire by night, yet they did not “believe” in Him. They knew He existed, but they did not trust His word, they didn’t have faith (Numbers 14:11). As Paul wrote, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1-2).
When we have faith in God we trust in His word. We are convinced that what He promises will come to pass and we take His word as surety for our hope, believing that it is impossible for God to lie or fail. It is the immutable and perfect nature of God to which we anchor our souls in the storms of life and in safe harbor, knowing that He will not fail us (Hebrews 6:17-20; II Timothy 1:12). We also know that His promises are not reserved for a select few but extend to all people— to all who will come to Him (Acts 15:9). On the day of judgment every person who has given himself to Christ in obedience will stand justified by that faith (Romans 5:1), gaining the eternal home and peace that their Heavenly Father has reserved for them.
Another of the prime characteristics of the man or woman of God is forgiveness. Peter once asked Jesus, “‘Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times?’ Jesus saith unto him, ‘I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven’” (Matthew 18:21-22). Jesus’ answer was a sufficiently high number to get the point across— forgiveness is without limitation. On another occasion the Lord also said, “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4). Note that our forgiveness may be without limit, but it is not without qualification— we are to continually forgive others, even as the Lord forgives us when we confess and repent of our sins (I John 1:9; Colossians 3:13). Jesus also issued a stern warning to those who refuse to forgive: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). In the end, why would we not gladly forgive others, knowing it is the will of our Lord and Savior, and understanding within our own hearts how much has been forgiven us. Frankly, I don’t want to see how long the ledger against me would be if it weren’t for the blood of Christ.
Finally, the person of Christian character will certainly be a prayerful person. According to the Lord we should always pray, knowing that the Father hears our earnest cries (Luke 18:1-8). Prayer is our avenue of communication with the Lord. It is also a sign of our faith, trust, and hope. If I don’t believe that God hears or answers prayers, why bother? But, if I do believe will I not avail myself of that helpline, that opportunity to say thanks, that means of lifting others up?
It is important to understand, however, that prayer is not a means to justify ourselves. Luke recorded: “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14). Any prayer, no matter how boldly we approach the throne (Hebrews 4:16), should be a humbling experience. We may be bursting with joy and thanks, but there should still be a certain levity in standing before God, and a certain knowledge that we have nothing to brag about, but a lot to be thankful for.
If we are righteous God hears our prayers (I Peter 3:12). If we have faith, He answers our prayers when they are according to His will (I John 5:14). So, what should we pray for? Paul told Timothy, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior” (I Timothy 2:1-3). We may pray for the sick, and for our sins, and even the weather (James 5:15-17). The fact is we can talk to the LORD God about any worthwhile subject. The important thing is to honor the time we spend in prayer with respect for the one to Whom we are praying. It is not a trivial thing to talk to God. Moreover, along with worship and Bible study, it is the most important time of the day and we should treat it as such.
In this brief study we have focused on four attributes of Christian character: Love, faith, forgiveness, and prayer. These are by no means all there are. However, if we focus on these four as we study God’s word and pray for wisdom and seek to emulate Christ, we will not fail to add the other virtues to our lives.
By Roland W. Keith
Jesus once said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?” (Matthew 12:25-26). According to our Lord no kingdom, good or bad, can stand for long if it becomes divided. Others through history have echoed this observation. Bao ?ai, the last reigning emperor of Vietnam said, “In this decisive hour of our national history, union means life and division means death.” President Abraham Lincoln said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” For a society, a nation, a civilization division carries a destructive power greater than any hurricane or other force of nature.
It was Jesus’ prayer that all those who believed in Him would become one with Father and Son (John 17:20-21). And, since we are all united in His body, this also means one with one another, as Paul explained: “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call--
one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:3-6). We are to be one— united in understanding and action. To the Corinthians the apostle penned these words: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (I Corinthians 1:10). To behave otherwise is to act according to human standards, not in the ways of God (I Corinthians 3:3).
Solomon wrote of six things the Lord hated, and seven that were an abomination, among them “one who sows discord among brothers” (Proverbs 6:16-19). Paul warned us to avoid those who create conflict among the Christian brotherhood noting that such people do so to deceive those they are able to, to feed their own desires (Romans 16:17-18). Such deceptive individuals often do so to gain power over others, money, even fame. In a more imminent warning Paul told the Ephesian elders, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:28-30).
Today this warning is as relevant and concerning as it was when Paul put pen to parchment. From both outside and inside the church is being attacked by those who seek to reform it according to either secular sensibilities or through the assertions of false teachers seeking to gratify their own hungers. Only diligent study of scripture and a right understanding of God’s commands stand between the apostasy these individuals and groups seek to achieve with their efforts and the spiritual welfare of God's children.
One might ask, however, is there ever a time when one might stand in opposition to those who claim religious authority? Are there any “exceptions to the rule”? After being arrested and subsequently found teaching in the temple the apostles were brought before the senate where this exchange occurred: “And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, "We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us." But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:27-29). Whether in the assembly of believers or before secular authorities our one and only loyalty is to God and His divine word. We must seek the approval of God, not man in such a situation (Galatians 1:9-10). It is important, however, to use a reasoned, properly informed defense in standing for the truth (Colossians 4:5-6; I Peter 3:14-16; II Timothy 3:14-17), nonetheless, stand we must if we want to please the Lord.
In speaking about division within God’s kingdom and how to prevent it we must understand how such division can be introduced into the church to begin with. One way is due to the immaturity of a particular congregation. Remember all of Paul’s missionary journeys? How often did he return to fledgling churches to check on their spiritual growth and welfare? How often did he write to various groups to address issues that had popped up? A lack of growth can be deadly (I Corinthians 3:1-3), and therefore should be a prime concern for church leadership.
Another concern can be the undue influence of a single member or a small group stirring things up in a church. Paul advised Titus to warn such people twice, then have nothing more to do with them if they persisted, writing that such individuals are “self-condemned” (Titus 3:10-11). The apostle John also mentioned such a person, Diotrephes, in his third letter noting that he did not acknowledge the apostle’s authority and liked to “put himself first” (III John 1:9-10).
A third concern are those who willfully twist the word of God and find an easy audience. Paul was amazed that the Galatians were so easily manipulated by such a false teacher and informed them that any gospel contrary to the one he had taught them was false and any one espousing such a gospel was accursed (Galatians 1:6-9). The apostle wrote the Romans in a similar vein declaring that wrath and fury awaited these purveyors of falsehood (Romans 2:1). Peter also warned his readers of false teachers who would come among them introducing heresies that would cause the truth to be blasphemed, leading to their own destruction (II Peter 2:1-2).
In his second letter John instructed his readers to have nothing to do with those who sought to bring in novel teachings opposed to the word of God (II John 1:9-11). Today, in contrast to those who seek to turn us away from the truth, the assembled writings of the men inspired by God to write the holy scriptures agree with one another. As Paul wrote: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:4-6).
Concerning his gospel account John stated, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31). One can add the words of Paul to John’s, when he wrote, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16-17).
If we believe what John and Paul were telling us, then we know how to avoid and combat division within the church. Stay true to the word of God, which is truth itself.
By Roland W. Keith
For the longest time I equated the idea of abiding in Christ as simply synonymous with the idea of following Him. Which leaves open a broad interpretation of what constitutes being a true follower (in some people's minds). Exactly how close do you have to follow for Jesus to recognize you as one of His own? However, when we examine the definition of the word ‘abide’ we find that it is a word well chosen to describe our relationship to the Lord.
To abide is to wait for. Have you ever seen a dog waiting for his master? The anticipation and joy he feels is visible. Even so he waits patiently and continues in place trusting in his return. We await the Lord’s return, not knowing when He will come, yet faithfully trusting in His promise to do so. But that is only a part of what it means to abide. One who abides in Christ does so by conforming to His word, accepting His commands without objection, and enduring the world’s opposition without yielding or compromising the truth.
Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). The words of Paul, and the example he left us take us well beyond the description I have given from the dictionary, doesn’t it? The apostle sought to not only live as one conforming to a rule given by another, but to live as one whose life was wholly given up for the other, even replaced by the other as if they were one and the same.
For Paul every Christian is a new creation reconciled to God in a way that goes beyond our fleshly existence (II Corinthians 5:16-18). Jesus became the first born from the dead when He rose from the grave; subsequently each true follower has followed suit, spiritually rising from the grave through the blood of Christ to be reconciled to the Father, to be made a subject in the kingdom of His Son, and to be made one with Him as members of His spiritual body (Colossians 1:13-20; I Corinthians 12-13; 10:16-17; Ephesians 1:22-23; Romans 12:4-5). If we have put on Christ (Galatians 3:27), then we have become one with Father and Son in some inexpressible way (John 17:20-21).
The closest we can get to describing what God has done for us Paul has done by relating it to family: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:16-17). If we then have been grafted into His body and share the same spiritual DNA with the Son of God, by the grace and mercy of His Father (Ephesians 2:8), how can we but help to resemble Him? How can we help but to walk as He walks (Colossians 2:6-7)?
To abide in Christ as an adopted son or daughter of His Father, and fellow heirs of the Father’s promises we fall under the authority of the LORD God. Accordingly, as written in Deuteronomy, “what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)?
If we have truly become one with the Lord, we will walk in His light in harmony with one another, and in a manner worthy of His calling (I John 1:7; Ephesians 4:1-3). Not only that but we will do so boldly and with a great zeal to do His works (Romans 1:16-17; 12:11). As Solomon wrote, having tested life for its meaning, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). We have but one duty while we are here on this earth— to live according to the will of God. If we will but do this we can find the only true fulfillment in life.
To live life well we have to go beyond sitting in the pews on Sunday merely listening to the word— we must be doers who are dedicated to the work God has put before us (James 1:22-27; Titus 2:11-14). What the world calls folly we embrace as the wisdom of God to our salvation (I Corinthians 1:19-30; 2:5-7, 13; 3:19), and seek to share that wisdom with all who are willing to hear.
In the end we cannot fear the world or what it might do to us. To abide in the Lord is to trust in the reward He has promised us, no matter what we sacrifice in this life (Revelation 2:10; Titus 1:1-3), knowing that we have been set free from spiritual death in Him (Romans 8:1-4). Moreover, in seeking to do His will we will continuously strive to overcome the world (Galatians 5:16-21), while developing the attributes of Christ in our lives ( II Peter 1:5-11; Galatians 5:22-25), remembering the words of Paul in Romans 8:35-39: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
By Roland W. Keith
Does your church work? Unfortunately, many people today will assume I am asking is their church working out for them. Is it giving them what they want? Notice I did not say is it giving them what they need. Too many people nowadays choose a church for what they can get out of it, here and now, rather than for its spiritual strengths and dedication to the Lord’s work. That work including evangelism, edification and benevolence. The ultimate responsibility of the church is to bring the lost to Christ, to educate its members (citizens of the kingdom) and strengthen them, and to care for one another and our neighbors, as ourselves. However, in each of these works there are set limits and boundaries. If someone refuses to hear the truth we shake the dust off our feet and move on (Mark 6:11), we limit our teachings to the wisdom of the inspired word (Luke 21:15; I Corinthians 2:6-7, 13; 1:20; 3:19), and in our benevolence we help provide (within our abilities) for the necessities of life, not for people’s wants (I Peter 4:10; Acts 10:35; Titus 3:14; Luke 10:34-36; Acts 20:28; I Timothy 5:16; Galatians 5:16).
The real question is: Does your church do the work of the Lord according to Biblical standards? Paul told Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). That admonishment applies to us as individuals and to the church as a whole. God has entrusted us with His kingdom (Matthew 25:14). Whether we are speaking of evangelists (II Timothy 4:5), Elders (I Peter 5:1-4), deacons (Acts 6:1-3), or Christians in general (Ephesians 2:10) we all have a place in God’s work. And, in doing His work we have a responsibility to Him, to one another and to the world. We have a moral, spiritual obligation to share the bounty of God’s kingdom with others, to stand by and strengthen the weak, and to be actively concerned with the eternal fate of our fellow man.
As Members of the body of Christ we must be prepared to walk away from the world and put the kingdom of God first (Luke 9:57-62). We must cleanse ourselves of sin and make ourselves ready to serve the Lord (II Timothy 2:21), and as Paul exhorted the Corinthian brethren, we must “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (I Corinthians 15:58). We may not always see the results, but as faithful servants, we can trust that God is using our efforts to His glory. We need only concern ourselves with being ready and fully armed to engage in the battle of good vs. evil (II Timothy 4:2; Ephesians 6:10-18), worthy to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our fellow saints as we defeat the forces of the devil at play in the world (Philippians 1:27- 28; I Peter 5:8-10; James 4:7). Moreover, we must understand that in this war against the dark forces of Satan no Christian can remain out of the fray. No one is left on the sidelines; all must be involved. Regarding this James wrote, “But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works (James 2:18; see 2:14-26).
Faith, without active engagement in the Lord’s work is useless to God, and to us. Eventually our faith will die if it is not exercised with works (James 2:26). Therefore, we must be fervent in our service to the Lord (Romans 12:11), always pressing forward as one ever seeking but never attaining the goal until the end (Philippians 3:12-14; II Timothy 4:7-8).
Not only must we tirelessly press on with the work, but we must continually study the word and assess if we are doing all things according to God’s will and have not allowed our own biases or outside influences to lead us astray in our efforts. Jesus once warned: “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19-20).
It is not enough to claim God’s work, we must be faithful stewards of what God has delivered into our care. Jesus once said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34). Our task is to do the same. To accomplish the task of Him Who has sent out into the world with His message, and to live and labor in accordance to His commands. It was Jesus Who also said, “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Given this warning we will be wise to heed the words of Paul: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (I Timothy 4:16).
We can accomplish the will of the Father in two ways: First, by remaining true to His commands, and, second, by dedicating ourselves to one or more of the areas of work He has given us to do. As evangelists we are to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15), understanding that without our efforts the world will not hear the gospel nor submit themselves to Christ as Savior (Romans 10:14-15). Moreover, each successive generation and each eldership within the brotherhood must be engaged in raising up faithful men to continue the work (II Timothy 2:1-4). And, not just evangelists, but teachers within the church as well.
The Biblical teachings and examples are clear. In Acts 5:42 we read, “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” Even those who were forced out of home and country due to their faith continued to spread the word of God (Acts 8:3-4). In addition to evangelism, which informs and edifies the world with the gospel, we can also involve ourselves with the edification of our fellow Christians (as well as ourselves). In his letter to the Ephesians Paul explained: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Though we no longer have apostles and prophets among us the rest holds true. Read the passage again. The work Paul outlines is no small responsibility or task. It requires dedication, personal growth, and a commitment
to God’s word that is second-to-none to be truly successful. Even those of us who are not elders or preachers or teachers (who need our continual support— I Thessalonians 5:12-13) have the task of stirring one another up, to push each other to greater heights in our faith (I Thessalonians 5:11, 14; Hebrews 10:24-25; Romans 14:19; I Corinthians 14:26).
Finally, we are to be involved in the welfare of our brothers and sisters in Christ and our worldly neighbors, as Paul pointed out to the Galatians: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). One of the great examples of this love for our fellow man is recorded in the story of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), which teaches that every man is our neighbor, and to some extent our concern. None more so, however, than our own families (I Timothy 5:8-17). Although things are different today in our country in comparison to first century Palestine, with the myriad of public assistance programs now available, the church should still be there for those who cannot rely on family or other avenues for help and, we might add, in addition to that help (James 1:27; Galatians 2:10).
God has made us our brother’s keeper. In some small degree with his health and welfare; in an absolute degree with his spiritual welfare, insofar as he is willing to accept our help. It is the work that God has given us to do as members of His church, as citizens of His kingdom. Moreover, our own welfare is ultimately tied up with what we do for others. We cannot be neutral or a non-participant in life, especially the Christian life. As Paul wrote, “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:8-9). God will not be mocked but will judge each of us according to our deeds (Galatians 6:7; II Corinthians 5:10). As Paul noted: “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (II Corinthians 9:6). May your church, and your harvest be bountiful!
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.