LAKELAND— Manuel Barahona delivered the first biblical message of the Florida Baptist State Convention meeting on Monday, Nov. 8.
Reading the convention meeting’s theme verse found in Philippians 1:27, Barahona focused on Paul’s instruction to the church in Philippi to “whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
That means two things, said Barahona.
First, believers must be holy.
“For some people, the word holiness is too religious. Some are scared of this word. But all it means is that we are to live lives separated for God. We are to live sanctified lives. We are to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus.”
Holiness requires believers to guard their words, spoken and written. “Listen to what he says to the Ephesians, he tells them to be careful with what comes out of their mouths.”
“The reality is that people are going to offend us. People are going to say nasty stuff. The tendency will be to respond back with a nasty post in your social media. The tendency will be to lash back. But you’re going to have to do what I do. I bite my tongue. Biting my tongue has gotten me out of so much trouble.”
Second, believers must be of one accord.
“Paul says these are women ‘who labored with me in the gospel.’ These were good women, but they did not see eye to eye.”
“Whatever the problem was, it was serious. It was so serious that God decided to put their names in the Bible because they didn’t agree with each other. Now that’s pretty bad.”
“If there is something that will divide the church, it’s discord,” Barahona said. “If there is something that will divide the church, it’s disunity. If there is something that will divide the church, it’s bitterness.”
The South Florida pastor illustrated his last point with a basketball anecdote from his youth, sharing how he and his friends always lost to another group of boys from their neighborhood. So the boys went back to the drawing board and came up with a game plan to play by zones to help them improve their game.
“Church, there will be times that we will need to regroup for the good of the gospel. We will need to all agree on a strategy, call it “Who’s Your One” or “Romans Road” or “Three circles.”
“The idea is to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ and to keep winning souls. One soul at a time.”
“I want to end by saying this: It’s all a matter of conducting ourselves in a manner that is worthy of the Gospel by living a holy life and being of one mind.”
“The unity of our churches will depend on this. The unity of our Convention will depend on this.”