Posted On July 31, 2016

The Gospel and Community

by | Jul 31, 2016 | The Gospel and the Church

The Encounters

As long as I can remember, my close-knit family has always done life alone. You see, chronic illnesses are prevalent in our family. Health problems tend to cause everyone to run away like it’s contagious. It is a different culture of community, where our social needs are met primarily through social media. This also explains my fascination for Gospel miracles involving leapers, such as in Mark 5 where a demon-possessed man and the bleeding women are healed from the inside-out, and the lame man at the healing pool in John 5:1-15.

While they were healed physically, when I read about the power of God and a shift in the community, I get excited. Their community was finally restored. The bleeding woman could leave her house, return to her place of worship, and offer praise to God. The demon-possessed man could return to his family that thought he was insane and destructive. The once possessed man proclaimed in his region how God had mercy on him.

Restoring Community

In each one of these encounters with Jesus, restoration was alive and well! Others are tasting the glory of God, through how they love one another. God wants to restore our God-given community. He wants to give back to us, what sin has stolen from us. From the moment in the Garden when Adam disobeyed, our community is torn by the wreckage of sin and alienation from our great God (Gen. 3). Our ache for community is given to us, by God. He is calling us back to the community He once gifted us, and offers it to us again – in a much deeper way now in Christ.

The truth is – God has given each of us a soul craving for community. And mine is as active, as ever. I wanted to take time today to share my story because God has a far greater design for the community of faith than we could ever imagine. It starts with knowing God’s own community and the One we experience with our Creator.

We need to understand, it is normal and acceptable to have a desire for Christian relationships. Often times, we can seem “needy” or “a burden” to those around us. God has a better design for the community we experience. Those cravings for the community might be the ticket to keep seeking God’s will in the relationships we have. They can be used to help us, to be active participants in Christ’s body.

Christ’s Plan

In Scripture, we learn that Christ moved into the neighborhood (Jn. 1:14). He deliberately came to earth to enter into community with us in order to reconciliation to God. Sin has destroyed our relationship with our heavenly Father. Jesus paid the price, through His death and resurrection, so we can be in a right standing relationship with our Maker-Yahweh! This is a foundational relationship upon which all other relationships are to be built, in order to give us an amazing, fruit bearing, community.

The Dangers of Living Alone

In Ecclesiastes, we learn that being alone isn’t as desirable as it may seem. It is, instead, destruction at its finest. In the 4th chapter, the isolated man is pitied (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). When we are alone, our spiritual attacks are multiplied beyond all understanding. When left alone, our spiritual growth is stunted. During these times, we are unable to spot the enemy’s tactics and assaults on our lives. We also are unable to allow God to use the community of faith to speak into our lives.

Needless to say, our very souls are put in danger when we separate our lives from the life of the local church. The enemy desires to snatch isolated Christians away from the Lord. Every single one of us needs Christian community. If it wasn’t of such great importance, why would it be found in so many Scriptures? If we truly don’t “need” the local church, like many claim, why don’t we thrive spiritually when we are isolated? When we are alone, we can barely stay afloat, or, we just might be drowning.

Keep Meeting Together

In Hebrews 10, we are urged to not stop meeting together (Hebrews 10:24-25). Following that section of Scripture, we are reminded that deliberate sinning causes trouble – by trouble, I mean, judgment. We need community. God has given us the community of faith for a reason. It’s a gift and it shouldn’t feel like a chore. At times, though, that’s exactly what it seems like. God has given us people to do life alongside. The Lord has planted us, in a local church.

The Craving

The craving is often like hunger pangs. Unavoidable. You cannot silence it, without going directly to the Source. What I’m describing here are emotional and spiritual hunger pangs. We crave for life in community with God’s people, because God has wired us for it.

While God has designed Christian community, it requires two people to be willing to join their lives together and walk with Jesus. This is best done in the context of the local church where we become members and aim to one another each other in community with God’s people.

In the local church, we can find people willing to walk with us. I know personally how challenging of an endeavor this has been. If it was easy, surely others would have a growing community to join them in their communal lives. Such a community looks like what Acts 2 describes. This is God’s heavenly design for the Church what He earnestly wants for us, so we can do life together.

The Choice

Choosing to continue pursuing Christian community is a deliberate choice. In Hebrews 10:24-26, we are reminded to not give up meeting together. We are also reminded of something else in the process, which should stop us in our tracks.

Hebrews 10:26-27, “For if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins is left for us, but only a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume God’s enemies.”

It takes only one step away from our Christian community, to be led closer to the world. When we draw near to our Christian community, there is a One greater that we are drawing near to in Jesus.

When we choose to come near on Sunday mornings and meet with His people, we are choosing to do life with other believers. We also are allowing others to speak into our lives. We are making a conscious choice to be vulnerable with others. We are also prioritizing the Lord above the noise of our lives. When we are meeting in Christian community, we are giving ourselves wholly to God and to one another.

But God…

The Lord takes relationships and community seriously. He knows we need others in our midst, otherwise, we might ignore some (or most) of His instructions intended to bless our paths. God uses community life to strengthen the brethren when they are ready to give up. God also uses the brethren to hold up a brother’s hand, when he is moments away from victory and giving up all at the same time (crazy, but true).

Our Own Community Pursuit

This is the God we serve! This is why being in community is such an explosive part of the Christian life. God has made us to be in a relationship with Himself and others. We were never meant to do life alone, and it hurts us when we try. While seeking out godly saints in community is difficult, at times, it is well worth the effort in the end.

No other source of community can begin to compare to the fellowship we have with our sweet Lord and Savior. Yet, the gentle nudge to be with like-minded people continues onward. The Good News of Jesus Christ sets free those who are discouraged and lonely.

While we may lack community in our own lives, we can be a pleasing aroma to the Lord – as we make ourselves available to serve others in Christ’s name. In those moments when your community seems lacking, trust God is using this season to prune you so that you may walk humbly and compassionately with others in your local church.

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