Family Traits: Gospel Community
March 1, 2009 Series: Family Traits
Topic: Gospel Passage: Ephesians 2:19–2:21
Family Traits: Gospel Community
March 1, 2009
What we confess
This is part two of a three-part series called Family Traits. Our family traits characterize who we are at our core. They represent the motivations behind how we live as individuals who love Jesus and how we live as a Jesus loving family called the church. Last week, we discussed our first family trait: Gospel Truth. The Gospel is what we confess about Jesus-the Word of God. It is not truth that we invented or discovered but it is something we received just as Paul writes in 1Corinthians 15.3-8 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
Paul received that message on the Road to Damascus as he travelled to arrest and murder people of "The Way". In his experience, our church gets its name, encapsulating what we value most-unexpected meetings with Jesus that change the course of our life. Today, it's hard to always know what a church is like just from the name. Most people probably think we're the DOCTOR church but our name isn't as strange as some I've heard. There are the churches with Greek names I can't pronounce, the artsy-fartsy concept church names like MONTAGE or FUSION, or others that are just plain odd like Radiant Church, Mystery Church, Paradox Church, Hot Rod Church for Sinners, Guts Church, Flood Church, Scum of the Earth Church, The Point, Fusion, Church without Limits, Etc.
In the N.T., churches used to be named by location: Galatia, of Corinth, of Laodicea. At the church in Corinth, it didn't take long before divisions arose as people claimed they followed different leaders like Paul or Apollos. Sadly, it wasn't long until church names became centered on the differing opinions of men, again focusing more about what they were NOT versus what they were. The Protestant Reformation gave further rise to denominational names centered on men like Luther and divisions about practices like Baptism. Eventually, those churches would find disagreements and split into multiple churches using variations of the same names. All of these churches wanted to express what they valued most-so let the church naming competition begin! Some held tightly to denominational titles, others added the word first, apostolic, full gospel, some inserted Jesus, Bible, or Christian in the name, a few others added what Jesus did.
Then, in the 80's one new Baptist church in particular, begun by a young couple named Rick and Kay Warren, started in Southern California. They named it Saddleback Valley Community Church. The word "community" changed everything. They intentionally chose to distance themselves from the negative stigma of denominationalism. Their name was intended to communicate what they valued most-community. It wasn't long before you had all kinds of non-denominational community churches being planted across the nation. ________ community church.
Our 2nd Core value is GOSPEL COMMUNITY. Although we didn't name our church Damascus Road Community Church, we did have community as a core value. But, much like truth, community can mean a hundred different things-gospel community makes it a particular kind. Churches who have said they value community have often been guilty of making two mistakes: They either build their own community completely separate from the world or they immerse their community too far into it. Their community either is so far away that they have to do "outreach" to reach anyone or they are so committed to being "cultural' that their community isn't distinctive in any way.
The common problem in both of those approaches is that they define their community as an attitude, strategy, or approach to culture versus what all reality and truth is to be defined by the gospel. If a grasp of the gospel is a genuine grasp of LOVE in its rawest and purest form, perhaps we need to focus less on telling the world who we are and begin by living in such a way that it makes it obvious. Perhaps that is what Jesus means when he says, John 13.35 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
God as Trinity - a perfect love
Just like Gospel Truth, Gospel Community starts with God. By nature, God exists in relationship with himself. Christianity is the unique religion that has a God in trinity. Simply stated, we believe that Scripture teaches that there is one and only one God; that God eternally exists in three distinct persons. That Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God and that the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father, the Father is not the Spirit, etc. He is not three Gods, nor is He some schizophrenic old man who talks to his imaginary friends. It is in many ways, paradoxical, but we believe it not because we can fully comprehend how it works, but because we accept the Bible as our authority and not our intellect or emotion. We see God's plurality in the first book of the Bible, Genesis 1.26 26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."
Only a God who can love apart from creation can genuinely love creation. If God is dependent upon creation to develop love, then love can't be with God in nature. It can truly be said that God IS Love. Jesus speaks about the love the existed before creation as he prays for us, disciples in, John 17.24. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
"Not good to be alone"
So God created man in his image on the sixth day. After five days of preaching a sermon of pure creative genius and beauty, five days of declaring what he saw as "good", he comes to the sixth day where he would call into existence the pinnacle of his creation-mankind. And before there were any other land creatures, God placed Adam in the garden to work. Before sin enters the world, God says the one thing that was not good...Genesis 2.18 18 Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him."
Men were not designed to be alone. As God is relational by nature and God intended man to exist in relationship with others just as He does. Individuals in Community, not individuals in isolation, was God's design before sin entered the world. And just because you talk to your fish or put sweaters on your barking cats does not mean that animals proved the kind of community we're talking about. God raised up all kinds of creatures for Adam that one might be found suitable. All kinds of beasts and birds were brought to him, but none were found to be able to satisfy his loneliness. Loneliness is not sinful, rather, it is simply not good. And so God raises up a computer...a TV...a magazine...a cell-phone...no, he raises up another person.
A World that is Alone
BUT, when sin entered the world, it destroyed our relationships and we were plunged back into a state of isolation. This time it was not only NOT GOOD, but it was rooted in SIN. At the heart of isolation is darkness, and the heart of darkness is shame. Our first parents who, when they discovered they were made dirty by sin, that their weaknesses were revealed, they hid much like people do today. Not only did they hide from God, but two people who were once "naked and unashamed" quickly covered themselves for fear of what the other might see, think, or feel. . John 3.19-20 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. Sin separates us form God and from one another, keeps us in darkness.
Today we live in a world that is terribly alone. We are living alone, driving alone, sleeping alone, having sex alone, working along, sitting at home alone, watching reality TV, or surfing facebook and reading blogs, because we are fearful of having real the real relationships God intended us to have. We feel the shame and unworthiness and sin brings-the opinions (possible opinions, which are lies) of men dominate and dictate what we do or do not do. Women fear they wont' be found beautiful. Men fear that they won't have all the answers and someone will find out. They live in shame. Sin destroys our relationships spiritually, socially, emotionally, even psychologically. We stay away from each other.
the world's "community" solution
The world tries to offer its own ‘community' solutions to deal with the broken relationships. In the process, they deny the TRUTH of GOD (gospel), the true answer to their longings, they become hermits (or more often) seek others whom Romans 1.32 says will empathize and approve of their rebellion and suppression of truth.
§ People seek a spiritual help to deal with their longings to worship something. So they find something in the world they can worship and call it god. Some people this is their job, sex, politics, money, a relationship, even their families. They find their identity in something they can use to make them feel bigger. They create personal hells and personal gods to save them.
§ People seek social help for the isolation they feel, so they can feel a part of something. They find their identity in groups of people doing the same things. But they don't go there to give, they go there to find other people like them that they might feel accepted. Instead of isolating themselves as individuals, they isolate themselves with a group of individuals.
§ People seek emotional help for the guilt they feel. So, they gather in communities that embrace, tolerate, or recognize their sin. Instead of confessing their guilt because of their sin, they confess that there is no such thing as sin. Their emotions are appeased as others give them approval for "how they are made."
§ People seek psychological help for the pain caused by others. They gather in support groups to talk about their problems caused by something in their past. They become addicted to crisis and they become defined by the fact that they are in recovery...forever. No genuine healing occurs because they never go back to the true beginning of the problem, passed their bad experiences, to a beautiful garden where it all began.
And did you ever notice that the world's communities, even a few religious ones, offer help as long as you can pay for it. We don't in fact just help each other for free. We've entered a "transaction-based culture' where by to have anyone help you, you must pay them. The world's communities often have a fee for services. Gone are the days when community just happens. Your car breaks down you call a cab or hire a mechanic. Don't bother asking your neighbor. IF you want to work out, hire a trainer. If you have a problem, pay a counselor. People are incredibly isolated, and lonely.
But the Gospel CHANGES everything. If the Gospel Truth is a confession of what has done, we must ask ourselves what the result of that confession is. A lot of people can confess a lot of things. In Romans 10.9 Paul writes that if you confess with your mouth AND believe in your heart...perhaps implying that there is a difference between verbal confession and heart change. In Luke 8, even the demons declare Jesus to be Lord, so there has to be a difference. BUT IF, as Romans 1.16 says, the gospel is the POWER for Salvation, and if as 2Cor.5.17 says, the gospel transforms us into a new person, and IF as Galatians 2.20 says, I've died and Jesus now lives through me, then we should live differently. I don't say SHOULD as we OUGHT to, rather, we by nature WILL.
**Gospel Community is what we experience when we confess**
Ephesians 2.19-22 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. The Bible teaches that, although our relationship with Jesus is personal, it is not private. The Bible teaches that God delivered a people, not just a person; that God redeemed a nation, not just a citizen; that Jesus died Jesus died for a church, not just for you. Jesus died to bring you into something with others, that you might be joined in what Ephesians 2, Romans 12, 1Corinthians 12, into ONE BODY.
How we love as the BODY
We don't just build a new kind of community to compete with all the other communities; we are transferred by God from the kingdom of darkness INTO the kingdom of God; just as Israel was FIRST delivered, then they were gathered together into a kingdom community whose foundation is their REDEEMING God-the Gospel. We become the community reflective of the GOSPEL through which it was made possible.
A changed People
§ A Gospel Community believes that Jesus does everything we could not do for ourselves.
§ A Gospel Community believes that Jesus takes away sins that separate us from the Lord, freeing us from our need to worship something satisfying that spiritual longing we all have.
§ A Gospel Community believes that Jesus forgives the sins we have committed, cleansing our filth and freeing us from guilt and the emotional longing.
§ A Gospel Community believes that Jesus cleanses us from the defilement of others sins freeing us from the shame and the psychological longing.
Gospel Communities Experience the Love of Jesus
A gospel community is a gathering of people made holy because they confess and believe the GOSPEL and THEN they confess their sins and repent of them. But the gospel is more than just our adoption papers to prove we're in the family. A deep active belief in the gospel daily conforms us, shapes us, trains us, equips us, and teaches us how to live and LOVE in the body. How we love with people in this community is shaped by how clearly we understand deeply believe the gospel. And by our love, we are either speaking RIGHTLY and TRUTHFULLY about the GOSPEL or we are preaching lies.
FIRST, Gospel Communities Love out of Love
1John 4.19 says that the only reason we love because God first loves us. In other words, without the gospel we DO NOT LOVE ANYONE, not even ourselves. He does not love us because of anything good in us, rather, he loves us because of the good in him. Deuteronomy 7.6-8 "For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. We often CHOOSE not to LOVE people because they are not worthy of us. We are all elitist in some way, all need to repent of people we don't like-those different than us. We must recognize that we can't GET anymore different than a Holy God...and yet he loved us.
SECOND, Gospel Communities Love the Sinner in Fellowship
We love sinners because God loved us when we were dirty, filthy, broken, and disgusting. We love people where they are because it as we "once were" and often "are". We don't love because they've earned or deserved anything; we love as Jesus loved us. Romans 5.8 God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus did not wait for us to be clean. He did not wait for us to behave before we could belong to his family. He went to the cross when, as the Bible describes, were enemies, rebellious, desiring evil continually, refusing to listen, constantly pursuing darkness and the lust of our eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life. He died for us DESPITE our dirt. We walk in the light together and do not freak out when we see the dirt that light reveals. We want people out of darkness because that is where we have fellowship with one another.
THIRD, Gospel Communities Love the Sinner in Discipline
At the same time, the gospel says that he does not IGNORE the dirt. He doesn't simply forgive without sacrifice or pretend that he does not see the sin. Genuine Gospel Community deals with sin. Gospel communities believe the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives."
Hebrews 12.6. Paul wrote a heavy handed letter to a messed up Corinthian Church. In his 2nd letter, he expressed his joy over their response, 2Corint. 7 8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it-though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. Discipline of this kind, rebuke, exhortation, should always be driven BY and TO the gospel. The goal is always repentance and the solution is always the CROSS.
CONCLUSION: Gospel Communities Serve Like Jesus (SEEING the LOVE OF GOD)
So, if we are Christians, we live with a particular family trait inherited from Dad. Our community must be saturated with the gospel. It is not the pursuit of being LOVING as much as it is the expression of someone who is truly LOVED. Philippians 2.1-8 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
We are supposed to live like Christ. God's people living together in intentional relational community to seek the well-being of one another in every way, including the physical, spiritual, material, and emotional. Do we even understand what that looks like? Can you imagine how alluring and magnetic such a community would be? IF we are a gospel community, let me stir you. Hebrews 10.23-25 . 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
- Older Men: Lead. Be the prophets, and priests, and kings that this community needs. Teach the younger men about truth, pray for them, encourage them to confess, and have a vision for your family that you can point to. Redeem the sins of your youth and don't waste another moment of your life. There are plenty of men in this church you need your wisdom. You are called to LEAD.
- Younger Men: Show yourself and example. You are never too young to start being a man. Don't let anyone look down on your youthfulness by living in such a way that speaks truth about Jesus. Seek after humility-you don't have all the answers, you're not invincible, and you can be MEN. There is someone older than you to follow and always someone younger than you to lead.
- Older Women: Titus 2 says to teach the younger women-this is not a suggestion. Don't make excuses for why you are not, why you can't just as men can't get out of leading their homes. We have too many women with children who are leading where they shouldn't have to. There comes a time when you must extend your ministry outside of your comfort zone, beyond your own family. Being part of the body is more than just attending, more than just consuming.
- Younger Women: For those who are single, do not compromise. Find a man who loves Jesus, who has a king, or you will be abused and abandoned. For those who are married, respect your husbands, that is what they need, and love children-these are your first priorities. It's time to stop being a girl and start being a lady, a biblical woman of God.
My prayer is not that you love more, but as Paul said in his letter to the church of Ephesians, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you will be rooted and grounded in love because you comprehend the breadth, length, height, and depth of the love that Jesus has for you. And that that love will overflow as you are filled with God.