— 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Since at least the mid-1970s, the church in America has been fascinated with small groups. The majority of churches have at least experimented with small groups, and many still maintain active small-group ministries of various kinds.
However, from my limited perspective, a number of these churches never hammered out a clear purpose and set of biblical goals when beginning their small groups. Some did, and I commend them. It is these churches that no doubt have had the greatest success with their small groups. But others started groups simply because they were popular—the latest church trend. Obviously, that isn’t a sufficient motive. Current trends rarely provide a church with strong foundations. A small-group ministry won’t ultimately be effective unless it exists to achieve biblical purposes.
set of biblical goals when beginning their small groups. Some did, and I commend them. It is these churches that no doubt have had the greatest success with their small groups. But others started groups simply because they were popular—the latest church trend. Obviously, that isn’t a sufficient motive. Current trends rarely provide a church with strong foundations. A small-group ministry won’t ultimately be effective unless it exists to achieve biblical purposes.
For lack of a biblical purpose and mandate, many small groups have floundered.
But I have to tell you, I believe that these Care Groups are necessary of every Christians life and part of every healthy churches life.
We should not think of our fellowship with other Christians as a spiritual luxury, an optional addition to the exercises of private devotions.
Christians as a spiritual luxury, an optional addition
to the exercises of private devotions. Fellowship
Fellowship is one of the great words of the New Testament: it denotes something that is vital to a Christian’s spiritual health, and central to the Church’s true life…The church will flourish and Christians will be strong only when there is fellowship.
is one of the great words of the New Testament: it
denotes something that is vital to a Christian’s spiritual
Genuine fellowship isn’t practical in a group of 60 people. church following a biblical model will not just “have” care groups. It will not merely “offer” care groups.
health, and central to the Church’s true
care groups. It will not merely “offer” care groups.
Rather, it will be built with care groups.
life…The church will flourish and Christians will be
As I stated before, though, small groups will only serve
As I stated before, though, small groups will only serve the church if they are founded on sound doctrine and sustained by a clear biblical purpose.
the church if they are founded on sound doctrine and sustained
strong only when there is fellowship.
That brings us to message today. I’m going to set Care Groups on top of the foundation of the gospel.
by a clear biblical purpose. That brings us to
I want you to follow very closely what I’m doing because the Apostle Paul warned: — 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Community is something we all want.
No matter how you were wired, something in your soul longs for meaningful relationships with other humans.
We long to know others and to be known by them.
We treasure friendships that allow us to truly “be ourselves”.
Even though some of us have never found this sort of community and
the others have been deeply wounded by relationships,
all of us still long for deep, authentic, real community.
How did we get this way?
How did this craving, this longing, get hardwired into us? T
he Bible answers that question by explaining that we were created in the image of God. God created us for community
Created for community
Created for community
In the biblical account of creation the triune God says “let us make man in our image” (). Human beings are made to image God to reflect his likeness.
In v26 look at the word “in” is translated several times in our English bibles as “with”. Read it that way, “let US make man with our image”
You’ll remember that well know verse from John’s gospel — In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The whole biblical purpose of Care Groups is rooted inside God’s eternal purpose to be in community with Himself 1 in 3 and 3 in 1
as the Triune God-head, then they came and made us for the same reason,
to be in fellowship with Them and with one another.
That’s why are longing for community seems deep. It’s how we are made as God’s image bearers.
So what happened?
What makes this community so hard to attain?
What keeps us from achieving the kind of relationships that God wired us for?
The fall: broken community
The fall: broken community
If you think for a moment about the nature of your relationships, you will quickly identify another tendency that is present,
something darker and more sinister, than your God–given desire for community.
It is the tendency to use people to meet your own needs first.
It’s not hard to see how often we are
pursuing our own interest in
protecting ourselves from people and relationships that will demand too much of us. For example
For example think of times that you have intentionally avoided someone who bothers you. Or the times when you have said what people wanted to hear in order to avoid offending them. Or the times you’ve stopped pursuing certain friends because they're no longer useful to you. Or the times that you’ve clung to a bad or unhealthy relationships just to escape the feeling of being alone.
think of times that you have intentionally avoided someone who bothers you.
Or the times when you have said what people wanted to hear in order to avoid offending them. Or the times you’ve stopped pursuing certain friends because they're no longer useful to you. Or the times that you’ve clung to a bad or unhealthy relationships just to escape the feeling of being alone.
Or the times when you have said what people wanted to hear in order to avoid offending them.
Or the times you’ve stopped pursuing certain friends because they're no longer useful to you.
Or the times that you’ve clung to bad or unhealthy relationships just to escape the feeling of being alone.
These selfish tendencies reveal that something is gone deeply wrong with our pursuit of community.
Though made in Gods image, we have fallen from our original glory.
We have devolved into something less than what we were made to be.
There is something selfish and self–absorbed about us that prevents us
from imaging God the way that we were designed to do.
Our inherent selfishness is evidence of what the Bible calls “sin”.
When we hear the word sin, we tend to think of bad behavior.
But sin is deeper than our outward actions.
The Bible often talks about sin in terms of unbelief.
Another words, rather than believing what is true, we believe lies,
which obviously leads to bad behavior and negative emotions.
Unbelief was at the root of the first sin.
Eve believe the serpents lies about God and His intentions towards them: “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of [the forbidden fruit] your eyes will be open, and you will be like God" ().
Unbelief is a failure to see and believe what is true about
the world, and
not taking God at his word,
not believing His promises,
not trusting in His goodness.
And sins impact is not just what we don’t believe, it is that apart from Christ we are unable to believe.
Send has turned us in on ourselves and warped our relationships with others.
We need SOMEONE who can deliver us from our unbelief and selfishness and
restore our capacity for true, deep, lasting community.
Redeemed for community
Redeemed for community
This is where the good news of the gospel meets us.
The word gospel literally means “good news” a message, a proclamation, and announcement.
One of the paradoxes of this message is that before it can be good news, it must start with bad news:
we are sinful, broken people. We are rebels against God.
We are mired in lies and self-worship, and
we look to other things [other than God] to give us identity and significance.
We cannot free ourselves, make God happy with us, or do enough good works to make up for our sins.
But God, rich in mercy, sent Jesus to earth as our substitute.
Jesus took our place in His life as He obeyed God fully and
worshiped Him totally, things we failed to do.
He substituted Himself for us and His death, as
He paid the penalty we owed to God for our sin and unbelief.
If we humble ourselves, acknowledge our need, and turned to him, God the Holy Spirit
will apply Jesus is substitutionary work to us by faith.
The Bible calls this redemption. A word that means to be delivered, ransomed or set free.
What does Jesus redeem us from?
Sin and all of its affects.
What is Jesus redeem us for?
A life the images God and reflects His goodness to the world.
Another words, one of the chief things that Jesus accomplishes when He redeems us is to restore our capacity for community.
Let’s go to . Paul now draws out the implication of vv. 1–10, of salvation being of pure sovereign grace.
— 11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
As Jewish and Gentile believers are individually reconciled to God in Christ,
these formerly hostile peoples are also reconciled with one another in Christ.
Paul proceeds by explaining the nature in these verses we just read. (vv. 11–13),
means — 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
consequences (vv. 19–22) of this reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles.
— 19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Then in chapter 3 Paul explains God’s plan for the Gentiles via two moves.
He first explains the mystery of Christ (vv. 2–6), focusing on its
revelation (vv. 3–5) and
content (v. 6).
He then expands on his ministry of the gospel (vv. 7–13),
highlighting the purpose of proclaiming the wisdom of God to the spiritual powers through the church (v. 10).
— 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,
To make your neighbors see this mystery of Christ redeeming a bunch of different people
from all walks of life and varying degrees of depravity and
putting them together and keeping them together,
this is the manifold wisdom, that is made known by the church
which is according to God’s eternal purpose
that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So He’s not forming a community of people who look and act like us,
but a community made up of people from every tribe tongue and nation on earth, ().
God has created us for community, and Jesus has redeemed us for community.
In doing so, He has made us into His very own body (first Corinthians 12:27) that is,
able to live, love, and make known His “good news” to our friends and neighbors.
But wait: if Jesus redeems us for community, then why is community still such hard work?
Why relationships still fraught with brokenness, even among Christians?
This is the tension that we live in.
Even though Jesus has delivered us from the penalty and the rule of sin,
He has not yet eradicated send from the world.
Because of sins ongoing presence, we are prone to unbelief.
We easily forget the good news of the gospel and fall back into lies and self-worship.
That’s why the Bible encourages not to just receive the gospel, but to “stand” in it ().
“if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, ...”
Another words, building and enjoying healthy community is going to require us
to believe the gospel, to believe that what Jesus did for us
to believe that what Jesus did for us
has power and relevance for the way we relate to God and others.
This requires an intentional focus on our part.
This is the purpose of the Care Groups and if we lose the purpose of it, it will just be something that we do in church.
It means identifying the unbelief in our hearts that hinders our ability to love and serve others and
receive love from them and turn It means receiving
the healing, liberating truth of the gospel in ways
that allow them to soak deep into the core of our being.
And guess where this work of ongoing transformation takes place? In community!!
Transformed in community
Did you ever notice how patient you are,
as long as no one is getting on your nerves?
Or how loving you are as long as you are
surrounded by people who are easy to love?
Or how humble you are,
as long as you are respected and admired by others?
Everyone of us is a saint in isolation!!
It’s in community that are real weaknesses, flaws, and sins are exposed.
That’s why community is essential –not optional– for transformation.
We cannot become the people God wants us to become outside of community.
You see, redemption is not the end of the story.
God is preparing us for a “new heavens and new earth, and which righteousness dwells” (2peter 3:13).
His goal is a renewed creation, we are redeemed humans dwell in perfect harmony with each other and with their Creator.
God is out to prepare His people for this glorious future by transforming them now,
a process the Bible calls sanctification.
The agent of sanctification is the Holy Spirit.
The tool of sanctification is the truth of the Gospel. And the context of sanctification is community.
The tool of sanctification is the truth of the Gospel. And
The context of sanctification is community.
Consider some of the “one another” statements in the Bible:
Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;
Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.
Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Now it obvious that we cannot fulfill these 30+ “one anothers” in a worship service or a bible study.
Also, none of us can do these things perfectly?
These commands are not given just so that will know what we should do:
they’re also given so that we can try, and fail, and grow in our experience of God’s grace together.
Trying to fulfill these “one another” commands helps to reveal our sin, drives us all to Jesus and repentance and faith, and
causes us to depend on the Holy Spirit for transformation.
Community is the laboratory in which we learn to rely on God’s grace and
experience the gospels transforming power.
Community is also the primary contact for mission, our outward focus as believers.
God wants us to use our Care Groups, messy and broken as they are,
to draw others into His story and introduce them to Jesus,
It’s not just about us becoming more like Jesus,
it’s equally about people who don’t know Jesus
coming to know him as Savior and Lord.
We sometimes treat community like the safety net under a tight rope walker:
it’s a good thing to have in case something bad happens.
But the Bible talks about community as if it’s the tight rope itself:
you can’t move forward without it.
· We are created for community.
· We are redeemed for community. And we are
· Transformed in community.