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Love In Community

I Love My Church  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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In one of Aesops fables he describes an old man who had several sons, who were always falling out with one another. He had often, but to no purpose, exhorted them to live together in harmony. One day he called them together, and he gathered a bundle of sticks and tied them together and asked each one of them to try to break them. Each one tried as hard as they cold but none of them could break the bundle of sticks. Then the father cut the cord that he tied them together with and told his sons to break them separately. This was done with the greatest ease. “See, my sons,” the old man said “the power of unity!” Bound together by brotherly love, you may defy almost every mortal danger, but divided, you will fall prey to your enemies. “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” ()
“The gospel is not just the “A-B-C” but the “A-to-Z” of the Christian life. The gospel is not just the way to enter the kingdom, but is the way to address every problem and is the way to grow at every step. If we believe we can find our own worth and meaning through performance, then we will become either proud and disdainful of others (if we reach our goals), or else discouraged and self-loathing (if we fail our goals). But the gospel creates an entirely new self-image.
First, it tells us that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than you ever dared to hope—at the same time.
In fact, if the gospel is true, the more you see your sin, the more certain you are that you were saved by sheer grace and the more precious and electrifying that grace is to you. So the gospel gives us enormous power to admit our flaws.
Today, as we continue to look at what it means to Love in our series, I Love My Church, we come to the idea of Community. A community is a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
Then secondly, the knowledge of our acceptance in Christ makes (for the first time) the law of God a beauty instead of a burden. We come to use it to delight the One who has enriched us so mightily—instead of using it to get his attention or win his favor. The first way makes the moral and sacrificial life a joy; the second way makes it a burden.
In our text, the writer notes that the reason for Christian community and some of the implications of that community. First we must note that according to the author:
Therefore the gospel changes everything. It brings down racial barriers by melting away racial pride OR inferiority. It brings down psychological problems by melting away selfinflation OR self-hatred. It brings down personal facades, for we are free to admit who we are. It effects the way we do everything—how we motivate people, how we help them work through counseling problems, how we worship, how we take criticism.”

Christian Community is an Implication of the Gospel

A Gospel Implication is a result or a belief that we must gain in light of the gospel. One of the greatest errors we can make is to believe that the only thing the gospel effected was my SALVATION. The Gospel is much more than that, the Gospel has implications in every aspect of our lives. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City says this beautifully:
“The gospel is not just the “A-B-C” but the “A-to-Z” of the Christian life. The gospel is not just the way to enter the kingdom, but is the way to address every problem and is the way to grow at every step. If we believe we can find our own worth and meaning through performance, then we will become either proud and disdainful of others (if we reach our goals), or else discouraged and self-loathing (if we fail our goals). But the gospel creates an entirely new self-image.
First, it tells us that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than you ever dared to hope—at the same time.
In fact, if the gospel is true, the more you see your sin, the more certain you are that you were saved by sheer grace and the more precious and electrifying that grace is to you. So the gospel gives us enormous power to admit our flaws.
Then secondly, the knowledge of our acceptance in Christ makes (for the first time) the law of God a beauty instead of a burden. We come to use it to delight the One who has enriched us so mightily—instead of using it to get his attention or win his favor. The first way makes the moral and sacrificial life a joy; the second way makes it a burden.
Therefore the gospel changes everything. It brings down racial barriers by melting away racial pride OR inferiority. It brings down psychological problems by melting away selfinflation OR self-hatred. It brings down personal facades, for we are free to admit who we are. It effects the way we do everything—how we motivate people, how we help them work through counseling problems, how we worship, how we take criticism.”

GROWING in Community (22)

First we see the idea of growth. Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we should draw near to God. Notice this is not just a personal growth but also a communal growth. Because of Jesus, we all should be drawing near to God. We should be drawing near as individuals, but also in our corporate relationship as a body. That’s why corporate worship and corporate prayer are so important. Prayer is that time that we together draw near to God.
Ephesians 4:11–16 ESV
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.
As believers, God has given us Spiritual gifts and leaders to “build up the body of Christ until we, as the NLT says it, “will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.”
This is the work of the body:
“Speaking the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ…so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”
We grow best in community. We grow best as the body, working and living together hears the Word, prays, studies, serves and worships together. This must be done in community. We can grow alone, but its better together.

KNOWING in Community (v. 23)

Next Paul talks about how we are to “know” in community. Notice what he calls us to, we are to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.” Our hope is the gospel. Our hope is the truth that Jesus is the Son of God who stepped out of heaven and lived a perfect life for us so that he could display the glorious grace of God to the whole world, saving us from the awful consequences of our sin and making us children of God.
And the Word commands the church, “Let us hold fast”. One of the reasons why community is so important is that community helps to keep us connected to Christ. This is why college is such a danger for young men and women in Christ. Disconnected from the communities they once flourished in, many young adults do not connect to a local church and they are left alone as the ravages of the world attack their faith.
Philippians 1:27–28 ESV
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.
Notice that Paul encourages the Philippians to stand firm together.
David Mathis notes that Gospel “conduct means the church “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.” Conduct worthy of the gospel holds its ground; the church stands firm together in one spirit. The ramparts remain.
Gospel conduct means the church “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.”
We need each other. When we disconnect from the body, we leave ourselves open to attack from the enemy. Weak, and alone, we’re easy pickings for our adversary.
Note both the defensive and offensive aspects to this harmony and community. Conduct worthy of the gospel holds its ground; the church stands firm together in one spirit. The ramparts remain.

LOVING in Community (vv.24)

So as Christians, it’s apparent that our community should not only cause us to Love God more deeply, but also to love one another and others more deeply, and the way that this works itself out is in “doing good works prepared for us beforehand.” But the question we must ask is, what are these “good works?” Is it spiritual works like studying the word, attending worship, prayer? Is it social justice like caring for and giving to the poor, working for the disenfranchised, seeking to bring reconciliation? Is it evangelical works like sharing the good news and discipling new believers? The easy answer is yes, it’s all of these things.
Good works would include: attending worship services, praying regularly, studying Scripture, giving generously from our financial resources, joining a small group, going on mission trips, caring for the poor, working for justice for the oppressed, loving our neighbors, and so forth. These are surely among the good works God has prepared for us.We rightly engage in these activities as people who have been transformed by God's grace through Christ.
But, if we think of good works only in these terms, we miss the extent to which God's plan for our good works is much broader and deeper. We are created for good works, "which God prepared in advance for us to do." The Greek original reads more literally, "which God prepared in advance, so that we might walk in them." The language of walking was used by teachers in the time of Paul in the way we might talk of living or engaging in a certain lifestyle. In other words, the good works are not obviously religious activities scattered throughout an otherwise secular life. Rather, the good works encompass the whole of the Christian, all that we do by God's grace for God's purposes.
Good works should include: attending worship services, praying regularly, studying Scripture, giving generously from our financial resources, joining a small group, going on mission trips, caring for the poor, working for justice for the oppressed, loving our neighbors, and so forth. We should engage in these activities as people who have been transformed by God's grace through Christ, but these are not events that we should attend, but this is a lifestyle, a heart change, a transformation that must encompass our entire life.

WORSHIPING in Community (vv.25)

Finally, the word commands us to worship in community. He calls them not to neglect their gathering together as some were and still are in the habit of doing. As believers, Church is not about numbers and facts and figures, church is about people living life together.
Brian Croft is an amazing pastor from Kentucky, and he gives five reasons why worship in community matters:
First, a Christian’s faith is fueled by hearing God’s Word. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome and plainly said, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (). We will be most inclined to listen and engage with preaching by being present where it is preached alongside others who have also come for the express purpose of hearing and submitting to God’s Word proclaimed.
Second, hearing God’s Word from your own shepherd is unique to every other encounter with God’s proclaimed Word. It is one thing to hear your favorite preacher expound God’s Word to his church or to a random conference crowd. It is an entirely different experience to sit in person and hear God’s Word expounded and applied directly to you from your pastor, the man who knows your struggles, difficulties, and doubts, and who will give an account for your soul ().
Third, never underestimate the power of personal connection. There is a powerful connection made between a shepherd and his flock when he preaches God’s Word to those he has been thinking about and praying for as he prepared. The Holy Spirit uniquely uses eye contact, facial expressions, and body language in both the preacher and his hearers to create a powerful connection between them during a sermon. A pastor feeds off the visible reaction of his hearers. A congregation is moved by the pastor’s burden over their souls conveyed in the sermon.
Fourth, spiritual fruit comes from hearing with others. When the church gathers, the Holy Spirit works in unique and powerful ways that are missing in private gatherings (). When a congregation collectively sits under the preached Word, a level of accountability is established and nourished among the hearers to urge each other to go and apply that sermon.
Last, public sermons lead to corporate discipleship. The proclamation of God’s Word to the communal gathering of saints is one of the necessary marks of the church (Calvin, Institutes, 4.1.9). When the whole church hears God’s Word proclaimed, that Word then becomes the basis for further conversation and growth in the one-on-one discipleship conversations that follow. The sermon gets everyone on the same page; personal discipleship expands on the details of that page.
As a church we should honor our times together as the body, worshipping and growing together.
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