Called to Community

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(various scriptures)

INTRODUCTION: If you will take a look at the front of your bulletin, you will find our church mission statement. Let’s read it together. “The mission of Agawam Church of the Bible is to glorify God by worshiping Him (Celebration), loving our neighbor (Community), sharing the gospel (Communication), and growing in Christ-likeness (Cultivation).” This is the reason why we exist as a church: we are here to worship God, to love our neighbor, to share the gospel, and to grow in Christ-likeness. That is what we are all about as a church.

Today I would like us to focus on that second purpose for just a bit: Community, or Loving Your Neighbor. As Christians we are called to community. We are called to life together. We cannot fulfill our purpose as believers in isolation from others. This morning I would like to look at three reasons from the Bible why we are called to community:

    1) We need each other;
    2) We belong to each other; and
    3) We are called to bear witness to Christ.

So let’s take a look at each of these.

I. We need each other.

The first reason we are called to community is a simple one. We need each other. We are all sinful people living in a sinful world with constant trials and temptations, and we are kidding ourselves if we think we can make it in the Christian life without each other’s love and support.

    A. Encourage each other in the battle against sin (Hebrews 3:12-13)

We need each other first of all to encourage each other in this battle against sin. The book of Hebrews tells us:

“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:12-13)

Did you get that? Sin is deceitful. Sin never comes right out and advertises itself or its consequences. Sin sneaks into our lives unawares and takes us down slowly one heart decision at a time. But the cumulative effect of all those decisions can be deadly. It is like hardening of the arteries. It doesn’t happen all at once; it takes place over a period of time and often in places unseen. But the damage is building, the danger is real, and all of a sudden you find your heart hardened towards God.

How do you guard against this gradual hardening of your heart? By the daily encouragement of your brothers and sisters in Christ. “Encourage one another daily … so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13)

    B. Pick each other up when we fall (Galatians 6:1-2)

Secondly, we need each other to pick each other up when we fall. It’s great when we can encourage each other to help keep each other away from sin, but there are times when we do fall into sin and sometimes we fall hard. These are times when we really need a Christian brother or sister to come alongside us and help.

Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-2) When someone is caught in a sin, we are called to come alongside and restore them gently.

That word “restore” is a word that was used for mending a broken bone. A broken bone takes time to heal, and sometimes it takes time to help a person who has fallen into sin. It takes a lot of love, grace, determination and patience. No wonder Paul says “you who are spiritual” should take this on. It also takes humility, knowing that “There but for the grace of God go I.” Which is why Paul says watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.

Do you remember the old TV commercials for the LifeCall product? You know, the woman who had fallen down and would cry out: “Help, I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” Well as Christians, we need to be on LifeCall for each other. We need to exhibit the kind of mercy and grace for each other that gives us the confidence when we fall into sin to call out, “Help, I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” We need to carry each others burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ, which is the law of love.

    C. Spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25)

And then thirdly we need each other to spur one another on toward love and good deeds. It is not enough that we encourage each other against sin and pick each other up when we fall. We should also be positively encouraging each other toward good works. The book of Hebrews says: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

It is easy to get lazy in the Christian life. It is easy to forget our responsibilities towards those around us. But Christian fellowship helps us to keep our focus as we continually challenge each other from God’s word to reach out in love to others. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his book Life Together: “The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer; Life Together)

II. We belong to each other.

So that’s the first reason we are called to community as believers: because we need each other. The second reason is this: because we belong to each other.

    A. We are family. (Galatians 6:10)

As Christians, we are family. The Bible speaks of us as “the family of believers.” Galatians 6:10: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:10) When you put your trust and faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, you are adopted into God’s family. You become a son or daughter of God. That means that other believers are your brothers and sisters in Christ.

One of the most common designations for believers you will find in the New Testament is the word “brother.” That is because we have been brought into the family of God, and we should love each other with a family love. Of course the family of God is pretty big, it is worldwide, so how do we practically go about doing that? We do it through the church. Every believer needs to be involved in a local church, where they can grow in loving relationships with other believers.

John Stott writes in his book Basic Christianity:

“The Christian life is not just our own private affair. If we have been born again into God’s family, not only has he become our Father but every other Christian believer in the world, whatever his nation or denomination, has become our brother or sister in Christ. But it is no good supposing that membership of the universal Church of Christ is enough; we must belong to some local branch of it. … Every Christian’s place is in a local church. … sharing in its worship, its fellowship, and its witness.” (John Stott, Basic Christianity)

We are family.

    B. We are the body of Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:27)

Not only are we family, we are also the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:27 says, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27) The point Paul is making in 1 Corinthians 12 is that just as the different members of our human bodies all have different functions, so we all have different functions in the body of Christ. But just because we are different from each other doesn’t mean that we are not one body. Christ is the head of the body. We all belong to Christ, and therefore we all belong to the body of Christ.

    C. Each member of the body belongs to all the others (Romans 12:4-5)

Romans 12 takes this concept even deeper. In Romans 12 Paul writes: “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:4-5) Not only do we all belong to the body of Christ, but each member belongs to all the others.

That’s the way it works in the human body, doesn’t it? All the parts of the body work together to advance the health of the whole body, not just the individual parts. All the parts have a sense of obligation to each other, because they are all part of the same body. In the same way, we belong to each other in the body of Christ. Each member belongs to all the others, and we should be working together to advance the health of the whole body, not just our individual interests.

III. We are called to bear witness to Christ.

Why are we called to community as believers? 1) We need each other; 2) We belong to each other; and 3) We are called to bear witness to Christ.

    A. God is building a people. (Titus 2:13-14; Revelation 21:3)

Part of the big picture of the Bible is that God is building for himself a people. God is not just interested in individuals. Of course he cares about each one of us individually, but he also cares about us as a people. Titus 2:13-14 speaks of: “our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:13-14) Jesus came to redeem a people for himself, a community of people who would glorify him in their lives and relationships with each other.

The closing chapters of the book of Revelation put the finishing touches on this big picture where we read: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’” (Revelation 21:3) This is what God has desired all along. It is why he created a man and a woman with the ability to reproduce. God wasn’t just looking for a friend when he created man. If so, he could have stopped with Adam. He was interested in building a people.

    B. Jesus died for the church. (Ephesians 5:25-27)

We see this in the New Testament with Jesus, because when Jesus came, he did not come just to die for individuals. Jesus died for the church. We read in the book of Ephesians: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)

The church is the bride of Christ, and Jesus died for the church to make her holy and radiant and pure. When we live in community as believers, encouraging each other in the battle against sin, spurring one another on toward love and good deeds, we function as the light of the world, as a city on a hill, as a testimony to Jesus Christ who died to make us holy.

    C. Our unity as believers testifies to the world that God sent Jesus. (John 17:20-21)

Not only that, but our unity as believers testifies to the world that God sent Jesus. Listen to these words Jesus prayed in John 17: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21) When the world sees believers truly loving and caring for each other in Christian community, they will stand up and take notice. And they will believe that God sent his Son into the world, and that his name is Jesus.

CONCLUSION: It has been said that we suffer from a lack of community in twenty-first century America. Part of this is because people move around a lot. We change jobs, homes and neighborhoods far more frequently than we used to in the past. The breakdown of the family also contributes to a lack of community.

But it is more than just that. We were designed to be part of God’s people. God offers us true community through the church that we cannot find anywhere else. When I come to realize that Christ is in you, and that Christ is in me, my eyes are opened to the possibilities of Christian community in a whole new way. All of a sudden church and small groups take on a whole new meaning. All of a sudden I begin to understand that I am called to community. Why? Because we need each other. We belong to each other. We are called to bear witness to Christ.

© Ray Fowler

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