In my last post, as we gathered together around God’s word, we considered the importance of our historic Baptist convictions. Specifically: believer’s baptism, regenerate church membership, the priesthood of all believers, and congregational governance.
As we considered each of these, we saw they had a corporate component to them:
- Believer’s baptism: identifying with Christ and identifying with the family
- Regenerate church membership: meaningful church membership consisting of believers committed to Christ and to the congregation
- Priesthood of all believers: We are each priest, and through Christ we have been made into a royal priesthood
- Congregational governance: We are now able to discern the will of God, therefore in the context of the local church we look to the unity of the body to give and affirm leadership and direction.
This morning, I want to continue to build on the idea of community as we consider our 5th core value:
“We focus on being a family that shares life together as a kingdom community reflecting the power of the gospel that unifies different people in Christ.”
In order to teach this core value, I want to invite you back to the passage of Scripture we studied last week in I Peter 2:4-10.
I Peter 2:4-10
“As you come to him a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they do not obey the word, as they were destined to do.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
We each are living stones that are being built together to form a spiritual house. We are not individual people. We are a chosen race – a holy nation. We are priests who come together to form a royal priesthood. Christ saves us into a community for a reason! The Scripture here teaches us that it is in the context of community that we “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Here is the implication from the text: We can only truly and fully display the excellencies of Christ within the context of community. To take that a step further, it is only in how we relate and respond to others that we can truly display how Christ has responded and related to us. Therefore, with this post my aim is to show us how we proclaim the excellencies of Christ through exhibiting a loving community.
Read with me a quote from Tim Keller as he reveals the full nature of God’s relational existence within the Trinity:
“The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are each centering on the others, adoring and serving them. And because the Father, Son, and Spirit are giving glorifying love to one another, God is infinitely, profoundly happy. Think about this: If you find somebody you adore, someone for whom you would do anything, and you discover that this person feels the same way about you, does that feel good? It’s sublime! That’s what God has been enjoying for all eternity. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are pouring love and joy and adoration into the other, each one serving the other. They are infinitely seeking one another’s glory, and so God is infinitely happy.”
Isn’t that a beautiful picture? The triune God in perfect harmony…in perfect love…in perfect submission…each one seeking to glorify the other. If this is true of what God is like, then how could we ever proclaim the excellencies of God apart from a loving relationship with Him and with others? The more clearly we see our own sinfulness in light of God’s holiness; and the lengths to which Christ has gone to reconcile us to God, we see that our only true response is to make much of Him! If we are to make much of Christ, then it necessitates that we take the characteristics we see in the triune God and manifest them in our relationships with one another.
Recognizing that we live in a fallen world, with imperfect people, let me share some of the qualities of a loving community that proclaims the excellencies of Christ. Now what I am about to share with you is in no way intended to be exhaustive, rather it’s intended to just give us a taste of the of what a loving community should look like:
A loving community shows no partiality. Our nature is to be self-centered. Thus we place value judgments on people based upon the perceived benefit they will bring into our lives. Here are a few examples: If, we value people based upon the financial needs they can meet in our lives, we will naturally look down upon those who have less. If we value people based upon the wisdom they pour into our lives, we are going to devalue people we feel lack wisdom. If we value people for how they stimulate our thinking and challenge us academically, we are going to feel superior to those who are less educated. If we value people for how they build us up, we are going to look down upon those who speak critically.
But is that how God relates to us?
God shows no favoritism!
Galatians 3:27-29, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
James 2:1-7, “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “you sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “you stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”
A loving community will model humility. Take a look at the humility of Christ displayed in Philippians 2:5-6: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped…”
As we reflect on Christ’s humility, we can begin to exhibit the same type of humility towards one another. Remember Ephesians 5:21? Paul unpacks what a spirit filled life looks like. It’s a life characterized by humility “…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
A loving community tenderly forgives. We should never lose sight of the magnitude of our sinfulness and how Christ has and continues to forgive us. I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleans us from all unrighteousness.” Do you recall when Peter asked a question of Jesus regarding forgiveness in Matthew 18:21-23, “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”
To put this in other words, Christ taught that there is no end to the lengths to which we must and now CAN forgive others. We forgive others as we have been forgiven.
A loving community suffers together. We realize in this life we can experience physical and emotional suffering, but the greatest suffering any person can experience is the spiritual suffering that comes when we are consumed with ourselves, which ultimately leads to a hopeless eternity separated from God. So Christ enters into our story and suffers on our behalf, in order that our greatest need can be met…our spiritual need. He suffers for us and promises to continue to bear our burdens! Because Christ, in His magnificent love, has done this, we are now able to suffer with one another and comfort them. In II Corinthians 1:3-4 we read: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” Through Christ we can weep with those who weep, mourn with those who mourn, and truly bear one another’s burdens.
A loving community will spur one another on towards Christ likeness. Proverbs 27:17 reminds us that Iron sharpens iron. This means that, though we meet other believers in love and charity, we do not hesitate nor relish in helping a brother/sister see where he/she may have sin and latent idols in their lives. Just like a parent never relishes the disciplining of their child, but because of their deep love and desire for the child to grow up in wisdom and truth, we must still set ourselves to the task of refining one another, holding one another accountable, pointing one another to the Cross in our times of wickedness, sinfulness, and arrogance. This is discipline for the purpose of restoration, not satisfaction. This is discipline flowing forth from love, not anger or malice. Often times, right discipline of a brother is the most loving and selfless act we do as believers, never standing apart and throwing stones at their head, but standing alongside them and unloading them from deep in their pockets.
Now I recognize that these are just some of the characteristics of a loving community. However, it’s not just enough to say that this is what we’d like to see without helping us see what it’s going to take to get there. In order for us to have a loving community, there needs to be a commitment to Bible Fellowship (simply can’t and won’t happen if your only commitment is to our corporate gatherings. We can’t fulfill a loving community only through corporate gatherings…therefore we can’t fully proclaim the excellencies of Christ through corporate gatherings). There needs to be a commitment of time (Saying “NO” so you can say “YES”). Finally, a Commitment to vulnerability (Honesty and openness with Christ will lead to honesty and openness with others).
It would have been weird for the Israelites in the Old Testament if someone in their tribe asked to be left alone during a time of mourning, rejoicing, etc. The community we see in the scriptures found joy in one another’s blessings, and even shared burden in one another’s transgressions. Though we may not think the same true for our own community, I believe we’d be shocked if we realized the far reaching nature of our sins and our joys within the lives of those we commune with every week. We mustn’t believe that we are not missed when we do not commit to being a part of the community. Often times we may believe that there’s nothing we can get out of church or out of bible fellowship, but this fails to ask the question: Would I have been able to be a blessing to someone else today if I’d have honored my community and my commitment to be there? As anyone can attest, often times, when God uses you in a mighty way in someone’s life, you almost always come away from the experience having learned and grown more than the one God placed in your life to be a blessing unto. This is God receiving all glory. When we are not honoring our commitments or placing a high value on being a part of a loving community, not only are we failing to see the Divine plan for our lives and our part in revealing the excellencies of Christ, but we are also missing out on the immense blessings and growth that should be taking place as we continually consider others better than ourselves, forgiving one another, suffering with one another, spurring one another on towards Christ, and modeling humility for an unbelieving world so desperately seeking what we so often take for granted – A life spent in real communion with one another through, with, and because of, our Lord Jesus Christ.
 Tim Keller, King’s Cross, (p. 7-8)