How to Get an Exemption
Topic: Community Verse: Philippians 3:12–3:13
“THE REASON FOR THE BODY OF CHRIST”
Theme: Community Groups is one of the means of grace contributing to every person being presented complete in Christ.
Introduction: God’s ultimate purpose for saving us is to bring Himself eternal glory by delivering us from our sinfulness and transforming us into the very image of Christ. Conformity to Christ is that to which the Scriptures declare we have been predestined. It is the end of our faith – when we see Christ … to be like Him for we will see Him as He is. In the meantime, our passion as believers is to do everything that we can to take advantage of the various means of grace by which God furthers His work in our lives to transform us. Some of these means include: the impact of God’s Word as we study it; the interaction that a believer enjoys with God through prayer; the instruction that a believer receives through the indispensable activity of biblical, exegetical preaching; and through fellowship by which we are able to stimulate one another to love and good works. It is through these means that believers are able to be furthered along in their progress in conformity to Christ. The goal is to enable every believer to be presented “complete” in Christ Jesus. Each of these means of grace as crucial – and the neglect of any of them results in spiritual detriment.
This month, the elders desire to emphasize the means of grace that is provided here at GBC through the community groups. Our desire is to provide an orientation that shifts our collective perspective to embrace the concepts of “community” – that is, that we are stronger as believers collectively than we are as individuals. Engaging in Spirit-enhanced relationships with believers with whom familiarity produces growth in Christ-likeness is what God intends for each of us.
I. Community: The Priority of Companionship
A. The Declaration of God
- God has created each of us essentially the same – we all have common needs that inevitably characterize us.
- One of these needs was identified by God before the Fall occurred – we are created with the need for companionship – cp. Genesis 2:18
- This marital determination can be expanded to describe every believer – married or single – we need other believers in order to find the kind of spiritual companionship that will promote the growth that God intends.
- Married couples have things to contribute to singles and singles have ministry obligation to couples – as we interact through the Holy Spirit … community group is clearly where this is most naturally fulfilled.
B. The Design by God
- God has designed us to thrive in the context of community – when others gather around us and interact with us to the glory of Christ Jesus – cp. Hebrews 10:23-25
- Individualism is an obstacle to spiritual growth as God’s design is that we support one another through the challenges that life presents – cp. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.
- So often, people tearfully confess that they feel alone, that they cannot get “plugged in,” or they don’t “fit in.”
- Social – or secular – “community” cannot advance the conformity to Christ that the spiritual “community” within the Body of Christ can.
- Only through community within the church can true fellowship “in the Light” promote conformity to Christ – cp. 1 John 1:7.
- This is not only true of individuals, but it can also be true of couples – who feel disconnected, isolated, and lonely – and as a result, they fail to prosper spiritually.
- In that we are made in the image of God, God is a social Being – enjoying fellowship between the members of the Godhead – cp. John 17:11, 21-22
- The great agony of heart in Jesus suffering was the sense of isolation that He felt from God when the Father turned away from His Son – cp. Matthew 27:46
- Loneliness is not God’s design for the believer – His intention is that we exercise our faith together with other believers with whom caring, loving, intimate relationships are developed and true ministry can be exchanged – cp. John 13:34-35; Romans 12:10; 13:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 4:1.
- We all desire to engage in a small number of people who we can trust and who can trust us to push them in the midst of challenges, trials, temptations, sins and all of life’s circumstances closer to Christ.
- This will not happen effectively in a group of 400 people – it takes engaging in a smaller, more intimate community of 8-10 other saints who carry “passports” stamped by you!
- What causes a believer to neglect developing spiritual companions within the church?
- How does companionship provide enhancement to one’s spiritual development?
- What result does loneliness have in the dissatisfaction that people have toward the church?
What Do Healthy Relationships Look Like?
Last week we looked at the reality that the Body of Christ exists as a network of relationships – that God has designed individual believers to be more effective in meaningful relationships than as individuals. He has created us to be relational beings as He is, and that in order to thrive in our growth in godliness and Christlikeness, we must be pursuing relationships with other believers. Today we want to advance our awareness of this truth by looking at “What” the Body of Christ does to establish relationships that are symbiotic. Symbiosis is that relationship between two people in which each person is dependent upon and receives reinforcement, encouragement, and strength from the other. Simply stated, we must be striving mutually beneficial relationships, not merely relationships that serve “me.” The ultimate goal of our Christian relationships is to enable each person to gain ground in their conformity to Jesus Christ. We promote greater consecration by means of being in relationships that prod us onward in our mutual love for Jesus. In this sense, the point of our relationships is the pursuit of consecration … that is, the ability to be more like Jesus Christ ourselves as well as by others.
II. Community: The Pursuit of Consecration
A. The Duty of Consecration
- As the Scriptures teach us, our ultimate goal is the conformity to Jesus Christ.
- The task of believers is to do all that they can to have such interaction within a community that we assist others to become more like Christ even as we ourselves rely upon them to help us – cp. Colossians 1:28
- This is the essence of discipleship – helping others become more like Christ – cp. Matthew 28:19-20
- We cannot think that we are proper in any respect if our perspective is that our involvement in the Body of Christ is entirely about us – self-oriented.
- Our great duty is to consider the worthiness of Jesus Christ enough motivation to not only seek His righteousness and Kingdom, but to be committed to assisting others to seek His righteousness and Kingdom – cp. Matthew 6:33
- The idea of being “complete” is to be mature in one’s conformity to Christ Jesus – He is our standard of righteousness, not our neighbor.
- We are striving to constantly grow into the likeness of Christ – cp. Philippians 3:12.
- Likewise, we must be simultaneously striving to see Christ formed in others as well – cp. Galatians 4:19; Philippians 2:3-4.
B. The Dependency for Consecration
- Yet, the context in which the progress in our maturity is seen is community.
- Although our chief dependency for consecration is upon the Holy Spirit using God’s Word to sanctify us, we also recognize that we need each other in order to properly progress in the likeness of Christ – cp. Ephesians 4:11-13, 16
- The symbiotic relationship in which God has designed us to engage is essential to our progress in our faith – cp. Proverbs 27:17
- We need people to be in our lives when we fall – cp. Galatians 6:1-2
- We need people to be in our lives so that we can come clean – James 5:16. Acts 19:18
- We need people to be in our lives to stir us up spiritually – cp. Hebrews 10:23-25
- We need people to be in our lives to accept us in light of grace – cp. Romans 15:7
- We need people to be in our lives to counsel us with truth – cp. Proverbs 11:14; 15:22
- We need people to be in our lives to pray for us – Ephesians 6:18; James 5:16.
- Again, the key to our consecration is the power of the Word of God being made relevant to our lives – 2 Timothy 3:17
- God has provided the means by which this is most effectively done:
- Personal Bible Study – 2 Timothy 2:15
- Preaching – 1 Corinthians 1:21
- Personal Fellowship with other believers – Ephesians 4:15-16
- Discipleship is about learning how to observe “all things Christ has commanded us” – why is a community group necessary in this process?
- If assembly is necessary for the stimulation of love and good works, what is the outcome of failing to participate in community with one another?
- It is possible to be part of a community group and not benefit spiritually from the opportunity; what would cause this?
- What are the key components that would make a community group effective in your life?
- How can community group support what is happening on Sundays?
How Can My Life Count?
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Theme: Fulfillment for the Christian is found in Christlike sacrifice for the welfare of others.
As believers, we recognize the unique and divinely sustained desire to connect with other believers for the purpose of seeking the glory of Jesus Christ. Ours is not a desire driven by tastes, preferences, styles, race, marital status, finances, academics, employment, gender, or any other segregator that characterizes secular relationships. Ours is completely unique. It is driven by the unquenchable desire for camaraderie in lifting up the glory of Jesus Christ. We desire to see the glory of Christ in His redeeming others, in making others overcomers, in sanctifying sinners and watching Him change them before our very eyes. There is a glee in the lift of people of love Jesus as they see Him doing glorious transformations in the lives of those around them. That glee intensifies in a believer when he or she is able to see Christ do His work through them! It becomes one of the delights of our faith – to serve Christ as we establish relationships with other for the purpose of being used by Christ to strengthen them in their faith. As we do this, we also observe the assembly of believers growing in grace and becoming more of what it ought to be. Our fulfillment as believers will never be known as completely as when we engage ourselves in actively using the gift of grace that God’s Spirit has invested in us for the purpose of building up the local church through fruitful relationships that advances each participant’s love for Jesus Christ.
III. Community: The Promotion of the “Common Good”
A. The Determination by the Spirit
- We return to the matter of how God’s intention for our participation in the Body of Christ to be a contributing role – not a receiving role.
- We are part of a project owned by God – with God determining how the church will grow – accomplished through the power and authority of Jesus Christ and then executed through the agency of the Holy Spirit – 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
- The varieties [διαίρεσις] of gifts that believers contribute are highlighted here, but we are reminded that they are not randomly encountered but masterminded and executed by the same Holy Spirit.
- There are also “varieties of ministries” [διακονία] that the Lord Jesus Christ assigns once people are gifted by the Spirit – people with the same gift may not use it in the same way – but the Lord will insure that it is used in building the church
- Finally, there are “varieties of effects” [ἐνέργημα] – a reference to the kinds of results or impact that ministries have in the life of the church is determined by the Father.
- The point to be emphasized here is that each believer is gifted by the Holy Spirit with a gift of grace – a spiritual gift – that is expressed, designed and bestowed for the sake of the “common good” – cp. 1 Corinthians 12:7
- This term is [συμφέρω] – referring to “bringing things together” or the “pooling of resources”
- This provides us the intention by God for spiritual gifts – it is never for the primary benefit of the individual who is gifted, but the “pooling” of our gifting to produce a whole – the synergy of gifting creates a force greater than any of its individual parts.
- Notice that the community exists for the growth of the Body of Christ to the glory of Christ – cp. Colossians 1:24
- When we abdicate God’s purpose for our giftedness, we not only lose the grace afforded through ministry, but we rob other believers for whom God has intended our gifting to benefit.
- Clearly the entire body of Christ is in view in the distribution of these gifts – yet the place where such gifting is most eloquently expressed is in continual, meaningful relationship with other believers.
B. The Devotion to the Body
- Each of us are gifted and then stirred up by God’s Spirit through spiritual leadership for the purpose of us all doing the ministry – cp. Ephesians 4:8, 11-13
- The notion of believers simply involving themselves in church for the purpose of receiving instruction from God’s Word is foreign to the Scriptures – it is in seeking the glory of Christ through edifying one another in our mutual faith.
- The expectation is that believers, in receiving the teaching from God’s Word, are to use it for the purpose of turning around and investing themselves in the lives of other believers.
- It is the strength of the church that we are all striving to see this investment achieved through however God has gifted and strengthened each individual.
- This requires that each of us be willing to extend ourselves in the following ways:
- Solidarity – we must find ourselves in contexts where we are able to find true unity of heart, mind, soul, and spirit with other believers in true fellowship – 4:13a
- Stretching – we must be willing to extend ourselves beyond where we are most comfortable, engaging with others on a level that causes growth pains – 4:13b
- Strength – we must be among those who lock arms with us about what we believe – keeping one another from the errors that our enemy seeks to foist upon us – 4:14
- Submission – we must be able to come under the authority of Christ with others who will provide accountability and allegiance to Christ – 4:15
- Supply – we provide what others need to likewise be edified and strengthened by what God’s Spirit chooses to supply through us – 4:16.
- It is through relationship with both Christ Jesus and one another that love is produced without which …
- Obedience become legalism
- Ministry becomes professionalism
- Fellowship becomes favoritism
- Joy becomes hedonism
- Truth becomes Intellectualism
- Evangelism becomes judgmentalism
- Missions becomes imperialism
- Unity becomes ecumenism
- Righteousness become idealism
- Peace becomes passivism.
- If you had to choose between ministries that you feel you need and the ministries in which you might be able to minister to others, which would you choose?
- For instance, if you have to choose between Sunday evening services and seeking to minister to others, I would encourage you to seek to minister to others (deprioritizing sitting under the ministry of the Word for football would be a different discussion altogether)
- If you had opportunity to exhort someone and love on them instead of going to Fellowship groups, I would encourage you to do that.
- Sunday AM Worship Service is truly the only assembly that the Scriptures state that we ought never deprioritize.
- Community groups are yet another way that you can apply yourself in an environment that is both give & take to the glory of Christ Jesus.
- It is impossible to exercise love for others without seeking their welfare above your own.
- It is possible that if you are not engaged in serving others within the Body of Christ that you are empty-souled and wondering why you have no true Christian joy.
- If you could only choose one thing in which to participate, it would be the Sunday Morning General Assembly; if you can do only one more than thing, Community Group would be among the most important opportunities from which to choose.
- Who alone has the right to determine what ministry you are designed to provide? What are the personal ramifications for you?
- For whose sake are the gifts of God’s grace given?
- What is the detriment of the “consumer mentality” that has developed in evangelical Christianity?
- How can “community groups” help you personally avoid a consumer mentality?