22nd Apr 2013

Belonging Together

By Steve Bones

 

1.What is ‘the community’?

What is ‘the community’ we are referring to?  We need to agree on this before we can discuss belonging together and what this means.  BFG and Julie & I discussed this and was interesting the different views!

Eccl 4:9-12 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (NIV)

The above applies to everyone, so we are in community with everyone – the world, UK, South Molton, my family, ......?

Deuteronomy from Julie re the Jewish nation:

Deut 7:6 For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. (NIV)

The children of Israel were to show God to the world.  What about the NT?

1 Peter 2:9-10 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (NIV)

and what Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane:

John 17:20-23 "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. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (NIV)

John 17:26  I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."  (NIV)

Here Jesus is praying for believers, that we might be one.  Indeed, He said last week’s memory verse:

John 13:34-35 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (NIV)

Again, this is aimed at believers, we are the community that is to shine!

That assumed, some may be asking why the Elders agreed to do this course.  After all, are we not already a loving group, friendly to each other and visitors?  Whilst I cannot speak for my fellow elders, yes we are, but I believe there is so much more God can do with us if we would only surrender to his will.  For example:

·         Why do people often stay away when going through a difficult time?

·         Why are problems often kept to ourselves rather than shared with others in the church we trust?

·         Why do many only see people from one Sunday to the next?

·         Why could we not agree on the way ahead for the building last year? 

Can you imagine a church which enjoyed getting together, every day if possible?  Such love, such joy, such unity, a common purpose, no need, signs and wonders, .......  Paul did in:

Phil 2:1-4 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  (NIV)

I do not want anyone feel guilty, because I know this will not bring about change.  But I do want people to get a glimpse of what Jesus desired when he prayed that we might be one.  For unless we get a vision of the future, we go back to our past. 

Pat to read out the geese story

2.What sort of community does Jesus want?

The memory verse this week is:

Rom 12:5  so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (NIV)

What does ‘belongs’ mean?  This will be explored in greater detail in house groups, but I want to consider it briefly here.  Please note, it is only applicable to those ‘in Christ’.  Remember this is in the context of Romans 5: 1, where we are encouraged to present our bodies as ‘living sacrifices’, and the following verse where ‘devoted’ is used in the NIV translation:

Rom 12:10, 13  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (NIV)

Here the word translated ‘devoted’ is the Greek word, philostorgos, which means ‘kindly or lovingly affectioned’.  This is consistent with the following:

1 Peter 1:22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. (NIV)

Gal 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (NIV)

So again, whilst we should be good to everyone, we should do it especially to one another.

Acts 2:42-47 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (NIV)

Are we devoted only to those four things, or do we have other things we are devoted to?  What does ‘devoted’ mean here?  In Greek, it is a different word, ‘prosk’, which means ‘continue stedfastly’. 

3.How is this worked out?

How can we do this?  Is it possible in our strength and will power?  No, No, No!  If it were, the Jews would have kept the Law and there would have been no need for Jesus to die on a cross.

In 2012 BFG did a Bible study from Precept Ministries entitled ‘Loving God and Others: The Heart of True Faith’. It was based on the two commandments Jesus used to summarise the law – love God and love one another (Luke 10:27).  But it ended with the following statement:

You have seen that the greatest command is to love God and the second is to love people.  But you will never fulfil either one of these commandments unless you are a Christian, someone who has surrendered his or her life to God. When you make the choice to give control over to Him, God changes your heart and empowers you to be a lover of God and a lover of people.’ 

This is consistent with Romans 12: 1 and 1 Peter 1:22 (and Philippians 2: 3, 5 and 8).

This is the rub – do we want to surrender to His will? It will cost us our independence and require us to be inter-dependent on others.  After all, Jesus, the Son of God, said when in a human form:

 John 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (NIV)

If Jesus had to depend on His Father, and prayed we might be one as He and the Father are one, can we therefore deduce that sometimes we need to depend on each other? Or at least trust each other?  The Bible in 1 Corinthians 12 refers to the church as a body, and that we need one another – a hand, a foot, and that in verse 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

At HGs we will be considering further 1 Cor 13:7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (NIV)

Another question for us to answer – do we want to trust one another? Share our challenges, failures, joys?

·         You cannot have a fire without a sacrifice

·         God will use anyone who is willing to pay the price

COMMUNION

1 Cor 11:23-30 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me."  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."   For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.  Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.  A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. (NIV)

Consider the above last two sentences – is this linked to the following?

James 5:14-16 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (NIV)

1 Cor 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (NIV)

Why don’t we ask for prayer more often?

·         Is it unbelief? 

·         We do not recognise the local church as the body of Christ?