Community Part 3 - Passionate Togetherness
Topic: Community Passage: 1 Corinthians 12:12–12:14, Ephesians 4:15–4:16
When the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, the believers in Christ came into a closeness that had never been seen before. The Baptism of the Spirit broke down walls between people like never before. Immediately after this outpouring of the Spirit it says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer”. “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 (from house to house), they ate (their meals) together with glad and sincere hearts...”. Acts 4:32 says, “All the believers were one in heart and soul”.
As one pagan writer said about these Christians, “Behold how they love one another!”. The Holy Spirit had made them a community of new people. They saw each other in a totally new way, than they did before. They were WITH each other and FOR each other and enjoying each other without competition and rivalry. There was a spirit of of belonging to each another. They were brought so close to one another it was like they were one person with one heart and one soul.
This is what God is working in our hearts today too! Ephesians 2:22 - We are BEING BUILT TOGETHER to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. One commentator said, “This creating, building, or growing that Paul writes about here is the process by which we come to have more and more in common with each other so that there can be a continuing fellowship.
We are not told to live in a commune, or do exactly what the early church did. But WE ARE CALLED TO THE SAME fellowship and sense of community. In a Spirit-filled church (Spirit-formed church), we are a part of one another. We are connected. You belong to me and I belong to you.
I listened to a pastor this week tell about a time when they had left their denomination and had to give up their church building. So they had to meet in a rented building on Sundays. In their city there were no buildings they could rent every Sunday, so for a time he had to send out a letter each week to tell them where they would meet that next Sunday.
During that very difficult time he said this to his church; “If we have nothing else to offer the body of Christ, we have this; that we love each other”. And... “if we lose everything, we will still have the best thing of all; we have each other”.
That attitude revealed to me a depth of understanding about the church that most people do not have. If we had nothing but Jesus Christ and each other we would still have all we need. We would still have the best things of all.
Just as you were born physically into a family, you were born of the Spirit into a spiritual family in which you are meant to grow up. We are family!
Being a Spirit filled believer is largely about being a part of this living, spiritual body we call the church. The church is not primarily an organization or a system of programs and activities, it is primarily relationships with one another IN THE SPIRIT. And by the enablement of the Spirit, each one is doing his or her part to the good and the encouragement and the growth of the others.
Ephesians 4:15,16 says, “Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become, in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work”. So each of us draws life and love from Jesus Christ then feeds and serves the others. And we all grow up together. It is a group project.
In Ephesians 4 and in 1 Corinthians 12, the analogy used for the church is the human body. We are connected to one another as the human body is connected by joints and ligaments and tissue. We are as interconnected to one another as your eye is to your hand! Or your toe to your foot!
And the life of Jesus comes through each of us by the Spirit, to each other! We are each a conduit of the life of Christ to one another. We grow in this environment of being together, not isolated and on our own. As Paul says, “the whole body builds itself up in love, as each part does its work”.
And the Holy Spirit is the life-giving power in all of this. In verse 7 Paul said, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good”. The ISV says, “To each person has been given the ability to manifest the Spirit for the common good”.
The Holy Spirit came into your life to “show” himself through your life and personality to others in the church body and for the good of all. The Holy Spirit came into OTHERS in the church to flow through THEIR life and personality so that you could receive something from them that YOU need to grow and be made complete. You are in a church body to MANIFEST something from the Spirit, and to RECEIVE something from the Spirit through others!
Later in verse 13 he says, “Just as a body has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit SO AS TO FORM ONE BODY…..We were all given one Spirit to drink”. YET the body is not made up of one part but many”.
No one person is complete within themselves. Even though we all drank of the Holy Spirit, yet he gives different gifts, different ministries, even different effects to each one. So LIKE A HUMAN BODY, that needs each of its members, it is the same with the church. We cannot say, “I have no need of you”. “The eye cannot say to the hand I have no need of you”. We all provide something different that is needed!
My purpose this morning is not to teach on spiritual gifts but to call us to deeper relationship with each other, to make us realize that God’s will is to BUILD US TOGETHER into a dwelling for the Holy Spirit, to call us into a deeper sense of belonging to one another, and needing one another. All of this so that the life from our head Jesus Christ can flow through each one of us, by the Spirit so that we are all built up to mature people in him! This is a Spirit filled church.
I need you You need me
We're all a part of God's body
Stand with me
Agree with me
We're all a part of God's body
It is his will that every need be supplied
You are important to me
I need you to survive
I pray for you
You pray for me
I love you
I need you to survive
In the New Testament we see, believers meeting together, encouraging one another, being a part of one another, spiritually feeding one another, caring for one another. This was so much the norm, that these kind of relationships are assumed in every letter to every church. When someone became a believer, they became a functioning part of the church. There was never a thought that this was optional!
Most of the commands in the New Testament cannot be obeyed outside of a church family. The letters to the churches don’t even make sense, unless we are in this real living fellowship with one another. You can’t pray for one another, sing to one another, bear one another’s burdens, serve one another, love one another, without being WITH one another. You can’t use your spiritual gifts for the common good, if you are not part of the common fellowship.
Other verses that give similar exhortations: Hebrews 10:24 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on to love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are into the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the day approaching”.
This verse tells us to NOT give up meeting together. Don’t give up! Don’t quit. Don’t depart from the pattern of meeting continually with other Christians. The writer of Hebrews says that some people are in the habit of staying home. It is not a good habit to fall into. Some of us are probably more prone to this temptation than others. Realize the tendency toward staying home, or staying away as unhealthy and dangerous.
As we are together, we spur one another on to love and good deeds. We meet because it stimulates us to love more, do more, grow more. We stimulate one another. YOU are encouraged, BUT ALSO you come to encourage OTHERS.
At some point we have to cross over to a life lived for others. You come for others!! It is not (only) about you. It is not ONLY about whether you think you will get anything out of it, or whether you need it or not, or whether you feel like it or not, or whether it is easy for you to come or not. It is about you coming to love and encourage others.
Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love”. Church is a place of devotion to one another, and affection for one another. These relationships with one another are NOT to be shallow relationships that we can take or leave.
1 Peter “Love the brotherhood”. The ISV says, “Keep on loving the community of believers”. We are to LOVE each other so much that wild horses couldn’t keep us apart! I have no desire to turn this into some kind of legalistic pressure to be at meetings or Bible studies, but to awaken our hearts to love to be with each other.
1 John 5:1 “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever is born of God loves the child born of him”. Those who are born of God love others born of God, and love to be with them. I hear so often that so and so is saved. Do they love the family of God? Do they love to be with God’s people? If they don’t, that is leaves some doubt as to whether they are born of God or not.
WAYS OF THINKING that keep us from really connecting with each other. One: We are satisfied to live without this close communion of the saints. The rule of the kingdom is that we get what we ask for and seek for. God gives us what we hunger for. Do we want this? Or are we content to just say that we are brothers, but in practice we are competitors, or detached and distant, and indifferent to one another. How much love and fellowship do we really want?
Two: I don’t see that it matters if I am there or not. I am not important and feel I have nothing to offer. That comes from a failure to see yourself as an instrument of the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ. Your life and personality and abilities are instruments through which the Holy Spirit will bless others; don’t forget that.
Three: I stay close to the Lord without going to church. That just isn’t true! You can be deceived SO easily on your own! Thinking you can be close to God on your own, is a failure to see that you need what others have to give in order to become complete. God so formed the body that the members need each other.
Four: I hear inner voices that say “you don’t fit in here”. “These people are not like you. They are not your age, their families are different. One lady came to a life group and said afterwards, I was sitting there thinking “what do I have in common with these people?”! Satan plants this thought in almost everyone’s mind at some time. But the Bible says “we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free….” If the Holy Spirit can make people SO DIFFERENT as Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, fit in together, he can make you and the people you think are so different fit together.
It is the Spirit who makes us one. It’s not because other people are like us, or have the same life circumstances we do. What we share in common is far greater than our differences.
Fifth: I AM REALLY BUSY! I have so many other things to do on weekends or other times I could meet with other believers. For some people church things are what we do if nothing else at all comes up! We all have things that come up that keep us occasionally from being with other saints. But in the end we all end up doing what we want to do. Ask the Lord to give you such a love for being with his people that that becomes the priority around which you organize your other activities.
Sixth: I don’t want my pain, sorrows, or my faults or weaknesses to be exposed. But those are the times you most badly need to assemble with the saints! We are not here to put on a front. We can drop all pretenses. We come because we are thirsty. We come because we are needy.
Seventh: I’m not good enough. In the church we don’t think in that category of who is good enough. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. We come as one people purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Saying, “I’m not good enough” can also be a cover up for wanting to stay where you are spiritually because that is what’s comfortable. Do you know that it is good to be around people who are more mature than you, who pray more, or have more faith, or are living more in joy and than you are. Proverbs 13:20 says, “Those who walk with wise men will be wise”.
Eight: I don’t want to risk being hurt...again. I don’t know what the number of people are who don’t go to church any longer because of some painful situation is but it is a large number. The danger of isolation is far greater than the danger of whatever you might be afraid of happening to you at church. Love involves risk! And you’ve probably hurt someone too! Many times we just need to humble ourselves, start living for others, and jump in.
The Moravian church was made up of Christian refugees, fleeing persecution. They settled in Germany on land owned by a godly, wealthy Christian, Count Zinzendorf. They were an unusually sincere and sacrificial and but they experienced conflict and jealousy, and selfish ambition, and lacked a sense of oneness. Zinzendorf himself was concerned about this and spent much time in prayer about it.
Then while they were sharing communion on the morning of August 13, 1727, the Holy Spirit fell upon them. It became known as the Moravian Pentecost. One author described what happened this way, “All who had quarreled in the days gone by made a covenant of loyalty and love…. They attained the firm conviction that they were all one in Christ. They had the gift of Christian union. They had won that spirit of brotherly love which only the great Good Spirit could give. They had won that sense of fellowship with Christ and with one another.”
A Moravian poet wrote this about their experience:
They walked with God in peace and love, but failed with one another; While sternly for the faith they strove, brother fell out with brother; But He in Whom they put their trust, Who knew their frames, that they were dust; Pitied and healed their weakness...One cup they drank, one bread they broke, one baptism shared, one language spoke, forgiving and forgiven. Then forth they went, with tongues aflame, in one blest theme delighting, the love of Jesus and his name, God’s children all uniting!
The Moravians simply said, “We learned to love”… “It seemed as if God had taken all our differences out of our hearts”. Out of that work of the Holy Spirit came a prayer meeting that went on 24 hours a day for 114 years. And it has been said by church historians that this small group of people did more to evangelize the entire world in the following 20 years that the entire church had done in the previous 200 years!
When the Holy Spirit falls, he makes us close to one another. He makes us belong to one another. He makes us one in heart and soul.
May great grace be upon us to live in this kind of fellowship in the Spirit.