Tuesday, March 4, 2014

God, Community, and the Gospel

Currently, Steven Leatherbury and I are in the process of creating a small group ministry for our church. We realize that small groups are extremely popular in most churches today, but this is not why we are developing them. Instead, we believe that living in community with other Christians is God's design for his people and is clearly demonstrated in his Word.

Below is our attempt to explain God's design for community, how sin disrupted that design, and how the gospel ultimately redeems and restores God's intention for community. Check it out and let us know what you think.

We Are Designed for Community
The idea of community is grounded in the very nature of God. The Scriptures reveal that God is one in his essence, but three in his Persons. This has been commonly referred to as the doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity teaches us that God has always existed in community. The Persons of the Godhead, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, have from eternity past enjoyed a loving and intimate relationship with one another prior to human existence.

Genesis 1:26-27 teach that all humans are made in the image of the Triune God. This means we were made to imitate and reflect God in many ways. One such way we reflect God’s image is through relationships. We were designed not only to be in relationship with God, but also with other humans. That is why after God made the first man he said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” (Genesis 2:18).

The reason that is not good for man to be alone is because when man is isolated he is unable to properly image God through relationships. In other words, isolation is contrary to God’s design for humans. Therefore, since God exists in community and we were created in his image, we too should exist in community.

Sin Disrupts God’s Purposes for Community
In the book of Genesis, we discover that the paradise God created does not last. Man commits treason against God, ushering sin into creation and wreaking havoc in its wake. Not only is man’s loving relationship with God destroyed, but his relationship with others is also deeply damaged.

The effects of sin on human relationships are seen clearly just one chapter after the Fall. Cain becomes gripped with anger, hatred, and jealousy and murders his brother. This is not an isolated event, however. The New Testament reaffirms the damage that sin has done to the peaceful and loving community we once enjoyed in the Garden of Eden (See Romans 3:13-17 and Titus 3:3). 

Our own experience tells us this is true. Instead of extending grace and forgiveness to others; we harbor anger, hatred and bitterness. Instead of using encouraging and edifying speech; we slander, gossip, and lie to one another. Instead of seeking transparency with others; we prefer isolation in order to masquerade our true identity. Sin disrupts God’s design for community so that we do not live as he intended. 

The Gospel Restores Community
The gospel is the good news that Jesus did something for us that we could never do for ourselves. Through his life, death, and resurrection Jesus secured for us forgiveness of sins and restores our relationship with God. These benefits come through trusting in Jesus, alone. We don’t believe our moral efforts and religious performances can earn a right standing with our Creator. We believe it is exhausting and burdensome to rely on our own good deeds to earn God’s acceptance. So instead we completely trust in Jesus’ perfect life to give us the righteousness we desperately need and Jesus’ sacrificial death to remove the wrath we justly deserve for our sin. We believe Jesus’ resurrections proves that his sacrifice for sins was sufficient and that this gospel message is true. All of the benefits and blessings of the gospel are applied only to those who accept them by faith, not by works.

The beauty of the gospel is that it not only reconciles us to God himself, but also to others (See Ephesians 2:11-22). Isolation is man’s response to his sin, but community is man’s appropriate response to God’s redeeming reconciliation. The gospel is what enables us to properly reflect God’s image again by living in a loving, holy community as he designed.

In the future, when Christ returns he will completely restore this fallen world and God's community will be completely perfected, just like it was in the beginning. The curse of the Fall will be removed and God's people will once again enjoy a peaceful relationship not only with him, but also with one another, forever. 

Next week, I will list there reasons why community is needed for our spiritual growth and sanctification.

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