Growing In Faith: Community
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Delivered By
Rev. Christopher Schneider
Delivered On
January 16, 2016
Central Passage
1 Peter 1:22-2:3
Description

Grow in Faith - Community

1 Peter 1:22-2:3; Colossians 3:16

Pastor Chris

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

We’re in the third week of this new campaign where we are focusing on growing up in every way. Last week, this week, and the next two weeks we are talking about growing up in faith, and last week Pastor Jon talked about the Growing in Faith that happens as we gather together to celebrate God’s gifts in His holy house, in this place of worship, and how we take notice of those that aren’t here in worship and we encourage one another to remain in the habit of regularly worshipping TOGETHER.

This week we are talking about growing in faith through community groups, bible studies, Sunday school, Youth Group, small groups, etc. The two reasons for this are so that we 1) Stay connected 2) hear God’s truth through His word. This week is another way of saying that faith is NOT something that you do ONLY on your own. Yes, personal devotion is an important thing; having an individual close relationship with God is important; we are not saying that individual study is UNIMPORTANT! In fact, in two weeks, that will be the focus of this growing in faith series - developing an individual time for you to devote time to God. That kind of growth that happens in your walk of faith as an individual is important, but so is this community.

Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “I’m the kind of person that I do better studying and learning things on my own.” Maybe it gives you more time to process or think; maybe you can do more research and time. You might just be the kind of person that finds it difficult to learn in a group, and I can understand that.

Sometimes there’s that one person in Bible study that always asks questions that don’t relate to you. Sometimes the person leading the Bible Study isn’t nearly as prepared as they should be. Sometimes the people around you are far more interested in talking about their day or week or the things going on in their life than they are in listening, and it distracts you from hearing God’s word. Sometimes the study isn’t interesting or anything pertaining to YOU! Sometimes studying God’s word doesn’t seem like any fun. If those were the reasons for Bible Study, then the logical conclusion would be to dismiss bible study altogether.  

The purpose of Bible study, though, is to GET GOD’S WORD IN YOUR LIFE…Because, here’s what we know about God’s word - IT IS POWERFUL! There is POWER in God’s word. Here are just a few passages that speak to the power of God’s word:

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” It cuts like a sword, right down to the intentions of the heart.

Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,”

Or Isaiah 55:11 says, “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

God sends His Word to do things in our lives, to accomplish the purpose of God. Even when we don’t feel as though God’s Word is having the desired impact on our lives that we WOULD LIKE or the desired impact of those around us that doesn’t change the fact that God’s Word actually DOES SOMETHING! It DOES NOT return to Him empty! His Word is living and active; it is the power of God; and it is breathed by God himself.

Where is the strength in the power of the word? Christ. Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel (the good news of Jesus), for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” The good news of Jesus is the power of God, and hearing God’s Word about Jesus brings faith, and it allows us to “taste and see that the Lord is Good.”  

Our Epistle compares this tasting to the nourishment that happens for a newborn infant as they are fed. In that same way we are to “long for the pure spiritual milk,” which makes us grow up in the faith. The more we experience this, the more our faith grows, and the more our greatest and deepest needs are fulfilled and satisfied. God’s word satisfies your needs.

So, you being actively engaged in community groups (whatever that looks like for you) where God’s word is read, discussed, and applied to the lives of God’s people…MATTERS!

It matters for YOU!! You need the church. One of the most difficult things for us to hear as Americans is, “you can’t do it on your own!” We hate hearing it, because we feel like it speaks against the very fabric of our heritage; we want to feel as though we did it all on our own, that we pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps.

But, when it comes to faith, you need others; you need community; you need the body of Christ, the Church. You need people to correct you when you are heading in the wrong direction; you need encouragement from those that are striving to do the same thing as you - faithfully living for Christ; you need to hear God’s forgiveness proclaimed to you, especially when you fail to live for Him.

It matters for YOU!

It also matters for others in the community

N.T. Wright says it like this: “[that] baby that has recently been born […] now needs to feed, to grow, and to live within the family. Becoming a Christian is about the new life within us first coming to birth, then being nourished and sustained, then growing to maturity.”

The bible talks of the faith an awful lot like physically growing up. It’s something that happens over time as we are taught more and more about the faith, and as we are taught what it means to be members of God’s family.

It is the responsibility of those in the family to help the child grow. Sometimes we, as individuals, don’t grow because there aren’t others reaching out and grabbing ahold of us as we need support.

Perhaps there aren’t those lovingly reminding the person that is talking during Bible Study of the importance of hearing God’s word. Maybe there aren’t mature members of the faith taking others’ hands and bringing them along, showing them the vibrancy and richness of the faith.

Paul says this, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways”(1 Corinthians 11). How can one give up childish ways on the way to [adult] hood if there aren’t those that are guiding, directing, and leading?!

It is the responsibility of the family to care for the family.

The family is also the one that experiences in the JOYS that happen to the members of the family. Just as a parent celebrates when their child is born and as their child reaches milestone after milestone, the body of Christ celebrates as we a person REborn and brought into God’s family, and as we watch one another grow and mature in the faith. We rejoice as we see God at work. The joys remind us of the fact that God is ALWAYS at work in the lives of His people.

And maybe at this point you’re wondering where you fit in...You fit in both of these areas. There are moments when you are weak, and there are moments when you are strong. Some days you do the encouraging…sometimes you NEED the encouragement. Regardless of whether you are weak or STRONG, Christ is always strong, guiding you and His church, which He has created for this very purpose.

How is this community any different, though? Even if you don’t go to church, you know what community is! We see it all around us. Even those that are not part of the Christian church know that having people around to support and encourage is a necessary part of our lives.

Some search for such communities at their local gym. Others search for it in their job. Some find communities of people with like-minds. Some find a community of people based on age, intellect, financial status, etc. There are countless types of communities.

Are THOSE communities any different than this one? I mean, in a gym they provide support and encouragement for you as you work to get in shape; they do it similarly at a job as you work towards a goal, or similarly as you are surrounded by those with like minds.

The ONE DIFFERENCE between all those earthly variations of community and this one is the Word of God, the powerful life-giving Word of God. Community, for us as followers of Jesus, is the body of Christ (the Church) doing the things that the body of Christ DOES - first, looking to Christ, and then pointing one another to Christ.

When we fail, we point one another to Christ, because we find that when we look at the cross, all full of failure, we leave full of forgiveness. When we are broken from the damages of this sinful creation, we look to the cross and see the healing that happens through faith in Jesus, and the promise of the new creation, where a full healing will take place. When we feel tempted, we look to the cross, and we see that Jesus, too, was tempted, but He resisted that temptation. When we feel defeated, we look to the grave, and we see that HE IS NOT DEAD, BUT HE IS ALIVE!

Your faith, your hope, your trust and your confidence are NOT in COMMUNITY! They are NOT in this Community or in any other community, but in Christ alone! This community, this body of Christ, is not here to be your salvation - it is here to remind you of your salvation through Jesus, to announce to you that “you are a forgiven child of God,” to remind you of the new birth that you have through water, and to help you fully live according to the new life that you have in Christ.

We are here to remind you that Jesus died and rose for you, that God has a plan for you and for His Church, and that He is coming again. We are here to remind you to “taste and see that the Lord is good.

So we now have a responsibility and a joy to grow in our faith until we see Him face to face, and we do that together!

We do that together as we display a Christian attitude and way of living in the world. This week during our “table talk,” we are going to encourage you to read and talk about Colossians 3. This is what Colossians says about this display of a Christian life - “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complain against another, forgiving each other; … And above all these put on love, which BINDS everything together in perfect harmony…let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…and whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

We grow together as we PUT ON compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, and as we “bear with one another,” as we take up one another’s burdens, ad we forgive one another.

We grow in faith together as we ask one another the tough questions about the faith. We do that together as we break down the walls of protection that we put up all around us, so that others can see the real us, even when we don’t want to because it makes us feel vulnerable. We do that together as we engage with one another in God’s word and all that it means for our new life - who we were before, who we are now, and who we will be in the future. We do that together as we embrace correction from one another. We do that together when we live out Christian realities and we forgive instead of hold grudges, as we speak the truth in love instead of gossip.

This is a FULL picture of what it looks like in the body of Christ, and many will say that this is far too law-oriented. We will wonder “where is our freedom in Christ.” Shouldn’t I be able to do what I want? Doesn’t Jesus free me from the law so I can do what I want?

ABSOLUTELY NOT! When we were freed from the law, it meant that we were able to do something that we were NEVER able to do before - LIVE FREELY FOR CHRIST!

So, all those things that Paul mentions before are actually true! Jesus wants peace for the Christian community. Jesus wants kindness to be found in the Christian community. Jesus wants forgiveness to be the lifeblood of the Christian community - because after all it is the literal lifeblood of our faith - He give His life (blood), so we have life. Jesus wants His followers to grow strong in the faith. That kind of growth looks like all those things; so that whatever we do, in word or deed, we do it in the name of Jesus.

This kind of attitude, way of living, is not easy. No one said it would be!

In a few weeks we are going to ask YOU ALL to commit to this, to ALL OF IT - gentleness, meekness, kindness, patience, humility, digging deeper in God’s word - because that’s what we do as the body of Christ.

We grow in faith together. We do it more and more as we taste (as we realize, experience, see) that the Lord is, in fact, good. He was then; He is now; and He will be forever.