Life On Life Community (And Why It Matters) Part Two

Interlocked handsIn the first part of this two part post, we discussed how living life on life community with other believers is not an option but a command. In this post, I want to give you an idea about what believers in community should look like based on the early church community found in Acts 2. By examining the interaction of these believers we will get a practical view of how christians can biblically fulfill the command to live life on life community.

When we get to Acts 2, the early church in Jerusalem is off to a strong start. Peter had just preached a powerful apology for the gospel resulting in around 3,000 people coming to Christ. These believers very quickly adapted to a social structure based on the gospel that is surprisingly simple but profound:

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42 ESV)

In this one short verse we see four criteria that should form the basis for all life on life community among believers. This early church:

  • Devoted themselves to the apostles teaching - Community must be based on the gospel. This must be what brings us together and unifies us. This should also be our focus. When we are together, we should discuss the gospel truth that we are being taught in corporate worship. Community becomes the lab, as it were, where we reinforce and practice the truth of the gospel.
  • Fellowshipped regularly - These believers did life together. They spent time with each other. They got to know each other. The word for fellowship in this verse (koinonia) implies sharing and participation. Whatever they did whether it was work or play they learned to do it together.
  • Broke Bread - This means that the early church regularly celebrated the Lord’s supper and they ate meals together. Both of these activities imply a sharing of experience in spiritual and physical realms. As believers they were in common celebrating the spiritual experience of the Lord’s supper. As people they were in common celebrating their humanity by sharing meals.
  • Prayed - This community was faithful in praying for the church, for the spread of the gospel, and for each other.

It is important to note that this picture of community should not be viewed from an idealistic or utopian standpoint. They were flawed believers just as we are today. Yes they took community seriously, as should we, but they had to struggle with sin just like we do. Perfect community will not be achieved this side of heaven. When viewing this picture of the early church we should not be legalistic or rigid about what life on life community should look like rather we should be convicted that community that resembles the basics listed here should be a part of every body of believers.

So what should life on life community look like? Much of that will depend on your context. Sufficed to say that it must happen and it must happen beyond the four walls of the building where your church gathers. Community can’t have the impact that God intended unless it is active before the watching eyes of the world. After all, the last command that the Lord gave before he returned was to go and make disciples.

If you would like to ground yourself in good Biblical teaching on community consider the following:

When The Church Was A Family - Joseph Hellerman

Total Church - Steve Timmis and Tim Chester

Community - Brad House

A Meal With Jesus - Tim Chester

Life Together - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Life On Life Community (And Why It Matters) Part One

Interlocked handsYears ago, trend forecaster Faith Popcorn coined the phrase “cocooning” to describe the social shift of people interacting less and retreating to the safety and comfort of their homes. The development of broadband internet, high definition television, and 3D gaming have fueled the exodus from the public square to the privacy of the entertainment room. Even when people are in public, a casual scan reveals that many still quasi-cocoon as they interact with their smartphones as much or even more than they do with other humans. We are a people who love our entertainment and technology who don’t want to be bothered by the inconvenience of having to expend energy on social entanglements.

Cocooning as a social phenomena may seem novel, but its roots go all the way back to the Garden of Eden. God the Father exists in perfect community with the Son and the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:26) and he created Adam and Eve to enjoy perfect community with Him and with each other. When Adam and Eve sinned, that perfect community was broken. Instead of serving others and seeking their good, we now look out for number one. We also struggle with living dependent lives whether that is depending on God or each other. The resistance to live in community is, therefore, not primarily a social problem or a technology problem, but is a sin problem.

When Jesus walked this earth, He experienced firsthand our wicked behavior and our hesitation to live together in community. His death on the cross for sin, opened the door to restoration and reconciliation. The Apostle Paul put it best in Galatians 3 when he wrote:

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

(Galatians 3:27-29 ESV)

Christ has broken down the barriers that prevent all believers from living life together in community. It is now not only possible for believers to do life together but it is commanded.

All throughout the New Testament, there are countless admonitions to be or do something for one another. Here are just a few examples:

  • 1 John 4:11-12 – Love one another
  • 2 Corinthians 13:11 – Comfort one another
  • Romans 12:16 – Live in harmony with one another
  • Ephesians 5:21 – Submit to one another
  • James 5:16 – Confess your sins to one another
  • Hebrews 3:12-13 – Exhort one another

The only way that we can fulfill these commands and the many others that dot the landscape of the New Testament is by being together with other believers. Community is not optional it is essential. In part two we will look at a biblical example of community and learn some practical steps to begin living life on life with other believers.

Imperishable Beauty

Some time ago a reader of this site asked if I could address a concern in his life. He had been pursuing a young lady and beginning to think about marriage, but rather suddenly found that he was no longer attracted to her. She was a godly person and just the kind of woman he could see himself settling down with. But then he looked at her and saw that the physical attracted had just plain disappeared. What could he do? What had gone wrong? Michael McKinley recently addressed a question much like this over at the 9Marks blog, so I will begin with his thoughts and add my own.

I want to encourage this young man to do three things:

Look in the Mirror. Start by taking a look in the mirror. “It’s unlikely that the paunch hanging over the waistband of your cargo shorts represents her idea of masculine perfection. And even if women are less hung up on physical appearances, you’re probably not the romantic and emotional connection she’s been dreaming of her whole life either.” Exactly so. It smacks of pride to look at this woman, created by God in his image, and to determine that she is not up to your standards. Men are often looking for an ideal of physical perfection even though they are far from the male equivalent. Why begin with a mirror? Because, as Michael points out, we’re all making compromises. That complete package who is perfect in every way—from the physical to the spiritual to the realm of character—that person doesn’t exist; and if she did, you’d drag her down in no time.

Look at Your Character. I have written regularly and as forthrightly as I know about young men and their dedication to pornography. Porn is giving young men a completely unrealistic view of women, elevating the physical and completely ignoring all matters of character. Have you ever watched a pornographic video that emphasized beautiful character? Exactly. It’s ridiculous to even imagine it. Five or ten or twenty years of dedication to pornography will go a long way to convincing you that only beauty and sexiness will maintain your interest in the long run. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth. Need proof? Just look to Hollywood and these ugly old men who marry the beautiful starlets, only to grow tired of them a few months later. No amount of beauty can overcome sour character.

Look at the Bible. Best of all, look to the Bible. Read the book of Proverbs three or four times. Here is a whole book dedicated to young men, so read it and see what it says about choosing a wife. From beginning to end it will contrast the wise woman with the foolish woman, showing how the ideal wife is marked not by physical perfection but by the unfading beauty of godly character. Eventually you’ll find your way to Proverbs 31:30 and read “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Our God is a God of beauty and he rates physical attractiveness far, far below what Peter refers to as “the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:4). If you choose beauty over character, you are a fool.

The reality is that physical beauty is attractive and wonderful and a reflection of God’s character, but in this world it is also fleeting and fading. You may marry a woman who is physically perfect in every way, be she is only ever one illness or disease or accident away from disfigurement. Then only character will remain—character that may be sweet and joyful, or character that may grow bitter and resentful.

Does physical attractiveness have any function in marriage? Sure it does. It matters. But it matters very, very little in comparison to character. Here’s the rub: If you cannot be attracted to beautiful character, you won’t remain attracted to physical beauty. So should you keep pursuing that godly young woman who just isn’t attractive enough for you? My concern isn’t for you, it’s for her. I wouldn’t advise you to stop pursuing her, but I might advise her to run away from you!

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A La Carte (12/26)

The Lightkeepers is Irene Howat’s excellent series of short biographies for kids. The whole series is down to $2.99 on Kindle: Ten Boys Who Didn’t Give In; Ten Girls Who Used Their Talents; Ten Girls Who Made a Difference; Ten Girls Who Changed the World; Ten Girls Who Didn’t Give In; Ten Girls Who Made History; Ten Boys Who Made History; Ten Boys Who Changed the World; Ten Boys Who Made a Difference; Ten Boys Who Used Their Talents.

The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast - The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast, which she writes herself, is often profoundly biblical, and this year is no exception. You can click the link to watch the video, or click here to read the transcript.

My Daughter’s Beauty - “How do I raise my daughter to know the true definition of beauty in a culture such as ours? How do I cultivate an image in her that is rooted in the beauty of Jesus and not the allure of a distorted sexuality?” Brandon Barker of The Village Church offers three helps.

The Pastor’s Wife - This is a dilemma every pastor faces: How much information does he share with his wife? Brian Croft takes a stab at an answer.

Good News/Bad News - Gene Veith: “An appeals courts has given a victory to Christian colleges suing over Obamacare’s requirement that they provide free contraceptives and morning-after pills.  But another appeals court has upheld the requirement for Christian-owned businesses.”

Monergism Books Sale - Monergism Books is having a post-Christmas inventory reduction sale, which means there are lots of great books heavily discounted.

Amazon’s Disruption - An article at Forbes suggests that Amazon’s book dominance is ripe for a big disruption. 

Revival only come when He sends it.  He only sends it when His people need it.  Surely we His people need it now. —Richard Owen Roberts

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