Tonight I would like to speak about community. This is another important tenet of our church and ministry here at The Furnace.
As well as Ministry to the Lord, and being a people who are set apart to God; having a community of people who love each other, know each other transparently, who lovingly minister to each other and others is another important component of this church. We need community to grow and prosper and share the love of Jesus.
And the type of community I am talking about was started by Jesus really even before the church even existed. It started with the first followers of Jesus with Jesus.
There were communities in Israel, neighborhoods centered around the synagogues, but Jesus had different plans for His people. His Followers.
When Jesus arrived on the scene in Israel, He called people to repentance to point their minds and hearts toward God, and in doing so created a new social order. It was all about “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.” Out with the old, and in with the new.
Looking at the people in Israel at that time, God was viewed really to be out of reach, and really He was. The people caused Him to be out of reach. They were out of reach. They were out of touch with their God. His chosen people, did not look to Him, they looked to their man made traditions.
Look at the Temple that was the House of God. It was now a place of business run by priest politicians and the traditional religious crowd.
God was not even in the picture for most, but Jesus comes along, and really stirs things up; starts preaching that the Kingdom of God is at hand, and actually reveals that Kingdom to the people, and causes a shift. It was a supernatural shift. God was in this shift, that’s why He sent Jesus.
The supernatural was exposed, and it seemed on a daily basis as we read the Gospels. For sure it was something they had never experienced and probably only heard about that the old prophets did here and there.
As people began to be a part of this new kingdom, they moved away from the old traditions and religious structures, into a new one. That new structure being unveiling in Acts 2. Social relationships changed as these new “Christians” began creating new communities within the larger community. But these Christians didn’t hide away, they infused themselves into the older established communities revealing the Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ. And with this infusion, the older community began grafting themselves into the newer because there was life.
This new group, had everything in common as it states in Acts 2:44, and I like what the Contemporary English Version says about Acts 2:42.
“They spent their time learning from the apostles, and they were like family to each other. They also broke bread and prayed together.”
This was a growing active community. Growing in the knowledge of God, as well as knowing each other, and with that knowledge, they ministered to each other, and within that, love for each other was established as a family.
In verse 47 it states that they had favor with everyone. In some versions it states these new believers were liked by everyone, and that is agreeable. Having favor is being liked.
Wow! Today Is the church liked? Do we have favor?
Why did they have favor? The majority of these believers were found to be loving, caring, merciful, and accepting. Rich, poor, people from another cultures, different education, it didn’t matter who they were; people were all treated equally. If someone had a need, it was met.
Theses believers practiced pure religion. They loved their neighbors.
I like what the Apostle Paul said in:
Galatians 3:27-29, “All of you are God's children because of your faith in Christ Jesus, 27 And when you were baptized, it was as though you had put on Christ in the same way you put on new clothes. 28 Faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a man or a woman. 29 So if you belong to Christ, you are now part of Abraham's family, and you will be given what God has promised.
We are all God’s children because of our faith in Jesus Christ. We are His sons and daughters. But most importantly, we are all part of His family. We are all equal no matter who we are, or where we came from, and we are all partakers of His glory. All is available equally from God if we pursue Him.
Today, that truly goes against the norm where people seem to have their eyes focused on the world structure. Where we are broken up by race, income, education, culture, how we look; are we pretty or not? The list goes on, but in the Kingdom of God, we are on a level playing field. Or we should be.
We are all sinners who need the grace of God. It is all about the heart. Right?
Today we need to get back to the “we are all equal thing.” The church needs to get back to being a family again. If we can’t be family, how can we be an example of Christ’s love, if we can’t love one another?
How are we supposed to fulfill the great commission if we are not one in the Spirit?
It starts with us in the church first. We must be examples of the love of Jesus. Pride must be tossed. Pride is the destroyer of community. Pride wants to do what it wants and does not take into account anyone but the pride bearer or bearers.
If we had the love of Jesus, it would be “love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus in John 13:34.
This goes back to knowing the love of Christ, and that only comes from knowing Christ being in a relationship with Christ. It all starts there!
People today, are hurting. They can come together with a group of people but still feel lonely. People are sick, they need. People need, we all need. We are needy. We are needy with out Christ and when we have found Him, we are still needy as we walk out our salvation and He fills us, and makes us whole again. We can be whole. We must believe that. We can be filled, we just ask. We can all be a part of something with no one left out.
Jesus established His church so we would not try to do life alone. We need to see each other moving in the same direction. Forward. We have a new life in front of us. It is always growing if we allow it to. And when we walk together we must view ourselves with equal dignity. Some have not received revelation of Jesus as others, but that’s why we are together. To raise each other up. We need to be compassionate and loving for the weaker, so they will become strong.
The Apostle Paul in Colossians 3 speaks to us as individuals about the new self. Our new life in Christ. He speaks that we who are of Christ, being renewed in our minds by the Word of God, should look at everyone as equal because Christ is in all. He then says starting in verse 12:
“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another…. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
And Jesus says, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Perfect unity, perfect community.
When people come through our doors, many will come in looking for healing; and most, acceptance. They’ll seek a place where they will not be judged. They seek a place where there is love and mercy.
Rarely do people come in to places like ours who want to put up a front to say, “I go to church’, who want to remain sick, unfulfilled or continue in their sin. They want to be free from it. They want love and acceptance. I do. You do. Who doesn’t? Some have no families, so we are to be their family.
“Love one another as I have loved you”, is so huge, and so real.
Jesus our example embraced the hurting and downtrodden. He hung with “sinners” as we read from Mark chapter 2, and He said to His detractors, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”
So Jesus healed people, and set them free from the bondages of this world, and He took away their sins.
When Jesus left to be with His Father in Heaven, His people, His followers, those who believed in Him replicated what He did. That was 2000 years ago. They revealed the kingdom through healing and loving to a degree probably not seen before or for a long time.
How can you know true love if you do not know the author of it? 2000 years ago, they knew the author. It was Jesus.
Our example, the Church in Acts had love for each other, and others, and they displayed it. They walked alongside people. Jesus did. He had His inner circle, but His inner circle, had an inner circle. It was like a large family.
We should walk in that type of friendship and unity as a family. They left us an example.
The church has unfortunately been broken into so many fragments due to doctrinal and theological differences that they have distanced themselves from other believers. It’s really sad.
That disunity has caused us to step away from so many others we may not agree with that don’t know Jesus. Many will not associate with others due to a perceived notion that those people are not our kind; not like us, or they are tainted in some way and should be left alone. “We just don’t hang with those type of people” attitude.
That keeps the Kingdom of God from growing. We begin to choose who is worthy of Jesus, when He calls all to know Him. We become the roadblock to others salvation or even spiritual growth.
Jesus had a far better view of people than we do. He did not accept people’s lifestyles if they went against the Word of God, but He stilled loved them.
“Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Before Jesus was about to die. Even though they hung him on the Cross to die, He still pleaded Mercy to His Father in heaven for them.
What should our thoughts be?
Community in the thinking of Christ, is loving someone to life not passing them by into death. We have freely received love from Him, should we not freely give? As a follower of Christ we don’t have a choice.
He commanded us to love our neighbor.
Loving our neighbor, and establishing Community first in a church body like ours starts by loving unconditionally. Unfortunately, many of us have been raised with conditions. “If you do this I will do that. “ That is not love. Love is serving without getting anything in return. It is loving knowing that the love you have given may not be returned.
Jesus died for all. He gave the ultimate love by dying for those who did not love Him. They hated Him. He died for those who hate Him today.
But what are we willing to die for? Or what are we willing to die to?
I think self is the first thing that should go. That is the first thing that should die, because self is pride. Is it all about us?
Community is giving with no thought of a return. Loving unconditionally. Not expecting a thing. Serving others.
Jesus who was the Christ washed the feet of His disciples in an act of humility and servant hood. Would you be willing to do that? But be willing to do that not to just your friends or family. To someone you don’t even know, or someone you don’t know well. Maybe someone not pretty by your standards or the standards of society. Someone who has a past not like yours. Humility comes into play here, can we humble ourselves to show the love of Christ to another?
1 Peter 3:8, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”
The Apostle Peter had to learn that. Even after he walked with Jesus, he cut off Malchus’s ear when Jesus was arrested to be judged and crucified. But figure this, soon after, empowered by the Holy Spirit, he was preaching a revival where 3000 came to Christ. Humility, love, and mercy under the power and the influence of the Holy Spirit goes a long way.
When your in love with Jesus, and know His heart, and live in the humility and love of Christ, foot washing comes easy. Also building relationships with those who need you becomes easy.
You who are filled with the Holy Spirit with the knowledge of the love of Christ, will move those individuals to follow you to have that relationship like you have with Jesus. In time, they will wash feet.
Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds… but encourage one another.”
We encourage people by our love for one another that we make evident because it is real, and not fake. That may be putting ourselves out, but putting ourselves out even to the point of being transparent, another hard thing to do, draws us ever closer to each other. We are real, because we have emptied ourselves.
Togetherness and putting others before us only comes from a drastic heart change. That heart change only comes from encounter with Jesus through the Holy Spirit. When we are together like the beginnings of the church in Acts 1, being in one accord will easily take form because the same Spirit in us will give us the same heart.
As we move forward here at The Furnace, it is my prayer that our group, however large it gets will always have a sense of family. We may not all have the same blood, but we all have the same Spirit.
With one Spirit leading us, the Spirit of God, it should be easy to love one another in the ups and downs of life, and even when things get dirty. Life is that way. We have been called to stand in the gap for others, and if need be lay down our lives for them so they will be free. Its’ not easy, but Jesus did. Why shouldn’t we. Going the extra mile is what doing life with others is all about. We all grow.
The Apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
Its true. Love will move people from regret and pain, into life, and that life will give life. Family, and community gives life. So lets be that.
And please pray as we grow to be a part of that life giving flow of being a community. In our vision I see community groups throughout the city where we can minister to people where they are at showing them the love of Jesus.
But also, having times we are together loving each other, and doing life together being what Jesus wanted us to be, a great big family. A family that loves and takes care of each other, and loves being with each other, not only breaking bread together, but worshipping together. That's the binding factor of it all. Because one day we will be doing life together worshipping in eternity. So lets start now. Amen!