Thursday, February 4, 2010

Gospel Community

From Redeemer Presbyterian Church's Fellowship Group Manual:

1. We are to be a worshiping community. The message of the gospel is that Christ
died for us while we were yet sinners– when we were separated from him and wanted
nothing to do with him. We are not defined by what we did or have done to become
God’s people, but by what God has done in Christ to make us his . We are therefore,
first and foremost, a people who are grateful to God and who stand amazed at the
wonders of his love. As a result, we worship God with our praises and by celebrating
the Lord’s supper.

2. We are to be an accepting community. The message of the gospel is that we have
been accepted at our worst. We are to extend a similar acceptance to one another
without demanding that they change before we offer it to them. We need
neither frown upon nor be shocked by other people’s sin and weaknesses. We are to
extend grace rather than judgment.

3. We are to be a holy community. Though we are to accept people as they are, we are
not to be content with leaving others where they are. The gospel tells us that we are
destined to become like Jesus and that God has already begun the process of
changing us from glory unto glory. We are to urge one another to throw off what is
not in keeping with what God has made us to be and to put on all that is in
accordance with the new reality of our status as sons and daughters of God.

4. We are to be a truth-telling community. Bonhoeffer writes that “there is no kindness
more cruel than the kindness which consigns another person to their sin.” The gospel
gives us the motivation to truly care about people. We are to be marked by gentle but
honest truth telling which will lead others to want to change. We won’t be harsh
because we know our own weaknesses and flaws. But neither will we shrink back out
of a fear that we will be rejected for we have the only acceptance which ultimately
matters. We can also hear the truth from others. Because we are accepted in Christ,
we are free to admit our flaws.

5. We are to be an upbuilding and encouraging community. The work of Christ in the
church is oikodomeo, or "building up". "God is the one who can build you up" (Acts
20:32) and "In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy
temple in the Lord" (Eph. 2:21). The church grows not by joining physical stones but
by joining and uniting human lives filled with the Spirit of God. So, too, the main work
of the living stones themselves is oikodomeo. "Therefore encourage one another and
build each other up" (I Thess. 5:11) and "Speaking the truth in love...the whole body,
joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in
love, as each part does its work." (Eph. 4:15-16). Because of the acceptance which
comes to us in the gospel, we do not have to resort to tearing others down in order to
feel good about ourselves. Petty rivalries and competitiveness vanquish. Confident
that we are loved by God, we are free to encourage others and desire the best for
them. We are enabled to work for the prosperity and success of others.

6. We are to be a sacrficially generous and giving community. Paul writes, “For you
know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes
he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9) We
are to follow suit: spending and being spent on behalf of others. The early Christians
were known for their radical generosity: “All the believers were together and had
everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as
he had need” (Acts 2:44,45) and “No one claimed that any of his possessions was his
own, but they shared everything they had...There were no needy persons among
them. From time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the
money from the sales and put it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone
as he had need (Acts 4:32-35). We also ought to be known for being promiscuous
with our money and possessions.

7. We are to be a suffering community. Jesus loved us while we were yet enemies. He
didn’t retaliate against us. He suffered our slighting of him and the wrath of God on
the cross in order that we might be turned into his friends. We also are to avoid
retaliation. We are love to the point of suffering whether that suffering love is
directed toward those inside the community or outside the community. We are to
offer forgiveness to those who harm or persecute us.

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