Why We Need Community – Part Two

WHY WE NEED COMMUNITY? – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whyweneedcommunity2Introduction: Today we’re going to look at part 2 of the message titled – “Why We Need Community?” Sometimes people have a false impression about community. They think that getting into small groups means losing all your freedom and letting others control your life. That’s not true and today we will learn what is and is not community.

Acts 2 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Overall Background: The Book of Acts gives us the history of the first church. It tells us how the church grew by leaps and bounds after Jesus ascended into heaven. There are things in this book that we are supposed to copy and then things that were not meant to be copied. For e.g. In chapter 2 we read that the Holy Spirit came as a rushing mighty wind and rested as tongues of fire over the disciples. We cannot replicate that today. It was a once-for-all event. Such things belong to what John Stott called the “honeymoon period” of the church. Then there are things from the early church that can be copied. For e.g. 46 “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.” Meaning: the first church not only met at the temple for worship but they also fellowshipped from house to house. And what was the result? 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. In other words, the lost world saw the love among these Christians and they were drawn to them.

Listen carefully – there’s a reason why Christianity is struggling in America. It’s not because there is less preaching or worship or the Holy Spirit. It’s because most Christians in America are living in isolation. Somehow they have the false idea that Christianity is only about coming to church on Sunday mornings and then – we’ll see you when we see you. Community is a non-essential. It’s a headache. It’s a burden.

Question: What do you think of community? Are you afraid of community? Do you realize how important it is for your own life and the growth of the church? Are you willing to connect with others in the body of Christ? Are you saved?

Unfortunately, many people have a lot of misunderstandings and fears about community. In this message we will understand what community is not and what true community is. Let the Holy Spirit open your eyes to the truth about the Body of Christ.

I. WHAT COMMUNITY IS NOT.

Here are the three things it’s not:

  1. TRUE BIBLICAL COMMUNITY IS NOT COMMUNISM.

Acts 2  44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

Some people have misunderstood what this means. They think that it means we are to take from the rich and give to the poor. They think that it means we have to reduce everyone down to the same level, something like communism. That’s not true. Sure – in the early church, they had to resort to pulling their resources together to help each other. This was to help the new movement get on its feet. People had lost their homes and jobs because of their faith. Hence they had to sell “their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” But nowhere is this prescribed for all Christians through the ages. God is not against people working hard and getting rich or creating a better world for their children. God loves the poor but He also loves the rich.

Illustration: In London’s Hyde Park, at the Speaker’s Corner, a communist stood up to make his speech. He went on and one and then pointed to an poor elderly man in the crowd and said – “When the communists are in charge, they will put a new suit on that old man.” To which a pastor in the audience shouted back – “When Jesus is in charge, He’ll put a new man inside that old suit.” Couple of years ago I was speaking at a retreat for Chinese scholars from a big university. They were sent here for their education. They were the cream of the crop. I spoke to them on “Why Jesus is the most popular person of all times?” After the second night, they challenged me saying communism was better. So I gave them that same line. They didn’t know what to say.

Community means we need to take care of each other. When we see someone in the body in need we are to come together and help them. Listen to Deuteronomy 15:11 “therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’” Again, 1 John 3:17 “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”

But let me caution – this does not mean that you can sit on your blessed assurance, make bad decisions, and expect everyone to take care of you. That’s called taking advantage of the generosity of your church family. I’ve seen some of that too.

2.  TRUE BIBLICAL COMMUNITY IS NOT A CAGE.

46 So continuing daily

Some people mistakenly think that being in a community means being stuck in a cage – you can no longer do what you want to do, where you want to go, and how you want to live. Now you are obligated to everyone else. That’s just not true. Sure – in the early church, they had to come together and stick to each other because they were all baby Christians. They needed each other 24/7. But nowhere is this prescribed for all Christians for all ages. God does not expect us to start a commune and build high fences and shun each other if we get out of line. God loves variety. He loves how we are different in the body of Christ.

What this does mean is that we are to come together and build relationships with others in the body of Christ. Listen to what Jesus said in John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Again in 1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Community is not controlling each other’s lives. It’s coming together because we have the same blood running through us – the blood of Christ. It’s being family.

3.  TRUE BIBLICAL COMMUNITY IS NOT A CLICK.

Some people have misunderstood what this means. They mistakenly think that community is some kind of an exclusive group of the chosen ones. They think that somehow they are better than others. That’s just not true. It is true that Christians have a whole new perspective on life. It’s true that now they live under the direction of the Holy Spirit, which is very hard for lost people to understand. Having said that, community is not a click. God wants us to connect with each other in such a way that the world would see us and want to join in.

Listen to John 13:35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” When the lost world sees our community, they should want to join us. When they see the way we care for each other, help each other, encourage each other, hold each other accountable, they should want to join us.

II. WHAT IS COMMUNITY?

Here are the three commonalities that hold a Christian Community together.

  1. TRUE BIBLICAL COMMUNITY MEANS HAVING A COMMON FAITH.

Acts 2 44 Now all who believed were together,

The basis for our community is what we believe. It is our common faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior. You take that away and we are no different than any worldly club. As long as we keep Christ at the center of our lives and seek to help each other draw closer to Christ, we are a true community of faith. This is why community is not about controlling each other. It is about leading each other to trust Christ more each and every day. When we are together in our faith, we grow in our faith. This is how it was always meant to be. Are you growing in your faith? If you noticed, I didn’t ask – “Are you growing in your knowledge?”

  1. TRUE BIBLICAL COMMUNITY MEANS HELPING EACH OTHER IN OUR COMMON STRUGGLE.

and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

Even though community is not communism. It is communal. We help each other out through our common struggles in life. All of us have physical struggles (we get sick or have unforeseen circumstances), emotional struggles (we feel sorrow, regrets, guilt, shame, loss, doubts, fears), financial struggles (money is not everything but it’s a very important thing), and spiritual struggles (past failures, present mistakes, future doubts). For this and more, God wants us to stick together. Listen to Galatians 6   1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

  1. TRUE BIBLICAL COMMUNITY MEANS HAVING COMMON GOALS.

46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people.

Community is not just about personal growth or the growth of those in the community but it is also about those who are outside the community. Christians began to have favor with their neighbors. Meaning: the world began to look at the church with a sense of admiration and longing. Won’t that be something if we could have that today?

And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Meaning: The church kept on growing by leaps and bounds.

Are you saved? Are you connected?

Why We Need Community – Part 1

WHY WE NEED COMMUNITY? – pt 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whyweneedcommunityIntroduction: This weekend I am beginning a two-part message titled “Why We Need Community?” In our world of hyper-connectivity with Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, we’re still isolated. With isolation comes anxiety and anxiety brings bad decisions.

1 Samuel 21   10 Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. 11 And the servants of Achish said to him, “Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of him to one another in dances, saying: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands’?” 12 Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard.

Overall Background: I’m sure all of us are familiar with David in the Bible – the shepherd boy who rescued his father’s sheep from a lion and a bear, the young lad who defeated Goliath the Philistine giant, or the great warrior who subdued thousands of Israel’s enemies. But there’s one image of David that’s very hard to imagine. Listen to verse 13 So he changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard. What in the world is David doing? He’s acting as if he’s lost his mind! The clue to his erratic behavior is found in the question that Ahimelech the priest asks David when he came to him: “Why are you alone, and no one is with you?” David is running from Saul and he is all alone. What happens when people are alone? They become afraid. What happens when people are afraid? They make bad decisions. Listen to verse 10 Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath (Philistines). In other words, he jumped from the frying pan into the fire. Talk about a bad decision!

It’s amazing what loneliness will cause a person to do. It will cause people to be afraid and when people are afraid, they will make decisions that they would never make in their right minds. In other words, loneliness leads to fear and fear leads to foolish choices.

Question: Are you filled with anxiety? Are you making bad decisions? Are you isolated? You say – “Oh no. I’ve got friends.” Are they the right kind of friends? When you get saved you become part of this body. Are you saved?

This morning we will learn why we need community from the life of David. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you.

I. NEED FOR TRUE FRIENDSHIPS 

1 Samuel 20 41 “…And they (Jonathan and David) kissed one another; and they wept together, but David more so. 42 Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, since we have both sworn in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘May the LORD be between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants, forever.’ ”

Background: Who is Jonathan? He was the son of King Saul, king of Israel. Jonathan was David’s best friend but his father Saul hated David. It all began when David returned after defeating the Philistines and the women came out singing and dancing, saying – “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” This made Saul very angry and from that day forward he began to eye David. He tried every possible way to kill him. Jonathan was aware of his father’s hatred against David but he also knew that David was the rightful heir to the throne and he was willing to stand with David even though it would cost him the kingdom. He repeatedly tried to encourage him. Later in 1 Samuel 23 16 Then Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God. Even though David was a man after God’s own heart, he still needed a Jonathan to strengthen him. John Piper said – “Don’t ever think that a man is so strong that he does not need to be strengthened in God.” Listen to how Jonathan encouraged David – 17 “…Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that.” 18 So the two of them made a covenant before the LORD. Can you imagine the courage that came into David’s heart because of Jonathan’s words? That’s what true friends do.

Beth Shean

Beth Shean (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

All of us need a Jonathan in our lives. All of us need friends who will love us unconditionally and stand with us even if the whole world turns against us. David loved his friend Jonathan right to the end. In the famous battle on Mount Gilboa, the Philistines killed Saul and Jonathan and hung their bodies on the walls of Beth Shean. Nicole and I have been there. Valiant men came and took down their bodies and David rewarded those men. He even wrote a beautiful song in honor of Jonathan and Saul. David understood the value of a true friend.

Application: Do you have such a friend/friends? Do you have such Jonathans in your life? Many people are loners, especially when it comes to the Christian life. No wonder they fall apart. No wonder they make poor decisions. Are you making poor decisions? Could it be it’s because you are a spiritual loner? “I just don’t have no friends.” You have to be friendly to have friends.

II. DANGER OF ISOLATION 

1 Samuel 20 42 “…So he (David) arose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.”

Background: After Jonathan and David wept, it was time to part. Jonathan went back to the city of Gibeah, north of Jerusalem and David went 3 miles towards the city of Nob, southwest of Jerusalem. Listen to 1 Samuel 21:1 Now David came to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech was afraid when he met David, and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one is with you?” For the first time David is all alone and Ahimelech could probably see that in his eyes. Fear is contagious. David’s fear transferred to Ahimelech. What happens when people are afraid? They make bad decisions:

Here’s bad decision #1verse 2 So David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has ordered me on some business, and said to me, ‘Do not let anyone know anything about the business on which I send you, or what I have commanded you.’ And I have directed my young men to such and such a place. That’s a lie. Out of fear, David is lying. By the way, this lie would cost Ahimelech his life as well as the life of 84 other men and women, children, nursing infants, and livestock.

Ahimelech giving sword to David - Aert de Gelder

Ahimelech giving sword to David – Aert de Gelder

Here’s bad decision #2 – verse 8 And David said to Ahimelech, “Is there not here on hand a spear or a sword? For I have brought neither my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king’s business required haste.” He keeps lying. Verse 9 So the priest said, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, there it is, wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you will take that, take it. For there is no other except that one here.” And David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.” That should’ve been enough a wakeup call. God was reminding David to trust Him as he had done as a young lad against Goliath. David is too scared to think straight and he chooses to trust in Goliath’s old sword. Out of fear, David has lost his faith in God.

Here’s bad decision #3 – verse 7 Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the LORD. And his name was Doeg, an Edomite, the chief of the herdsmen who belonged to Saul. Uh oh…David must have noticed this Edomite servant of Saul near the tabernacle and he immediately got scared. What did he do? Verse 10 Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. This was a Philistine city 23 miles to the west. What is worse is that it was the hometown of Goliath! This is the guy who killed their hometown hero and he shows up with Goliath’s sword! David has lost all sense of wisdom.

The Philistines recognize David and they tell their king – “Isn’t he the one who has killed our thousands?” Listen to David’s response – 12 Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard. How tragic! This courageous man of God out of fear has been making one bad decision after another and now he is acting like a fool. Many of us make foolish decision and keep sliding down the slippery slope of despair when we are isolated from God’s people.

Application: Have you been making some bad decisions in your life? Have you gone from faith to fear? Where are the Jonathans in your life? Are you connected to God’s people? If you are honest, you would agree – this place has kept many of y’all from making some very foolish decisions in your life?

III. GOD’S PURPOSE IN COMMUNITY

David wrote Psalm 56 as a prayer during this time. Listen to it – 1 Be merciful to me, O God, for man would swallow me up; Fighting all day he oppresses me. 2 My enemies would hound me all day, For there are many who fight against me, O Most High…6 They gather together, They hide, they mark my steps, When they lie in wait for my life. He is asking God to come to His rescue. God answers His prayer. He doesn’t strike Saul. He doesn’t strike Doeg the Edomite. He doesn’t strike the Philistines. What does God do? 1 Samuel 22   1 David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. This was a well-known place in Judah. It was 10 miles from Gath and 15 miles from Bethlehem. Once again David prayed like he did back in Gath. One such prayer is Psalm 142. Listen to the words – 1  I cry out to the LORD with my voice…4 Look on my right hand and see, For there is no one who acknowledges me; Refuge has failed me; No one cares for my soul. 5 I cried out to You, O LORD: I said, “You are my refuge, My portion in the land of the living…7 Bring my soul out of prison, That I may praise Your name; The righteous shall surround me, For You shall deal bountifully with me.” What David is saying is “God – I need you and I need some righteous people to come alongside of me.”

Did God answer David’s prayer? 1 Samuel 22  1 “…So when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him.” God sent people to David. By the way, they are not perfect people. 2 “And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him.”

God’s plan for us hasn’t changed. If David needed community, you and I need community. The reason marriages fall apart is because there is no one there who is holding people accountable. The reason children go off the deep end is because there is no one holding our young people accountable. The reason men and women make foolish decision is because they are going about as Lone Rangers, trying to take on the enemy. It was never meant to be this way. God designed us to work in a community.

In this coming year our focus at Clearview is community. We want you to plug in through our Sunday School, Fish groups, and Clearview Circles into some kind of community that will give you the courage to face life and make wise choices. No amount of bible study and prayer can take the place of godly connection.

Simple Question

  1. Are you connected to Christ?
  2. Are you connected to the Body of Christ
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