It Takes a Village

The Transformation Series: “It Takes a Village”
Selected Text, Preached at Harambee Church by Pastor Mike Gunn on October 21st, 2007

“Rejoice with those that rejoice, and weep with those that weep. Be of the same mind toward one another, do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.”
Romans 12:15-16
In the first week we saw that transformation doesn’t come from changing our circumstances and behaviors; it comes from a change of the heart, and that we need to see our lives as being transformed by God through our circumstances. Last week we took a look at our identity, and the benefits of being “Married” to Christ. We also saw that our relationship to Christ is like a marriage, and that infidelity will hurt the relationship. It is imperative that we see ourselves in Christ as His bride who is pure and righteous because of our relationship to Him. It’s the same thing that happens when a person marries into money, who previously wasn’t wealthy. Overnight, the person becomes wealthy, and can enjoy the benefits of that wealth.

Today we are taking a look at how God has saved us into a community called the church, or the “Body of Christ,” and more importantly what the benefits of that community is for your transformation process. While the west is becoming more and more individualistic, people are becoming more and more fragmented, and lonely. We are literally lonely in a sea of humanity. Why is this so? Why do I feel disconnected to others? What’s wrong with me? There a few things that we need to understand about community. First, “God’s work of personal transformation is intended to take place within a community of God’s people.” Secondly, We “Need to be committed to as lifestyle of mutually helpful relationships,” and lastly, we need to “Help others pursue relationships that promote biblical growth and change.” We see this clearly in Paul’s writing, and also in Hebrews 10:24-25.Many of us struggle because we are not involved in the church as a family. We view church in a utilitarian way, and do not see it as a lifestyle that promotes the values and mission of the group by belonging to its head (Jesus Christ) and being an active part in the body. Tripp and Lane write, “Many believers latch onto the hope of personal change while clinging to the individualism of our society. They have a ‘Jesus and me’ mentality as they battle sin and seek to become more like Christ.” The fact is, Christ created the church so that in a committed family, the group would grow spiritually and numerically. Before we get started let’s remember the 5 gospel perspectives that guide this study, and then launch into what it means to be a community that cares about personal growth.

5 Gospel perspectives
1. Our sin is worse than we can imagine, but God’s grace is greater than our sin!
2. God is concerned about transformation at the heart level, not the behavior level.
3. We should benefit from our relationship with Christ here and now, and in eternity.
4. God calls us to grow and change.
5. Our Christian life is a lifestyle of Repentance and Faith

From the Head…
All too often we approach our faith with a western, individualistic mindset. So we interpret passage to mean that they are to be carried out be me, and me alone. Passages like Ephesians 6:10ff tell us to put on the “Full armor of God,” so we think this means that we are to do this separate of the body of Christ, but in reality a good Roman soldier would have put on the armor to battle closely with a group of men, never by himself. But God’s plan is that we “Change” together. It is in the messiness of relationship and context with one another that we can work out our salvation with “fear and trembling” (See Philippians 2:12).

God Lives in Community (Ephesians 4:4-6)
If we are going to be more like Christ (Which we have seen is God’s goal for us), then we too must learn to live in community. It is living in community that we are truly human. The body of Christ, along with marriage is mirrors to who God is. We are created with personality and the need for community because God Himself lives in perfect, loving community. Whereas eastern thinking blurs the lines between the individual (Collectivism), and the western thought champions’ distinctions (Individualism), the church champions the many as one (Unity). It is by working in dirtiness and inconvenience of community that we can truly love one another, and help one another.

Belonging in Community (Ephesians 2:14-22; 5:29-30)
God has “destroyed the barrier,” and He does that so we can be “Built together to become a dwelling place in which God lives.” We are made “Members of His body.” Clearly we are created to live in community, and clearly God has designed the church to be the community we are called to. This is why it is imperative for the church to be on mission; otherwise (As is the case in many church situations) you grow in fellowship, but do not reach out and serve the culture. It is impossible to see our own issues unless it is done in the messiness of a close community. The problem is that’s when people usually leave the community or the church, which hinders their growth, and the growth of the people around them. We need the messiness so we can identify the rough edges in ourselves.

Being Loved in Community (Ephesians 3:14-21)
Paul’s prayer is that we’d be, “Strengthened with power” (v. 16), that “Christ may dwell in your hearts” (v. 17), and that we’d “Comprehend with all the saints” (v. 18), and to “Know the Love of Christ” (v. 19). It literally “Takes a village” of common minded believers to help us fully comprehend love, and its depths. We have allusions to what love is, and we don’t know it’s depths. We are afraid to speak the truth in love, because we know that people do not want to hear the truth, or know love in that way. It is when we see, experience, and finally love someone else that we begin to understand its depths, and God’s love for us. This can only happen in a loving community that is striving to love God and love others.

Being Purified in Community (Titus 2:11-14)
In this passage we are saved in order to, to deny ungodliness, live sensibly, righteously and godly, looking for the blessed hope found in Christ’s coming, because He has redeemed us as a “People for His own possession…” It is hard to escape the idea that when Christ saved us, He saved us to benefit here on earth, in a community that He has created; His body, the church! We can’t be married to Christ, and hate His family. We are best loved, nurtured, grown, taught, admonished, exhorted and trained in the body of Christ who loves God, and loves people.

…to the Heart
According to Romans 12, we ware to “Rejoice with those that rejoice, and weep with those that weep” and we are to be of the “same mind toward one another.” As a family, we ought to hurt when those around us hurt, and be filled with joy, when those around us are filled with joy. When we are struggling with our sins, it is the family of God who can come around that person and help them grow in their knowledge of the Lord Jesus and His great love for us. Galatians 6 commands us to “Bear one another’s burdens,” which means that as we are strong in an area, we need to be part of a body in order to use that strength to God’s glory.

We are not calling people to programs in the church, we are calling people to live in such a proximity to one another that they are able to use their gifts to encourage and spur on the body of Christ. So remember three things:

1. God’s work of personal transformation is intended to take place within a community of God’s people.
2. We “Need to be committed to as lifestyle of mutually helpful relationships,
3. We need to “Help others pursue relationships that promote biblical growth and change.

Books for further study: Most of this material is taken from “How People Change” and “Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands” by Paul Tripp and Tim Lane, as well as their accompanying workbooks

Next Weeks Verses: 1 Corinthians 10:1-14

6 comments so far

  1. eline on

    I’ve been meaning to say this for awhile but keep procrastinating. Last week I was just so thankful for the pastors’/elders’ watching over of the flock, particularly in the area of doctrine. I am so thankful for the teaching and the many opportunities to learn and grow. I am naive in alot of ways to the many ways that Satan tries to deceive and manipulate and ‘bend’ the truth. It can be so subtle and it is so easy to stray if we are not ‘sharpening’ each other. I was reading ‘simply christian’ the other day and was convicted that there are so many atheists/non-believers who spend so much more time researching and studying Jesus, than I do. It is shameful that I am not more prepared. Anyway, thank you for ‘battling’ for us and for reminding us that the armor is to be put on as a body/together.

  2. Pam on

    I had never heard your description about the armor, and as I was listening, I had an Aha! moment…yes that makes far more sense than trying to put the armor on and go out by myself. Then as I was meditating on it today, I was reminded of in John:11 where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, in verse 44 Jesus said to the crown “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”, I love that picture of Jesus doing the raising him from the dead and then turning to the believers and saying you take off the grave clothes. In the view of small groups isn’t that what it’s about??? We get the priviledge of removing grave clothes and setting people free as we share our lives, hearts and thoughts with others in a safe environment. Being in the Body of Christ, surrounded by those who geniunely love and care for you…Life is GOOD! Thanks for the war picture about the armor, I know I’ll ponder this more and rethink how I approach children/others when I teach that lesson next time…

  3. Pam on

    BTW…that’s crowd, not crown. :0)

  4. kennethc on

    Mentioning the gladiator fighting formations reminded me of the Spartan phalanx in ‘300’. Ephialtes desired to fight alongside the Spartans, but he could not raise his shield high enough. King Leonidas had to tell him, “Your father should have taught you how our phalanx works. We fight as a single, impenetrable unit. That is the source of our strength. Each Spartan protects the man to his left from thigh to neck with his shield. A single weak spot and the phalanx shatters. From thigh to neck, Ephialtes. I am sorry my friend. But not all of us were made to be soldiers. If you want to help in a Spartan victory clear the battlefield of the dead, tend the wounded, bring them water but as for the fight itself I cannot use you.”

    There are numorus illustrations here… such as… We are all called to the battle. But we all don’t play the same role. This is often correctly illustrated as being the different parts of the body. But this often gets taught and misunderstood as, “You’re the hand… and I’m the foot.” Then we each go off or are sent into our separate appendage to perform our individual tasks alone. This fallacy remains individualistic and not thriving interdependent community. While we may occasionally have some success this way, we are highly ineffective and the entire body remains dangerously vulnerable.

    A Christian soldier who doesn’t surround himself with those equally equipped takes the risk of leaving his backside exposed.

    Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18

    “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:20

  5. Michael Smith on

    I am with Pam on the A-hah moment. I had always pictured the galant Medievel knight with his full suit of armour. (Which now looks great next to my fireplace). Admittedly I had never thought of the team work aspect necessitated by the smaller armor of the Romans.

    I also had the same thoughts as Ken. I saw the ‘300’ too and remembered the very scene during the sermon.

    I was humbled when I realized my own selfish POV informs my “Army of One” mentality.

    I am truly grateful for Mike’s faithful service in proclaiming the truths of the gospel, for keeping the focus on Christ, and for the invaluable historical context.

    God Bless.

  6. Aaron on

    Uncle Sam needs you!

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