Last week (I know I’m a week behind) Lane walked us through a really cool text that continues along Paul’s really tight line of thinking. One of my favorite things about the way Paul wrote Scripture is how his logical, well-reasoned thinking presents excellent arguments and theology for the first few chapters (especially Ephesians), and then he works off of those themes and draws out applications for the last few chapters. Last week we saw yet another step toward building the theology that he will ‘mine’ for the rest of his treatise.
As we’ve seen God work in our lives and radically transform everything about who we are, we saw last week that there are several major impacts and visible effects of that transformation. We see that we are truly God’s workmanship created to do good things that bring him glory. Another thing that is a direct effect of God refining us is that our salvation in Christ shapes a community that is distinct to God – and this community is not just for the sake of having good dinners and fun conversation together (though those are awesome byproducts); the community of the people of God is primarily about the glory of God. And that’s where Lane took us this past week… the implications of being ‘joined together’.
First, we’re brought near to God (v.13)
The most important thing about being part of a community of believers is our own personal walk with Christ. Without that one-on-one connection with God, we have no common ground for communion with each other. And we see that God lays down a foundation for community that transcends all other barriers. In the Kingdom of God there is no division; no socioeconomic lines are drawn, no racial boundaries should exist, no generational splits… in Christ there is unity, there is peace because we know that any other factor that could cause division is completely overshadowed by Christ’s grace and our immense need for each other as the Church. This is how we show Christ to each other: we are all needy, and therefore we serve and sacrifice for each other, we encourage, we sharpen, we help each other grow. Ultimately it’s a community of vulnerability that we must share our hearts and our lives with each other; we must break down any walls of separation that say “I can’t talk about that with them.” Yes you can! And you should! Church isn’t a place where we all put on this façade and pretend like we’re doing well. The Church should be the one place where we say that we are desperately needy for the things that only Christ can truly give, and we point each other toward the cross and live in the light of the resurrection. And this understanding can only come through an intimacy with God, a deep abiding relationship with him, not just knowing the stats on the back of his baseball card. We must know God and know what he loves, and know what he hates, and obey what he has said, because he is infinitely wise, and he has given us the grace of knowing how we can live for our good and his glory.
– Are you being vulnerable in your community group, or with your crew of friends, or with anyone?
– Do you know and trust God deeply in a way that truly affects your life?
Second, we see that Jesus is our peace (vv.14-15)
One of the main effects that we see when we know God more deeply is that we gain an appreciation and understanding of the power and the glory of the cross. Christ’s perfect life, horrific death, and victorious resurrection are all a testament of God’s love for his people. And when we come to know and have faith in Christ for our salvation, we know a peace that surpasses understanding and experience. We can stand firm in our faith when our world starts to burn down around us because we know our God is both sovereign and good, and the most urgent need that we have has already been answered in Christ. So Christ brings us a personal peace that we know in every aspect of our lives. He also brings a communal peace to us as a body of believers. If we all have a common anchor for our faith in Christ and we all experience the peace and joy that comes from knowing God, then we will be at peace with each other and will have a common bond that is much stronger than a sports team affiliation, an affinity for certain hobbies, and stronger even than being at the same stage of pregnancy. In all seriousness, when we have Christ at the core of who we are, when he is the root of our identity, we have a peace, security, and love after the one who perfectly loves us. Without Christ, however, we’ll be hopeless, on edge, and we’ll be about our own goals, not those of God. And ultimately we’ll find that our goals will be opposed to what God would have us do with our lives, and we’ll find much trouble along those lines as we fight for our own wants. In Christ, though, we see him tear down every dividing wall and we see a unity that brings peace to both us and this world. In that way as we follow our savior, we should be about spreading that peace as we tear down those walls… we spread the name of Christ and see the reconciliation he brings as peace and unity take root where discord and pain and selfishness once were.
– Are you at peace in Christ?
– Is your life an anchor point of peace in the circles you run in?
– What would it look like to spread the peace that you know in Christ?
Third, we are being joined together (v.21)
After being brought near to God and knowing the peace that we have in Christ Jesus, we then see the joy of being joined together in community with one another. Inherently, being in community with other sinners is messy – there’s no question about that. But once we have grounded our identity in who God is, and we know the peace and security that we have in Christ, we can confidently enjoy the community that God has so richly blessed us with, even if it includes some rocky times. You see, this is one of the chief ways that God spreads his glory in this world – Christians in community. As we live and ‘do life’ together, we are the salt and light that Christ talks about; we spread the gospel in this dark world, and we spread that peace and reconciliation that we’ve been given from God in Christ. So our community isn’t static – it should be growing both numerically and in depth. The sins and junk we deal with should be gradually fading away as we experience God and root our identity in him. And we should be spreading the peace that we know in Christ in such a way as to be attractive to the world and show God’s glory. This is why we are joined together – to glorify God.
– Are you joined together in community? Are you a part of a local church and sharing your life with them?
– Are you growing together with that community and making Jesus the main basis for your connection?