Building One Another Up

Posted: October 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

Scripture calls us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” As the body of Christ, we are called to genuine transformation and growth. Our church community needs to be a place where we speak the truth in love to one another in order  for this to happen. As Paul says in Romans 14:19, it is to be a place where we “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”  A place where we can come together in redemptive love seeking to encourage and build one another up in the gospel. This is what we want to see happening in and through our Life Groups.

The church then is to be a gospel-centred community. Here is how Tim Chester recently describes it…

Christians have been born again into a new inheritance that makes us strangers and aliens within the wider culture (1 Pet. 1:1–4). We are called to live on the margins. But that act of rebirth also births us into a new family (vv. 22–23), an alternative community of belonging. This new family is God’s demonstration of the gospel. It is the beginning of, and pointer to, the new world that will be our inheritance.

It is only the Word of God that creates an enduring community life and love.

So the gospel community matters. But this does not mean the gospel Word is less important. Quite the opposite. In 1 Peter 1:22–23, where Peter explicitly links our new birth and our new family, his emphasis is on the means by which we are born anew—the enduring Word: “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (v. 23 NIV). The Word gives life, and the Word continues to give life.

DO NOT TRY TO “DO” COMMUNITY

What forms and sustains Christian community is, perhaps paradoxically, not a commitment to community per se but a commitment to the gospel Word. Sometimes people place a big emphasis on the importance of community and neglect the gospel Word. Community then becomes a goal toward which we work. But Peter says human activity cannot create life that endures. An exclusive focus on community will kill community. It is only the Word of God that creates an enduring community life and love.

Peter calls on us to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (v. 22). That is a demanding command designed to create a distinctive community, but Peter first says his readers have “purified [their] souls by [their] obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love.” We have been purified by the gospel for love, so love. The truth purges us of those selfish desires that conflict with love, and it is this that then enables us to love one another earnestly. Love one another deeply, says Peter, “for you have been born again.”

It’s said that love is an action, not a feeling, but this is not a biblical idea.

This is who we are. We are members of a new family, bound together in brotherly love through the gospel of Jesus and the power of the Spirit. Once again, the move is from identity to action. This command is realizable because of who we are in Christ, because of the new reality that God has produced in our lives through the gospel Word. We get rid of “all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind” (1 Pet. 2:1) not through gritted teeth or extra effort. We live a life of love as we crave the spiritual milk of God’s enduring Word (v. 2).

We keep going back to the gospel, keep believing the gospel, keep nurturing our hearts with the gospel, and keep tasting the goodness of God in the gospel.

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” – Ephesians 4:15-16 (ESV)

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