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Vision Part 5: Gospel-Centered Community

Our Vision:   (Adapted from The Village Church mission statement)
To Exalt the Triune God through:
Gospel Centered Worship
Gospel Centered Discipleship
Gospel Centered Community
Gospel Centered Service
Gospel Centered Mission

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 ESV)
Acts 2 describes the events after the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles 40 days after Jesus ascended to heaven (Pentecost).  The writer Luke records that on that day there was a spiritual awakening in which three thousand people accepted Jesus as their savior. 

It is interesting to note what happens after this momentous occasion.  The new believers did not simply go home with their new faith.  Nor did they just sign a membership card and join a club.  They became part of a community. Luke writes that the believers became involved in four activities- the apostle’s teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and praying.  And they did not just do these things, they did it with a heart of devotion.  The Greek word here translated “devoted” means, “to continue to do something with intense effort, with the possible implication of despite difficulty.” 1
First, the new believers were submitted to the teachings of the apostles.  These apostles were the ones who were authorized by Christ to speak on His behalf and taught new believers to be disciples of Christ. Young Christians learned to obey what Christ taught them both in their minds and in their lives.  Second, they were committed to each other.  They had close relationships with other believers where they were intimately connected in each other’s lives.  Luke writes that their lives were so closely linked that if anyone had need of something, they would share with one another. Third, they broke bread, which could be understood as having regular meals with one another or that they participated in Holy Communion.  Lastly, they spent time praying for one another and praised God together.
What does this mean for us?  This is in sharp contrast to the idea to the idea that a Christian’s faith is to be a personal one kept solely between oneself and God.  Once a person is called into a discipleship relationship with Jesus Christ, the biblical model is that that person will be called into a community with other believers.  For the believer, community is not optional.  There is no such thing as a “lone-ranger” Christian. 
What is the reason why we do not get involved in one another’s lives?  Frankly, it’s messy.  It costs time.  It costs effort.  It means risking getting hurt and even touching the sensitive parts of our lives.  Do Christians have an advantage in allowing people to have closer relationships?  I do and I want to propose that there are two reasons the gospel allows us Christians to have freedom to be in relationship with others.
First, the gospel teaches us that our approval from God is not based on our performance.  Rather, our acceptance is based off of the finished work of Jesus’ death and resurrection.   When we come into social settings, people immediately put their best face forward.  We hide our sins and our weaknesses.  A person can be honest with the sins of their past because Christ has paid for it.  A “righteous” person has nothing to boast over because God alone is the one who justifies a person.  What this results in is a completely new motivation for a person.  No longer does a believer need to be worried that a person will judge them.  They can face their sins and their weaknesses because they are not boasting in their accomplishments, but boasting only in Jesus Christ.
Second, a believer can open oneself and risk being hurt by people without fear of being judged because Jesus opened himself up to us.   One might say, “yes, and he was crucified for it.”  That is true, but after Jesus was crucified, he rose again from the dead.  For the believer, that is our eternal destiny.  We can take risks, be vulnerable and be brave in our relationships with one another because our ultimate destination is to be resurrected with Jesus.  This is what it means to live in the gospel.  May our community continue to dwell in this Good News.  Amen.
1 Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.). New York: United Bible Societies.