Definition of community from the dictionary: the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common.
From the Greek word for community koinonia we see it translate to 4 English words, a. fellowship, b. sharing, c. participation, d. contribution. From these 4 words we get the idea that the biblical community of the early church looked more like family than anything else.
Before we get started with the devotional, we want to run through the heart behind the devotional.
Our first and primary goal in this devotional is that we will grow closer to God. From that point we want to grow closer to one another as children of God and gain a greater understanding of what it means to live in Godly community and how necessary it is in the 21st century. So we want to embark on this journey together to see what God says about the church and the community of believers that it consists of.
Day 1: Family
The book of Acts sets out to describe and explain the acts of Jesus and the Spirit and in the 1st two chapters we see that Jesus wants to establish His new covenant with His people through the Holy Spirit. So the disciples are waiting in the upper room praying together during the feast of Pentecost. The feast of Pentecost was a time where all the devout Jews from around the world come together as pilgrims to Jerusalem. As the disciples are praying, suddenly a mighty wind comes upon them and they receive the Spirit of God and start talking in different languages, preaching the gospel. Today we want to focus on the piece of scripture below that picks up from our summary, Peter has just preached the gospel to the devout Jews.
Read: Acts 2: 37-47 (ESV)
“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 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.
Take a moment to reflect on what you think about community is. Write down a definition in your own words.
- What are some of the key aspects of community that you can identify in this passage? Write them down.
- When we look at the scripture above, what is the one thing that unites this community?
- Do you see yourself as part of Gods household, a family member?
Romans 8: 15-17
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
When we come to Christ we are given new life in Him, we also gain a new identity as a son or daughter of God which in turn means that we gain a new family of people who are also children of God. If we look at community in this way, then we need to see that community =, family. We believe that family is the primary model of discipleship. A place where we can be real, brutally honest, vulnerable, a place where needs are met and where we can learn to love truly and be truly loved.
‘Father, help us see today that we are part of a spiritual family, your spiritual family. Thank You that it is only because of Christ that we can have a place in Your family. We pray that you will help us grow in our identity as sons and daughters, brothers and sisters in Christ’
Day 2: Humility
Would you agree that for the most part we live in quite a restless world? A world that is harsh and competitive and that does anything for self gain. We see that more is never enough, more relationships, more money, more options never give us peace. We find ourselves striving to just beat the person next to us. What that does is push us into competition and where there is competition there is disunity (because we are competing against one another) and where there is disunity there is no blessing. This is all routed in pride. Jesus however taught us the opposite of pride that results in competition, He taught humility that leads to rest.
Read: Philippians 2: 1-4
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, [then] complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
- What does it mean when Paul says ‘..being in full accord and of one mind’?
- What are the areas in your life where you are acting from a place of selfish ambition? And how can we combat selfish ambition?
- How can we count others more significant than ourselves?
- Are you in a place of humility or a place of pride?
Read: Philippians 2: 5-11
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
‘Lord Jesus, we don’t want to conform to the pattern of this world, but we want to be transformed by the renewal of our minds, to take up an attitude of humility and serve the interest of others above our own. We ask that we might be in full accord and of one mind, to give you glory’
Day 3: encouragement I
Let’s face it, sometimes life is just tough and we don’t always have it easy on any standard. And as Christians we are called to live a certain lifestyle that is different from the world, sometimes it just feels like we wont make it. This would be true; we wouldn’t be able to make it… alone. That is why we have a spiritual family/community that is there when things get tough, to encourage, to love and to exhort you. Yesterday we spoke about family and that through the Holy Spirit we gain an identity into the spiritual family of Jesus. Today we want to cover family and a base of encouragement and support.
In this spiritual family we learn to cultivate, grow and also protect our beliefs.
‘Week in, week out, life-on-life, non-negotiable Christian community covers a thousand threats in our lives. Make fellowship in your community a habit.
Read: Hebrews 15: 5-7
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
- What does it mean to live in harmony with one another?
- What is the outflow of living in harmony with one another?
- Write down a couple of ways in which I can apply encouraging others and living in harmony with my spiritual family.
- How would our community look if we lived in this way?
Three notes that we want to add.
- The time for spiritual community is now, not later
- God calls us to provoke one another for good; Partnering under Gods word and prayer with a brother or sister who knows me for me and being able speak the truth with love into my life with specificity.
- Healthy Christians make fellowship a habit.
Habits free our focus so we can give attention to, and be more fully aware in the moment while carrying out regular tasks and actions. The art of being present.
Lord thank You that You are the God of endurance and encouragement. Help us to see what it means to live in harmony with one another and help us to stir up good works in one another.
Day 4: Encouragement II
Read: Hebrews 10: 11-25
“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
- Identify 2 pieces of encouragement out of this passage.
- Who do these encouragements come from? And What is the result of these encouragement?
- Identify the main verbs that talk about encouragement in this passage
- What do these verbs tell us to do?
- Are you meeting together with fellow believers?
‘Lord Jesus, thank you for washing us clean and giving us assurance of faith. We thank you that we have each other to encourage and stir each other up to good works and love. May it increase in our lives, both assurance and encouragement.’
day 5: defense in community I
We are saved by grace through faith in Christ, and God has designed the church community to be one of the vessels of that grace. The world or rather the sinful desires that are in the world want us to walk away from the living God and because we live in this broken world that contends, daily, for our attention and affection we need people around us that can remind us, encourage us, challenge and affirm us to hold on to the confession of our faith. This is the defense that Godly community offers.
When Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, he addressed a community deeply embedded in the pagan world of the first century. As soon as the gospel began to take root in the city, opposition emerged (Acts 16:19). Into this embattled context, the apostle writes about how important the church’s life together is for our witness in society.
Read: Philippians 1: 27-18
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. “
Paul says that such unity, stability, depth, and fearlessness in the face of the onslaught becomes “a clear sign” to the those who don’t believe. Through standing unified against insult, slander, and threat — and continuing undaunted in moving forward in the mission — the church shows herself to be true. The strong bonds between saints demonstrate that they are in the sphere of salvation, which means their opponents are in the sphere of destruction.
- What does it mean to be of one spirit and mind, striving side-by-side for the gospel?
- Do you see church community as your defense?
- Is church community a place of safety and encouragement for you?
Father, may Your grace be given to us through your community. May we stand united in one spirit in the defense of our faith. Teach us to exhort one another and strive side-by-side for the faith of the gospel
Day 6: defense in community II
There is a serious danger in neglecting real, consistent, committed Christian community. We will see that neglecting this kind of community goes hand-in-hand with a heart that is starting to lose its fire for Christ.
The truth is that God is THE creator of all things and we need to stay close to Him, so that we can hold on to our confession to the end
Read: Hebrews 3:12-14
“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.”
- According to this scripture, what do we prevent when we encourage one another?
- Are you encouraging your brothers and sisters to fight the good fight of faith?
- Are you being encouraged daily? Or do you just go through the motions at church?
‘Every Christian community must realize that not only do the weak need the strong, but also that the strong cannot exist without the weak. The elimination of the weak is the death of fellowship.’
‘Father, may we grasp the extent to which we need a godly community to be our defense. Teach us to see the need for encouragement in our own lives as well as the lives of others. May we learn to be a place of defense and may we run to community as defense’
Day 7: Building community
The story of Nehemiah is a story of a community that built together. Jerusalem had a temple but there was no protection for the city from further attack. Nehemiah travels to Jerusalem and uses his leadership skill to rally a citywide construction crew. Within a few weeks, the walls around Jerusalem were built and standing tall and their enemies lost their confidence.
Read: Nehemiah 4: 10-23
In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.” At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.” So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
At the end of the story the enemy could not break through and destroy the walls, but they stood firm and covered one another. At the center of a godly community is vulnerability and trust.
- Do you have people that you can be vulnerable around? And do you trust them?
- According to this scripture, why do we need to fight for?
- Are you looking out for your own interests or the interests of others?
- What are the areas that I can focus more on the needs of others?
If we allow ourselves to be vulnerable towards our community and we know that we can trust them, then we do not need to fight for ourselves because our community (Brothers, sisters, daughters, wives and homes) will fight for us. If we fight for ourselves, we focus only on ourselves but when we fight for others and others for us then we have a multitude covering us and fighting for us.
“Lord, help us build community. We know that we cannot do this alone, so we ask that you stir our hearts to fight for one another and look out for the needs of others. We desire to have all things in common with our brothers and sisters and therefore we pray that you knit our hearts together.”
Day 8: offence in community
Not only is the Christian community a place of refuge and safety in a time of need but it is a weapon to bring the good news to the world. There is a quote that says ‘preach the gospel and if necessary, use words.’ Now we believe that the gospel needs to be preached with words but in a busy world the only gospel might see is the life that the Christian community lives. So by the way that we see, love, accept, challenge and share with one another we can share the love of God. But in what manner does God purpose us to love?
Read: John 13: 31-35
‘When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”’
- ’A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another..’ – what does it mean to love one another?
- If we are to love one another, how should we love one another?
- Practically, what does it look like for me to love someone just as Christ has loved us?
- Are you loving people in the way that Christ has loved you?
- When people look at your community, will they know that you are Jesus’ disciples?
‘Our relationship with each other is the criterion the world uses to judge whether our message is truthful – Christian community is the final apologetic.’
‘Father, your standard of love is so high, that we know that it is only Your Spirit that can help us love in that way. Teach us, daily, to love one another as Christ has loved us. Teach us, we ask, so that the world will know your love.’