We are beginning a new series on “Becoming Like Family” as our online community members begin to share the daily challenges with friends, and we begin to gather our larger community together. We want to have five main characteristics, and the one we’re focusing on this week is to be spending time in community groups.
Yesterday, we saw that four-in-ten American young adults with a Christian background (43%) believe going to church and having Christian friends is optional.
You might think that this is a new phenomenon, but today we’ll read about a similar story from the Bible, written in a letter to some of the first Christians, within 50 years of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
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. (Hebrews 10:23-25 ESV)
First, please notice how clear this is that being a church here is about a gathering of people. The Greek word for church is ekklesia which literally means “an assembly” or “gathering of people” called out to be and do something specific. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews was not specifically speaking about a building. Even if they worshipped at the temple occasionally, it was primarily a place of Jewish ritual sacrifices, not a place that was immediately associated with Christian worship just because of its architecture or presence.
He was referring to a people group, a movement, who actually did spend time together – sometimes in temple, sometimes in homes, sometimes in rented rooms, and probably some places in between.
But the other thing that’s clear here is that they aren’t meeting together as much as they should, and it’s essential that they do.
The author doesn’t say why. Did they get lazy? Are they afraid of being identified by persecutors? Have they actually stopped believing?
No one can be sure. But the author is clear that being a regular part of a Christian community is critical regardless. He says it’s this important, it represents holding fast to what we claim/confess to believe. That involves connectedness with others who claim and confess the same things.
Gathering with other Christians is also a visible reminder of who we are – God’s beloved but distant children, trying to follow Jesus to know him again.
Someone I know recently went out West on business, and was planning to go to an Oilers vs. Leafs game, wearing a Leafs jersey! She went there knowing she’d be alone, and would endure persecution, where no one else would be dressed like her. But then at the game, she looked out, and saw a few other Leafs jerseys, and a few more, and a few more. She was reminded she wasn’t alone.
This is what church is about. Although we may feel alone at times as Christians, when we are part of a church we remind ourselves that we are not alone, as we catch a glimpse of others wearing our colours. We are not the only ones trying to live as followers of Jesus in a hostile world. In fact, there are millions of us, all over the world, and all around our offices and neighbourhoods. But we need to come out and recognize each other. As we gather together, we remember that we are part of a community. We see this, we feel it and we are encouraged. And we are challenged, to be there for each other throughout the week as well.
Question: Why do you think it’s important for followers of Jesus to meet together? What should come of their meetings?
Reminder: Last week we saw the importance of reading the Bible together in sync, so our new daily bible readings start today in our mobile app and web site.
Read the Bible in Sync Today
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Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, I introduced the idea of grace with a diagram. We will build on that now, so if you missed it, go back and watch Tuesday and Wednesday’s content.
You may be familiar with the Ten Commandments. They are an important part of the tracks that God has created for our lives, the guidelines that keep us from self-destructing.
Where did they come from? They are over 3400 years old. God led the Israelites out of danger and slavery, then gave the laws by which this newly freed people were to organize their life together. Of all these laws, the Ten Commandments come first and take most important place.
In a few minutes, please watch the attached video to hear the commandments in detail. But first we need to know purpose first, to understand the commandments in their proper place…lest you come away from this thinking that Christianity is all about following a bunch of rules.
A common misconception is to make “Obey God’s laws” #1 as if it could qualify you for a life of knowing God. Sometimes Christians communicate the rules like they are number one, having forgotten how they came to know the God who helps them keep those commandments. Knowing God qualifies you to try and follow these commandments…God is working in and through his followers to help transform their lives from the inside out.
This was certainly true for Israelites. God, in his love for the Israelites, saved them from slavery in Egypt by parting the red sea. Only once they were safely on the other side of the sea from the Egyptians did he give them the commandments, and call them to live by those commandments in thanks for the gift he’d given them.
The 10 commandments answer the question: “How can I live to thank the God who has loved me so much?” Not how can I behave to earn God’s love, or avoid his hate. Not how can I get others to live by my rules?
Take a quick run through these commandments.
The Commandments deal with two things:
Relationship with God
Relationship with One Another.
The last commandment is unique, since it talks about contentment. This one may seem a bit different from the others, and it is. The others focus on our outward actions, what to do and not do, while this one focuses on our hearts, what to want and desire, and what not to.
God is in the transformation business. He not only wanted to see the Israelites as a transformed society, but also to see the minds of all his created human beings transformed in this way.
The Bible contains many other guidelines, principles and laws. We don’t have time to go through them all here. Life is complex, and there is not a specific rule for everything. But these principles, the 10 commandments, or even just the 2 commandments to love god and neighbour, or the principle of grace behind them all, can apply to any area of life. I am happy to help you interpret and apply if you have a specific question.
Watch the 10 Commandments in the extra video.
Challenge: Show grace to someone today. Give them a gift they don’t deserve.
Reminder: Last week we talked about worship, and asked you to complete our online survey about worship here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/8TS7K93
Reminder: Earlier in this series, we saw the importance of reading the Bible together in sync, so our new daily bible readings start today in our mobile app and web site.
This series looks at becoming “like family” with others learning to follow Jesus. We're exploring how the church is not a building, institution or event, but a community of people. It's important that explore what church means as we prepare to launch a new church in Ajax in 2014.