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Christ Creates Community

September 17, 2017 Speaker: Kit Johnson Series: Christ-Centered Community

Passage: 1 John 1:1-4

Introduction

This morning, I want to start a new series called “Christ-Centered Community.” On our website under “Who We Are,” we have a philosophy of ministry statement. At least once a year I plan to take a few weeks to and develop one of the topics in this philosophy. I’d like to begin with one of the essential practices of our church—fellowship. Under this heading the philosophy statement reads:

The NT describes the local church as an interdependent body or family (Rom 12:3–8). When we worship, we are not only meeting with God; we are also meeting with each other to help each other grow (Heb 10:24–25). Therefore, meaningful fellowship is a vital aspect of our weekly worship and of all our activities together. We must foster close relationships where members bear burdens and partner together in pursuing godliness (Heb 3:12–13).

Fellowship is at the center of who we are as a church, and it is on all of us to make sure we are doing this well.

But you might be wondering why I would choose to park on this subject first because don’t we already do a pretty good job with fellowship? In a sense, we do. I’ve never been in a church were people stay around and talk longer after services than we do at Life Point. This church loves to visit. And I believe we are a very friendly, welcoming church. When I follow up with visitors, they consistently say that you made them feel welcome. 

These are great attributes. But consider what Jesus said in John 13:35. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus said that the church is to love and support each other in a way that is so different from how people normally relate that they see the power of Christ in how we love each other.

And certainly being talkative and friendly is important to that, but it doesn’t make us unique. There are lots of talkative, friendly people out there who are not Christ’s disciples. No, Christ is calling us to something far deeper. He is calling us to build a new community that displays the hand of Christ as he powerfully works to transform lives and puts them together in a new fellowship. Therefore, we need to be more than a friendly church; we need to be a Christ-empowered community. I pray that God will use this series to move us closer to God’s desire.

I’d like to begin this series by preaching a message entitled, “Christ Creates Community” from 1 John 1:1–4 (Read vv. 1–10). This passage is so packed with truth that we typically miss what it has to say about community, but notice that John uses the word fellowship four times—2xs in v. 3, and once in vv. 6, 7. In both contexts, fellowship with God creates fellowship with other believers. 

And it’s worth emphasizing at the outset of this series, that fellowship describes a significant relationship. The Greek word is koinonia, and it describes a brotherhood or partnership. It pictures a committed relationship where people support each other and work together for a common goal. This is what the church is to be, and 1 John 1:1–4 tells us that Christ created this kind of fellowship for us with God and other Christians through his life, death, and resurrection.

Notice in v. 1 that…

Jesus came (v. 1). 

It’s hard to miss the emotional flavor of this passage. We see it throughout the passage in how John keeps repeating ideas, and especially in v. 1 as he describes his personal experience of Christ. Remember that John was a disciple and close friend of Jesus during his 3 years of public ministry. And in this verse John describes the intimate experience of Christ that he and the other apostles enjoyed. 

Apostles’ Experience:

He emphasizes this because when John wrote this book, he was probably the last living apostle. He wanted his readers to know that the gospel is not based in myths or legends but in historical events.

Therefore he begins by saying that the apostles experienced the incarnate Christ firsthand. They heard him speak; they saw him with their own eyes. They also “looked” at him. The term speaks of an intelligent, reflective gaze. 

Imagine what it must have been like to watch Jesus heal people and to realize that this man is the Son of God? Or imagine listening to Jesus teach and recognizing an insight and authority that comes only from God It had to be incredible. Finally, he adds that they touched him with their hands. Jesus was not just a spirit. He was a man. You can sense John’s joy and awe as he reflects on what he experienced. 

John’s Purpose:

But he wasn’t just bragging. He wanted his readers to understand that they absolutely could trust the message of the apostles because the incarnation of Christ is not just a great story or myth. It is a historical reality. The apostles heard Jesus teach with authority and wisdom. They saw him live a perfect life and perform incredible miracles. They saw him die, and they touched his body after he rose again. 

It’s good for us to be reminded that Jesus really did live on the earth as a man. What the New Testament says about his life, death, and resurrection are not merely stories that someone invented or mythologized. Multitudes of people saw him, heard him, and touched him. People saw him die, and many people saw him alive after he rose from the dead.

From the Beginning:

But it’s not enough that we understand that there was a historical Jesus. John also wants us to understand the redemptive significance of the incarnation. He opens the verse by saying that Jesus “was from the beginning.” We may immediately assume that this is a reference to the eternality of Christ. However, this context is focused on Christ’s entrance into the world and the incredible significance of that event. 

As a result, John is probably referring to Christ’s birth. He calls it a “beginning” because when Christ entered the world, it was the beginning of a new era, a new message, and a new opportunity for us to be right with God.

As such, he closes v. 1 by calling Jesus…

Word of Life:

The reason Jesus’ life is a new beginning is because he is life, and he brought life to mankind.

Verse 2 then expands on the significance of this phrase. It tells us that Jesus was so much more than a man.  

Jesus is eternal life (v. 2).  

The Apostles’ Testimony:

Again, v. 1 concluded with the incredible statement that Jesus is “the Word of life.”  He is eternal God, and yet v. 2 says that through Jesus’ birth, God was “manifested” to men. The apostles saw him, heard him, and touched him. And then they told us about their experience when they “bore witness” and “declared” what they experienced. Again John is declaring that the gospel is not just a good story. It is based in historically verifiable events. 

Eternal Life:

But it is so much more than just history because the apostles didn’t just tell us about a great man. Jesus is “eternal life.” Before his birth, he “was with the Father,” and then he “was manifested to us.” This is a clear statement of the preexistence of Christ. Jesus’ life did not begin at the incarnation. He is eternal. But more is at stake than simply unending existence. The fact that Christ was with the Father points to the supernatural power of his life. 

But you might be thinking, “That’s wonderful, but what does it have to do with me and what does it have to do with fellowship in the church?” The answer is that the eternal life of Christ that was manifested in his life and death are made available to us in the gospel. 

First John talks again and again about how Christians possess eternal life. It’s even at the center of the book’s purpose statement in 5:13. Typically we assume that this verse is talking about knowing where I will spend eternity. Certainly that’s part of it, but 5:11–12 tell us that eternal life is so much more. When you get saved, you are united with Jesus and his powerful life.  

You are made something different right now. That’s why 1 John goes about helping people discern whether or not they have eternal life with a series of tests that are all focused on discerning the presence of Christ’s life. If someone has eternal life, it will show itself in what he believes, what he loves, and how he lives.

I want to stop here for a moment and talk about what it means to be a Christian because so many people don’t really get it. I’ve had many conversations with people who assume they are Christians because they have some level of Christian faith. They believe in God and that the Bible is God’s Word. They even believe that Jesus died on the cross. 

But they also deny many important truths. Maybe they believe there are many ways to God or that to some extent they will be in heaven because of their good works. And they aren’t really all that interested in obeying everything that God has commanded. Obviously, I can’t fully know someone’s heart, but from my perspective, they do not pass the tests of 1 John and they probably do not have eternal life. As Jesus said in John 3, they need to be born again and receive the life of Christ because Christ changes everything. 

Maybe that’s you. Maybe you have always believed parts of the gospel, but you have never submitted your heart to all of it. But you want to receive Jesus in all of his glory and grace, and you want him to rule and reign over your life. I hope you will do that today. Just come as a humble beggar saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” He will not turn you away. 

Returning to our text, Jesus is eternal life, and when we comes to live inside a person, he changes them, and it is this change in individual hearts that makes the church a different kind of community. Again, Christ creates community. Verse 3 explains how.

Jesus creates community (v. 3).

Verse 3 again opens by driving home the historical accuracy and authority of the gospel, and then it finally brings us to that key word fellowship. It tells us that the gospel creates two kinds of fellowship.

I’d like to begin with the second one because it is the foundation for the first one. 

The gospel creates fellowship with the Father and the Son.

The word truly indicates that this is the ultimate fellowship we enjoy. Because Christ removed the darkness of our sin and dwells within his people, he makes it possible for us to enjoy fellowship with God himself. 

This is truly remarkable. The Bible teaches that no one has ever seen the Father, but because Christ became a man, he opened a channel for us to have fellowship with God. 

And remember that the word for fellowship describes much more than a casual relationship. We enjoy a close bond with the Father and with “His Son Jesus Christ.” We don’t physically experience Jesus in the way that John did for around 3 years. But we have been united with him, and we experience his power and grace every day. He partners with us in our pursuit of godliness. This is why 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that we are new creatures in Christ. A Christian is something different by the power of grace. 

And John tells us that this fellowship with God through the new life of Christ is what creates a second kind of fellowship. 

The gospel creates fellowship with one another:

John says that the message of Christ’s incarnation makes it possible for his readers to have fellowship with the apostles. And notice what John adds in v. 7. The first part of this verse simply describes the outworking of the life of Christ. Someone who is born again will be changed. And this changed life creates “fellowship with one another.”

Again I want to emphasize that this fellowship is so much more than just having a cup of coffee together or a fun conversation over dinner. It describes a close bond, a partnership in which both sides are invested in each other. 

Marriage provides a good illustration of biblical fellowship. If you are going to have a good marriage, you need to talk and you spend time together. But marriage is a lot more than talking and being together because I spend a lot of time with a lot of people. No, marriage is a commitment rooted in love. And those things create a powerful partnership. 

That’s what Christ wants to create in the church through the gospel. Fellowship with God creates fellowship with each other. Folks this is so important to how we think about the church. The church is not just a social club where you can get together with people who have similar interests and ambitions. It’s not even just a hospital to help you get better so that you can go live your life. It’s certainly not a buffet where you can come in and grab what you want before you go out to do your own thing.

No, when Jesus saves someone and comes to live inside them, he intends to bind that person to other Christians in the context of the church. The church is a creation of God through the gospel. It is a community, not just a place we attend or a service to meet my needs. Therefore, my main point today is this.  Christ creates community by transforming lives and bringing them together in the church.

Let’s take some time to really ponder the significance of what we have seen today in God’s Word.

What’s the Point? My main point today is this.

Life Point needs to be an expression of the life of Christ working itself out in a Christian community.

In my introduction, I mentioned Jesus statement in John 13:35. I hope that this verse is very significant to you in light of the ground we have covered today. Jesus is not just putting us on a guilt trip to make sure we put up with each other warts and all. No he is actually pointing to something he will do. He will come to live inside Christians, and he will change them. And one of the outstanding fruits of his life in his people will be that they will love each other. And they will love each other with such force and in a way that defies normal human relationships that the world will see the life of God in the soul of the church. 

Folks, this means that if our life as a church doesn’t look any different from any other social club, we’ve got a real problem. If coming to church is about getting together with my buddies who all are in the same life stage with the same hobbies, then the world will never be impressed. Or if we abandon our stragglers on the side of the road because they can’t keep up, the world won’t be impressed. That’s what they do. Or if our commitment to each other waxes and wanes with how we feel or how convenient it is at the moment, the world will never see the life of Christ in our midst. We must to be a community that clearly bears the marks of Christ. 

It grieves me how we’ve so often lost this in American Christianity. So many churches function life a Walmart Supercenter. They run people in and out of their building all weekend through 5 or 6 services. Most of the people have never met each other and so there’s no unified community. And when they come, everything is about giving the individual a great experience. 

And you can customize your experience to be whatever you want it to be. If you want to get involved or be in an accountability group, you can. But if you just want to get in and get out, you can do that too.

And when the world looks at that, they don’t see the life of Christ in the soul of the church; they just see a great business model. And we can’t settle for that. We need to love and care for each other during our services and throughout the week in a way that clearly reflects the hand of God. We need to be a church where the life of Christ in each heart is creating a partnership of mutual dependence. That’s the ideal, so how can you help us get there?

Make sure that you have Christ.

If fellowship with each other is the product of fellowship with God, then the only way you can enjoy the full experience of the community is if you are born again and you truly have fellowship with God. Otherwise, we love you, and we are very glad you are here, but the church is made up of the redeemed. And it is the power of Christ that makes us effective. 

I know I speak for every member of our church when I say that nothing would bring us more joy than to see you trust Christ as Savior and then to watch you get baptized and commit yourself to the church by joining us. 

I hope that you will do that today. The gospel is not a fable; it is truth, and it can change your life now through union with Christ, and it can change your eternal destiny from the wrath of God in hell to life with God in heaven. If you have questions about the gospel or about how to receive Christ, there is nothing I would love to do more than to sit down with you and talk about how you can know Christ. Get that settled today. 

Commit yourself to the body.

Maybe you are saved, but you don’t really participate in the life of the community. You show up once in a while, and you don’t really work to build relationships and to participate in the life of the church. I hope you will see that there is a big whole in your Christian life because one of the purposes of the gospel is to produce fellowship, partnership with God’s people. 

Maybe you need to join the church, and make that commitment to Life Point. I would love to talk with you about membership. Maybe you need to make getting here a higher priority, or you need to stick around a little longer and get to know some people. The Scriptures are clear that we don’t just come to church to meet with God; we come to meet with his people and to support each other. 

Or maybe you need to get more involved in helping us be the community God wants us to be. Maybe you are burdened about an area where we need to do better. This is your church; so help us be better. Or maybe you are burdened for someone who is struggling. They are part of your community; so give them a call or do something to be a blessing. If you don’t have any idea what to do, then let me know, and I will help you find a place that fits you. Whatever it may be, take that step towards a commitment that reflects the work of the gospel. 

Walk in holiness.

This one may surprise you. What does my personal holiness have to do with my life in the church? Verses 6–7 say it’s essential. These verses are addressed to Christians, and v. 6 says that you cannot enjoy fellowship with God while walking in darkness or sin. This ought to be obvious, but it’s amazing how many people like to think they are good with God even though they are blatantly disregarding his will. If you want God’s grace, then you need to be serious about holiness. 

And then v. 7 adds that holiness will also lead to the kind of powerful community that God creates. This is because if we are all walking with God in the power of his grace, it’s going to change the fabric of our church. On the other hand, if we are all holding onto secret sins, it doesn’t matter how great our programs are or how many gifted servants we possess, we will not have a grace-empowered community. And human talent will never accomplish what only grace can accomplish.

This is an aspect of church life that I don’t think we consider nearly enough. Your walk with God on a daily basis is vital to the health of Life Point. When you are walking in disobedience, you don’t just affect you; you affect all of us because there is less grace to go around. Now the answer is not for you to leave the body but to cry out to God for mercy. Verse 9 says that if you confess your sin, God will forgive. And one of our responsibilities to you as the community is to help you change. We want to encourage you and help you grow. Let us do that for you if you are struggling. 

And then let’s all of us commit to walking in holiness each day so that the hand of God is on our individual lives and on our church as a whole. 

Conclusion

Folks, the church is an incredible creation of God through the gospel. It is like no other community on earth. Praise the Lord for the work of the gospel in our own lives, and for what he has given us in this community.

More in Christ-Centered Community

November 5, 2017

Community Requires Sacrificial Ministry

October 8, 2017

Community Requires Christian Love

October 1, 2017

Community Demands Interdependence