It is always shocking to me when I hear someone say, “faith is personal.” When I hear this, my initial thought is, “have you ever read the Bible?” The idea of living out your faith alone or it being something that is meant to be kept to yourself is not a Biblical principle; it is an American idea. The Bible has ample amounts of examples of faith being lived out together in community. Let’s look at a few of them.
Jesus lived out his faith community.
If anyone had the opportunity to live out an individual faith with just him and God, it was Jesus. He was literally God’s son who came from heaven. But Jesus did not leave us this example. Very early in his ministry, he called 12 men to follow him and join him in community. These men were with him constantly. They walked together, prayed together, shared hardships, ate together, and lived out their faith in a community.
The disciples lived in a community after the death of Jesus.
What Jesus modeled on earth, the disciples continued after his death. In the book of Acts, we read this in verses 12 and 13,
“Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.“
After such a tragic event, the death of Jesus, one would think that everyone would need some time to be alone, but that is not the example we see of the early followers of Jesus. Instead, they gathered together.
Paul and many other writers of the Bible encourage us to live out our faith in their community.
Here are more examples from different places in the New Testament that exhort us to live out our faith in our community.
Hebrews 10:24-25 – 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.
Galatians 6:2 – Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:25-27 -That there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
James 5:16 – Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. As you can see, the decision to live out your faith in the community isn’t optional. It is commanded, which means God sees it as necessary for your growth.
What benefits will you receive if you live out your faith in a community rather than in isolation?
For some of you, being in a community is a big step. You are asking yourself if it is worth it. One of my favorite sections of scripture when discussing the importance of community is 1 John 1:6-2:1. In these 6 verses, John compares and contrasts the lives of those who walk in a community centered around Jesus with those who don’t. For the sake of time, we will focus on the 3 benefits of community, from verses 7, 9, and 2:1.
Benefit 1 – We can walk in the Light
1 John 1:7 – But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin
The word hypocrite is a greek word that means “to wear a mask.” It described actors that would be one person and then another and then another. Actors became professionals at adapting and changing their behavior to be different characters. In acting this acceptable and even esteemed, but in real life, it can be devastating.
Most of us would say we do not really feel known. I was getting my haircut a few days ago, and I overheard a man talking who had recently moved from Dallas to Lubbock. He said, “it is shockingly hard to make friends, people will let you into 20% of their lives, but they are afraid to open up about the other 80%.” He was spot on.
Most people have mastered the art of wearing masks in real life. We pretend to be fine when we are hurt, happy when we are sad, brave when we are scared, confident when we are insecure, and the scariest part is that we have been trained to think that this is how you operate in life. We hide in the darkness because it feels safe, but the truth is, it is slowly killing you.
God commands us to do the opposite. Walk in the light. Expose yourself fully to other people. Be honest, be authentic, be REAL. Only when you are in a community that loves Jesus is this possible. And I promise as you experience this type of community, you will never want to go back to the darkness. Whether it is the good, bad, or the ugly, it brings healing to our lives to be known by others.
Benefit 2 – We can confess our Sins.
Listen to how David described his life when he didn’t open up about his sin in Psalm 32:3-4, “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.“
Have you ever felt the weight of sin? If you truly believe and follow Jesus, you have. We have all of these sinful areas of our lives that are just sitting in our minds and our hearts slowly crushing us. The solution is confession. We must open up to God and others.
James 5:16 says, Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
Healing only comes through confession to both God and others. This is not possible without a true biblical community.
Benefit 3 – We can be victorious over sin.
Have you ever had this thought, “this area of my life will never change,” or “I will always struggle with this.” I had this thought about many things in college. Areas of sin in my life that I was convinced would be with me forever. But these types of thoughts are lies.
John 2:1 says, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.”
He is reminding us that, in community, we can battle against sin and win! Even the secular world has embraced this logic. Accountability is a part of every successful weight loss program and workout plan. If the need for accountability in physical fitness is so great, how much greater is the need in our battle against our sinful desires. We can’t be victorious alone. Good thing we do not have to be alone.
You have an opportunity for a community right now.
Now that we know that faith is meant to be lived out in a community, we have to answer one question. Who are the other people following Jesus that you will be in a community with this semester? If you have that group, praise God! If you want to get everything out of that community that you possibly can, I have two recommendations.
- Stay committed. Do not miss a week.
- Take off your mask.
If you do not have a group, we can help you find one. There is a link in the message box. Click on it, fill out the information requested, and we will do our best to get you into the community as fast as possible. Do not be another victim of the false notion that faith is meant to be personal. Find a community of people who love Jesus and lock arms with them.