Our deepest human longing is to love and be loved. True for the most introverted, shy, quiet person; and even for the most outgoing, independent, self-assured person; and everyone in between. Why?
The Bible tells us we have this longing because we were designed that way. Genesis 1:26-27 says that human beings were created in the image of God. And 1 John 4:7-16; esp. v.8, v.16 says that God is love. He embodies love because He is Trinity, 3-in-1.
Trinity is a hard concept for us to understand, yet this is how God reveals Himself to us in Scripture. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct, each eternally and fully God; yet they are not three gods. God is One, He insists on this. So while there will always be some things about God that remain a mystery to us, there are some things we can grasp and He wants us to. One of which is that God is the original community, and He created us ‘in His image’ to also exist in community.Read – John 13:34-35 and 17:20-23
Can you see the incredible inclusiveness of the heart of Jesus … for us not only to experience God’s love, but to somehow be part of the divine community? Jesus prays for it, then He dies for it. The next morning He is crucified. On the Cross, Jesus opens a way back to the Father through Jesus the Son.
It’s what we were created for – for relationships, yes; but more, for the ultimate relationship with a God who by His very Being, embodies and defines relationships: God is love. That’s where true community begins.Read – Acts 2:42-47
Right from the birth of the Church, filled with the Holy Spirit, four things they did:
1. They CARED for one another
– v.44, “were together and had everything in common”; v.45, “sold property and possession to give to anyone who had need”
2. They DISCIPLED one another
– v.42, “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching … and to prayer”
3. They SERVED one another
– v.45, “giv[ing] to anyone who had need” … presumably they served others beyond themselves too, because v.47, “enjoying the favour of all the people”
4. So they REACHED OUT together
– and v.47, “the Lord added to their number daily.”
How do thousands of people in this very first church find community and connection? There’s a very important clue in Acts 2:46, “they continued to meet together in the temple courts … in their homes.”
So, they• Cared - Discipled - Served - Reached Out through • large gatherings at the temple courts, and • small gatherings in homes
A wonderful model and Biblical example to us as a church today.
At CityLife, we have the incredible blessing and joy of large weekend gatherings, not to be taken for granted. And smaller Life Group gatherings usually in homes, also a blessing not to be missed. We need both to be tied in tightly to community which reflects the unity of the Godhead.
And as we live this out, with strong bonds of love interconnecting us, then we are most like God and people will see God in us and in our midst.Questions for reflection/discussion:
1. What strikes you the most in John 17:20-23 from Jesus’ prayer for us as Christians today? How is the Holy Spirit convicting you in terms of being one with God (“in us”, v.21), and also being one with fellow believers (“that they may be one as we are one”, v.22)?
2. Considering the very first church birthed by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:42-47), is ‘Care - Disciple - Serve - Outreach’ a good summary of what they did? Anything else you can see that’s important? (If you wish to study further, you could also look at 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24.)
3. At least in terms of numbers, CityLife is akin to that very first church at Pentecost. If they were able to nurture community and connection for thousands “in the temple courts [and] in their homes” (Acts 2:46)
a. What are some advantages of large gatherings (for us, weekend services)?
b. What are some blessings in gathering in homes (for us, Life Groups)?
c. How is your own connection to God and to others made richer by your personal engagement with weekend services and Life Groups?
4. If you’re not in a Life Group, what’s keeping you from joining one? How else might you find smaller, more personal and intimate community at CityLife?
5. If you are in a Life Group, what are some specific practical things you can do to strengthen the strands of loving relationship with your LG members through ‘Care - Disciple - Serve - Outreach’?