Holy Spirit, Prayer and Community (IV)
Lessons from 1 John
Let us go back to the scene of the birth of the church.
Holy Spirit falling on men and women – tongues of fire, men and women praising God in foreign tongues. Powerful and fearless preaching of Peter
36"Therefore let all
37When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"
38Peter replied, "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. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."
40With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." 41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
The Fellowship of the Believers
42They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
However within the span of a generation we have this admonition in Hebrews
24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
People got bored with one another? Tired of one another?
Had better things to do?
Got discouraged, coming together or not coming together, makes no difference?
Scripture however takes community life seriously
1 Cor 1211All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.12The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" 22On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
Eph 4: 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Above all we are to love one another.
Jn 1334"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
1 John 3:11
This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.
1 John 3:23
And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
1 John 4:7
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
1 John 4:11
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:12
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
2 John 1:5
And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another.
Love is the highest and most complete expression of God’s revelation :
God is love (1 Jn 4.16)
Love is also the highest and most selfless expression of the human person:
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. ( 1 Jn 3.16)
Herein lies the problem.
Nothing makes us more cynical than to see how we have generally failed to love one another. We have all heard horror stories of quarrels, fights, divisions and hostilities. Christians have sued one another and taken one another to court.
Sure we love those who love us. Those who helped us and have been good to us.
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
But when it turns really ugly – there is often no difference in how we act and behave towards one another.
Why is this so?
The exceedingly sinfulness of sin
The reason why we fail to love one another is that we have not taken sin seriously.
We know Rom 3.23 very well - all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We remind one another over the pulpit and each time we partake of the holy communion that we are sinners, we are not worthy to be forgiven and given the grace and privilege of being redeemed.
Yet when people sinned, behave poorly, let us down, betray us; we are shocked! These kind of things should not happen in the community of God. He is a pastor, an elder, a CG leader, a SS teacher, a Youth Adviser, Worship Leader…….
In one sense these things should not happen among a people who belong to the Lord. The church, its leaders and its members ought to answer to a higher standard. As Peter puts it : 1 Peter 1:16 for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."
Similarly we read in 1 Tim 3” Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer he desires a noble task. 2Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.”
But the people of God nevertheless will still sin. John Owen, the great Puritan Divine, who wrote, “Sin and Temptations and JC Ryle, the former bishop of Liverpool all made it clear that the holier a person is, the more of a sinner he knows himself to be.
John made it quite clear that the people that he was writing to, were all sinners:
1 Jn 18If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
John used the word and phases “lie” or “liar” five times (1 Jn 1.6,10, 2.4, 4.20, 5.10). “Hate” four times (2.9, 11; 3.15; 4.20), “child of the devil once in 3.8 and commits sin once in 3.4. He also makes reference to failure or refusal to love (3.10, 14; 4.8), self deceit, (1.6) and refusal to help someone in need (3.17)
We cannot remove sin permanently this side of heaven. We need to be realistic about this. Failing to do so will make us permanently cynical and bitter. We become disillusioned, and we break fellowship and go our own way.
That’s what sin is : the breaking of relationship –not just a breaking of a rule. Scripture warns us to be very careful of breaking relationships. Of being self sufficient.
When we are sinned against, we forgive
But here is the crux of the matter. What we fail to understand is: when and if we are sinned against, we are to forgive.
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
If our leaders fail us we are to forgive them. This does not mean that the leaders do not need to face the consequences of their actions. But that is another matter, one that we will not deal with at this point in time.
If fellow members sinned against us, even grievously so, we forgive them.
Because we ourselves have been forgiven such dreadful, terrible sins. How can we not forgive the comparatively trivial sins that others have committed against us?
Or do we disagree and think of ourselves as fairly respectable people and it is just and right and proper that our sins should be forgiven us?
Therefore instead of forgiving those who wronged us, we seek first and foremost for justice, for redress, for vindication. When our wrongs have been addressed, and we have been suitably compensated, then we may be willing to be reconciled or wonder of wonders, willing to forgive and let bygones be bygones.
In this way, how different are we from the rest of the world?
Listen to Jesus :” you have heard it said, ‘ love your neighbour and hate your enemy’. “ But I tell you, ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
That is we are called to show kindness, compassion, justice to our enemies. If need be, we forgo our rights, our legitimate claims. It means ultimately we go to the Lord for redress, for he has said, Romans 12:19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.
Then you may want to object;
True, genuine relationship is two way. We who are wronged must be willing to forgive. But the one who did the wrong need to repent and ask for forgiveness too.
This is true. If there is no justice, no importance and seriousness attached to what is wrong and right, there can be little or no genuine relationship.
Leaders who did wrong need to repent, and ask for forgiveness.
The more serious problem occurs if both sides feel they are right and it is the other side that must repent. We are willing to forgive, but you are wrong, admit it. Since you do not admit you are wrong, how can we continue to have genuine friendship with you?
Further a friendship that has been fractured is not easy to mend. Relationships once broken is hard to restore. In place of former warm and genuine gladness, we have wariness, distrust and superficiality – we smile, say hello but it has the depth and genuineness of the supermarket checkout counter clerk.
In such situations, what can we do, what should we do?
We should pray that the Holy Spirit would convict us of sin, of the right thing to do.
In the final analysis, we need the deep, inner, convicting work of the Holy Spirit, without which we cannot build community.
Teaching alone is not the answer
Neither is the emphasis on right behaviour.
We can think correctly and even biblically and still live badly. We can behave impeccably and yet still live selfish, self centred lives.
We need the Holy Spirit ‘s grace and presence in our midst.
Getting to grip with our history
Emmanuel is more than 35 years old. In any community that old, there is bound to be history. History of conflicts, of hurts, of being wounded, of being dealt with unfairly. As a result, there are some people that we just cannot get along with. That we feel cold towards. Some people that we do not trust or feel comfortable with.
What is Jesus saying to us, that is echoed repeated by the apostle John in his epistle?
What is the Holy Spirit saying to you today?
Is it time to let go, to forgive and ask for forgiveness?
Have we been intentionally withdrawing from fellowship?
Have we been nursing our grievances?
Are we sure we are righteous or have we been self righteousness?
How important to us is this community of God that we are placed in?
Let us do serious business with God.