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How Community Increases Our Scope

Do you have a “life verse”? Or pieces of scripture that are special to you and believe they specifically represent your life?

It’s perfectly fine not to have one because there is that tendency to center our own theology on one verse, which impacts how we view our God.

On the other hand, I’ve met many strong believers in my life and I appreciate hearing their ‘life verses’ as they are usually associated with their (awesome) testimonies. A few days ago, I was able to catch Ravi Zacharias’s memorial service and was reminded of his testimony of how he came to the Lord.  Literally, while bedridden due to a recent suicide attempt, he heard the words of John 14:19, “Because I live, you also will live” and he finally realized there was purpose in life—it was found in Jesus Christ.

Often, verses that talk about Jesus and the salvation and love that he has given us are the popular verses people hear and bring them to the Lord; mine in particular being John 14:6. But when’s the last time you ever heard of someone coming to the Lord because of a verse in Genesis? How can verses about the creation account bring someone to Christ?

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26–27)

In the past couple of years, I’ve had the privilege of fellowshipping and working alongside North Korean defectors. You might have heard of the atrocities happening within that country, with North Korea being ranked #1 for 18 years as the most dangerous place for Christians to live. But to actually hear firsthand the hardships they have endured brought tears to my eyes. Because within despair, however, there is hope in Christ. 

I remember hearing the testimony of one particular gentleman, who actually had close relations with the North Korean government, and the reasons why he defected and how he came to the Lord. For years and years, this man was taught to worship the Kim Family Regime and bombarded with North Korean propaganda. He then found a Bible, which he read briefly. He skimmed through it here and there, and things began to change—he found himself disgusted with Kim Jong Il (father of current leader, Kim Jong Un). This gentleman didn’t come to the Lord immediately, but by the pressing of what I believe to be the Holy Spirit, he opened up the Bible again where he came to those verses in Genesis 1. 

Imagine this: Being taught your entire life that the Kim Family are gods to be worshipped and that your purpose in life was simply to obey them. Then you read those words in Genesis say that you’re actually made in the image of God and your true purpose was to have a relationship with Him. This was an amazing revelation to this brother, and it encouraged him to read more and eventually discover Christ.

How many times have we read through Genesis 1 and have considered aspects of those verses? Understandably, it would be very difficult to do so when you don’t live under a dictatorship. But through this meeting with this brother, it increased my scope of those verses and more importantly, my appreciation of God.

Matthew 9:37 says that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  How would a person living in Alaska interpret this verse compared to the missionary in India? 

How would the Christian obey Exodus 22:21 in America compared to the Christian living in Greece receiving numerous refugees? 

Two points I would like to offer this week:

  1. Let us never take the depths of God’s truth and mercy for granted.
  2. God uses community to show us this depth.

Perhaps this is the reason why scripture shows us the importance of community:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9–12) 
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
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 10:24–25)
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

When we hear the testimonies of other believers, we are actually hearing examples of God’s faithfulness to his church. This is not to say that God’s plans for us will be identical, but the biblical truths shown through others’ experiences will be. Through one another’s failures we can see the biblical truths that weren’t followed, and through their successes we see biblical truths being lived out and obeyed. This is why one cannot be the church by themselves, and it require relationships with others (Romans 12:3–8; 1 Cor 12:12–31).

Curiously, healthy community is actually the cure for those who have been hurt by people. The deception is to isolate oneself from others for fear of being hurt again, but in actuality, it’s seeking a healthy community that can help a hurting person process, heal, and even replace the negative thoughts resulting from the hurt. Through community, our scope and understanding of God can still grow. The author of Ecclesiastes says that there is nothing new underneath the sun. What has been, will be again. (v. 1:9). There is no greater source than a mature community that allows us to appreciate this verse. What we believe is a new experience or a new path to walk down, there is someone who has walked down the same path as you. You are not alone in your circumstances.

Here’s a hard pill to swallow. Oftentimes, those (older) folk who seem to do nothing but nag, call out, or seem kind of judgmental all the time might be the ones who actually have more wisdom from experience than you realize. Sometimes when we’re running away from a godly community, we’re actually running away from God. 

(Note: I don’t deny that poor communities exist and they too influence our scope and understanding of life. We must recognize that people who have been hurt, have been discriminated against, etc. influence our personal understanding of the world. This is yet another reason why the Word of God should be an anchor in our lives. See Isaiah 40:8; Matthew 23:35.)

Let’s check ourselves. There is a correlation between our spiritual growth and the type of people we hang with. The lack of spiritual growth may be a reflection on the quality of the community we’re currently in. I am eternally grateful for those who have invested in my life and have shown me the truth and awesomeness of God’s word through their teaching and experiences. (Especially when it came to dating and marriage!) 

As Pastor Brandon once said—

Everybody should seek a Paul (mentor), a Barnabas (a good friend), and a Timothy (someone you’re discipling). Mentors show us something to grow into. Friends are people we can live through hardships together with encouragement. Disciples show us different perspectives on our own personal weaknesses. Altogether, community increases our scope of God and his goodness!  

When things get “back to the norm” let’s grab some community and enjoy God together.