Importance of Community

I am sure we are all aware of those who do not go to church, but claim to be Christians.  There are many reasons for them not doing so, and many are legitimate such as work obligations, a sickness, or being bedridden.  However, there are many that are not.

Today we will look at some biblical examples of why it is important to gather in fellowship with other believers.  It is indeed a biblical concept and should be taken seriously if one claims to be Christian.  The church  was established to nurture and develop disciples of Christ.  This is done by sound preaching, scripture reading, and holding people accountable for what the Bible says.

Throughout the New Testament we see examples of believers gathering together regularly.  The word church is used 82 times in the New Testament, and 21 of those times in the book of Acts[1].  One such passage is Acts 9:31 which states, “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was built up.  And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit[2].”  Another verse is Acts 2:42, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer[3].”  From these two passages we begin to see some basic developments in the life of the church.  People are being built up in their knowledge of God and the Spirit-filled life.  They are getting along and are being harmonious with one another.  They are helping each other grow, and are making an impact on their communities.  Early on in the church we see that Christianity is not about me, but it is relational.  Christianity is about a thriving relationship with Christ, and that relationship gets even deeper, and thrives, when we are with other believers.

When we become Christians we ae all blessed with a Spiritual gift that is meant to be utilized with other believers.  This gift cannot reach its full potential if it is kept in the closet.  We see this in 1 Corinthians 12:28, “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues[4].”  If we look carefully at these gifts, we see that they are to be used for the benefit of others within the body of Christ.

The Bible is deliberate in saying that we should not neglect meeting together.  Take Hebrews 10:25 as a n example, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching[5].”  The bottom line is that without being relational, and meeting with other Christians our growth is stunted.  Christianity is about relationship.  Whenever Paul evangelized a new area ne started a church, and they gathered together not only to learn, but for support and encouragement.

As you read this you may think that I am beating up on you.  Please believe me when I say that this is not my intention.  There are those who have legitimate reasons as to why they cannot fellowship with other believers, but there are those who do not for selfish reasons.  I myself fell into the latter category in my youth, but I found a church that teaches the scriptures, prays, and genuinely cares about the welfare of myself and family.  They also hold me accountable which is a key, and sometimes not pleasant, piece in spiritual growth.  The point is that Christianity is a team sport, and we are in this together.  It is about relationship, and developing those relationships in such a way where we become disciples of Christ.  Then we teach others to do the same.  Soon that one relationship will have an impact on the church, then the community, and even the world.

 

 

 

 

WORKS CITED

1 Corinthians 12:28 (Revised Standard Version).

Acts 2:42 (New American Standard Bible).

Acts 9:31 (English Standard Version).

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making is. Nashville, TN: B&h Academic, 2013.

Hebrews 10:25 (King James Version).

[1] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making is (Nashville, TN: B&h Academic, 2013), 39.

[2] Acts 9:31 (English Standard Version).

[3] Acts 2:42 (New American Standard Bible).

[4] 1 Corinthians 12:28 (Revised Standard Version).

[5] Hebrews 10:25 (King James Version).

Shield of Faith

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.“- Ephesians 6:10-20


Today we continue our armor of God series with the Shield of Faith.  Up until now we have discussed the belt, breastplate, and shoes and they all have one thing in common.  For the most part those pieces of armor hold themselves up.  The Roman soldier is not able to do the same with a shield because it requires a soldier to hold it up using his arm.  Not to do so would render it useless, and will lead to a swift death in battle.

The Roman shield was called a scutum and was a very large, rectangular object.  In the center was a huge metal knob called a “boss.”  The shield was slightly curved and was able to deflect arrows, and other attacks with ease.  The “boss” was also able to serve as a limited offensive weapon in close combat.  (Some sources I used for this article claim this is the origin if the term “like a boss”.)

So how does the imagery of the shield help us in our faith?  For part of the answer a look at the epistle to the Hebrews is helpful.  Hebrews 11:1 states, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  If faith is what this verse claims it is then it is more than  emotion, it is irrefutable, and real.  Romans 8:24-25 states, “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”  Faith is real, but that does not mean it is without difficulty.  When we first become Christian we have a lot of questions, and some things are hard to understand, but we keep learning and asking questions because we want to strengthen our faith.

A Roman soldier did not start out being able to hold his huge shield for long periods of time.  He exercised, trained, and he had a superior officer over him to show him how to improve.  It is the same with us.  If we are not in daily prayer, scripture reading, and of a Christ-centered church then how will we be strong enough to hold up our shield?  Our faith is the first line of defense against the enemy, just like a shield is to the Roman soldier.  Is your faith, your shield, firmly in Jesus Christ?  If it isn’t who, or what, is it in?  When your shield is not faith in Christ it will soon be penetrated.  Then the rest of your armor is at risk.

Gospel of Peace

“10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”-Ephesians 6:10-20

To get a better grasp of what it means to have our feet fitted, we must look again at the Roman soldier.  Thus far we have looked at the belt, which protects the soldier’s upper legs and private areas.  Last week, we took a close look at the breastplate which protected the soldier’s vital organs.  This week we are taking a look at the feet.  Why are feet so important?  Roman soldiers marched to battle, often over rough terrain, and if their feet were not protected they were done for.  You can have the greatest armor ever constructed, but if your feet are not taken care of it is all for nothing.

Last week, I described Paul’s education and training as a Pharisee.  By describing the feet Paul is alluding to a passage in Isaiah 5:27 which states, “No one in it is weary or stumbles, None slumbers or sleeps; Nor is the belt at its waist undone, Nor its sandal strap broken.”  In biblical times, the breaking of a soldier’s shoe was used as a metaphor for defeat.  The Roman soldiers sandal consisted of a thick sole that enabled him to march long distances without growing tired. 

Paul uses the concept of “peace” elsewhere in his writings.  In Romans 5:1 he writes, “Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  The first step in being fitted is to stand on a firm foundation which is faith in Jesus Christ.  As we live for Christ, and strive to do is will Colossians 3:15 starts to take effect.  In passage Paul writes, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” As Christians, we are commanded by Christ to proclaim the gospel.  The armor of God which we have been studying has an interesting parallel in Isaiah 52:7 “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace.” 

We are constantly marching as Christians because we are forever at war.  As I’ve said before there are no breaks.  Shoes are vital to the mission, and if our shoes are torn we will not be able to stand.  I’m reminded of a hymn which says “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”  What is our foundation?  If it isn’t Christ, and the truth that is only found in Him then it is time for new shoes.

Belt of Truth

We are taking a look at our spiritual armor, but specifically we are looking at the belt of truth this week.  We have heard these terms many times before, but it is important for us to understand why Paul is using them.  Remember that Paul was writing to the church in Ephesus  Being in the Roman empire Paul is using imagery that the people encountered on a daily basis.  Everyday the people would see Roman soldiers and the gear they wore.  Keep that in mind.

The piece of armament Paul describes is the belt of truth in Ephesians 6:14. That verse reads, “Stand therefore, having fastened the belt of truth around your waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.”  To rise victorious over evil, Christians must be fully committed to the Gospel and take advantage of every spiritual resource.  Things such as scripture, sound teaching, and prayer are crucial weapons in spiritual warfare.  These things, great as they are, need to be grounded in truth.  But what is the truth?

If we ask someone they may say that truth is anything you feel it to be.  If what is true for you is good for you, and what is true for me is true for me what good is that?  What if my truth says your truth is a lie?  Is it still true?  Friends…truth is not a concept or an abstract idea.  The truth is a person, and that person is Jesus Christ!

The Apostle Paul uses the metaphor of the belt of Truth for a couple of reasons.  First and foremost the teaching of Christ (i.e. truth) should be held near and dear to us.  In fact, without Christ we will be unable to overcome any attack that the enemy hits us with.  Without a solid foundation, we will buckle under the first hint of pressure.  John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible states, “And to have the loins girt with it, shows, that it should be near and close to the saints, and never departed from; and that it is a means of keeping them close to God and Christ, and of strengthening them against the assaults and attacks of Satan; and is of great use in the Christians’ spiritual conflict with their enemies.”

Secondly, for the Roman soldier a belt was not a piece of insignificant clothing as it is today.  The belt was normally made of leather and extended down to the thighs, protecting the lower abdomen and genital areas.  The soldier would then tuck his tunic in and be on guard and ready to move very swiftly.  This act of the soldier was a display of valor and courage.   Paul’s point in telling us to gird our loins with truth is that we cannot be ready to fight the enemy, if we are not strong and ready with God’s truth.

In order to put on the belt of truth, we must know what that truth is.  If we are not engaged in regular reading and prayer we may put the wrong belt on.  The results of that have the potential to be disastrous.

God bless you all!

References

http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/ephesians-6-14.html