Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Growing in Grace by Christian Community

The Apostle Peter drew his second letter to a close with these wise and pastoral words: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18). The word “grow” is an exhortation and a command, and it implies that if we’re to progress in Christ we must play an active role, by the grace of Christ, in building habits that nurture that progress. Therefore, I am offering a series of devotionals this summer on eight essential habits that help us to grow in grace. For today, let’s consider the place of Christian community in our walk with Christ.

So far in this series we have considered the place of the Word of God, praising God, praying to God, fasting, and giving in the life of the growing Christian. Today I want to add a simple but very important idea, specifically, that we are designed by Jesus to grow in these and other ways together. Life in Christ is life together. This idea is not hard to understand or see on nearly every page of the New Testament. The difficulty comes in the living.

In the early days of the church, those who believed in Jesus Christ were utterly committed to the worship of Christ, and they were utterly committed to one another. They shared in a host of spiritual blessings together, and they shared in life and even material possessions together. They were neither communists nor communalists, but they did believe that their bond in Christ was the defining bond of life and the way they lived from day to day served as proof of what they believed (see Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37).

As time went on, serious issues arose within the church that threatened to tear apart the unity they enjoyed in Christ. They, like us, still struggled with sin, and at times they really hurt each other. But the book of Acts boldly testifies that regardless of their internal struggles, the bond they shared remained because the bond they shared was Christ himself. Life together was not easy, but it was possible, and unstoppable, because the devil had to defeat Christ in order to destroy the church. Not likely to happen!

When the Apostles later wrote the New Testament, they gave much counsel regarding life together, including the famous string of one another commands that exhort us fix our eyes on Jesus and press on with one another. Taken together, these commands show us (1) that life together is the desire and command of Christ upon his people, (2) that life together is not easy, but (3) that life together is possible, profitable, and inevitable because it depends on Christ himself who has promised to build, prosper, and protect his church.

Life in Christ is life together. In order to grow in Christ we must do so together. It’s hard at times, but it’s good, and again, the power for pressing on is in Christ himself. So may we commit ourselves anew this day to doing life in Christ with our fellow believers.

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