We are hard-wired for relationships. When God created us in His image, He created us as relational beings, just like He is. God has existed in perfect relationship within the Godhead for all of eternity. And when God said, “It is not good for a man to be alone”, He was making a statement that not only applied to marriage, but also to how we were fundamentally made. So, this past Sunday we covered our commitment to and passion for growing relationships within the church. We believe that God’s heart, as demonstrated in the picture portrayed in Romans 16:1-16, is that every believer participate in growing relationships with others, loving, serving and caring for one another in the church. We covered 4 principles regarding relationships:
1. We are hard-wired for relationships. As mentioned above, we see this clearly laid out for us in Genesis 1 and 2. To be alone is to be less human, wrong and not good.
2. Sin destroys relationships. Sin seeks to distort our desires for relationships and sin corrupts our experience of relationships. We tend to swing in one of two directions, either toward isolation or toward idolatry. We are tempted toward isolation most often when we are done with friendships, especially when there is constant disappointment, hurt and let down. And we are tempted toward idolatry when we crave from people and relationships what God alone was meant to provide. These two tendencies ultimately place ourselves at the center – what we want and crave and don’t get because our friends are sinners.
3. The third way is found in Jesus. It is only when Jesus enters the picture that our relationships can be transformed. When Christ enters our friendships as the third strand of a cord that is not easily broken, then He alone begins to be our all in all, satisfying the longings of our hearts for love and acceptance and therefore freeing us to love and serve and care for others because we have been profoundly loved and served and cared for by Him. With Christ also comes the possibility and power for forgiveness and grace, because we have been freely forgiven by Him. He was willing to enter into our messiness and unlovableness and loved us still. And now He gives us power through the gospel to do so with others. And with Christ comes the example to give and love and serve and care for with no thought of what we get in return. Until Christ is our all in all, our relationships will never be selfless.
4. God desires relationships to exist within the church. The New Testament is full of God’s heart that deep relationships where all of the “one another” commands can be fulfilled happen in local churches. The church is compared to a body, many members (diversity) but all growing as one (unity). The church is a building put together as living stones by God Himself. The church is a family. All are pictures that loving and serving and caring relationships are to exist in a local body of believers that you are committed to. We grow in friendships and relationships where the power of the gospel enabling us to love happens in real lives, amidst real sinners in a local church.
You can listen to or download the sermon here. Here are some questions to help you apply this message to your life.
1. How important have friendships been to you in your life, especially friendships with other Christians? What has been the impact of these friendships on your life?
2. Describe a time when you were lonely? What was it like? Why was it so wrong?
3. Which tendency do you have: isolation or idolatry? Describe how and why.
4. How does Christ entering into the picture of your relationships change everything? What happens in practice, in your behavior when you consider Christ first? Can you describe a current friendship that would begin to be transformed if some aspect of who Jesus is and what He has done began to inform that friendship?
5. Why are relationships in the church so important? What are some things that hinder us from growing in relationships in the church?
6. What do you believe God is calling you to as a result of this message? How does He want to inform and/or transform your friendships?
God has been kind to us as a church as relationships have been a focus and a strength for many years. And yet, there is more. God desires us to grow in love toward one another because He has loved us first, shown us what love is in His Son and empowers us by His Spirit to love one another.
Grace to you this week,