The Care and Feeding of the Heart: Born Out of the Trinity, We Can Only Flourish in Community!
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But instead I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, ESV)
Marathoners at the Training Table IN and FOR Christ are dedicated to running the good race and eventually standing before Jesus one day and hearing our Savior and Master say, Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master’s happiness!’ (Matthew 25:23)
A Whole New Family and No More Shame!
But, the “A, B, C’s of the Faith” Must Be in Place First.
Today’s feast of the heart is a reminder of the main and most important REALITIES that occur when any human being’s heart is:
a) first touched, regenerated by the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:26; Acts 2:38), and,
b) he or she grasps the holiness of God and unworthiness of him or herself by nature and comparison (Romans 6:23),
c) sees his or her need of a Savior from God’s justifiable wrath and punishment in everlasting hell and a Lord and Master to lead him or her throughout life (Matthew 25:31-46),
d) repents of his or her sin (Luke 13:3),
e) is born again (John 3:3),
f) believes in Jesus Christ by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9),
g) is justified [Christ pays the price, atones for our sin on the cross] (Romans 5:1),
h) is baptized as a self-aware adult (Acts 2:41); and,
i) exists in Christ, by grace, through faith, by means of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26) living within her or his heart, continuously conformed to Christ, in order to do good works (Titus 3:14; Galatians 5:22-23), and,
j) will finally reign with Christ and all Believers in heaven for eternity (Revelation 22:1-5). Amen!
At Conversion, Upon Being Born Again,
We are Adopted into a Whole New Family and
We Have No More Shame!
Please Get This: There is not one thing I can say… that anyone can say… about biblical Christianity that will resonate in the heart or be efficacious within the mind and life unless you or I have been born-again [the “a,b,c’s” above].
Being born-again guarantees that the Holy Spirit indwells a person; this person begins a spiritual journey as a new creation in Christ and a spiritual infant; and, as such, ALL perceptions of life… the sense [reason] and sensibilities [emotions] are affected, changed forever, while growing from infancy to maturity over time. Or NOT, if being born-again has not occurred.
Being born-again does not describe a particularly needy, super-duper-sinful [as opposed to just a little sinful], zealous, religious, fringe, politically-crazed conservative, demo- or psychographic sub-set of human beings, Beloved.
Being born-again is the absolute bottom-line, essential, indispensable, and [third to God’s effectual calling begun before time and Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross] the main thing within God’s Plan of Redemption that assures a spiritually dead-dead thorough-going sinner be brought back to life (Ephesians 1:11-14);
it assures that Adam’s inherited Sin and our habitual sinning nature be forgiven by God by means of His Son’s [the Second Adam] propitiating, justifying sacrifice on the cross (1 John 4:10);
it cements God’s merciful and manifold promises of judging us by grace and not by the law (Galatians 4);
it is the beginning of the guarantee that there is now no longer any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus OR possibility of not persevering and falling out of favor with God… ever (Romans 8); and
it is the infant-beginning of a spiritual, emotional, intellectual, psychological, and physical journey of discipleship and increasing holiness via having been SAVED to SERVE in order to bring God’s Kingdom in heaven down to earth (Matthew 6:10);
until we die or Jesus returns in glory to restore this broken universe by making all things new again (Revelation 21:5)!
My Point? Does the Spirit Reside Within You?
As you read and meditate on the content below, on any content inspired by God’s Spirit, and your heart has been re-born by God, in Christ, and through the Spirit by faith, you will resonate with the Truth and Love of God as the Spirit responds inside… YOU! Has the objective Truth and Love of God become a subjective fact and experience… inside you?
You may feel the thrill-chill of God’s Spirit inside of you as Spirit speaks to Spirit (Romans 8:16). You could well tear-up in weeping of joy and/or regret as you sense the Spirit reminding you of the joy of redemption and/or an unrecognized sin that God has brought you through in life. Perhaps it will be a sense of deeper conviction, renewed zeal, a sense of thankful redirection the Spirit wants you to see in a whole new light, an opening for a reconciliation of some kind, or a fresh sense of hope, contentment, or assurance.
If this sort of “affection of the Spirit” and God’s Love and Truth penetrating and resonating within you is the case, please [please…] re-consider whether you have actually embraced “The A, B, C’s of the Faith” above.
Devoid of being born-again, the reality of the Spirit working within you will NOT be real at all… But only despairing: When the Bible says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12) it is referring to ONLY being “alive and active” in a person who has been brought back from the dead. RE: “The A, B, C’s” of the faith.
God doesn’t grade on a curve; our works cannot please God; being “not as bad as Hitler” and “not as good as Mother Teresa” won’t cut the mustard either; living a life of a “really nice guy or gal” won’t appease a Holy God; having been baptized as an infant is not a saving act… We must be born-again, from above, through repentance, and by grace AS a thinking self-aware sinner… saved by grace and grace alone.
I am… we all should be… zealously passionate about this point: We live in a time when the world, the flesh, the devil are deceiving many about some form religiosity making them acceptable to God or convincing them that God is irrelevant. But a hardened heart cannot hear and joyously relish in God’s True Truth and Love.
In His Manifold Mercy, God has Made It Abundantly Clear!
Foundations of Mercy
“Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel’ (Ezekiel 11:17),
Idol Work of the Heart
And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh… (vv 18-19),
Recommitment to God
That they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God (v 20),
Warnings to Those Who Refuse Such a Great Mercy
But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads,” declares the Lord God” (v 21).
Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Fellowship / Community of the Saints
“A Christian no longer lives of himself by his own claims and of his own justification, but by God’s claims and God’s justification. He loves wholly by God’s Word pronounced upon him whether that Word pronounces him guilty or innocent.”
“The Reformers expressed it this way: Our righteousness is an “alien righteousness”, a righteousness that comes from the outside of us (extra nos). They were saying that Christian was dependent on the Word of God spoken to him. He is pointed outward to the Word that comes to him.”
“If somebody asks him, ‘Where is your salvation, your righteousness?’ The Christian can never point to himself. He points to the Word of God in Jesus Christ, which assures him salvation and righteousness.’”
“And that also clarifies the goal of all Christian community: We meet with one another as bringers of the message of salvation. As such, God permits them to meet together and gives them community. Their fellowship is founded solely upon Jesus Christ and this ‘alien righteousness’.”
“All we can say, therefore, is this: The community of Christians springs solely from the Biblical and Reformation message of the justification of man through the grace of God alone; this alone is the basis of the longing of Christian for one another.”
“Without Christ we should not know God, we could not call upon Him, nor come to Him. But without Christ we could not know our brother, nor could we come to him.”
“Thus God Himself taught us to meet one another as God has met us in Christ. ‘Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.’” (Rom 15:7)
“My Brother [or Sister] is rather the other person who has been redeemed by Christ, delivered from sin, and called to faith and eternal life.”
“The more genuine and deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and His work become the one and only thing that is vital, life-giving between us. We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly, for eternity.”
“Christian Brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ Jesus in which we may participate.”
Timothy Keller on Community
“Ultimate reality is a community of persons who know and love one another. That is what the universe, God, history, and life is all about. If you favor money, power, and accomplishment over human relationships, you will dash yourself on the rocks of reality. It is impossible to stay fully human if you refuse the cost of forgiveness, the substitutional exchange of love, and the confinements of community. We believe the world was made by a God who is a community in trinity of persons who have loved each other for all eternity. You were made for mutually self-giving, other-directed love. Self-centeredness destroys the fabric of what God has made.”
The Bible’s Word on “The Body” and Fellowship in the Church
Psalm 55:13 “But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend,”
Psalm 119:63 “I am a friend to all who fear You, to all who follow Your precepts.”
Psalm 133:1-3 “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on MountZion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”
Matthew 23:8 “But you are not to be called `Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.”
Mark 10:42-44 “Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Luke 24:13-35 “Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them…”
John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I d you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 15:12 “My command is this: Love each other as I do you.”
Romans 12 “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
2 Corinthians 6 “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
Gal 2:9-10 “James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.”
Gal 6:2-7 “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”
Phil 1:3-8 “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.”
Phil 2:1-7 “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”
Col 2:2-7 “My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
1 Thess 4:16-18 “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.”
Heb 13:1 “Keep on loving each other as brothers.”
1 Pet 2:16-17 “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the King, Jesus Christ.”
1 John 1:3-7 “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
1 John 3:12-16 “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. 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 John 4:7-13 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Soninto the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice forour sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.”
As Christians, we are born out of the trinity; we can only flourish in community!
Please do everything in the power of the Spirit within you, and your on obedience and gratitude for Christ, to take a long, deep and COMMUNAL [get with another Saint or two or three] look at your Christian life—and the fellowship, the community, the accountability, the brother- or sisterhood that you are becoming more and more like Jesus Christ in, Beloved. Commit to raising your level of self-awareness to see what GAPS in fellowship might exist, why they do, and how another Saint might lovingly yet truthfully help you close them.
DO NOT… please do not… let the rampantly privatized, compartmentalized, isolated, independent, self-help, and hellishly lonely world, your own fears, past wounds, present pride, future worries, or the devil’s manifold deceptions convince you to delay what Jesus knows, and you know, is best for your faith:
“…let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another… daily… as long as it is today… “ (Hebrews 10:24-25; 3:13; Psalm 95:7-8).
God bless your next part of the journey that it might include a much deeper and more committed feast of COMMUNITY!
Community—and Why We Need It
The Four Loves, by CS Lewis
Self-Examination is a Community Project, by Paul Tripp
Redemptive Suffering In COMMUNITY, by John Dozier