Summary: As we define what it means to "follow Jesus in holistic community," the focus will be on the importance of community to those who follow Jesus.

Following Jesus in Holistic Community

Come Unity

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

August 3, 2008

This is the third and final sermon in this mini-series on Following Jesus in Holistic Community. We’ve looked at that holistic means complete or total in that we as the people of God need to surrender our entire lives completely over to God to be used by God. I can’t underemphasize how important this is. I am totally convinced by God that this is truly the key to following Jesus.

In our culture, many people call themselves Christians. It has become so varied and diverse that some are Christian because they believe in God. Added to this that most people who don’t follow the ways of Jesus see Christians as being hypocritical and judgmental. It is a huge problem. This is why I choose to talk about following Jesus rather “being a Christian.” I still believe in being a Christian but there is so much confusion on what it means that it is much easier to talk in terms of following Jesus.

Do you follow his ways? Are you completely totally surrendered to his will? Is every area of your life turned over to him? Is he truly in control of every area of your life to the best of your knowledge and ability? This has become so huge to me especially as I look at the biblical stories and read about people who have followed Jesus throughout the last 2000 years that I wonder if a person can really, truly be in the right place with God without total surrender.

But what is equally important to surrendering to God’s will is surrendering oneself to a community of followers of Jesus. The more I read the bible and the more I read about the culture of this early church, the more I see that an individual who is a Christian on their own and does not worship with other followers and does not contribute to the life of the body and does not contribute to the community at large for the early believers would be as foreign to them as using smoke signals to talk to people rather than cell phones. They just wouldn’t conceive of it.

Many people talk about the difference between spirituality and religion. And I think there is some validity to this distinction especially as people talk about “going to church” and talk about the church as an institution. But for Paul and Peter and John and Stephen this really was inconceivable. For to disassociate from the community of faith is the same as rejecting the ways of Jesus. I’ve said this before…The bible never uses the word “church” to refer to a place to go on Sunday (we go to worship not to church) nor is it a building. The church is a people.

The Church is a People

Therefore we don’t just go to church we are called to be the church. We are called to be set apart. And not just as individuals. Although we need to individually (and corporately) examine our lives and choose to surrender everything we have and everything we are to God’s control, we do so in the midst of a community or people of faith.

I have short list of qualities that might mark you as someone from the burbs. In otherwise this might show what community you belong to:

You might be from the suberbs if:

You have a garage but you can’t get your car into it. (Now this could be because you have too much stuff stored there or your car is just too big).

You built either a shed or added on a new section to your house just to house your Christmas decorations.

Your most recent night out was a parent/teacher conference.

Summer is sometimes called garage sale season.

Of course you also know that you are in Erie because there are only two seasons: winter and construction season.

Your mortgage (or even your rent) could balance the national debt of a third-world country.

You jog five miles a day but spend 30 minutes waiting for a closer parking spot.

As the church is a people the invitation of the bible is to join together in unity. Or simply put—come unity.

Come Unity

In the reading in 1 Thessalonians, Paul is considered to be the primary author but Paul also includes Silas or Barnabas and Timothy. They are a part of his close knit community. They are united in the purpose of following Jesus. They are completely or totally or wholly (as in holistically) set apart for God’s use. They have this common purpose that forms their community.

They write this letter to a group of believers—to a community of faith. They write to a community of Jesus followers. It is plural. “To the church” is not a building or an address but it is a people that are “in Christ” (very important concept to be in Christ). They are in the middle of God’s will. They are in the middle of following the ways of Jesus. And it is emphasized that “they” are in it. It is plural.

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