Building Community in the Gospel

“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,  and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.  To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

– 1 Timothy 1:12-16

Paul is well known for His courage to preach Christ wherever God sent Him. In the face of persecution and death, he was faithful to the very end to complete the task that God had given him (Acts 20:24). But one of the things that we don’t tend to look at is Paul’s vulnerability as a fellow brother in Christ.

In 1 Timothy 1:12-16, we see Paul share with his disciple, Timothy, about his past and his sober understanding of himself – that he is the worst of all sinners (v.15). But it’s out of a sober understanding of himself before the holiness of God that leads him to worship Christ for what He has done and has shown him (v.16). The Gospel is what grounds Paul to be vulnerable about his life and points Timothy to worship Christ for what He is displaying through his broken life.

This is the dynamic that we are praying for and working towards when it comes to the community life at Sunset Church, especially through our small group ministry. Our small group communities must be a place where we can be vulnerable about our Christian lives (through the good and the bad), but also where we point each other toward Christ and what He is doing in us. It isn’t easy to be honest, but the Gospel makes it possible! The Gospel levels the playing field with one another and helps us to see that our identity as a beloved child of God is the only identity we can cling to in this life—past mistakes, accomplishments, knowledge or relationships cannot define us. The Gospel reminds each of us of how sinful we are by nature, but how great our God is because He is displaying Himself through our broken but redeemed lives.

As we pray and work towards building true community at Sunset Church, I am reminded that it isn’t built solely on activities or even the studies that we go through in small group. But when community is built on the Gospel, we can have the dynamics that Paul and Timothy had with one another – one that is honest, vulnerable, and points to the work of God in our lives. To carry out our vision to make Gospel-transformed disciples, it begins by having Gospel-transformed relationships. As our relationships are grounded in this way, we can become the “city on a hill” that displays Christ for the world to see (Matt. 5:14).

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