The Rest of Your Life: Community at Gateway South Austin

We concluded our series on The Rest of Your Life at Gateway Church in Austin.

Digging Deeper

Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.

Discussion Questions

Message Video:

Message Audio:

Message Notes:

As we end our series on finding rest, a deep rest that comes from our relationship with God and transcends our circumstances, we have looked at solitude, silence, reading the Scriptures, fasting, and Sabbath. These may be easier for those of us who are introverts since these are disciplines that we often practice on our own with God. In reality, these disciplines can be and need to be practiced within community as well. We started the series with hospitality, and we are ending it with community. Both of these may be easier for those of us who are extroverts since these require people. 

Even still, if you are a follower of Jesus, you need time alone with God and time with people in order to become more like Jesus.

Some of you have been in a group using resources to grow in prayer or one of these spiritual disciplines.

“As we practice the way of Jesus, we need partners for the journey, a community to help us along the way. Jesus invites all who follow him to be a part of a new family. This family of God is not a social club or a group of friends who look, think, and talk similarly, but a community of apprentices following Jesus’ way of life. And despite the work it takes, the fights we will endure, and the learning we will do along the way, together we’re figuring out how to be with Jesus, become like him, and do what he did.”

PracticingTheWay.Org

But let’s be honest. We can feel resistance to stepping into community. It’s easier to sit in a crowd on Sundays. It takes a bit more courage to go to someone’s house for a group or to come early to connect with others through serving. 

In addition, we feel resistance because hurt people hurt people. When we experience pain or disappointment we can create walls around our hearts thinking this will protect us. In the end, when we create a fortress around our heart, we think we won’t get hurt as much but in reality we don’t experience love as much.

CPs: Tell a story about how hard relationships can be.

From an early age, we experience the drama of life brought on through conflict.  When our daughter Trevi was in Kindergarten, it seemed like every day she had more stories of friends who hurt her or friends who had become enemies. These little people created so much drama! It was like listening to a soap opera! One day I asked her: Trevi why don’t you share about the good things that happen at school instead of only sharing about the bad stuff. She responded: “I don’t need help with the good stuff!”

Conflict is everywhere. We have conflict at home and at work and even in the local church.

Even the Bible is full of examples of people in conflict with other people. The Bible is full of miraculous stories of ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary things, but at the same time, we discover that throughout history, people hurt people. Just reading the letters of Paul in the Scriptures, you discover that the early church was constantly dealing with immorality, heresy, and conflict.

Is there any hope? Will we always be stuck in a battle at home or at work?

The answer is yes. Yes, there is hope. And yes, there will always be conflict in our lives. Both are true. Before you give up hope, know that we can learn to experience peace and even create peace in the midst of our relationships. We do not have to hide behind the walls we’ve built around our hearts.

There is a moment in the Bible when Jesus summarizes the entire message of the Scriptures. Have you ever wondered what this ancient and huge book was all about? 

Jesus – the man who billions have claimed is God. Regardless of what you feel about Jesus – whether you follow Him completely as your Lord (your leader) or you aren’t sure what you think about Him – no one can deny His importance in human history. Even just in the last 100 years, it was the words of Jesus that compelled Gandhi to seek independence from the British Empire by turning the other cheek. It was the words of Jesus that formed the strategy devised by Martin Luther King, Jr. which included marches for peace during the Civil Rights movement.

Now, 2000 years later, we are talking about him today.

So what is the summary of the Bible? When asked for the greatest commandment Jesus said these words:

“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:37-39

To become who we were meant to be means having a healthy relationship with God and a healthy relationship with people. Our relationships affect every arena of our lives.

We were designed to experience meaningful, healthy, and life-giving relationships with God and with others, but we’ve allowed the inadvertent mistakes and the evil choices of others to keep this from happening. We’re not just victims. We have also hurt others – sometimes on accident but too often we’ve done so intentionally. 

To break down these walls around our hearts, we need to learn to love God and love people. These two truths are interconnected. Jesus was asked for one commandment and he gave us two. You and I cannot truly love God unless we also love people. Some of us forget that. We get caught up in wanting to learn more about God for what He can do for us. Some of us love to sing to God because of how it makes us feel. Some of us get caught up in a selfish relationship with God where it’s just about me and Him. In reality, that’s not a healthy relationship with God at all.  We trick ourselves into thinking we don’t need a church at all or going on Sunday once a week or once a month is all we need. We deceive ourselves into thinking we don’t need community or even that we don’t need people. A healthy relationship with God points us towards healthy relationships with people.

You and I cannot truly love God unless we also love people, and let’s be honest, you and I cannot truly love people without God’s help because people can be hard to love.

Are you willing to break down the walls around your heart? To do so requires connecting deeply with God who helps us connect deeply with people. It means working through conflict through clear communication, learning to forgive, and learning to ask for forgiveness.

For some of us our next step towards healthy relationships is a renewed effort to connect to God. For others of us, we need to ask God to guide us in connecting better with others. Which is it for you? In either case, live knowing that our relationships with people affect our relationship with God and vice versa.

Even though you know the Cliffs Notes version of the Bible, there is still a very good reason to read it, to study it, and most importantly to apply what you discover in the Bible to your life. The Bible is filled with case studies on how to Love God and how to Love people.

I want us to look at one of those case studies found in the letter to the Hebrews. The author of the letter is trying to encourage followers of Jesus not to give up on their faith or give up on each other. The author wants them to understand the supremacy of Jesus over all they might consider important or sacred, and the author doesn’t want them to give up on community.

Listen to what the author writes:

Hebrews 10:23-25: 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

I love the strong language – “hold unswervingly,” “spur one another,” “not give up meeting together,” and “encouraging one another.”

We need that kind of kick in the pants sometime, don’t we?! We can get too busy for our own good. We can be so exhausted from work that we don’t have the energy to connect or serve. Or maybe we have gotten into bad habits with streaming shows or movies online every night. Before the pandemic that may have been something we did a couple of times a week and mostly on weekends but now it’s the default.

We practice the discipline of community in order to more fully know God.

Notice how from the beginning of the early church, they made spending time together a priority.

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. – Acts 2:42-47

And notice what the church planter Paul said to his church family in Ephesus:

20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. – Acts 20:20

Followers of Christ gather together publicly in large groups like we do on Sunday mornings to worship in song and declare who God is, so that our souls can be reminded of His goodness, and that we are not alone. We need to sit under teaching so that we are not driven to our own ideologies, but rather rooted in the Word of God.

We also need to be in each other’s homes, sharing meals, caring for one another and living out all the “one anothers” in the Scripture.

We lean into community in order to more fully know others and know ourselves

No one knows themselves by themselves. It’s in community that “iron sharpens iron” as it says in the Proverbs or where we help each other smooth out our rough edges.

My Wednesday morning men’s group has been a lifeline for me. We started in about 2018 and moved to zoom during the pandemic.
We have helped each other through some tough challenges – challenges we have all faced and personal challenges.
As we check in every week before diving into the Digging Deeper questions, I can be honest with them and know they are lifting me up. 
They share my burdens.
They walked with me through my Dad’s illness, his diagnoses, the months of caring for him, and his passing
And they can call me out. 
Remind me of things I say I believe even if I am struggling with doubt.
Remind me of what is true of me as a follower of Jesus, a child of the King of Kings, the Creator of the Universe!

We took the month of July off from meeting on Wednesday mornings, but some of the guys have kept getting together on Wednesdays and some of us have been playing pickleball on Thursdays and serving together on Sundays!

They have become like my extended family. I have grown so much because they are in my life.

We live out community in order to be a light to a dark world

The church is not meant to be a fortress against the world. It is a refuge, a hospital, for a dying world.

Jesus said to his disciples after Peter declares that he saw Jesus as “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”: “On this rock I will build my church, and the power of death will not be able to defeat it.” – Matthew 16:18

The church is not a service or a building but the expression of God’s Kingdom in the world, the Body of Christ to our city.

As Erwin McManus says in his book An Unstoppable Force: Daring to Become the Church God Had in Mind – 

“The church is not here to meet our needs. We are the church here to meet the needs of the world.”

– Erwin McManus 

That’s why we do things like The Church Has Left the Building. It’s not that we want a holiday weekend off since so many of us may be traveling. It’s a tangible reminder once a year that all year, we are to look for ways to BLESS our neighbors, our coworkers, our extended family, and our friends all year long. 

If you are visiting family or with friends on July 7th, consider inviting them to watch our online campus at live.gatewaychurch.com at 9:15am or 11:15am. Or invite some neighbors or co workers over for brunch or an early lunch to watch with you.

Or look for practical ways to serve and encourage or get to know your neighbors and co-workers outside of work by hosting a BBQ or going out to watch the fireworks.

Or join us for one of our projects across the city. You can find out more at gatewaychurch.com and click on “The Church Has Left the Building”

There are so many other benefits to community, but let me end with one more.

We live out community to overcome selfishness.

If you follow Jesus, we are invited to die to self. Jesus said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” – Matthew 16:24-25

When we die to selfishness, that’s when we truly begin to live! We die to the sin that distracts us and derails us so that we might be free. With God’s help, we can live differently. His Spirit guides and directs us so that we no longer give in to the flesh, the temptations of this world.

There is a beautiful expression of this supernatural experience that we will be celebrating today. It’s baptism.

Listen to Romans 6 which says:

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” – Romans 6:1-4

Jesus willingly gave His life for you and me. He took upon Himself the sins of humanity, and it killed him. But on the third day, He rose from the dead! He ascended to the right hand of our heavenly Father where reigns over heaven and earth! His Spirit lives within us when we acknowledge we want and need His forgiveness and leadership in our lives!

Just as Jesus rose gave His life and rose from the dead, baptism represents death to our old life and being raised to live a new life!

If you are here and planning to be baptized today, we are so excited to cheer you on after the service! 

If you are here and you’ve recently chosen to surrender your life to Jesus and want to get baptized, check in at the baptism pool just after the service and we can talk this through with you. 

For those of us who have been baptized in the past, watching those get baptized is a reminder to us of that moment in our lives.

Baptism is also a marker for stepping into the community of those who follow Jesus. We follow in a long line of believers going back 2000 years! 

So in this moment, I want to invite you to stand with me as I want to pray for you and invite you to connect with God in your own heart and mind.

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