Your story has lots of different components. If you were to write your biography, you could probably describe your experiences, personality, character, relationships, influences, passions, achievements, joys, and traumas. Your story is unique. There is no one else with your story.
There is “your story”, but there is also “our story”. There is a story that we all share; a story common to every human being who has ever existed. This is the story described in the Bible. It’s the story of being created by God, built by him to have a relationship with him. It’s the story of our unique place in God’s creation as his image bearers. It’s also a story of our brokenness and failure, of why our world is marked with suffering and evil. The Bible tells us about how God has entered our story with his grace. To properly understand ourselves and God, we have to understand our story and his grace, as the Bible describes.
This Sunday, we’re starting a new series looking at Romans 1-4. Paul’s letter to the Romans is a kind of Christian manifesto. It’s the fullest and grandest statement of the gospel in the New Testament. Martin Luther called it, “really the chief part of the New Testament, and … truly the purest gospel”. John Calvin declared that “if we have gained a true understanding of this Epistle, we have an open door to all the most profound treasures of Scripture”. If you grab hold of this letter and study it, you can more closely understand our story and God’s grace.
What does that look like for us at St Andrew’s? I think this “meeting together” means more than simply turning up to church on Sunday. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to come to church regularly on a Sunday. But to what extent are we able to spur one another on towards love and good deeds? How deeply can we encourage one another? Because if you’re coming here on a Sunday only for information and inspiration, that means you’re not really connecting deeply with other people. You’re just being part of a crowd.
The type of Christian community that is meant in this passage is where you can hear the bible and drill it down into one another’s lives. Do you do that? Do you have a small group of people where you can drill the gospel down deep into your lives with one another, speaking the truth in love and growing to spiritual maturity (Eph. 4:15)?
Most of us realise that this type of Christian community will cost something from us. It will cost us time, as we prioritise church commitments in our busy schedules. In our consumer culture where we like to keep our options open and church easily falls off our agenda, we need to feel the weight of the command to “not give up meeting together”. This kind of community will also cost us comfort and convenience. Building relationships involves time, emotional investment, vulnerability, creating intimacy, and serving one another sacrificially.
This kind of Christian community is vital for our individual spiritual growth. Notice the goal that we’re given. We should meet like this, “all the more as you see the Day approaching”. That “Day” is Christ’s return when we will meet him. The goal of the Christian life is to grow in our likeness to Jesus. We need one another to do this.
So here’s your homework for this week: spend fifteen minutes prayerfully considering your commitment to our community. Ask God to help you to see how you should be involved here.