[Note: this is a continuing part of a series reproducing a sermon. An explanation can be found here.]
If we can’t trust our hearts to be a sure compass for God-honoring behavior, can we trust ourselves to be a sure interpreter of Scripture? Nope. So, obedience which is discovered by Scripture must be understood and applied in community.
B. Obedience is understood in community.
We need a community of Bible saturated and Jesus loving people to help us apply Scripture to our lives. We were not meant to learn obedience alone.
Once upon a time there was a woman tempted to act, to follow her heart. And so she acted apart from the community that God had given her. Her name was Eve and she did not bother to consult with Adam before eating the fruit that looked so good to her. The consequences were disastrous.
Community is essential to wrestling through the question of obedience.
The Apostle Peter was a recovering racist. For most of his life, the Gentiles were dogs and he would never eat with them. But God gave him a vision which helped him understand that the Gospel removed the barrier between him and the Gentiles.
But his racism would creep back in, and on at least one occasion, he needed Paul to get in his face to remind him that his racist choices were not in obedience to Jesus.
Obedience is something that is directed by Scripture, but worked out practically in community.
Living the Christian life requires more than a Bible. It requires a wise and godly Christian community. In Colossians 3 Paul tells us to
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…,”
We read this as a command for us to become individually biblically literate. But that is not his goal. His desire is that the Christian community may minister wisdom and grace to one another:
…teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)
Obedience is comprehended in community.
False teaching – whether it is Eve’s raw disobedience or false asceticism or cultic practices – will always follow a strategy of divide and conquer. False teaching isolates a single sheep, or a group of like thinking sheep, and can then pour its poisonous vision into them. We must resist that.
The community we inhabit is a community stretching back 2000 years and embracing a world 25,000 miles in circumference. Understanding that alone will help us gain a better picture of many commands. But as well will the counsel and insight of the culturally sensitive and godly communities God has placed us in now.
We are, for example, told to love our neighbor. But what does that mean by way of application? We learn the answer in community. Does it mean I help my neighbor move his brother in with him? Does it mean I help him move his girlfriend in with him? What does it mean?
Such a question cannot be considered outside the context of our broad community.
When I’ve lost all bearings, when my supports have crashed, when I’m lost, I need community to help take me by the hand in the midst of my fear and confusion to know what Scripture would require of me.
Obedience is mediated through Scripture and through community.