Thursday, October 01, 2015
There are a lot of neat pictures of what a small group looks like, but one of my favorites is the image of a “shield wall.” The idea comes from the armor of God mentioned in Ephesians 6. Here, Paul tells the believers in Ephesus to “take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”
The type of shield Paul refers to is a large one shaped somewhat like a door. It was typically used in his day not merely by an individual soldier but rather by a Roman phalanx (group of soldiers), who interlocked shields to form a shield wall beside and above each soldier, to protect each other from attack by fiery arrows. I’ll just note a couple of interesting aspects for small groups:
First, Paul says in the armor of God that our faith is what functions as these shields. It is our active trust in God’s promises, our dogged belief that He is good and is for us, our remembering who we are as God’s children because we are connected to Jesus, that allows us to thwart the arrows of Satan. When Satan lies to, tempts, or accuses us, our defense is not to be our own individual strength but rather our desperate dependence on the promises and faithfulness of our God. Trusting his truth rather than Satan’s lies and accusations is not easy, especially when our circumstances tempt us to despair.
“When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there, who made an end of all my sin.”
But secondly, as I said, this is not easy. And this is why the overlapping nature of the shields is so important. A soldier left on his own is very vulnerable to attack. In the Roman phalanx, the key to success was staying together and keeping the wall tight and impenetrable. In fact, the shields would overlap each soldier so that a soldier’s shield would be covering part of the body of the soldier standing next to him. Here’s the essence of small groups: we need each other in this battle; spiritual warfare is not an isolated, individual endeavor.
When you think of your small group, imagine all of you locking arms to strengthen each other, each of you protecting another by pointing them to God’s promises and trusting God’s goodness with and for them. Have you had a meeting where one group member in a low place had to, in a sense, live off the faith of the others? Have you had a conversation where someone struggling with doubts or confusion needed to hear God’s truth spoken by others in the group? When you do, you’re thankful you’re close enough for your shields to interlock and overlap!
Finally, don’t forget the reality of the war in which we are engaged. Your small group is not coasting through life together; rather, we are together wrestling against spiritual forces of evil. We need each other, so what you do matters! Think of every group interaction as a drawing the shield wall tighter against attack. Pray for each other, encourage each other, and point each other to Jesus … because our hope in this battle is in his victory and the strength that He gives us. “Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world!”
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You'll find most of my recommended books available in the Guest Center at Southwood.
You Can Change
How do we mortify sin? How do we address the sin in our lives that reignite like a trick birthday candle we thought we had already blown out of our lives? This is a careful and thoroughly theological book that is hopeful without avoiding honesty. It is practical without being legalistic. It gets to the root of the sinful areas of our lives without offering a prescriptive regimen to hide behind avoiding the grace that has the only true power to teach “us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:11-14
Relationships: A Mess Worth Making
Timothy Lane & Paul Tripp
Small groups would be easy if weren’t for the people in the group! This book will help equip you to see your own sin first and provide the courage and humility to address it in others.
The Heart of a Servant Leader
This is a collection of letters written by Jack Miller to people experiencing real-life concerns and struggles. Through these gracious and honest letters you will learn how to humbly offer to others (and yourself!) hope, repentance, and courage that flows from the truth of the gospel of grace. Though this isn’t a “how to” book full of nifty steps to Your Best Gospel Life Now. It’s a glimpse into the heart of a person who has found food at the Cross, and you watch (and learn) as he humbly points others to the feast.
Comforts From The Cross
Elyse M. Fitzpatrick
This 31 day devotional will bring you to the foot of the cross to remember and celebrate the truth of the gospel of grace, and develop skills that will help “inform, free, gladden, and enliven your soul every day.” Becoming proficient in applying the Gospel of grace to our own hearts is a key skill that is well worth our effort to develop.
- Christ PCA - Nashville
Scott Sauls and CPC Staff
Listen to sermons from Senior Pastor Scott Sauls and other CPC pastors at a sister church.
- Lookout Mountain PCA
Joe Novenson and LMPC Staff
Check out sermons by Senior Pastor Joe Novenson and other LMPC pastors at a sister church.
- Steve Brown Etc.
Steve Brown’s unique blend of orthodoxy and controversy, humor and profundity, and a refusal to play religious games will give you permission you have needed to stop being so uptight. And even if it’s for 30 minutes, you just might experience radical freedom, infectious joy and maybe even a bit of surprising faithfulness.
- Tim Chester: reformed spirituality and missional church
Tim has an incredible way of applying the Gospel of grace that is both practical and honest with a consistent skillful affinity to point us to Jesus. He is director of The Porterbrook Institute; a church planter with The Crowded House in Sheffield, UK; and the author of over a dozen books including Total Church and You Can Change.
- Of First Importance
Living Each Day in the Good of The Gospel
Here you will find a growing collection of gospel-centered quotes to help reorient your thoughts toward the splendor and grandeur of the person and work of Jesus.