Wednesday, February 05, 2014
Tears roll down his face as he leans forward on the sofa and talks about caring for his wife with dementia. Across the room a single mom and a middle-aged couple share about challenges with their teenage kids. Before the circle is complete, someone has announced a new pregnancy, another has asked for prayer for loneliness, and yet another is seeking to make ends meet financially for his family. All in one night. All in one small group. All of them pointing each other to the same loving God who meets them in very different circumstances.
That’s a small picture of what Paul has in mind when he writes in Ephesians 3, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ …”
The dimensions of the love of Christ for us are almost unfathomable. In each of our own experiences, we see glimpses of the immensity of this love as our sin is forgiven, our needs are met, our eternity is secured. In this passage, though, with the little phrase “together with all the saints,” Paul suggests that there is a dimension of the love of Christ that we cannot fully appreciate on our own. Thus, it is not going too far to state that our relationship with God will not be all he intends for it to be if we experience it in isolation.
This first (somewhat) fictionalized paragraph is but one snapshot of why small groups offer us a chance to deepen our grasp of Christ’s love and thereby enrich our relationship with God. As we share life in community, we join people of perhaps different ages, perhaps different races, perhaps different social standings, definitely different life experiences – all of whom have experienced the love of Christ and all of whose lives display beautifully varying facets of Christ’s amazing love. In fact, it is possible that in your small group or even your church you will share little else in common other than your gracious Father, your amazing Savior, and your indwelling Holy Spirit.
Being in a small group is certainly not the only way you can witness new facets of God’s love, but it is certainly one good way. I have often left a time with my small group and marveled at how God sustained another member of the group in a circumstance I thought would have done me in. I have often rejoiced with a brother or sister in my small group who shared of God’s deliverance from a specific situation I haven’t personally faced. I have often had my faith strengthened by a small group member older than I am who has seen God’s faithfulness through stages of life I haven’t seen yet. In each of those cases, my personal relationship with God is enriched by someone else’s relationship with Him and my relationship with them. It’s part of why God has called us into the family of God, the body of Christ.
You may be a part of a lot of groups in town, and that’s a good thing. But don’t miss the chance to rejoice in the thing that unites the members of your small group. As you relate to each other about football, kids, work, politics, and the struggles of life, don’t forget to stop and point out the love of Christ you can see in each other’s lives. Talk about how it encourages your faith. Talk about how another “saint” has shown you a new dimension of the love of Christ. Rejoice together in a faithful Father who has placed you in a family with others of his children!
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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.