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“But we have nothing in common!”

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

“… Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” – Ephesians 2:20-22

Jesus may be the only thing you have in common with one of your fellow small group members. At least it may feel that way sometimes, right? Different personalities, different opinions, different ages … really why would we continue investing in these relationships?

One good answer to that question is that God has something beautiful and magnificent in mind for such diverse people. In the Old Testament the temple was God’s home; it was the place God dwelt among his people; it was where He lived. It was special and set apart because of his presence in it. When you set foot in the temple, you were on holy ground – something majestic and mysterious was there.

In the New Testament, God’s presence is with his people individually (your body is a “temple” of the Holy Spirit, I Corinthians 6:19) and corporately (the people of God are a “temple” for God to dwell by the Spirit, Ephesians 2:22 above). There is, therefore, something beautiful and magnificent about the relationships among believers. They are special and set apart because God’s Spirit shows up there.

Further, they are the temple not because they are alike in so many ways but precisely because they are so different and yet still share the same Cornerstone. The context of Ephesians 2 is Jews and Gentiles – very different people – whom God has brought together into the same family because of Jesus. He’s done the same in every church (and, I suspect, every small group) – people who would never be connected to each other except that they share what matters most. And so week after week and day after day God shows up in the midst of those relationships, and we realize we’re a part of something so much grander than ourselves.

You may never agree on politics. You may never cheer for the same team. You may never vacation together. But something much more magnificent than any of those things will happen as you stick with each other: God will show up … and that makes it all worthwhile!


will.spink | March 03 2015 at 11:36 am

Some of the most impactful moments I’ve ever shared in a small group have been with people more than twice my age. Other than the fact that we live in Huntsville and are loved by Jesus, very little connects us. But I’ve learned so much about the trials of life and the joys of clinging to Jesus from these dear people.

Emily Polak | March 03 2015 at 4:07 pm

Our small group is made up of people around the same age but still at very different points in their lives.  Some of us have children, some of us do not, others of us are going to school full-time, and others are working full-time.  It has been good to practice serving one another given our different circumstances within our small group and have it be a daily reminder to think outside of ourselves.

tripp | March 03 2015 at 9:29 pm

Thanks for the thoughts, Will.  Our small group discussed this unity in Christ relative to Ephesians 2 last week.  It’s funny how you can take a group of folks that have very little in common in terms of background, age, profession, politics, etc., and yet, when you start talking about God’s grace and mercy poured out for you and the life of sin you were redeemed from, there is immediate and connecting brotherhood, common ground, and unity. 

However, I confess that often, like Peter, I will judge and separate myself from someone in pride because I deem their sin as dirtier than mine - thinking “I can’t believe they did that” or “I would never do that”.  I become self-righteous, put faith in my own strength, and compare myself to them in pride.  It remains a struggle to BELIEVE and LIVE like my ONLY righteousness is that of Christ.  My heart wants to believe that I’m not totally without merit or righteousness of my own.

There is no one good but God alone.  There is no one that is righteous, not even one.  The work of God is to believe in the one he sent.  I believe; help my unbelief.

Gracie | March 04 2015 at 9:58 am

Coming from a place where commonalities brought people together, I had my share of complaints when I first came to Southwood and felt so deeply that “these are not my people.” But I have been astounded at the grace of God that unites those who confess their need and delight in a Savior who has rescued us. When I look around on communion Sunday, I ponder this amazing gift - people from different backgrounds, ages, stages, and perhaps even understandings of the gospel - and I think with humbling gratitude, “These are my people.” We are brought together because of Jesus, regardless of our differences. Small groups have been a valuable place for me to discover what true unity is all about.

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Recommended Reading

You'll find most of my recommended books available in the Guest Center at Southwood.

  • You Can Change
    You Can Change
    Tim Chester

    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
    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
    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.

Recommended Listening

  • 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

    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.

Recommended Links

  • Tim Chester: reformed spirituality and missional church
    Tim Chester

    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.