A community of change

Here is the fifth part of my course preparing people for cross-cultural mission. (Here are parts one, two, three and four.)

Discipleship is a community project. God has given us the Christian community so we can challenge and comfort one another. We are to speak the truth in love to one another, to ‘gospel’ one another. The writer of Hebrews says: ‘See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.’ (Hebrews 3:11-13) Day by day you will need one another to remind you of these truths so that your hearts do not become hardened.

These four liberating truths about God (‘the Four Gs’) are a great resource as you encourage one another. These four truths are a great way of ‘speaking the truth in love’ to one another (Ephesians 4:15). This is how we can help one another fight sin.

They are also a great diagnostic kit. When you face temptation or fall into sin, ask yourself, ‘Which of these truths am I failing to embrace?’

1. God is great – so we don’t have to be in control

2. God is glorious – so we don’t have to fear others

3. God is good – so we don’t have to look elsewhere

4. God is gracious – so we don’t have to prove ourselves

Proclaiming good news

These four truths offer an alternative to legalism.

People often try to change behaviour without looking at the heart. They provide a set of rules by which people should live. Here is Paul view on that:

Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (Colossians 2:20-23)

Living by a set of rules for behaviour does not work, says Paul. Such as approach to change can look very impressive, but it lacks any power to restrain the sinful desires of our hearts.

On a good day a behaviour-based approach will make us proud and self-righteous. Our confidence will be in our outward respectability. We need to repent of our ‘righteousness’ if this has become a source of false confidence or a substitute for true heart change. On a bad day a behaviour-based approach will leave you despondent and confused. The power of sin is supposed to be broken, but it does not seem to broken it my life!

These four liberating truths about God good news. They bring about gospel change.

  • If I meet someone who is worried about life or manipulative, then I can say: ‘Here is good news – you don’t have to be in control because God is in control.’
  • If I meet someone who is enslaved by other people’s opinions, who fears rejection or craves approval, then I can say: ‘Here is good news – you don’t have to fear others because God is glorious and he smiles upon you.’
  • If I meet someone who enslaved by the pursuit of wealth or pleasure or sex, I can say: ‘Here is good news – you don’t have to look elsewhere because God is good and to know him is true joy.’
  • If I meet someone who is desperate to prove themselves or make it in life or looks down on others, I can say: ‘Here is good news – you don’t have to prove yourself because God is gracious and Christ has done it all.’

We are not simply telling one another off. That is legalism and it kills. The ‘four Gs’ enable to us to speak good news to another.

Legalism says: You should not do that.
The gospel says: You need not do that –

because God is always bigger and better than sin.

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One thought on “A community of change

  1. Hi Tim. Came across a review of your book today called “Captured by a Better vision”. Living porn free is very much why I am led to undertake further training in order to endeavour to assist those caught up in this addiction. Just identifying myself as competent in this area (and as a Christian) in case you need a place to suggest to those not sure where to turn.

    Lust finished 1st draft and my first attempt to write a book on Relationships & Marriage. Not at all easy is it? Might be back to the drawing board for me as I try to figure out the style in which it should be written!

    Kind regards

    Gary

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