I wrote a comment last night on someone’s blog who was asking for a definition and discussion of community. This is what I wrote, which I would like to take the time to expand a bit more in this post:
Community is solely based upon the bearing of the image of God in our faces, and beholding that glory to be moved from glory to glory. It is found when the saints gather, whether for prayer, for Bible study, for worship, or for fun 😉
Community is the stepping out from this world and into the eternal together with other believers. It is the dividing of oneself away from the systems of the world, and the principalities behind those systems, in order to be taken by something much more organic and beautiful: Zion. Zion is the City of God. Zion is the Mount upon which the Temple sits. Zion is twofold – a heavenly dwelling with an earthly counterpart. Zion is the place of freedom. Zion is the beauty of holiness, it is the unadulterated splendor of where God’s people are in unity with Him, and it is where we shine with the radiance of Christ. This is community. It is where we love one another with the love of Christ Himself, and from that love, we pursue absolute perfection in that love together. Community, to put it plainly, is heaven manifest upon earth through the children of God. Though we know that when two or three gather in His name that He is in our midst, we also know there is a time for this literal manifestation, when Zion will come down from heaven, when the earthly Zion and the heavenly Zion will be one. That is community. It is born out of the travail for that reality in our midst, whatever means it might take through the Spirit of God to get there.
Grace and peace, dear brother. May Christ’s love overflow in you to be brought unto that eternal radiant glory.
First, lets start with that first statement. It comes directly from 2 Corinthians 3:17-18. For a little bit of context, know that Paul is expressing the immense glory of the New Covenant in comparison to the Old Covenant. He references Moses’ veil when he hid his shining face from the Israelites, and he says that this veil is still over the hearts of all they who are not in Christ whenever Moses is read. This needs a bit of explaining. Isaiah 25:7 speaks of a “veil” that covers the nations. This veil is the principalities and powers of the air. It is the demonic strongholds that rule and influence all nations and peoples. That veil was upon the hearts of the Israelites when the came out of Egypt, for it takes more than just receiving the Law to be saved. There is an inward heart conversion that must take place – that did take place for some, hopefully even many, in that first generation. This veil is the Law, which is the power of sin. Now, Law in Paul’s mouth is not the same as what we think. Law does not merely mean the words on the page, but the idea that we can have righteousness apart from faith. If we simply uphold “the law”, then we are obedient and righteous. That is a false righteousness, one based upon our ability and pride rather than our humility and brokenness. It utilizes the wisdom of those principalities and powers in order to consider ourselves right before God, simply because we have a form of godliness.
Yet, when the heart turns, that veil is taken away. When the individual will come to Christ, and be regenerated, the veil is broken off. This is why Paul says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
Because we are beholding God’s glory in one another’s face, instead of that veil upon the heart, we are brought into a place of ever increasing glory.
You can see with this how we go from my first statement directly into the next. We step out from the influence of the principalities and power through living a life of reflecting the glory of God in our face unto all others. Freedom from the principalities and powers can only be attained when we come out and be separate unto the Lord. We no longer have our identity within the systems of the world – not even our father’s house, our kindred (Irish, German, African, etc), or our national identity. That kind of separation is painful if it is only for the sake of separating. That is the beauty, though. It is not only for the sake of separation. There is a process unto which we must be taken, and sometimes that process is long and difficult, but we are indeed coming unto Zion, and you have indeed come unto Zion if you are in Christ.
Because we are no longer under the oppression of the devil, we are now at liberty to conduct our lives through the freedom of the Spirit. To live out of that Spirit is to wage war against the enemy. Our lives, everything we do, is a battle.
Ephesians 3:8-12 reads, “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.”
This is the purpose of the church. We are to display the wisdom of God to the principalities and powers. What does that even mean? How do we do that?
The wisdom of God is displayed through the cross. It is that through sacrifice, and not selfishness, that we obtain exultation. It is through submission unto death, even the laying down of our lives for our brothers and sisters, that we obtain life. This is utterly paradoxical in our rational world. The reason this seems to be completely opposite of what we would think is because we are influenced all too much by the wisdom of Satan. It is his wisdom that tells us “It is a dog-eat-dog world out there! You have to look out for number one! If you don’t, then who will? You have to take care of yourself before you can care for others, right?” It is the wisdom of God that says, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell all your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” There is an utter contrast.
What is community? It is the place where the saints have come together utterly separated from the world, untarnished by the principalities and their wisdom, in order to serve the Lord their God in whatever way He might command. It is when we do not rely upon the wisdom of the kingdom of darkness – pride, self, manipulation, intimidation, greed, lust, etc – but rely solely upon God that we have entered into community. Our daily life is to go from house to house breaking bread. If we don’t meet with all of the saints, and we don’t receive from them the impartation of life, then how shall we survive the day? The enemy of my soul is too strong for me alone.
This is community, and this is what we are to display unto even the cosmic realities. May the Lord make you incredibly hungry for such expression of His kingdom in your midst, and may you be unwilling to settle for anything less. Blessings in Jesus’ name!