What kind of person are you? Where is that leading you and in what direction are you going?
Matthew, as we learn in his Gospel account, was a tax collector for the Roman Empire—viewed by many as a traitor to his own people because he was collecting money from them in favor of an oppressive government. Zacchaeus, we are told in Luke 19:1-10, was also a tax collector, and being one of the “chiefs” among them and noted to be rich, would have been widely viewed negatively as well. The demon-possessed man in Gerasenes (Mk. 5:1-20) was literally an outcast that lived among the tombs and could not be bound anymore. It was so bad, in fact, Mark describes him as “always crying out and cutting himself with stones (Mk. 5:5).”
In all these cases, along with so many other examples in Scripture, we see people who desperately needed Jesus—and Jesus responded in kind. He invited them into a relationship with Himself and with others—a Christ-centered community that remains intact 2,000 years later and includes all of us here at Harvest Christian Church who have invited Jesus to be our Savior and King.
But why is a Christ-centered community not only vital for Christians to partake in, but a core value at Harvest?
The answer is simple: We were created for community.
We need community to thrive as people. For as we quickly learn in Genesis, way back in the Garden of Eden, “It is not good that the man should be alone (Gen. 2:18).” And with Jesus, and the family into which we are adopted as His followers, we do not have to be alone.
We see this proclaimed powerfully in 1 John 1:5-7 (ESV), “This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
There is power in unity when we fellowship together. And as Pastor Josh Argubright discussed in his message Sunday, whenever there is an overlap of intent, experience, and identity … a community forms. At Harvest, we want that community to be centered on Jesus.
We see another powerful example of how this looks in Hebrews 10:19-25.
Believed to be a generation or so after the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the author of Hebrews sets out to sharpen the focus of the Jewish audience and help them recalibrate their priorities. Facing intense persecution and trying to make their way as a church in this new reality, we see a call to action in Hebrews 10:19-25 (ESV):
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Christ-centered community is about a movement toward Jesus, wherever we might find ourselves. We might feel lost, or on the outside of any seemingly set boundary lines having to do with Church and Christianity, but we are not, and we never will be, again, because when we choose to make Jesus Christ the Lord and Savior of our lives, this messy community we become a part of is rock-solid.
For Matthew, the choice to follow Jesus put him in the company of the original 12 Apostles. For Zacchaeus, it led him to receive Jesus joyfully and give away over half of his possessions along with restoring “fourfold” anything to anyone he ever defrauded. And what of the demon-possessed man in Gerasenes? He became the first missionary, overflowing with such elation for what Jesus did for him, “he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled (Mk. 5:20).”
There is no limit as to what God can do for a Christ-centered community when it knows that, collectively, its eyes are fixed on Jesus. He moves toward us. We move toward Him. And together, as Psalms 133:1-3 so profoundly describes, we find something immeasurably more vibrant than life without Jesus:
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron [Israel’s first high priest], running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.”
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF …
- Are you living in unity with other believers?
- What do you need to give over to Jesus in order to live freely in Him?
- What has God done in your life that has allowed you the freedom to unite with other followers of Christ?