We’re in the second week of a series of exhortations exploring the mission, values, and structures of Cities Church. Last week we focused on our first essential—We worship Jesus—and the first structure of the church—the corporate worship gathering. This week I want to say a few words about our second essential—We serve one another—and second structure—Life Groups.
Providentially this focus comes after last week’s sermon on the early church and Ananias and Sapphira. You might think of this exhortation as an extended application from that sermon. Last week, we saw that there are two sides to a community built on the gospel. On the one hand, our commitment to serve one another means that we sacrifice to meet the needs of this community. This includes physical needs, but it also includes relational needs, emotional needs, and spiritual needs. Human beings are made for community, and the members of this church have covenanted together to sacrifice for one another. And as we saw last week, this is fundamentally a work of grace. It was because “great grace was upon them all” that they sacrificed their time and wealth in order to love each other in very practical ways. It’s grace from the gospel, grace from worshiping Jesus, that fills us up and then propels us into each other’s lives looking to meet needs. This is the Dance of Grace, flowing from God to us, and then between each other as God knits us together as one body.
But grace doesn’t stop with the practical service of meeting needs. Grace doesn’t stop with the generosity of Acts 4. Grace continues in Acts 5 as God exposes the hypocrisy and hidden sin within the church. That too is grace. It’s grace to the whole community, because God prevents the spread of sin, so that hypocrisy and fraud don’t multiply. It’s also grace because it produces great fear among the church, since we know that Jesus will not let us hide in our brokenness and rebellion. And it’s grace to know that God may go so far as to take us out before we can commit greater evil or draw others into our wickedness. This is the other side of gospel community.
That’s why we have Life Groups at this church. Life Groups are small, gender-specific groups that regularly meet together for accountability and prayer and Bible study. They are the place where we hope to go deep with each other, to move beyond top-level conversations, or even mid-range conversations, to really get at the fundamental issues that drive and motivate us. They are places where we seek to be open and transparent with people who care about us and who are going to push on us. We want Life Groups to be places that are safe for sinners, but not for sin, where you can unburden yourself to people who love you, knowing that they will join you in making war on the dragon in your heart. We don’t meet to wallow in our bitterness and pride and sexual sin and anxiety. We meet so that these sins can be confessed, so that we can put them out in the open, where we can all take shots at them. We meet to confess our sins together corporately, so that we can be forgiven by God (that’s the Assurance of Pardon), so that we can then confess our sins one to another that we might be healed. Corporate worship is the heartbeat, and it pumps blood to our Life Groups where we love and serve one another through comfort and confrontation, through friendship and counsel, through meeting needs and confessing sin.
And that’s just one of the primary ways that we express our desire to serve one another. The pastors encourage all of you, especially the covenant members, to think creatively and to take initiative to serve one another in practical ways. Go out for coffee, play some basketball, have each other over for dinner. Find ways to live the gospel with each other, to know and to be known.
This reminds us of our need to confess our sins, so let’s go the Lord together now.
Prayer of Confession
Our Father and God, you have created and called us to love and serve one another. Human beings are designed to be servants. But rather than serve each other, we have gone our own way and we have sought to use each other. Instead of seeking to give and to bless others, we have sought to take and curse others. In our rebellion against you, we elevate each other and put each other on pedestals and we seek to get from other people what we can only receive from you. We turn the good gifts of family and friends into idols, and we try and suck the life out of them, wanting other people to be for us what they could never be. This is a great evil.
What’s more, as your covenant people, we too have not served each other as we ought. We manipulate one another, and guilt trip one another, and gossip about each other, and are easily offended by each other. We hide from each other and lie to each other, and we nurse hidden sins and hidden grievances that build walls between you and between us. And so we seek your forgiveness for our lack of brotherly love. Because Christ has shed his blood on our behalf, we pray that you would tear down the walls that divide us and help us to sacrifice for each other. More than that, we pray that you would convict us of sin and enable us by grace to confess our sins to one another. If there is hidden sin in this congregation, if anyone here is clinging to sin out of shame or guilt or pride or a false sense of security, I pray, in the name of the Lord Jesus, that you would expose it.
We know, Father, that if we in the Church regard sin in our own midst, or in our own hearts, our prayers will be ineffectual. And so we confess our individual sins to you now.