Do-it-yourself is popular these days. In some ways it’s been popular for quite some time, but it’s now so common as to be known as DIY. There are DIY channels on YouTube, DIY websites, and businesses given over to do-it-yourself in areas of crafting, home improvement and renovations, and so on and so forth.
There are many reasons why people feel compelled to do it themselves, but we also experience this in the realm of spirituality. We are tempted at times to leave off gathering in community for what seems to be an easier path, a path that seems to be preferable, just me and Jesus.
First, there is our innate individualism. We think that we are smart, or certainly smarter than most people that we know. So there is the ever-present sinfulness of our individualistic bent.
Second, there is at this present time the reality of the pandemic where, at least at the very start of it, the new routine was to roll out of bed on a Sunday morning and watch church online in our pajamas. It became easier simply to think that we can get all we need from church without having to be the church.
Third, for some there is church hurt. Some of our deepest wounds have come at the hands of fellow Christians. This can lead us to withdraw, perhaps not physically but at least relationally and emotionally, to the point that we may be physically present but we’re not “all in”. We have slowly and subtly removed ourselves relationally and emotionally from community, and we now believe it is a preferred way for us to relate to God.
God shows His concern regarding DIY spirituality in Leviticus 17:1-9, as He begins to move from the indicatives, the truth statements, of His grace and the reality of His atonement to the many imperatives or commands in the rest of the book.
His concern is that His nation not attempt to live life in His presence individualistically. We were not made to go it alone. We were designed by our benevolent Creator in His image for community, and despite the myriad reasons why we would back away from community, God continues to push us towards it. He does this because it is what is best for us. It is what causes us to thrive. We need each other, even and especially in our worship of God.
The Role and Blessing of Community for Worship
We need to be careful that we do not confine worship only to a building or place (John 4:24). If we are in Christ, His Holy Spirit is in us, and so everything that we do, say, and think ought to be worship (Colossians 3:17). That said, there is a reality of community that helps our worship and gives boundaries and structure to our worship in a way that is God-ordained, healthy, and helpful.
Community Provides Accountability.
If any Israelite sacrifices an animal to the Lord and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to offer it as a gift to the Lord, they are to be cut off from their people (Lev. 17:3-4). There is an accountability here. They are not to be isolated, just sort of out back behind their tent, sacrificing an animal to the Lord. They are not out in the open field (v. 5), randomly sacrificing to the Lord. There is structure to their worship, bound to community that provides accountability to ensure that the sacrifice is done correctly, the right kind of sacrifice performed in the right way, to ensure purity in worship.
You cannot divorce yourself from the church and remain all that God has called you to be in Christ.
There are not a lot of guarantees in life, but if you divorce yourself from the church of Jesus Christ, you will be schismatic. That is a guarantee. You cannot divorce yourself from the church and remain all that God has called you to be in Christ. You will drift towards elements of your own thoughts, your own preferences, your own ideas, and apart from the body you will not be where you need to be – you will drift from Gospel purity. We need each other. We’ve always needed each other. We certainly need each other in today’s climate and culture. There are a lot of ideas out there, a lot of “isms” and ideologies, pressures, and philosophies. We need each other to keep us accountable and true to God in worship.
Community Promotes Generosity.
The offering in verse five is a peace offering to the Lord, an offering where some goes to the priest and the rest goes to the people. Further to that, it must be eaten either on the same day or by the next day, but it cannot remain until the third day. This is to promote community, a sharing together by God’s covenant people in the offering, in worship.
Unfortunately, our tendency is to drift towards those who agree with us, who think like us and who see life as we do. Then those people become our friend circle. Instead, what ought to bring us together is a person, Jesus Christ the Righteous. That’s why – with all our differences, different personalities, and different perspectives – true community is marked by generosity to share with all. Not just with those whom we like, those whom we think deserve it, and those who can be generous back. No, true community, gospel community, is a generous community, a community that welcomes, loves, and supports all those who have repented and believe on Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
Community Protects Worship.
We love going it alone. We love DIY. It’s done the way we want it in the time we want it to be done. And if it doesn’t turn out the way we wanted it to, then we’re the only one to blame. We have an individualistic view of life, and we certainly have an individualistic view of spirituality. However, if we are not checked by the word of God and the great protection God gifts us through the community of fellow believers, our worship will become incorrect, and our attitudes, actions, and words will drift from the truth. We need each other to keep us worshipping God according to His word.
We have an individualistic view of life, and we certainly have an individualistic view of spirituality.
Community Prioritizes God.
God typically gets the leftovers if he gets any of us at all, and community helps prevent that. Community keeps us accountable and honest. Are we prioritizing God in our lives? Does it show in how we spend our money, how we spend our time, how we relate to others? It is a continual struggle. There are a lot of demands on our time, a lot of things that are calling for our attention. If we’re not careful, and if we divorce ourselves from community, if we isolate ourselves from others, we begin to drift away from prioritizing God and towards prioritizing ourselves.
Community Prevents Drift Toward Idolatry.
There is a tangibility to idolatry that we crave. God calls us to a life of trust, and we drift towards a life of control and religion. We construct rules to make us feel better about ourselves. We drift towards being more comfortable in the religion we have constructed rather than in the grace that God has provided through Jesus Christ. Our hearts yearn for the tangible, the physical, the stuff that we can see and experience. God through community gently and graciously continues to draw us away from that back to Himself.
Community Perpetuates True Worship.
The nation of Israel was constantly being tempted to be drawn after other gods, after idols. We are very much the same, whether it be the idols of work or pleasure or power and reputation, or a myriad of other things. So God gives this reminder that we need each other to perpetuate true worship and faithfulness, both now and into future generations.
Without community we become disconnected from sound doctrine, disconnected from each other, and disconnected from the broader orthodox family of Christ. We drift and then our churches eventually disappear. We need each other. We need all true believers in Christ. When we become insular, we’re already on the path away from what God has called us to. Worshipping in community is always the best environment for worship.
Without community we become disconnected from sound doctrine, disconnected from each other, and disconnected from the broader orthodox family of Christ.
Community Celebrates Unity in Diversity.
In Leviticus 17:8, strangers who sojourn among the Israelites are mentioned, showing that community celebrates unity in diversity. They have with them not just native Israelites but also others from different nations. These individuals used to worship other gods and in different ways. Now together with the Israelites they’re worshiping the one true God. And so in community there is true diversity, not the fake shallow diversity promoted by our culture. And within that diversity the Christian community promotes unity in following Jesus Christ, our crucified and risen Saviour.
Community Affirms our Conversion.
The burnt offering (Lev. 17:8-9) was offered at the entrance of the tent of meeting on the bronze altar by the priest publicly for all to see. The entire sacrifice was burned up, symbolizing atonement but also full commitment to the Lord. This is lived out at least in part in our church community. Do other people see Jesus in you? How affirming!
Have we drifted away from community? We need the One who made us and we need each other. Community protects us and it protects the worship of the one true God. It needs to be a priority.
Jesus Christ is the one we need and we are regularly reminded of this in community. We can’t do it on our own. We are not good enough. We are not smart enough. We are not strong enough. We are in need, and there is one that can meet every need and has met our greatest need, which is salvation from our sin, and that is Jesus Christ the Righteous. We celebrate this best in community.
I continue to be both shocked and saddened by how quickly the body of Christ in our nation divided over the last couple years at a time when more than ever we need each other. We have become divided, and we need to be united around Jesus Christ. We need to keep the main thing the main thing and to make sure the minor things that we squabble about do not rise to the level of the main things.
We need each other. Desperately.
Christianity has always been under attack, but it is certainly under attack in our day and age. It is not getting easier to follow God. And the last thing we need is to have others who claim to follow God fighting us and we fighting them. We need community. We are not to be Lone Rangers in the faith.
As the nation of Israel was called God’s community, so we are called God’s community through Jesus Christ. Lone Christians are easy targets for the evil one. Lone Christians are in danger. Lone Christians should not exist. They didn’t exist in the New Testament, and even in the Old Testament followers of God did not exist separate from God’s community. And Lone Christians should not exist now in 2022. So let us celebrate and promote community as God has called us to.
This is a modified transcript of a sermon delivered at Grace Baptist Church on June 5th, 2022. You can access the full version of the sermon at https://www.gracepei.com/sermons/sermon/2022-06-05/community