Read at beginning of service:
2 Corinthians 3:17-18
(3:17) Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (3:18) And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect? the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Big Idea: God restores the community we destroy.
(INTRODUCE TEXT AND PRAY)
Lee Strobel wrote:
People today will admit any problem – drugs, divorce, alcoholism – “but there?s one admission that people are loath to make, whether they?re a star on television or someone who fixes televisions in a repair shop. It?s just too embarrassing. It penetrates too deeply to the core of who they are.” People don?t want to admit that they are (sometimes) lonely. “Loneliness is such a humiliating malady that it ought to have its own politically correct euphemism: ?relationally challenged.? Or its own telethon. Anything to make it safer to confess.
Because right now it?s a taboo, an affliction of losers and misfits. And – to be honest – of respectable people like you and me.” (Lee Strobel, God?s Outrageous Claims, p. 118-134)
I found an interesting article when researching loneliness on the internet. Using statistics from the 1986, 1992 and 1998 General Social Surveys (GSS) on the time use of Canadians, Warren Clark writes about loneliness in his article entitle “Time Alone” in the Autumn 2002 Issue of Canadian Social Trends. Here?s how he introduces his article?
Portable phones, pagers and data transmission devices of every sort keep us terminally in touch wherever we are. At the same time, many people frequently feel lonely. Loneliness has been linked to depression, anxiety, interpersonal hostility and an increased vulnerability to health problems. Surveys asking what?s most important in life routinely find relationships at the top of the list. Connections with other people sustain us, enrich us, and allow us to know who we are. Studies show they can make us healthier, happier and more successful at our jobs. They make life worth living. Yet, many people live alone and spend much of their time alone.
He finishes his article with the following conclusions?
A combination of factors has resulted in more Canadians living on their own than ever before. In addition, we are spending more time alone even if we live with others? Time alone seems to influence our level of happiness ? those who spend a lot of time alone are less likely to be very happy than those who spend very little time by themselves.
It seems as though Canadians are among the loneliest people in the world. Seems unbelievable when you think of the availability of transportation and the billions of dollars of discretionary money we have available for entertainment. Canadians can buy so much activity ? how can they possibly be so lonely? We are surrounded by more people than ever before in the history of our country!
We have greater technology providing avenues for connectivity through portable phones and the Internet. With these undeniable benefits in place, how could we be among the loneliest people in the world?
The answer is because we?ve lost something essential to our well-being.
We are a fast paced society, leaving many people dislocated and far from home.
ILLUS ? As one weary wife, tired of career moves for her husband explained her loneliness and said, “I got so tired of saying good-bye, that I stopped saying hello.”
Perhaps we don?t even see what we?ve lost.
In 1965 Jackie DeShannon had a hit song that proclaimed ? “What the World Needs Now is Love, sweet love.”
By the mid 1990s the band Cracker scored a hit with a song that said ? “What the world needs now is another folk singer like I need a hole in my head.”
When we listen to God we learn that what the world needs now is a fresh vision of what it means to live in community. A fresh vision of what it means to be the people of God.
TRANSITION: In the book of Genesis, way back when God first put people on the earth the design was revealed. A fundamental reality about humanity was uncovered. The truth is?
WE ARE CREATED IN THE IMAGE OF GOD
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
God put his design in us. He made us in his own image.
Let?s consider what that means:
Made in God?s image means we have?
Special standing ? recipients of God?s greatest love (sent His own Son for us), endowed with special worth (Jesus said we are much more valuable to the Father than the birds of the air), given special responsibility (Genesis says we?ve been placed in the unique position of caring for creation.)
Made in God?s image also refers to a?
Future goal ? 2 Corinthians 3:18 says we are being transformed into his likeness (the likeness of Christ) with ever-increasing glory. We look forward to that day when we will participate in the full likeness of Christ one day in heaven.
Perhaps more than anything made in His own image is a statement of?.
Fellowship and Community –
We learned last Sunday that God in his essential nature is a fellowship. Three distinct yet equal and interdependent persons harmoniously exist in one being. God models within himself perfect unity. His favorite word is ONE.
So creatures that are made in His image would certainly be relational creatures ? designed for the most intense and intimate kind of fellowship ? created to live in unity with others in a state of oneness.
Stan Grenz writes: “The divine image is?a shared, corporate reality. It is fully present only as we live in fellowship. It is ours only as we enjoy ?community.?” (Stanley J.Grenz, Created for Community, p. 79)
He also suggests:
“As we enjoy the fellowship God intends for us, we are the image of God.” (ibid)
Look at Genesis 1:27 ?
Genesis 1:27 (NIV)
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Grenz suggests – Humans in relationship to each other reflect the divine image in a way that the solitary human being cannot.
We are in the image of God only as we enjoy community with others. Because the image of God is a social reality.
WE REFLECT THE IMAGE OF GOD WHEN WE LIVE IN COMMUNITY
Eugene Peterson writes: “No one who is whole is self-sufficient. The whole life, the complete life, cannot be lived with haughty independence. Our goal cannot be to not need anyone.” (Eugene Peterson, Run With the Horses, p. 166)
Only by being persons in community do we find our true identity. Then we reflect the image of God.
Some might ask, “Is God lonely up there all by himself?” The answer is no. He is not lonely because He lives in perfect oneness ? perfect community. And we are made in His image.
TRANSITION: If we bear this image of fellowship and community stamped on us by our Creator God, why then are we sometimes lonely? The Bible says it is because?
WE ALLOW THE IMAGE TO BE DISTORTED
Genesis 3:1-6 records the story of human failure.
That is the story of how sin entered the world.
The Bible says sin is falling short of God?s glory ? it is missing the mark of his perfection.
Sin entered the world through one man ? Romans 5:12 ( yet the story is our experience too)
Romans 5:12 (NIV)
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned–
Now the Bible says, sin is in our hearts (Jer. 17:9)
Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV)
9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
Genesis 3 tells the rest of the story of Adam and Eve:
(v.8) Heard God?s voice yet hid from Him ? fellowship with Creator broken
(v. 7) They covered themselves b/c they realized they were naked ? fellowship with each other broken
(v. 17) Ground was cursed ? fellowship with creation broken
Since God lives in perfect fellowship, and part of what it means to be made in God?s image is to live in community ourselves, we can see that sin destroyed perfect community for humans on earth. Therefore sin is, in part, a failure to reflect the image of God. Sin is a failure of community.
When we sin, we allow God?s image in us to become distorted.
The distortion is a result of sin
ILLUS ? Imagine being near a mountain lake. Sometimes early in the morning when the lake is perfectly calm, the reflection of the mountains is magnificently duplicated and mirrored on the lake?s surface. The interesting thing is that if you were to take on little flat stone and skip it across the surface of the lake, the image of the mountains would be distorted and marred. When Adam and Eve sinned, God?s image in us was distorted and marred.
We see it in our active rebellion against God
Our quarrelling with each other
And our misuse of creation
Randy Frazee, in a book called The Connecting Church identifies three obstacles to biblical community present in American culture today:
1. Individualism ? stand alone ? completely self-dependent ? perhaps even no need for God
2. Isolation ? shutting ourselves off from others ? walled in, fenced in, locked in
3. Consumerism ? feed me, entertain me,
These line up with brokenness of fellowship stemming from the Garden of Eden.
Individual ? standing apart from God
Isolated ? fellowship broken with the rest of humanity
Consumerism ? misuse of creation
Here we are as a result of the Fall of humanity. Isolated individuals wrapped up the consumer mindset of spending on ourselves.
Lois A. Cheney writes,
Buy some clothes.
Turn on the radio.
Read a funny book.
Eat a sundae.
Clean the house.
Tell a joke.
Ain?t this modern age wonderful?
You don?t gotta feel nothin?.
There?s a substitute for everything.
God have mercy on us!
God have mercy on us because many of us willingly live outside of meaningful community with other individuals. God have mercy on us because when we do this we display anew that His image in us is now distorted. And we don?t always realize just how serious this is.
TRANSITION: Even though it is distorted?
WE CAN HAVE HOPE THAT THE IMAGE WILL BE RESTORED
Because of the work of God?s son, Jesus Christ.
We are alienated from God, yet Jesus entered this situation to make us His friends again
Romans 5:10-11 (NIV)
10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Alienated from each other, yet Jesus brings peace
Ephesians 2:14-18 (NIV)
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Alienated from creation, yet Jesus brings peace
Colossians 1:19-20 (NIV)
19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
So, don?t despair. Loneliness didn?t exist at the beginning. At it won?t at the end. In the meantime, God wants us to relate to each other in a manner that reflects his image of oneness and community.
How can we embrace what God wants to restore in us?
1. Accept what Jesus did for you ? come to Him today
2. Put down roots in a church home ? don?t be an orphan
3. Commit to go deep into the heart of community ? scary but absolutely necessary to reflect God?s image
TRANSITION: God rebuilds the community we willingly allow to be destroyed.
I remember the excitement I had about getting my driver?s license when I turned 16. I just couldn?t? wait to get behind the wheel of my Dad?s car (I?m sure he was petrified!). My parents wisely decided to sign me up for driving instruction with Young Drivers of Canada. Their reasoning was that receiving good training and learning from the “pros” on how to drive safely would help to prevent any potential accidents I might have in a car (the insurance companies agreed with them ? offering discounts to those who take driver training). To this day I still remember some of the lessons I received in driver?s training and I know that a lot of potential crashes were avoided because of it. However, I still have had a couple of “mishaps” behind the wheel. Truth is, the driver?s training doesn?t make me a perfect accident-free driver but it certainly make me a better less accident prone driver!
God offers a fix or a solution to what is broken in our world. Jesus Christ has come to restore the image of God in us ? offer community through the Holy Spirit. Won?t prevent all bang ups, but community helps us to make it through those we experience.
The vision of a church where no one stands alone won?t become a reality simply because of what we do; but rather because of what God has done through Jesus Christ and continues to do through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.