One of the odd wonders of human society is our relentless pursuit of independence, for autonomy. We fight and claw and scratch for the smallest sliver of liberty, believing that such liberation will finally enable us to realize our full potential. Mankind runs on the endless treadmill of “getting,” banking on that “something more.” Always he is pursuant of himself. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is our theme, and we’ve deemed this won’t be realized without our own determination and effort. Therefore, we isolate ourselves and rely on ourselves—our own grit, our own gifts, our own merits.
For, that’s the true nature of sin: it’s eternally self-focused and self-seeking. Nothing could be more accurate than how the Protestant Reformers defined sin, which was “man turned in on himself.” Indeed, “the DNA of sin is selfishness. Sin inserts [you] into the middle of [your] universe, the one place reserved for God and God alone. Sin reduces [your] field of concern down to [your] wants, [your] needs, and [your] feelings. Sin really does make it all about [you].”
The sad part is that Christians have likewise determined the answer is themselves. We’ve conjured up the idea that, “Living like Jesus is up to me, it’s on my shoulders!” We’ve given into the notion that the gospel itself isn’t enough to satisfy, that grace is too easy and too good to be true, thus we must find or fabricate our own satisfaction and our own salvation. This stems from the fact that we’re all “seasoned do-it-yourselfers.”
Ever since the Garden of Eden, mankind has ever-sought to prop himself up, to loft his own goals and desires and wants to the place of highest prominence. Yes, Adam’s Fall was really an upward fall, for his sin wasn’t merely found in the disobedience of God’s command, but in his lust after having his “eyes opened,” and being made “like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). Adam, as our representative head, betrayed his divine mandate, committing that vile treachery that has brought such a darkness into this world as sin. And, ever since, mankind’s sole motivation is self-sufficiency. All his endeavors are, in reality, self-salvation projects, wherein he determines to find for himself and get for himself what he’s already been given in Christ.
Oftentimes, this quest for self-reliance encroaches into our churches, causing believers in Christ, His redeemed ones, to forsake one of the most precious gifts they’ve been given while they reside on this earth—that is, community.
It’s easy for us to become self-absorbed, or more so than we already are. It’s so easy for us to feel alone. It’s so easy for us to feel as though no one understands our plight. And, I’d contend that most, if not the majority of Christ-followers don’t realize that their walk with Jesus is a community endeavor. So much emphasis is made on “private times” and “prayer closets,” all the while forgetting or ignoring or, perhaps, neglecting to admit that the biggest threat to our Christianity already resides inside us. Jesus says, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23). Yes, your private relationship with Christ Jesus is crucial, but don’t neglect community for solitude.
The thing that attracts us to sin is not primarily outside pressures, but inside pressures—our internal craving for self-promotion, self-gratification, and self-sufficiency is spawned from an innate affinity for unrighteousness. Which reiterates the oft-quoted truth that the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. External things, like peer pressure or difficult circumstances, don’t and can’t ever make you sin—they merely reveal what’s already in us, in our inner man, the “old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires” (Eph. 4:22). “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him” (Mark 7:15-16).
With all of that darkness of sin lurking within us, how foolish and senseless are we to turn to ourselves and rely on ourselves? Are we that naive? Are we that arrogant? Are we that stubborn?
Dear reader, my heart for you and for all those who’ve professed allegiance to the gospel of Christ, is that their gospel-community, whatever and wherever that is, would become ever-increasingly important and vital to their spiritual health. You must understand and be made to realize, by the influence of the Holy Spirit, that you need others. You weren’t made to “do life” on your own. You need community. Your spiritual health is dependent upon it!
You weren’t designed to live alone; you weren’t created to exist in isolation, in independence. “Autonomous Christianity never works, because our spiritual life was designed by God to be a community project.” Indeed, reliance on Jesus, and His grace, and trust in the gospel-community God designed the church to be is the sweet dependence we were made to enjoy. Where the gospel is truly grasped, relationships thrive and community is cultivated. Commit yourself, therefore, to “living in intentionally instructive, Christ-centered, grace-driven, redemptive community.” Commit your life to others, to “doing life” with those that challenge, encourage, embolden, and instruct. Be dedicated to the good news of great grace, which, when it really captures us, will always stifle the internal desires of self, and always point you to those outside of you.
The gospel is uniquely relational—it’s about people. Thus, to separate yourself from people and attempt to survive the turmoil and travail of life on your own is to ignore the gospel altogether. Don’t forget the gospel, don’t ignore people—embrace community.
1. Tripp, Paul. Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. p. 98.
2. Ibid. p. 38.
3. Ibid. p. 84.