Life, Love, Beliefs, and Life Groups
I’ll start this blog post by putting my cards on the table: I’m writing this week to encourage you to join a Life Group, or, if you’re already connected with a Life Group, to invest even more in your relationships with the members of that Group. And to do that, I want you to consider the New Testament epistle called 1 John.
We studied 1 John last week on Wednesday night in our New Testament survey class, and what we found was this: John wrote this letter to give believers assurance of their salvation in Christ (see 1 John 5:13). To do that, the letter highlights three key truths about God, each with a corresponding response that should mark the life of the believer. 1 John shows us that God is light, that God is love, and that God gives life through his Son. Likewise, 1 John instructs each of us to be marked by a Right Life, Right Love, and Right Beliefs.
I want to think about those in reverse order, and consider with each how a Life Group will help us follow Jesus faithfully in each area.
John is clear: God gives life through his Son. Take 1 John 5:11–12 for example: “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” Since God gives life through his Son, it is impossible for us to be in a right relationship with God without being in a right relationship with his Son, Jesus Christ: “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (2:23).
Right doctrine, of course, deals with much more than only salvation and the central message of the gospel, and John is clear on that matter as well. There are others, false teachers, who will try to deceive Christians (2:26). Therefore, we need to “test the spirits (these false teachers) to see whether they are from God” (4:4).
One of the purposes of Life Groups is to help us know Jesus Christ through the Scriptures, and therefore to be firmly rooted in sound doctrine. Because we believe that life is found in the Word of God, our groups are centered around the Scriptures, where we come face to face with Christ. Week-in and week-out, as you study the Scriptures with a group of other followers of Jesus, your time spent together in God’s Word will help you rightly know God through Jesus, finding life in his Son, and will help protect you from being deceived by false teachers who seek to steal your life and lead you away from the truth.
Perhaps the most famous phrase in John’s first epistle is found in chapter 4: “God is love,” John writes in both 4:8 and 4:16. The implication that John draws from that throughout his letter is that if we truly know the God who is love, then we will respond by rightly loving both God and our brothers and sisters in the church. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (5:20).
What does that love for one another look like? It looks like laying down our lives for one another (1 John 3:16), meeting the practical needs of one another (1 John 3:17), and thus loving not just in talk but in deed and truth (1 John 3:18). It looks like extending forgiveness like God forgave us (1 John 4:8–12). Loving one another rightly even looks like simply loving God and obeying his commandments (1 John 5:2).
Life Groups give us a smaller group within the larger group where we can truly know and be known by others, thus giving us a group of people with whom we can work out the “one another” commands of Scripture. That is to say, Life Groups provide us with a smaller community of people within the larger community where, knowing one another, we can love one another in deed and in truth.
Life Groups are communities where needs can become known and met. They are groups where forgiveness (and assurance of God’s forgiveness) can be extended. They are groups where, knowing one another’s spiritual and physical needs, we have opportunities to lay down our lives for one another.
By this, I mean “righteous living.” John instructs us in the first chapter of his letter that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that 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” (1:5–7). Knowing God through his Son, Jesus (Right Beliefs), leads to knowing his love for us in Christ (producing a Right Love), which transforms us to pursue righteousness in all areas of our lives (Right Life).
Living righteously in a culture that values unrighteousness can be incredibly difficult, and that’s why Life Groups are immensely valuable. Following Jesus with others who are following Jesus helps us walk in the light. Living in community with others encourages us to not love the world or the things of the world (1 John 2:15). As we see others obeying God’s commands (1 John 5:3), we’re strengthened in our own commitment to obedience. And, importantly, when we fall into sin, if we are living in community with others then we have others beside us who can pick us up (1 John 5:16).
John wrote this letter to those “who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (5:13), and the assurance that he gives throughout his letter is tied to people having Right Beliefs, and being marked by Right Love and the Right Life. As we follow Jesus closely with others, we’re built up to maturity in each of these areas.
So if you have never done so, let me encourage you to try a Life Group at Mountain Creek. Most of them meet on Sunday mornings at 9:30 here on our campus, and we’ll be happy to point you in the right direction when you get here.
If you are a member of a Life Group, think back over what you’ve just read and consider: how can you go deeper in one of these areas with your group? How can you strengthen your relationship with the group members to grow as those who are pursuing God with the Right Beliefs, Right Love, and Right Life as you follow Jesus together?
Bert Watts has served since December 2016 as the Senior Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since 2012.