Ministry and serving others in the context of the kingdom of God represent an awesome opportunity to exercise our gifting and benefit others along their walk with Christ.
However, for this service to achieve its desired goal, it demands the existence of another environment within in order to both facilitate its smooth operation and successful outcome. This “other” environment within is the medium of relationships and community where we as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ cultivate meaningful and godly connections with one another across multiple platforms. This milieu intérieur* (the environment within) needs to, in itself be regularly serviced and maintained in order to achieve the desired outcome in ministry and the advancement of the King’s authority in our lives and that of others. In our context, the youth cells currently launching provide and represent the main platform for doing exactly that.
The discipleship journey was never meant to be a solo affair – it was, according to its author and finisher, meant to be that of a close-knit community. This is clearly implicit in Jesus’ statement that his disciples are to be identified, singled out as His by the nature of the love they have for each other. John 13:34-35
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Love is expressed in relationships. And by its nature the expression of this kind of love in particular demands proximity and a sharing of life such that its expression becomes visible to others around us. It is a life that sticks its neck out for the brethren and such love is nigh impossible to demonstrate without the context of community. Hence the need for these clusters, these focal points for sharing life on a deeper and meaningful level. Youth cells are where young people connect with one other to grow and develop these life-relationships where the love of the Saviour is demonstrated in practical actions of supporting one another in the Christian life and faith.
It is the place where young people journey together on the path of discipleship.
This aspect of the life of a disciple is an essential and indispensable one as it has been singled out by the Lord as the identifying mark of those who profess His name and follow Him. But important as it is to be in the thick of community life to practically demonstrate the Saviour’s love amongst ourselves, this is will be impossible unless we ourselves are individually and together growing in the experience of this sacrificial love. We need to grow individually and in community with others (equally important) in the knowledge and experience of Christ’s love. It will otherwise be utterly impossible to express or live out this love. We would be wide of the mark to even think we can do it without knowing it experientially and growing in its knowledge for ourselves. Hence the reason why the apostle John exhorts and reminds us to pause and look at the love of the father. Here is what he says in John 3:1
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
It is an invitation to take time out, to pause and consider this mindboggling love of God expressed in His making us His children by way of His son’s incarnation. This is something we ought to do regularly, ever so often – dwell in and mediate upon, deliberate and immerse ourselves in God’s love – individually and in community with others.
Personal and communal times of devotion represent the ideal platforms for doing exactly that.
We are invited to gaze at and consider the magnitude of this love God has for us that’s been expressed in our introduction into His family at an unspeakable cost to Him (2 Corinthians 9:15). There are two basic things we need to do if we are to grow in the appreciation of the vastness and greatness of this inexhaustible love.
First is to individually take time out on a regular basis for ourselves to look into and marvel at this precious love that came down from heaven. The apostle John is inviting us to take a break, step back and take time to consider this mind-bogglingly humongous love that has made our adoption into the divine family effortlessly possible for us at an unspeakable cost to the Father. This love is expressed in our lives in that we are now family members, children of the most high. But in order to appreciate the magnitude of this love and the significance of what it has accomplished for us, we need to find the time to look and gaze into it and its expression if we are to go beyond the surface and experience the abundant life Christ came to give us (John 10:10). This requires our personally taking time out daily to spend in the presence of the author of this love – the Father Himself. In as much as we do that, i.e. find or rather make the time to spend with God our Father, we will find ourselves on a steady upward learning curve. Conversely, without this regular devotion with the Father, our soul will be deeply impoverished in the experiential knowledge of the love of God that came down from heaven and transformed us into sons and daughters of the King. We underrate the Father’s love when we don’t make time to enjoy it – this love that culminated in the sacrifice of His One and only Son.
Second, the vastness and the multifacetedness of this love is so much that it was never meant to be appreciated solo only. It is meant to be appreciated and experienced in all its glory in community as well as individually. There is a limit to the extent and dimension of God’s love that we can experience on our own while it is given to us to fully and in all its dimensions experience it in community – in relationship and together with the brethren. Ephesians 3:18-19
…that you… may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
It is along with, together, in community with all the saints (other brothers and sisters) that we are meant to as much as is possible comprehend the love of God in all four dimensions – breadth, length, height and depth. I say as much as possible precisely because it is a love that truly and comprehensively surpasses all human knowledge. Continually striving towards the knowledge of the love of Christ in all its dimensions with all the saints is also the pathway to experiencing the fullness of God Himself which is His astronomical love.
This then is how, according to Jude’s 20 – 21, we are to keep ourselves in the love of God – by making time to appreciate and immerse ourselves in Christ’s love individually and in community, both to experience and express it.
But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.
As we grow in our comprehension of this love, we grow too in our love for Christ and His purposes out of which we now gladly and freely offer ourselves up to His service.
* Strictly speaking this is a medical term coined by a French physiologist to refer to the extra-cellular fluid environment in which organs and systems operate without even as much as a glitch.