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 Ro 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

We continue in that portion of Romans that tells us how shall we then live.  Ro 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

This admonition is not to be reserved for weddings and funerals. This admonition speaks of involvement in the lives of each other. It is coming alongside someone and not only feeling their joy, but also their sorrow. It speaks of empathy. And guess what? It doesn’t happen by seeing each other just once a week in church.

Oh we can congratulate someone on their good fortune or we can say something like “tough luck” when things don’t go their way, and we should, but more often than not, that kind of sharing is just shallow.  In order to truly rejoice with others, or to truly weep with them, you have to know them.

And this getting to know each other is a very Christian thing to do. The early church in the Book of Acts spoke of “continuing steadfast in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

These three things help us to “let our hair down” in our relationships with each other, these three elements should be found in all churches, and the best venue for all three is found in small group Bible Studies.

Small groups encourage us to be honest with each other as we look at God’s Word and how it affects our daily living. Eventually, masks are removed, fears are revealed, joys and sorrows, victories and defeats are shared with all. I don’t believe there s a better way to do this than in small group Bible Study settings.

Something very intimate begins to happen when two or more gather in the name of our intimate Savior....Jesus Christ. When Jesus is in the mix, when He is the center of the small group..... intimacy happens. Remember that. Don’t force can’t.  Just invite Jesus to be a participant in your small group and intimacy will happen.

The Holy Spirit will work through the Word of God and create the type of “getting to know you” intimacy that Romans 12:15 is talking about. If you join a small group just to get knowledge....intimacy won’t happen. If you join a small group just for intimacy, it won’t happen. Join a small group for the sole purpose of meeting with Jesus and others, and teaching and ministry and intimacy will all follow.

Make sure you make Him the focus. When He is the focus, the brother and sister bond is set more firmly and it becomes quite natural to rejoice with each other, weep with each other, and everything in between.

Verse 16 Be of the same mind toward one another.

This is not what you think it is. Our first inclination related to like mindedness is to think of unity, being on the same page, but that’s not it! It is something much deeper and sweeter than unity.

If it were unity that the Lord was after here, He would’ve said “be of the same mind AMONG one another,” but He didn’t. The Holy Spirit prompted Paul to write the same mind TOWARD one another.

Here’s the difference. To be like minded toward each other is to have the mindset of putting yourself in the other persons shoes and desiring for that person, what you would desire if you were in their position. You are like minded toward them. And as a believer, would you not desire mercy coupled with truth?

It is an attitude, wrought by the Holy Spirit , that causes us to think about the situation of others and how we would like to be helped or ministered to, if we were in their shoes. Then we demonstrate our like-mindedness with action!

And again, we aren’t going to get there if we don’t know what’s going on in each other’s life! If we go through life striking the Heisman Trophy pose...keeping everyone an arms length away. We aren’t going to get there! But we open up the possibilities of getting there there through small group Bible Study that is Jesus centered.

Next, we read, “Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble.”

This one is really contradictory to our flesh and to the world’s way of thinking. We are told that success is determined by goal setting and how high we can climb the social ladder. But Jesus says just the opposite. Success in His kingdom is measured by how you associate with  the lowly.

I always like to think of Mother Theresa when I see this passage. Did she set off on a pattern of mixing and mingling with the haves?.... or the have nots? Clearly she spent her time with the have not’s...the untouchables of India, the absolute lowest in the caste system of India, and yet she dined with kings and world leaders. She flew on the best jets and was treated in the best hospitals and she didn’t have a penny!

And, by the way, who did Jesus hob nob with? Was it the elite or the common man? He too dined with important leaders, but they sought Him out....He didn’t seek them.

This kind of humility is one of the most important traits of a Christian. Jeremaih 45:5 says, “And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them;”
Jesus said in Luke 14:11,  "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

It has been rightly said that humility is the path to promotion in the kingdom of God. Proverbs 15:33 says, “Before honor is humility.” Ps 147:6, “The Lord lifts up the humble.” Prov 22:4, “By humility and fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life.” James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.”

Humility is a God-pleasing trait, so how do we get there? There’s no point in conjuring up false humility. God can see right through that! It’s not about having a low opinion of yourself either, actually that is the crassest of all false humility because you deny the worth of what Jesus did on the cross for you. You have great worth simply because Christ deemed you worthy enough to die for!

So how do we get to true humility? I like what Isaiah says in Is 51:1, “Look to the hole of the pit from which you were dug.”  When pride or false humility come knocking at your door, think back to where you were before God called you! Before Christ became the center of your life.

What merit did you have then? What made you any better than the lowliest person on earth? For that matter what merit could you possibly have now without the saving and keeping power of God’s grace?

One of the beautiful things about the hymn Amazing Grace is it brings us to our knees as we humbly remember the pit from which we were dug....and the nail-scarred hands of the One who dug us out! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!

This way of the world is so different from the ways of the kingdom and it’s illustrated beautifully in the Book of James.

 Jas 2:1 My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.
 2 For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes,
 3 and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool,"
 4 have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
 5 Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?
 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?
 7 Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?
 8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well;
 9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
This is what Paul is talking about here in verse 16. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble.” But what is our first inclination? Is it not to fawn over the people of stature and means? How foolish when one considers that the measure of stature in God’s kingdom is the degree of lowliness. If you are going to fawn over anyone fawn over that which God fawns over.

Or better yet....treat rich and poor alike, loving them (treating them) as you would like to be treated yourself. “Be like minded toward each other.”

He continues: “Do not be wise in your own opinion.” Again, remember the pit from which you were dug my friend. Don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought. Don’t think for a moment that you have arrived and are not capable of sliding back down into the pit.

Without the grace of God you would be there a lot sooner than you think. Don’t think for a moment that you have reached a level of spirituality that is beyond the rest of us and you don’t need to associate with us anymore. The truth is, we need each other. Rich and poor, mature and immature, humble and proud.

I have heard of churches that have made this  mistake. They determined where a person was on their spiritual walk, they tried to ascertain their level of spiritual maturity and then relegated them to one Bible Study or another.

The message was clear. We have two classes of Christians here....superior and inferior. Do you see where that attitude leads?  We all need each other. Small group Bible studies are never to be divided up by “spiritual maturity” They are simply to be gatherings of believers who have a thirst for more of Jesus. He’ll determine the fruit of the Bible Study...not you or I.

We are called to become community and the early church gave us the example. “continue steadfastly in the apostles doctrine, (that is live the way the apostles taught as they had received instruction from Jesus)

We are called to continue in fellowship,  Heb 10:24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,
 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

We are called to break bread together which by the way does not necessarily mean making treats for the Bible Study. It’s a nice touch but certainly not necessary. To understand breaking bread you need to understand the culture of biblical times.

Breaking bread always suggested intimacy and safety for a stranger or an enemy. It was a way of expressing the thought, “You are safe here!” Do you see how that plays out in small group Bible Study?
Participants ought to feel safe in the group. They should be free to open up and express their feelings without fear of reading about it in the paper tomorrow. They should be free to share their joys, their sorrows, their struggles.

Make your small group a bread breaking group, invite Jesus into it and let Him make it an intimate and  safe place! Make this church a safe place! Are we a safe place?

Let me ask you something. Do you feel safe enough in this church to not come to communion every Sunday? Do you feel safe enough to remain in your seat while everyone else goes up. You know you shouldn’t go because you have no intention of giving up a besetting sin in your life, no intention of making peace with that person you are angry at.

But you go anyway, I mean, what would others think?

The real question to be asked is “What will God think?” Do you feel safe enough to skip communion when you and your spouse aren’t speaking to each other?

Do you think people in this church would wag their tongues about you if you did not come up to the communion table? Or do you think that they would come alongside you and gently ask how they might pray for you? If it is the latter, then you are in a safe church.

And again, this type of community, this kind of trust,  is built upon small group interaction with Christ at the center.

And finally we are called to continue in prayers. Pray for each other! Pray for the concerns of the church. Pray for revival! Pray! Pray! Pray!  There is nothing too small and nothing too large to pray for in your small group.

One of my all time favorite prayers in small group came from a man who requested it every week.....Pray that I don’t do anything stupid! Do you think Jesus thought that was a stupid prayer? Or do you think He longed to come alongside that person and grant Him his request?

These admonitions from these two verses in Romans are best played out in small group Bible Study. Studies that are birthed in the hearts of people who want to become more intimate with Jesus, and consequently, each other. Therefore He must be the focus.

When He is the focus, the Bible Studies will accomplish what He desires to accomplish. Rejoicing with each other, weeping with each other, empathy for one another, humility amongst each other, and a much more realistic assessment of who we each really are.....People dug out from the pit by the One with the nail scarred hands.

People who desperately need Him and each other.