Final Thoughts on Fellowship
Updated: Nov 25, 2020
Greetings Narrow Gate,
I continue to miss you all. I pray for you daily and look forward to when we may gather together again. In the meantime, communicate with one another and share your needs and concerns. Pray for one another regularly. Therein lies the central component to fellowship, loving our fellow believers. Matthew 22:38-40,
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind'. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments."
This lesson from Jesus gives us the perfect visual for the circulation of HIS blood through the body of Christ. The vertical flow between us and the Father and Son, and then the horizontal flow, between all of us in the body. This was what we spoke of last week. We finished with Matthew 18:20 (Phillips' translation),
"For wherever two are three people have come together in my name, I am there, right among them."
Fellowship is a blessing, an incredible privilege that too many of us take for granted. Do not forsake gathering in fellowship. For when you do, you are rejecting Jesus, as well as, your brothers and sisters. I want you to realize this. Saying no to Jesus is not where I think any of us want to be.
As we finish our look at fellowship today, I am going to give you some points of emphasis, like the last one regarding Jesus. I am doing this in the prayerful hope that you'll remember them, so that when the church is confronted with a shutdown again, you'll remember the importance of fellowship. Sadly, I do believe we'll be shutdown again. We acquiesced too easily as a denomination (Methodist) and the church as a whole. We allowed a precedent to be set, set it ourselves really, a precedent that enemies of God will be only too happy to use in the future.
Maybe the season of the large denomination is coming to a close anyway. Have you thought about this? As the Methodist Church implodes on itself, as other denominations have already done, maybe it's time to get back to the smaller individual church or even the home church. I have gleaned a few nuggets from an online study at Acts 17:11 Bible Studies. I have filled in with my own thoughts and scripture choices. Unless otherwise noted all references are for the NIV.
Aquila and Priscilla (1 Cor 16:19), Nympha (Col 4:15), were meeting in their homes. Paul himself spoke of moving and teaching from house to house (Acts 20:20). I pray that this is not the case, But something is changing and will continue to change within the church. I don't know where we'll end up, but I pray this:
You and I together will still be an integral part of the body of Christ.
We'll continue to share the Good News of Jesus, as always. You do realize that the Good News is just as important for believers to hear as for the world? Back to that circulation of the body we looked at last week.
*Fellowship requires us to be in the light. There is to be no darkness in the body of Christ. How can there be? If there is darkness in the body, it may be there masquerading for some nefarious reason. Maybe this possibly explains the real reason behind the downfall of the denominational church. Ephesian 5:11-17 (Phillips' translation),
"Steer clear of the activities of darkness; let your lives show by contrast how dreary and futile these things are. (You know the sort of things I mean -- to detail their secret doings is really too shameful.) For light is capable of showing up everything for what it really is. It is even possible (after all, it happened with you! [meaning all of us]) for light to turn the thing it shines upon into light also. Thus God speaks through the scriptures:
Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, And Christ shall shine upon thee. (Praise God for the light of Christ)
Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility, not as men and women who do not know the meaning and purpose of life but as those who do. Make the best use of your time, despite all the difficulties of these days. Don't be vague, but firmly grasp what you know to be the will of God."
Is this not a scripture for us living in today's world? These seven verses give me goosebumps.
We cannot allow darkness in the body of Christ or our bodies. We don't want to dampen Christ's light, we want to reflect it. We want God's light to shine through us all. Just think of the last Candlelight Service you were at during Christmas. Think of what we just read,
"It is even possible for (Jesus') light to turn the thing it shines upon into light also."
This doesn't happen by accident. It happens through our repentance.
*Fellowship requires our repentance. The blood of Christ continually cleanses us as we fellowship within the body. I did not stop sinning as soon as I was saved. I was doing sinful things that I didn't even understand were sinful. That's how sinful I was. But I grew spiritually, and as I grew, I repented and I grew some more, then I repented of something else, and then I grew some more. We don't ask for forgiveness once in our lives. We do so continuously. Old timers call this being "prayed up". This is the sanctification process, God's sanctifying grace flowing through us.
This is why the Good News of Jesus Christ is important for all believers, young and old, new and experienced. We need to be reminded to: stay in the light! We can't allow any darkness in. Its the self protection mechanism for the body of Christ.
*Fellowship requires our discernment. False teachers are always looking for an audience. 2 John 1:10-11,
"If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in his wicked work."
Many a church split has followed false teaching and manipulation of the scriptures. Discern for your sake, your family's sake and the sake of your church. Discernment is not done willy-nilly. Discernment is a prayerful process of listening for God. Listen carefully to witness and testimony, test the spirits. 1 John 4:1-6 from the Phillips' translation.
"Don't trust every spirit, dear friends of mine, but test them to discover whether they come from God or not. For the world is full of false prophets. You can test them in this simple way: every spirit that acknowledges the fact that Jesus Christ actually became a man, comes from God, but the spirit which denies this fact does not come from God. The latter comes from the antichrist, which you were warned would come and which is already in the world. You my children, who belong to God have already defeated this spirit, because the one who lives in you is far stronger than the antichrist in the world. The agents of the antichrist are children of the world: they speak the world's language and the world, of course, pays attention to what they say.We are God's children and only the person who knows God hears our message; what we say means nothing to the person who is not themselves a child of God. This gives us a ready means of distinguishing the true from the false."
We are to protect the fellowship within the body of Christ. It really is about Christ. There are seekers trying to figure this Jesus thing out. There are also false preachers, minions of Satan and the world (Wicca is headquartered in New Bern, NC), who would like nothing better than to ruin Christian fellowship.
We must be patient with those growing in faith, and continue in fellowship despite the sin they stumble into, or, as in my case, are yet unaware of. But if they willingly reject Christ, 2 Corinthians 6:14 & 15 from the Phillips' translation,
"Don't link up with unbelievers and try to work with them. What common interest can there be between good and evil? How can light and darkness share life together? How can there be harmony between Christ and the devil?"
But if it's misunderstanding or a lack of scriptural knowledge we are to teach and pray and love. The goal is restoration to the fellowship not punishment for the confused seeker. When people are put out of the church (fellowship) it is through their own words and actions. By the way, I have never had to do this as a Pastor. 1 Corinthians 15:33-34 from the Phillips translation.
"Don't let yourselves be deceived. Talking about things that are not true is bound to be reflected in practical conduct. Come back to your senses, and don't dabble in sinful doubts. Remember that there are people who have plenty to say but have no knowledge of God."
Remember my testimony, I hated God, for the death of my mother from cancer. I needed patience and understanding, not judgment and ridicule. Thankfully, I was loved to the Lord by my wife and church. So, let's not be quick on judgment. Remember, the aim is restoration if possible.
*Fellowship requires good stewardship. As we are working our way through the sanctification process, whenever we are blessed by the Holy Spirit with a gift of ministry, our flesh struggles to seize control of that gift, taking the glory away from God. We need to learn how to be like-minded with Christ (not double-minded). Philippians 2:1-4,
"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the (Holy) Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also the interests of others."
Does this passage not lovingly describe our fellowship. Where our words and actions, even our very thoughts, are those of Jesus.
*Finally, we started with love and we will finish with sacrifice. Fellowship requires love, but it also requires sacrifice. John 15:13,
"Greater love has no one than this, that you lay down your life for your friends."
Sure, we'll give up our life. Of course I'll lay down my life for a friend, but what about a stranger? How about:
>your seat in your pew
>that close parking spot that you always get because you arrive early
>that last scoop of mac'n'cheese at the fellowship
>can you think of any other examples?
Sometimes we cling most to the smaller sacrifices don't we? Let them go. Let them all go. Be a living sacrifice.
I hope you've enjoyed our look at fellowship over these last few weeks. I look forward to seeing you in the flesh soon.
Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.
and Harmony UMC