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Great Themes of the Bible
The Bible tells us that we were all made for relationships. The Lord said in the beginning that it wasn’t a good thing for any of us to be alone. This is what is at the heart of the Great Commandment. Jesus said that we are to love the Lord our God with the whole of our being, and the way that this is worked out is by loving our neighbor as ourselves. In other words, the way we show God we love Him is by loving others.
Now, God developed just the place to help us work this entire thing out – it’s called the church. And it’s called fellowship. Maybe I can say it like this; once you’ve become a believer you’re also to become a belonger. God wants you to be a part of His family, to be a part of the church.
“His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did this because he wanted to!” (Ephesians 1:5 TLB)
The Bible is God’s story of building for Himself a people, a family that will last forever. The writer of Hebrews says that He is all about bringing many kids into the kingdom through what Jesus suffered on the cross, Hebrews 2:10.
Let me give you the bottom line – we need to get connected. We need to get connected not only to the overall body of Christ, which you do when you become born again, but we also need to get connected to the local church body, which is an extension of Christ.
But why does God want us to build up loving relationships with those who are a part of the church, or part of a spiritual family? Aren’t the problems of our natural family enough? Why start a new family?
First, our physical family is going to eventually fall apart. Kids are going to move out, hurts will cause separation and even divorce, and death will take our loved ones forever away. But our spiritual family is going to last forever, and so God wants us to learn to love them now! Since we’re going to be living with each other for all eternity, God’s saying, “Get a head start now.”
This fellowship is more than merely a hello at church and some casual conversation. Also, church isn’t a building or organization; instead it’s a family we belong to. Fellowship, therefore, is all about loving one another, even though some of us are not so loveable. The Apostle John said,
“If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” (1 John 4:20-21 NKJV)
Aspects of Fellowship
As I said earlier, fellowship is about belonging and it’s a choice.
No one automatically belongs to God’s family. Just because you were brought up in the church doesn’t make you a part of God’s family. To become a part of God’s family begins with belief in Jesus Christ and what Jesus did upon the cross, taking our place and dying the death we deserve for our sins. It’s becoming born again.
But the Christian life isn’t just a matter of believing alone. It’s also about belonging.
When we were conceived we automatically became a part of the human race, a part of the human family. And when we become born again through belief in Jesus Christ, then we become a part of the family of God.
Now, a lot of people say, “I can be a Christian without belonging to a church,” but that really doesn’t make sense. Think about it. That’s like saying you can be a football player without belonging to a football team. Or someone who plays the cymbals not being a part of a band, or a bee saying it doesn’t want to be part of the hive.
The Greek word for fellowship is “koinonia.” It means that we are to be committed to each other as we are to Jesus Christ. The Bible speaks of our this need to be in fellowship in many areas, but nowhere more succinct than when the Apostle Paul tells us that we need to be a part of the body of Christ, or the church in which Jesus is the head.
“So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” (Romans 12:5 NKJV)
Paul goes on to say that God has bestowed His gifts and talents to each one of us individually to be used in this relationship. Just as the hand has a function, it functions as a member of the body.
And since Jesus is the head of the church, how can we then say that we love Jesus, but hate His body, the church. It’s like someone saying, “I love you but I hate your body.” Not only is it rude but hurtful, and that is how Jesus feels when we call ourselves Christians but avoid fellowship.
When speaking about the first church, look at their testimony.
“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common.” (Acts 2:44 NKJV)
They learned to share everything, from their possessions to their lives.
God has called us to come together and share life.
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 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.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV)
In his letter to the Ephesian church, the Apostle Paul said that when we come together we’re to speak to each other in psalms and spiritual songs as we’re filled with the Holy Spirit. And he ends by saying that we need to then submit to one another in the fear of God, Ephesians 5:18-21.
We are therefore encouraged to continue in this vital aspect of fellowship because when we connect with one another then we’ll encourage each other, and we all need encouragement as we live in this sin darkened world.
God doesn’t want us to sit back and soak in the church as if it was some spiritual spa; rather He has us here to serve.
The Apostle Paul tells us that we’re partners in this great undertaking
“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:9 NKJV)
And so the church is God’s family loving each other and who choose to belong, who learn to share life together with each member and to do his or her own part out of their love for God and love for one another.
“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” (Romans 12:10 NKJV)
Now, for those of you who have been Christians for some time as well as those of you who are new to the faith, you are going to be amazed at God’s plan for your life through the local church.
To help, I’d like to give some foundational building blocks for true fellowship.
Fellowship doesn’t happen when we’re absent from one another; instead fellowship happens through our getting together on a constant basis.
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25 NIV)
A habit is something you do frequently. You don’t have an occasional habit.
This is where it starts. We’ve got to spend time with one another. If all we do is see each other once a week, or once a month, then we’re not going to build any sort of relationships. Kind of like a marriage. If you just see each other once or twice a month, it’s not going to last.
Look at the first church and how this was key.
“They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity.” (Acts 2:46 NLT)
The church was formed with this in mind, daily gatherings. We complain about coming to church once a week, and because of it we’ve become weak.
So, what’s keeping us from meeting more consistently and more often? Is our gathering now more of convenience or is it based upon conviction? What’s the difference? Convenience is going when we have the time for it. Conviction is going because we make the time for it.
2. Being Authentic
If you were to break down the three main reasons why people avoid church it would be the fear of exposure, the fear of rejection, and the fear of being hurt. But what these fears actually do is to drive us to loneliness and despair, causing us to wear masks and to pretend.
“Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them.” (Romans 12:9 NLT)
What this is saying is “Don’t allow your love for others be hypocritical.” Authenticity is saying, “Hey I’m weak, I don’t have it all together, I need help.”
The Apostle James said, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16a NIV)
The truth is we’re only as sick as our secrets, and revealing our feelings is the beginning of our healing. When life gets difficult, or if we’ve been hurt, our first response is to go and hide, to shut others out. But that isn’t God’s way. His way is for us to live out this life together, which includes not only the good, but the bad as well.
3. Working Together
To use one of my favorite phrases, “We can do more together than we can do separately.” When the Apostle Paul desired to pass on to them the spiritual gifts. He said,
“That you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” (Romans 1:12 NIV)
Speaking of our need for one another, Solomon said it this way, “If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:10 NIV)
4. Being Courteous
Fellowship is built upon courtesy. We are to show each other that respect despite our differences. Or to say it another way, we are to be able to disagree agreeably.
Going back to one of our main verses, the Apostle Paul said, “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” (Romans 12:10 NLT)
“They must not speak evil of anyone, and they must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.” (Titus 3:2 NLT)
And while this is the way we should be to one another, the truth is that there’s always going to be those one or two in every crowd that are difficult to deal with. They are often referred to as EGR’s or Extra Grace Required people. So we need to be courteous, giving honor to everyone.
5. Being Understanding
Fellowship is also built upon supporting each other when needs exist, and this calls for us to be understanding of other people’s feelings, problems, and pain. We are to be sensitive to what they are going through. We see this in Paul’s description of how the body of Christ is to work.
“And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26 NKJV)
To the church in Galatia he said, “Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 NLT)
6. Being Humble
The Apostle Peter gives us this piece of advice.
“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5 NIV)
Fellowship based upon humility and not assuming that you know everything, rather it’s being willing to admit we don’t and are willing to admit when we’ve made a mistake.
• Humility enables us to say the four most difficult words in the English language; “I need your help.”
• Or the three most difficult words in the English language: “I was wrong.”
• It even enables us to say the two most difficult words in the English language, “ I’m sorry” or “Forgive me.”
Why is this so important, because of what it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” I don’t know about you, but I need all the grace that I can get.
7. Extending Mercy
Every church is filled with imperfect people, and being hurt by others is the natural outflow of relationships. The issue isn’t whether or not you are going to get hurt; rather it’s how are you going to handle the hurt.
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13 NIV)
So here’s my question: “How much has God forgiven you of?” If you haven’t forgiven someone, if you haven’t extended them mercy for their hurt or offense against you, then ask yourself, “Do I want to be forgiven by God for my offenses against Him?”
Jesus said, “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV)
8. Avoiding Gossip
Healthy fellowship hates gossip. The quickest way to destroy fellowship and a church is to permit gossip to go on unchallenged. Look at what God says,
“A gossip goes around revealing secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence … A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.” (Proverbs 11:13; 16:28 NLT)
What is gossip? The way I heard it is that it’s sharing information that you’re not a part of. And there’s a word for that – sin. God gives us instructions as to how we are to deal with a gossip.
“If anyone is causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with that person.” (Titus 3:10 NLT)
And it’s not just about the person repeating gossip; it’s also about the person who willingly receives it.
9. Being Unified
Ten times in the first five chapters of Acts it records the unity of the church with phrases like “They were of one accord,” “They were unified,” “They were all together,” “They were of one heart,” “They were of one spirit.”
I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought (1 Corinthians 1:10 NIV)
And it was such unity that filled the church with power. When we are unified with one purpose then we’re going to see great things. Think about the people at the tower of Babel, they were unified and God said concerning their unity, because they were one in purpose and language that “Nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.”
And when we’re unified God commands a blessing.
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity … For there the Lord commanded the blessing – Life forevermore.” (Psalm133:1, 3b NKJV)
Wednesday Evening Bible Study