The cost of true fellowship/conclusion

The cost of true fellowship/conclusion

I ended the previous post with this statement:

 “Christian fellowship is something that is done within the context of what He is building spiritually, not within the context of what man has and continues to build on earth”

The majority of the professing Christian world entirely disagrees with the above statement. Their “fellowship” is predominately found within the confines of structures man has built, regardless of the denomination (brand name). Most people consider this a moot point-they would say it doesn’t really matter where one meets but only whether Jesus is present. To this I partly agree. Still, “Would you say that fellowship is an event to which you attend or a lifestyle in which you live?” Let’s look over some verses in the Bible that relate to or express Christian fellowship and how they read.

“…what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” [1 John 1:3]

John the apostle is of course talking about those individuals who personally walked with the Lord Jesus and their responsibility to pass along the truth concerning Him, the Word of Life (1 John 1:1). Paul the apostle also met Jesus upon the Damascus road, but more importantly was given a revelation of Jesus by Him which he was called to preach among first the Jews, then primarily the Gentiles. This gospel, which Jude considered to be “the faith” needed to be defended and passed along to subsequent generations. Paul passed the truth about Jesus unto many others including Timothy to whom he admonished:

“Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which are in Christ Jesus” [2 Timothy 1:13, 14]   also,

“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” [2 Timothy 2:2]

The principle of passing down the truth, “the faith once delivered” and the importance thereof cannot be overstated. Unless some of God’s people purposefully safeguard the truths and practice of the faith, they will become corrupted over time or even lost to future generations. This obviously would include the non-negotiables we discussed earlier as well.

“If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” [1 John 1:6, 7]

We have already talked about our need to “abide” in this relationship and that this enables to offer to others what our Father is working into and through us. We also need to note that true fellowship is with people who are walking in the light, they are not actively living in sin or darkness. Regardless of where people meet for fellowship, it’s important to know that the participants are walking in the light.

“Take care, brethren, that there not be any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” [Hebrews 3:12, 13]

The warning above is very serious. Obviously Jesus thinks that anything short of seeking Him daily among one another is a dangerous risk that can invite deception. Do you seek Him daily and whenever you can amongst the brethren?

“What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification” [1 Corinthians 14:26]

This verse is specifically relating to when a local group of Christians gather in a specific locale. Notice that “each one has” something to offer (out of their spiritual giftedness), the assembly is not taught nor directed by any specific individual or is their an exact routine or preplanned agenda. That’s specifically due to the fellowship participants being led by the Holy Spirit and not by a man or a group of leaders.

“Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us” [1 Thessalonians 2:8]

This is the right attitude. Not merely just sharing the truths of God but each others hurt, pains and even material goods as our Father leads each one.

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives  for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” [1 John 3:16-18]

This is part of denying oneself and taking up one’s cross. We look for ways to help serve one another’s needs.

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” [Philippians 2:1, 2]

Here is a picture of a growing assembly of believers who are focused on Christ and growing together.

“…..so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” [1 Corinthians 12:25, 26]

A true picture of sharing amongst believers. No one individual is primary as only Jesus is center stage. All have the same care one for another.

“Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and their be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are divisions among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided?” [1 Corinthians 1:10-13]

Paul is obviously condemning their secular distinctions here. In today’s language it would read, “I am Baptist,” “I am Penecostal,” or “I am Lutheran.” Any religious distinction or name (denomination) or earthly title is prohibited as they divide the body of Christ. Truth is what binds and separates the true Christians from the false. Even a religious title such as “Pastor” or “Priest” or “Reverend” is also condemned as that places prominence upon one believer over another. That is not showing the SAME CARE one for another as the verse above describes.

God’s people fellowship in the Spirit and on a heavenly plane altogether. Anything earthly that diminishes or shrouds that reality must be rejected and abandoned.

“I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me” [John 17:23]

This is the desire of Jesus herein and the result of the totality of the above verses being lived amongst Christians. This is how God is calling every one of His sons and daughters to fellowship and to live, in this like manner. Now you may ask, “Where do I find such fellowship?”

 You have to be prepared yourself

Seriously, “Have you ever considered the cost to you personally to live all of the above?”  That’s exactly what you will have to do if you want to know and live in the beauty of the “fellowship of the saints.” It is not something you can attend, it is something you must become. You have to embrace God’s truth as it is, count the cost of being His disciple and walk in the manner of life in which He has prescribed. Only after you do, can you take upon yourself the responsibility of being a channel for this type of fellowship, something many, many people around the globe have already chosen to do.

No person, Christian or otherwise, can contribute to what they themselves have no knowledge of. Just as one must believe and repent before seeing the kingdom of God, so must each deny themselves, abandon their own dreams and desires and allow Jesus to lead you where He would. Just as if you are entering heaven itself, nothing of the former life can be brought with you. It is the Bible, God’s people and Jesus from now on- all else must be left behind.

Once Your Father has adequately prepared you, then you can start to pray for someone to join you upon this road. One here, two there, maybe three gathering together in His name. You are not looking for the masses, you are not trying to build or be anything at all, you are simply gathering and fellowshipping IN HIS NAME.

In due time, and provided you stay the course and remain worthy, Father might use your life to help show others the ONE VEHICLE through which His will is accomplished-that which supports His truth. That is the place where true fellowship is established, truth is lived and spoken- where the world will take notice, and where God Himself is given His rightful glory.

 

-the end

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The cost of true fellowship/Part 3

… The cost of true fellowship/Part 3

Over the last couple of articles we’ve talked a lot about the ingredients that lead to proper Christian fellowship. We talked about the necessity to abide in Christ, our need to be willing to give more than to receive, that fellowship isn’t somewhere we go but something we do, that it must be orchestrated by God Himself and not man, that true fellowship necessitates our willingness to allow mutual participation and that this type of fellowship will have supernatural results, and one I forgot- that the purpose of this fellowship is for the mutual edification of the saints.

Sounds exciting doesn’t it. You might now be asking, “Just where might such a fellowship be found?”  and “Wouldn’t that be contradicting your statement above that fellowship isn’t somewhere we go?”

My point above about “fellowship is not somewhere we go” does not mean that this fellowship is not found in particular places- it most certainly is. A home, a restaurant, a city park or out in the middle of a desert- the location matters little. What matters is that we understand that fellowship isn’t found over there but within the relationships with have with our Father and others believers in our lives. You do not have Biblical fellowship with people you do not know about as fellowship requires intimacy and interaction. It is much more than showing up where other Christians choose to meet.

Called out for a reason

I want to reiterate exactly what I wrote in my last post under this title once again:

“Our Father did not call you, me or anyone else out of institutions for no reason. Sure, over time we each receive the various revelations He alone can show us, but that doesn’t mean we are all called to exactly the same service. There are specific truths we all need to embrace uniformly, but within that context God has a unique purpose and plan for us as individuals as well”

A Picture of Biblical Fellowship

When we Christians think of fellowship we automatically think of some scheduled event at a particular place. That is the way we have been taught to think. But are those gatherings representative with what we find in the New Testament as fellowship or are there differences? Here’s the list again:

  • Our individual responsibility to abide in Christ (to cultivate our own relationship with God)
  • To be willing to give more than we receive
  • Emphasize what we do (contribute) to the other saints more than where we go (to a place)
  • The participants are called and orchestrated by God, not men
  • We must allow mutual participation
  • We will witness supernatural results
  • Mutually edifying to the saints

The truth is in. Most of today’s modern day church functions operate nothing like the above. First, those who attend these functions rarely know each other or generally have superficial relationships. How often have you asked your friends how their relationship with Father is or what He has taught them recently? For the most part we have no idea what’s going on with those we claim to have fellowship with- we don’t see them enough to know so.

Honestly, do most people come to places where fellowship is designed to give to others? Do most Christians even know that it is their responsibility to do so? Do they come wanting to contribute to the needs of the saints or are they looking for some kind of emotional high or spiritual fix?

I’ve got news for you all- having an open door policy and practicing inviting anybody and everybody into church through advertising is not God orchestrating who you fellowship with. Fellowship is among the people of God, it does not include unbelievers or believers whose lives are mired in sin. Using our human ingenuity and resources clouds God’s desire to “bring and remove” those who do and do not belong among the family of God. Needless to add, any large group of believers adds to the superficiality among them and doesn’t allow for any real intimacy at all. You cannot have everyone participating among large groups- it simply isn’t possible.

Supernatural results are not going to be witnessed where the above errors persist and are not corrected. Mutual edification comes from the truth being spoken and lived one to another, something the above scenarios do not exhibit. So you ask, “What do I do for Christian fellowship?”

True fellowship must revolve around specific Biblical truths

As Christians, we are called to acknowledge and believe very specific truths. For example, every truly born again Christian will acknowledge that salvation cannot be earned by one’s own merits, but rather as the Bible says, salvation is by grace, through faith. This is non-negotiable fact.

“…nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified” [Galatians 2:16] [Ephesians 2:8, 9]  

There are other non-negotiable facts as well: such as the Triune nature of God and the deity of Christ (Jesus is God) and the virgin birth of Christ. Those who reject these truths are not acknowledging what the Bible clearly states as being particularly Christian. You cannot have fellowship as the Bible describes it when disunity exists in these essentials. I’m sure some of you would like to add to the essential list, I might too, but this list makes my point, no?

There are also many practical considerations that also affect one’s ability to have genuine fellowship. The first is a willingness to acknowledge that there is only one true faith, (“the faith”) which encompasses both specific doctrines and specific practices. Without individual Christians being willing to acknowledge this, men will likely settle for less than God’s best (true unity in Him- 1 Corinthians 1:10) for something that falls far short of that. This doesn’t mean we must become perfect first in order to fellowship, no, but we must be continually moving and aiming toward the unity prescribed in the aforementioned verse. Such a pursuit will stay off in most cases the potential for compromise or regression as a spiritual body.

“Beloved, while I was making every effort to write to you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was handed down to the saints” [Jude 3] 

Paul the apostle, who was given the totality of the revelation of “the faith” (Galatians 1:11, 12) often referred to that doctrinal and practical gospel as “my way(s) and/or traditions in Christ. (1 Corinthians 4:17, 11:2, 11:16, 14:33) It was these doctrines and practices that all local ekklesias were commanded to embrace and obey. (1 Corinthians 14:37).

The practical aspects of “the faith” include many things such as:

  • The command to fellowship- daily (Acts 2:46, 47)(Acts 17:11)(Hebrews 3:13)
  • The command to be prayerful (Matthew 6:6-8)(2 Corinthians 13:9)(James 5:16)
  • The command to be lights in the world (Matthew 5:13-16)(John 12:46)(Ephesians 4:8-17)
  • The command to deny ourselves and carry our cross (Luke 9:23-26)(2 Corinthians 4:11, 12)
  • The command to reject sin and live holy (Colossians 3:5-11)(Ephesians 1:4)(1 Peter 1:14-16)
  • The command to regularly repent (Mark 6:12)(Acts 17:30, 31)(Revelation 3:19)
  • The command to live separate from this world and what they value (1 Corinthians 6:14-18)(1 John 2:15-17)
  • Share one another’s joys and sorrows and material goods one with another (1 Corinthians 1:3-7)(Ephesians4:28)
  • Love one another AS Christ loves His bride (John 13:34, 35)(Philippians 2:3, 4)(1 John 4:7, 8)

…and ought to include things like these as well (though they are often ignored or rejected outright);

  • the settings we gather in (that are consistent with producing the above such as small groups of people)
  • the manner we interact (interactive fellowship as the Bible prescribes)
  • the ingredients of our interaction or potential ingredients (psalms, teachings, revelation, tongues, interpretations, judgments over what is spoken/taught, order among the people and participants)

You can read 1 Corinthians 14: 26-40 to gain a clear picture of how a  local assembly/ekklesia functions properly. Sorry if that doesn’t quite fit your typical church service. There are reasons for that and if you’re courageous you can discover them.

Obviously many more things could be added to this list. As Christians these are the type of things we share and teach one another during fellowship that we might be useful vessels in God’s service. The Bible is clear that those who refuse to obey what God commands are to be marked, admonished and even excommunicated from fellowship under some circumstances. The goal is to live out the “one faith” as Paul relayed it to us, that we might appears as lights in the world. The result of the above should look something like this;

“Do all things without grumbling and disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain or toil in vain” [Philippians 2:14-16]

Fellowship has an OBJECT and an AIM

There are lots of reasons why people seek out fellowship. They may be hurting, they may be lonely or they just trying to discover where they and their particular spiritual gifts fit among others. Some want a safe environment for their kids, want to meet nice people or just need a babysitter. There are a hundred reasons people “go here or there for fellowship” but the aim and object must be Jesus. Again, the object and aim of all fellowship must be to grow in intimacy with other Christians and God Himself. All other reasons must remain secondary to this.

The ekklesia is God’s one vehicle to display Himself

I think it’s safe to say that most Christians know that the people of God are supposed to corporately display Christ to this dying world. What they hardly if ever realize is this: That what most people are displaying in “their” churches and organizations is not exclusively Jesus as all, but a combination of sectarian attitudes, religious hierarchy and worldly resources which amount to building earthly kingdoms. Needless to say, if your fellowship revolves around any of the above, it is not the type of fellowship God intends for you as a Christian, but in fact, is a counterfeit.

“I write so you will know how to conduct yourself in the household of God, which is the ekklesia of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” [1 Timothy 3:15]

What is the pillar and support of the truth? Your church, no. Your religious organization, no. Your “ministry” pursuit, no. NOT YOUR ANYTHING. The pillar and support of the truth is His ekklesia- WHAT HE IS BUILDING- SPIRITUALLY!

When you finally come to terms with this, you might just be ready to fellowship with others who are seeking Him and not anything in addition to Him.

 Christian fellowship is something that is done within the context of what He is building spiritually, not within the context of what man has and continues to build on earth.

 

-to be continued in Part 4 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cost of true fellowship/Part 2

 The cost of true fellowship/2

For most people it takes many years to be willing to admit that the majority of their activities through church fell far short of our Father’s intentions for fellowship. It seems the longer one is attached to a specific manner of doing things the harder it is to break free from it. It’s extremely painful to first admit we’ve fallen far short of God’s intent, likely more painful to suffer the consequences of attempting to right the ship.

For those of us who have left institutions, this is where we find ourselves these days- on the outside looking for where we belong, asking ourselves the question, “What now?” That isn’t easily answered, though there are some things we do well to remember.

A Reminder

Everything we might desire or need within our lives as Christians is ultimately dependent upon how much we rely upon Jesus for everything. We have to diligently guard this special relationship and keep Jesus as the focal point and love of our lives. We cannot ever allow something or someone to take precedence over Him. That includes making any form of fellowship a priority over Him.

Called out for a reason

Our Father did not call you, me or anyone out of institutions for no reason. Sure, over time we each receive the various revelations He alone can show us, but that doesn’t mean we are all called to exactly the same service. There are specific truths we all need to embrace uniformly, but within that context God has a unique purpose and plan for us as individuals as well.

Despite the loneliness that each individual faces upon exiting the church, the very real temptation to immediately plug into some form of fellowship is almost always a mistake. The primary purpose for Him bringing us out is to set us aside so He can begin to teach us Himself without the distractions of other men. Getting out isn’t enough, there are things in us that need to come out too- stuff we adopted along the way in church that has nothing whatsoever to do with Life in Him. It is much more than simply conforming to a standard, anyone could just adjust I suppose, rather, He desires to transform our thinking entirely from what is earth bound to that which is heavenly in nature. This takes considerable time, in my case 15 years and counting.

These years are not without any fellowship, it’s just that God will rarely allow our efforts to cling to a person or groups of persons to last long in this stage. He knows what we need better than we do, and if we are to be fully prepared we have to accept His timing is best. Rest assured that if you have learned to abide in Him regularly, nothing you have or go without will escape His notice. You will be walking exactly as you ought to.

My ministry

I am sure that the last thing My Father had to pry out of my hands and heart was this desire I had for my own ministry. Just about everybody struggles with this one. We’re so convinced our ideas are just a little better than somebody else’s, but that doesn’t matter- they’re not better than God’s own. You must allow Him to bring you to the place where you have no agenda of your own and become entirely content even if He chooses to never use you again. When you have arrived here, maybe He might let you out for a glimpse of His will for your life. Maybe not.

The Wilderness

The wilderness experience, the road of seemingly never ending loneliness, broken friendships, multiple misunderstandings, crushed aspirations and the like- a road of stripping you down to where you likely despair of life itself is necessary. Any attempt to skirt the fiery trials He allows will only have you learning the same lessons over and over again. There is only one way out- straight ahead embracing the pain, accepting the heartache as if from a loving Father. He knows what it takes to bring you to the end of yourself, that He alone might have the sacrifice He’s always been after.

The cross/A friend for Life

Despite where we might be heading on any given day, we usually have an idea where we’re going and the means necessary to get there. Paul the apostle knew as much too- he knew that if there was any hope for fulfilling God’s will for his life he would have to admit;

“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,

(Paul was born into many privileges (Philippians 3:4-6) as are some of us. For some of us today that might mean wealth, prestige, influence or a whole host of other things. For a religious professional that would include a religious position, a spiritual title, institutional authority and likely quite the reputation as a religious professional) A first step in dying to oneself is foregoing all the obvious things that exalt us over our fellow men.

 …and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,

(Our individual testimony must be one of uncompromising justification in Christ. Anything or anyone who mixes the Law with Grace must be marked, refuted and rejected. There can be no ecumenical compromises with those who fail or pretend to share our love for the gospel itself) Another opportunity to die to self and embrace the hatred of those who call us narrow minded and bigoted.

…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;

(This becomes our primary message for anyone professing the name of Christ. That the road to intimacy with Father is filled with difficulty but well worth it in the end as our influence upon others will prove over time) This is where our Father grants us opportunities to embrace our sufferings instead of running from them. This becomes the primary test to see whether we really can be trusted in the heat of battle or whether we will quit when the going gets rough.

…in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

(…not heaven, but resurrection power to share Christ with the unsaved and equip the saints) God will only share His power with those who are DEAD serious about putting and keeping Him first in their life.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.

(An ongoing attitude of humility regardless of how our Father chooses to use us. A continual ongoing walk always discovering a deeper revelation of Christ and never arriving this side of heaven)

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” [Philippians 3:7-14]

(Paul’s eyes are on the prize- He sees everything in Christ, for Christ is his very Life.)

When He has brought you here, you will be prepared for whatever He has in store for you.

 

-continued in part 3

 

 

The cost of true fellowship/Part 1

 The cost of true fellowship/1

Although in a very similar vein, this author will not simply attempt to answer the question many others have previously asked God and other Christians around them: What is real fellowship and where can I find that? In addition I want to ask this additional question; “What is the cost of true fellowship?” I believe the answer to this question will circumvent the need for the previous questions altogether as they become answered through this question alone. How can I say that?

True Fellowship starts with the Father

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” [1 John 1:5-7]

Every real born again believer desires to fellowship with other Christians, that’s a given. What isn’t so easily recognized is what that constitutes in real life and how that particular fellowship is brought to fruition. Most of us have for years made the assumption that church attendance, bible study and a few social outings during the year represent true fellowship. Not only is this not true, in most cases the above are actually a hindrance to what John the apostle was calling “fellowship with Him and one another.”

At the Outset

Webster’s defines “fellowship” as follows:

  • A friendly relationship among people
  • The relationship of people who share interests or feelings
  • A group of people who share similar interests

Now can I ask a question. Would you consider this an accurate description of what the Bible denotes as Christian fellowship? I certainly hope not. It’s not as if some of the above isn’t a part of true fellowship among Christians, it certainly would be, but it would also be just as true for a ladies monthly breakfast, the Tuesday evening fishing club, a local AA meeting or any other social function for that matter, Christian or otherwise. What is it that specifically defines a Christians fellowship from these other forms of fellowship? That’s right, The Father, God Himself.

God alone defines fellowship

Regardless of what we might consider to be fellowship, in reality true fellowship can only be defined by God Himself. Seeing that fellowship is commanded in the Scriptures, wouldn’t it seem vital to understand what God Himself means when He talks of our fellowship with Him and one another?

The word for fellowship in the Bible is “koinonia.” Some synonymous words other than “fellowship” (as described above) would be:

  • contribution
  • participation
  • sharing

Obviously these words also denote aspects of fellowship. Ultimately though, what makes Christian fellowship unique?

A Supernatural Source

The Christian life is lived in the supernatural. Were it to stay on the natural plane or derive from our own resources it could not be so. Therefore Christian fellowship cannot and does not take into consideration our human thoughts about things, take into consideration our personal strengths or our soulish self centered tendencies. Only what derives from the Holy Spirit within us can contribute to the type of fellowship God requires and commands.

As fragile human beings whose natural tendency is to save ourselves and our abilities and reputation, it’s necessary for these “old nature” habits to be diminished as much as possible. The instrument of their destruction  is the cross of Christ. There is a reason Jesus says that whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:27) It is simply impossible to carry out what God requires unless all of our resources are kept in check. Do you by nature love your neighbor? Do you naturally want to forgive those who offend you? Do you place the interests of others around you above your own? Do you agree with Jesus that it is more blessed to give than receive? And finally, “Do you believe that all Christians can live in perfect harmony upon this earth together?” No you don’t, but until you do, you can never know true fellowship- at least not how our heavenly Father intends us to know it.

The present problem

For many years most of us have been taught that fellowship is found over there or in some particular place. Whether that place be a church, a Bible study, a prayer meeting or other doesn’t really matter. We’ve been taught we need to go somewhere to find what we’re looking or searching for. Taking this to its logical conclusion each of us would be going somewhere in an attempt to receive something and so would everyone else in our particular group or setting. This of course brings up another question, “How can we fellowship if no one contributes and all come to receive?”

The next problem

For many years, most of our “fellowship” has been directed and structured by somebody else. All we think we really need to do is show up and we will can have fellowship with other people. There’s almost always somebody willing to lead and the rest can listen, right? Is that what God intends, is that fellowship?

“Church reduces worship & fellowship to a pilgrimage and a ritual as opposed to the spiritual reality of sharing our [real] lives together” -outside contribution

Returning to the definition of “koinonia” above, we find that true fellowship includes contribution, participation and sharing. That simply means that every individual Christian is responsible to contribute something to fellowship, they are required to participate in some capacity- they are required to share their spiritual gifts with the other Christians who are present.

A healthy body

This example is so simple it’s going to sound stupid. But it just might take this to wake people from the dead, from their superficial ideas about what fellowship really is before God.

In 1 Corinthians 12 we have an explanation of how spiritual gifts are used. The illustration used is a literal physical body where every member of that body is a necessary working part. Think about that-seriously. Consider your own physical body. Now remove a leg. Ouch. Thank might make life a little difficult, no? Uh, oh, now somebody else requires the other one. Before long the arms go too- didn’t see that coming did you? Then, slowly, almost without notice every part but a beating heart and one eye remains- and a shell of a body to replace the one that’s missing. What kind of body would that be? Would anybody alive believe this body could function properly? Are we so removed from reality that we cannot see that this is how Christians attempt to “fellowship” day after day, week after week in the man made shells of our own making? Yes, we are!

Where true fellowship begins

“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door  and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” [Matthew 6:6]

All real spiritual fellowship starts here- with the Father. You cannot get truth secondhand, you must learn from God yourself if you are to be taught aright. It is in this “secret place” of communion with Him (fellowship with the Father) that all other fellowship is made possible.

When we gather with other saints we must be prepared to give, not expect to receive. Every healthy relationship we have or will ever have will be based upon this very same principle: it is better to give than receive. It is not something we should try to do, rather, it is something we must become as we abide in the inner sanctuary with Him. The reason chaos and instability exists among Christians is simple: they have not made abiding with Christ alone their first priority which will result in individuals placing their own needs in the assembly above the interests of their Lord. Only when one dies to their own interests via the cross will the evidence of God’s gifts among other believers become manifest. When all live with Him as their priority, the only possible result will be harmony with each contributing and all having their needs met.

In talking to Timothy about his responsibilities as a believer, Paul the apostle summarizes a section of his thoughts with these words:

“Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels , but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” [2 Timothy 2:21]

It is obvious that to be a contributing member of the body of Christ, to participate in the manner the Lord requires and to share one’s spiritual gifts with others certain things are required from the professing believer. It is not enough just to show up and think someone else will spoon feed you. We don’t have to go back far to discover what some of these responsibilities are within the family of God:

  • Abstain from wickedness (2 Timothy 2:19)
  • Avoiding worldly and empty chatter (2 Timothy 2:16)
  • Competing according to the rules (2 Timothy 2:5)
  • Avoidance of being overly attentive to everyday affairs (2 Timothy 2:4)
  • A willingness to suffer hardship (2 Timothy 2:1)

Can I summarize the above for you? Our Father wants us to prioritize what He Himself says matters most. That we recognize that we are involved in a very real race/war with serious spiritual ramifications and that in order to be successful we will have to suffer through many difficulties if we are to succeed. That in order to be a vessel of gold or silver which He can use that we must abstain from wickedness and compete in the manner that He requires- not being sidetracked by what so often vies for our attention in worldly things.

= Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me (Paul), in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:13)

Can God trust you with His treasure? Are you one who has proven himself or herself worthy of His calling of you? Then brother or sister, you might be ready for real fellowship with Him and others.

 

-to be continued in part 2