I want you to open your Bible to the second chapter of Acts.
At least by way of an introduction, as we talk about the issue of fellowship tonight. For those of you who have been with us, you know we’ve been in a series in the Book of Acts, and we have been essentially looking at the beginning of the Church. It began on the day of Pentecost, subsequent to the Lord’s death and resurrection. The Spirit of God came. 3,000 people were converted, and the church was born.
We have found ourselves now in chapter 2 at verse 42, and it introduces us now to the life of the church. Let me just read a few verses here. Verse 41 ends, that those who received the preaching of Peter, the gospel, were baptized. That day, there were added 3,000 souls. That is the beginning of the church. Then we find out about how they conducted their life together. “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
What strikes you when you read that is the common, shared life. It’s all bound up in verse 42 in the word “fellowship.” But even the breaking of bread around the Lord’s table was an expression of fellowship. Prayer, an expression of fellowship. All of the believers were together, in verse 44. They even held their possessions in common trust, so that if anyone had a need, they would gladly sell what they had to give to the one who had the need. They were daily continuing with one mind, in the temple. Breaking bread, that is having meals, from house to house. Taking their meals together with gladness, sincerity of heart. This is a community of people who are committed to one another. That is the first expression of the life of the church, it’s mutual commitment.
This is magnificently defined for us in 1 Corinthians chapter 12, and I would ask you to turn to it for a moment. Because here we have a metaphoric presentation by the apostle Paul of this kind of common life. He says, starting in verse 12, “Even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body,” speaking of the human body, “so also is Christ. For by one Spirit,” and that happened on the day of Pentecost, “we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any less a part of the body. If the ear says, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? Now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on those we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which is lacked, 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. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.”
This is a magnificent metaphor that says we are all sharing one common life under one head, who is the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the defining character of the church. It is marked by its unity, by its shared life, its commonality, its community. In a word, it’s fellowship. Fellowship is critical to the life of the church. Christianity is not a spectator event that happens on Sunday. It is a common, shared life with other believers.
In the gray dawn of an April day in 1945, in the Nazi camp of Flossenburg, a pastor by the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed. He was executed by special order of Heinrich Himmler, Hitler’s executioner. He had been arrested two years before, and over that period of two years, he had been transferred from prison, to prison, to prison. From Tegel, to Berlin, to Buchenwald, to Schönburg, finally to Flossenburg. And in the moving of Bonhoeffer from place to place, he lost all contact with the outside world. Everyone that he knew was severed from him. He lost, according to his own testimony, the most precious possession he had, and that was fellowship. Fellowship.
Bonhoeffer wrote a book called “Life Together.” I would commend it to your reading, based on Psalm 1:33. He had written that book years before. He wrote in that book of the richness of fellowship, which he, during his imprisonment, leading up to his death, lost. This is what he said. “The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer. A physical sign of the gracious presence of the triune God. How inexhaustible are the riches that open up for those who, by God’s will, are privileged to live in the daily fellowship of life with other Christians.” Further, he wrote, “Let him who has such a privilege thank God on his knees and declare. It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in fellowship with Christian brothers.” That’s the church. That’s the church.
As Christ’s church, we are one wife, in Scripture metaphor, with one husband. We are one set of branches connected to one vine. We are one flock with one shepherd, one king with one kingdom, one family with one father, one building with one foundation. But uniquely, introduced only in the New Testament, the body of Christ is one body with one life source and one head. It is our unique identity. We are living organisms dependent on each other. Understanding this basic unity is strategic to living out the principles of fellowship in the life of the church.
When I was a kid growing up, when I thought of fellowship, I thought of a place they called fellowship hall. It had a tile floor, and they served stale cookies and red punch. And people talked about fellowship, and it was pretty superficial. True fellowship is much deeper than that. True fellowship is spiritual. It is profound. It is essential. It is our very life, and our Lord’s great high priestly prayer in John 17, He repeatedly prays that the people who come to Him, the elect, the chosen, those who will be saved throughout redemptive history will be one, that they will be one. That prayer is answered, because when any believer is given salvation, he is immediately placed into the union of the body of Christ, that they may be one is a prayer that is answered. But it should work itself out in our conduct with each other. We have a shared life. We have a shared eternal life. We have a shared faith. We have a shared love, shed abroad in our hearts. We have a shared purpose: the glory of God. We have a shared ministry, the proclamation of the gospel and the advancement of the kingdom. We possess a shared truth: the revelation of God in Holy Scripture. We possess a shared power: the Holy Spirit. We are, literally, the temple of the Holy Spirit collectively and individually.
That is fellowship, and that is what defines the life of the church. And no sooner is the church born on the day of Pentecost than this unity, this commonality, this one-ness begins to work itself out. The verb, to fellowship, in the Greek, is koinnos. It’s used eight times in the New Testament. Seven of those are translated share. That’s what it means. It means to share, to share. One other time, it is to participate. Second John 11. A common participation. The noun, fellowship, koinnia, a familiar word, used about 30 times. It carries the same idea. Sometimes translated sharing, sometimes contributing, sometimes partnership, sometimes participation. The concept then, is very clear. It is partaking, contributing, sharing, linking together in common partnership. Common cause. Part of this relational definition of Christianity is the image of God. God made man in His own image, and God is a relational being, because God is a Trinity, and God has made us for relationships. That’s part of His image.
So when we see the church in the Book of Acts, it is intensely relational. It is as I said, not a spectator event. It is not salvation, and then you’re on your own to wander around at your own discretion. When you come to salvation in Christ, you are embedded, as it were, into a union of common life with every other believer.
As true as that is, as purely as it is revealed in Scripture, I have to ask the question: is that the contemporary, evangelical view of the church? I don’t think so. I think the contemporary evangelical world has lost this great reality of the life of the church. Part of it, of course, is because evangelicalism today appeals to people on the basis of what they want. And so, they start by seeing Christianity as something that gives me what I want. That doesn’t turn you loose to sacrifice your life for the needs of others. It’s the opposite of that. It’s narcissistic self-indulgence that is presented so very often.
Back in the 1980s, there was Jewish humanist by the name of Neil Postman, and he wrote a very interesting book called “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” Some of you may know about the book. He spoke of the rather epic and tragic loss of serious thinking in Western civilization. He said, this is back in 1980, that “serious thinking is being replaced by entertainment. In specific, the mind-crippling power of television.” But at least, at least TV was, and is, a group experience. And, screens have been getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and bigger so that more people can watch. So, television, for all of its dangers, is at least a group experience. And that is, at least in a minor sense, a redeeming virtue. I’m not so worried about huge screen televisions. Neil Postman could never have imagined massive screen televisions. Neil Postman could hardly have seen that at the same time when screens were getting bigger, they were paradoxically also getting smaller. And that is really frightening. That, in fact, is terrifying.
And our society is beginning to see the result of it. The seductive entertainment has gone from the big screen to the small screen. It’s gone from being a group experience and public experience to being an intimate, personal, private experience. As small as an iPhone, and the upcoming Google Glasses, where you put the glasses on, and they are screens for you to see whatever you want to see. Every person now becomes a creator of his own private world. It is a secret world. It is a secret world of preferences. It is a secret world of temptations. It is a secret world of relationships. It is a secret world that has a force and ubiquity that is unparalleled in human history. Unparalleled.
The small screen is the most selfish necessity ever devised, ever devised. Once, you had a phone to talk to someone. No more. Technology has put in the hand, and soon, on the ears and the nose, of everyone, the most constant, incessant, accessible, visual, private world of self-centered indulgence, temptation, and entertainment ever conceived.
You choose. You choose everything. Choose your entertainment, and no one knows. You choose your music. You choose your relationships. You become God in your little world. And on your little screen, you create the world that you want. You are the creator of your own private universe. And outside your own private cyberspace, and your Facebook friends, is the outer darkness of whatever and whomever you reject.
Theologian Carl Trueman writes, “The language of friendship is hijacked and cheapened by the internet social networks.” I don’t know what friendship is anymore. Carl Trueman says, “The language of Facebook both reflects and encourages childishness. Childishness,” he writes, “has become something of a textually transmitted disease.” Why does he say childishness? Because, what is most characteristic of a child is complete self-centeredness. Carl Trueman says relationships play out in the disembodied world of the web. By the way, the latest statistics say the average high school students, the average high school student looks at the small screen nine hours a day. Carl Trueman further says, “Such are human amoebas, subsisting in a bizarre non-world that involves no risk to themselves, no giving of themselves to others, no true vulnerability, no commitment, no sacrifice, no real meaning, and no value.” End quote.
Real fellowship cannot exist in a world of self-created avatars. It requires real persons. I think this is one of the reasons people don’t get married young like they used to. They’ve created their own world. They live in it. And you can’t break in. They don’t need anyone outside their own cyber world. But I want to hasten to say Christianity is not an individual experience. Christianity is not a private experience. You were not meant to live by yourself in a world where you can isolate yourself with a massive form of temptation that you are in complete control of and nobody else knows about. That’s deadly.
The rapid trend is heading to the norm of people creating their own virtual world of virtual self. And they recreate themselves as wonderfully as they would like themselves to be, and then project themselves that way. You can upload your self-creation into the Eden of the internet, the perfect you. Beautiful, indomitable, intelligent, wise, cool, self-actualized like some technological form of science of mind. You can create a digitized self-projection of your idyllic design. I tweet, therefore I am.
The culture of this is becoming more isolated, more narcissistic, more self-absorbed, more individualistic, more morally relative, more entitled. Deadly.
This might be tolerable and maybe understood if it stayed outside the church, but it doesn’t. The evangelical church has, for decades, been trying to give the culture what it wants, and people want what they want, and they have created a world in which their own wants dominate. What do people want? They want privacy. They want convenience. They want low commitment. They want anonymity. They want unaccountability. And mostly, they want self-promotion and self-actualization. Church life is falling victim to this seductive self-design. People say, oh, it’s so hard to find a church. Well, of course. You have created the first church of my personal iTunes. You’ve created your own music. You have your own playlist. You’ve created your own messengers. You know who you want to hear. You’ve created your own friends. You don’t feel comfortable at a church because you might have to, you might run into an enemy. You might even run into someone who’s disgusting. You might hear a message from a preacher who doesn’t say what you want to hear. Worst of all, you might have to listen to old hymns in 4/4 time led by a senior citizen. Unthinkable. How horrific is that?
So what do you get out of this? You get a generation of people who are entitled to the world the way they want it, and that’s the world they have created for themselves, and that’s where they live, and you can’t break it.
For many, entitlement to their own view of everything dominates, their own view of information, their own view of experience, and their own view of relationships has ruled out truth, accuracy, credibility, rationality, sacrifice, deferred gratification. And evangelical leaders don’t get how deadly this is. You have people such as Louie Giglio talking about the online church, and he says young millennials are leaving church but going toward Jesus.
Really? They’re leaving church but going toward Jesus. That should cause you to panic. Panic. One church advertises: join an e-group. Join an online e-group. Church is becoming unnecessary. You are becoming unnecessary. You can’t entertain people the way their little private TV can, the way the internet can. So, people essentially are becoming church planters, and they’re planting churches with one member.
Of course, as Kevin Miller wrote in an article in Christianity Today, Don Miller, Rob Bell, and Brian McLaren all kind of original leaders of the emerging church, they were leading the parade for the emerging church a few years back. Kevin Miller’s article says “they’ve all left the church.” Ten years ago, those names, Miller, Bell, and McLaren, were the most influential in American evangelicalism. The emergent church, of course, imploded. It just, it disintegrated, completely disintegrated.
Why did it disintegrate? Because they all had a personalized vision of Christianity, and there was no point in getting together. It had no purpose. They would come with their lattes and their computers. They didn’t need each other. They all showed up at first, with all their computers, as I said. It’s amazing how fast the emergent movement disappeared.
So, Donald Miller, who was a leader in it says, “I don’t worship God by singing.” He says, “I don’t go to church very often.” He talks about a most notable communion he had with his buddies on a road trip, a communion with hot chocolate and cookies that he called a fantastic binding. Create your own sacraments; create your own religion, hyper-individualized faith. I mean, we see it even here. People who have trouble adjusting to Grace Church because I’m not the kind of preacher they prefer. This isn’t the kind of music they prefer. And since it’s all about what they prefer, they try to find a place that more closely fits their preferences. I’m afraid that the church has already fallen to a weak ecclesiology, and this is going to spread the decline in a rapid way.
And at the same time, there’s pressure from church growth experts saying, “What are you doing with social media? What are you doing with technology to your people to help your church?” I would agree that these things are tools for good. They are also tools for disastrous evil. And obviously, we wouldn’t advocate that. But they are also tools for disconnection. We cannot let this destroy the church. Fellowship is precious. Everything, listen, everything about the church fights privacy. Fights it.
Well, that’s an introduction of the things that were on my mind. Let me just give you a couple of more specific elements of fellowship that will help you with your understanding. Let’s talk about the basis of fellowship, the nature of fellowship, and we may not finish this. Probably won’t. That’s all right. The basis of fellowship and the nature of fellowship for sure, maybe the symbol of fellowship. What is the basis of fellowship? Because that’s pretty essential, isn’t it? On what basis am I obligated to the fellowship? What is the common ground that holds us together?
Well, turn to 1 John chapter 1. First John chapter 1. We can come down to verse 3 for the sake of time. John is introducing us to that Word of Life, meaning Christ, in verse 1, who is manifested to them, whom he and the apostles saw, and to whom they give testimony, and whom they proclaim. And then in verse 3, “What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you,” that is the truth concerning Christ and the gospel also, “so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
Clearly, the basis of fellowship is salvation. John says, we were there, we saw Him, we looked at Him, we touched Him with our hands, this living Word of Life. He was manifested. We have seen. We testify. We proclaim the gospel of eternal life, which was manifested to us. We proclaim it to you. Why do we proclaim the gospel of Christ? So that you may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship is with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. The proclamation of the gospel, then, is not an end in itself. The proclamation of the gospel is not to produce individual, isolated Christians. The preaching of the gospel is to produce a fellowship, a sharing, in-common life, purpose, power, ministry, testimony. The goal of the gospel is not just individual salvation from hell. It is not just individual forgiveness. The goal of the gospel is a fellowship with other believers, a fellowship with God, a fellowship with Christ, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. First Corinthians 6:17. Whoever’s joined to the Lord is one spirit.
This is that which Jesus prayed for in John 17, that we would be one, and that prayer has been answered. We are one in Christ. We hear this a number of ways in the New Testament, how you receive in other believers, how you receive Christ, Jesus said. How you treat another believer is how you treat Christ, because Christ in us engages all of us together. For if we are in Christ, we are also in one another.
Salvation, then, is the basis of fellowship. When you became a believer, you entered the fellowship. You are now part of the fellowship. I used to hear when I was a kid, people would say, “You don’t want to be out of fellowship.” I heard many sermons on this. You don’t want to be out of fellowship. You want to be in fellowship. Look, you could never be out of the fellowship. It’s simply the reality of the body of Christ, of which every believer is a part. You cannot be out of the fellowship. You can mar the fellowship. You can ignore the implications of the fellowship. You can work against the reality of the fellowship, but you are part of the fellowship. There is neither Jew, nor Greek, nor male, nor female, nor bond, nor free. Doesn’t matter what gender you are, doesn’t matter what race you are, doesn’t matter what education you are, what economic status you have. If you are in Christ, you are in the fellowship. You are in the fellowship.
The objective and the proclamation of the gospel is to make a fellowship, listen carefully, that manifests Christ in the world. His body was here in a physical sense in His incarnation. His body is now here incarnate in the fellowship of the church. We are Christ in the world. We are Christ in the world.
What does that mean? It means that every single saved person is entitled to full, full involvement in the fellowship. You don’t look down on any, as Jesus said in Matthew 18. You don’t despise any. You don’t belittle any. Every one who is in Christ is entitled to full involvement in the fellowship, and our responsibility extends to everyone in the fellowship. Whatever church, whatever background, whatever condition of life, whatever ability, whatever status.
God is no respecter of persons. All of us who are in the fellowship are in His eyes, equal, because we’re all in Christ. The basis of fellowship then, is salvation. John proceeds to draw a contrast between those who are in the fellowship and those who are out of the fellowship.
You go down to verse 5. This is the message we have heard from him, and announced to you that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and yet walk in 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 the Son continues cleansing us from all sin. Either you’re in the light, or you’re in the darkness. Either you’re saved or you’re lost. Either you’re in the fellowship or you’re out of the fellowship. It’s not what you think. It’s reality.
If you’re saved, you’re walking in the fellowship. If you’re saved, you’re in the fellowship. Verse 9. If we confess our sins, He is faithful, and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Believers, listen, I’ll put it all together, are always in the fellowship, always in the light, and always confessing their sins, and always being forgiven.
And if this isn’t the characteristic of someone, and they say they’re in the fellowship, they’re lying. They’re lying. A Christian can never be out of the fellowship. It’s impossible.
Barnhouse, Dr. Barnhouse said a man walking along the dock of a ship might fall. His fall might hurt him, but it would not be the same as falling off the ship. The believer, when he sins, has fallen on the deck, but is not lost overboard. Christ has seen to it that no death, life, angels, principalities, powers, things present, things to come, height, depth, shall ever sweep us off the deck. Fellowship is forever.
So, David doesn’t say to me, restore to me the salvation as if he lost it. He says, restore to me the joy of thy salvation. We are all one in Christ. We are all in the fellowship. And with that reality comes obligation. Obligation. John 13:34 and 35 sums up what our attitude should be. They will know us by our what? By our what? Our love. How do you get people who have been appealed to on a narcissistic basis to come to Jesus because they’ll have all their needs met, all their desires fulfilled, all the prosperity they want? How do you get those people to see Christianity as me giving up my life for someone else?
So convoluted. So, the basis of fellowship is salvation. The nature of fellowship, how does it function? Let’s go back to Acts 2 where we started. And we’ll go into that Acts 2 passage a little more in depth later on toward the end of the summer. But just for a moment, how do we function in the fellowship? I just pointed it out to you. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to fellowship. Here they are together, breaking bread, praying, listening to sound doctrine, sharing their lives. They had all things in common. They’re together. If they see somebody in need, they sell their property and give to the one in need. They’re together every day with one mind, breaking bread from house to house, taking their meals together with gladness, sincerity of heart. This is all expression of fellowship.
All true belief is so important. Please notice. Verse 41: “That day, there were added about 3,000 souls.” Next sentence: “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship.” Notice that. 3,000 souls continually devoting themselves to the expressions of that salvation and the life of the church. This is a real church. All those who are declared to be saved are in fact true believers. It is a genuinely saved group. All true believers. All continually steadfastly faithful to sound doctrine, to sharing and participating with each other, to coming to the Lord’s table to prayer and all of the other things we see. Sharing everything in life. That’s what it means to be a believer.
The fellowship of serving, it’s called in 2 Corinthians 8. Bonhoeffer again speaks. Bonhoeffer said, “Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with Him, we enter into that common life not as demanders, but as thankful recipients.”
So basic. How did we ever reverse that? “We thank God,” says Bonhoeffer, “for what He has done for us. We thank God for giving us brothers who live by His call, by His forgiveness, and by His promise. We do not complain of what God does not give us. We rather thank God for what He does give us daily, and is not what has been given us enough? Brothers, who will go on living with us through sin and need under the blessing of His grace. What is better than those kinds of brothers? “Even when sin,” he writes, “and misunderstanding burden the communal life, is not the sinning brother still a brother with whom I too stand under the Word of Christ? Will not his sin be a constant occasion for me to give thanks, that both of us may live in the forgiving love of God in Jesus Christ? Thus, the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparable salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can ever live by our words and deeds, but only by that one word and deed which really binds us together, the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. Shared life. We are not demanders. We are thankful recipients.
It was Aristides who was writing in ancient times about Christians, and he was a pagan, but he was looking at Christianity and trying to assess it. He wrote this, “Speaking of Christians, they abstain from all impurity in the hope of the recompense that is to come in another world. When there is among them a man that is poor and needy, and if they have not an abundance of necessities, they fast two or three days, that they may supply the needy with the necessary food. Such is the law of the Christians, and such their conduct.” How did we leave that aside? To thinking of Christianity as a way to become rich, wealthy, self-indulged.
What is the foundation of fellowship? Salvation. What is the nature of fellowship? Shared love, shared life, shared possessions. And just finally, to tie into this morning, what is the symbol of fellowship? Turn to 1 Corinthians 10. First Corinthians 10 gives us the symbol of fellowship. First Corinthians 10 verse 16, Paul says, “Is not the cup of blessing,” he’s talking about the communion table, the Lord’s supper, “Is not the cup of blessing which we bless,” the fellowship, literally, “of the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break the fellowship of the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.” What is the symbol of our fellowship? It’s what we did this morning. We there, make public demonstration of the fact that we are one in Christ, that we share life in Christ. The church gathers at the Lord’s table to demonstrate the common ground of its fellowship. We all come as sinners forgiven in Christ at the foot of the cross. Communion visualizes the fellowship. There we are, and we’re all at the same level, aren’t we? We’re all sinners, coming thankfully to the cross. Christ is our redeemer. Christ is our head. He has saved us all. We are all together, all of us, unworthy, unable, equally damned, equally cursed, equally guilty.
But by His work on the cross, He has provided salvation, redemption, forgiveness, the hope of heaven, the Holy Spirit, we share a common life. So, the Lord’s table humbles us. It levels us. It makes us all equals at the foot of the cross. It celebrates that reality with great joy.
One of the highlights, of course, in our church through the years has been the Lord’s table. And I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about it in this kind of fashion, but this is really the essence of it. We are there not only remembering what Christ did, but more importantly, celebrating who we are because of what He did. It isn’t that the communion is intended as some kind of historical reconstruction. The communion is to sort of remind us that it happened, that we know it happened. The communion is to remind us of what happened, what happened to us, who we are. Who we are. We are His body, and the communion keeps us face to face in the unity of believers at the foot of the cross. That’s what makes it a holy table.
Well, I could just take a minute and give you another thought. We’ve seen the basis of fellowship, salvation; the nature, sharing; the symbol, the Lord’s supper. Let me just say a word about the danger to fellowship. It’s not hard to discern. The danger is sin. Sin devastates the fellowship. Why? Because sin attacks and assaults the relationship the believer has with the Lord. And then, it assaults and attacks the believers’ relationship with each other. Sin shatters everything. It shatters our relationship to our Savior; it shatters our unity, restricts our ministry, halts our power, confuses our purpose. Pride, lust, materialism, sin in every single category. Cripples the unity that would demonstrate Christ to the world.
This is so very, very serious that Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11, when you come to the Lord’s table, examine yourselves. Examine yourselves. Don’t eat and drink in an unworthy way. This is a holy table because this is a holy body, a holy union, and you are shut out from the communion table if you cultivate sin in your life of any kind.
Furthermore, if there’s sin in the fellowship, you need to go to those people that sin and confront them, and call them to repent and say, if they don’t repent, take two or three witnesses. Matthew 18. If they don’t repent, tell the church, send the church. If they don’t repent, put them out of the church, because sin is so destructive to the life of the church. Sin on every level, on every front, and in every fashion.
That takes me back to where we started. There’s just too much opportunity for the cultivation of private sin in the world in which we live. It threatens the fellowship, and it’s not always gross sin, pornography, things like that. I’m talking about that isolated creation of your own perfect world, just the way you want it, which is devastating and destructive to the true fellowship of the church. I think we’re going to have a generation of people in this generation who won’t even know how to have a real relationship. I’m worried about the effect of same-sex unions, yes. But I’m worried about the inability of men and women to make meaningful relationships, because they’re so dominated by the world of their own creation.
I worry for the family. I worry for the overexposed children. But mostly, I worry collectively for the church. What’s going to happen to the church if we aren’t known by our fellowship? So, I remind you of these things. That early church was marked by shared life. I say all that, and at the same time, I have to thank the Lord for Grace Community Church because you do know how to make relationships, you do engage in each other’s lives. You do give, and sacrifice, and share, and love, and break bread daily. But I think it’s threatened. It may be being threatened in this young generation; it may be threatened in the lives of your children. I’m so delighted to hear testimonies from kids like this who are in this generation, but who are coming to faith in Christ, and becoming a part of the church. It’s going to be a fight, going to be a battle. You need to pray for your church, for this church, for the people of this church, that the Lord will protect and preserve our fellowship. Because in preserving our fellowship, He preserves our testimony, and He preserves our purity, ‘cause we need each other to stimulate to love and good deeds.
So much comes out of the fellowship. That’s another series, maybe, maybe for another time. So, back to Acts 2 for just a moment. The early church is born. What a monumental day that was. And before that day was over, there was an explosion among 3,000 people, of mutual fellowship. It doesn’t say anything about setting up a conference, doesn’t say they founded a school, doesn’t say they started with theological seminars, doesn’t say they went out and found a building. It just says they poured their loving lives into each other. I pray that’ll always be what marks us here for God’s glory.
Our Father, we thank You that we’ve been able to consider these things a little bit tonight. Not enough, and perhaps not deep enough, but just in some way, to think about the importance of fellowship, of running from, fleeing from anything that isolates us, anything that creates a private world for us, anything that dominates us with our own preferences. Help us to be selfless, pure-minded, sacrificial. As the apostle Paul said, looking not on our own things, but on the things of others. Even as Christ did, who did not hold on to what He had, being equal with God, but emptied Himself, took on the form of a servant, slave, was obedient to death, even the death of the cross. He is the model of the sacrifices of true, loving fellowship. And may it be our experience that we can enjoy the richness of that, and the testimony that that bears in the world around us. We ask, Lord, that You would protect the fellowship. Not just here, but everywhere.
We ask, Lord, that You will do the work in our hearts that would honor You. We struggle to be what You want us to be, but it is our heart’s desire to be that. So Lord, overwhelm us, overpower us, accomplish in us what You desire, that Christ might be manifest in the world through His church. We grieve so much that the church gives forward such a diverse and confusing image of Christ. Lord, we want to be faithful, to be the body of Christ that we should be, to put Christ on display in the world through our fellowship. May it be so for Your glory. We ask these things in the Savior’s name. And everyone said, “Amen.” Amen.
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