Fellowship

January 25, 2015  Acts 2:47 on     Fellowship  

   

        Ken Kerstan says ways to know your church is unfriendly; when the sign out front says – for members only, when the parking lot has a sign that says – unauthorized vehicles will be towed at owners expense, when the church lobby has a sign that says – no loitering, when you say “Praise the Lord” and the guy behind you says – we don’t do that here, when the pastors message is entitled “The Theological Significance of the eschatology dimensions of the sanctified life in the pre-millennial view of predestination,”  when they pass the plate – twice, when at fellowship, coffee is $1.50 and donuts are $1.00 – limit one, when the church’s motto is – we’re getting smaller but purer. 

      In this passage before us this morning we see the church in action.    This is the church of Jesus Christ and this is what the church is doing.    The Christians in this passage were devoted to biblical teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Ecclesiastes 4 says two are better than one because they have a good return for their work.  If one falls down his friend can pick him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.   Also if 2 lie together they will keep warm but how can one keep warm alone?   Though one may be overpowered two can defend themselves a cord of 3 strands is not quickly broken.   King Solomon the wisest man who lived saw the need for fellowship and we do not see lone rangers in the New Testament.  We need each other.  We need Christian friends.  Satan’s goal is to divide and conquer.  Satan seeks to separate and Jesus came to reconcile.

     As I think about this passage I believe that many pastors struggle with this passage. I know I have wrestled with this passage.    Is the bible true?  We know the bible is true.   But are we living this today?  How does this passage relate to us living in the 21st century?   We are not in the first century today.  Life is hectic and busy today.   Many people who are retired are extremely busy today.  Sincere Christians who want to follow God’s word would look at this and wonder if they are living up to what is stated here.   We see that they devoted themselves to teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.   Wow that is impressive.  But notice it does not say that everyone met every day.  It also does not say that they spent all day long in the temple courts.   They had life to live also.  They had to work for a living.   They had laundry and cooking to do and ladies they had big families and doing laundry was not an easy thing in those days.    I think they also lived their lives.  If you read further in Acts certainly not all of them sold everything they owned.   But they were giving and they met needs.   They did not let people go starve and go hungry.

    They were involved with each other.  I know we are involved with each other today. Do I wish some were more involved in fellowship yes?   Do some of us need to be more involved yes?   I know that some folks do not have time.  I worked 16 hours a day and 7 days a week and when I was young on the farm.  That kind of schedule leaves no extra time.      

     I do want to water down the word of God but I do not think regarding this passage that we should carry tons of guilt on us either thinking that we need to meet every day.  All of us however could improve in our Christian fellowship.  There is always room for improvement.  .  But if we walk in the Holy Spirit we will fulfill what God wants for us in the way of fellowship.  As I was thinking about this again for the message I thought my grand kids.  I do not see them every day.  Sometimes it may be 2 or 3 weeks that I do not see them.    But I am involved in their life.  There are calls and text messages sent and pictures sent.  I pray for them just as we pray for each other in this church.   I keep involved with them.   I suspect the Christians in the first century did the same thing.   They may have lived closer but also transportation was slower in those days.       

      It is good to be in fellowship.   Max Lucado gives some significant insight when he says, "Questions can make hermits out of us, driving us into hiding.   Yet the cave has no answers . Christ distributes courage through community; he dissipates doubts through fellowship.   He never deposits all knowledge in one person but distributes pieces of the jigsaw puzzle to many.  When you interlock your understanding with mine, and we share our discoveries, when we mix, mingle, confess and pray, Christ speaks."   The apostle Paul and Jesus did not live as a monk. 

     This church is important.  This church prays and gets answers.  We pray for one another.   Chritsian community is important and in Hebrews we are commanded not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.  We need each other.  We see different facets of Jesus in each other.  One person shows mercy another is a gifted giver and another teaches and exhorts us and all of that points us to Jesus.    We have different gifts and abilities.   Do not ask me to lead worship.  I will start off key stay off key and end off key.  I believe and I know we as a body of believers can do more for God together than alone.   I know I can do more in the church than ministering alone without the church.     I can better use my gifts in the church than alone.   Jesus gathered people around him.    Jesus had ongoing relationships with people.  There was a long term commitment to the disciples.  .  He gathered men and women around him.  Luke 8:2 & 3 talks about women traveling with Jesus and supporting him.  Jesus did life with them. 

      I read a story about a pastor traveling with a Brazilian seminary student. Along the way the pastor asked the student if he would like to stop for a cup of coffee. The student said, "I would be honored." So he swung into a Starbucks, went through the drive-thru.    Once on their way the student was very quiet and when pressed about his silence he said, "I thought you were asking me to be your friend.   I thought we were going to sit together and share life."  I say let’s do life together in this church.  Let’s love and grow in Christ together.  Let’s pray for one another and share with one another.  We can be like they were in Acts 2 in the first century. 

      In his book, Rediscovering Church, Bill Hybels tells of a message by Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, who said, "The only kind of fellowship many know in church is after a service when men stand around and ask each other superficial questions. Then they find their wives who are having similar conversations, and go home.  It can be easy to be critical of fellowship in church.   I am encouraged with our fellowship.   I have seen people share with others with tears in their eyes.  Let’s work on our Christian fellowship but be thankful for what we experience.   Everyone needs someone in their life who they can share more than just what is happening with the weather.   Scripture would say that God desires us to have deeper fellowship guys with guys and gals with gals.   It is hard to share lives today.  I suspect it was hard to share life with each other in the first century but that is no excuse.   Often pastors have a difficult time sharing.  In this church we encourage small groups where you can share more intimately with one another and several contact each other during the week.  .   

      I think this is on God’s heart.   Look at a number of verses on relating to each other.  Romans 12:5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.   Romans 12:10 be devoted to one another in brotherly love.   Honor one another above yourselves.   Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another.   Romans 13:8 let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another.   Romans 15:7 Accept one another then just as Christ accepted you in order to bring praise to God.  Romans 15:14 they were complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.   Ephesians 4:25 we are all members of one body.  Ephesians 4:32 be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another just as in Christ God has forgiven you.  Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.    I Thessalonians 4:9 for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.  Hebrews 3:13 but encourage one another daily as long as it is called today so that one of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.   The bible is clear that we have a responsibility to one another.  We are to love one another, teach one another, encourage one another, and pray for one another. 

     Hebrews 10:24 & 25 let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Think about your brother and sister in Christ how you can encourage them.   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.   James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.    There can be healing through the fellowship.   I Peter 4:9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Five times in I John love one another.  Do you see how God feels about Christian fellowship?   Fellowship is very important.  It is good for us to realize that others face the same struggles we do.  We can share with one another and that has a healing effect on us.   We are not alone. 

     .   I read where Henri Nouwen points out, “We are unified by our common weaknesses, our common failures, our common disappointments and our common inconsistencies.”    God intends that we be supported, strengthened, encouraged and empowered through the community of believers.   As we face the storms and temptations of life we should receive strength from each other.   This is God’s plan. 

      Being in the community of faith is, however, not without its difficulties and frustrations.    It can’t be otherwise since it is made up of sinners.    The mark of community - true biblical community - is not the absence of conflict and difficulties but the presence of a reconciling spirit.   We get a sense of relationship issues from what some kids wrote about God.  Some kids were asked to write letters to God and here is what some of them had to say.  Dear GOD, it rained for our whole vacation and is my father mad!    He said some things about you that people are not supposed to say, but I hope you will not hurt him anyway.  Your friend (but I am not going to tell you who I am).     Dear GOD, is it true my father won’t get in Heaven if he uses his bowling words in the house?     Dear GOD, maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each other so much if they had their own rooms.    It works with my brother.     Dear GOD, thank you for the baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy.     Dear GOD, did you really mean, "do unto others as they do unto you"? Because if you did, then I’m going to fix my brother!     Dear GOD, I bet it is very hard for you to love all of everybody in the whole world.    There are only 4 people in our family and I can never do it.   We need God’s grace to stay in fellowship.  Some brothers and sisters are not easy to love.  But Jesus loves us and Jesus is perfect.  When we are in fellowship we learn to grow in love for one another.      

     We would like it if everything was smooth and people always got along but that is not reality.   Spouses do not always get along.  Siblings do not always get along and parents and children do not always get along.  That provides a great opportunity for us to show each other the love and grace of God.   Do not get me wrong we have great relationships in this church and I am thankful.    The Lord commands us to love one another and to be involved with one another.     We need to take care of one another and help one another.    Day by day we have opportunity to be like Jesus to one another.   We can ask Jesus to help us to love one another because we do not have the resources to live a perfect life.  We need the Holy Spirit and Jesus.  He is our strength and helper.