Tag Archives: fellowship
The Forgotten Third: Developing a Biblical Relationship with God the Holy Spirit (“You talk with Him?!”)
This Is No Yoking Matter! (A Study of 2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
Friends: If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that my friend Frank (in New Jersey) and I have been doing an email Bible study for over a year. We read the same chapter every day for a week — and then send a brief email of encouragement to each other. We’ve completed most of the epistles of the New Testament — and it’s been a great discipline for both of us.
We’re now working our way through 2 Corinthians. Here’s my outline for several verses in chapter six:
This Is No Yoking Matter! (A Study of 2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
This is a very famous passage of 2 Corinthians. I remember verse 14 being wielded against me as a teenager when I would even entertain the thought of dating an unsaved person (good advice)! My elders would say, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (KJV)! Their intention — and their advice — were well-grounded in God’s Word. If a Christian dates a non-Christian, they will likely marry a non-Christian! Sometimes they would add the verse from Amos 3:3- “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
The immediate context of this verse has to do with spiritual fellowship. Notice the contrasts:These opposites are well-chosen. The opposite of righteousness is wickedness, the opposite of light darkness. The devil is the opposite of Christ. There is a present (and will be an eternal) difference between a believer and an unbeliever. And the temple of the true God has nothing in common with idols!
When it comes to spiritual fellowship, the believer has nothing in common with those who don’t know Christ! One commentator writes, “Christians should be separate from the wicked world, as Christ was separate from all the feelings, purposes, and plans of Satan.” The term “Belial” (“Satan” in the Syriac; used only here in the New Testament) is the god of this world. The term is used very often in the Old Testament to express men notoriously wicked and scandalous, Deu 13:13 Judges 19:22 1 Samuel 1:16 2:12 25:17 2 Samuel 16:7 2 Chronicles 13:7.
Granted, we are not to cast our lot with the wicked (Psalm 1), but this does not mean that we can’t be a friend of sinners like the Lord Jesus! This passage does not mean that we are to become monks who live in caves and have nothing to do with the world. But we are not to yoke ourselves, bind ourselves, with those who oppose God and the things of God.This would include marriage as well as business ventures.
True, when it comes to spiritual fellowship, we have nothing in common with unbelievers. But when it comes to being human, we have much in common with those not yet in God’s family. And we can befriend them for Christ’s sake!
Today’s Challenge: Don’t seek your spiritual fellowship with those who don’t know Christ! There’s nothing there. Find your spiritual nourishment among the people of God so you can reach those who aren’t yet the people of God!
Finding Deep Joy in a Sad, Shallow World (A Study of Philippians) Part 15 JOY and Other Believers!
“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” (Henri J.M. Nouwen) Believers in Jesus have every reason to be JOYFUL! We are studying the use of this term JOY in Paul’s epistle to the Philippians and are looking at his thirteenth use of that term this morning. What a wonderful statement Paul makes in chapter 4! There we read:
1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! (ch. 4)
Wow! Can you say of another believer or group of believers, “You are my JOY and crown”? What a statement! Just because we aren’t to find our ultimate JOY in other fallible, fallen, finite people doesn’t mean that we can’t find serious and true JOY in them.
Please notice that Paul’s affection for these believers involves both love and longing. He doesn’t just love them; he longs for their spiritual growth and even commands them to “stand firm in the Lord.” The JOY that we find in other members of God’s family should not be primarily based on similar political issues or athletic loyalty or avocational likes, but on a recognition of their connectedness to Christ. And that kind of JOY doesn’t fluctuate with the wind. It motivates us to long for and pray for their standing firm in the things of the Lord!
Finding Deep Joy in a Sad, Shallow World (A Study of Philippians) Part 10 JOY and REJOICING with Others!
We are investigating Paul’s sixteen uses of the term JOY (and its variants) in the incredible epistle to the Philippians. His seventh use of the term JOY is found in chapter 2 where he says —
17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. (ch. 2)
This expression “I am glad and rejoice with all of you” is χαίρω καὶ συγχαίρω πᾶσιν ὑμῖν· One does not have to know Greek to see that the two verbs (χαίρω καὶ συγχαίρω) and similar (both from the verb χαίρω which means “to rejoice”). The seventh use of this word JOY (συγχαίρω) literally means “to rejoice with.”
Joy and rejoicing can certainly be an individual response to the many kindnesses of our God, but there is something quite significant about rejoicing with others! In fact, Paul goes on and uses the eighth and ninth occurrences of JOY in the next verse when he says, “So you too should be glad and rejoice with me” (v. 18). Paul uses the same language in verse 18 that he used at the end of v. 17 – χαίρω καὶ συγχαίρω πᾶσιν ὑμῖν· 18 τὸ δὲ αὐτὸ καὶ ὑμεῖς χαίρετε καὶ συγχαίρετέ μοι.
Let’s think about this idea of “rejoicing with” others. Some of us are quite adept at complaining with others about a wide variety of things that bother us. When we focus on what the Lord is doing through us — and through others — we ought to rejoice. Together!
Rejoice with someone else today! Direct your attention to something the Lord is doing through you or through others that will matter for eternity. And determine to find your JOY in that.
Some Thoughts on the Book “What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?” (Post #19): Chapter 18- “Jesus’ Legacy”
We move now to Chapter 18 of Martin Thielen’s book What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? Entitled “Jesus’ Legacy” this chapter’s subtitle is “Is the Church Still Relevant?”
This is a strong chapter on the importance of the church. Jesus promised He would build His church — and we get to be part of that building project!
Thielen tells several stories of churches he has served. As a place of joy and tears, enthusiasm and disappointment, growth and service, the local church offers many opportunities to get involved in each other’s lives.
MY RESPONSE: I have no real criticism of this chapter on the church. I do wish that Thielen would speak more clearly of conversion as he gives the stories of those who grew up in the church.
After listing the many events of one weekend, the celebrations and even a funeral, Thielen asks the question, “How do people live without a community of faith?” Great question.
May the Lord encourage each of us to be fully-committed members of a local church, to pray for and support its leaders, and to use our God-given gifts to build up that body for His glory!
Some Thoughts about Church Membership – Part 3
What does it mean to be a “member” of a local church? How does one become a member? Can one’s membership be revoked? Should there be a process that makes church membership a bit difficult, instead of easy? Is there value in outlining the privileges, duties, and expectations of someone who is called a “member”?
These and other questions I will be tackling as I work with the leaders of Cedarcroft Bible Chapel in New Jersey the first week of October. They have asked me to propose a more formalized approach to church membership than currently exists.
While it is true that no detailed procedure for receiving new members into a local church appears in the New Testament, there are a number of passages which support the concept of aligning oneself with one local body of believers, exercising one’s gifts to build up that body, and accepting the leadership of those raised up by God to guide His flock. In the early church Acts 2:41-42 indicates that those who were added to the people dedicated themselves to four specific priorities. Here’s the text:
We’ve already looked at the first of the four priorities of the early church and it was Biblical Doctrine. Let’s notice the second one:
Priority #2: A Focus on Fellowship
Fellowship involves what we have in common in Christ. We must learn in our churches to tolerate and respect differences of opinion in areas such as politics, sports team affiliations, musical preferences, and even translations of the Scriptures. The unity of the local church does not necessitate uniformity. This means that when it comes to distinctive areas of doctrine, we must not all believe exactly the same thing as each other. Of course, one man’s “distinctive” might be another man’s “essential,” so focusing on the major truths which unite us will not be easy. When it comes to math, some of us Christians do division and subtraction much better than we do addition and multiplication! But we must guard our unity in the fundamentals of the Christian faith without compromise. And we must protect our right to hold different opinions on the distinctives without resorting to compulsion to conformity.
We need fellowship in the Body. We must spend time with each other, doing the sometimes hard work of developing relationships with one another, and talking about what we have in common in Christ. My unsaved tennis buddies actually use the term “fellowship” after a match, meaning that they’re going to spend time standing around, drinking beer and talking about life.
I heard of one church where the janitor was always rushing people out of the sanctuary so that he could turn off the lights and lock up. If I were in leadership in that church, I would fire him in a Donald-Trump-New-York minute! One sign of a healthy church is how slowly people actually leave the building when the formal church service is over. If they linger and talk in twos and threes, there’s some serious fellowship going on.
One way to encourage fellowship in the things we have in common in Christ is to use small groups to discuss the topic of Sunday’s sermon either before it gets preached (which will really keep the pastor or preacher on his toes!) or after it is given (which will test how well people were listening). Either way, there is a focus upon and discussion of the important truths which bind us together as believers. (from the book DocWALK: Putting into Practice What You Say You Believe, pp. 168-169). (to be continued)
STUCK! Ten Areas That Will Bury You as a Believer and How to Dig Your Way Out! (Area #4- The Saints!) (con’t)
The SAINTS can sometimes bog down the believer in Jesus! It’s true! Jesus-followers can get discouraged, distracted, or demoralized by fellow believers in Jesus!
These ten topics (which we are preaching at Crossroads Fellowship Church; website: crossroadschurchinaugusta.com) might help us come to grips with the issues that often slow down our sanctification process. By “saints” the Bible means every believer (not some special category of Christian determined by church authorities).
The text we have chosen to focus our attention on the saints is Acts 2:42 which reads:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
We’ve noticed the devotion of these first-century believers. Now let’s see what unified them. They were thoroughly committed to four specific areas of truth: THE APOSTLES’ TEACHING, THE FELLOWSHIP, THE BREAKING OF BREAD, AND THE PRAYERS. Each of those four areas uses the definite article in Greek. That’s why I used the word “the” before each one.
These early believers cared about DOCTRINE, TOGETHERNESS, WORSHIP, AND COMMUNICATING WITH THE LORD! If we focused on these for priorities in the local church, don’t you agree that many of our conflicts, squabbles, and spats would vanish?
On the issue of DOCTRINE, what truths about God and the things of God ought to unite believers in Jesus? (I can think of dozens).
On the issue of TOGETHERNESS, what specific steps do we take to spend time with one another?
On the issue of WORSHIP, do we strive to unite our hearts as we praise the Lord together?
On the issue of PRAYER, how might we become much more serious in lifting up one another’s needs?
If fellow-Christians have got you down, my friend, forgive them, pray for them, and take specific steps to concentrate on the four priorities that ought to unite all Jesus-followers!
STUCK! Ten Areas That Will Bury You as a Believer and How to Dig Your Way Out! (Area #3- SIN!)
The believers at Crossroads Fellowship Church (crossroadschurchinaugusta.com) are receiving a series of sermons from me on the areas in which Jesus-followers often get STUCK!
This third area is easy. We frequently get stuck in SIN! Sometimes we euphemize it (use words like “My mistake!” or “My bad!”), instead of calling it what it is. Our culture’s categories of sins seem to always be changing. We rate some sins as worse than others and forget, as one writer put it, “there are no small sins before a holy God!”
Certain truths about SIN are undeniable in the Bible:
1. WE don’t define what a sin is — GOD does!
2. All sins (except rejecting Jesus Christ) are forgiveable!
3. Jesus-followers aren’t sinless, but are saints who sometimes sin!
4. God doesn’t want His children to languish in unconfessed, un-dealt-with sin!
5. We need to learn to confess our sins to one another!
Let’s think about I John 1:5-10 for a few moments:
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
Just a few preliminary thoughts on these verses: Notice that God is not to be blamed for our sins (v. 5- He is absolute light with no darkness at all!). Walking in fellowship with Him means we must turn away from the darkness of sin and live out the truth (v. 6)! Such a life allows us to have true fellowship with one another, which includes the need for His purifying blood with regard to our sin (v. 7). (to be continued)
UNLIKE JESUS! One Area Where Jesus-Followers Excel (Part 11)
We are looking at various excuses we Jesus-followers use for not following Jesus in this crucial area of being a friend of sinners. We are to be friends of sinners like Jesus (Mt. 11) but not friends of the world (James 4:4). There is a world of difference between spending time with those who are lost versus conforming to the values and beliefs of a lost world.
Let’s think for a bit about THE FORGOTTEN ART OF FRIENDSHIP. What does it mean to be a friend? What’s involved? What is the cost of close, personal relationships with others? It’s tough enough to be a friend of fellow believers. How in the world do I become a friend of lost people, sinners?
I found one of my favorite quotes on friendship by searching the internet. I remembered a few of the words of the quote and then, through the miracle of the world wide web, discovered it. Here is that quote: “Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.” George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans). The troubling thing about that quote is that it was with a cartoon of a girl petting her dog! Please notice — the quote says “feeling safe with a person”!
I’m slowly learning that to be a friend of sinners involves the following elements:
1. Spending time with them.
2. Showing them that I want to listen to them and their stories.
3. Trying to remember special dates (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.).
4. Using my home as a place to get together.
5. Inviting them to events other than church services!
6. Sharing with them some of my struggles and mistakes.
7. Looking for opportunities to speak about my faith in Christ.
I can honestly say that I have had only a few really good friends over the years. I don’t blame them. I don’t think most of us understand true friendship. And there are — and ought to be — some differences between being friends with other Jesus-followers and being friends with those who are not yet there. I am not to seek my spiritual fellowship with those who are not yet committed to Christ. But there are many other aspects of friendship that I can pursue and enjoy with those who don’t know Him. And they, hopefully, can see in my life the differences that Jesus has made and is making in how I’m living out my life. (to be continued)
Psalms of the Salter: Some Thoughts on Really Living for the Lord (Psalm 91)
1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”