Monday, March 5, 2012

True Fellowship is Heaven on Earth

Fellowship is an important part of our Christian experience.  Jesus prayed that we would love one another and that the world would know we were His by our love for one another.  In that, there is a certain closeness within a solid church family that any relationship in the world can not compare to.  This was a hallmark of the early church, but it is not seen as often today.  Here is what the Bible says about the early church.
Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.   Acts 2:44-47 NKJV
The early church did just about everything as a group.  They left families, careers, homes, and friends and joined with the other early believers.  It was a church like no other and something I feel we have lost along the way.  I think the reason this has happened is that we changed the idea of what fellowship actually is.  We see fellowship as a goal for believers to strive for when actually it is the result of believers seeking after and following God.  In other words, the kind of fellowship we are supposed to have as believers is nothing we can achieve by own efforts, but it is something that will naturally occur if we are following after God. 

When you look at the early apostles, you do not see a group of like-minded people who found friendship in one another.  When Jesus was on earth, we see much bickering between the Apostles, especially involving which one was the greatest.  They were not that singular harmonious group that developed as they were filled with the Spirit.  We also can see that they really had very little in common.  The Apostles were zealots, tax collectors, fishermen, and others.  They did not have the same background, social standing, political ideology, vocation, or tribe.  They were a mish mosh of people who, in the end, only had Jesus in common.  Even after the death of Jesus, we add a pharisee, a wealthy man, a eunuch from Africa, and droves of gentiles.  Once again, we see just about every social class, race, vocation, political ideology, sex, and location represented in the early church.  The Bible even speaks of this while giving us the real view of fellowship. 
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28 NKJV
Christianity is not about friendship as the world sees friendship, but about fellowship as God defines fellowship.  It is not that we have traits about our lives or personality in common, but about the God we serve.  We are all one in Christ and in that we have fellowship.  It is not about things of the world we have in common but about the God we follow. 

Here is the trick, though.  It is not just about of fellowship of those who consider themselves to be Christian, but about a fellowship of people who actually are Christian.  There is a certain genuineness of the fellowship that develops naturally rather than one we force upon ourselves.   What that is, I believe, is a fellowship of Christians seeking after and following God.  The Bible is clear that an unrepentant Christian should be removed from our fellowship.  That is not because we are taking something away from that person, it is that this person has chose to disassociate from us.  A sinning Christian who is removed from church is only done so after several chances to repent.  It is not about being mean to that person, but about being honest.  A Christian living a life of sin who refuses to change has no part in the fellowship of the body of Christ in that position and the Bible tells us to not have fellowship with that person, 
But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner--not even to eat with such a person.  1 Corinthians 5:11 NKJV
Ironically, many Christians get together and drink.  But that is a whole subject in an of itself.  That is not an example of fellowship, and that is the problem with trying to have fellowship with those who are not walking with God.  The Bible says that a little leaven leavens the whole bunch and allowing someone practicing a lifestyle of sin into your fellowship will bring everyone else down. 

In the end, what it comes down to is walking with God.  You see, if you are walking with God then you are walking with all others who are walking with God.  If you are walking with God, that love of God is expressed to others and if those others are also walking with God and expressing that love to you, then you have true Christian fellowship.  That is a love premised not on what the other person has in common with you or what they can do for you, but it is a love premised on your love for God and His love for you.  If that is in order, so will everything else be, including those relationships with others following God.  Fellowship is not something we do, but something that happens quite naturally as we walk with God. 

I love that picture in Acts about the early church.  Some may think that we are looking at the past with rose-colored glasses and I would buy that argument if the source was not the Word of God.  If you believe the Bible to be true, then you must believe that the early church really was like that.  What a fellowship that must have been!  A group of individuals who gave up everything for God and in that for each other.  Everything belonged to everyone and no one lacked for anything.  When they finally denied themselves, those petty arguments of who was the greatest in the kingdom no longer were an issue.  When you have denied yourself, you are no longer seeking after yourself but for others.  When your focus is on Jesus, you are not looking on each others differences, but on the Lord who unites you to your brethren.  When you have taken up your cross and following after God you are no longer walking for yourself, but you are walking with others for the Lord.  When we do those things, we truly become one.  We no longer look at such stupid and petty things like what sports team someone likes, shallow things like how much money someone has or who is better looking, or ridiculous things about who color skin someone might have or what part of the world they are from.  We only see the Lord we look upon and everything else is seen in that light. 

If only we can seek after God and stop focusing so much on ourselves we can have that awesome fellowship experienced by the early church.  That is the kind of fellowship we will have in Heaven when each of us loves and is loved by everyone equally.  What I am saying that true fellowship is a true taste of Heaven on earth and if that is not something you desire or something you are excited about then you really need help. Our love for each other is truly a measure of how much we love God.  So if you are not experience this amazing kind of fellowship, you really need to consider just how well you are walking with God as Godly fellowship first starts with a relationship with God.
If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God [must] love his brother also.  1 John 4:20-21 NKJV

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