Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Envisioning a More Awesome Church - True fellowship

Acts 2:42 "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."

In the last few posts we have been considering what it means to envision a more awesome church. Thus far we have looked at envisioning a more awesome church that takes to heart intercessory prayer as not only a personal practice by a church-wide characteristic marking that church. We also saw the equally important emphasis of centering all preaching and teaching on the unfolding, expositional, verse by verse application of God's Word in worship and life application. These tenets may sound basic, however few churches practice them consistently. American pulpits today are not as concerned about explaining God's Word as they are in entertaining an already over entertained audience. Likewise, programs and planning are put ahead of prayer. To plan and program before prayer is putting the cart before the horse. In-as-much as we need to put feet to our prayers, there does need to be prayers first, otherwise our feet and hands will falter. 

Whenever we consider the New testament church as depicted in Acts and described in the New Testament letters, there is no question that intercessory prayer and emphasis on God's Word marked the reasons behind its effectiveness. Today we add a third vital element - the relational element of Biblical fellowship.

The outcomes of true fellowship as intended by God in His Word
One of the clearest descriptions one can find of what true fellowship looks like, talks like and acts like is found in Acts 2:44-46 "And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.46 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." Does this sound like a church you would like to be a part of? Does this description sound like your church or mine? What about other places in the New Testament that describe what fellowship was like in the early church? What happens when a more awesome church is exercising true Biblical fellowship?

1. Cause for celebration 
Colossians 1:3-6  "We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel 6 which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth." The church at Colossae had biblical, Spirit-filled fellowship happening and it was cause for celebration. 

2. Clear example to other churches and the community
1 Thessalonians 1:2-8 "We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; 3 constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, 4 knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; 5 for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything."

3. Christ's favor and blessing
Revelation 3:8-10 ‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. 9 Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth."

The three churches above demonstrate the outcome of what takes place when true Biblical fellowship is occurring. The blessing is not only experienced within the church but more so outside by others. 

8 relational ingredients for building true biblical fellowship
The key to true fellowship in the local church where Christians come together and enjoy the supernatural unity and "God-kind" of love for one another is discovered in the reciprocal or "one another" commands. For every command God gives in His Word there is always at least one provision of grace attending it. The following 8 reciprocal commands must be practiced by churches today to experience and express true Godly fellowship that marks that church as a "more awesome church". 

1. Love one another. John 13:34,35; Gal 5:14; 1 Thess 3:11-12; 1 Pet 1:22

2. Receive One another. Rom 15:7

3. Greet One another. Romans 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20; 2 Cor 13:12; 1 Pet 5:14

4. Have the same care for one another 1 Cor 12:24-25

5. Submit to one another. Eph 5:18-21

6. Forbear one another. Eph 4:1-3; Col 3:12-14

7. Confess your faults to one another. James 5:16

8. Forgive one another Eph 4:31-32; Col 3:12-13

Closing thoughts
Imagine what would happen if every church practiced those eight reciprocal commands? Imagine if even half of those were followed how much different our churches would be? A more-awesome church life is around the corner when God's people take to heart the true meaning of Biblical fellowship. I close today from a wonderful description of Biblical fellowship by author Edmund P. Clowney in his book, "Living in Christ's Church": "The communion of the Spirit joins us both to God and to men. The participation of the church in the presence and blessings of the Spirit is a sharing of a common life, not in the sense of shared experiences primarily but of a shared nature: the nature of new creatures in Christ Jesus. Those who share this Spirit are bound together in the same mind, of one accord, united in the love of Christ (Phil. 2:1,2). Those who share a common life will also be ready to share daily bread or clothing."1

1. Edmund P. Clowney. Living in Christ's Church. Great Commission Publications. 1986. page 98

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