Posts Tagged ‘Christian fellowship’

As we approach our baptism and recovenanting service on May 19th I would like to share the next two Sundays on two particular parts of our church covenant, that deal with two important aspects of our Christian lives. And today we begin with a focus on Christian fellowship.

Let’s take a look at the section of our church covenant that we are dealing with today: “We commit to love each other – to be gentle, kind, compassionate, honest and forgiving with each other; to humbly serve, encourage, teach and pray for each other; to meet together regularly”

I have three points this morning on these themes and more broadly on the topic of Christian fellowship.

1. We are related to one another in the Lord

In fact, we are a new family. Let’s listen to this story from Mark 3:31-35. “31And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.’ 33And he answered them, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ 34And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! 35For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.’”

Jesus makes the point that he and his disciples form a new family, that is different than a natural family. It is a family made up of those who believe in him and do God’s will as he teaches this.

And although Scripture teaches us that we have clear obligations to our natural family and hopefully we have very close connections to them, as we see here, ultimately our faith family is more important than our natural family.

More specifically, Jesus says in Matthew 23:8 – “ . . . you are all brothers and sisters.” The word “brothers” as it is used in the New Testament, most often refers to both men and women, so we can say here “brothers and sisters.”

So in this family we are all brothers and sisters, and Jesus is the eldest brother (Romans 8:29) and God is our Father (Matthew 23:9). We are part of a huge family that extends throughout the world. And then we are a part of an extended family of believers here at Cedar Street. And every Sunday that we gather its like a family reunion.

Now, it is interesting to me that when Jesus speaks of the kind of relationship we have with one another, he highlights this idea of being siblings and not, for instance, being friends. And that’s because the relationship of siblings is more open. It is not based on similarities in interests, and personalities that click; it is based on a common relationship to Jesus and the Father.

Also, the relationship of siblings is more durable . Friends can disagree and not be friends anymore, but siblings are always siblings, at least on some level.

So we are related to one another as siblings, and this is the basis of our fellowship with one another, but –

2. How should we relate to one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord?

Well, just as brothers and sisters (in a good, healthy family) watch out for one another, take care of one another, help each other out, so we are to do the same as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Let me give you a number of examples from the New Testament that fill this out in terms of our faith family.

We are to:

  • “love one another” – John 15:12. And Jesus give himself as the example here of what love means. We are to love as he loved.
  • “love one another with brotherly affection” – Romans 12:10
  • “serve one another through love” – Galatians 5:13
  • “seek to do good to one another” – 1 Thessalonians 5:15
  • “lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” – 1 John 3:16, sacrificing for each other’s well-being.
  • “be kind to one another” – Ephesians 4:32
  • “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” – Romans 12:15, as we walk with each other through life’s good times and hard times
  • “pray for one another” – James 5:16
  • “bear one another’s burdens” – Galatians 6:2, that is, when another is struggling or weak
  • “show hospitality to one another” – 1 Peter 4:9
  • “clothe (ourselves) . . . with humility toward one another” – 1 Peter 5:5
  • “outdo one another in showing honor” to each other – Romans 12:10
  • “submit to one another” – Ephesians 5:21
  • “bear with one another in love” – Ephesians 4:2
  • “forgive each other” – Colossians 3:13
  • “be at peace with one another” – Mark 9:50
  • “teach and admonish one another in all wisdom” – Colossians 3:16
  • “encourage one another, and build one another up” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
  • “exhort one another” the verse says, “every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” – Hebrews 3:13
  • “stir one another up to love and good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24
  • “serve one another” with the spiritual gifts that God has given us – 1 Peter 4:10

So this is a portrait of what our relationships are to look like, as we relate to one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord; as we share together in Christian fellowship.

3. We need to spend time together

And that’s because, as in any example you want to talk about, relationships require time. Without investing time in each other’s lives, you can’t receive the love and support you need to help you along in your Christian life. And just as importantly you can’t give to others the love and support they need.

Hebrews 10:24-25 makes this point. “24And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” In the middle of saying “stir one another up” and “encourage one another” the writer says, don’t neglect to meet together. We have to be together to do these kinds of things.

Also in the book of Acts we see a thriving New Testament church, which is a model for us. And they certainly spent time together. Acts 2:42 says, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” They were together doing all these things. Acts 2:46 goes on to say, “And day by day, [they were] attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes . . .”

My desire for our church is that we have a deep and caring community here. Churches can have varying levels of fellowship, and what I want for us is that we continue to grow in this area more and more.

But I have two concerns. The first concern is that the Sunday morning service is not enough. I guess different ones of you will have to make your own evaluations. But certainly if the Sunday service isn’t enough, we do have some other options:

  • There is Sunday school, but this is usually more study focused.
  • We have youth groups for the youth.
  • We have share groups – and I wish that more would or could be a part of these. I would be happy to start a new one if there is interest. There is also the idea of having one during the Sunday school hour.
  • We can invite each over to our houses more and more.
  • We also have a “fun and fellowship team” to plan events for our Christian fellowship, but currently no one is on it! So we need some help here.

Just briefly, my second concern is that we set aside the time needed to invest in each other’s lives. And this is a challenge with our busy lives of overscheduling and constant stress. We need to work on this. Such busyness not only keeps us away from each other and therefore weakens our relationship with each other, it also distracts us from giving proper time to our relationship with God.

So, let’s remember who we are. We are brothers and sisters in the Lord. And let’s live this out in how we relate to one another. And let’s create the space and time we need to be able to be true brothers and sisters in the Lord together.

William Higgins

Read Full Post »