July 08, 2011

Fellowship: Part 2

Part II:  The Purpose of Fellowship

So Yesterday we talked about the Generative Essence of Fellowship, what produces it.  I think it is best summed up inGod's word to the Corinthians through Paul, and His Word to the Church through John

"God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord."  I Cor. 1:9
"We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ." I John 1:3

All Fellowship in first and foremost a provision of the faithful God.  Second is is given in and centered on Christ.  A lot of what we call Fellowship today is not, in fact, Biblical Christian Fellowship.  Much of it involves gossip, celebrating wicked or debase humor and/or entertainment, encouraging negative feelings instead of challenging each other with the renewing of the mind according to God's Word, puffing ourselves up by degrading others, especially those from other denominations or those who have failed...

This can't be Fellowship according to Scripture.  The Bible calls these things something completely different...

So at this point, I think it is necessary to look at God's Purpose for fellowship.  This is very important, because it indicates that the seemingly small act of gathering together has divine agenda attached to it.  To the secular world, "fellowship" means human beings gathering together to share in something of like mindedness.  In the lives of the redeemed, "fellowship" means Image Bearers coming together to accomplish God's agenda.  We need to get away from the former in our thinking if we truly want to experience God working through us as ambassadors for Christ.   I believe it can be presented as three fold:  to glorify God, to provide for the saints, and to prepare the Bride.  

To Glorify God.
In I Corinthians 10:31:
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."
In 2 Corinthians 4:15:
" All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God."

The main agenda in all of God's design is His glory.  It is no different in our fellowship than it is in His saving us.  Fellowship is a part of the Gospel of Christ, and the Gospel in God-centered, not man-centered.  The first purpose of Gods work in us is His own glory.  In Fellowship, the Sovereign Love of God is displayed in a way that proves He is true, faithful, and good.  Such fellowship will cause some to hate us, and to hate Him.  This is the very reason that many Christians give as an excuse to not submit to True Biblical Fellowship.  I understand the thinking, "Others think we are stuck up and hypocritical, and snobfully self-righteous if we act holier-than-thou in our gathering."  That's true, they do.  And sometimes that is how Christians act - to their shame.  But that is not the Biblical representation of Fellowship, that is a negative smear campaign from ungoldy people that some of us have adopted as an excuse to live irresponsibly.  True Fellowship is joyful, freeing, fulfilling, and FUN!  The Bible clearly tells us that the world will hate the way we live and love each other and them, just like it did our master, this is not shameful, this is a blessing!  God tells us this will happen and that in the end, such uncompromising lifestyle will be recognized, acknowledged and He will be glorified.  It's the foreshadowing of His Kingdom.

To Provide for the Saints.
In Philippians 2:
" 1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."

Of Course God cares for us.  There is a piece of God's design that is always a provision for us, but that doesn't make the story about us, it simply makes us a part of the story!  Can you imagine a world where Christians had to fend for themselves individually?  Think of the places in the world where Christianity is still violently oppressed.  Think of history when the Church was persecuted.  Think of history when the Jews were persecuted.  What was God's provision and remains His provision for the welfare and sustenance of the saints?  It's the Church.  Christians could not survive on their own in a world that hates our Lord and savior.  Individually, we would be destroyed.  It is our unity and our functioning like the Body that we are that gives us meaning, purpose, and direction.  It also provides for our needs in a way that the world never could.
Sure there are charitable organizations that the world owns, but they operate on a temporal worldview and thus require means and limits to their generosity for temporal purposes (no matter how good it may be).  Our provision is not so short-sighted and limited.  The means for our provision, although it may come through men, belongs to God, the owner of everything.  God provides for us through our Biblical Christian Fellowship in a supernatural way that nothing else could.

To Prepare the Bride.
Individually, Ephesians 4: 
"22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."

Corporately, Ephesians 4:
"11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."
2 Corinthians 4:13-14:
"It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself."

One day, the Lord will return for His Bride.  This is a huge theme in the New TEstament (and in the Old Testament as well, shadowed).  To miss it is to be partially blinded.  Fellowship, like everything else God does through human beings, is ministry.  We are to build each other up until our faith is not simply socially acceptable, but fully matured, imitating Christ in the fullness of our available knowledge of Him.  We are going to meet Christ!  We are going to celebrate a wedding feast with Him!  We are going to be presented to Him as the chosen, only love of His heart.  The question is:  Is that what we are working towards in our fellowship?  If you were ever a Bride, how did you want to feel in that moment; the most beautiful, pure, the one and only, the apple of the grooms eye, special, singled out of six billion prospects as THE ONE?  IF you were a groom, is that what you wanted to recieve, or were you simply settling for what came along?

Should we offer Christ anything less?

Let's be the Image Bearing Bride of Christ in our Fellowship, real Fellowship.  See you tomorrow for Part III. 

With you for His glory

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