In this sermon, Pastor Babij continues his teaching regarding Christian fellowship, both with the Lord and with fellow believers. Using Scripture, Pastor Babij explains why Christian fellowship is not a luxury but a necessity for growing in grace and for displaying God’s glory to the world. Pastor Babij calls on believers to resist the inherent isolationist urge and work out ways to fellowship with other believers.
This morning we are back in the book of Acts. We’re looking at the four-fold purpose of the church, still pretty much in the introduction part of it. I want to look at Acts chapter 2, so you can take your Bible and turn there. We’ll be in other passages also. I’ll mention them and it’d be good for you to turn to those passage that I mention.
I do want to say one thing before I start today. Today is actually my anniversary. Not my marriage anniversary, the anniversary that Jayne and I came to the church 34 years ago. And so the Lord has sustained us that long. Some of you may have not known that and may be surprised by it, but the Lord has kept us here that long.
I am a New Jersey resident. I’ve always had a heart for New Jersey because it is such a mission field. It’s so amazing that you could talk to someone every single day who’d never heard the gospel ever. Matter of fact, you can talk to groups of people everyday who have never heard the gospel. Those groups of people are multiplying because they’re coming from all kinds of places, all over the world. So we need to reach them, and God’s not done yet. The gospel is still being preached. We are in that age of grace. So let’s not step back. It’s time to continue to serve and be faithful to that. Part of that, as we look at it, we see in the book of Acts, is that of fellowship.
Let’s pray. Lord, this morning as we again look at the Word of God, I pray Lord that You would impress strongly upon our hearts the very means of grace that you have put in place from the beginning of the church that will last until You come. These means of grace are so vital to the church’s health and growth and to our own personal health and growth. So I pray, Lord, that we would never think lightly of them, but we would always think that these are the priorities that should be in our lives. So Lord, enable us to adjust ourselves today, that these priorities, Your priorities, would become our priorities and that we would live them in our life. Please Lord, bless us this morning as the Word of God, the bread of life, is broken open today. And I pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
So Acts 2:42, it says:
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place to the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 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, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
And He is still doing that. So as we read that passage and as I’ve been looking at it for the last several weeks, we have been looking at what it means really to be a Christian and what it means to live the Christian life after initial conversion. There’s a complete change that comes to us because the Spirit of God now indwells us. With this change, we are also removed from what we had been to now what we are in Christ Jesus. We are now joined to the church. We are now actually to be found together with all who are believed the same message about Jesus Christ. So we’re new.
I read a story of a pastor who was visiting in a home. The members of the family were asked to quote Bible verses. One little girl quoted John 3:16 as follows: for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have internal life. Needless to say, the pastor did not correct her, for it is internal life as well as everlasting life. Because the Holy Spirit does a change inside of us outward. It’s not the other way around. We’re not the ones changing ourselves. The Spirit of God is doing that. We’re cooperating with His work in our life. So the real indication of divine life is a drawing together of people who have this life in common.
The first thing that these new believers wanted is the apostles’ teaching in verse 42. Of course, that is what all christians want.
The second thing, and we’re only on the second thing here, is that these new believers desired therefore to devote themselves to fellowship. Last week, I defined Christian fellowship. There are actually three words, the same Greek word but three words that flesh out that Greek word. That definition of fellowship is first a relationship. Fellowship is the body life of the church. It is the sense of people belonging to the true and living God and to one another because they received the gospel about the biblical Jesus. And so fellowship is a relationship. Secondly, fellowship is a partnership, sharing together in partnership. In other words, biblical fellowship includes the idea of active partnership in the promotion of the gospel and of course the building up of believers. We are all to do that in partnership with each other. It’s not just the responsibility of one person but all of us. And so fellowship, secondly, is a partnership. Then thirdly, fellowship is distributionship, the sharing of material possessions with those in need. That is all part of it. In other word, sharing what we have for the sake of the community of believers, so they’re taken care of, so we can all continue to do the work that God has called us to do within that body.
A second thing is the basis for Christian fellowship. I said the basis was: there’s got to be a detection of new life. You have to be saved. You have to have the Spirit of God living in you. You have to be born again into God’s family and quickened by the Holy Spirit and of course alive to the things of God, which you were not alive to before. There has to be spiritual movement in your life. That is proof of spiritual life, especially movement that is in line with the Word of God. We can have fellowship with those who possess the same life. There has to be an agreement with biblical truth, in this case the apostles’ doctrine. That fellowship is conditioned upon walking in the light. We walk in the light as He is in the light. And as we walk in the light, we maintain our fellowship with God by repenting of our sin. If you’re walking in the light, the light of the gospel and the Word of God is going to shine in your hearts, magnify your sin, where you’re going to now want to run to the cross again, confess it, and repent of it, put that sin to death, and get up, and continue on while you’re living in this world to live for Christ. That also means that we have a whole new worldview. God’s changing us, transforming our minds, that we would live for Him according to the Word of God.
And then thirdly, I mention that we have privileges in Christian fellowship – the privileges of Christian fellowship. You can’t have this fellowship apart from real conversion. And what is that? Again, I’d like you to take your Bible and turn the 1 John 1:3. There the apostle John does flesh out for us the very things that are so important for you and I when it comes to fellowship. What is the first privilege? That answers the question: with whom do I have fellowship? 1 John 1:3 says:
what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and His son Jesus Christ.
So who do we have fellowship with? We have fellowship with the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The fellowship Christ has with His saints is like that which a loving husband and a wife have with each other. In this relationship, there are some things that are common, both to Christ and to the saints. That first thing that I mention is that there is mutual committal to each in the marriage union. You have to be committed to the other person or there’s really no marriage. There’s got to be that commitment. That’s really what starts it out – the man commits himself to the woman; the woman commits herself to the man, that we are going to live as a married couple before God, in the sight of God. The second thing that’s included is a mutual love for each other, rising out of the union they have now with Jesus Christ. The Lord loves us, as I mentioned last time. On Christ’s part, Christ loves His church and desires to enjoy fellowship with His spouse. Christ gives Himself freely to us to be our beloved, to fulfill all His purposes of His love, of His mercy, His grace, and His glory in our life. I mentioned from that some passages of Scripture from Song of Solomon, where it says:
My beloved is mine and I am his.
On the saints’ part, all that is required is their free willing agreement to receive, to embrace, to submit to the Lord Jesus as a husband, to abide with Him, to subject their souls to Him, to be ruled by him forever. He is now our Lord. He is our master and we are to follow Him. So this fellowship with Christ is like a delicious banquet that He has brought me, it says in Song of Solomon, to His banquet hall. And His banner over me is love. Also the fellowship is delightful. God loves me. God loves those He saves. He demonstrates that love, not only from the cross, but every single day of our life. It’s just like in Romans 12, we are to give ourselves over as a living sacrifice because of God’s mercy to us. So that’s the motivation. His mercy is that He didn’t condemn us. He actually had compassion on us and removed His condemnation and gave us His mercy. He didn’t give us what we really deserved, and that’s only because of Christ Jesus.
So Christian fellowship starts with communion with God. God desires to have fellowship with us through His spirit. Christians are called to fellowship with the Father and the Son each and every day. This is not some casual thing. This actually takes place every day. The Psalms give us incredible examples of how David had a relationship and the psalmists had a relationship with God. In Psalm 37:4 it says:
Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Everyday, I’m delighting in what God has done for me. Then as I do that, He shifts my desires to line up with His desires, and then He can give them to us. Before, our desires were nothing but pushed by our passions and our lusts. Now they’re different. Then a second thing, like in Psalm 63:3, it says:
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise you.
So enjoying God, because I understand that His lovingkindness is better than life. It’s better than life. And we see that reflected in the Word of God. The apostle Paul even knew that it was better. It was beneficial for him to go be with Christ. But because the church needed him and his gifts, he stayed here and God kept him here for some time. And then of course talking with God. So these are all practice of fellowship with our Lord everyday. We talked with God. Psalm 5:3, it says:
In the morning, O Lord, you will hear my voice;
Does God hear your voice at any time of the day? See, that’s all part of fellowship. Is He hearing you? Are you talking with Him? David says: in the morning I will order my prayer to you and eagerly watch. He prayed and anticipated an answer from God. So prayer is actually relational and practical. Is it not true that there are certain problems and situations we face that can only be resolved by God? I know when you have a problem sometimes, somebody will handle you a book and say: read this book. This book is going to help you. The book does help in many ways. Or a passage of Scripture. But you know what? Come to God in prayer with your problems, with your issues, because He’s the only One who can resolve them. And sometimes we don’t do that. See, prayer is the first line of defense, not the last. It is where we gain and maintain our power for the Christian life. Don’t we need guidance and wisdom and strength for our marriages? Don’t we need wisdom and strength in our parenting, in our work situation, in our service for the Lord, and in many many other things. So see, you really never run out of things to come before the Lord with. But yes, He hears your voice. You got to be talking with Him. And then of course, that includes the next thing: meditating on His word. Like Psalm 25:5 says:
Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day.
Scripture memorization becomes a very beneficial practice. You ought to purposely turn your mind to the Word of God. Because if you don’t turn your mind to the Word of God, something else will turn it somewhere else. That’s what happens in our life. If we all practiced this, we will more often keep our minds on the Lord and fellowship with Him. And that includes also sharing with God. We already know that God does not need anything. Yet, He gives us the privilege to give back to Him. I’d like you to turn to this passage: Revelation 4:9. The living creatures around the throne of God give us a good idea of what is included in giving back to God. Notice what it says:
And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever,
so there it is. What are we to give back to God? We’re to give God honor and glory. We’re to give Him thanks. And where does that come from? That comes out of our mouths. That comes out of our voice. Why? Because we’re looking around us. We’re evaluating our life, and we’re saying: wow, look at the things the Lord has given me. Look at the goodness that He’s shown me in my life. Even in the midst of all the trouble, even when the trouble comes, you think God for it. You realize that the trouble has put you in a place where it’s going to sanctify you. It’s going to make you more like Christ. It’s going to make you more dependent upon Him. When things are going well all the time, usually we drift away from the Lord. So the Lord often times allows circumstances and situations to come into our life so it can bring us to the place where we again are giving glory to God. We again are honoring Him, giving him thanks. So worship Him for who He is. Thank Him for all He has done. Give God our love through our obedience. Humbly confess your sin to Him in order to maintain an ongoing fellowship with Him. A great metaphor that works best to describe fellowship with God is simply this: walking with God in a pleasing manner.
So I want you to take your Bibles and turn to the first book of the Bible, Genesis 5:21-24. As you’re turning there, I want to mention a man, a biblical character. His name was Enoch. Enoch, the Bible says this in Hebrews. This is the hall of fame, or the hall of faith in Hebrews 11, where it says:
By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.
But look back at Genesis 5:21. Faith is actually described as walking with God. It says:
Then Enoch walked with God 300 years after he became father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters.
Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.
So the metaphor “walk” suggests action. That biblical faith is not a dormant thing. To walk with God, as suggested by others, means that there must be mutual agreement between those who walk together. Like the prophet Amos said: do two walk together unless they agreed to meet? So there must be an agreement of destination. You have to be heading to the same place. There must be agreement of the same path. You have to be on the same road, going to the same place. And then of course there must be an agreement of being in step with one another. Enoch being translated to heaven, he didn’t skip a step with God. But you know, it doesn’t say much about Enoch except that. In other words, he was kind of a regular kind of guy. Now you think: well, he was different and I could never be like Enoch. But I want you to look back at verse 22. It says this in chapter 5 Genesis:
Then Enoch walked with God 300 years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.
Now at that time on the earth, that was a short life. People were living way older than that. So obviously, whatever he was doing, he was fellowshipping with God and pleasing God. 365 years or 300 years of righteous living, even in the mist of evil times. He lived before the great worldwide flood. If you remember what is recorded about the wickedness upon the earth during that time, it says in Genesis 6:11-13:
Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.
You know what that means for us? It means that even in the wickedest times, in the wickedest places, around the wickedest people, it is possible to live in a pleasing manner before God, to walk in a pleasing manner before God. But that cannot happen unless you’re fellowshipping with God, unless you are having that ongoing relationship with God everyday. In other word, living in a pleasing manner before God, walking with God is a necessary thing that we ought to be doing as we intimately trust God for all He has done.
So this vertical aspect of fellowshipping provides the foundation for the horizontal aspect of fellowshipping among believers. That means a community of believers relating to one another presumes a relationship with God. In fact, it is dependent upon it. My fellowship with God leads into my relationship and fellowship with you, and you with me. So once a person trust Christ, they are brought into a community of believers, with whom they have at least one thing in common. And that is they have a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ. That maybe the only thing they have in common initially, but that is the most important thing to have in common with them.
These words really indicate how the Holy Spirit is creating amongst a group of people God’s taken from the world. He’s creating unity out of diversity. He’s creating unity in the community. And the opposite of unity is division. Wars and lack of harmony among mankind has been the norm. It is always the norm because of the sinfulness of humanity. That is the standard of human behavior. And when people see true unity, when they see true oneness amongst God’s people, their hearts cry out to want to be part of that kind of love. That true fellowship is where people genuinely and deeply love the Lord Jesus and care for one another. That kind of environment, it produces unity. It breaks the spirit of competition. It silences gossip. It builds morale. It promotes a sense of belonging. It says I belong to God, and we belong to one another. So whatever happens, God gets the glory and the credit for it. And then of course, from the world looking in on it, it produces a picture of unity.
This all means that the Lord commands His blessing where unity and brotherly fellowship and love exist and spread. And where unity is growing, God is near for blessing. Though many different personalities are part of the church in any given local church, they can be drawn together as one heart and one soul. Where there is real fellowship, there is unity, then there will also be a dynamic witness for Christ. Fellowship groups, home groups is a great place where people can develop committed and trusting relationships with each other in the Lord while sharing their lives and ministering to one another’s needs. So it’s a good time of year for you, if you have not been involved with, you have not been faithful to yet, or you have not been connected to a home group fellowship group, this time of the year is the time to get connected. Then once you get connected, then you stay faithful to that small group until you get to know people. You get to talk with them. You find out what their joys are, what their pain is, and then you learn to pray together with them. So it’s vitally important that we go from worshipping and fellowshipping with God to fellowshipping with one another. That’s the second privilege of fellowship. If you look back to 1 John 1:3, we get the same thing there. It says:
what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His son Jesus Christ.
And 1 John 1:7 it says:
but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another,
So what is that saying to us? It’s saying that we are family now. We are part of God’s family. We are born again into God’s family, and that family is the church, the genuine church. That’s when we meet together. Meeting together is not a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. It is an imperative virtue for all believers to be gathering together and worshipping God together. Spiritual fellowship is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. It’s vital to our spiritual growth and health.
Just as these first Christians in Acts had obstacles to overcome, we also have obstacles when considering Christian fellowship. So what are some of the obstacles that we have? I want to mention this because it’s so true. Because when it comes to meeting together, sometimes we have all kinds of excuses why we can’t meet, why we can’t do something for the Lord. Well, being an American in the American culture, we have obstacles to Christian fellowship. It is difficult sometimes to work out these obstacles from our life. There are at least three identifiable obstacles to Christian fellowship, obstacles that really need to be jettisoned from our life.
Here’s the first one: Americans tend to be self-sufficient and materialistic. Right? Would you agree with that? That we are taught to be go-getters, hard workers, to be self-reliant. We’re taught to be that. The American dream is stamped upon our conscience. We really end up giving most of our time to pursuing things, for physical blessing instead of giving our time to pursuing spiritual blessings, like developing a character that pursues godliness and Christ honoring relationship. See, the problem that we often run into is that the philosophical doctrine of materialism becomes aberrant when comfort and pleasure and wealth are the only or the highest goals and values to our life. Materialism really muddies the waters of any recognition of a spiritual world, leaving people with a focus on only what is seen, and minimizing actually the goals of life to experiencing physical pleasure and possessing material goods.
In the little book about Christian management of money and possessions -“The Treasure Principle” by Randy Alcorn, he writes this: seeking fulfillment in money, land, houses, cars, clothes, recreational vehicles, hot tubs, large screen televisions, luxury vacations and cruises have left us bound and gagged by materialism. People fall into the subtle trap of the enemy. When they clamor for worldly possessions, the voice of God diminishes to an unintelligible mutter. And they hear louder voices to pursue this and to pursue that and to go after this job or to get this bigger raise.
Christians need to learn that living by faith includes understanding that Christians are only aliens and sojourners in this present world. Becoming too attached to the world, especially to its perishing treasures, is neither wise nor spiritually profitable to overcome and make a difference in this world. Christians need a constant reminder. Their lives on earth are short and have eternal significance. Christians must soak themselves in the truth of God’s Word. They must very deliberately lay up treasures in heaven through the use of spiritual gifts, of their possessions and money, of their talents for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of having fellowship with one another. See, the Lord gives us material possessions and skills in order to serve His purposes, not for the indulgence of our fleshly desires. So Americans definitely have that obstacle.
A second obstacle that really plays into it is Americans tend to be abnormally individualistic. We tailor our lives based on what we individually like to do, what coffee we like to drink, what stores we like to shop, what bank we prefer to do our banking, everything. Everything is tailored to our needs actually in America. If anyone interrupts that routine, it is often looked at as inconvenient or an annoying disruption. Why are you messing up my routine? Don’t mess up my routine. But many times God wants to mess up your routine, and He does it using people. People enter into your life for a good reason, because God wants us to break free from that so we can actually minister to people. We can actually talk to people. We can actually listen to them. So we can sit down and pray with them about what’s going on in their life. Sometimes that’s really what people need. They need that kind of time. So individualism loses equilibrium when individual interest becomes the goal of all human actions. Society’s emphasis on individualism moves people toward no higher purpose than meeting one’s own needs, wants, desires, rights, and privileges. Like materialism, individualism enslaves people to their own selfishness. Christians need to know that life is not about me. It’s about us, the church body. And that is a very difficult concept to overcome, an obstacle to overcome in America because we are so individualistic.
A lone soldier, no matter how skilled, can quickly be overcome by an enemy once he is outnumbered or encounters an enemy combatant that is stronger and more skilled than himself. There is strength and wisdom in numbers. The church together is an army of spiritual soldiers watching out for each other and covering each other’s backs in this world. There are no loners in Christ’s church. We must all learn to practice fighting together to win the battle. There are no spectators in Christ’s church. No one is in the bleachers. Every Christian is in the game, every single one of us. If that has not been the case in your life, it needs to start because that’s what fellowship is. If I have fellowship with God, I must have fellowship with you.
The inadvertent outcome of these obstacles is that we typically do not do well when we are asked to sacrifice something, when we are asked to serve somewhere. You mean I have to come early to church to do that? You mean I have to go home and study to do this? You mean I have to give time out of my week when I could be working out and exercising, or doing something I want to do to do that? I don’t know about that. See, we have to give that up, because it leads into the third obstacle Americans have.
You know what the third obstacle is? Privacy. You and I like our space. That’s not always a bad thing. However the fallout of our desire for privacy can be detrimental to communal life, to the community life of the church. And why is that? Because it leans too much towards isolationism. Modern day media like cell phones and iPads and computers and interactive video games further isolate people, producing a coldness and a selfishness among people. As we all become more preoccupied with our comfort, our pleasure, and privacy, the possibility of developing any meaningful interaction with others becomes non-existent. And that can’t be the case. That cannot be the case among God’s people. Quality Christian relationships are sacrificed often on the altar of our peace and quiet.
And parents, you have to be wise on how much screen time your children get each day, so that you are regulating your child sinful bent toward self-centeredness and ultimately isolationism. Christian parents are really supposed to be developing the next generation of church fellowshippers. To do this, you’re going to have to be very wise and very creative in order to regulate your child’s appetite for media, which further pulls them away from relationships, away from eyeball to eyeball nose to nose conversations. They have like this other thing connected to them like a body part. And it’s not good. It is not good. We have to recognize that now, recognize it when they’re young. You may have to replace it with something else, but hopefully it’s replaced with them meeting people and talking to people and having conversation with people. Getting them around the table instead of them wandering off to another room to play a video game or something else. Keep them around the table so they get to hear the conversations going on. I remember that some of the greatest times that we’ve had in the past with my family growing up is when the missionaries came and they were around our table. They were listening to their stories and they were listening to the conversation and they were engaged in it. Those are precious times that only happen here and there. And if they don’t ever have those stories, it’s not going to be good. It’s not going to be good for the next generation of Christians. Let us all beware that these cultural influences tend to reduce our commitment to one another and church family. The Holy Spirit’s intention when He saves people and brings them into the church is to teach christians, by the apostles’ doctrine, that the called out church is to be different than the cold, materialistic, self-centered withdrawn society which they were rescued from.
Now, that really does play against our flesh and our routine that we’ve had growing up or until we became a believer. God has to shatter that. He has to destroy that. He has to wipe out and drive out individualism, our desire for privacy, our desire for materialism, so we can actually get together. And find time to get together. There are a multitude of ways and places that we can get together to talk about things. So Christians were designed to be in constant fellowship with other believers so they can be strengthened by quality Christian relationships within the local church. Christian author Jerry Bridges communicated that if we are to experience true Christian fellowship, he said, people must truly like one another and enjoy one another if they are to establish and maintain solid relationships. People say: well, I’m a Christian. The Bible says I have to love you, but I don’t have to like you. Wrong. I have to like you too. Doesn’t mean everybody gets together on the same level. What it does mean is that I am dealing with my fleshly desires not to do something so I can honor God in fellowship. And for what reason? I have a benefit in that, so I can grow. I cannot grow without you. You cannot grow without me. That’s the point. So if you isolate yourself, don’t wonder if you’re not growing in the Lord. Matter of fact, you can put your finger right on that. Why aren’t you growing? Because you’re not fellowshipping with people. You’re doing things alone and enjoying your own self in your own little world in your own environment. And you’re sacrificing those things for fellowship. That’s where we really get the blessing, right? That’s where we get the strength. That’s where we get what we need to live the Christian life.
In fact, a fifth thing of the purpose of Christian fellowship is that’s where we get the carry out the one anothers of Scripture. Forty-some times the Bible uses that. I can’t remember. It’s all over the place. The one anothers in Scripture. I want you to turn to Roman chapter 12, and I want you to see this. And that’s where I’ll end this morning. There are things that you and I are responsible before to take care of. Romans chapter 12. And if you look, the purpose of Christian fellowship is to encourage one another in the hard places of life. There are many people who have maybe smiling faces, but are covering aching hearts and burdened souls. So true fellowship really can make their load lighter.
The purpose is also sharing experiences for the mutual benefit of all. All our things that we’ve been learning with the Lord, so we can prevent someone else from making a similar error or encourage them down the right path of making good decisions. It’s also a time where we can manifest our joy, that all may rejoice with us when we are sharing with God’s doing in our lives. Look at Romans 12:5. Here’s the first thing: we are to care for one another.
So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
We are to care for one another. In the body of Christ, there are many members but there’s only one body. We’re part of that one body, and that’s the body of Christ. Then Romans 12:10 it says this: we are to be devoted to one another.
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
So again, we carry out this one another by being devoted to one another. That means we are fellowshipping with one another. We are spending time with one another. Then in Romans 12:10, the second part of the verse: we are honoring one another. It says:
give preference to one another in honor.
Not in condemnation or criticism or competition, but in honor. Honoring people, lifting them up, and putting them in a place where maybe nobody else puts them, because they are a child of the King in the body of Christ. We are to honor them. And then Romans 12:12, we are to be enduring and pray for one another. It says:
rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,
Rejoicing with people, persevering with them in their troubles and tribulations, as we are both are devoted to prayer. So we’re enduring with them. We’re going through it with them and we’re praying with them along the way. And then in Romans 12:13: contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality, just sharing with one another. When was the last time that you invited someone to your home to eat? Someone in the congregation, someone in the church. You invited them into your home for the sole purpose of having a meal, of sitting down, of talking. That’s it. No agenda. No handing out any sheets of paper for them to do any tests or exams. You’re just getting to know them. Let me find out you are. The best way to find out who people are is to invite them into your world. That’s the best way. Tell you what, people do like talking about themselves. And if you ask them, they will talk. Many times they may not talk in a public group. But they will talk in your home because they feel more secure there. They feel safety there. That’s where you going to get to know and that’s where you going to get to like people. You’re going to like people around your own table or you around their table. That’s what we ought to be doing. We ought to be doing that. Every one of us this next year should have invited someone else to your home to just fellowship. You say: well, I can’t invite them to my home because my home’s this way or that way and I’ll have to have a whole reconstruction project to invite somebody to come over. Well, you know what, you know how many times I’ve cleaned up something because somebody was coming? I painted a room because somebody was going to stay over. It’s not a bad thing. It’ll motivate you to do things that is on your honey-do list. Right husbands? I don’t like painting, but I do it sometimes. A lot of times that’s the motivator. Clean something up, straighten things out, so you can invite people. That’s the whole reason. That’s the purpose. And you know what? you’re going to find out you’re going to enjoy it. They’re going to leave your house and you’re going to say: well I’m glad we did that. Let’s do it again. So it becomes infectious that we do that. Don’t close yourself off to people – please do not do that. And that is the thing we fight against every single day as an American.
It says in Romans 12:15 we are to weep with those who weep. How can we weep with those who weep if we don’t know their sorrows? We are to enlighten the weaker brother. What about somebody who’s been wandering around? You don’t know where they are at spiritually. Invite them to your home and find out what’s going on in their life so you can pray for them and encourage them to get back in step with the Lord. Exhort the backslider – somebody who’s falling into sin. Of course you have to wonder whether they’re really a believer or not, but if they’ve fallen into sin and they backslid, go get them. Go invite them. If you don’t take them to your house, then take them to Starbucks. Take them somewhere. Take them to the park, buy some lunch, or just buy a drink and just talk with them to rescue them.
And then you know what? If we do that, we will strengthen one another. That is the purpose of God’s church. All these different people, all the diversity, all the different backgrounds we have, the Spirit of God brings that all together so the body can be strong and we can keep the unity and the bond of peace. Then the work of the gospel of Jesus Christ will go out because it will strengthen us to be people who talk about God. Talk about the Lord. Talk about what He’s doing. And we’ll be praying more about things because we’re getting to know people and their burdens come into our prayers. We say: Lord help this brother, help this sister during this time that they’re struggling, and that becomes part of our prayers. When we do that, We kind of put self to death and the body becomes more important than us, just me. It becomes us. That’s what has to happen in the church – it has to become us. Can’t be just me. It’s not about me.
So real Christians desire true fellowship. Acts 2:42:
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship.
So rethink this morning what you are doing and evaluate yourself in light of this truth. Real christians want fellowship with the Father and with the Son and the Spirit and each other in order to grow healthy. Be a healthy servant of the Lord Jesus Christ while you walk on this earth. You will be blessed. Many times your blessings are going to come from God through other people to you. Amen? That’s what’s going to happen.
Let’s pray. Lord, thank You again this morning for Your great tremendous love to us. Lord, You desire to have fellowship with us and look at how messed up we were. And yet Lord, You look past that. And that love covers a multitude of sins, the Bible says. So I pray Lord that we would, this coming year, this new season of fall that starting, we would really look at our own lives, our family. I pray You would allow us to adjust things so we are getting involved with other people’s lives because of Christ. And I pray Lord, You would help us to minister to others like we’ve never have before. Lord, cause those relationships to become strong, that the love would increase amongst us, that You’d allow us to keep that unity so we can speak forth the gospel of Christ to those who haven’t heard it yet. And I pray you would bless us like that and not let us alone until we do something. In Christ’s name. Amen.