"But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding."
Job 32:8

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Importance of Fellowship

As much as I wanted to give a different message for this week, being so spontaneous, the necessity of fellowship seemed more appropriate for this week.

Fellowship is such an essential aspect to the Christian faith. Not only, fellowship with God, but fellowship with the family of Christ. Without both of these forms of fellowship, what would we do? We would wither and die spiritually. John 15 shows us that unless we are connected to the Vine (Christ), we will wither and die.

A good brother in Christ once illustrated it like this: we are all laptops and the Spirit of God is our A/C adapter. When we disconnect from the adapter, we are no longer running on His power but our own. Our light dims and we slowly run out of power. Towards the end, some warnings flash signalling imminent shut down unless we connect to the power source and, if we ignore these warnings, we ultimately shut down.

Obviously, we need fellowship with God.

1 Corinthians 1:9 NIV says, "God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful."

We are called into fellowship. It isn't an IF or "You know, just come fellowship with Me when you feel like it, preferably sometime before you die." No, no. Fellowship with God is a continuous process to which we are called. Not only this, but we are specifically called into fellowship with Christ. 

When I think of this verse, I think of the disciples, and the way they followed and how they were in fellowship with Christ. Can't we have the same? Though, He is not here physically, don't we have the same Spirit of power that He had? If the disciples had this fellowship with God and yet He still calls us into it even though He has already ascended, doesn't that mean the fellowship with Him is just as... powerful? 

Col 1:29 NIV, one of my favourite verses, says, "To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me."

Isn't that awesome? Paul was so overwhelmed with the Spirit of Christ, of God, within him, that he could barely contain it!

If we are in fellowship with Him, through the Word, prayer and worship, can't we have the same? Can't we come to the same conclusion that we must sing praises of reverence every so often just as Paul does throughout Romans after examining the glories of God?

But we know fellowship with God on our own is good... but that's not the only way He wants us to fellowship in His presence. 

Hebrews 10:25 NIV says, "not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

Out of what I know, this verse has got to be the most used to advocate church-going. But I think we need to make something clear. Church is not a building, its fellowship, its the body of Christ. And a lot of people like to neglect the importance of communal fellowship, whether it be at a home or in a church. 

In one message, a well-known preacher, Paul Washer, told about when he first came to Christ and out of excitement, and likely curiosity, he went to every house where he lived, knocked on every door and discovered to his amazement, that everyone was a Christian! Except... most of them didn't go to church. 

I recall last November, for three weeks in a row, I was unable to attend church because of traveling on cultural/sports exchanges and by about the third week, I was really beginning to feel spiritually sick. I'm hoping some of you can relate to that. Its the feeling where you no longer feel in tune with God. You're spending personal devotional time but that communal fellowship of being in His presence is lacking and your spirit longs for it. That's what I'm talking about. 

Common communal fellowship is important. But why? Experience has little value compared to Scripture. Thankfully, Scripture has a fair amount to say.   

Matthew 18:20 NIV says, " For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

Jesus clearly says that He will be present when two or more are gathered in His name. He has shown this to be true again, and again, and again. Many times, I come to church expecting God to show up... and He does. I remember, before I went to the Hillsong Conference in 2011, I had high expectations for the worship. I knew what it was like for the Spirit of God to show up in a small community of 80, so for 5000+ believers to be present in one place, I expected it to be pretty awesome. 

It was. 

Communal fellowship is important because He shows up. If He doesn't, then you're wasting your time. Without His presence and teaching, communal fellowship has practically no value. 

And how does God teach? Through those He has appointed to share the wisdom God has bestowed. Going to an unofficial church without an official pastor with many different speakers, I've come to see sermons as fellow believers sharing the wisdom God has given them. This is what I think of when I look at Colossians 3:16. 

Colossians 3:16 NIV says, "Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts."

Again, we have fellowship, but this goes a step further. This not only talks about songs from the Spirit and worship and enjoying God's presence, it talks about the Word. Scripture says to let it 'dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another'. 

You see, daily devotionals are awesome because it renews the Scriptures afresh in your mind. Its like the manna from the desert. We must be continually renewing it because what we learnt yesterday isn't quite as fresh as what God has for us today. 

With fellowship, not only can the Word be renewed but we can also admonish one another. 

I have to admit, I have spoken to some people who do not attend a regular church and some of their teaching is.... strange. Fellowship with others, based on the Word, can keep us safe from Satan's deceptions and false teachings. 

Yes, we can say things like 'But the Spirit is my teacher, why would I need fellowship?'

Well... Scripture also says Satan disguises himself as an angel of light... and so do his followers. 

We need fellowship to avoid being deceived. Hebrew 10:25 talks about encouraging one another because the Day is near. Paul knew that without encouraging and correcting one another in the Spirit, we can easily go astray.

And finally, what are we left with? Unity.

Philippians 2:2 NIV says, "then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind."

Now, I don't believe Paul was talking about us all singing the same mantra and thinking EXACTLY alike. No, of course not. But I do believe he is talking about being like-minded just as Christ and the Father were: wholly dedicated to the will of the Father and aligning Christ's will with the Father's desires.

By keeping Scripture as the source, wouldn't we all become as one body, lifting one another up in love, being of one Spirit and all having the mind of Christ?

I want to give one final warning to anyone who still wishes to believe otherwise about fellowship.

We are in a spiritual battlefield; constantly under attack by demons and the forces of evil though protected by the Spirit. When we go to church or fellowship with one another, its like a safe haven. For me personally, it feels like letting my guard down and allowing God to overflow into my life for an hour and fifteen minutes. And then what? As soon as I walk out that door, I walk straight back into the battlefield as a soldier of Christ. As we are all soldiers of Christ.

Don't let the necessity of fellowship slip from your mind.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13 NIV

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