Friday, February 7, 2014

How to Have Fellowship, Part 1

Recently Donald Miller created quite a firestorm of blogs and on twitter when he posted some reflections on church and his lack of attendance to church. There were a lot of good direct responses. The reality though is that we live in a culture that for all its talk of relationships and community has little knowledge or experience of fellowships and relationship.

Have you ever stopped to ponder why in our generation we have a break down of relationships? The divorce rate is up. It is not uncommon to find people who spent a longer time preparing for their wedding than the length of their marriage. Families break down. Teens and parents illustrate this regularly. In a world reeling with the effects of sin, relationships do not work without grace.

Good relationships consist of unity and fellowship but the truth is that these only thrive where Jesus Christ is known and he brings our relationships together.

In this first post we want to lay the ground of all relationships. We want to draw our thoughts in these three part series from 1 John 1.

We have fellowship when the Word who came becomes the Word proclaimed.
First, this means when Jesus Christ came to earth, he was heard, seen and touched.
1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—

‘That which was from the beginning,’ -this starts out very similar to John 1:1 “in the beginning was the Word”. But here he is talking about the beginning of the Word that was heard. There is a play on the idea of the Word. It is referring both to Christ: he was seen and touched. But also to the message that was heard.

Jesus is the Word became flesh but he also proclaimed the Word of the Gospel. He is the message but the message is also about Him.

In fact, as the Word, he arrived. He became flesh, he was manifest--or came close.

Elsewhere in John, we see this interplay between the proclaimed Word that brings life and the person of the Word who is life:
1 John 5:11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

What you need to know is that 1 John is written in part to refute a heresy. He tells us their are antiChrists people who deny Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that He came in the flesh. The message hasn’t changed from the moment Jesus came. The same Word of Life that Jesus preached is the same Word of Life that Paul the apostles preached. This is true today for all churches that are faithfully proclaiming God's Word. For all the talk about how church is not like the first century, the reality is that if it is faithful to the gospel and the Word of God there is more continuity that discontinuity. And you can't have genuine fellowship where the Word who is Christ is not heard through a proclamation of the Word.

Second, Jesus is his coming, comes for relationships. In his presence, He  was touched. He was real and true flesh and blood.
Docetism was an ancient heresy that said Jesus didn’t have a real body. He only looked like he had a body. But Jesus was real and tangible. When we profess faith in Christ, we are not professing faith in an idea, a myth, a legend but someone that is real and tangible. There was a real person who lived and died. He was God the Son.

In fact, Jesus Christ is the Word of Life.
1 John 1:2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us.
The “life” is a person. He came. He was seen. The disciples, John here, have spent their earthly lives testifying to it. Because the eternal life--Jesus--has come, we are to go and out to proclaim the message of eternal life with our words. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.

This life was with the Father but he also came near to us.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

1 John 4:2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

1 John 2:21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

Third, when the Word is proclaimed and people believe we come into fellowship.
One of the modern misnomers is that preaching is an intellectual enterprise. Yes, bad preaching can come across like a lecture. A person can fall asleep in a good sermon because all he hears is the drone of "blah, blah, blah, lecture, lecture, lecture." But for the Bible, preaching and proclamation is a means of the Holy Spirit's work. It raises the dead, dried bones and dead hearts return to life. Spiritual life and renewal is imparted. When Jesus is proclaimed the bonds of fellowship with Him and with His church grow. 
1 John 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

The gospel goes out and is proclaimed and as people come to believe it they come into fellowship with each other. There is no genuine fellowship where their is no gospel being professed amongst the people. There is no mutual bond of unbreakable love where there is no confession of Christ.

You see when this message is heard and proclaimed there becomes a Fellowship with the Father and with the Son. One of the reason so many people do not have good relationships, a good church community and fellowship is they don't have a growing fellowship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

As a pastor, I encounter lots of people who take their spiritual temperature by themselves and for themselves and give themselves an A rating (B+ if they are 'modest') but the reality is they have no growing fellowship and you can see this because they can't even fellowship with other believers through situations where the love gets tough. For example, I once encountered a person who had stumbled in sin. When I encouraged them to draw near to God (which would have included repentance but also refreshment from God's grace), the person's response was basically "I have a good relationship with God. He loves me even when I make a mistake." Sadly the sin was downgraded to a mistake and God gave a mulligan. What a weak conception of fellowship. What a weak experience of grace and God.

Here's where we need to start for Fellowship:
Confession and Fellowship or Word and Communion go hand in hand.
We live in an age of the  church where she has anti-doctrinal tendencies. Christians love to say things like “deeds not creeds”.

What binds us together is Jesus Christ. The Word came. He was proclaimed. He is confessed. We are saying “these things are true, this person is real”

This grounds our fellowship with one another.

This profession of faith unites us to the Father and the Son.

When faith is not professed, there is no fellowship with God. When there is no fellowship with God there is no fellowship together.

This post was cross posted over at Tim Bertolet's blog "the voyages." You can follow Tim on Twitter: @tim_bertolet.

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