On Christian Community

How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things?

To the Congregation

If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.

To Pastor’s and Zealous Members

This applies in a special way to the complaints often heard from pastors and zealous members about their congregations. A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men.

When a person becomes alienated from a Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his wish dream that should be shattered by God; and if this be the case, let him thank God for leading him into this predicament.

But if not, let him nevertheless guard against ever becoming an accuser of the congregation before God. Let him rather accuse himself for his unbelief. Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in the consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren. Let him do what he is committed to do, and thank God.

A Gift of God

Christian community is like the Christian’s sanctification. It is a gift of God which we cannot claim. Only God knows the real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.

In Christ Alone

Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate. The more clearly we learn to recognize that the ground and strength and promise of all our fellowship is in Jesus Christ alone, the more serenely shall we think of our fellowship and pray and hope for it.

Questions for Reflection

  1. How do you think of your own congregation (Christian Community)?
  2. Are you guilty of wishing your congregation (Christian Community) was different?
  3. Do you recognize God’s sovereign placement of you in your particular congregation (Christian Community)?
  4. Do you believe Christian Community is a Gift of God that can only be experienced through and in Jesus?

Resources

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together29-31. (Note: Text is Bonhoeffer’s, headings are mine.)

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The Exclusivity of the Gospel & Biblical Fellowship

In 1 John 1:3, John tells us the reason he is writing is so that we will have fellowship with each other, with the Father, and with the Son. In marking out these different types of relationships, John is saying, our fellowship with one another, and our fellowship with God is based on our fellowship with Jesus. This differentiation is made more clear in verse 7, when John says our fellowship with one another is based on Jesus’ cleansing of our sins. What we learn in these two verses is that only through our belief in the person and work of Jesus, can we have true fellowship with the Father and with one another.

The Exclusivity of the Gospel

Before I explain what it means to have fellowship with one another, I want to make a point about the exclusivity of the gospel. The fact that we can only have fellowship with God through Jesus means those who believe they can have fellowship with God through other means are mistaken. When those in society claim there are multiple ways to God, or say we need to all co-exist, they are proclaiming another gospel, a false gospel that does not lead to God. The gospel is exclusive and there is only one way to be reconciled to God and experience true fellowship with Him and one another and that is through Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to have fellowship?

Fellowship carries the idea of a close mutual relationship involving mutual interests and sharing. It is a uniquely Christian relational experience that no one but those born of the Spirit of God can experience.

Fellowship With God

To have fellowship with God means we are reconciled to God through our union with Christ. This occurs by believing we are sinners who are in need of a Savior and that Jesus is that Savior. He is God incarnate, eternally existing with the Father, who came in the form of man, dying on the cross for our sins and resurrecting on the third day to ascend to the throne where He now reigns as King. Through our belief in this good news, or what we would call the gospel message, we have fellowship with God. Even more than a reconciled relationship with God, our fellowship with God means we accept His values, His commandments, and His message about Himself and us, and we live accordingly.

Fellowship With One Another

Now that we know what it means to have fellowship with God, we need to ask and answer the question: What does it means to have fellowship with one another? In order to answer that question, I want to talk about what Christian fellowship is not.

What Christian Fellowship is Not

Christian Fellowship is not any warm human exchange we might have with one another. Granted we may share interests with one another such as: Hunting, hiking, fishing, sports, knitting, facebooking, running, a love for the outdoors, or even discussing the latest political candidates, but talking about or participating in these interests together does not constitute Christian fellowship. Remember, Christian fellowship is a uniquely Christian relational experience. We can experience these things with anyone, Christian or not. So then, if Christian fellowship is not solely getting together with Christians to talk and hang out, then what is it?

What Christian Fellowship is

Christian Fellowship means we are participating together in the life and truth made possible by the Holy Spirit through our union with Christ. It is sharing something in common on the deepest possible level of human relationships – our experience of God Himself.

Christian fellowship then involves mutual care and love for one another which is expressed by:

  • Sharing what God has done in our life
  • Sharing what we are learning in His Word
  • Confessing sin to one another
  • Correcting one another
  • Worshipping God together
  • Praying for one another
  • Utilizing our Spiritual gifts
  • Carrying one another’s burdens
  • Serving one another

This means we cannot say we are having true Christian fellowship:

  • Until we have moved from talking about the latest game to talking about God’s Word.
  • Until we have moved from the weather to what God is doing in our lives.
  • Until we are truly self-sacrificially loving one another.

Conclusion

Christian fellowship is a uniquely Christian relationship that involves more than a warm human exchange we might have with one another. It is deeper than shared worldly interests. It is a relationship we can only have by believing the gospel message concerning Jesus. It only occurs when we connect on a level we cannot connect on with those in the world because they do not share our relationship with Jesus and God. May we regularly take advantage of this unique relationship we share with others who believe in Christ as their Savior.

In order to help promote Christian fellowship, I have written another post: Gospel Conversations and Biblical Fellowship.

Gospel Conversations & Biblical Fellowship

The typical conversation between guys this time of year centers around sports, especially, football. Now I don’t believe we should never talk about sports, but as Christians our conversations should go deeper than the latest ESPN highlight. We should be talking about the Bible and the things the Lord is showing us in our lives, as well as we should be encouraging each other in the faith. We can’t do this if we do not break through the surface and dig down to find out what is actually going on in someone’s walk with the Lord. In order to help us have more biblical conversations, I want to provide a few practical questions we can ask each other.

Questions

(1) What has Jesus been teaching you this week through your reading of the word, prayer, and life situations?

(2) How has your reading, classes, interactions with others and prayer caused you to worship God this week?

(3) How can I be praying for you?

(4) What sins has God revealed to you this week?

(5) Has God answered any prayers lately?

My hope is that these questions will spur you on to have more gospel conversation and biblical fellowship with others this coming week.

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