LIFE TOGETHER . . . The Church's Fellowship
Open your Bibles to 1 John 1
Sunday PM--Bruce Grice
I. Perhaps you've seen the Peanuts cartoon in which in the first frame, Lucy says, "It's my life, and I'll live it the way I want to live it." In the second frame, she says, "I'm my own person. I'm going to live life as I please." Then there's that third frame, with a bit of a smile on her face, Lucy says, "It's my own life. And, I'm going to live it with a little help from my friends."
Lucy is the average American, preaching our doctrine of,
"Leave me alone, let me be, don't mess with my life."
1. Our insistence on privacy is in striking contrast with the strong
corporate sense that we find among biblical people. In the Old Testament, it was the clan, tribe, nation, that were entities of existence. And when we read those stories of how a nation was punished for what one individual did, we don't understand, because we've grown so far away from that sense of group identity.
2. Or in the New Testament Paul told the Christians that they were to think of themselves as part of a single body, to bear one another's burdens, to regard one another as family. And sometimes that seems so distant from our way of thinking.
C. The Bible has a lot to say about fellowship.
They devoted themselves to the Apostle's teaching and fellowship . . . (Acts 2:42.)
Yet, no passage paints a more lofty picture of fellowship than 1st John 1.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life--the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us--that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that your joy may be complete.
John begins by insisting that Jesus was real. He had seen Him & touched Him.
Jesus was not a ghost. He was no mythical character. He was not a piece of fiction. "I've touched Him with these hands . . ." John says.
Because John had known Him, he wants his readers to know Him.
Since both had known Him . . . They had a relationship, partnership.
Life together for us as the church is a relationship, partnership. It's allowing another to participate in your life. ("If they know the real me, they may not love me.")
Yet, fellowship is not an optional matter with the Christian.
But it lies at the heart of Christianity.
It's easy to be a member of a church & not know anyone.
Knowing God means we share with each other. Knowing God means we are in partnership.
It's knowing people well enough to get beyond the "how do you do's."
Fellowship takes place at potlucks & camping trips. But it takes more than food or a campfire to make real fellowship.
C. John pictures a growing group of people. Some from the present, some from the past. Some with him, some with his readers.
And all of these believers, whether dead or alive, whether here or there, are part of the fellowship, and he puts them opposite against a world that does not know God.
2. God has a power to draw all of us together that is far beyond our imagination.
3. What John had seen, heard, and touched enables us today to have fellowship (relationship, partnership, participation) with one another here, and, with Christians in Honduras, Guyana, Ukraine, etc.
The 2nd part of this chapter ties fellowship in with a different aspect of our Christian faith: This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us (1 John 1:5-10).
What hinders our fellowship together?
A. John is concerned that their fellowship was going to be destroyed by some false teaching. So he begins by setting out a key point in the book: God is light, and in Him is no darkness.
Then he takes up 3 errors that he sees among his readers:
1. Sin does not interfere with fellowship with God. False notion that you can continually live in sin & still be in fellowship with God. It was false in the 1st century, and, it is false today.
2. We can overcome sin, we can live perfectly. John says you can't do that (vs. 8).
3. Sin doesn't show up in our conduct. But it certainly does. In opposition to this thinking, John says if you're walking in darkness, you are not walking with God. If you're living in unrepentant, unconfessed sin, and claim to be with God, you're a liar. That's what John says. He who says, "I know him" but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him (2:4).
C. If we walk in the light we have fellowship with each other.
John's image suggests that life is like a group of people walking through a dark cave. The only light comes from the candle of our leader. Occasionally, someone strays over into the darkness, and they stumble on a rock or a ledge. The group stops and we help that person come back to the light. And there is a concern in our group that we all stay in the light. That we complete the journey together. It's only by working together, that we can stay in the light and make it to safety.
God is the light. We journey together.
I am as concerned about you & your journey as I am about myself. *The pain of sin causes us to huddle together. *The disappointments of life drive us to each others' arms.
We come to be encouraged when we are discouraged. To be built up when we've been torn down.
In the book entitled, The Glad River, we read about a character named Duke Smomber. He finds himself in an army against his will. He's amazed that he begins to consider his fellow soldiers as friends. At one point in the novel, he says: "This war holds us together. Being in suffering holds us together. But when things are easy, and everything is going right, they begin to drift apart."
A. That captures part of what John is saying.
1. We battle sin. War has been declared. We find ourselves fighting a common enemy.
That draws all of us together to seek strength & encouragement.
B. In order to have real fellowship 3 things must be present:
First, a trust of those in the Body. This means my attitude is not one of suspicion, but acceptance.
Second, a willingness to give of my time, money, and myself.
Third, a sensitivity to the needs of my spiritual family. My love for a brother or sister in need moves me toward them.
Douglas Anderson tells a parable, a sequel about the 3 little pigs. It's been years since the crisis with the big, bad wolf. The 3 pigs have settled down in a brick house in the suburbs. They were well off, but their lives were empty. Didn't have any meaning. So, the first little pig went to the library, and she checked out all the books on love. Read them all. Became well informed. But desperately empty. The second little pig heard about a well-known speaker coming to town to give a series of lectures on love. She heard them all. Came home enthused. Enthusiasm lasted a few days, but then came back down to earth. The third little pig invited others into their home. They shared life's joys & heartaches. They met regularly, and they soon discovered they cared deeply about each other. One evening after they had all left, the third little pig said to the other two, "Now I know what love is, because I have experienced it."
What motivates us to have this kind of fellowship (partnership, participation)?
Look in the Book of Hebrews . . . chapter 10 . . . verse 32 -
Remember the former days when after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings. Partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what was promised. For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But my righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of their souls.
A. This passage presents 2 contrasting categories of people: those who stand firm & those who shrink back.
1. Both groups faced disappointment & tragedy; both groups encountered pain & heartache.
Yet, only one stood firm.
B. How does God bring about and sustain the kind of people
who stand firm . . . Who don't run from suffering & need?
1. Whether it's cancer in our midst, or a broken marriage, or depression, or one entangled in sin . . .
Who are the people who don't retreat . . .But do something that is costly?
3. Where do people like that come from?
How are they created and how are they sustained over the long road?
That's what this text is all about.
We find illustrated the present power of a future possession.
A possession so great that it changes us both inwardly & outwardly.
Within we . . .
EMPATHIZE WITH OTHERS
Outwardly we . . .
D. Our text says they showed sympathy to the prisoners.
They felt what it must be like in the pit, with no food unless someone brought it to them, and they said: In spite of the danger, we have to go.
So they went, and the Bible says: Their property was taken.
1. Imagine identifying with the prisoners.
While you are gone to the prison, people spray paint: Christians get out! all over your house & burn your furniture in the streets.
2. What do you do?
The author of Hebrews says: You joyfully accepted the seizure of your property . . .
Incredible! I want to be like this so much. Don't you?
1. Don't you want to be free from your love of things?
2. What's the key? How do we become like this?
One key word is joyfully.
They joyfully accepted the confiscation of their property.
We love comfort & safety & ease & fun, and we love lots of time to do our own thing, and if anybody gets in our way of that, it's so easy to murmur.
C. Why aren't these people like that?
What planet did they land on this selfish earth from?
Knowing - verse 34 . . . that you have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one.
D. When you know that you have a better and a lasting possession,
you are not paralyzed by loss.
But that's not nearly strong enough, is it?
When you know that you have a better possession and one that lasts
forever, you're not paralyzed by anger when you lose something.
That's not nearly strong enough either, because it's not just that they weren't paralyzed, it says that they rejoiced.
E. There is a possession that is so much better and long lasting that if you have it, and you lose something in the name of it, that's O.K. This possession enables us right now to serve & empathize with others; to endure pain; frees us from materialism.
So what is this possession?
1. It's the triumph over death (Hebrews 2:14,15)
It's the final resting place for the saints (Hebrews 4:9)
It's being with our Savior, our Refuge, our Hope, our King forever.
It's being embraced by our Heavenly Father forever.
So, what is the key to love . . . the key to going to the prison . . .
crossing the street . . . or, going to the person whose marriage is so broken?
The key is indomitable joy rooted in knowing that we have a better and abiding possession that is so awesomely satisfying and so completely sure, that come what may, we have to love like we've been loved.
B. Underline the word knowing in verse 34. You have to know.
1. You can't just say, "Maybe there's something after the grave." You won't love long like that, and not in dangerous situations.
2. Instead, you will make the most of this life for yourself because you're just not sure that this might be the end.
3. You have to know that we are only passing through this life. And then eternal joy.
If you truly believe that, you will be one great risk taker.
Christianity is all about freeing you to take risks by putting an
unshakeable hope under your life in a better & lasting possession.
The possession is found in Christ.
He has destroyed the powers of death:
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise
partook of the same nature, that through death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage. Hebrews 2:14,15
He is the High Priest that opens the way into the throne of grace:
But He holds His priesthood permanently, because He continues forever.
Consequently He is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens.
He's coming again to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him:
So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but save those who are eagerly waiting for Him. Hebrews 9:28
It's all Christ.
He is the foundation of your knowing.
A. Knowing that you have a better & an abiding possession yields
indomitable joy--that satisfies the heart and releases you not to have to crave ease and comfort and security--so that you can serve & empathize with others.
In our families, with each other, over the telephone, among our friends, we must do two things for each other: First, we must continually warn each other of the incredibly high price of throwing away our confidence in this possession. And second, we must continually direct each other's attentions and affections toward the superior value & preciousness of the promises of God.
These are two things we must do for each other over & over again.
3. Look at the first one, the warning:
My righteous one shall live by faith. Hebrews 10:38
That's you he's talking about.
My righteous one shall live by faith and if he shrinks back My soul has no pleasure in him. Hebrews 10:38
Say this when somebody is on his way to destruction.
But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. Hebrews 10:39
What's at stake here is hell.
If you're on a trajectory away from God, embracing sin & renouncing what God stands for, you're on your way to destruction.
"Turn, turn, turn!"
That's what we must say to each other.
C. But we must devote ourselves to the positive as well:
Do not throw away your confidence which has great reward. Hebrews 10:35
1. This is what we are to talk about, write about, sing about.
2. We need to find ways of doing verse 35, telling one another:
"Look, the reward is so great, don't throw this away."
In Hebrews 12, God has a grand scene awaiting us.
Listen closely to how the writer describes the mountaintop of Zion.
A. When we reach the mountain we will have come to:
the city of the living God . . . To thousands of angels gathered together with joy . . . To the meeting of God's firstborn children whose names are written in heaven . . . To God, the judge of all people . . .
And to the spirits of good people who have been made perfect . . . To Jesus, the One who brought the new agreement from God to His people . . . To the sprinkled blood that has a better message than the blood of Abel. Hebrews 12:22-24
What a mountain!
Imagine seeing the angels . . . imagine seeing all of God's children . . . imagine perfection . . . No more stumbles. Imagine yourself seeing God. Gazing upon the face of your Father. To feel the Father's gaze upon you. Neither will ever cease.
1. What a mountain!
2. No cost is too high. No sacrifice too much.
3. No loss will compare. It will be worth it. One view of the peak will justify the pain of the path.
C. After all, Jesus knows what it's like to climb a mountain. He climbed one for us.
He climbed to the top of Golgotha carrying our sins.
He was nailed between two thieves for our iniquities.
He died suspended between heaven & earth so that we might not.
He arose again 3 days later & lives so that we too might live forever!
One day He's coming back . . . to take us Home!
D. Are you standing firm as a Christian? Perhaps you're shaking a little at the knees.
Maybe you're shrinking back. Writer says, "Turn! Don't throw away your great reward!" (Prayers of the church)
E. Tonight if you are not a Christian . . .
1. Jesus has blazed a trail for you to follow . . . He took your sins upon Himself on the Cross!
His power, mercy, forgiveness, are unequaled . . . His love unending . . .