we wrap up our discussion on the 2nd of 4 absolute necessities
in following Christ (worship, fellowship, scripture, & evangelism)
let's ask: is there a payoff for practicing authentic koinonia?
Whats in it for us?
The payoff? -- God does something for us that He does not do when koinonia does not exist. God rewards us on several levels when we take fellowship seriously. & the first blessing of fellowship is unity.
We discussed unity at some length in an earlier sermon, but I want to look at it again under this heading. When the body of Christ is practicing fellowship, unity is the inevitable result.
A. Unity in Time of Need
1. In fact, the church's fellowship was such that when they were devoting themselves to the 4 essential ministries we are discussing from Acts 2:42, they held their possessions in common.
a. Everyone & everything was together: they sold their possessions & shared with anyone who had a need (v. 45).
b. And they were "day by day continuing with one mind" (v. 46).
2. Then in Acts 4, the disciples came together again after the authorities had warned the apostles not to preach anymore in the name of Jesus.
a. The believers got together & prayed, & when they had finished, "the place where they had gathered together was shaken" (v. 31).
b. & Luke says again that "the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul" (v. 32).
3. The church's fellowship was expressed in their togetherness, both materially & spiritually, & this fellowship contributed to the sense of unity that saturated the church in Jerusalem.
1. A phrase that has become trite & meaningless because...
a. Some want such uniformity that diversity is a disease .
b. Others want it to include everything w/o limits
c. But there is a proper meaning where it is true. Every relationship can be described with it marriage, business, etc.
2. The church's unity occurs in the midst of diversity. Unity does not mean trying to make everybody look & sound the same. Praise God for our differences. The challenge is harnessing those differences, to team up & reach a common goal.
a. Youre in charge of song selection so Ill give you my input when I want to, but will support you in your final decisions...
b. Youre in charge of what kind of classroom wing to build so Ill give you my input, & support you in whatever you decide to do...
3. God intends us to be different. And when genuine fellowship is operative, we can enjoy & even celebrate our differences w/o allowing discrimination of any kind to divide us.
4. One thing that made the church unique in the NT was that Jews & Gentiles, who couldn't stand each other; were united in one body.
a. Jesus Christ tore down the wall between them.
b. There was no more separation, just unity.
c. He will only work where there is oneness, not confusion
5. Of course, the church wasn't perfect. There were squabbles & disagreements. But their hearts were beating as one. They were working from the inside out, not the outside in. Faith in Christ made any differences negligible!
6. That's where you always start. If I have a heart for God & you have a heart for God, we can fix anything. But if we don't have hearts for God, you & I can be the same in every way & still have a problem. The issue is what is in our hearts.
II. THE COMPENSATION OF POWER
A related benefit we enjoy from unity is the unleashing of the Holy Spirit's power. The book of Acts reveals very clearly that the Spirit's power was unleashed when the people were united & in fellowship.
A. Unity and Power
1. Many of Christ's disciples are not seeing God's power in their lives because they are not operating in unity.
a. When we are not unified, the Holy Spirit backs away.
b. That's why were to preserve the unity of the Spirit (Eph. 4:3).
c. He will only work where there is oneness, not confusion.
2. Back to Acts 4, notice that some powerful things began to happen when the Spirit's power fell.
a. ...when the disciples had prayed "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, & began to speak the word of God with boldness" (4:31).
b. That power continued as the apostles witnessed with "great power"
3. Do you want to see Gods providence at work? Discover koinonia! a. It's so powerful that God will not answer the prayer of a husband who is not in proper fellowship with his wife (1 Pet. 3:7).
b. "If a husband is not treating his wife right," God says, "don't call on the Holy Spirit for anything."
4. Can you see why Satan works so hard to sow the sin of strife & discord among the people of God? God judges discord; He doesn't bless it with the Spirit's power.
5. Look back at Acts 1:14: "These all (i.e., the apostles) with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, & Mary the mother of Jesus, & with His brothers."
6. Acts 2:42, remember, those early disciples were "continually devoting themselves to . . . fellowship."
a. In other words, both before the Spirit came in great power on the Day of Pentecost, & after His power had been unleashed, the disciples were doing the same thing coming together in intense prayer and koinonia.
b. The Spirit of God is unleashed when the people of God come together in the presence of God.
7. In Acts 4:31, the building shook when the H.S. showed up. The HS may not shake the building today. But He can shake us up!
B. Power vs. Programs
1. It's amazing. These people didn't have any programs. God the H.S. just showed up & shook things up.
a. A multitude of programs may indicate a multitude of failures.
b. We only need programs when we have failed to do the will of God on our own.
c. Understand, we may be doing things & then need a program to organize it to be more fruitful. (thats the correct way)
2. On a personal level: Christian couples don't just need time away from home to get it together, they need the H.S.'s power...
a. The church needs oneness of mind & oneness of heart, because then the HS can come in to unleash His power in us.
3. Read thru the early chapters of Acts. Every time the people of God were in one accord, the Holy Spirit showed up.
4. If we are going to have any power in our discipleship, we need to have the Holy Spirit shake us up the way He shook that building in Jerusalem. That happens in the midst of koinonia.
III. THE COMPENSATION OF LOVE
A. Another payoff of fellowship is that people fall so deeply in love with Jesus that they can't keep Him to themselves.
1. We preachers are always pounding the pulpit to urge God's people to witness/evangelize.
2. But just telling people to witness will never do the job. The secret to witnessing is not a sermon, but falling in love with the Savior.
B. Falling in Love
1. Remember when you first fell in love? You couldn't stop talking about the object of your affections. I have seen quiet folk get loud when they fall in love. I have seen bashful folk whip out pictures you never asked to see.
a. When you're in love, you are going to talk about it. ...until people don't want to hear any moreand still you keep talking.
b. Our problem is that were not in love enough to talk about Jesus. Our faith has become a job, a task, a Sunday ceremony.
2. The believers in Acts didn't have to take a course in evangelism to become powerful witnesses for Christ.
a. Training may be necessary, but training is not a substitute for love. The disciples love for Jesus Christ allowed them to overcome any fear about speaking up for Him.
b. Love makes you bold (I John 4: 18)- There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
c. Just a few weeks before Pentecost, the apostles were running & hiding from the religious authorities. But when the church came together & the H.S. came, they began to speak about Christ with great boldness. All of a sudden, no one could shut them up.
d. The rulers said to Peter & John, "We are going to beat you if you don't stop talking about Jesus." They answered, "We cannot stop speaking what we have seen & heard" (why?) because "we must obey God rather than men" (Acts 4:20; 5:29).
3. Why can so many of us who claim to be Christ's disciples go day after day, ...w/o ever bringing up His name? Because we don't love Him like we once did (see Rev. 2:4-5).
4. But when believers come together in a context of koinonia, one of the benefits is that our love for Christ is intensified. & when our love is intensified, no one will be able to shut us up.
C. The Fire of Love
1. What Koinonia does for us is what logs stacked in a fireplace do to each other. The passion of one believer ignites another; & the fire spreads. People fall in love with Jesus & start talking about Him.
a. That's why I like to be around Christians who are excited about Christ. ...their fire to warm me. ... their excitement to become mine, their joy to be my joy.
b. ...find some joyful Christians & begin to fellowship with them!
c. Do you need peace in your heart? Have fellowship with another Christian who knows what peace is all about
d. Is your faith not very strong? Find a group that knows what it is to trust God, & let their fire light your faith. This is what fellowship does. It pays huge dividends.
e. When people rub off on each other as they gather in genuine fellowship, the Holy Spirit is free to act.
D. The Results of Love
1. Acts 2:47 again: the very last phrase: As the disciples were practic- ing the 4 necessities, including fellowship, "the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved."
2. Their discipleship was producing spectacular results. ...Jesus was so much a part of their lives that sinners came to see what the fire was all about.
A CLOSING WORD
A. As a preacher, I am often asked concerning a need or a problem, "What is the church going to do about this?" The people asking are usually seeking an organizational solution, one that comes from the top down.
B. But the church isn't designed to work from the top down. Instead, it works from the bottom up. That means believers ought to ask concerning a lot of problems, "What am I doing about it?"
C. Don't get me wrong. The official structure of the church should do everything it can to embody biblical fellowship. But for this thing to work right, much has to come from the individual disciples as they follow Christ. Koinonia requires each member of the body to take a part, to share in the life of Christ.
D. That's why I am excited about a lot of things that are happening at our church. Believers are carrying sick people to the hospital, visiting the ill, comforting the downhearted, & counseling the broken. (cf. Lynn Donnell bringing in the couple paid for their needs himself ) Couples who are walking with Christ are helping other couples who want to get out of their marriages learn to strengthen them instead.