23 Aug FELLOWSHIP – IS IT REALLY WORTH THE EFFORT?
Can you think back to the last time you were sitting with a group of friends who know Jesus personally? Perhaps some were sharing about hardships, while others were rejoicing in answered prayers. Some may have been offering words of encouragement, while others listened intently, with prayer emerging within conversations. That was fellowship.
What about the time you were with the same group and conflict was brought up? Tears were shed, confession was made, grace overflowed, and forgiveness was extended. That was also fellowship.
Fellowship is a relationship. A mutually beneficial connection between people with a common interest. It is a place where we allow the Lord to help us as we live authentically before Him and each other.
The goal of fellowship is to bring about the transformation and sharpening of His people, so that we can become more like Christ by knowing the fullness of His love for us and through us! When we can extend that supernatural grace, serving and praying for others selflessly, we are an extension of our good Father. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
Here are the benefits of Christian fellowship: Being known, encouraged, prayed for, loved, accepted, held accountable to living out our faith, extending and experiencing grace and forgiveness. We have the privilege of pouring out God’s love, grace, and forgiveness to others and sharing what we know and have experienced in our own relationship with God. In community, biblical fellowship allows us to glorify our good Father.
What’s not to love? Well, if you felt a little queasy when I said, “fully known,” this part is for you. Being known is what Jesus wants for you. He wants to know you fully. He wants you to find trustworthy people to share your struggles with and to be encouraged by. We were never made to struggle alone or to figure out all of this craziness on our own. In Genesis, we can see that God created us for relationship – with Him and with others. Hebrews 10 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 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.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
John tells us, “If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out 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, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6-7) If we are continually walking in the light with others, the enemy can not keep us trapped in the darkness. We create a shared experience with others when we are open and vulnerable. Through this, we experience the freedom that comes from exchanging our shame and guilt for acceptance and encouragement. As we live in the light and connect with others, we create a safe place to share and to be fully known. Freedom unfolds and relationships flourish from confession and walking in the light.
Biblical fellowship is built on trust which is earned over time through sharing our struggles, seeking to know one another’s hearts, responding gently in love, and accepting each other in spite of our sins and failures. In this way we get to model Jesus. John tells us, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
How can we do this? Fellowship happens by living in reality; not acting the way we want others to view us, but allowing our true self to be seen, known, and accepted. “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32). “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree together, so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be united in mind and conviction” (1 Cor 1:10).
When fellowship gets hard, and conflict arises, we still follow the same plan. Love one another. Speak truth. Extend grace and forgive. Explore what was said or done and truly seek mutual understanding without judgement. If Jesus is truly the commonality between us, then we will be able to come to a place of reconciliation. It may take work, it may take time. But it is worth it.
Ask yourself, are you seeing your fellow believers the way that God does? John says, “But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God. All of us are children of God.” (John 1:12) Paul writes, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19)
How can we start doing this now?
Pursue the Lord daily! Get to know Jesus, by reading His Word and asking Him to reveal Himself to you, talking to Him daily, pouring out your heart to Him. The more you get to know Jesus, the more you will know His heart for His people. If you don’t know how to love, extend grace, or forgive, then seek to know the heart of the One Who has paid it all for you.
Pursue your friends, the community of believers around you. Jesus, when asked which was the greatest commandment, said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
Devote yourself to others. Seek to maintain fellowship through vulnerability, encouragement, grace, and truth.
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:20