Fellowship With One Another

Trey Garner July 29, 2018 Romans 16:16; Acts 2:42; 1 John 1:7
Outline

1 John 4:7 - “love one another”

Hebrews 10:25 - “encouraging one another”

Ephesians 5 - “ministering to one another”

Ephesians 6 - “pray for one another"

Galatians 5:13 - “serve one another”

1 Thessalonians 5:15 - “retaliate against one another”

Ephesians 4:32 - “forgiving one another”

“A kiss was a common form of greeting in the ancient near East. It typically was a cheek-to-cheek embrace between members of the same sex. In the early church it was not a mere formality, like a handshake in Western culture today. The holy kiss took on a special significance as a physical expression of brotherly love and mutual affection between church members. David E. Garland notes, ‘a holy kiss represents something more than a social custom. It is a sign of mutual fellowship among persons of mixed social background, nationality, race, and gender who are joined together as a new family in Christ’ (2 Corinthians, The New American Commentary, 1999). That it was to be a holy kiss eliminates any suggestion of impurity. Unfortunately, it gradually became a formal, institutionalized part of the church’s liturgy, lost its true meaning, and eventually faded from the church altogether. The brotherly love that Jesus commanded believers to demonstrate (John 13:34-35) is to be shown on every level. It involves sacrificial service and ministry to one another and compassionate meeting of needs. The brotherly love also involves affection. The holy kiss is a physical manifestation of that affection…”The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 2 Corinthians, 486-487

8 important things the Bible says about fellowship

Acts 2:42 - They were continually devoting themselves… to the apostles teaching and… to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

I. Fellowship Refers to “Our Common Life Together”

Fellowship is a relationship between individuals, which involves active participation in a common interest and, thereby, each other.

II. Fellowship was a High Priority in the Early Church

4 reasons for avoiding fellowship

A. “I’m too busy.”

B. “I’m afraid.”

C. “It’s hard for me to trust people.”

D. “I don’t need it.”

III. Fellowship is Only for Believers

2 Corinthians 6:14 - Do not be bound together with unbelievers for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?

2 Corinthians 5:17 - If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature…

IV. Fellowship Centers on Our Common Relationship with Christ

1 Corinthians 1:9 - God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.   

3 levels of conversation

A. Surface

B. Personal

C. Spiritual

Tips for deeper conversation

A. Don’t rush

B. Go first

C. Be specific

V. Fellowship Involves Partnership in Ministry

Galatians 2:9 - When James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me that we should go to Gentiles and they to the circumcised. (ESV)

VI. Fellowship Requires Commitment

Philippians 1:3-5 - I thank my God in all my remembrance of you in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.

2 obstacles to commitment

A. Entitlement

B. Fringe-dwelling

VII. Fellowship Requires Honesty

1 John 1:6-7 - If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his son cleanses us from all sin.

 

Good morning.  It’s a privilege to be with you this morning.

For those who don’t know me, I’m Trey Garner.  I’m the Pastor of our Children’s Ministries here at Faith.  I’m also one of the worship service pastors for our 8 a.m. service.

I spend most of my time on Sundays hanging out with 1st – 5th Graders.  And I love it.  They are a lot of fun. 

But I get to spend some time with you all this morning, and I am thankful for the opportunity. 

As we begin this morning, I want to invite you to turn in your Bibles to a couple of different passages…

I’m going to test you a little bit this morning… To see how well you can do two things at the same time…

The first passage I want to ask you look at is Romans chapter 16…

That’s found on page 129 of the back section of the Bible under the seat in front of you…

The second passage is Acts chapter 2… That’s also found in the back section of your Bible… On page 93…

Romans chapter 16… And Acts chapter 2…

Our church’s theme this year is Being Careful How We Build…

When we began our year, we knew that there would be a lot of building taking place within our ministry. But we wanted to make sure that new facilities would not be the only things under construction this year.

No, in fact, we wanted to make sure that our primary focus would be on the spiritual building taking place within the people of our church.

That’s why we began the year with a series titled Building on the Foundation of the Gospel… The gospel is the reason for… And the power behind everything we do around here… And any building we do needs to be founded on its life-giving truth.

After Easter, our next series focused on Becoming a Godly Leader.… Believing that God wants each of us to represent him well wherever we are… and in whatever we do…

Then, this summer… we have been discussing the important subject of Building One Another

The New Testament provides a lot of instruction about the way that Christians are supposed to treat “one another.” There are a lot of statements in the New Testament designed to guide our relationships with other believers. And throughout this series, we have been looking at these various “one another” statements.

We began by talking about the command we find in 1 John 4:7 to…

1 John 4:7 – “love one another”

Next, we looked at what Hebrews chapter 10 has to say about… Hebrews 10:25 – “encouraging one another”

After that, Pastor Aucoin, the piano man, talked to us from Ephesians chapter 5 about the importance of… Ephesians 5 - “ministering to one another”

We also studied the instruction in Ephesians chapter 6 to… Ephesians 6 – “pray for one another"

We have discussed the fact that God has also called us to… Galatians 5:13 – “serve one another”

In first Thessalonians chapter 5, we are told that we should not…

1 Thessalonians 5:15 – “retaliate against one another”

And we also studied Ephesians chapter 4, which explains that we need to make sure that we are… Ephesians 4:32 – “forgiving one another”

And this morning… We are going to be considering another “one another” statement…

Now, I know that some of you have been thinking ahead…

As we gone through this series, we talked about THIS “one another” statement… And THAT “one another” statement…

And you been like “LOVE one another… Yep, I was expecting that”…

“PRAY for one another… Of course we would talk about that”…

“FORGIVE one another… I knew that was coming”…

But all the while you’ve been thinking… “Are we gonna talk about… THAT statement…”

And the answer is… Yes, yes, we are…”

The one another statement that we are going to talk about today is… Greet one another…

And you say… “Greet one another… What’s the big deal about that?”

Nothing… nothing at all… The part that’s giving some of you butterflies right now… is the part that comes next…

And to find out what that is… Let’s look at our text…

Romans chapter 16, verse 16… where the apostle Paul says…

Romans 16:16 – “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”

Let’s read that again, shall we.

“Greet one another… With a holy kiss…”

Let’s get a few things on the table right up front…

First of all… I know what some of you are thinking…

The first thing some of you thought was… “Who me?”

You were like… “What do you mean – kiss one another? That doesn’t really apply to me…

“I mean, look at it, Pastor Trey… This is right at the END of Paul’s letter… You never pay attention to the END of Paul’s letters… That’s where he gives all kinds of special instructions… ‘Go give that dude this… Make sure you bring me that thing we talked about’… This instruction was meant for the people he was writing to back then… Not me…

If that is what you’re thinking… you need to understand… the “one another” statements you read in the New Testament… are intended for EVERYONE who would read these letters… including you and me….

Now, others of you may have been thinking… “Yeah, but that was probably one of those perfunctory things that people just… say…

Like “Say, hi to your mother for me”… That kind of thing… People SAY it but they don’t really care if you DO it…”

Well, if you don’t think Paul was really serious about this… Maybe we should see if this shows up anywhere else in Scripture…

Like maybe… 1 Corinthians chapter 16, where Paul says…

1 Corinthians 16:20 – “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”

…Or 2 Corinthians chapter 13…

2 Corinthians 13:12 – “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”

… Or 1 Thessalonians chapter 5…

1 Thessalonians 5:26 – “Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.”

And you say… “But Pastor Trey… That was probably just something goofy that PAUL said… He was always going on about this or that… Nobody ELSE talked that way”…

Oh yeah?… What about the Apostle Peter?…

When the Apostle Peter closes his first epistle… He goes even further than the Paul does… He says…

1 Peter 5:14 – “Greet one another with a kiss of love.”

This is a statement that is made over and over again throughout the New Testament.

And did you notice?… The statement is never followed by the phrase “if you feel like it.”

No, this is actually a command of Scripture. We are expected to “greet one another with a holy kiss.”

And it’s right about now that anyone visiting with us today says, “Come on, Myrtle… get your purse… we’re going to the Nazarene church down the street…"

You can’t argue with the fact that this is in text.

So, I guess today’s sermon is going to be really short… We’ve read the Scriptures… we’ve been given our marching orders… So, here’s what we need to do…

Turn to your neighbor…

Say “Hello, neighbor”… Come on, say “Hello”…

And pucker up…

No… No… No… No… Pull back… Keep your lips to yourself… Put ‘em away…

We’re not actually going to start doing that…

So, what are we supposed to do with this?

If we’re not going to start smooching… does that mean we’re just going to ignore what this passage has to say…

 

And the answer is no… we’re not going to ignore THIS... or anything the Scriptures tell us to do…

But we do need to understand this instruction better.

Let’s talk about what this means…

The kiss itself is actually not the point of this directive… It’s what the kiss represents that’s important

Listen to what John MacArthur’s commentary on the book 2 Corinthians has to say…

“A kiss was a common form of greeting in the ancient near East. It typically was a cheek-to-cheek embrace between members of the same sex. In the early church it was not a mere formality, like a handshake in Western culture today. The HOLY kiss took on a special significance as a physical expression of brotherly love and mutual affection between church members. David E. Garland notes, ‘a holy KISS represents something more than a social custom. It is a sign of mutual fellowship among persons of mixed social background, nationality, race, and gender who are joined together as a new family in Christ’ (2 Corinthians, The New American Commentary, 1999). That it was to be a HOLY kiss eliminates any suggestion of impurity. Unfortunately, it gradually became a formal, institutionalized part of the church’s liturgy, lost its true meaning, and eventually faded from the church altogether. The brotherly love that Jesus commanded believers to demonstrate (John 13:34-35) is to be shown on every level. It involves sacrificial service and ministry to one another and compassionate meeting of needs. The brotherly love also involves affection. The holy kiss is a physical manifestation of that affection…”

The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 2 Corinthians, 486-487.

The kiss itself was not important…

The kiss itself was to be an outward expression of the affection… the mutual love and care that ought to exist among those who belong to the family of God…

So what were really talking about… When were told to greet one another with a holy kiss… is Fellowship with One Another

And this fellowship between believers is so important that several New Testament books conclude with the reminder that Christians are to engage in it.

Today we are going to discuss 7 Important Things the Bible Teaches About Fellowship.

And to begin that discussion we ask you to flip over to Acts chapter 2…

A lot of people don’t understand the priority that fellowship is to have in the life of a Christian…

This is not just something helpful… It is something that is commanded.

This is not just something useful… but something that is needed.

One of the surest barometers of the quality of your Christian life is the quality of the Christian relationships within it…

When those deteriorate… it’s likely that you will be going backward spiritually.

Now, in Acts chapter 2, you need to remember the church has just started and thousands are coming to Christ.

Acts 2:42 summarizes the activity of the early church when it says…

Acts 2:42 – They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching and… what’s the next word there… to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Now what is fellowship?

1. Fellowship refers to “our common life together”

The word “Fellowship” is translated from the Greek word “koinonia”

In the New Testament, “koinonia” is sometimes translated as “participation”…

Sometimes it is translated “partnership” or “sharing”…

Sometimes it is translated as “communion”…

Or this summary word… “Fellowship.”

If you want a longer definition, here you go…

Fellowship is a relationship between individuals, which involves active participation in a common interest and, thereby, each other.

Let me say it again…

“Fellowship is a relationship between individuals, which involves”… This is key… “Active participation in a common interest”… It’s what we have in common… And as a result of our participation in a common interest, we have a residual interest in each other.

To say it again simply… Fellowship is our common life together.

Fellowship is not about red punch in the church basement…

But that is what a lot of people grew up thinking… that fellowship is something that happens after a church service down in the church basement where people get around and have surface conversations… and say a bunch of pious platitudes…

That’s not really what the Scriptures have in view when we’re told that early Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles teaching… and to fellowship.

Sometimes you’ll hear people say, “Hey, we’re having Dave and Nancy over after church… we’re going to watch the Colts game and we’re going to have some “fellowship.”

I mean, watching the Colts game is fun… All in favor fun?

There’s nothing wrong with Colts games and get-togethers, but that’s not ALL that fellowship is intended to be.

Fellowship is something a lot deeper and more substantive than that.

This morning our church is meeting on two different campuses… with five different services between them… We are one church in two different locations bound together by a common purpose… to worship the Lord Jesus Christ…

And as we engage in that common purpose, the relationships that result from that engagement… That’s what fellowship is…

It’s our common life together…

Number two… also here from Acts 2:42…

2. Fellowship was a high priority in the early church

When you read Acts 2:42…

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and toooo…”

What would you expect to be next?

I mean, surely it must be Bible study… or prayer, for goodness sakes…

they devoted themselves to the preaching of the word… They devoted themselves to evangelism…

I think a lot of people have the sense that somehow this relationship stuff between us is sort of a nice “add on”… Maybe a nice whipped topping on the desert of the Christian life… But not a main thing… Not the second thing…

“Ehhhh… Incorrect.”

It is very, very important… It’s the second thing…

Look it… I know some of you are doing this… I know you are… and I’m so sorry about it…

You are trying to live the Christian life on your own… And you may come to church… You come in and out… But you are not really connected… You are not really in community with the people, actively engaging in our common life together.

Fellowship was a high priority in the early church… but a lot of people don’t treat fellowship as a priority.

So, let’s do this…

Let’s talk about… 4 reasons for avoiding fellowship

And you say… “Which passage of Scripture you pulling these from, pastor?”

They’re from the book of Trey chapter 2

I didn’t pull these from any Scripture… These are my observations based on conversations I have had with different people over my last 17 years of ministry.

Here’s the first reason…

“I’m too busy.”

Isn’t that what people say…

They’re like “You know, I’d like to spend some time fellowshipping… and connecting… and belonging… but I got a lot going on in my life…

There are so many Christians who do not know what they’re missing because they have structured their lives in such a way that their schedules do not allow them to participate in that which IS… NOT… OPTIONAL.

And if you find yourself in that situation… I need to urge you to reevaluate some of the priorities you’ve set for yourself…

I understand some of you have crazy work schedules… And it requires effort even for you to be here at this service… I get that.

God understands that you need to work… And in most cases, He wants you to…

But you know… we have a way of making time for those things that are important to us…

The question is… “Are the things that are important to me… The same things that are important to God?”

And Christian fellowship is very important to the Lord.

But you know, sometimes “busyness” is a smokescreen for another reason that people avoid fellowship…

“I’m afraid.”

“I don’t know if I WANT people to know me…”

“I don’t know if I’m as good a Christian as some of these other people…”

Listen… listen… every one of us knows what it is to struggle.

Some of us here have dealt with the exact thing that you are facing.

And you don’t need to be afraid to make yourself known.

And you say, “Well, I was involved in another church… I really got my feelings hurt… And I was so disappointed by what happened there.”

In fact, that’s the next reason why people avoid fellowship…

“It’s hard for me to trust people.”

“I can’t let people get that close to me again…”

Listen… Maybe you’ve been deeply wounded…

I am sorry that happened to you. I don’t want to minimize the hurt you feel in any way…

But I would just plead with you… to give yourself and the body here at Faith another chance.

You need to take a step of faith… and let some of the precious people in our church get their arms around you.

We are not a perfect place… Not by any stretch of the imagination… And I can’t promise you that we won’t ever let you down… If you stick around long enough, we probably will…  After all, we are sinners just like you are…

But we want to love you… We want to care for you… We want to enter into meaningful fellowship with you.

I’m sorry those things happened. But you can’t live your life avoiding the possibility of pain.

The next reason people have is…

“I don’t need it.”

“I’m doing fine… I’m not a people person anyway… Fellowship is for people who are a whole needier than me…”

If you’re thinking that way, I have to tell you… you’re wrong… You’re just wrong.

The Christian life is not a solo sport.

Fellowship was one of the top priorities of the early church. It wasn’t for a few people… It wasn’t even for most of the people… It was for everyone…

And who are we to think that we can get along without the same kind of connectedness?

All right, so, fellowship means “our common life together”… It was a priority in the early church.

And then, number three…

3. Fellowship is only for believers

Did you know that?

Fellowship is for Christians.

Now, I think it’s important to understand that… fellowship is not JUST friendship…

Friendship is important. But fellowship is deeper than that.

2 Corinthians 6:14 – Do not be bound together with unbelievers for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.

Do you know what it means to be yoked?

It’s when you have two oxen about the same size with the same strength… and you head down the field with them…

When you do that, they’re going to plow a straight line.

But what if you get unequally yoked… Like you have an ox on one side… And what…

A rooster on the other side.

That’s not going to go very well.

The ox is going to pull off to one side and you’re not going to have a straight line…

You gotta have the same thing in the same yoke.

Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers.

And you say… “Pastor Trey, when you said that thing about the ox and the rooster… Don’t you think that was a bit extreme?… They are so different…

Or are they more similar… than a person in the light and a person in the darkness?

2 Corinthians 5:17 – If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature…

When someone becomes a follower of Christ, they’re not even the same kind of creature that they were before… They’re something totally different… than a person without Christ…

Now we often hear this principle applied to dating relationships… “Don’t start dating someone that is an unbeliever…

Or you might hear it applied to business… “Don’t go into business with someone who doesn’t want to follow God’s Word…

But I think an equally valid application of this verse is to friendships…

Hear me on this… Your closest friendships should not be with unbelievers.

Now, SHOULD we have friendships with unbelievers?…

Yes… Absolutely we should… We should reach out to people and show them the love of Christ.

But we should not make our CLOSEST friendships with people who do not know and love the Lord.

Our closest relationships… Our life-giving relationships… Should be with people who know and love Jesus Christ.

In order for us to make our relationships as deep as they ought to be, we need to make those relationships with people who are the same kind of creature… With people who are able to wear the same yoke… who are plowing in the same direction as we are…

Otherwise our lives are going to veer off in a direction that the Lord does not intend…

Now, let me say this… if you are here at Faith and you have not yet given your life to Christ… we want you know that we are so glad you are here.

We want to welcome you and encourage you as you seek to grow in understanding the Scriptures…

And we would love to talk to you about how you can know for sure that too are a new creation… that you’re on your way to heaven…

Just get in touch with one of pastors listed on the back of your bulletin… And we will be happy to set up a time and we can talk with you about that…

God wants all of us to enjoy the kind of relationships that are going to lead us into a deeper and more satisfying walk with the Lord… and those relationships that are only for followers of Christ…

The next thing we need to understand about fellowship is that…

4. Fellowship centers on our common relationship with CHRIST

1 Corinthians 1:9 – God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

See our PRIMARY fellowship is with Jesus… And then the residual fellowship… is the relationships that we have with other people who share that relationship with Christ.

But you say, “Pastor Trey, I feel like it’s going a lot better with me and the Lord that it is with me and other Christians.”

Now, why would that be?

Sometimes that’s because we bring secular ways of relating with others into our Christian relationships.

Let me give you

Three levels of conversation that we need to be aware of…

And let me encourage you to take your relationships here in the church as deep as you possibly can…

Here’s the first level of conversation…

Surface conversation

That’s where you talk about stuff like… the weather… sports… food.

“Boy it’s hot outside… It hasn’t been this hot since… I don’t know… Two weeks ago… Boy, it was really hot then…” 

Then there’s the next level of conversation…

Personal conversation

You don’t have to be with a Christian to have this kind of conversation…

This is where you talk about your health… You talk about your career… Your family… “How’s it going with your son?”

And that’s good… But here’s what you’re going for with other believers…

Spiritual conversation

This is where fellowship really begins… It’s where you’re having conversations that you can’t have with anyone else…

This is where your praying together... This is where you get real with one another…

I am so thankful to have some people in my life with whom that I can have these kinds of conversations…

One of those people is my friend, Lee Morrison…many of you would know him…

Lee and I go walking in the mornings together. 

Lee is one of those guys that is really good at steering conversations to matters of spiritual depth… he is far better at it than I am…

But when Lee and I walk together, we frequently share spiritual concerns… we challenge one another… we pray for one another… and I am incredibly grateful for the way God has used his friendship in my life…

But I need to caution you about something… Beware of this… I fall into this trap myself…

Watch out for secular friendships with other Christians… where you hang out… but your conversation is no different than it would be with someone who isn’t a follower of Christ…

What a failure to make use of the incredible opportunity that we have…

Yes, we can talk about the surface things… Surely we can talk about personal things… But regularly try to get it to the spiritual level.

In fact, let me give you some tips for

Tips for deeper conversation

Don’t rush

You know the guy who comes up to you and he’s like, “Hey, let me tell you what I got out of the Bible this week… And how’s it going with that private sin in your life?”

And you’re like, “Whoa, whoa, what’s your name again?”

Don’t rush. Just ease into it a little.

Here’s another one…

Go first

Rather than saying to somebody… “Hey, how’s your quiet time going?” and “Are you getting victory over that sin?”

Why don’t you start?

“Hey, can I tell you how I’m doing with the Lord?”

“Hey, I’m struggling with something. Would you pray for me?”

Don’t rush. Go first.

And here’s another one…

Be specific

Listen to this and see if you can tell the difference…

Here’s the first statement…

“Hey, would you pray for my family right now? Things have been rough lately.”

Alright. That’s statement one 1.

Here’s statement 2…

“Hey, can I tell you about something… I have been very impatient with my kids lately… and that’s led me to speak to them in some very unloving ways… Would you pray that I would treat them kindness?”

Did you see the difference? 

When you get specific like that, you’ll find a couple of benefits.

One… people will be able to pray more specifically for you.

And two… your willingness to get vulnerable with your friend has just deepened your fellowship with them.

So, fellowship centers on our common relationship with Christ.

The next thing we need to understand about fellowship is that…

5. Fellowship involves partnership in ministry

In Galatians chapter 2 verse nine, the Apostle Paul says…

Galatians 2:9 – When James and Cephas… Which is another name for Peter… and John, who seemed to be pillars,… These guys were like the main people in the church… when they perceived the grace that was given to me… when they figured out that Paul was a Christian and that God had gifted him for ministry… just as he has gifted every follower of Christ for ministry… they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me... For what purpose?... Certainly for friendship…but also for our common MISSION… that WE should go to Gentiles and THEY to the circumcised (ESV)…

Paul and Barnabas would be deployed to share the gospel to the Gentiles while Peter, James, and John would focus their outreach on the Jews… But their fellowship with one another would mean greater effectiveness for all of them…

Listen… It doesn’t matter if you came to Faith in 1964… in 2004… or four months ago…

If you’re newer around here, you are not on the outside… You are not a day late… We welcome you into our fellowship…

And one of the reasons why we would do that is because we believe that God has a purpose for you here…

Paul and Barnabas were going to be deployed into ministry…

God has brought you to this church for a reason… to join with us in fellowship… And to join with us in the mission that He has given us… So that God can be glorified as others are won to Jesus Christ and equipped to be more faithful disciples…

Fellowship involves partnership in ministry…

And number six…

6. Fellowship requires commitment

Fellowship requires commitment.

In Philippians chapter 1… The Paul writes…

Philippians 1:3-5 – “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you…in view of your participation…or fellowship…it’s the same word… in the gospel from the first day until now.”

Notice… “from the first day until now.”

Look it, look it… Starting relationships is easy… Continuing in relationships is difficult.

I am part of the team provide pastoral care to the 8 o’clock service at Faith Church East.

In that service… As in several of our other services… We have many couples have been part of the ministry of Faith Church not just for a few weeks… Not just for a few months… Not just for a few years… Not even for a decade or more…

But in some cases… For 20… Or 30… Or 40… Or even 50 years…

I’m thinking about people like Jerry and Rita Jamison… Tuffy and Wilma Fuller… Mike and Marilyn Hines… Nancy Johnston… Mildred Goode… Gordon and Millie Welk… And several others…

And these people have not just been warming a seat while they’ve been here…

No… these are people that have engaged in relationships… They’ve gotten down in the trenches with other people… They’ve been involved in celebrating other people’s victories… Weeping over one another’s sorrows… Shouldering one another’s burdens… Praying for one another… Supporting one another… Encouraging and challenging one another…

They could fill books with the stories that they have experienced with other people here at Faith…

These are people who serve as living examples of what it means to have koinonia… fellowship with one another…

At the 8 o’clock service are some of my dearest friends in the world… Dan and Genie Kurko… They have been serving alongside me in Children’s Ministries at Faith East for almost a decade now…

There are situations we have faced together… Challenges we have had to overcome… Personal struggles and joys that we have shared with one another…

And the opportunities that I have had to be in fellowship with the Kurkos have been some of the most special experiences of my life…

If we are going to experience the kind of fellowship with one another that God wants us to have… It’s going to require commitment…

The greater glory goes to Jesus Christ… not when we take our marbles and go home because something didn’t work out the way we wanted it.

The greater glory goes to Jesus Christ when we pursue and persevere in relationship in spite of any challenges we might face… or any shortcomings that we see in one another… because it’s not about you… and it’s not about me.

It’s about growing in love together for the glory of Jesus Christ.

And that requires commitment. And it has always required commitment. From the first day until now.

I want to share with you 2 obstacles to commitment

The first one is…

Entitlement

When you come to church to get… To get… To get… To get

Now be honest with yourself… Is Faith Church a place for you “to get?”

And by the way, we hope you get a lot. Our staff is certainly giving with the goal that you would receive.

And many others are giving with that same goal.

But if you don’t make the transition from what I GET… To what I can give… You’re going to find yourself becoming increasingly on dissatisfied in church…

Church is a place to receive at the outset… But quickly it needs to become a place to give.

Get this… We have all eternity to hang out with one another… This is not our rest…

I have to tell you… With some degree of frequency… I encounter people… Not many… But there are some… who actually tell me that they view church as a place for them to take a break…

“I’ve got so much going on at home…

“I’ve got so much going on at work…

“My kids are always going… they’re wearing me out…

“My job is so demanding…

“And when I come to church… I just need a break from it all…

Now we certainly want Faith to be a place where you get refreshed… We want you to be fed… That’s right and that’s biblical…

But the idea that finding refreshment… finding nurture for your soul… The idea that finding that comes in the form of sitting and listening and nodding and agreeing…and talking to my friends… WITHOUT taking what you’re receiving here… investing it in the lives of others who are also here… I have to tell you… that idea is patently on biblical…

Now, as I said… I don’t encounter that mentality a lot… but to whatever degree what I just said describes you… I would encourage you to eradicate that notion from you mind…

We need to understand that rest does not equal inactivity… Scripture tells us that Jesus is our Sabbath rest… Our refreshment comes from our deepening relationship with him…

And that relationship becomes deeper… Yes, as we study the word… Yes, as we worship him… Yes, as we devote ourselves to prayer… But that relationship also gets deepened as we get into the nitty-gritty of fellowship with one another…

As we bring meals to one another…

As we change diapers in the nursery…

As we clean up debris at the Northend construction site…

As we build duplexes at Bethany Farms…

As we scrub toilets at the community center…

As we help a special needs child benefit from the teaching in one of our Sunday school classes…

We have all of eternity to rest… This is our opportunity to make a difference… To shine a light in a dark world… Let’s find a job and do it… Forever… Until Christ returns…

If you are not already involved in regular and faithful, committed service around here, then you need… And when I say need… I mean need… You need to roll up your sleeves and get to work…

And you say, “Pastor Trey, it sounds like you’re talking about service… Not fellowship… Didn’t Pastor Viars ALREADY preach a sermon in this series on SERVING One Another… How come you’re talking about this?…”

Please understand that service is part of fellowship… It’s part of our common life together…

I talked to you about Dan and Genie Kurko… They’re just one example from MY life…

There are many people around here who would say that some of their best friendships have developed as they have sacrificially served alongside others from our church…

That requires commitment…

Entitlement breaks commitment… God protect us from an entitled heart…

Another obstacle to commitment is…

Fringe-dwelling

Now I’m not trying to rough up anybody here… at least no too badly…

Some of you have been hanging on the fringes for months or even years…

And if you’re honest with yourself, you would have to admit that you are dissatisfied with the quality of your Christian relationships.

I want to urge you to come closer. Don’t hold people at arms length.

There are literally hundreds of individuals involved in Adult Bible Fellowships… Faith Groups… men’s and women’s Bible studies… who want to engage you in meaningful, mutually- caring relationships…

And you say, “Well, we tried a small group… We tried an ABF… but it didn’t go that well…”

Try again.

Maybe you met that weird guy who rushes into spiritual conversations too quickly… We are trying to help him…

Try another ABF… Try another small group… And give some people an opportunity…

I don’t know of people anywhere in the world… that are more loving or more caring than the people here at Faith…

Stop dwelling on the fringes…

In fact, I want to invite you to do something right now…

In the pocket of the seatback in front of you… You will see our connection cards…

There are a couple of things that you can do with those… If you are new to our church… I hope you will fill that out… We want to use those to help you get connected to meaningful relationships around here…

If you have not yet taken our Introduction to Faith class… which is the class we encourage everyone to take as you’re trying to figure out whether Faith is the right church for you… It’s the class that we ask everyone to take is considering membership in our church…

And while you’ve got me on that topic… There are some of you who have been through Introduction to Faith… But you haven’t yet taken the step of officially joining our church…

I don’t know what the reason maybe… Maybe you got burned in another church… So you’re trying to be extra careful…

Listen… I said it earlier… You can’t allow fear to keep you from fellowship… Fellowship is too important

Maybe you’re like… “If I become a member… Then they’re going to expect me to serve… Then they’re going to expect me to give… Then I’m going to be like… “accountable” to others… And I don’t like being accountable…”

If that’s what you’re thinking… I need to let you in on a secret… God already holds you accountable for those things…

But when you officially join a church… What you are essentially saying is… “I know God holds me accountable… And I need the help of other brothers and sisters in Christ to DO the things for which I am accountable…

Becoming an official member of a church like ours is one of the tools that God uses to help you faithfully carry out the Christian responsibilities for which you will one day give an account…

I don’t know what your reason may be… But if you haven’t yet taken Introduction to Faith… we’ve got another class starting in August…

Or if you HAVE taken Intro but you haven’t yet taken the step of officially joining our church…

We want to encourage you to pull out that connection card… Fill it out… And place a check in the box that indicates that you’re ready to take that next step… And drop that off at the welcome desk…

If you are not part of an ABF or a small group… You can use that connection card to tell us that you are ready to get involved in one… And we will seek to connect you to a group where you can begin growing in your fellowship with others…

And you say, “I don’t really want to fill out a card… Couldn’t I just talk to somebody?”

Absolutely… One of the reasons why our service pastor teams exist is to help people take that next step… Any of our service pastors would be happy to talk with you about that…

Fellowship requires commitment…

One more thing…

7. Fellowship requires honesty

Fellowship requires honesty

1 John chapter 1, verse six is such a good picture of this… Where it says…

1 John 1:6-7 – If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his son cleanses us from all sin.

Look up here for a second…

Honesty about our spiritual condition—first with God and then with one another—honesty about our spiritual condition is absolutely essential for fellowship…

Without it, fellowship cannot exist.

Our fellowship with God depends on our willingness to be honest about our sin…

And when were willing to be honest with him about that… When we’re willing to acknowledge our sin… and cry out to him for forgiveness through faith in Christ… Not only are we brought in to fellowship with God… We are also brought in to fellowship with all others who have done the same

Honesty is essential for establishing fellowship… But it is also essential for our continuing fellowship…

I believe there are likely some persons here today for whom this entire conversation has been very difficult… And the reason it’s been so difficult is because you’re ashamed…

You’ve been living with the shame of some private sin that you don’t want to talk about… you’ve kept it hidden… in the dark…

And you may put on a good face… But behind the mask, you’re walking around with this burden of guilt… You feel the weight of hypocrisy hanging around your neck… because you know that the Lord wants you to deal with that…

And maybe you’ve tried before…maybe multiple times… but you haven’t seen any lasting victory…

And you’re experiencing feelings of isolation from your brothers and sisters in Christ…

Maybe you’ve even kept them at arms length because you’re afraid if you let them get too close, they’re going to find out about your struggle… And that’s why you’re not engaging in fellowship…

And you say, “Oh, Pastor Trey… I just need to do some work in that area… And once I’m in a better place… Then… Then I’ll start connecting with people…”

Can I just plead with you for a moment… Quit walking in darkness… You need to humble yourself… You need to be honest…

If you’ve been struggling with something… And you haven’t been able to gain victory over it on your own… It’s not likely that ADDITIONAL time on your own is going to change anything…

You need to get some other people around you who will love you through that struggle…

And I don’t know of a better place to bring those kinds of things into the light.

We’ve got people with all kinds of baggage running around here.

This is not “pretend” church. This is not “Act like everything’s great” church. This is a place to bring your struggles into the light.

There isn’t anything under the sun that were not already helping people with.

Talk to your service pastor… Talk to your deacon… Talk to your ABF teacher/Faith group leader… Let us help you with that.

Don’t let that thing…whatever it is…prevent you from enjoying the kind of fellowship that that the Lord wants you to have with him…and with your brothers and sisters in Christ… Let’s be honest about it… so that you can get to a better place…

In closing, let me encourage you to “greet one another with a holy kiss”… to actively engage in Christian fellowship… and to experience the joy and fulfillment that come from life-giving relationships that are centered on Christ.

 

Trey Garner

Roles

Pastor of Children's Ministries - Faith Church

Bio

B.F.A. - Musical Theatre, Texas State University
M.F.A. - Acting, Purdue University
M.Min. - Grace Theological Seminary

Pastor Trey Garner joined our staff in 2001. He and his wife Deb were married that year, and they have two children. Trey oversees our Children’s Ministries, which serves infants, toddlers, and K-5th grade students. He also provides pastoral care for our 8:00 a.m. worship service.

Read Trey Garner's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Garner to Faith Church.