This mission of God is that he would have his people be his family. That’s God’s mission. Hundreds of times in the Bible, God says it this way to various people groups: “I will be your God. You will be my people.” God says this to people who are rebellious, who are sinful, some of whom are self-righteous and religious.
It’s like a father getting down on one knee to a bunch of kids who don’t have a dad, don’t really want a dad, don’t really want to obey their dad, and he looks at them, with a smile on his face and with love in his heart, and he says, “I will be your Dad, and you will be my kids.”
And that’s the Father heart of God. That’s the mission of God, that he would adopt into his family a bunch of rebellious kids, that he would love them and change their heart, and through his love, they would grow to love him and love what he loves.
God’s a Father when he adopts you, you’re now part of a family. You got brothers and sisters. If you’re connected to God, you’re connected to his people. God didn’t design it for you to be alone.
Acts 2:42 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer
“Fellowship.” is where Christians hang out and get to know each other. When the family gets together.
Think of it this way, we’re all going to Dad’s house for a big party. We’re all in this stations wagon, on our way, annoying each other. That’s called life.
So let me reduce your expectations for Christianity tonight. You say, “They’re annoying me. They drive me crazy. They are frustrating me.”
Welcome to the family of God. Welcome to it. And that’s fellowship. When the Bible says fellowship, it doesn’t mean perfect, reconciled relationship, we wear matching sweatshirts, we ride a tandem bike on the way to Bible study while quoting Leviticus to one another and singing songs hymns. That’s not what it means.
What it means is you’re gonna annoy me, I’m gonna annoy you. But we’re gonna do life together because we’re a family.
At the core of fellowship is this beautiful commitment to the same God. It’s the one thing we have in common with someone else, because we both have a deep, thankful, loving understanding of what it means to have fellowship with God. It’s unmatched. It’s not a bond that can be replicated or faked. Its unique, its refreshing.
Life is too short and people are too broken and hopeless for us to settle for a notion of fellowship as a kind of comfortable togetherness that has no transforming, empowering, explosive effect when we meet.
I love that we get to hang out together and be Christ followers together and wear the same tshirts. But there’s more than that.
It wasn’t the super spiritual pastors that were doing the miracles, signs or wonders in Acts. We are talking about ordinary Christians who meet together with such expectancy and fervency of prayer, and vision—and desperation—that the Spirit is poured out, and people are added to the church daily, and witness is bold, and missionaries are called and sent, and impossible things happen.
That’s the potential of fellowship.
So how do we get to have real, legit, fellowship like this? Can this actually happen?
I mean what measures a good friend anyway? Giving someone a ride to the airport at 5am? Buying a really great birthday gift? Matching tattoos?
Here’s some thoughts…
Real friends tell each other the truth.
In the Scripture a great example of real fellowship in a man named Nathan. David had just lusted, committed adultery, murdered and then pridefully sat in palace unbothered.
2 Samuel 12
1 So the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story: “There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor. 2 The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle. 3 The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter. 4 One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest.”
5 David was furious. “As surely as the Lord lives,” he vowed, “any man who would do such a thing deserves to die! 6 He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity.”
7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man!
David really messes up, like we all do. Nathan comes on the scene and is the truth teller. He cares enough about David to tell him, look, here’s where you messed up. Here’s what’s clouding your view, here’s what’s making your heart hurt. It’s this.
Nathan had to build up a lot of courage to confront the King. He risked a lot. He asked God for wisdom and He carefully chose his words. This wasn’t a flippant meeting where he just vented what he was frustrated about to David. It was anointed confrontation, it was appointed confrontation. It was thought through, carefully worded and covered in prayer I’m sure.
After Nathan confronts David. The scripture says David repents and is forgiven.
What if Nathan hadn’t told David the truth? What if he didn’t have the courage?
David could have potentially not repented and not followed God and accomplished all he continued to.
David repents and is forgiven because of Nathan. Because Nathan loved David enough to take a risk.
We need a truth teller. We need to see truth about ourselves. Sometimes the ugly truth, but the truth indeed.
Nathan was brave but David was graceful too.
When people speak truth to us, we need to find the grace to take it. David instantly heard Nathan and went before God and laid before the Lord.
How do we respond to the Nathans in our lives? Defensively? Anger? Shutting them out?
When someone says.. you are that man. You are that person that is being insensitive, or un fair, or stingy. How do we respond? Do we have the grace for our “Nathan” and lay before God in response?
This kind of fellowship seems risky and difficult but it’s so valuable in the end. David realized that too. Years later, he had several sons. One famous one he named Solomon. Another he named Nathan.
Real friends commit.
When things are good, we have no problem being real friends. For some reason we are told or think, that when things get hard in a relationship we need to run or get out. We want what’s best for us and that’s not pain or frustration.
I’m not suggesting there is never a time to cut ties or move on. There is. What I am saying, is there is a timing.
The process is what we cut short. By just having a bunch of friendships that never experience problems that we walk though together, we have a bunch of shallow relationships and no one really knows who we are. We don’t experience any growth. We remain stagnant and shallow and lonely.
Humanity is a mess. Life is messy. Deep friendships go through conflicts. It’s impossible to achieve the type of community that God’s Word encourages without working through conflict and disagreements.
We don’t fail because we have a tough time or a conflict with a friend. We fail when we choose not to walk it through. Not to fight FOR it. True community takes commitment. Intimacy grows in the incubator of commitment. Not in emotion, or laughter, or connection, which are all incredible…but it happens with real time.
Committing past disillusionment means when we realize that the beauty in the friendship comes because we’ve walked the road together. We’ve never let go, even when it would be easier to.
Real intimacy requires real time.
Real friends carry each other’s burdens.
Galatians 6:2 says Carry each other’s burden’s, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
How many of you have had a situation in your life, that you needed help carrying the burden? Me too.
God makes it this way. Because we’re all in this together. It’s His incredibly wise plan because we were never ever meant to do it on our own.
This is where our intentions have to grow legs. Its no coincidence this scripture uses a verb when it comes to burdens. I think this often fleshes itself out in actual actions. Carrying each other’s burdens means…
you hold someone physically while they get your shirt wet with snot
you go to the hospital to visit their loved one
you pick them and drive them out of your way to where they need to go
you help their mom move into another apartment on a Saturday at 8am
You feel awkward walking into a funeral home where you don’t know anyone else
You remember to text and ask how that test went
Expressing how much we appreciate a person through words or actions is invaluable. Don’t miss these opportunities. Never let anyone question how you feel about them. Let it be blatantly obvious with your words and actions.
We need to carry each others burdens well, but the other side of this, is we need to let people help us carry them. That is fulfilling the law of Christ too.
When we refuse to share what’s bothering us or never let anyone help us out, we are squelching the Holy Spirit. It is not in any way weak, to receive help.
In the Bible, Jesus did not hide the junk in people’s lives, giving us a false sense of perfection that would come from becoming a disciple. Scripture is in fact full of examples of the failures of the faithful: Noah, Abraham, David, Peter, etc. We get to see all their victories and their failures. There are no exceptions. The only Hero in the Bible is God.
If we trust the power of the gospel then we can live openly and honestly in front of each other.
When private grief is integrated into a community several things take place. The act of suffering develops significance. When others join in the suffering the suffering means something.
When suffering cannot be expressed emotionally, there is a consequent inability to recover. We need each other to get better. Maybe you are still hurting about something because you haven’t let anyone suffer with you on it. I don’t know why it works that way, but it does.
Sometimes God redeems your story by surrounding you with people who need to hear your past, so it doesn’t become their future.
You are a living epistle. A walking story of who God is. When God wants to preach grace, he does so through your life. When he wants to preach restoration, purpose, mercy, He does so through your life. Your life is the message. You are the sermon.
Real true honest fellowship sometimes looks like annoying car rides in the station wagon with your siblings. It involves telling the truth, even when its hard. Receiving the truth, which might be harder. It requires commitment to each other, even when things are rough. It means we help each other, we find common ground in our strengths and in our weaknesses.