Thursday, January 21, 2010

Daily Digest #372

This my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. —Luke 15:24

Allow me to share relevant articles from the Purpose Driven Life online. May we make time to reflect on our own, and pray for a change of mind and heart.

A Shared Life

“For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20 NLT).

God intends for us to experience life together. The Bible calls this shared experience fellowship.

Today, however, the word has lost most of its biblical meaning. Fellowship now usually refers to casual conversation, socializing, food, and fun.

The question, “Where do you fellowship?” means “Where do you attend church?” “Stay after for fellowship” usually means “Wait for refreshments.”

Biblical fellowship is experiencing life together. It includes unselfish loving, honest sharing, practical serving, sacrificial giving, sympathetic comforting, and all the other “one another” commands found in the New Testament.

When it comes to fellowship, size matters: smaller is better. You can worship with a crowd, but it’s hard to fellowship in a crowd. The body of Christ, like your own body, is really a collection of many small cells. The life of the body of Christ, like your body, is contained in the cells.

For this reason, every Christian needs to be involved in a small group within their church, whether is it a home fellowship group, a Sunday school class, or a Bible study. This is where real community takes place, not in the big gatherings.

God made an incredible promise about small groups of believers: “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20 NLT).

Authentic Friendships

“But if we live in the light, as God is in the light, we can share fellowship with each other. Then the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from every sin. If we say we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:7-8 NCV).

In Biblical fellowship, we should experience authenticity.

Authentic friendships are more than superficial, surface-level chit-chat. They involve genuine, heart-to-heart, sometimes gut-level, sharing.

These friendships develop when we get honest about who we are and what is happening in our lives. They develop when we share our hurts, reveal our feelings, confess our failures, disclose our doubts, admit our fears, acknowledge our weaknesses, and ask for help and prayer.

Unfortunately, this level of authenticity and intimacy is the exact opposite of what we find in many churches. Instead of an atmosphere of honesty and humility, we often become involved in pretending, role-playing, politicking, superficial politeness, and shallow conversation. We begin to wear masks, keep our guard up, and act as if everything is rosy in our lives. These attitudes are the death of real friendship.

It’s only as we become open about our lives that we experience authentic fellowship. The Bible says, “If we live in the light, as God is in the light, we can share fellowship with each other . . . If we say we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves” (1 John 1:7–8 NCV).

The world thinks intimacy occurs in the dark, but God says it happens in the light. We tend to use darkness to hide our hurts, faults, fears, failures, and flaws. But in God’s light, we can bring them all out into the open and admit who we really are.

Of course, being authentic requires both courage and humility. It means facing our fear of exposure, rejection, and being hurt again.

Why would anyone take such a risk?

Because it’s the only way to grow spiritually and be emotionally healthy. The Bible says, “Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed” (James 5:16 MSG).

A Healthy Dependence

“I mean that I want us to help each other with the faith we have. Your faith will help me, and my faith will help you” (Romans 1:12 NCV).

In authentic Christian fellowship we learn the art of giving and receiving. We learn healthy ways to depend upon each other.

The Bible says, “The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part” (1 Corinthians 12:25 MSG).

Mutuality is the heart of fellowship: building reciprocal relationships, sharing responsibilities, and helping each other. Paul said, “I want us to help each other with the faith we have. Your faith will help me, and my faith will help you” (Romans 1:12 NCV).

All of us are more consistent in our faith when others walk with us and encourage us. The Bible commands mutual accountability, mutual encouragement, mutual serving, and mutual honoring.

Over fifty times in the New Testament we’re commanded to do different tasks for “one another” and “each other.” The Bible says, “Make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19 NIV).

You are not responsible for everyone in the body of Christ, but you are responsible to them. God expects you do whatever you can to help them.

Don’t Be Reluctant to Show Mercy

“When people sin, you should forgive and comfort them, so they won’t give up in despair” (2 Corinthians 2:7 CEV).

In Biblical fellowship, people will experience mercy. Fellowship is a place of grace, where mistakes aren’t rubbed in but rubbed out. Fellowship happens when mercy wins over justice.

We all need mercy, because we all stumble and fall and require help getting back on track. We need to offer mercy to each other and be willing to receive it from each other.

It’s impossible to have biblical fellowship without forgiveness because bitterness and resentment always destroy fellowship. Sometimes we hurt each other intentionally and sometimes unintentionally, but either way, it takes massive amounts of mercy and grace to create and maintain fellowship.

The Bible says, “You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (Colossians 3:13 NLT).

The mercy God shows to us is the motivation for us to show mercy to others. Whenever you’re hurt by someone, you have a choice to make: Will I use my energy and emotions for retaliation or for resolution?

You can’t do both.

Many people are reluctant to show mercy because they don’t understand the difference between trust and forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go of the past. Trust has to do with future behavior.

Forgiveness must be immediate, whether or not a person asks for it. Trust must be rebuilt over time. The best place to restore trust is within the supportive context of a small group that offers both encouragement and accountability.

Happy Thursday! Pray always. God bless! :D

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