Tag Archives: fellowship

Support

Grace 101

 

One of the most unfortunate ideas that seem to come out of legalism is that we begin to believe God’s commands are arbitrary.  He tells us to do things that have no real value, just to see us fail so we can be further in debt to Him; at least that’s what some seem to think.  Or the rules are made to make us holy and the more difficult the rules are or the less they make sense to us, the more holy we will be when we keep them.  In any case, God becomes a rather cruel Person.

But, under grace, the Scriptures and the commands open up so we can see the almost overwhelming love of God and His care for us.

For example, many of us have had the idea of “be of one mind” forced on us to keep us in line.  In other words, we shouldn’t disagree with the teacher or voice our concerns to others.  We were reprimanded and encouraged to search the Scriptures until we found our agreement.  If we couldn’t find that agreement, we were supposed to stay quiet and submit.

But is that what the Lord meant when He expressed His desire for the people to be of one mind?  Were we supposed to blindly adapt our thinking to that of the teacher for the sake of peace and unity?  I don’t think so.  If we remember that the motivation of the heart of God toward us is always love, then a command like this must be seen in that light.

One of the aspects of the “good ground” that has been compromised by the deception of the evil one is the idea of support.  In church we called it “fellowship.”  Yet, when the goal was conformity, rather than true unity, fellowship had either no meaning or it meant something negative.  For the person who has questions under legalism, fellowship is hard to find.  In fact, many found more fellowship outside the church than inside.

The longing of our hearts is for support and camaraderie.  We want to walk with like-minded people.  There is a special joy in finding someone who believes in the love of God as you do.  We can worship together, serve together, even grieve together.  Those who understand grace can come alongside the ones who struggle.  We all understand that it is easy to fall back into self-condemnation and judgment.  When we walk with others who understand the truth, they help us to find our joy again.

When the seed falls on good ground, the seed of the message of grace, it is very important that it find support and nurture.  And, of course, it is very important to the evil one to destroy that support and nurture, or at least inhibit it so the seed does not grow.  So it should not surprise us that the fellowship of the church is compromised.  For too many who find grace, the fellowship of the church becomes a problem.

Yet, the concern of the Lord is still in our favor.  He knows that we need each other.  He knows that we need safe people with whom we can express our doubts and fears, even our struggles.  If the motivation of those people is the love of the heart of God, then we can grow and our strength in grace increases.  It is certainly good for us to be of one mind—one mind with the Lord who accepts us, who does not hold our sins against us, and who sees us as valuable to Him.

The message of grace is a message of the love of God, worked out sufficiently on our behalf in the Person of Jesus Christ.

So we seek out people for support.  We have to be careful, of course, but there are online communities, small groups, even home churches where we can find that support.  And, if we learn that we were deceived, that the message of grace has been compromised in the group, we simply seek another group.  It isn’t fellowship that’s the problem, it is the lie.  The lie pulls us away from Jesus and away from the support of those who understand the truth about who He is and what He has done.  Don’t give up on finding support.

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Filed under Grace 101, Relationship

Fellowship

Grace 101

There are words in normal church vocabulary that are supposed to be fully and easily understood by those within the church.  Those same words may have different or puzzling meanings to outsiders.  We don’t often think about church jargon, but we certainly have it.  If you tell your unchurched friend that you were “really blessed by the fellowship during the mission fest last night,” she may have no idea what you are talking about.

I think “fellowship” is one of those words.  I’m not even sure that most of us know what it should mean.  I have heard all kinds of messages on how important fellowship is, but in the same churches I have seen very little evidence of any real fellowship.  Oh yes, the people who like each other get together and have good times, but that happens outside the church as well.

Yet, when you open the amazing box of gifts that came with your salvation, you will find something that could be called “fellowship.”  Basically, it means that you are now part of a community, with all the benefits and privileges thereof.  In fact, it means that you are part of a body and all parts are important and connected.  Since you are an important part of the body, the rest of the body loves you and accepts you and supports you.  The church needs you, not to do work, but just to be who you are.

Honestly, the church hasn’t done very well with this part of salvation’s gift.  We seem to be much better at making people feel separate or unwanted.  The church often fosters competition and judgment that are inconsistent with the character of Jesus.  Some would go so far as to say that they have found more friendship and acceptance outside the church than inside.  That’s very sad.

But those who seek love in the body of Christ will find it.  There are good people among the believers.  There are people who will help and encourage and love.  Their love might be challenging sometimes, as they refuse to allow you to keep hurting yourself or deceiving yourself.  But there are people who care.  They care because Jesus cares and they are filled with His life.

Just understand that other believers are just as hesitant and immature and compromised as you are.  They struggle too.  They are failures who need a Savior.  I know that some of them act like they have it all together, but that’s also part of their struggle.  They are afraid to relax and let others know the truth.

I have been in full-time ministry for over 35 years.  I have known a lot of believers through that time.  Some of them I call friends.  A handful of them are people who share life and support.  Those few are precious.  They are not users or judges or critics.  They are just friends—and brothers and sisters in Jesus.

I know that some unbelievers are good friends also but my Christian friends are especially important because we share a common life, the life of Jesus.  We draw from Him a common strength and understanding, a love that goes beyond this life and this world.  As I look around the church I see many people that stretch my belief that we will all enjoy each other in Heaven.  I believe it, but I can hardly imagine it.  But these few friends—well, let’s just say that they are evidence that Heaven isn’t just a place far away.  A little of the love and acceptance of Heaven is mine when I am with them.

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