It's been forever since I've updated this.
Life has been consumed lately with questions and answers. I'm thankful for both--the questions because short of asking them you'd come to a standstill and die; better to ask questions, and ask them to the right Person and receive answers.
That said, have been thinking a lot about fellowship lately: what is it, and how ought we experience it? God was faithful to answer that question and open my eyes to understanding that fellowship is not just Christians grouping together as friends. We can gather around and talk about each other's hobbies, daily chores, and general business, or even the weather--but that isn't fellowship. No, fellowship is the active partaking of each other's spiritual lives. As Paul said, literally pouring your soul into another human being. It's a deep trust where the wall of enmity is broken down between each heart, resulting in a shared vision, and edification. Too many people attend church these days with a theatre expectation--they either go to be entertained or they go to passively listen, and then return home. This is not what God intended.
Reading Acts 2:40-47, I'm struck by the phrase "they continued steadfastly in doctrine and fellowship." I believe the place where I meet has a strong stance on the true gospel of salvation--deliverance from sin and a godly life. But where we fall short and need much growth is the second--fellowship. And really, fellowship is the second half of the salvation story. The Christian life isn't just about getting saved, sanctified, and then holding on for dear life until the Lord returns. God intends us to move from "glory to glory." What that means to me is that we aren't mean to simply swim around in circles in the same pond of "avoid the world, stay pure, stay holy, don't backslide." You can't go forward if you're always looking behind you. That means that you can't have your eyes on your past experience in trying to build for tomorrow. We need to look higher--all the way up, to Christ, the Head of the Church.
So we can't satisfy ourselves with mere doctrine--we need to experience a vital spiritual discourse with our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Paul states in Corinthians that we "no longer regard any man after the flesh." I really believe we settle far too often for a knowledge of each other in the flesh--much less work and less effort. But again, God designed us for more. We are many members of the body of Christ--that means deep intimacy. The world looks on and thinks that concept is both foreign and weird, and can't accept the idea that this kind of trust is possible here on earth. But the world has given up on True Love, and traded the Creator for the creature. Those in the body of Christ must stand fast in choosing the spiritual things over the carnal. And that means choosing to have our conversation in the Spirit rather than in the natural. In short, I need to be sowing in the spiritual lives of my brethren, and they are equally compelled--"constrained by the love of Christ", to sow in mine. And then we may be "comforted together by the mutual faith of both you and I" (Rom. 1:12). If we are not sowing, we also will not reap. When I hear a testimony on Sunday, if I played no part in that victory, neither in prayer, nor hope, nor Love, nor admonishment, nor gift, nor help, nor counsel, nor tears, then in what part can I reap in rejoicing? A detached, onlooking friendship, or even a passionate comraderie in the things of this world, is not fellowship at all. We cannot settle for this; if we do, we limit the very power and presence of Christ on earth, because it is by the working of the church that His glory will be revealed to an unbelieving mankind:And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
More to come. And my our eyes continue to be enlightened to the mystery and glory of God and His beloved.