Week 5 Prepare My Heart for Fellowship With Others

Week 5 Day 1

Prepare My Heart for Fellowship with Others

Some people have given up the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord's coming is getting closer.”  Contemporary English Version   Hebrews 10:25

One of the negative results of COVID in 2020 has been the upheaval of the Sunday morning routine which so many joyfully participated in – Sunday morning worship with the body of Christ.  For many, that upheaval continues.  The days of joyfully joining together, seeing friends, shaking hands, hugging, seeing the wide smile on the face of your brother or sister in Christ, Sunday School, and church fellowships like Wednesday pot luck seem now so far in the past. 

However, fellowship remains one of the primary functions of the church today and for the coming future.  Fellowship in the word, in service, in ministry, and in meeting needs within the church as well as the needs of those outside the body – are all necessities if the church is to be effective in all the Lord desires. 

Fellowship is the result of hearts and minds unified for God’s glory.  The Greek koinonia literally means communion and unity with God and His children.  The kind of relationship results in joint partnership for a common goal or purpose, and that purpose is the building up of God’s kingdom, His church, through a life which honors and glorifies the Son and the Father.

Fellowship, unity, partnership, communion – in heart and action – are necessary for the body of Christ to grow and flourish.

Prayer:  Father, through your Spirit you have provided a way for all your children to be united as your family.  Help me grow in the union of your family which you have brought me into.

Who do I have fellowship with at church?

 

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Prepare My Heart for Fellowship with Others

that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”  Jesus’ prayer, John 17:21

John recorded this prayer of Jesus – as he heard it – when Jesus prayed for both His disciples and all those who’ve come to be disciples over the centuries.  Verses 20-26  are Jesus’ prayer for you and me as we live and follow Him today.  And that prayer is a petition for the Father to create absolute unity within the hearts of every disciple.  That unity would be vertical – between the disciple and God, as well as horizontal – between every disciple in the body of Christ.

Jesus knew unity – koinonia fellowship – would be necessary for the disciples to become the church, and for the church to be a dynamic force which would lead to changed families and communities. 

Jesus clearly stated in Mark 3:24-25 that division kills – and the opposite of division is unity.  “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” 

Only a unified church in strong fellowship can stand, grow, and change the world around it.

Prayer:  Father, help me to be united deeper to You through Your word and by Your Spirit.  Help me have the unity and fellowship with other believers – especially within my church – which glorifies you.  Help our church be unified around your purposes and plans. 

 

 

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Prepare My Heart for Fellowship with Others

I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one.”  Jesus’ prayer, John 17:23

Repetition in saying something usually means that it is especially important.  If a building is on fire – does one yell “fire” once, or do they keep yelling until they know everyone has heard and is exiting to safety? 

Here Jesus prays repetitively for the unity of disciples in the church.  I believe that even now, as Jesus sits “at the right hand of God making intercession for us” (Romans 8:34), He is continuing to ask the Father to bring unity of Spirit so that every disciple can be in perfect fellowship with the church and God.

Jesus’ prayer was that each disciple be more than just a follower in action, He wants us to have His very nature and character.  “I in them” just as “You (are) in Me”, Jesus prayed.  And the goal was that each disciple be brought to the point of perfection – a complete representation of Jesus before the eyes of others.  That’s exactly the sentiment of Paul in Phil 2:1 “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”  That’s what Paul was constantly pressing toward in his life – a complete representation of Jesus.  “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.”  Phil 2:12

Prayer:  Father, help me and every member of our church to have the attitude of both Jesus and Paul – that our greatest aim is to have such unity with You that we become the complete representation of Jesus in character and action before the eyes of those in our community.

 

 

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Prepare My Heart for Fellowship with Others

Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” Paul, Colossians 3:14 NASB

Colossians is often overlooked by many believers; however it holds many of the same truths, and most of the same vision as Paul projects in his other letters.  Here, as in his other letters, Paul wants to emphasize that every believer must put Christ first in all things and obey Him in all aspects of life.

In this passage Paul has exhorted the Colosse believers to “put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering”.  But then he says, “Beyond all these things”, which tells us that the quality of love is supreme for the believer.  It is from this “agape” love that the believer will have the heart and mind to have these other qualities exhibited toward others – both those in the church and those who are even opposed to Christ. 

These qualities are similar to those in Galatians 5:22 – which are the fruit of the Spirit.  The fruit of the Spirit comes from a great unity (fellowship) with the Father and Son – which we’ve already been talking and praying about.  So, the level of love – especially “agape” love – you exhibit is a direct reflection of your unity to Christ as you walk in the Spirit.  Gal 5:16, 25

A believer walking in the Spirit, growing in unity/fellowship with Christ and His Body (the church), will experience God using them to dynamically touch and impact the lives of others around them.

Prayer:  Father, help me to understand better how I can walk in Your Spirit, be deeper unified with You and Christ, and grow in greater unity within our church (Your body).  Help me to exhibit Christlikeness which encourages others to believe, follow, and obey Your word.

 

 

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Prepare My Heart for Fellowship with Others

If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 Jn 1:6-7

Sin isn’t a topic most people feel comfortable talking about.  Many believers shy away from passages like this, especially verse 8 – “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Or verse 10 – “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

The truth is that we all have sinned and we all continue to struggle with sin.  Sin is used by Satan to break down a believer’s heart and mind, and their desire to truly follow Christ for His glory.  As Satan takes advantage of that one breakdown in the body of Christ to start his systemic plot to hinder or destroy everything God desires to do within and through that body. 

One of the greatest opportunities the believer has to stay in fellowship/unity with God and the church is confession and repentance.  From John’s perspective, hope for man lies in the fact that “God is love”, (1 Jn 4:8) and He wants to cleanse us of our sin so we can have unity with Him. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9)

One bad apple spoils the whole bunch – and one believer walking in sinfulness can break the fellowship of the body.

Prayer:  Father, help me to see my sin and make the changes necessary to be in unity with you and in fellowship with Your body so that Christ is glorified. 

Is there anything I need to confess and repent of?

 

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Prepare My Heart for Fellowship with Others

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.  And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”  1 Jn. 3:16

John learned much, maybe everything, he knew about love from Jesus.  He undoubtedly remembered Jesus’ teaching on how love and joy were perfected in the heart of the believer.  And it was those lessons on love, coupled with how he saw Jesus love others that shaped the rest of his life – especially his fellowship with God and with other men.

Jesus commanded, “abide in My love” and “love one another as I have loved you”. (Jn 14)  His disciples would come to understand how to carry out these commands to love like Jesus loved by watching and learning from Him.  They knew that on their own they were incapable of true “agape/self-sacrificing” love.  Jesus knew the only way to this kind of love would be through the power of the Holy Spirit, which God would give to all believers.

Jesus went further than just to command love, He delivered the following example – His death for humanity.  “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.  You are my friends…” (Jn 14:13) 

Godly fellowship, unity, communion, partnership, cooperation, collaboration, friendship, and brotherhood are all products of “agape/self-sacrificing” love.  Growth in love, by abiding in Christ, will lead an average church to have such a depth of these qualities that the community around will be impacted deeply.

Prayer:  Father, create within my heart, and the hearts of our church members, such a love for you and others that these qualities will become normal with our church and the ministry we do for your glory.

Today, who in my church can I reach out to in love?

 

 

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Prepare My Heart for Fellowship with Others

I…beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called…endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  Paul, Eph 4:1-3

Beseech is one of those 15th century words which we no longer use.  It means to entreat, exhort, and to literally beg.  Paul was begging believers in the Ephesian church to walk worthy of their calling.  That calling was not only to believe and show up for the group meeting of believers – but much more.  Christ’s calling for each of them –and each of us today – is that we become like Him in all areas of life.  I mentioned that earlier in the week on day 3. 

Being the complete representation of Jesus – for the individual disciple and for the church – will be hard enough, and Paul recognized that it would be impossible without complete “unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace.”  He knew that many of the “schemings of the devil” (Eph 6:11) were to break the unity and peace which the Spirit was working to establish.

We see the effects of Satan’s schemings today.  Believers get their eyes off Jesus, become self-centered, selfish, and disconnected from the body of Christ.  Unity gives way to separatism, peace fades yielding to hurt and a negative spirit, and then the church becomes a place of anxiety and contention rather than that of love, acceptance, healing, and glory for Christ.  Before long the church is spiraling out of control toward death.

Even a small church which is walking and unified by the Spirit, with a solid bond of peace, love, and fellowship, can have a global impact for the kingdom of God.

Prayer:  Father, create in our church the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace necessary for us to glorify You and our Lord Jesus.

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