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A Passion for Fellowship

January 30, 2005


Scripture Reading: 1John 1:1-4


Right after our service this morning we will be celebrating renewed fellowship in our church with the dedication of our newly remodeled church kitchen.

There have been a number of people that have sacrificed and worked quite hard on making this happen for all of us.

This began with those who donated the funds, especially with the seed money starter donation of $9,000. There were many others who donated beyond that to reach our goal of $18,000. And we stayed within the budget.

We praise God for the skills and willingness of those who worked on the project. This was all done “in house”.

Brian designed the kitchen and carried it all out with ordering the materials and overseeing various parts of the installation. Various ladies of the church headed up by Georgette, Janet and Lorraine cleaned out the old kitchen and then put everything back when it was done. Adam helped with tearing out the old walls. Gene also tore out the old walls, taped sheetrock and painted, and will finish the new floor. Ed removed the old flooring – a really nasty job. Dennis removed the old ceiling, installed new plumbing, hung the new ceiling, installed the new flooring, put up new sheetrock, installed the cabinets, counters and new appliances. Dennis was the “mainframe” or foreman of the major portion of all that took place. I’m sure there were others with various parts unspoken here.

But we must not forget God the Father who is at the head of our list as the prime provider and enabler. He is the One that we must continually honor with the results. He is the One that directed our plans, gave the strength and wisdom, and provided the miracles – and there were plenty of those as so many of the installation steps in our old building just barely came together not by our wisdom but by divine providence.

So we will be gathering downstairs in the Pine Room for our first “fellowship meal” in almost half a year. And we pray that this will be the springboard for many rich seasons of fellowship.

We hope you are hungry not only for the food but even more for the fellowship around which the food is our “excuse”.

You have heard it said that some people live to eat and some people eat to live.

It is our prayer that, regarding fellowship, we will choose not to have fellowship in order to eat, but to eat in order to have fellowship.

Perhaps we could say that, in a similar way to food being necessary for life, fellowship is even life itself. Definitely, fellowship is the major factor in how we are to encourage each other in Christ. Encouragement works best in community.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another— and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb 10:24-25 NivUS)

 “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Heb 3:12-13 NivUS)

The human need for food often becomes the social format around which we can interact to encourage one another.

We can see the necessity to put fellowship ahead of food in Paul’s instruction about communion because not doing so would be a discouragement. And regarding communion at least, there is even a penalty attached.

“So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions.” (1Co 11:33-34 NivUS)

 “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.” (1Co 11:27-32 NivUS)

I am reminded of a church I was involved in some time ago that had the habit of allowing people at fellowship meals to crowd to the front of the line in competition for who could get the best food first. Fellowship in that church took a back seat to food. I always felt that there must have been some divine judgment on that.

Our coming together, if it is to be joyous, must also be respectful – even to the extent of considering our fellowship as holy as communion, which is symbolically our fellowship with God in the work of Christ Jesus.

What happens centered around our church kitchen could well be considered an extension of communion.

Throughout the generations of mankind, communal meals have been a major foundation for fellowship.

The Chgo. Trib. has reported recently on the deaths of two of the three elephants at Lincoln Park Zoo. They said it is imperative that the third elephant be moved out to another location to be with other elephants since they are extremely social creatures. Being alone would in itself kill the remaining elephant.

Fellowship is that important to the life of the church. The apostle John made that connection in what we read for our Scripture this morning.

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched— this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.” (1Jo 1:1-4 NivUS)

It is fellowship around which the Word of God dwells, and it is the Word of God that enables and empowers fellowship.

And in John 1:1-2 we see that the Word of God is Christ.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” (Joh 1:1-2 NivUS)

In fact, we can see the importance of fellowship with God the Father even from the beginning of his recorded Word.

“Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Ge 1:26-27 NivUS)

God made man in his image so man could know him, or in other words, to have fellowship with him. But it didn’t stop there.

“God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."” (Ge 1:28 NivUS)

He wanted more of us. He wanted us to be fruitful and multiply so that the blessings of fellowship with him might also multiply.

And this fellowship was pure and innocent and sweet, not only with God but also with each other.

“The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” (Ge 2:25 NivUS)

But, of course, we messed it up.

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."” (Ge 3:6-10 NivUS)

We are so blessed that God did not let it stay there. He has been in the business ever since of working with us to restore fellowship.

God took the first step in killing animals to clothe them and take away their shame.

You didn’t think those fig leaves would last very long, did you?

“The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” (Ge 3:21 NivUS)

And God blessed the blood offering of their sons Abel (a shepherd) above the grain offering of Cain (a farmer) which led to the first murder, a crime of jealousy.

“Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.” (Ge 4:2-5 NivUS)

This crime of jealousy happened because fellowship with God was greatly desired and held in high regard by both.

But God from this beginning has shown that his fellowship has the price of his initial holy image in us, that is life itself, and quite costly.

The first place we see the requirement for a blood sacrifice being called a fellowship offering is in Exodus 20:24 in the context of giving the Ten Commandments. The result of the fellowship offering is blessing in the nearness of God.

“"‘Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you.” (Ex 20:24 NivUS)

We see further requirements about this fellowship offering in the laws of Leviticus that required the fellowship offering to be perfect. God desires to move toward the perfect fellowship we had with him in the Garden of Eden.

“"‘If someone’s offering is a fellowship offering, and he offers an animal from the herd, whether male or female, he is to present before the LORD an animal without defect.” (Le 3:1 NivUS)

The fellowship offering was the only sacrificial offering of which the one who offered it may eat part of it. It was offered as “shalom”, a plea of restored wholeness, a peace offering to God from which the two would then sit and partake of it together.

It was a blood sacrifice that he required, and this brings us back to Christ, the Word of God, the Word of Life, the person of perfected fellowship that enables our fellowship and is the reason for it.

Yes, Christ has a passion for fellowship with God and man, so by extension, this must also be our passion.

Christ came upon this earth and walked intimately with men and women as well as with God the Father. But that was not to be the entire extent of God with man.

Christ lived a short life here on earth but his eternal nature in fellowship with God remains with us through the Holy Spirit so that we might also have enduring fellowship with God in Christ.

“"When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.” (Joh 15:26 NivUS)

 “"Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (Joh 16:5-7 NivUS)

 “He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.” (Joh 16:14-15 NivUS)

We are told about the Holy Spirit even in the OT. Indeed, through the Holy Spirit we have complete and perfect fellowship with the heart of God through the new covenant Christ would usher in.

“"The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."” (Jer 31:31-34 NivUS)

This “agent of writing upon the heart” is the Holy Spirit Christ talked about.

Moses longed for it.

“But Moses replied, "Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!"” (Nu 11:29 NivUS)

Joel prophesied it.

“‘And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” (Joe 2:28 NivUS)

The Holy Spirit was involved from the beginning in the ministry of Christ to bring the fellowship of God to mankind.

The Holy Spirit was the agent of his birth.

“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.” (Mt 1:18 NivUS)

“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Mt 1:20 NivUS)

The Holy Spirit was the agent of his ministry.

“"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Mt 3:11 NivUS)

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.” (Mt 3:16 NivUS)

 “"Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.” (Mt 12:18 NivUS)

“"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,” (Lu 4:18 NivUS)

The Holy Spirit was the agent of his power.

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.” (Lu 4:1-2 NivUS)

“Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.” (Lu 4:14 NivUS)

“But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Mt 12:28 NivUS)

The Holy Spirit was the agent of his joy.

“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” (Lu 10:21 NivUS)

The Holy Spirit was the agent of his victory.

“David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: "‘The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet."‘” (Mr 12:36 NivUS)

Therefore the Holy Spirit is to be utterly revered.

“And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Mt 12:31-32 NivUS)

For it is the Holy Spirit that is also the agent of our birth.

“Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (Joh 3:5-6 NivUS)

For it is the Holy Spirit that is also the agent of our ministry, power, joy and victory.

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” (Joh 7:38-39 NivUS)

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"” (Lu 11:13 NivUS)

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Mt 28:19 NivUS)

“Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” (Mr 13:11 NivUS)

Ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit of Christ that brings us fellowship with God and each other – the joy of the Garden once again.

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” (Php 2:1-2 NivUS)

So ---

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2Co 13:14 NivUS)

“The Holy Spirit is the ultimate contributor of revelation and the unique enforcer of redemption. He proceeds from the Father as the active agent for the purposes of God in the earth. He is the interior expression of the unseen God’s personality as well as the visible manifestation of His activity in the world. Through the Spirit we are able to enjoy intimacy with the awesome God of the universe. God’s ultimate desire to live with His people is made possible through the Holy Spirit.” Donald L. Milam, Jr.

Jesus had a passion for fellowship, but his passion was quite costly.

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Php 3:10-11 NivUS)

Sometimes our fellowship is costly too, but well worth the effort because it is the light of life for the church.

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by 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, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1Jo 1:5-7 NivUS)

The words “communion” and “community” have a lot in common. Let us celebrate our new church kitchen today with a sense of both communion and community.

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