Various | Shaun LePage | August 20, 2006
A. This morning, I want to take a break from the Sermon on the Mount (we’ll come back to it next week if the Lord wills). It’ll be obvious why later, but for now let me begin today with a very profound question: Is Christianity more like golf or football? Someone might say, “Golf because Christianity is like walking through life and it helps you deal with one problem after another until finally you arrive at that great club house in the sky.” But I think Christianity is more like football. Don’t overanalyze my metaphor too much here. I think Christianity is like football because success—as a football team—requires great teamwork. Golf is an individual’s sport. It’s just you against the world. A golfer can be successful without depending on anyone else. But no football player can have success by himself. For a football player to be successful, he has to be part of a dedicated team of guys who know what success is and are willing to do their job to help get the team across the goal line.
B. For a Christian to be successful (for lack of a better word), he or she has to be part of a dedicated fellowship of believers who know what success is and are willing to do their job to help get the church across the goal line. Success for a church is maturity. A healthy church is a church that is growing in maturity. Not necessarily growing in numbers, but growing up. This is why most of the New Testament books were written to churches—calling the church to maturity in Christ. One of the most obvious examples of this is found in the long list of “one another” commands.
C. Before we look at that list, I want to give you a little of your own history. If you’re a member of Community Bible Church, you’re part of what is often referred to as the modern day Bible Church movement.
1. Early in the 20th century, almost all Christians were part of a mainline denomination. But a great division was taking place at that time between the liberals and the fundamentalists. If I may say it this simply, the liberals were those who didn’t believe the Bible. The fundamentalists were those who did. The fundamentalists believed in a literal or plain interpretation of the Bible. They believed every word of it was true and valuable. The liberals wanted to throw out the parts they didn’t like. During that time Bible conferences and Bible institutes—such as BIOLA (Bible Institute of Los Angeles) sprang up as fundamentalists began leaving the mainline denominations. This is probably an oversimplification of things, but this is basically where Bible churches were born. Of course, all Biblical churches were born at Pentecost in the first century. But I’m referring to the modern Bible Church movement. The primary motivation behind this movement was proclamation—a focus on declaring the Biblical message.
2. This church—Community Bible Church—and the church I was a part of in Texas for the past 14 years, and more than 350 others are closely connected with something that happened at Dallas Theological Seminary in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Gene Getz was a professor at Dallas Seminary and describes what happened in the Introduction of his book, Building Up One Another. [Read pages 7-9.] Dr. Getz simply detected a shortcoming of the Bible Church movement. Those churches had been established to proclaim the Biblical message at a time when that was desperately needed. But the shortcoming for most of these Bible churches was a lack of emphasis on fellowship—true, Biblical “body life.”
3. At the same time out in California, Ray Stedman, another Dallas Seminary graduate and pastor of Peninsula Bible Church, was exploring a similar emphasis in that congregation. He published a book in the early 1970’s called Body Life.
4. God used both these men and their books to influence many pastors. Many churches were planted as a result—including Community Bible Church of Lawrence, Kansas. This is your history—and mine. I think this history is very important because my hope and prayer for CBC is that we would hang onto our roots. That we would strike that healthy balance by boldly and accurately declaring the Biblical message while we diligently build Biblical fellowship. That’s a healthy church. Those are our roots.
5. Over the next few months we’re going to turn our focus to the issue of Biblical fellowship by studying the One Another’s together in our Community Groups. Today, I want to introduce this subject.
A. Commands. I went through the New Testament this week and found every “one-another” directed at the church. Every instance where a “one-another” was used to describe what the church should be and do. I found well over 50 examples. I want to read this list for you. Yes, it’s long, but I believe there is great value in looking at and listening to this list. I will make some observations when I’m done, but this list all by itself communicates a stronger message than I could ever preach.
1. Mark 9:50—be at peace with one another
2. John 13:14—wash one another’s feet
3. John 13:34—love one another
4. John 13:35—love one another
5. John 15:12—love one another
6. John 15:17—love one another
7. Romans 12:5—you are members of one another
8. Romans 12:10—be devoted to one another in brotherly love
9. Romans 12:16—be of the same mind toward one another
10. Romans 13:8—love one another
11. Romans 14:13—let us not judge one another
12. Romans 14:19—build up one another
13. Romans 15:5—be of the same mind with one another
14. Romans 15:7—accept one another
15. Romans 15:14—admonish one another
16. Romans 16:16—greet one another with a holy kiss
17. 1 Corinthians 11:33—wait for one another (fellowship meals)
18. 1 Corinthians 12:25—care for one another
19. 1 Corinthians 16:20—greet one another with a holy kiss
20. 2 Corinthians 13:12—greet one another with a holy kiss
21. Galatians 5:13—through love serve one another
22. Galatians 5:15—if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another
23. Galatians 5:26—Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.
24. Galatians 6:2—bear one another’s burdens
25. Ephesians 4:2—show tolerance for one another
26. Ephesians 4:25—Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.
27. Ephesians 4:32—Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
28. Ephesians 5:19—speak to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs
29. Ephesians 5:21—be subject to one another
30. Philippians 2:3—regard one another as more important than yourselves
31. Colossians 3:9—do not lie to one another
32. Colossians 3:13—bear with one another and forgive one another
33. Colossians 3:16—teach and admonish one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs
34. 1 Thessalonians 5:11—encourage one another and build up one another
35. 1 Thessalonians 5:13—live in peace with one another
36. 1 Thessalonians 5:15—seek after that which is good for one another
37. Hebrews 3:3—encourage one another
38. Hebrews 10:24—stimulate one another to love and good deeds
39. Hebrews 10:25—(not forsaking assembling) encouraging one another
40. James 4:11—do not speak against one another
41. James 5:9—do not complain against one another
42. James 5:16—confess your sins to one another and pray for one another
43. 1 Peter 1:22—love one another
44. 1 Peter 4:8—love one another
45. 1 Peter 4:9—be hospitable to one another
46. 1 Peter 4:10—serve one another
47. 1 Peter 5:5—clothe yourselves with humility toward one another
48. 1 Peter 5:14—greet one another with a holy kiss
49. 1 John 3:11—love one another
50. 1 John 3:23—love one another
51. 1 John 4:7—love one another
52. 1 John 4:11—love one another
53. 1 John 4:12—love one another
54. 2 John 5—love one another
1. Some of the “one anothers” are repeated or very similar. Various teachers have condensed them down to around a dozen categories. But repetition in the Bible is always important. It’s saying, “Don’t miss this—it’s important.”
2. Most of the “one anothers” are commands. They give us some things—lots of things—to do. “Love, serve, encourage, speak, pray for…” These commands require our time and personal commitment to our church body.
3. One of the “one anothers” is a statement. “We are members of one another.” That’s not a command to do anything. It simply tells us a fact. But listen to it in context—Romans 12:3-5: “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. 4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Did you catch that metaphor? “…We, who are many, are one body in Christ…” Paul used that metaphor repeatedly to describe the church. The point here is that we should not think of ourselves as individuals, but as parts of the whole. We are individuals, of course, but as Christians in the body of Christ, we cannot be individualistic. We must see ourselves as having a part to play and if we don’t do our part the body will be lame in some way. This should keep the big shots from getting too proud and the little shots from feeling like nobodies. We need each other. Just like a body needs all its parts to function correctly, the church needs all its parts to do their parts. Why? Because we are “members of one another.”
4. Some of the “one anothers” are negative—they tell us what not to do or to stop doing some things to “one another.” It would be foolish for us to pretend none of us has any problems—that Community Bible Church has no problems. Or that we won’t have any problems in the future. Every Christian and every church has problems—things we need to work on and stop doing. The worst thing we can do is stick our heads in the sand and pretend these problems don’t exist. Instead—if we’re going to be a healthy, New Testament church—we’re going to have to “…not judge, not bite and devour, not consume one another, not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another …” and on and on. Being a member of church, having fellowship with other believers, requires us to work hard at putting off our old, sinful habits. It requires us to love people that are hard to love sometimes. It requires us to speak the truth in love at the risk of being misunderstood or losing a relationship. Truly, Christian love is tough love. To ignore our problems is to stunt each other’s growth. That’s not love—that’s selfishness.
5. Most of the “one anothers” are positive. Even though we’ll have to deal with problems sometimes, we don’t want to be overly critical and jump on each other for every mistake or flaw. We deal with the problems with an attitude of humility and only in love. If we enjoy confrontation. If we enjoy admonishing someone—our motivation is wrong. Most of what we’re called to do here is positive—doing the right things. Moving toward maturity together. Putting on right and good and healthy habits. This is the pattern of maturity. Look at Ephesians 4:20-28.
1. Deepen your understanding of fellowship. You know this, but let me say it anyway—fellowship is not coffee and doughnuts. It’s not a fellowship meal. It’s not playing on the church softball team or going to the church picnic. Those things are good and helpful, but fellowship—Biblical fellowship—is much, much deeper. Fellowship is being devoted to one another in brotherly love, serving one another, and encouraging one another to live for Christ. It also includes speaking to one another and teaching one another. True fellowship deepens as we wrestle with Scripture together and encourage each other to obey—stimulating (literally, “spurring”) one another to love and good deeds. Let’s not settle for the shallow, coffee and doughnuts understanding of fellowship. Let’s get deep with one another.
2. Deepen your commitment to fellowship. Are we doing pretty well? Yes, we are. Can we do better? Yes we can. So, let me remind you that you cannot obey these commands alone. You can win at golf all by yourself, but you can’t win a football game by yourself. And you can be self-righteous by yourself, but you will never have a “surpassing righteousness” by yourself. Do you know what else? The kind of Christianity where we all see each other only on Sundays. The kind of Christianity where we say little more than, “Nice day, isn’t it? Not as hot as it was last week.” The kind of Christianity where we do little more together than sing a half-dozen songs and sit and listen to a sermon together—is not the kind of Christianity I’m looking for. I don’t know about you, but I want a family. I want to be part of a healthy body that is functioning as it should. I want true fellowship. Please don’t settle for coffee and doughnut fellowship. Let’s get deep with one another.
A. If you’re ready, but don’t know where to start, let me invite you to participate in a Community Group. If you’re not in one, please take a look at your bulletin and then come and speak with me. I’ll help you pick one.
B. If you’re already participating, I encourage you to heighten your level of commitment—volunteer to serve in one of the HATS roles (Hospitality, Administration, Teaching and Shepherding). Share your prayer request—not just ask the group to pray for your Aunt Martha’s sick cat. Be transparent with your group. Share your struggles. Share your concerns.
C. All the Community Groups will begin this week to take a closer look at the One Anothers using a series of studies put together by Jim Van Yperen of Metanoia Ministries. This is going to be a great series and I know you will be blessed if you make the effort to participate. And I know CBC will be blessed if we all dig in and ask God to show us the way to true fellowship.
D. Let me conclude with another sports analogy. When I was a sophomore in high school, my brother was a senior. His class had one of the most talented basketball teams our school has ever seen. But they had a very mediocre season. Why? Because they didn’t work as a team. In fact, they didn’t get along well at all. Each one wanted to be the star—the high point man. Their focus was individualistic so the team suffered. Two years later, when my classmates and I were seniors things were different on two levels. We were not as talented as my brother’s team. But we were far more successful than they were. In fact, we were the most successful team our little high school has ever seen. What was the difference? We worked together. Everyone knew what part he was supposed to play and we all worked toward the common goal of going to the state playoffs. That made all the difference in the world. We got there.
E. A successful church is a church that is healthy in both of these primary tasks: Biblical message and Biblical fellowship. We all have a part to play. We need each other. You need the church. The church needs you. I’m asking God to do great things in and through us in the days ahead as we look at the “one anothers” and seek to live them out together.