Keep on Swimming. . .

everyday life inside the fishbowl

Thursday Thoughts: Fellowship~Friends, Food, & Fun?

on October 24, 2013

two-ladiesPeople who fellowship often are friends–usually because they have something in common, whether it is an activity (soccer), a hobby (knitting), a goal (promoting an event), etc. Often these friends will have fun together as they accomplish their goals and activities–especially over food! 🙂 Our church recently started a Bible Fellowship on Sunday evenings, alternating weeks with men and women. Our first week focused on what fellowship really is.

The Bible talks about fellowship (koinōnia) in a slightly different sense. The Greek word means “fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse, the share which one has in anything, participation, intimacy” (Thayer).

The idea of sharing something is evident. Believers shared bread and prayer (Acts 2:42), they shared money with poor believers (Rom 15:26), believers share in Christ himself (1 Cor 1:9), they share in the blood and body of Christ (1 Cor 10:16), they share in the Holy Spirit and all his gifts (2 Cor 13:14), Paul desired to share in Christ’s sufferings (Phil 3:10), Philemon shared his faith with others (Phm 1:6), and believers are to share what they have with others (Heb 13:16).

So, the idea of sharing in Scripture is clear, but the sharing is of those things which have eternal significance. We focused primarily on the concept of fellowship in 1 John. A great article by Dr. Bill Combs really helped me understand 1 John 1 and shaped much of our discussion.

1 John 1:1-3 discusses having fellowship with God and with each other, but it does not explicitly state what we are sharing with God and each other. Verses 1-2 make it clear that what believers share with God and with each other is eternal life!

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

Verse 5 goes on to state what the basis for our fellowship is: God is light. He is absolutely without sin; he is holy.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

Here is the problem, though: How can we have fellowship with God–walk in the light–when we are so sinful? Here are a few ways in which people err in trying to explain this seeming difficulty:

  1. They claim that they have fellowship with God, yet their lives are characterized by habitual sin. They show themselves to be liars, because the truth is that they do not have fellowship with God.

1Jn 1:6  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

2. They deny the existence of sin in their very natures, lying to themselves.

1Jn 1:8  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

3.  They deny that they commit individual sins, making God a liar.

1Jn 1:10  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

I want to park on this third point for a moment, because I think this is where we believers struggle sometimes. I don’t think any of us would actually verbally deny that we sin. But we try to put up a front that we don’t sin. We try to let others around us think that we really are perfect. Like Adam and Eve, we cover ourselves in “churchy-looking fig leaves” (quote from Elyse Fitzpatrick). But, if we are really walking in the light, our sin will be evident.

Have you ever used one of those cosmetic mirrors that amplify your face and have lights? I hate those things! Why do I dislike them so much? Because they show me the impurities on my face. They bring to light what is ugly.

When we walk in the light, when we fellowship with God and each other because of the eternal life we share, our own sinfulness in all its ugliness will be made clear. But we do not need to hide our sin. We don’t need to pretend that we are sinless. We don’t need to pretend that we’re not ugly. Why? Because you don’t need a Savior if you’re not a sinner!

Why is it that we can have fellowship with God (and thus each other)? What allows us to share in the light with Christ? The blood of Christ!

1Jn 1:7  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 cleanses us from all sin.

1Jn 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Stott (as cited in Dr. Comb’s aricle) says that “The proper Christian attitude to sin is not to deny it but to admit it, and then to receive the forgiveness which God has made possible and promises to us.”

We took a look at the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11, the believers that God commended as examples. We didn’t want to focus on the negative, but we did want to focus on the fact that their being sinless was not what qualified them as examples. Note the following: Noah-got drunk and became naked; Abraham-lied about his wife to protect himself; Sarah-laughed at God’s promises; Jacob-deceiver; Moses-murderer; Rahab-prostitute; Gideon-coward; Barak-coward; Sampson-immoral; Jepthah-sacrificed his daughter; and David-adulterer and murderer. Clearly, we only noted their sins, yet was is more clear is that these believers made it as examples not because of their sinlessness, but because they had faith in the one who was sinless!

I have heard this passage in 1 John preached in this way: You must confess your sins in order to have fellowship with God. God will not have fellowship with you if you do not confess your sins. Now, we saw above the error of one who refuses to acknowledge his sin, showing himself not to be a believer. But what about the believer who is really struggling with a sin and hasn’t confessed it yet? Or what about the many little ways we sin and don’t even realize it? Or what about the things we should be doing but don’t? Are we “out of fellowship” with God, thus other believers?

NO! Dr. Combs stated so well that 1 John 1:9 “says nothing about restoration of fellowship. While it is true that a believer needs to confess his sinful acts and omissions, that has nothing to do with fellowship. . . . Fellowship is a sharing by the believer with God and other believers in a common life. Nothing can break that fellowship. Verse 9 simply gives the proper attitude of a genuine believer toward sin.”

We sin. God knows, and Jesus has already cleansed us from it. Our fellowship is with God despite our sin. We still need to confess our sins, which means we need to admit our sins. We need to be real with the believers we are fellowshipping with. We need to admit we are sinners and point ourselves and others to our Savior who has cleansed us from all sin. As we admit our sins and struggles, we can help each other. We can pray for each other. We can point each other to Christ. We can fellowship with one another, as we fellowship with Christ.

{On Thursdays, I share some thoughts about what God is teaching me in my various roles as a Christian, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife.}

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