Pursue fellowship empowered by God’s Holy Spirit

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Often relationships with fellow believers lack evidence of being empowered by God’s Spirit. This is a strange phenomenon because every regenerated child of God has been equally “called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9). We should be in awe of what the Lord achieves in each other through spiritual rebirth at salvation. Sadly, this is not always the case.

Pursue fellowship empowered by God’s Holy SpiritWhen the apostle prayed for the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14), he asked for the very best of God for the Corinthians. Here is a good thermometer of spiritual health. Is God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit actively expressing themselves through your relationships? If not, you would do well to reconsider the reality of Jesus Christ as Lord in your life.

Now, Scripture gives clear principles for how to enrich fellowship with others through the example of the first generation believers. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). The richest of fellowship occurs when God’s children have genuinely soft-hearted attitudes towards each other flowing out of authentic faith in Christ. Central to this is the mutual desire of all believers to spend time submissively sitting under the teaching of God’s Word together.

Worship and prayer are also the outcome of fellowship under God’s Word. There’s no self-seen here. Here we observe faithfulness and loyalty to both God and His people centred in Christ. The “breaking of bread” together has greater importance for believers when fellowship with Christ is experienced through the fellowship of the saints.

This means, following sound instruction in Scripture, you will not criticise, demean, judge or belittle your fellow believer. You see, if you “walk in the light, as he [Jesus] is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). When you are cleansed from sin, there will be no place for sin to worm its way into your relationships with your brother or sister in the Lord. Instead, you will rejoice in the intimacy of Christ centred oneness. Self should fade into insignificance as Christ is increasingly dominant. This is the foundation of unity in the Church.

When the Holy Spirit distributed gifts amongst believers, Paul observed that all were equally “empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11). Every Christian is equally blessed with personalised spiritual abilities exactly as the Holy Spirit determined. No-one misses out, no-one is shown favouritism, and no-ones giftedness is more significant that anyone else’s.

However, so often God’s children get caught up with comparing one with another. Selfishness then damages the potential for sweet fellowship. Recognition of the spectacular working of God’s Spirit in His design and functionality of Christ’s body should secure every relationship. So what can overcome natural sinful compulsions which damage instead of enriching? The answer is humility!

You see, self detracts from Christ, and it estranges you from intimacy with others. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Paul summed up Christ centred fellowship this way; “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).

I encourage you to pursue fellowship empowered by God’s Holy Spirit.

Embrace the blessing of fellowship

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Fellowship is a treasure which often gets taken for granted in the Christian life. It’s spoken of in the New Testament as the quality of spiritual partnership which participates with the other members. Benevolence is at its core; that is, intentional actions expressing kindness and good will to each other. The Greek language of the original New Testament speaks of fellowship (koinōnia) which participates in intimacy of a spiritually united relationship. Now that’s rather special in this dark world of selfish and temporary friendships.

Embrace the blessing of fellowshipThis unnatural relationship begins with God who “is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9). Notice that we didn’t initiate this relationship, but God graciously calls rebellious people to it based on His mercy. So, a believing sinner is called into the highest relationship imaginable through the Son of God. Establishing a surrendered faith dependent upon Jesus Christ as your Lord   is the starting point of God’s benevolence in your experience.

Fellowship and salvation

While salvation is the beginning of your new spiritual life; for God, your salvation was the culmination of His loving plans which He initiated before He made the world (Eph 1:4-5). The Lord pre-planned your adoption which is the fulfillment of His specific will for your life. You see, having an association with you, or even a friendship with you, was not good enough. No, God desired the very best of all relationships, and fellowship as a Father intimately engaged with His child was His goal for you.

This unimaginable spiritual connection God has made possible through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. Always remember that “you have been saved through faith. And this [faith] is not your own doing; it [faith] is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). From beginning to end, as a believer in Christ, you are never alone and you are never left to your own devices. God knows we lack the resources needed for this fellowship relationship, so He supplies them, and you experience them through faith in action (Jas 2:14-17).

Intentional fellowship

The beauty of fellowship is further seen through the intention of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for His children. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14). No believer is excluded from God’s loving desire for intimacy with them. However, there is responsibility for God’s children to respond appropriately to His grace. Regardless of life’s circumstances; nothing “in all creation will be able to separate us [you] from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). His inseparable love means security, comfort, and peace for believers.

First generation Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer” (Acts 2:42). In this single verse lays the essence of a healthy Christian life. Self is excluded. Dedication to actually attending the apostles’ teaching of God’s Word was primary to being able to experience the next blessing, fellowship. Intimacy of relationships in Church life grows out of members mutually sitting under the teaching of God’s Word with humble attitudes. This is foundational to authentic fellowship in the body of Christ.

I encourage you to embrace the blessing of fellowship. Draw from the Lord’s strength and determination in making whatever changes are needed to your daily and weekly routines which will grow genuine fellowship.

Embrace belief that denies self-reliance and embraces Christ

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Humans are remarkably creative at self-reliance and often in the name of religion. We have this uncanny ability to place ourselves at the centre of everything. This is certainly true regarding our relationship with God, because something inside strives to make self the centre of God’s attention. In so doing we become idolaters, justifying why self is entitled to be and have what self wants at God’s expense.

Embrace belief that denies self-reliance and embraces ChristPhrases like self-love, self-forgiveness, self-defence, self-harm, self-esteem, self-righteous, and self-reliance are some of the more common terms used. Consequently, mankind does a thorough job of promoting self in that we sacrifice everything godly in our self-pursuit of God. This is often the reason new believers struggle, because they continue to place self at the centre of their new relationship with Jesus Christ.

 

Self or Christ

The apostle Paul understood that coming to Jesus means you put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires (Ephesians 4:22-24). Belief in Jesus Christ is not some morbid self-harming religious ritual, but an honest appraisal of your incurable desire for self to be elevated above God. Therefore, faith in Jesus begins with a healthy spiritual denial of self as centre of your life.

Paul continues; “…be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24). Here is the bullseye of faith in Jesus; accepting that God’s righteousness must be allowed to change the way you think and behave. This is how you become an expression of His righteousness and not your own. Jesus Christ does a total make-over, a full regeneration, creating a new you which increasingly displays God’s holiness (2Co 3:18).

Your old self-motivated ways of thinking are reborn to become Christ-motivated thinking. Paul explains further; our old self was crucified with him (Jesus) in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin (Romans 6:6). In order for your enslavement to self and sin to be ended, a death had to occur. And since you and I wouldn’t and couldn’t die to sin, Christ died our death on the cross of Calvary in our place, as our substitute.

Jesus cross deals with self

Jesus took God’s wrath for your sin, and God was satisfied with Jesus self-sacrifice on your behalf. Your faith; your dependant belief in Jesus death is what God responds to by granting you forgiveness and a new self. Your old self was idolatrous, your new self is Christ exalting. Your old self defaulted to sinful thoughts and behaviour, your new self defaults to loving obedience through surrender.

Your old self wants to be its own saviour and would prefer to suffer eternal consequences rather than humble itself before the Almighty. Such is the extremity of self-righteousness which is proud toward God. Self-reliance fails terribly to make peace with God, but Jesus Christ has already made peace with God on your behalf – believe it and live in the blessing of it. This is why Paul says he himself (Jesus) is our peace (Ephesians 2:14).

Once you have wholeheartedly embraced the peace offered by God through faith in His Son, there will be little room for the spiritual anxieties this world forces upon you. Once you receive your Heavenly Father’s forgiveness, you will be equipped to forgive others as you have been forgiven (Col 3:13).

I encourage you to embrace belief that denies self-reliance and embraces Christ. He really is the most wonderful Lord and Saviour.

The common demand for loyalty from belief and disbelief

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The common misunderstanding that only belief in Jesus demands loyalty is wrong! The reality is, disbelief also demands absolute loyalty, and at any cost. Sin energizes non-belief with crafty persuasion; saying you can believe whatever you want, just as long as it’s not Jesus as Lord. Sin seeks to imprison your thinking through deception by saying that even total rejection of all spiritual realities is better than having Christ as Saviour.

The common demand for loyalty from belief and disbeliefHonestly, there is no neutral ground when it comes to Jesus Christ. Satan knows there is no sitting on the fence, so he lies by saying that the spiritual fence has a wide and comfortable seat with no accountability or consequences. Your arch enemy wants you to think that going with the crowd is both fun and secure. What he won’t tell you is that …the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Loyalty is faithfulness

Loyalty is simply faithfulness. And faithfulness requires perseverance. Perseverance in non-belief pays death, while perseverance in belief pays eternal life. There is no escaping these realities. Don’t think for a moment that isolation from Jesus causes life to be sweet and comfortable. It just isn’t true. Delusion, escapism, or religion may provide some temporary easing of life’s pains, but eternal peace can only be found in Christ. The sad destination of disbelief in Christ is that “if we deny him, he also will deny us” (2 Timothy 2:12).

Notice how Jesus states His purpose for your loyalty; “I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (John 15:16). God’s design is for those people whom you lead to Christ should also remain faithful to Christ. There are no samples of faith, no test driving of faith; belief in Christ is for life, no turning back.

The Lord also provides sufficient resources enabling your loyalty. As He said to the Jews who had believed him; If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples” (John 8:31). God’s Word and God’s Holy Spirit equip you with the necessary inner resources to endure by remaining obedient in surrender to the Bible.  Don’t be sucked into thinking you can live a joyful and righteous life without daily feeding on and growing in obedience to God’s Word; it just does not work that way.

Salvation grows faithfulness

From the first day of your repentance, successful Christian living acknowledges dependence upon Christ.  There is to be no independence from Christ. “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4) were Jesus words. The best of God’s blessings come as you endure long term in loyalty to the Saviour for His glory and your joy.

A bad conscience or a sense of shame has no place in the believer’s life if they are living a Spirit controlled life. Jesus reassures you; if you “abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming” (1 John 2:28). I encourage you, committed loyalty to belief in Christ is eternally more valuable and God honouring than loyalty to disbelief. “…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

 

Belief that believes God’s Word without dispute

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Both belief and unbelief bring the greatest challenges in life as they dispute with each other. Both require you to reason through personal preference, emotions, and the call of God on your life.  This is precisely what Thomas faced when confronted with the resurrected Lord Jesus. Jesus challenged both his belief and disbelief by saying; Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe. (John 20:27).

Belief that believes God's Word without disputeSin is crafty; deceiving humans into thinking that as long as you are in spiritual negotiation mode, all is well. Well, sin is a liar! Paul warned of people like this; they are always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7). How does this happen? At some point they choose to be content with knowing a little about Jesus without actually knowing Christ as Lord and Saviour.

Dispute over ownership

For them, unbelief wins the internal dispute over who has the right of total ownership of their lives. Here is the heart of spiritual anxiety. Sin says relax, eat, drink, be merry. (Luke 12:19). Jesus says what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36). The dispute over your soul is powerful and demanding of total control by both sides. Yet only Christ offers peace from God with eternal life as the result of belief in Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Only Christ offers eternal companionship, faithfulness and security.

With such an amazing commitment from Christ to those who believe, it’s understandable that he requires total surrender from those who believe. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself (Luke 10:27). Half-hearted belief can only produce discontentment, insecurity, and a spiritually fatalistic view of life.

The basic difference is that partial belief, while thinking of itself as religious, is selective as to which parts of God’s Word it chooses to believe and obey. Convenience and compromise tends to be the goal of weak or counterfeit belief. The Psalmist however, shows us the right attitude; Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments (Psalms 119:66). My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word (Psalms 119:81). I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end (Psalms 119:112).

The soft-hearted solution

I encourage you to develop a soft-hearted attitude towards God’s Word. An attitude that genuinely seeks after God’s truth. To obey without arguing, and with a humble long term view in mind. This attitude gets God’s attention because it’s pleasing to Him. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you… Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up (James 4:8-10).

God’s arch enemy will most likely try to distract you from such genuine belief which surrenders to the Lord. He’s shrewd; he knows how to put obstacles in your way. He’s always placing things and people in your life to  dishearten and side tract you. He’s the master of discouragement; taking your attention away from loyal obedience to Christ as Lord and Saviour.

Remember, Satan works hard at these things in your life because he knows that Christ has disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Christ (Colossians 2:15). Only in Christ can victory be had; victory that lasts through this life, past the grave, and into eternity.

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