Our lives as Christians in this fallen world are a battle (Ephesians 6:10-20). The devil doesn't want to see our churches thrive with loving relationships that are filled with godliness, grace, encouragement and forgiveness. He desires to see us torn apart, battling, and waging war against each other because if we're so caught up in our own sinful issues our focus will not be on Christ. Sometimes it seems easier to sit at home and listen to our favorite online pastor or watch Sunday morning worship on our televisions. Church can be messy and difficult. Building relationships takes effort and sacrifice. We live in a self centered culture and sadly this has crept into our churches. God didn't design us to be loners in our Christian walk (Hebrews 10:24-25) but desires us to be in a local body where “love and good deeds” can be lived out among family.
I have been blessed to be part of church body where love and good deeds has been lived out among the members. The Lord has and continues to teach me much about the importance of the fellowship of the saints and I wanted to share some of the areas I have been learning and continuing to grow in with you.
Do you look at those in your church and see them as your family? If you are in Christ then your brothers and sisters in the faith are your family. Sometimes because they are family we can treat them like our own immediate family members. We can hold a grudge because they said something we didn't appreciate. We can judge them by their words or actions. We can speak poorly of them to others. We so often forget they – just like us – our sinners saved by grace who don't always look or act like their heavenly Father but look and act more like their old selves before new life in Christ.
Caring for each other in the body of Christ is each of our responsibility. It isn't just to be put on the church leadership. We are all responsible to see and the meet the needs of the body of Christ.
We are not only to meet their physical needs when we can but also to address when we see them falling into a sinful situations. We are to look out for each other's spiritual needs. Do you see your fellow brother or sister being drawn into a false teaching? Warn them. Can you provide help for them when they are in financial need? Meet the need. Can you encourage them when they are going through a valley? Encourage and pray with them.
Fellowship of Believers
There is so much in this text but I want to pull out what it looks like to have true Christian fellowship within our local churches. One of the first criteria I want to address is that Christian fellowship can only happen between people who are saved. This means those that have been born again, those that have repented and put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. True Christian fellowship begins among believers who have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (see The Gospel).
Devotion to the Lord's People
The believers in the early church were devoted to one another, in verse 42 above the text reads literally, “They were continually devoting themselves to the fellowship.” We can't devote ourselves to Christ (the Head of the body) without being devoted to the church (His body). It is too easy to become offended and cut ourselves off from fellowship. Hebrew 10:25 commands us not to forsake the assembly of the saints and verses like Colossians 3:13 encourage us to forgive each other and bear with one another.
Fellowship cannot happen if you are not part of a local church. Even within our local bodies some of our congregations can be large and it may be hard to have close fellowships with other believers so we need to be intentional. We can only have deep fellowship if we are spending time with each other and getting involved in each others lives.
This may mean taking the time to attend small group bible studies or prayer meetings. It means being intentional in planning times to get together with those in your church body. Take the time to open your home to others and invite them for dinner or coffee. (see What is Biblical Hospitality?)
“Some Christians try to go to heaven alone, in solitude. But believers are not compared to bears or lions or other animals that wander alone. Those who belong to Christ are sheep in this respect, that they love to get together. Sheep go in flocks, and so do God’s people.”~ Charles Spurgeon
Doing Life Together Brings Compassion
One of the biggest benefits of being together is it brings about knowing people on a more deeper intimate level. You begin to truly love one another as you see each other's weaknesses and strengths. You begin to understand the difficulties of their lives and can have true compassion for them.
Most of the time we find ourselves judging others because we know nothing about them personally. We are judging as the world does on the outside and we never take the time to understand what is going on on the inside.
You love your immediate family unconditionally because you are so familiar with their strengths and weaknesses. You love them because you spend time with them truly getting to know all about them and can see beyond their weaknesses and come to love them just as they are – a work in progress.
Your fellow brothers and sisters in the faith are works in progress and if you would spend some time just getting beyond the superficial and learn more about them your love for them would grow and you would find yourself offering much grace and forgiveness during times of misunderstanding or difficulties.
“We are all called to initiate involvement in each other’s lives… We covenant together to work and pray for unity, to walk together in love, to exercise care and watchfulness over each other, to faithfully admonish and entreat one another as occasion may require, to assemble together, to pray for each other, to rejoice and to bear with each other, and to pray for God’s help in all this.”~ Mark Dever
True Christian Conversation
Many times we get stuck in the rut of just conversing with each other about the weather or food or current events. These are not bad things in and of themselves but as Christians we should desire to speak of things of the Lord with each other. If the Lord has a proper place in our lives we will desire to speak of Him often. (see Cultivating True Christian Fellowship and Two Good Questions to Ask Your Church Family).
“Don’t just share your struggles, and above all, don’t just commiserate with one another. Remember, we are to be ministers of grace to each other. We are to seek to be avenues of the Holy Spirit to help the other person appropriate the grace of God. Praying with and for one another, sharing applicable portions of Scripture, and helping each other submit to God’s providential dealings with us, must characterize our times together.”~ Jerry Bridges
We can all meet various needs within the body whether it is material or spiritual. Acts 2:45 is addressing material needs and 1 Timothy 6:18 encourages us to be generous and ready to share with those in need. We are not to enable a person who is lazy (2 Thessalonains 3:6-12) but we are called to help those without food and clothing if we can take care of those needs. Your pastor can't meet all the needs of the congregation nor is he called to. It is a responsibility of the whole family to take care of the whole family.
The Lord adds to the church but we are the vessels He uses to spread His saving Gospel to a lost world. Encourage each other in the role of evangelism. Plan times to go out and witness with a friend and have good tracts on hand to hand out as you are going about your errands. Make sure you can clearly proclaim the gospel. (see Can You Share the Gospel and The Gospel in a Minute).
We are not going to find a perfect church here on this earth. Our immediate families aren't perfect. We're not perfect and come with our own issues. The most important point I want you to take from this post is to, to devote yourself to the Lord and continue to learn to love and serve the body of Christ. As we are obedient to this work set before us by the Lord (Ephesians 2:10), He will continue to add daily to the number those being saved (Acts 2:47).