This week's Bible Study - June 22, 2003
Acts 2:42-47;Ephesians 4:1-6
How can I help my church enjoy a stronger fellowship?
Quote of the Week:
48% of church-goers attend an average of once a month.
--- U.S.A. Today, 5-25-94
Most likely, most of you who read this lesson attend church. Maybe even every week. Great for you. But, do you really know what is expected? In so many churches, on Sundays, people will darken the doors, but only more or less out of compulsion. Are they pleasing God in this manner? Are they receiving the benefits that God has intended? Church is to be much more than the Sunday place. It's much more than just attending a service and Bible Study. It's more than just catching up with friends. There is so much more that involves true fellowship that can be found there.
Following the day of Pentecost, 3000 new members added to the fellowship. What types of problems does that present? Is your church ready to handle such a large group of new believers? They didn't have a previous church background. They didn't know what it meant to be a group of believers. What would you have told them? Emotion would carry them for a while. Then, what?
These new church people experienced changed lives. It wasn't a passing fancy. They were devoted. What does it mean to be devoted? Devoted to the teaching and to the fellowship. You can't just go for the potluck dinners, and you can't just go for the studies. When the two are merged together, things start happening. To what are you devoted?
What was the result of people devoting selves to the church? Awe filled everyone, and many miraculous things were done. A sense of a soberness that only comes through God's obvious stamp of approval. That can still happen today. Do you sense this at your church?
The believers experienced commonality. They depended upon one another and helped each other. Growing up and staying in the same area all your life, you may never really get this sense. Family time may override commitment to the church. Our family, after moving away from immediate family (parents and siblings), depended on the church for much more than an occasional Sunday meeting.
People gave, as was needed. They met regularly. They enjoyed one another and experienced praise and worship of God together. The church was a thriving place. People will want to be a part of this. Even today, but it's too bad more of the people that want this don't seem to be in the church already.
There are six chapters in Ephesians. Paul writes to the church in Ephesus concerning doctrinal issues in the first 3. Beginning in chapter 4, he starts with the application. You can't really have one (doctrine) without the other (application).
Paul set the example, as a prisoner. Even then, his thoughts were on encouraging others.
Can the same be said of you? Do you know others that this could be said of? My thoughts in prison? Likely, it would be to get out.
He encouraged them to live a life worthy of the calling we have received. What would this mean? How much worth do you place on the fact that you have been called, individually, by the Creator of the Universe? Because of who we are, we should be more than willing to live as called. 1 John 5:3 says "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome" Truly, living as God has commanded brings rewards and it is truly not burdensome.
Our attitudes should be of humility, gentleness, patience, loving one another. Is this our attitude? Are we consistent? We may appear one way to some people, but is that the example we maintain? I know of people, including myself, who at times have put forth one example, and then later blown it, because I didn't keep the mindset. A good example now is an emphasis we have had at our church - Beyond These Walls. This was to focus on relationships outside of the church and try to share Christ with others, without even intending that they necessarily end up at our church. We had lessons that helped us consider how to develop relationships with many other types of people and to tangibly show the love of Christ through actions and words. And, I believe, that many people have put forth an effort to accomplish this. However, does it stick with us, at all times? What about in sports and recreation? For example, church sports leagues can be a lot of fun, for both the recreational and competitive minded people. However, in all our endeavors, we are to be Christlike. What happens if we drop our guard and start 'playing' in a belligerent manner? What does that show to others? Is this the example we want to send to others? We need to remember that we are the light of Christ wherever we go, whatever we do. You can't leave it on the bench. Play hard, but play Christlike. Thankfully, we have plenty of examples of Christian athletes in all types of sports that are shining examples of being a Christian, even in the midst of a tough game. What about you? It may not be sports - it may be an attitude at work. Are we drawing folks to Christ or are we repelling them?
Paul's primary concern in this passage, however, was in the church. Relationships with other believers. We are to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Are you building up other people, or are you tearing them down? I've seen so many people in a church that have basically tried to squeeze the life out of others, because of past mistakes. When you hear of the unity of the Spirit within the church, are there names and faces of people that come to your mind with whom you have a problem? You won't agree with everyone all the time, but why not get past what may have happened in the past and show the love of Christ to your brother or sister?
This passage makes it apparent that while Christianity is about an individual relationship with Christ, we are interrelated with other believers.
What is unity based on? The guys in the local Lions Club have unity of sorts. A sports team must have some type of unity. In these and other cases, there has to be some unifying factor. If you travel abroad, and come across someone from the same state in the U.S., you will find commonality with them almost instantly. Even with people you may never talk to while at home. However, within the body of Christ, we have the greatest unifying factor available. Commonality of birthplace or high school or neighborhood - they all pale in comparison to the unity of the body of Christ.
We are one body of Christ. Together, as a unit, we stand together as the representation of the body of Christ to a lost and dying world. There is one Spirit who is working in each of us - calling us to faith and guiding us into all wisdom. Through salvation, we have one hope which cannot be understood by those who do not have Christ.
There is one Lord. We don't follow different leaders of church. We are to fall in behind the Lord. This is the central confession of a Christian. 1 John 4 says that every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh is from God. Every spirit that does not confess Jesus in the spirit of the antichrist. Every heresy starts by devaluing or changing who Jesus is. Sure, they may use the name Jesus. But, if they do not acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus, it's a different Jesus. There is also one faith and baptism. Through the one Lord, one faith and baptism, we come into the body of Christ. The baptism is not the sprinkling or dunking of a person, but the baptism of the spirit.
There is one God and one Father. Many people may think of God in many different ways. But, it really doesn't matter if we call Him a God of love or the God of Creation. He is this and more. He is who He is. He is sovereign. He is the sustainer of life.
So, what about you and what about your church? You may say that this describes your church, or you may not. However, this isn't about changing your church. It is something that has to start from the ground up. Is your life standing up to the model that is presented in Scripture? One thing I've learned is that I can't change anyone else. I can't change you. I can't change anyone in my class, anyone at my work, anyone in my house. But, I can change me.
Are you an integral part of a church? Hebrews 10:25 says "...not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near" Realize that God has placed you as part of a church. Be involved in learning opportunities. Be involved in establishing relationships. Become the part of the fellowship that God has prepared you to be.