November 23, 2011

Genuine Fellowship

Fellowship is not milk and cookies in the church basement. It is not a good visit over dinner, or a long walk in the park with a Christian friend. It can happen in these places, but not always.

Christian fellowship is about Jesus. Fellowship with Him has nothing to do with food or location. It is more like a partnership, a joining of heart and mind. It is knowing each other, sharing ourselves, being in harmony. This works the same in fellowship between genuine believers. One definition says Christian fellowship is joint participation in the person of Christ with mutuality of spirit. 

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 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. (1 John 1:6–7)
Fellowship cannot happen where sin is practiced. My “participation” in Jesus is blocked when I sin, therefore I cannot freely share with Him. Sin also ruins freely sharing Jesus with others. There must be a transparent openness in my life so that others can see Him in me. Sin blocks that transparency and spoils fellowship.

While walking in the flesh is also sinful, it might not appear as if I am doing anything evil. Life in the flesh is characterized by making everything all about me. I am not relying on God but on my own strength. I could go through the motions of Christian living this way, but when the flesh is in charge, fellowship cannot happen. Genuine fellowship depends on the vehicle of the Holy Spirit, who is that necessary “mutuality of spirit” in the definition. Without Him filling my life, I cannot obey God, walk in the light, or have fellowship with anyone.

Author Larry Crabb writes about layers that also spoil transparency. These are false personas that we use to hide ourselves because we are afraid that if others could see the real person, we would be rejected. We might successfully hide our sinful self, but if we belong to Jesus, the real person gets hidden also. We can share with others, but it will be superficial because genuine fellowship is blocked by these layers.

On those occasions when I am free from sin and can peel back any layers to spend time with other Christians who are free from sin and layers also, each of us experience Jesus in the other people. We each see His grace and kindness, truth and mercy, power and joy. This is genuine fellowship.

Lord, You have blessed me with the indwelling presence of Jesus Christ. I am a jar of clay holding a great treasure. If others are to experience Jesus because of me, then I need to be transparent, open, honest, and even broken in humility. If I am to experience Jesus in others, I may not be able to see Him because of their layers, but my own layers can also block fellowship from anyone who is walking in the light with You. Cleanse me from anything that prevents fellowship. You want me to walk in the light that You shine into my life, not merely for my own edification and fellowship with You, but that I might have that grand experience of mutually sharing You in communion with other Christians.

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