July 18, 2014

Fellowship . . . now and forever

Last night’s rerun of NCIS showed Gibbs in a near-death experience. His life was reviewed by his friends who also challenged his history by pointing out what might have happened differently because of the choices he made.

Whatever other effects this had on me, it made me think about the perfect and transparent fellowship Christians will have with one another in eternity. There would be no competitive jealousy, no hidden motives, no sinful thoughts, or harsh words. We would be as innocent children, not shy, not quarreling, but full of joy and enjoying each other in total honesty and peace of heart.

This morning’s devotions are that kind of fellowship, but sharing it in this life. This is not the stuff of television fiction, but real and possible because of Jesus Christ. However, biblical fellowship goes far beyond coffee and cookies in the church basement.

John described it in several ways. He said our fellowship is centered on a Person. Because He lives in us, we are connected to Him and each other. 1 John begins . . .  

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 . . . 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 . . . that our joy may be complete.

Fellowship is about joy, but it is also about truth and walking with God. “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 1:1–10)

Every time I sin and do not confess and forsake it, a barrier is raised in my fellowship with others. Sin cuts off the fullness of the Holy Spirit, but it is in the Spirit that true fellowship happens. Christians can be friends, even close friends, and still miss out on this special sharing of Jesus Christ in love and unity.

John also says something about that love. “ . . . Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1 John 2:7–11)

John isn’t talking about a mushy emotion. Christian love unselfishly wants the best for others. It never gets angry, rude, envious, or resentful. It is patient, kind, trusting and thoughtful, not depending on the other person to deserve it, but loving like Jesus loves — unconditionally and eternally.

I can love other Christians for what they do for me, or that they agree with me, or that they put up with me, but this is not pure Christian love. All interactions based on selfish motives do not constitute fellowship. Instead, this is a form of darkness, an indication of my insecurity and failure to fully grasp and trust God’s love for me.

One thing all of my seminary professors keep saying is that when a person knows that God loves them, they are set free to love others. Our relationships do not depend on what others do because all needs are met in Christ. If I am faithfully walking in that light, I am able to care about people no matter what they are or what they do.

Does this sound impossible? It is, at least for those who are without the life of Christ. John said, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”

He points to Jesus Christ because this love is not about who we are or on what others do, but John also defines love by actions. “He laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

John also says that love is about obedience to God, yet His commandments are simple. They begin with faith; “that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.” (1 John 3:11–24)

I’m so glad for the love of God. I’m also joyful that I will spend eternity in this amazing love relationship with Him, but also with others whose faith is in Jesus Christ. NCIS is entertaining, but last night’s episode also reminded me of what I believe, what I can look forward to, and the responsibilities that I have right now.

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