Summary: Adapted sermon of Rick Warren on the need for being in true Biblical fellowship with one another.
Today, we are beginning the third week of our 40 Days of Community, that’s day 15 for those who are doing the daily devotions. We are continuing to explore what God’s purpose is for us here on earth, which we have said is to love Him, and love others the way he does. That’s what we are here for. It isn’t happiness, pleasure, success, or power, it isn’t possessions, it is our relationships, and how we love. When we talk about love, we are not talking about an emotion or a feeling, warm fuzzies, but about a choice. Those in our small groups heard Rick Warren share that "love produces feelings, but it isn’t a feeling." To love means we make the choice to care about someone else, we choose to unselfishly look out for the needs of others ahead of our own (Phil. 2:2-4). God sets the standard for love because the Bible says "God is love" (1 Jo. 4:8, 16). He loves every person on the planet and he demonstrated his love by sending his Son to die for our sake (Rom 5:8). Love is a verb, it is what we do, not a feeling.
1) I Need Close Christian Relationships in Order to Learn Love
You don’t grow in love for others just by reading a book, you learn through practice, doing it. We learn how to love, by being in relationship with each other. We need to connect with other Christians. If a Christian decides to live like a hermit out in the middle of nowhere and then says, I love others, I’m sorry he’s deceived himself. He doesn’t love because his love has never been tested. It’s like saying I’m a great race car driver without ever having been behind the wheel of a car. It might be true in your mind, but it ain’t true until you act upon it. In order to learn love, we need to practice, get behind the wheel so to speak, we need other people to love; irritating, imperfect, frustrating people. It’s like learning patience, you can’t learn patience without having something to test your patience, right? It’s how we grow. I’ve heard some of you say, "I quit praying for patience because I didn’t want God to give me something to be patient about." It’s similar with learning love, we need to be around other people to love. We need community, we need relationships in order to practice. So God has given us a spiritual family, a church, so we can learn how to love each other. Why a church family? Because whether you like it or not we are going to be loving these people for a very...long...time so God wants us to begin practicing right now.
When someone says to me, "I don’t need a church, I don’t need other Christians, I have my own beliefs," I know I am in the presence of a person who, first of all, is not being obedient to God, and therefore not loving God because God said those who love him will obey him (John 14:15, 23-24). Second, they aren’t learning God’s basic purpose for their life by loving their brother and sister in Christ. They are not doing what God has placed them on this earth to do. The Bible says you can have all the right beliefs and doctrine, you can have faith which moves mountains, you can be generous and give all your money to the poor or charitable causes, but if you haven’t learned how to love others your life is a waste (1 Cor. 13:1-3). God expects us to love others, beginning with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
In order to learn how to love we must be in close relationship with one another. The word the Bible uses for this is fellowship. Fellowship isn’t just a potluck dinner, or the time after church on Sunday morning where we eat snacks and chit chat and say, "hi, how’s it going," and we respond "ok," even though we really aren’t. True fellowship, the kind God wants us to live, is loving, authentic, honest, open, sharing, unselfish, serving, and grace filled. But this kind of fellowship can’t happen in large group settings like Sunday morning. Rick Warren says, "You can worship in a crowd, but you can’t fellowship in a crowd." In order to cultivate true loving community we need to be together in smaller settings, either one-on-one as friends, as a few people, or small group (8-12 people). Jesus understood this, as did the first Christians.
Jesus picked how many disciples? Twelve. He had perhaps a hundred or more to choose from, but he only chose twelve, a small group to invest his life and teachings with. Of those twelve he picked three which he spent even more time with. This wasn’t just about an effective teaching method. God’s kingdom is about relationships and these twelve disciples were learning how to love one another. Remember Jesus had in his group a tax collector, Matthew, who worked for the Roman government, as well as a zealot, Simon. Zealots hated the influence of the Roman government in Israel and tried to undermine it, even assassinating people like tax collectors. These weren’t men who had a natural affinity for being together. They were together because they were following Jesus, and Jesus was teaching them how to live in God’s kingdom together, but they needed to be in smaller community, or a smaller group to learn this.