Summary: Christians living in our mobile society need fellowship because other channels of association - family, friends, etc, may be lacking. What can we do to enrich our lives together and what should we avoid that can disrupt fellowship?
ENRICHING OUR LIFE TOGETHER - PART 5 OF 5
1) Last week we started looking at the application of our previous studies to ‘Our Life Together’. In this week’s message, we’ll look at what can we do to enrich our lives together, and what sort of things we should avoid, which have the potential of disrupting fellowship.
2) There are many places we could turn to in the New Testament for a study on ‘Enriching Our Life Together’.
* Much of the New Testament addresses this subject in one form or another
* But in this study, we will focus mainly on what we find in the epistle of James
3) Addressed to “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (James 1:1), it is full of advice for:
* Those Christians who find themselves living in a highly mobile society like our own
* Those Christians whose need for fellowship is often a truly felt need (because other normal channels of association like family, friends, etc., may be lacking)
2. THINGS TO AVOID
Let’s begin by observing five things we must avoid, if we desire to succeed in ‘Enriching Our Life Together’.
A. IMMORALITY AND EVIL - James 1:21
1) This includes any sort of immoral behaviour or speech, which many Christians ignore at their peril - Eph 5:3-5 … Read Carefully!
2) The wise man wrote of the devastating effects of immorality - Prov 6:27-35
Nothing will destroy the fellowship we have in Christ like sin in the Body of the Church
B. FAVOURITISM - James 2:1-9
We’ve discussed this negative characteristic in our previous studies:
1) Showing respect of persons through ‘favouritism’, or through its more evil cousin ‘bigotry’ (i.e. ‘prejudice’, ‘intolerance’ and ‘bias’), makes us sinners before God - James 2:9
2) Fellowship in Christ is designed to bring us together, not divide us
C. MISUSE OF THE TONGUE - James 3:1-12
1) The tongue possesses great power to destroy, if we are not careful - James 3:5-7
2) When we misuse the tongue to curse men, it reveals the shallowness of our praise of God – James 3:9 12
During the last World War, an old Navy saying was “Loose lips sinks ships”. ‘Loose lips’ can have the same effect on the peace and fellowship in any church.
D. SELFISHNESS - James 4:1
1) James reveals that the root cause of much conflict is nothing more than selfishness
2) As he wrote earlier, “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be there.” - James 3:16
If we desire peace and harmony in our fellowship, we must grow beyond the self-centredness of our ‘old man’:
Eph 4:22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,
E. SPEAKING EVIL OF ONE ANOTHER - James 4:11,12
1) Here we learn that speaking evil of another evil actually “speaks evil of the law and judges the law”; do we wish to be guilty of that?
2) We also set ourselves up as judges, when there is really only one Judge and Lawgiver
3) This does not rule out the need to “judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24), nor to “judge those who are inside” the family of God (1 Cor 5:9-13)
But too often we can be guilty of judging others according to our own personal standards; speaking evil of others is usually an indication of that, and quickly destroys fellowship
These five things can prevent a church from enjoying the fellowship/life that Christ intends for His church. Let’s be very careful and never to allow them to infect the relationship we have as the family of God.
3. THINGS TO DO
At the same time, let’s take a pro-active approach to building fellowship; what does James counsel us to do?
A. VIEW ‘CHALLENGES’ AS ‘OPPORTUNITIES’ - James 1:2-4
Without being tested and refined, our characters will never develop and strengthen. They stay as if we were still little children.
1) Possessing a positive outlook about difficulties is good for churches as well as individuals
2) Any church that is growing will generally experience problems in maintaining peace and harmony
3) But just as marriages are made stronger when spouses are willing to work together, so a church can be made stronger through overcoming its difficulties.
B. PRAY FOR WISDOM - James 1:5-8
1) Maintaining a growing fellowship in a church requires wisdom
2) Just as we should seek wisdom from God as individuals, so we also need to do this together, as a church.
C. MAINTAIN PROPER PERSPECTIVES ABOUT OUR SITUATIONS - James 1:9-11
1) Fellowship is often disrupted by envy or pride
2) But God gives us reasons to be thankful for whatever situation we find ourselves in
3) If all the members are willing to see themselves as God sees them, there will be no room for pride or envy