THEM KOINONIA KOOKS
INTRODUCTION… WORDS THAT HAVE TWO MEANINGS (p)
Words sometimes have two meanings. For example…
“Bark” can mean the sound a dog makes or the bumpy skin on trees
“Blue” can mean a color or can mean a feeling of sadness
“Cobbler” can mean a person who fixes shoes or a wonderful fruity dessert
“Stamp” can mean the cost it takes to send a letter or what we do with our feet on a bug
“Season” can either mean a time of the year or to add spices to something while cooking
You probably can come up with some very easy examples yourself of words that have several meanings. The meaning of the word is based on the context of the sentence. We know this about these words and many words like them. We learn about such things in elementary school.
The month of April at NBCC we have been looking at “Fellowship.” I know we had Easter this month so we have not done as much with “Fellowship” as I would like, but we are still focusing on it some. I want you to know what I am talking about when I use the word “Fellowship” because like some of these other words, it can have two different meanings in Church.
First, the word “fellowship” can be a verb that indicates that people are talking, eating together, or doing some type of activity. It is an action word usually associated with food! Ice Cream Fellowship, Chili Cookoff Fellowship, or some other churchy-food-fellowship. This type of fellowship is an event where people gather for the purpose of getting to know one another.
Second, the word “fellowship” can be a noun that means a communion of people who have joint participation in an organization or in a particular effort. The word means the unity that should exist within the Christian church which is the Body of Christ. In Acts 2:42, the verse that is driving our theme until 2020, the word used in that verse is “Koinonia” and means “the called out ones” or the committed group of believers. “Fellowship” is a distinct group of believers. We are the Koinonia Kooks.
When we look at the word “fellowship,” we are talking about the second meaning. We are not talking about having a conversation over a banana split, but rather the unifying faith and way of living that binds us all together in this place. The passage we are looking at today is a passage about “The Fellowship” and it is a bit of a fire hydrant. What I mean by that is the passage is full of truth about what a church should be, what we should not do, and commands for people in the fellowship to follow. The passage is verse after verse about who we should be as part of the “Fellowship” and it is verse after verse after verse in a constant flow about “the fellowship” and it does not let up.
READ ROMANS 12:9-21
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
As I mentioned before, this passage is full of truth about what a church should be, what we should not do, and commands for people in the fellowship to follow. Do you see what I mean about a “fire hydrant” passage… each verse showers us with truth after truth?! Let’s step in front of the fire hose of these verses and let it soak into us this morning as we process what we have read.
As I read the passage, I noticed several statements that started with the word “be.” These are phrases and verses that show us who we are to be on the inside. Being part of the fellowship means our attitudes, emotions, thought life, and motivations are changed by Jesus Christ to be more like Him. This is not an all-at-once step, but rather a process throughout our lives of becoming more Christ-like. Sometimes, for me at least, it feels like two steps forward and one step back, but it is a process! We need to be constantly moving forward in these areas.
The first “be” statements are in verses 9 and 10 and focus on love. The second “be” statement is in verse 12 and encourages us to be “joyful, patient, and faithful.” The third “be” statement is in verse 17 and it says to “be careful to do what is right.”
I was looking over these “be” statements and the two on love stuck out to me. We are to be sincere in love (verse 9) and to be devoted to one another in love (verse 10). As I thought about these two words related to love… sincerity and devotion… I realized that since the Apostle Paul is encouraging us towards sincerity and devotion that our love can in fact be insincere and undevoted. In the end, I don’t want my love or compassion or care to be insincere or undevoted. I don’t want our church to be people who say we love, but actually do not. As I was thinking about these words, my heart settled on the sincerity of love and the need for “The Fellowship” of believers (us) to have sincere love.
ILLUSTRATION… adapted from http://observationsfromasimplelife.blogspot.com/2014/12/how-to-recognize-sincerity-versus.html
Sincerity is the quality of being free from pretense, deceit or hypocrisy. We all know people who are sincere as well as know people who are insincere. The trouble is figuring out which is which in some situations.
How do we recognize true sincerity?
First, people who act the same regardless of the group they are in and when they are alone.
Second, sincere people will do things because they want to and not with thought of reward or repayment.
Third, sincere people will not do or say things they do not believe in.
How do we recognize insincerity?
First, insincere people always take but never give.
Second, insincere people will avoid eye-to-eye communication.
Third, insincere people have an excuse for everything and nothing is their fault.
As I thought about sincere love, I of course came to think about Jesus Christ. Jesus demonstrated sincere love in His life and in His ministry. I think of verses like Matthew 9:36 which says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus healed and fed and talked with people because He genuinely loved them and wanted them to find God the Father. I thought of Joseph in Genesis 39 who sincerely loved God and loved God when he was in public, but also in private with a tempting woman. I strangely thought of the prophet Isaiah who was so sincere with his love for God and God’s people that he went “stripped” and “barefoot” for 3 years just to make a point (Isaiah 20:3). These people were sincere because they were consistent, selfless, and committed in their love for God. I want to be that type of person.
I thought about insincerity as well. The Bible is full of people who were insincere with their love for God. Cain (Genesis 4), Samson (Judges 14-16), Eli (1 Samuel 2), King Saul (1 Samuel 15), King Solomon (1 Kings 11), Judas Iscariot (Luke 22), Simon the Magician (Acts 8), Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 9), and even little known Diotrephes (3 John). I don’t want to be like these folks who said one thing and did another. I don’t want to be someone who loves insincerely.
I love the story of what happened on the island of Molokai in Hawaii because it has quite a history. You have to go way back to the late 1800’s to understand its significance. You see, back then, there was no cure for the highly contagious and deadly disease called leprosy. A disease that would attack the extremities of the body, the ears, the toes, the nose, the fingers. A horrible dreadful disease which today is curable, but it wasn’t back then.
In order to keep the disease at bay and from spreading, the government would send lepers to a colony on the island of Molakai where they would be secluded and isolated from those who were not infected with the disease.
In 1873, there was a young, brave Catholic priest named Father Damien who volunteered to spend his life serving the people secluded on the island of Molokai. When he arrived, he was startled to see people who were not only suffering physically, but socially, and emotionally, and spiritually. In the leper colony he saw extreme drunkenness, immorality, abuse, and an overall sense of hopelessness. What he saw were people who desperately needed to know the answer to a question we all ask... where is God’s love? They needed God’s presence and His love in their life.
He built hospitals, clinics, and churches and built some 600 coffins. And the whole while he was giving them the answer to that question... where is God’s love? Whenever a church service was held, he would stand up in front of the lepers, and he would warmly, and lovingly address them as "my dear brethren." But then one morning in 1885, at the age of 45, in a calm clear voice, instead of "my dear brethren," he began with, "My fellow lepers, I am one of you now."
What made this man of God stay there and live and contract the disease? Out of sincere love and devoted love for God he gave those lepers a gift that would change their life for all of eternity. He shared with them the answer to the ever-present question... "Where is God’s love?" And the only way he could give them the answer is by becoming one of them.
Love is a huge marker and quality of a fellowship of believers that is seeking after God. My love needs to be sincere. Your love needs to be sincere. As a “Fellowship,” we need to work towards and maintain sincere love and devotion to one another in love. This is a great mark of God’s people. In fact, Jesus says in John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
How are you doing in the sincere love department?
The passage in Romans 12 is not just full of “Be” statements that instruct us about our hearts and motivations, but is also full of “Do Not” statements that we should not ignore.
II. DO NOT
Reading over Romans 12, I found six different “Do Not” statements. “Do not lack zeal” is found in verse 11. Verse 16 has “Do not be proud” and “Do not be conceited.” Verse 17 and 19 seem related because they say “Do not repay evil for evil” and “Do not take revenge.” “Do not be overcome with evil” is found in verse 21.
In the list of items the Apostle Paul is commanding the fellowship of believers not to do, I could not help but be attracted to verse 11 which says “Do not lack zeal.” Zeal is passion. Zeal is commitment. Zeal is single-minded devotion. Zeal is having goals and running towards those goals. Zeal is enthusiastic diligence.
Most of the passages in the Bible that reference zeal have to do with the Lord. God is the ultimate example of zealousness. God is zealous for His people (Isaiah 26:11). God is zealous about accomplishing His will (2 Kings 19:31, Isaiah 9:7, 37:32). God is zealous against sin (Deuteronomy 29:20, Isaiah 42:13, Ezekiel 36:5). I love Isaiah 59:17 which says that God “wrapped Himself in zeal as in a cloak.” God is also zealous about His Holy Name (Ezekiel 39:25). Over and over again in the Bible we see God acting in ways that show He is zealous for these things.
There are passages in the Bible directed to us, the fellowship of believers, when it comes to zeal. Proverbs 23:17 in the Old Testament commands us, “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD.” Galatians 4:18 in the New Testament says, “It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you.” I believe that if we are going to copy God and take His characteristics on us, then we need to be…
... Zealous about His people who are the Church.
… Zealous about accomplishing His will in our personal lives and in the life of the corporate fellowship.
… Zealous against sin.
… Zealous about His Holy Name and sharing Him.
… Zealous about fearing the Lord and keeping Him as #1.
… Zealous about doing good.
These are the things we should be running full steam ahead towards in our lives and in the life of the church.
Blake Griffin was the number one in the 2009 NBA draft pick for the Los Angeles Clippers. He still plays for them. He is 6’10” and dominated college basketball playing for Oklahoma. After he was drafted, he called the Clippers general manager on a Saturday morning to open the gym so he could work out. Being a millionaire and assured a spot on the team, he could have sat back and waited for the team workouts. Blake’s dad, Tommy, said, "But he also knows that nothing is going to be achieved by his talent alone." (“Griffin rolls up sleeves,” Pedro Moura, Los Angeles Daily News, 06/29/2009). What is that? That is zeal! When we look around and see successful people, we might think it is just fate or luck, but the truth is most successful people work hard and are zealous for their goals. In the same way, Paul challenges the fellowship to work hard spiritually with zeal. Spiritual growth is never an accident.
One of the aspects of Christians that non-Christians find attractive is our fervent faith for the Father. We know what we believe and we live it out. That is zeal. Zeal is attractive. Zeal is evangelistic. Zeal is not just talking about faith, but living out faith in a way that is uncompromising and with full effort.
How are you doing in the zeal department?
The passage in Romans 12 is not just full of “Be” statements that instruct us about our hearts and motivations and full of “Do Not” statements that we should not ignore, but is also full of outright commands that we should listen to with open ears and soft hearts.
The last items we will look at are commands we find in the passage. I think of these as commands because they are action words and ideas just presented and the flavor of them is that we are to just do them. Just follow this. In verse 13, we see “Share with Gods people who are in need” and also “Practice hospitality.” We find in verse 14 a command that Jesus also gave “Bless those who persecute you.” “Rejoice and mourn” is in verse 15. Verse 16 we find “Live in harmony.”
Just like in the other parts of the verse, one of these commands caught my heart and my eye and I spent time thinking and praying on it. I found the command in verse 14 “Bless those who persecute you” to be quite important.
Our world tells us that it is proper for “eye for eye and tooth for tooth” to be the way the world works. Something happens to me, then something equal should happen to you. Good gets good and bad gets bad. That is what “what goes around comes around” means. That is what “karma” means. That is what “everything comes full circle” means. That is what “Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind” means. We believe in these sayings because we have always heard them and we like them. We like that good gets blessed and bad gets punished.
God’s fellowship of people works differently. God’s Kingdom is often backwards to what the world thinks and expects. Last is first. Greatness is humbleness. Brokenness is healing. Forgiveness is prized.
The command to “Bless those who persecute you” is a command to us to be different from the world. When we are wronged, we are to forgive. When someone steps on us, we are to put our best foot forward. When people are frustrating, we give grace. When someone is actively against us, we pray blessings for them. When someone has wronged us, we do good to them. That is the way God’s people work. That is the way the Fellowship works.
Our biggest objection to this is that we don’t think it is fair. Fairness is one of those things that seems to be subjective based on the person and the circumstances. Fairness is something we all want, but struggle with. We don’t think forgiveness in the face of grievous wrongs is fair. We don’t think praying for someone who hates us is fair. Please hear me on this… it has nothing to do with fairness! We should be more concerned about holiness, righteousness, and Godliness, than fairness which seems to be inconsistent. We need to simply in faith follow God’s commands and let Him deal with the consequences or the unfairness that may result.
When he was an attorney, Abraham Lincoln was once approached by a man who passionately insisted on bringing a suit for $2.50 against an impoverished debtor. Lincoln tried to discourage him, but the man was bent on revenge and wanted what was his. When he saw that the man would not be convinced, Lincoln agreed to take the case and asked for a legal fee of $10, which the plaintiff paid. Lincoln then gave half the money to the defendant, who willingly confessed to the debt and paid the $2.50! But even more amazing than Lincoln's ingenuous settlement was the fact that the irate plaintiff was satisfied with it. Again, fairness does not always make sense!
We need to remember that God calls us to be different. One of the ways we are to be different is in how we treat people who wrong us, malign us, have a spiteful tongue, or sin against us. As a fellowship, we are to meet people with blessings and grace. As individual Christians, we are to meet people with blessings and grace.
How are you in the blessing department?
Romans 12:9-21 is a passage full of statements and warnings and commands. Each verse is one after another given to us to live out and apply as we are part of the Fellowship. There is so much and so we paired it down this morning.
How are you doing in the sincere love department?
How are you doing in the zeal department?
How are you doing in the blessing department?
CONCLUSION… WORDS THAT HAVE 2 MEANINGS (p)
We started off this morning talking about words that had two meanings. I would hope, as we think about these verses and our lives, that some important words have one meaning and not two. For example…
Church is either a place where anyone can come to find God or a judgmental country club of know-it-alls.
Christian is either a loving zealous blessed person or somebody that just checks that box to feel better.
Fellowship is either a group of unified believers in Christ or a social hang out group.
I would rather the words Church, Christian, and Fellowship have solid Godly meanings than anything else.