Summary: If we are to be advantaged when gathering with God's people, we must remember the focus and foundation of true Christian fellowship.
Last time, we made note of how of verse 25 admonishes us to not give up on meeting together with God’s people. We are told that we must fellowship with God’s people at every opportunity, intentionally, persistently, and habitually. Meeting together with the people is a good habit to develop. Now today, I want us to think together about why fellowshipping with God’s people is such a good thing to do.
The Advantages to Fellowship (READ VERSE 25)
“but let us encourage one another”
The advantage of fellowshipping with God’s people is that we can be encouraged. The purpose of Christian fellowship is that we might be encouraged. Specifically, encouraged toward Christ-likeness. But how does this happen? Let’s think together about it.
1. The focus of true Christian fellowship.
The focus of true Christian fellowship is on encouraging others!
There is an old saying (it’s old because it is true), that says the secret to JOY is all a matter of focus. We must first focus on . . .
J - Jesus; next, we must focus on . . .
O - Others; and then our focus must be on . . .
Y - Yourself.
Interestingly enough, the first three of the five core values we are considering in this series, worship, fellowship, and discipleship; each correspond to this three-fold focus.
In worship, the focus is on Jesus - exalting Him, responding to Him;
In fellowship, the focus in on Others - how we might encourage them;
In discipleship, the focus is on Yourself - applying God’s truth to life.
Our consideration today is on the advantages to fellowship; and it is important to understand that if I am going to be advantaged by meeting together with God’s people, it will only be as my focus is on others.
It has been said that there are two ways a person can enter a room. One way is to enter a room with an attitude that says, “Here I am!” The other way is to enter a room with an attitude that says, “There you are!”
If I am participating in fellowship with God’s people by focusing on others as verse 25 tells us, then I will be the kind of person whose presence will encourage others. Paul tells us to be this kind of person.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” - Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)
If we are going to be advantaged by our participation in fellowship with God’s people, we must understand that the focus of fellowship is not on me, but on others. This is a basic principle of kingdom living. Jesus emphasizes this principle in Luke 6:38, where he says:
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (NIV)
The imagery is striking. Remember, in Jesus’ day, men wore robes. The picture is of a man using his robe to form a “bag” into which another might pour grain. As the grain is poured into his lap, the man presses it down and shakes the grain so he might hold as much as
possible, but the blessing is such, there is too much to contain!
This verse is commonly used to speak giving financially to God’s work. But that takes it out of context. Jesus isn’t speaking about money here, but relationships. Verse 38 is a contrast with what He said in verse 37 about having a judgmental attitude. Eugene Peterson captures the essence of our Savior’s teaching in The Message:
“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults - unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back - given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”- Luke 6:37-38 (The Message)
If, when we gather, we each think only of ourselves and what we can receive, then no one will be blessed, because no one will be giving! But if we come thinking how we might encourage others, our fellowship will overflow with blessing!
By encouraging others, we can be encouraged.
One interesting thing about Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 4:29 is what he says in the very next verse:
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God . . .” - Ephesians 4:30 (NIV)
Since our attitude toward others can grieve the Holy Spirit, perhaps the question we each must consider is, “Am I the kind of person whose presence with God’s people invites the presence of the Holy Spirit?”