Christ, Our Fellowship, Part 1

December 16, 2015 at 9:46 AM 4 comments

fellowship2We just finished a 20-part series titled “Christ, Our Righteousness,” which highlights the truth about our legal standing before God. Those who have (or will in the future) trusted Jesus by faith and receive the only salvation that is available will experience this legal change of standing before God.

We literally go from unrighteous to righteous and from that point onward, we are seen as fully and legally righteous as far as God is concerned. As we noted previously, this new righteous standing we have before God comes solely from the fact that via our faith, God applies (imputes) the righteousness of Jesus to our “account” so to speak (cf. Romans 4, especially v. 6, where Paul clearly states that Christ’s righteousness which is imputed to our account without our having had to work for it). It is Christ’s righteousness that creates the change in our standing once it becomes associated with us via faith. Our faith merely appropriates that. Nothing can change or destroy this new legal standing and thank God for that.

I cannot emphasize enough that this righteousness is based not on what we have done, but on what God has done on our behalf. This new legal standing protects us from hell and an eternity without God. It also grants us permission to draw close to God in fellowship. Unfortunately for too many Christians (myself included), we fail to avail ourselves of that fellowship for one reason or another. We simply ignore it, we overshoot it, or we aren’t quite sure how to actually enter into it. If you’re like me, you have probably been guilty of over thinking this whole thing at times. It sounds so ethereal, doesn’t it? What is it supposed to look like? How do we know when we have actually entered into fellowship with God?

Throughout this series – however long it will be – I want to try to compare our relationship with Jesus, with other relationships that we have, the human kind. Yes, Jesus was and remains fully human (while also being fully God), but unlike our other human relationships, we cannot physically see Jesus nor can we physically hear His voice or sense His physical touch. Jesus does not physically give us a hug as other human beings might. He does not wrap us up in a bear hug or put a loving arm around our shoulder as other humans can and do. We don’t get to hear Him audibly and physically tell us how much He loves us. We are not privileged to hear the tenderness of His voice, the concern in His eyes, or the other things that others were privy to when He physically walked this earth. We tend to simply take these things for granted in our other human relationships. We can only learn about these things from what has been written in His Word and that is exactly where we need to start.

What I’d like to do in this first part is to define what is meant by fellowship, from a biblical standpoint. What does that mean? How does it look? How do I grow in my fellowship with the Lord? How does it benefit me and how does it glorify the Lord? God willing, we will get there, together.

When I first met my wife, I found her to be quite intriguing. She was (and remains) beautiful. I sensed within her a depth that I failed to notice in other women. She carried herself with poise, was friendly, but not overly so, and she came across as intelligent. In fact, I soon learned she was finishing up her doctoral program in special education. The more I got to know her, the more I liked her. Like turned eventually to love after we started dating and it seemed as though we were moving toward one another emotionally and romantically to the point where marriage simply seemed to be the next obvious step.

We’ve now been married nearly 30 years and I’m still in love with my wife even though there have been the normal ups and downs that any long-term relationship is forced to deal with from time to time. One thing I’ve noticed is how things have settled into a working relationship as we’ve grown together. In some ways, the early intensity is gone, having been replaced with a more consistent emotional approach toward one another. In other words, we are more relaxed, the highs are not as high and lows are not as low. We are comfortable. Yet, at the same time, I have to marvel at how little I knew about my wife before we got married compared with how much I know about her now. I’m sure she would say the same about me.

This is the way good relationships work. Two people come together – whether as simply friends or as eventual marriage partners – and this marks the beginning of the relationship. The relationship grows when several things occur.

  1. there is time given to get to know the person
  2. a greater understanding and awareness of the other person comes to light and we absorb this new awareness
  3. we apply ourselves to increasing the bonds of friendship based on what we learn about the other person as we go

I tend to be a thinker, always critiquing or analyzing something until I can figure it out. I know enough about myself to have learned that every time I’m in a quandary about something, I get a bit annoyed. I’m annoyed that I cannot fit the pieces of that particular puzzle together in my mind immediately. Because I’m on edge, it is difficult for me to set that aside so that I can be reasonable, calm, and loving to people around me. I’m preoccupied with trying to put all the various pieces of this new puzzle together until the last piece is put into place and then I can sit back and relax.

Because I’m a visual learner, it’s always been much easier to learn something if I see someone else do. Once shown, I see it and remember it. I can then be able to duplicate it on my own easily. Unfortunately, on numerous occasions, I am left actually having to read the instructions (ugh, who does that?) to see if I can figure something out. It takes longer because of the way my brain works. I’ve learned that much about myself.

People like me are at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to our relationship with Jesus because the main source of knowledge about Jesus is found in God’s Word, which I must actually read. Don’t get me wrong. I do read His Word, but given the way I learn, it takes me longer to read, comprehend, and absorb His Word than it might for someone else who can read it and absorb a good deal of it at the same time. Because of all this, I think I have a tendency to place unrealistic expectations on my relationship with God. I want to see it, to experience it, but God wants me to learn about it and through faith believe the relationship exists.

I’ll try to explain. In Philippians 3:10, Paul makes the following statement.

that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…

That, to me, is an ethereal desire. I don’t know how to plug into that. I can tell you what it means, but I still have a difficult time appropriating that because it seems to speak of things that are on a supernatural or ethereal level. This is of course due to the fact that our relationship with Jesus is supernatural, as opposed to natural. Because of that, my expectations at least tend to run much higher and I want to experience God. Why, though? Why isn’t knowledge enough? Why isn’t the understanding of Him through His Word good enough?

In his book, The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer speaks to this issue. He states the following, which he penned decades ago.

THESE ARE THE TIMES that try men’s souls. The Spirit has spoken expressly that in the latter times some should depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron. Those days are upon us and we cannot escape them; we must triumph in the midst of them, for such is the will of God concerning us. [1]

Here we are decades after Tozer has passed from this world to the next and what he said during his day is absolutely appropriate for our day.

He says something next that is also extremely apropos for many Christians who are “wired” as I am.

Strange as it may seem, the danger today is greater for the fervent Christian than for the lukewarm and the self-satisfied. The seeker after God’s best things is eager to hear anyone who offers a way by which he can obtain them. He longs for some new experience, some elevated view of truth, some operation of the Spirit that will raise him above the dead level of religious mediocrity he sees all around him, and for this reason he is ready to give a sympathetic ear to the new and the wonderful in religion, particularly if it is presented by someone with an attractive personality and a reputation for superior godliness. [2]

On one hand, that makes me feel better. I recognize that I want to know Jesus, that I’m not lukewarm. On the other hand, Tozer hits the nail on the head where I’m concerned because of my tendency to overshoot my relationship with Christ. I can see – if I take time to look back over my life – where I went wrong on numerous occasions when I stepped out and began chasing something that was based on bad theology. Like Tozer says, there were times when I yearned “for some new experience, some elevated view of truth, some operation of the Spirit that” would raise me above what he calls “religious mediocrity.” I’ve been guilty of that, yet what is fascinating is that I do not approach any other relationship (especially the one with my wife) in such a manner. Odd, isn’t it?

There is a very real danger for people like me who learn visually or who tend to rely on how information makes me feel. It is a danger that I need to constantly be aware of. Can you imagine if I woke one day and didn’t “feel” as though I loved my wife any longer. It would be an absolute lie, but imagine if I started paying attention to it. Eventually, I would act as though I didn’t love my wife and eventually she would notice it. It would create tension between us as I withdrew from fellowship with her, wouldn’t it?

The same applies to my relationship with Jesus. If I allow my feelings to direct me, my actions and reactions to Jesus will change and not necessarily for the better. It is important for me to understand that while there is a very direct supernatural connection with Jesus, in the end, we are still talking about a relationship with Him that has many of the same exact parameters as my other relationships do. Because of this, I probably need to stop placing unrealistic expectations on myself where God is concerned.

In the beginning and the end, I am in relationship with Jesus. Yes, He’s God, but the experience I will have when I see Him physically, will be far greater than the experience I can have with Him now. I need to understand that in many ways, growing in Christ takes the same type of time that growing in my relationship with my wife has taken. It doesn’t happen in one night. It happens over time.

We sometimes think, “I’m feeling great about God right now. I love people and it is easy for me to keep on loving them because of the way I feel!” We then do whatever it takes to recreate the way we felt so that it makes it easy to continue loving people or thinking that God is “pleased” with me for the way I feel.

I realize that dealing with fellowship with Christ is much more difficult than dealing with our righteousness. Righteousness is a state, a declaration by God regarding our standing before Him. Nothing we can do will impact, change, or eradicate that standing. It doesn’t matter how we feel about it. That truth remains true for all time and eternity.

Our fellowship with Jesus is something else altogether and has many facets to it. While it is not based on how we feel about it (because it is also based on the truth of God’s Word, which never changes), relationships do involve feelings. We need to find out how these feelings interplay with the truth of God’s Word in our fellowship with Jesus.

While our legal standing has nothing at all to do with our feelings (though the more we realize the truth of our legal standing before God in Christ, the greater the chance that our feelings will react to that truth in a very positive way that makes us feel wonderful!), relationships do involve our feelings, but they should be kept in check when it appears as though they are trying to guide or direct that relationship. Feelings should always be a reaction to truth and in that way, feelings can react to our legal standing and our fellowship with God. They should be allowed to do that, but they should never direct the way we think. Feelings/emotions should always react to truth. They should never create the way we think or believe.

We’re going to move very slowly and I’ll say this at the outset. If it tends to become confusing (which leads to frustration) to me, I’ll probably set this series aside for a bit until I can approach it from another angle altogether. I also want to keep future installments of this series shorter, much less than 2,000 words. I’ll try to do that.

Our fellowship is the practical daily aspect of being a Christian. How we grow, how much we grow, and how deep our affection for Jesus becomes in the process, determines our ability to live the Christian life in a way that pleases God. We cannot get there by focusing how we feel about things. We can only get there by focusing on and comprehending the truth about our relationship with God in Christ.

Let’s begin to learn together and see where His Word takes us.

 

[1] http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/tozer/5j00.0010/5j00.0010.29.htm

[2] Ibid

Entry filed under: christianity, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: , , , .

Christ, Our Righteousness, Part 20 Christ, Our Fellowship, Part 2

4 Comments

  • 1. Christ, Our Fellowship, Part 19 | Study - Grow - Know  |  January 6, 2016 at 10:35 AM

    […] If you’re just joining me with this post, I would highly recommend that you start at the beginning. That would be with the very first article in the series before this one titled, Christ, Our Righteousness because it is there that I lay that foundation and the foundation for this series, which begins with Christ, Our Fellowship. […]

  • 2. Christ, Our Fellowship, Part 10 | Study - Grow - Know  |  December 26, 2015 at 7:54 AM

    […] I began the series on Christ, Our Righteousness, which has been followed by this series, Christ, Our Fellowship, I’ve highlighted what I believe are several things that are “musts” for every […]

  • 3. Christ, Our Fellowship, Part 3 | Study - Grow - Know  |  December 17, 2015 at 6:29 AM

    […] It is very dangerous because it is as A. W. Tozer stated (in our first article): […]

  • 4. Christ, Our Fellowship, Part 2 | Study - Grow - Know  |  December 16, 2015 at 11:59 AM

    […] thing I wanted to do in the last article (the first in this series), but failed to do, was define what is meant by fellowship, from a […]


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