Sunday, November 21, 2010

November 21, 2010


Week Two “Stewardship Is Fellowship” Luke 9:23-26

Can you imagine a world where everyone was complete in his self and didn't need anyone else?

Would you like to be in a place like that?

Actually, there is a place like that! It is called Hell!

One contrast of heaven and hell tells of a man who had a dream that he was allowed to see both places. He was first taken to hell.
He was taken to a large room in the middle of which there was a large pot of stew.
The stew smelled delicious. But all around this point there were people who were starving and in desperation.
They all held spoons in their hands that had unusually long handles that reached all the way to the pot, but because the spoon handles were longer than their arms, they were unable to return the spoons filled with stew to their mouths. Their suffering was terrible and continuous.
Then the man was taken to heaven. Heaven was identical to hell; the rooms were identical, the pot of stew in the middle of the room was the same, and the spoons were the same. But, the people in this room were well-fed and joyous.
The man was perplexed when first walked into the room. But as he watched the people in this room, he learned the difference. The people had spoons that would not allow them to feed themselves, so they fed each other.
Fellowship is feeding each other as we allow God to feed us. It is a “joint feeding.”

You and I were created for fellowship. God placed that desire in the human psyche. He did that because He desires fellowship with us. He built in an "incompleteness" that will drive us to seek relationship with Him and with others.

In short, God wired us to need Him and to need each other. Relationship is what we need and fellowship is how we do it!

There are two places where fellowship is demonstrated as it was designed to happen, in Eden and in Jerusalem at the beginning of the Church. Relationships have never been healthier than in those two places so doesn't it make sense to see what we can learn about them?

In both situations, God was the focus of their relationship. They fellowshipped with Him. They sought God together. God was their point of connection, spiritually and emotionally. Therefore, they had oneness in their marriages and unity in their fellowship! Doesn't that sound good?

The New Testament word for "fellowship" is "koinonia". It appears 20 times in the New Testament. The first appearance is in Acts 2:42 - "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship (koinonia), to the breaking of bread and to prayer. "

"koinonia" is defined as spiritual oneness, like-mindedness, unity based in common devotion to God. Because of the central focus on God, the result is a commitment to love and serve other believers.

Fellowship is the second “ship” that will shape your life. Healthy fellowship will shape you in positive ways while unhealthy fellowship can leave you in bad shape.

“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:23-26

In this second message of our three week series on Stewardship I want to demonstrate the role that stewardship plays in developing fellowship.

I. Fellowship Is Seeking God Together – “If anyone would come after me…..”

“koinonia” happens when people who have been seeking God together all week come to seek Him together.

It is about believing

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42

It is about belonging

“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,” Acts 2:46

A Gallup study commissioned by Group Publishing shows that people with close friendships in their church are very satisfied with their congregation, less likely to leave their place of worship, and have a strong friendship with God. Church members who have a best friend at church are 21% more likely to report attending at least once a week and 26% more likely to report having a strong, more active faith in God. 77% of highly satisfied members have eaten a meal with fellow congregants (who are not members of their family) at some point over the last year. Only 56% of somewhat satisfied or dissatisfied members have shared a meal together. Mealtime fellowship appears strongly correlated with high levels of congregational satisfaction. 62% of those who eat meals together report regularly spending time in prayer and worship daily vs. 49% who have not eaten meals with other church members. The findings are published in Group’s new book Friendship: Creating a Culture of Connectivity in Your Church. (Monday Rush 2/22/05)

It is about becoming

II. Fellowship Is Surrendering to God Together – “he must deny himself and…..”

Do you remember the Incredible Hulk? If you do you either remember the big green monster from the comics or the television show. Dr. Banner had a serious problem. In an experiment he had unleashed a terrible monster. In times of stress he would turn into this huge raging monster. One of the classic lines from the television program was "Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry." In the comics his destruction was much more vivid and much larger-than-life. This monster would pick up armored tanks and toss them at his enemies. He could stomp one his big green feet on the ground and cause a mini-earthquake that would knock his opponents to the ground. He could survive almost anything short of a nuclear blast all the time bellowing catch words like "Hulk strong! Hulk smash puny soldiers!" When the rampage was over, however, Dr. Banner was left to live with the results of the Hulk’s actions. His clothing was ripped to shreds so that he was exposed to the elements. His life was shattered into little pieces, and he had to move to a new location where he would attempt to start a new life.
Each of us has a raging Hulk in us. The sin nature that dwells within us attempts to bring about mass destruction in our lives. If we allow it to rule over us we will find ourselves like Dr. Banner, searching for some shred of our lives that we can cling to. Sin will destroy our homes, our integrity, our stability, our financial security and most important, will cause our fellowship with God to suffer. Even the apostle Paul struggled with an inner "Hulk" of his sin nature.
Do not let the "Hulk" of sin rule in your life. Let Christ "cure" the Hulk of his control over you.

Here’s a “stewardship” solution for creating a climate where spiritual health and holiness can flourish;

1) Acceptance – But With Expectations

Anyone is welcome at our fellowship, but once they decide to join us they need to know what we expect of our members.

2) Authenticity – But With Examples

As we let them know the standard we expect, we should also show them with the example our leaders set. Let’s create an environment that honors honesty and transparency.

3) Accountability – But With Encouragement

III. Fellowship Is Standing for God Together – “if anyone is ashamed of me…..”

On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a little life-saving station. The building was primitive, and there was just one boat, but the members of the life-saving station were committed and kept a constant watch over the sea. When a ship went down, they unselfishly went out day or night to save the lost. Because so many lives were saved by that station, it became famous. Consequently, many people wanted to join the station to give their time, talent, and money to support its important work. New boats were bought, new crews were recruited, a formal training session was offered. As the membership grew, some of the members became unhappy that the building was so primitive and the equipment outdated. They wanted a better place to welcome the survivors pulled from the sea. So they replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged and newly decorated building.

Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members. They met regularly and it was apparent how they loved one another. They hugged each other, and shared with one another the events of their lives. But fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions; so they hired lifeboat crews to do this for them. About this time, a large ship was wrecked off of the coast, and the hired crews brought into the life-saving station boatloads of cold, wet, dirty, sick, and half-drowned people. The beautiful meeting place became a place of chaos. The carpets got dirty. So the property committee immediately had a shower built outside the house where the victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside.
At the next meeting there was rift in the membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s life-saving activities, for they were unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal fellowship of the members. Other members insisted that life-saving was their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of all those people who would be shipwrecked, they could begin their own life-saving station down the coast. And that’s what they did.

As the years passed, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a place to meet regularly for fellowship, and for special training sessions about their mission, but few went out to the drowning people. History continued to repeat itself. And if you visit that seacoast today, you will find many meeting places with ample parking and plush carpeting. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.

Speak With God

If you will take time to speak with God each day. And more importantly, if you will take time to listen to Him you will not lose sight of your mission not will you lose your passion to fulfill it.

Speak About God

Talk to others about God in the church. Make Him the topic of conversation inside the church when you meet for fellowship.

Speak For God

Speak up for God! Speak up for what is right. Speak up for what is holy. Share your testimony of what Jesus has done for you.

I am part of the "Fellowship of the Unashamed."
The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line.
The decision has been made. I am a disciple of
Jesus Christ. I won't look back, let up, slow down,
back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present
makes sense, and my future is secure.
I am finished and done with low living, sight walking,
small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams,
chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position,
promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I now live by
presence, lean by faith, love by patience,
lift by prayer, and labor by power. My pace
is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my
road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few,
my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought,
compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back,
diluted, or delayed.

I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the
presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy,
ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander
in the maze of mediocrity.

I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I must go until
Heaven returns, give until I drop, preach until all know,
and work until He comes. And when He comes to get
His own, He will have no problem recognizing me.
My colors will be clear.