Devoted to the Fellowship

Examining The Importance Of Fellowship In The Body Of Christ.

George Wright
Aug 2, 2020    43m
Do you ever feel like you are alone? In this message of hope you are reminded of the importance of fellowship. It explains that the church is a place where you can find fellowship, generosity, purpose and love. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

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This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 01:19 As the people of God, we are better together. And as we continue in our study in the Book of Acts this morning, I like to encourage you, go ahead and grab your Bible and turn with me back to the very end of Acts chapter 2. We've been spending the last few weeks looking at these verses in Acts chapter 2, that show us the response of the people of God at the beginning of the church, as the gospel is advancing in power through the Spirit of God at work in the first disciples. And if you're joining us online right now, we want to say welcome from Shandon. We are so glad that you're with us this morning, tuning in, and joining into this time as we examine the Word of God.

George Wright: 02:02 And what I'd like to do is as you turn to Acts chapter 2, I'd like to invite you if you're willing and if you're able here in the room to stand with me so that we all can be reminded of the authority of the scripture in the life of a follower of Jesus. And if you're joining online, you may want to stand with us as well. Just to be reminded that when we gather in the name of Jesus, as the people of God, we stand upon the authority of God's Word. The Word of God is the foundation of who we are, and what we do as a people of God. It is what we are called to follow, and it reveals what God says is right, and good, and true.

George Wright: 02:48 I want to start in Acts 2:42, which is a verse we've considered over these last few weeks. And I want to read all the way to verse 47 to the end of this chapter, to set the stage for what we'll be looking at today as we talk specifically about what it means to live out of the fellowship of the Body of Christ, where the fellowship of the church is what we are connected to. Acts chapter 2 verse 42, or let me start verse 44, excuse me, 44 and following. It says, "All who believed were together and had all things in common." We look at that briefly last week. And then it says, "They were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. " This is the fellowship of the Body of Christ, and this is what you and I have been invited to be a part of in the good news of what God has done.

George Wright: 04:21 So let's pray and ask God to show us the beauty of what it means to be connected to the fellowship of the body. Let's pray together, Father, as we stand before you now at the reading of your word, and as we consider what you lay before us. I pray in the power of your spirit, that we would be reminded that these are not simply the words of a man, but these are the words of God, divinely inspired to speak to the people of God. So Lord, we need to hear from you. We don't need to just hear some more opinions of others telling us what they think we might should do, we need to hear from you, Lord God. So as we turn our attention to your word, I pray that you would do what only you could do. That there would be a supernatural divine encounter that would take place through the proclamation of your word, as our hearts are open in the power of the Spirit. So have your way among, us speak into our lives, and I believe that you have something specific that you want us to hear. I'm going to pray that our hearts would be open to receive it. We thank you for this time. It's in Christ' name I pray. Amen. Amen. You may be seated, thank you for standing.

George Wright: 05:59 These verses at the end of Acts 2 are such a beautiful picture, and what they show us here today in the church is what is possible for the people of God, for the church that is devoted to the fellowship of the Body of Christ, for the church that believes we truly are better together. We have been invited into something that is so much greater than just what we might could experience on our own, or what we might encounter if we are in isolation, or if we're separated from one another. What we see here is the beauty of the fellowship of the Body of Christ. And as we look at these verses, we see that there are some very distinctive markings of the fellowship of the Body of Christ, it is a fellowship that gives us a picture of what can be enjoyed and what should be enjoyed as the people of God hold the fellowship in high regard.

George Wright: 07:06 Acts 2:44, where we left off last week and where we start here today, makes this incredible statement about the early church. This really is a mind blowing statement to consider, especially when you consider that the early church exploded onto the scene with 3000 people joining together, experiencing the gift of salvation in one day, as Peter preaches the first sermon of the church. This is a large mega church from day one, and yet all these people, from all these different places, from all these different walks of life, from so many demographics, with so many different financial backgrounds, different ethnicities, different languages, the scripture says verse 44, "All who believed were together and had all things in common."

George Wright: 08:06 Now the word that is used to describe the fellowship of the early church in the original Greek language is the word koinonia. You may have heard that term, it's a term that is used even now at times, to describe the fellowship of the Body of Christ. What does koinonia mean? It means, simply translated, commonness or commonality. In fact, that the language of the scripture that the Greek that was used for the New Testament was called koine Greek. It was the common Greek language, it was the street language so to speak, the conversational language that anyone who understood Greek would understand. And so when the Word of God translates, the fellowship of the people of God is koinonia, it is saying this fellowship is rooted and grounded in a commonality. They have all things in common. But that does not mean that they're the same, again, they come from different backgrounds. They're different demographics, they're different generations, but they had the same focus and the same objective, and they are like minded in seeking to live out the vision and the calling that God has given them. They are likeminded, they have in common what they believe is most important.

George Wright: 09:40 Now in our time in quarantine, especially in the early days, back in the spring, our family watched quite a few movies. You may have watched many movies as well as you were stuck at home. And one of the things I wanted to do is, I wanted to show our kids some movies that they had never seen. Some movies that for them felt really, really old because you know, they came out before these kids were born. And so one of the movies that I wanted to show them, specifically show my boys, is the movie, Remember the Titans. Has anybody seen the movie, Remember the Titans? It's a great movie, especially if you like sports, but even if you don't like sports, this is an incredible movie. It tells the story of an integrated football team in 1971 in Virginia, and how this team comes together, and it's just this beautiful story of reconciliation that happens in this local high school. But one of the things that takes place in the beginning of the movie is the coach is seeking to bring two groups of people together that are very different, that don't like one another, and don't trust one another as they go off to football camp. And when they get on the bus to go to the camp, it is hostile, it is tense, there is discord, there is division. The two groups of people, black and white, they're not sitting together, they're not talking to one another, they are separated. They don't want to be together at all. And then over the course of football camp, as they began to sacrifice together for the sake of a common vision, as they begin to lay their blood, sweat, and tears on the football field and realize that the best about one another, they begin to come together. So that there is a scene that when they get back from camp, all of the sudden they're singing, they're smiling, they are a team, they have the same mission, and they are charging ahead for the sake of this common shared vision. It's a beautiful picture.

George Wright: 11:51 And this is what the Scripture is describing in the early church. They have a common like-minded objective. They have a vision that they all agree to. They believe that God has done something significant through the good news of Jesus Christ for them individually, and as a result, it changes their story collectively. And they believe that God is taking them on a journey that shows they are better together when they join one another in the fellowship of the Body of Christ.

George Wright: 12:31 This is koinonia, and this fellowship has some very distinctive markings. Let's look at what the Scripture reveals about this fellowship. Go back to verse 45, Acts chapter 2, verse 45 shows us that this fellowship is marked by generosity. It says, "They were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need." And what we see here in verse 45, we have to admit, this is a radical counter cultural expression of generosity. This is sacrificial giving that meets the needs of others, and fuels the mission that God has called his people to be about. They are giving to what they believe in, and they are giving to what they care about, and they are giving in light of what they have received in the good news of the gospel. And please hear this, in the Word of God, this type of giving always is a mark of true fellowship in the people of God. In fact, you could say it this way, there is not true fellowship among the people of God without generosity, the two go hand in hand.

George Wright: 14:07 I love what Kent Hughes says about this verse in his commentary on Acts. He writes this, "The foundation of the early Christians fellowship was giving. Fellowship is not just a sentimental feeling of oneness, it's not punch and cookies, it does not simply take place because we are in the church hall. Fellowship comes through giving, and so many people never know the joys of Christian fellowship because they have never learned to give themselves away." Do you want to have fellowship? You must be a giver, for true fellowship in the Body of Christ is always marked by giving. It is an expression of what we believe in. And it demonstrates that we truly do believe in the calling of God in the church. It is an excitement that we see here among the people of God to be involved in something that is greater than themselves. And it is an intentional step of obedience, and sacrifice, and faithfulness that they give, they give to meet needs, and they give to advance the mission. Biblical generosity among the people of God is obedience and faithful giving, that is not about what you have, but is about what you have received.

George Wright: 15:50 Now, what does that mean? It's not about what you have, but it is about what you have received. I'm saying it's not about what you have materially, it is about what you have received spiritually that drives and motivates biblical giving. And there really is no greater example of this than what we see in Second Corinthians 8. I want you to turn, if you would, in your Bibles to Second Corinthians 8. Keep your finger in Acts 2, we'll come back to Acts 2. But flip over to Second Corinthians chapter 8, as the apostle Paul is challenging the church in Corinth, and he begins to point to the churches in Macedonia as an example of generosity and giving. And look at what he says in Second Corinthians chapter 8, beginning in verse 1, he says, "We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, (Listen to this.) for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part." Now let's stop there just for a moment. How in the world can these things go together? An abundance of joy, and an extreme poverty in the midst of severe affliction, that leads to overwhelming generosity. How can that happen? Well, it's not about what they have materially, it's about what they have received spiritually.

George Wright: 17:40 Verse 4 says, For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints." This really is an amazing testimony, their giving is not about what they have, their giving is all about what they have received in the good news of the gospel. And look at what they are demonstrating by their example to other churches around them. Are we hearing this? They are setting an example for other churches around them. And they are saying, we believe that what we have received is greater than what we have materially, so we will respond in a wealth of generosity, even in the midst of affliction and poverty, because the joy of what we have received is greater than the things of this world that we possess. And so we pour out our hearts in generosity because of what we have received.

George Wright: 18:54 And then Paul makes this incredibly challenging statement to the church, in verse 7 of Second Corinthians 8. He says specifically to the church in Corinth, "But as you excel in everything (listen to this)—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also." Paul is saying to the church in Corinth, you have been blessed tremendously. You have been blessed with so much, and you are doing well, you are excelling in faith, you are excelling in speech, you are excelling in knowledge, you are earnest in your desire to live the mission, and you are loved by the apostles. You have a lot going for you, don't miss the gift of grace that is generosity. The Macedonian churches had very little, but they realized how much they had been given in the good news of the gospel, and they respond generously through sacrificial giving. And Paul is saying to the church in Corinth, you actually have greater means than the churches in Macedonia, and yet you are not responding at the same level of generosity and joy in your giving. So Paul says to the church, you are missing out on a gift of God's grace, don't miss it, it is a gift of grace that God invites you to live generously, it is a gift of God's grace that invites you to be a blessing to others in their time of need, and it is a gift of God's grace that invites you to be involved in the mission of God that is bigger than yourself, for we are better together. So let the generosity of what you have received spiritually, fuel the generosity of your giving. Don't miss out on this grace, it is a Mark of true Christian fellowship.

George Wright: 21:35 We go back to Acts two flip back in your Bible to Acts chapter 2, verse 46. We see a second marking of the fellowship of the Body of Christ. In the early church, their fellowship was marked by gratitude Acts. Chapter 2 verse 46 says, "Day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts." A mark of fellowship in the Body of Christ is gratitude. A question that I have for us, is a question that I often throw out to my kids, are you demonstrating an attitude of gratitude? Very simple question, but very hard to answer. Think about what we're seeing, it's so clear that this is a reality for the early church, and yet oftentimes it is not a reality for us. And think about this for a moment, think about what this scripture says about the early church and think about some of the commands of scripture to the early church. The scripture is very clear, we're not to be slanders, we're not to be gossips, we're not to argue, we're not to be back biters, we're not to complain or grumble. Why is that? Because gossip, and slander, and arguing, and backbiting, and complaining, and grumbling all fly in the face of a glad and generous hearts. And the people of God are to be known for their glad and generous hearts because the people of God have been given every reason under the sun to be glad and generous. Isn't that true? Right?

George Wright: 23:32 When you think about what has taken place for the early church to respond in generosity and gratitude, to be this picture of beautiful fellowship, the most high God, the maker of heaven and earth, stepped out of his rightful place enthroned in the heavenlies to come to earth because we could not get to him. In our sin, and in our shame, we were incapable of getting to God, so God came to us. Immanuel, God with us, Jesus Christ incarnate, in the flesh, born of a Virgin, living for 33 years on earth as a man, enduring all that we endure and more, and yet was without sin the entire time. Willingly and deliberately going to the cross to give his perfect sinless life as a sacrifice for our sins, he then defeats sin and death once and for all, as he rises from the grave, demonstrating his authority over all things and offering us the gift of salvation through the power of his resurrection. He ascends sends on high, what we see at the beginning of the Book of Acts, to his rightful place. And gives his people, the church, the promise of the Holy Spirit, to fill us, to guide us, to comfort us, to empower us that we might live as a light in the darkness of the world. How could we not be filled with gratitude? If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, what I have just described is just a fraction of what you have received. How could we not be filled with gratitude, even in the midst of uncertainty, in the midst of struggle, in the midst of difficulty? God has revealed to us this mercy and grace that we could never earn or deserve, and he has invited us into something so much greater than ourselves. The generosity with which he lavishly pours out his mercy and grace on his people, fuels the generosity and gratitude of the people of God. The Church of Jesus Christ is a fellowship marked by gratitude at who Christ is, and what he has done.

George Wright: 26:51 The Scripture continues Acts 2:47, we see this fellowship is then also marked by worship. This fellowship is marked by worship. It says, "They are praising God and having favor with all the people." The early church is known for their praise of God. Now, think about just the progression of what we see over these few verses, when generosity and gratitude are the divining characteristics of the fellowship of the people of God, there will be worship that is fixated on praising God and responding to who he is and what he has done. This worship, this praise of God, that is described in scripture, this is not about what the people want for themselves, this is about who God is and what he has done for them. It's not man centered worship, it is God centered worship, focusing on all the God has done. And when we are generous in light of what we have received, and where there is a spirit of gratitude at the incredible gift of the gospel, and when we recognize that God has done for us, what we could never deserve in the good news of Jesus Christ, our hearts begin to overflow in worship. And it is a worship that is captivating, a worship that people notice. That's what we see here in Acts 2:47, how in the world can the scripture describe the early church as having favor with all people. Does this mean everybody liked the early Christians and they were super popular, and they got tons of followers on social media, and everybody was really applauding their faith, is that what this is saying? Absolutely not. This does not mean that everyone agreed with the early church, they face hostile opposition at every turn. This does not mean that everyone wanted to be a part of the early church, they faced intense persecution because of their faith. But even as they faced opposition, and even as they faced persecution, and even as they walked tremendous difficulty, there was something about this fellowship that caused people to take notice. People looked at the early church and did not understand all that they believed, and did not understand all that they were doing, but they recognized there is something different about this people. And God gave them favor, and people noticed. The early church is marked by worship that impacts the way they interact with others. And the early church is marked by worship that allows the world to see what the church is really to be about.

George Wright: 30:42 Do you remember what Jesus said to his disciples in John 13? It's very famous passage of scripture, if you've never heard this before, it's a great passage of scripture to consider and even memorize. Look at what Jesus says about his disciples in John 13:34-35, he says, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. And by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The early church is marked by generosity. The early church is marked by gratitude. And the early church is marked by a worship of God that reveals to the world that there is love at the foundation of their interaction with one another in the fellowship of the Body of Christ. They are known for their love for one another. And so here's a very convicting, challenging question to consider in the church right now. What are we known for? "By this all men will know that you are disciples of mine, in your love for one another." What are we known for in the church today? Is the world only hearing all the things we are against? Is the world only seeing how often we can't get along? Is the world only hearing about how we can so quickly and flippantly tear one another down? Or is the world seeing and hearing about our love for one another, that flows out of generosity, gratitude, and a vibrant worship of God for who he is and what he has done?

George Wright: 32:51 Because look at what happens when the world sees the church as a people who love one another, when the world sees a fellowship marked by generosity, gratitude and worship, the world sees a fellowship that they want to know more about. First John chapter 4 verse 12, John, I believe writing in response to the command of Jesus for his disciples as he writes this letter, says, "No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us." John is saying, look, as we love one another, we are demonstrating to the world the love of God, we are inviting the world to see something that perhaps they have never seen before. This is what fuels the mission, and builds the kingdom of God through his church, when we are marked by generosity, when we are marked by gratitude, when we are marked by worship of God, and when we are known for our love of one another.

George Wright: 34:06 Acts chapter 2 shows us that people are drawn to this fellowship, and the Lord adds to the number of the church, people who are longing for what Jesus Christ alone can provide. And that's where we end at this morning, Acts 2 verse 47, says, "The Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved." This is a fellowship that is marked by the mission. A fellowship that is marked by the mission. There is a commitment to the mission that is a spiritual by-product that results when the people of God are marked by generosity, gratitude, worship, and known for their love of one another. Isn't this what people are longing to find, a fellowship marked by generosity and gratitude, a fellowship that draws together for the sake of something bigger than themselves, a fellowship that is known for their love of one another? Isn't this what people are longing to find? And when this fellowship is alive in us, isn't it our heart's desire that others would join with us and experience the gift of this fellowship? These distinct markings of the early church that God has laid before us, that has provided this invitation for us as a church to demonstrate to the world around us, this is what the world needs to hear. And so if you're joining us today, and you're longing to be a part of a fellowship that is marked by these things, and longing to be a part of a fellowship that is known for love. Look, we are not perfect by any means, no church is, we need the Savior, we need the grace of God, but at the foundation of who we are and the foundation of what we have been called to be about, there are these distinct markings, and you are invited to be a part of this fellowship.

George Wright: 36:45 See, we have a mission here at Shandon to leverage who we are and what we've been given for the sake of the gospel, wherever we are and wherever God may take us. Let's leverage who we are, let's leverage what we've been given. Like the early church, we can be marked by the power of God in his provision, we can experience God adding to his number as we are known for our love of Jesus Christ, and as the world sees the hope that we have in the gospel. It is a gift of grace to be connected to a fellowship that is marked, as the early church is marked, by generosity, gratitude, worship, and is known for our love of one another, that fuels us to live this mission that defines us in the calling of God.

George Wright: 38:01 If you know, you need to be connected to a fellowship like this, we welcome you to Shandon. We'd love to follow up with you. There's an opportunity at the end of this service, if you're online for you to text a number to respond, we'd love to follow up with you and connect with you, we'd love to pray for you. If you're here today in person and want to connect with someone, or walk deeper in your commitment to the Body of Christ, or maybe you're here today, just needing some more information about the church. We'd love to provide that for you, we've got some of our staff there'll be gathered in the lobby, we'd love to talk to you before you leave here today.

George Wright: 38:40 Let's pray, and let's remember this gift of this fellowship that God has provided, and let's ask God to use us to be a picture of his love to the world around us. Let's pray. Father, we are grateful, grateful for the beautiful gift we get to see in the early church, this incredible picture of a fellowship that is marked by these distinct characteristics, generosity, gratitude, worship, and mission, a fellowship that is known for their love of one another. Lord, this is what we desire to be, this is why we love the church, this is why we are so grateful for the opportunity to be together. Be it here in person, or those who are joining us for the online community, Lord, we recognize we're better together. We can't do this alone, and you have given us this beautiful gift called the fellowship of the Body of Christ. I pray, Lord God, that we individually would lean into this fellowship, that we would take a step of faith in this fellowship. Be it in generosity, be it in gratitude, and the attitude that we have as we look at the world around us, be it in our worship, Lord, be it in this call to the mission. Lord, show us individually, the step of faith you desire for us to take, so that we collectively can live out this mission, and be the fellowship that you have created your church to be

George Wright: 40:28 Lord, we pray specifically, for those joining us who have never experienced fellowship like this. We pray, Lord God, that you would prompt them to step out by faith, to receive this gift of Jesus Christ that invites them into the fellowship. Lord, we believe that you are the God who saves, and we believe there are some today that need to experience the gift of salvation. Give them the faith to call out to Jesus, to invite Jesus to be the Lord and savior of their life.

George Wright: 41:04 And Lord, as I close today, I recognize in this fellowship that is called Shandon, in this local expression of the Body of Christ, there are some among us who are walking through tremendously difficult days. I don't know all the details of their story, but I know there are some right now in this room, some joining us online as well, who the last few days or weeks of their story, it has been absolutely miserable. They're longing for you to meet them, to comfort them, to carry them, they need to feel your presence. I pray, Lord God, right now, those who are struggling, would have a genuine Spirit led encounter with the living God, that they would be reminded they're not alone, that they would be reminded they have not been forsaken, they would be reminded they have not been abandoned, that they would be reminded that you are with them. Lord, carry them now in their time of need, I pray. I am so grateful that you are the God of comfort, that you are the God who sees us in our need, and meets us where we need it the most. Lord, do what you alone can do, minister to the hearts of those who are hurting. We are grateful for your love and grace towards us, and we thank you, Lord, for the gift of the fellowship that we call the church. Use us for your glory. It's in Christ' name I pray. Amen.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206