Yesterday I said that we have to learn to fellowship and grow with other believers because it is a natural outgrowth of our faith! But the problem we run into is that millions of believers are merely “back-seat” Christians. They are willing to observer a performance which the professionals put on (and ready to criticize, or to applaud), but are not willing to consider even the possibility of genuine participation.
I believe that the fundamental weakness of the contemporary Church is that many members refuse to become deeply and intimately involved with each other. Millions claim to have some type of connection with the Church. They declare that they attend church. But it is not a connection of involvement. Their connection is superficial. We might wonder why that bother? Wouldn’t it be more fun at the beach?
But that is not the way it was with the early church. As I showed you earlier, they were closely “knit” together. They were involved with each other on an intimate level.
But it doesn’t stop there: it wasn’t just their lifestyles that were affected. Their money and their possessions were also affected (that is the sure proof that their hearts were changed). They “began selling . . . and sharing . . . as anyone might have need” (Acts 2:45).
“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had . . . There was no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the Apostles‟ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need” (Acts 4:32-35)
That is amazing! Let’s once again put our imagination to work: Here was Bartholomew who was laid off his job. Tertius started thinking, “Hmm, Just when he was growing so well in Christ the devil wants to discourage him. ‘Father, now I understand why you gave me that tract of land I’ve been holding on to. If I sold it, it would certainly tide Bart over until he gets a new job and everything could start getting better. Praise the Lord!’”
You see, when we start giving, we are demonstrating our love. Because we demonstrate our love, we are loved. Giving to each other stimulates love within the body. Now it doesn’t have to be just financial gifts (which during our current times, is certainly a big part of our needs), but when the Holy Spirit comes in power within a body, the claims of the group become higher than the claims of the individuals. This is always true in times of revival and times of God‟s special blessings on a group.
Coincidentally, in a recent CharismaNews, Joseph Mattera recently discussed some of the contrasts between American Christianity and biblical Christianity, and in one of his points he wrote:
Much American preaching today focuses on ‘our rights in Christ’ to be blessed. However, in Scripture the emphasis regarding finances has to do with being blessed by God in order to be a blessing by bringing God’s covenant to the Earth (Read Deuteronomy 8:18; II Corinthians 9:10-11). Jesus promised material blessing only in the context of seeking first His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33)
In the Old Testament the Israelites gave up their jewelry to build the tabernacle! When Moses first gave the call for the offerings, he simply said, “Anyone who is willing to bring an offering or skilled in some kind of trade, come and build the tabernacle” (Exodus 35:5-19). That was the key: their “willingness.” And then it goes on:
“everyone who was willing and whose heart moved him came and brought an offering to the Lord and they continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning” (Exodus 35:20- 36:3)
Amazing! To the point, I might add, that Moses had to tell them to stop bringing their offerings because they had too much! Can you imagine your Pastor standing in the pulpit some Sunday and say, “Whoa folks, we love all of the gifts you have sent, but we need to slow it down. We simply have too much!” No, I can’t either, but wouldn’t that be great to see in our churches today?
True Christianity is more than a verbal explanation of life. It‟s a way of life. A twenty-four-hour a day, demanding, challenging, courageous way of life. I like what Steve Camp has to say about the demands of our Christian lives:
“There‟s safety in complacency but God is calling us out of our comfort zones into a life of complete surrender to the cross. To live dangerously is not to live recklessly but righteously and it is because of God‟s radical grace for us that we can risk living a life of radical obedience for Him.”
Unfortunately, many people these days are accepting Christianity as an explanation of life. They are not willing to accept it as a way of life. Many supposed “Evangelical Christians” live lives that are no different from those of the world. We make too much of their intellectual assent. Christ is not calling us to accept His explanation, but to practice a way of life. That is radical. That is tougher.
You cannot live an isolated life. You must mesh your life as closely as possible with other believers. No snobbery. No privileges. All together, sharing the same ideas (the Apostles doctrine), the same friends (fellowship), the same practices (breaking of bread), and the same religious habits (public prayers).
Several years ago I listened to a young couple talk about the passage that says if you have two coats, to give to him who has none. Well, they realized that they were now over the median income of the other church members, so they were a two-coat family now, and that gave them the responsibility of caring for the others.
They also remembered that while the husband was in college, they were the ones with no-coat; and many times believers would slip them money or put a bag of groceries in the back door. Consequently, they increased their giving within the church, but were also looking for the ones who needed their help.
Others have reached out to my wife and me with assistance during our times of difficulty. People have left groceries for us as well. During times of very serious financial need, we received several thousand dollars from different brothers and sisters.
Patrice and I in turn continue to reach out to help other families with groceries, or money or simply a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes our service is something as simple as letting ‘ college student use one of our cars for a trip home or providing leftover carpeting to cover the floor of a single mother‟s bathroom. Our rule has always been that if we see a need, then the Lord must want us to do something about it. The funny thing is that we never consider whether we can afford it. Our Brothers need is all that matters, and somehow our Father has always provided the means.
Just in case you were wondering, we got that idea from Romans 12:13 which The Living Bible paraphrases this way: “When God‟s children are in need, you be the one to help them out.” Patrice and I have always taken that quite literally! It doesn’t say to call the Pastor or the Elders of the church. It doesn’t say anything about calling the ministry team. It calls for you to help them. In Charles Swindoll’s small booklet, For those that Hurt, his number one recommendation is to get your eyes off your own problems and begin to help others out of their problems! Great principle!
Sharing in the family of God is the perfect sign of authenticity. I love it when we can get so comfortable with each other that we can think, “Hey, this sweater doesn’t fit me very well any more, I think Scott could use it.” It’s not about who’s richer and who’s poorer as we use the word charity these days: it’s charity in its old usage —just pure love in the Body!
In many fellowships it is a common practice to supply meals for a family with a new baby or for someone who had major surgery or any kind of situation that needs the extra help. Sometimes, the women get together and clean the house if the mother is laid up for some time. Other times you find shared baby-sitting between couples. The list goes on and on. The bottom line is if there is a need, there is a way to meet that need.
With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.
The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.