Saturday, April 17, 2010

Fellowship--More Than a Covered Dish Dinner

The following is my lesson for April 18. It is a little long, but I enjoyed this study, especially the Old Testament part.

I. The model of fellowship: God’s fellowship within the trinity. John 17:11. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name--the name you gave me--so that they may be one as we are one. John 15:9 9."As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.10.If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.

II. The basis of fellowship: God’s faithfulness in our redemption. That is what we have in common. Isn’t that enough? Yes. 1 Corinthians 1:9 NIV God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

III. The requirements of our fellowship with God: All references to fellowship in the OT are in reference to peace offerings.The peace offerings/fellowship offerings possible because of atonement sacrifices. Peace offerings were not to atone for sins but to make a statement that one was in fellowship with God, to celebrate it.

The following material is from “The peace offering consisted of a sacrificed animal, some which was burned to the Lord, some eaten by the priest, and some returned to the worshiper to eat. ‘This sacrificial act was always a social occasion, the worshipper invited friends to the meal, to eat and to drink before Jahweh. This sacrifice which, more than any other, came into the category of a communion sacrifice, the participants knew Jahweh to be invisibly present as the guest of honor.’ ”(von Rad pg.257)
When his offering is a sacrifice of a peace offering, if he offers it of the herd, whether it be male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord. And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and Aaron’s sons, the priest shall sprinkle the blood all around on the altar. Then he shall offer from the sacrifice of the peace offering an offering made by fire to the Lord. (Lev.3.1-3)
The peace offering could only come after the burnt offering and the meal offering. The only way back to God was the death of Christ. "Who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom. 5.1) Jesus, being our peace offering, has given us access by faith back to fellowship with God. It is only through the shedding of blood that we have peace and can rejoice in the grace of God.
“The unique feature of the shelamim was the accompanying communal meal which signified the fellowship of the believer with God as a consequence of the atonement. In addition to the offerer’s family and ser¬vants, the community Levite, sojourners, orphans, and widows were to be invited to the meal (Deut. 16:11). In this way the peace offering expressed ‘peace in its maximum sense of wholeness and fellowship – with God, with His ministers,’ and with one’s fellow man” (Kidner, 133).

Example and text from Ernie Brown ( Imagine, for a moment, that I am a happily married man, which I am! Imagine, also, that I love my wife very much, which I do! Imagine, further, that I try very hard to avoid upsetting her, which, again, I do try to achieve! Imagine, however, that, one day, I do something which upsets her very much. What am I to do, to put things right, to make amends? I know. I will go out and buy the biggest box I can afford of her favourite chocolates. I do so. I give it to my wife, saying how sorry I am for what I had done. She accepts my apology. She is duly placated. She enjoys the chocolates. We are back to where we were before I offended her. Everything is fine. The enjoyment of our long-term relationship is restored. Well and good.

Now, many people would say that I had given my wife a Peace Offering. However, in the proper sense of the term, as defined in the Bible, that would not be so. Strictly speaking, I would have given her a Trespass Offering, which is not our subject now.

Imagine, then, a rather different scenario. Imagine, as before, that I am a happily married man, which I certainly am! Imagine, as before, that I love my wife very much, which I certainly do! There is no outstanding grievance between us. All is well. Imagine, then, that, thinking about this, I ask myself, ‘How can I show my wife how much I really love her? What can I do to share with her my enjoyment of our most happy relationship?’ I know! I will buy the biggest box I can afford of our favourite chocolates. We will sit down together with the box of chocolates, enjoy each other's company and the chocolates we both like, and share together our mutual appreciation of the joy of our long-term relationship.
Now that would be a Peace Offering. Not as something necessary to make peace, or even restore peace, but rather a celebration of the peace which already exists. Note, it is the same box of chocolates, but enjoyed for a very different reason.

Some details of the Peace Offering
Now let us see how the details of the Peace Offering in Leviticus 3 and 7 graphically illustrate what the New Testament plainly teaches. Going down the verses, we notice that:
(1) A voluntary offering
The Peace Offering was a voluntary offering.
(2) Unrestricted access
It was open to the offerer when he came, and, within prescribed limits, what he offered. Hebrews 10 (vv. 19-22) affirms that we have constant, immediate, unhindered access into the very presence of God at all times.
(3) A sweet savour offering
The Peace Offering was a sweet savour offering. In taking the opportunity to present to God the preciousness of Christ, we know that we are offering that which is well pleasing to Him. Our appreciation of the fragrant perfections of the Person and work of Christ arises as a sweet savour unto God.
(4) A flawless animal
If the offering was to be a fair picture of the perfection resident in Christ, the animal must be completely without flaw.
(5) Male or female animal
In some offerings, the male animal is specified as being appropriate, in others, the female. In the Peace Offering, the offering could be either the male or the female. What can we learn from that distinction? There is only one way to find out. We must compare Scripture with Scripture, and the usage wherever the concept is introduced. That is the only true way to arrive at a conclusion about what we are intended to learn. When we do that, the distinction becomes reasonably clear. When the male is specified, we are directed to think about God’s side of the matter, that is, the revelation of what God has done in Christ. When the female is introduced, it is more the worshipper's apprehension and appreciation of what God has done that is involved. Sometime, check it through for yourself. I, for one, am satisfied that the usage confirms the suggestion. It fits.
(6) The fat given to God
Consistent with all offerings, all the fat, the sweetest part of the animal, must be given to God who Himself knows best the perfections of His Beloved Son. The blood, shed and applied on and round about the altar, testifies to the fact that the peace enjoyed has been secured on a righteous basis. As we read in Colossians 1:20: “He has made peace by the blood of His cross”. Most of the flesh of the sacrifice must be burned upon the altar, in token of the fact that the righteous claims of God had been fully met. The application of the fire served to bring out the aroma of the sacrifice, which then arose to God as a sweet savour. The more intense the fire, the sweeter the aroma that arose to God as a sweet-smelling savour.
(7) Oil
We learn in Leviticus 7 that the use of oil was prominent in the way the Peace Offering was celebrated. A reminder, surely, that all the Lord Jesus did, in life and in death, He did in the energy and power of the Holy Spirit.
(8) Leaven permitted
Significantly, leaven, which in Scripture is always a symbol of evil, was permitted, but it must be carefully controlled. There is no reference to leaven in Lev. 7:12, which speaks of Christ personally. There can never be any suggestion of evil attaching to Him. However, there is a reference to leaven in verse 13, which brings us, the offerers, into the picture. Even there, the leaven had to be carefully controlled. There is no suggestion of the leaven being active. It has been in the oven and baked, judged in the presence of God by the application of fire. Furthermore, the offering must not be stale, but absolutely fresh. Then again, no uncleanness could be permitted in anything which represented Christ.
(9) How the offering was presented
The manner in which the offering was presented had a delightful significance, too. The breast of the sacrifice was waved in a horizontal movement which released the full savour of the offering before the Lord, in appreciation of and enjoyment of His love. Similarly, the right shoulder was heaved in a vertical movement unto the Lord, in appreciation and enjoyment of the power and ability of Christ to secure everything for God.

IV. The importance of fellowship
I John 1:3.We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.4We write this to make our joy complete.5.This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.7.But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.8.If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.9.If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.10.If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

Specifically with the Holy Spirit
2 Corinthians 13:14 NIV May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Philippians 2:1 NIV [Imitating Christ's Humility] If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,

V. Our fellowship with each other

A. The requirements of our fellowship with others:
Acts 2:42 NIV They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
1 Corinthians 5:2 NIV And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?
2 Corinthians 6:14 NIV [Do Not Be Yoked With Unbelievers] Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
Galatians 2:9 NIV James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.

B. And the way to strengthen fellowship.
1. Intentionality: Desire, not just an assumption that it will happen by being there (although being there is the beginning—80% of life is showing up)
Philippians 3:10 NIV I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

2. Time

3. Open-ness

4. Realistic expectation

5. Equality – recognizing the ground at the cross is level.

6. Not confusing friendship with fellowship. I can fellowship with all like-minded believers who are seeking the same closeness to God. Some people I am going to be closer to. But cliques are evil, as they are a type of divisions, and that is strongly condemned in the NT. When you read the book of Philippians, think about it that way: two women were dividing the church over a disagreement. Other verses on divisions and cliques, which show, I think, that such divisions are a sign of immaturity in Christ.
Romans 16:17 NIV I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.
1 Corinthians 1:10 NIV [Divisions in the Church] I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.
1 Corinthians 3:1 NIV [On Divisions in the Church] Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly--mere infants in Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:18 NIV In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.

7. Sometimes, repentance and confrontation of sin
1 Corinthians 5:2 NIV And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?
2 Corinthians 6:14 NIV [Do Not Be Yoked With Unbelievers] Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

8. Understand that it’s all about the Lord
We can have unity and not fellowship, but we can’t have fellowship without unity. Unity—singleness of mind, of purpose, of doctrine (ONE LORD< ONE FAITH< ONE BAPTISM< ONE GOD AND FATHER OF ALL) has to come first, but fellowship goes another step to the choice of commitment to other people. As Pam talked about last week, when the pastor leaves, are we still a church? Yes, but the absence of the pastor makes us more aware of it, I think.

Racism and Repentance
One Church's Story
April 16, 2010
But humans being what they are—fallen creatures—we will always struggle with sin. And racism, like all sins, will be always be crouching at the door. Even within the church.
I was reminded of this recently by a pastor I had dinner with in Mobile. He told me a great story about what happened to his former associate, who took over the First Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. His name is Dr. Stan Lewis.
First Baptist had struggled with racism since the 1960s. On Easter Sunday in 1963, the Rev. Earl Stallings, who was then the pastor, had welcomed African-American Freedom Riders to the church, but the ushers refused to seat them. Still, Martin Luther King commended Rev. Stallings later that week in his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
Things got worse when the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed and four little girls were killed. Based on the reaction from First Baptist, Rev. Stallings was forced to write in his weekly newsletter, “The hearts of some of us [were] broken last Sunday when the despicable crime of the bombing of a house of worship and the taking of the lives of innocent children became a reality.”
Stallings would later be honored for his efforts at racial reconciliation, but the church, which he left in 1965, continued to be divided. As late as 1970, the First Baptist congregation voted to deny membership to African Americans. With that the church finally split, and a new church was formed.
But what of the old church? Dr. Lewis says, “Over the next few decades First Baptist Church would continue to decline in membership and influence.” During these years the church “stumbled and lost its identity...The church struggled with strife over theological and cultural issues.”
That’s no surprise, is it? When a church follows cultural instead of scriptural standards, theological troubles are certain to follow. In 2009, Dr. Lewis, new in the church, decided it was time for the church as a body to repent of its sin. He preached a message of “corporate repentance” from Nehemiah chapter 1.
The deacons led the congregation in a “time of confession and repentance,” and the church went through a period of prayer, fasting, and reaching out to other churches for guidance. “Since that time,” Dr. Lewis told me, “we have seen more people baptized and join our church than ever before. There is a sense of freedom from past sin.”
I think this is a wonderful model for any church to follow when it confronts corporate sin—whether it’s the sin of racism or anything else.
As Christians, we cannot change the past. But we can be accountable to God for what we do now. We can appeal to Him for forgiveness, restoration, and direction. Then and only then can we really be free to be God’s people.

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