There’s nothing like being with Christians.

“For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:18, 19 ESV).

Over the last weekend I’ve been away on a Christian youth camp called KYCK. It was excellent. I went 2 weeks ago and got the chance to hear the talks, which were really good (it’s always good to hear the gospel preached, but especially when it’s preached to 2000 youth). But this weekend I went to volunteer.

The thing that struck me the most was that even though I had never met the guys I was working with, because of our trust in Jesus it didn’t take us long to become quite close. Paul says in the passage above that because of Jesus, all Christians have access to God. He then goes on to say that we are no longer strangers and aliens, but fellow citizens – God’s family.

I experienced that reality over the weekend, and as we drove home I read that verse and it struck me as deeply true. When we become Christians we really do move from being enemies of God into being his children. And as part of that we are automatically part of a massive family. Here are some reasons that being with other like-minded Christians is so encouraging:

  • You can rejoice together about the salvation that is in Jesus. It is the centre-piece, the reason that we can come together as family instead of strangers.
  • You can discuss God’s word with them – learning from their knowledge and encouraging them also.
  • You can know that the relationships you have will last for eternity.
  • There’s an automatic understanding of one another – you can understand each other’s ideas and world-views, you have heaps to talk about straight away and there’s a type of trust that flows from that very quickly

Of course there are Christians who you will meet who you don’t get on with. There will be things you disagree on. But spending time with like-minded Christians who you’ve just met is super-encouraging, and what struck me most was the simple honesty that we could have with one another as we worked to serve God together and learn about him.

Over the weekend I got a glimpse of the truth expressed by Paul in the verse above. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, like being with fellow Christians – because if you and they are both seeking to know God better and to learn, then there should be nothing but mutual encouragement between you. Obviously this should be true of our relationships at church, but also in our relationships with other Christians. Is it true for you? Have you experienced this fellowship?

We still live in a fallen world. A world full of disagreements and goodbyes. But the reality is that because of Jesus we are entirely forgiven, and we can look forward to the reality of heaven, where there will be no sin or suffering or hardships. Where we will be in perfect, selfless fellowship with other Christians in the presence of our God and glorifying him together.

What a wonderful thing that is. Are we looking forward to it?

Standing Together: So we don’t fear.

https://i2.wp.com/www.psdgraphics.com/file/paper-people-background.jpgPhilippians 1:27-30

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

These verses bring us our second reason that we need to stand together as Christians: So we don’t fear. (You can see the previous post here).

Paul is very honest about the fact that if we are Christians we will be persecuted. We will face opponents and we will face hardships because of our faith in Jesus as both saviour and Lord. And the truth is these hardships and this opposition can be demoralising. It can be scary. It can throw us off track and make us want to forsake Christ like Peter did in order to save ourselves.

But when we stand together with other Christians it becomes easier to persevere. Fellowship with other Christians who are also suffering should be like a safe haven to us. A place where we can just rest and recuperate. Where we are surrounded by people we trust. People who will support and love us, who will not throw stones at us like the world does, but who will help shield us and comfort us from the persecution that we face. People who will act like penguins in the cold – working together to shelter one another against the cold outside.

But the truth us that although Christian community should be like this, often it is now. Often we Christians don’t care for each other as they should. We don’t stop to make sure the other person is alright. We don’t take the time to comfort those who are fearful. And as a result when one individual faces persecution, hardship or fear they can often feel at least as if there is no one to help them.

Isolation is one of the things Satan tries to convince us of and to destroy us with – and that’s why Peter says in 1 Peter 5:8-9

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him,firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

As Christians who suffer, we can trust that other Christians are also suffering. But on the flip-side of that, we need to be honest with one another so that we don’t have to battle alone. Because battling alone is a sure way to fall into the trap of fear, and it is far easier to give up in hard times when it seems no one else is interested in helping you through it. As Christians, we need to stand together – working first to serve God, and because of that we need to love each other dearly, because we know that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).

So here’s three questions for you: How are you going at standing together with other Christians? How are you going with loving one another and being honest with others about your struggles? How are you going at comforting those around you who are suffering for their faith? 

We will suffer for Christ. The question is, will we try to battle it out alone in the harsh and bitter cold? Or will we huddle together like penguins and comfort one another, pointing one another to the glorious promises of Christ, and to the marvellous fact that he has taken our sin and will return to bring us into glory?

Standing Together: To encourage each other to live godly lives.

https://i2.wp.com/www.psdgraphics.com/file/paper-people-background.jpgPhilippians 1:27-30

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Paul starts these verses by calling the Philippians to live a life worthy of the gospel. If they claim to be God’s people they need to reflect that claim by living as his people. We are God’s representation on earth. We are being watched, and what we do gives an impression (whether true or false) of who God is to those who see us.
One way to live rightly as one of God’s people is to work with other Christians to do it. When we try to do something on our own, it’s hard because we only have our own ideas and thoughts to go off. We have no one to keep us on the right track, no one to challenge our ideas, no one to show us when we are subtly justifying to ourselves something that is wrong.
That’s one reason that we have to stand together as God’s people: We need to stand together so we can help each other to live a life that reflects who our God and saviour is. We need help to be holy as God is holy. Now obviously it is only by God’s grace and the work of the Holy Spirit that we can be saved and it is only by him that we can be learning to obey him better. And our ‘good deeds’ certainly don’t make us more worthy of salvation. They are simply a response of love to his fantastic grace in saving us when we didn’t deserve it.
It’s much easier to obey God when you’re doing it with other Christians – seeing their example and following it, encouraging each other to resist sin and being able to talk about particular temptations you have and pray for each other. Part of working together is being selfless and humble. We need to work with other Christians to help ourselves obey God, but we also need to work with them in order to benefit them. We can’t be self-obsessed – that’s something we’re bad at in our western culture.
We weren’t created to serve God alone. Even in the garden God gave Adam a partner – Eve. If Adam needed a companion when he was perfect, how much more do we need to help each other when it’s a struggle to obey God?
So I have two questions for you: Firstly, How are you going at obeying God? And secondly, are you spending time with other Christians being real and honest with them? Are you looking to help them to live for God, while also humbly looking for their help in your own life?

Romans 15:14

I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.

“My brothers and sisters”

Fact 1: When we put our faith in Jesus, we are adopted as God’s children (Romans 8).
Therefore:

  • As a result we need to live like a family.
  • We need to love each other selflessly and self-sacrificially like Jesus did for us, and like family should do for one another.
  • We need to spend time together. One of the main reasons we go to curch is to fellowship with other Christians – that means encouraging them, challenging them and just generaly being around one another.
  • We need to be honest with each other and our conversation should be based around our faith (That doesn’t mean that we can’t talk about anything else, but I’ve found it most encouraging when my conversation with other Christians is about our struggles and about God’s word.)

“That you yourselves are full of goodness”

Fact 2: The truth is that naturally we are not filled with goodness. We are full of sin. We rejected God and we were living as his enemies. Yet…
Fact 3: Through Jesus there is complete forgiveness and salvation. When we put our faith in him and repent of our sins we are completely forgiven. And more than that – we are changed. Jesus’ righteousness is swapped for our sin. He died, paying for our sin and we have become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17).

As a result we need to live like it! But it’s hard isn’t it. It’s SO hard! We still sin. We still stuff up.

What a glorious thing it is to know that we have a God who not only gives us a second chance, but continually forgives us. His patience is greater than we can imagine, and he continues to work in us if we want to serve him.

But we need to put in effort as well. We need to work hard at replacing our natural evil with goodness. We need to work hard to obey him. A lot of the time for me at least it feels like an up-hill battle. It feels impossible. And in reality – it is impossible without God’s spirit working in us and helping us. But our aim needs to be to be full of goodness! Work at it! Pray for it!

“Filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another”

Fact 4: As we learn more about God, we learn how to obey him better. Being “filled with knowledge” and being “full of goodness” are linked. We need to live what we learn, but we obviously need to learn so that we can live it as well. We need to study God’s word.

As both of those come together and we grow in godliness we begin to be able to help others – we have the bible to show them what God calls us to do and we can help them by empathising with them and discussing their struggles with them. We instruct one another in words and actions, as brothers and sisters.
We can’t view ourselves as elitist Christians who are better than others. No, we need to be honest and realise that we are just as sinful and sinful as new Christians, and help them on the long road ahead.

How are you going with treating fellow Christians as Brothers and sisters? What about learning Gods word and living it?

God bless!
Feel free to comment and say your thoughts or any prayer points you have!
Nathan.

LiT 2014 and spending time with God’s people.

Since last Wednesday I’ve been away at a camp called Leaders in Training. To be honest I went a bit sceptical. I wasn’t  really sure what to expect or how good it’d be. But I was pleasantly surprised, and by the end of the week I’d learnt a lot.

The 5 days were spent surrounded by God’s word and professing Christians, a whole heap of whom were extremely enthusiastic about the gospel. And that was a massive challenge to me. We listened to sermons, we discussed them and we were just honest with each other. All these things made the following verse ring true – we have fellowship as we walk in the light and obey God.

If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

It was really easy to be passionate about God when I was surrounded by his people. It was easy to strike up conversations about the bible and about our individual struggles. And it was extremely encouraging to have those conversations. The honesty we shared was a breath of air compared to the stuffy culture of superficiality that we live in.

But the truth is, it’s hard to be passionate about God and to be talking about his word with the friends you see every day. It’s hard to discuss your struggles with people who have expectations about who you are already.

Why is that? Why is it so hard to obey God in normal life? 

For me I think it comes down to fear of man. I value my friends very highly, and as a result I often shy away from talking about God with them (even the Christian ones who I should be comfortable talking about the bible with). I reason that it’s a bit awkward, or it might make them uncomfortable. But those reasons are stupid! The most important thing in all my friendships should be Jesus and discussing his word should be a joy (Psalm 119:105).

Spending a week with passionate Christians, talking about God’s word and being honest together was extremely encouraging. I need to be doing those things in my own life – discussing what I’m learning and being honest with those around me. It’ll be tough to make that transition. But it’ll be well worth it, and I’d truly appreciate prayer in trying to make that change.

How about you? How do you go with talking about your faith with those around you? With the Christians near you? How about sharing the gospel with the Non-Christians in your life?