1 Thessalonians: Real Fellowship/Community 3
What Do We Do To Partner With the LORD
As He Grows Fellowship Here?
Last post we looked at the first step: the necessity of being Christians:
agreeing with God’s diagnosis of our situation &
receiving His cure, the Lord Jesus Christ, as our Savior & King.
In 1 Thessalonians, we see at least two more
intentional & consistent actions which the Christians did
as God grow fellowship in Thessalonica;
Secondly, they remembered their “common denominator”
that joined them together—
they saw each other as brothers & sisters in Christ,
bought with His blood & filled with His Spirit:
1 Thessalonians 1:1,4-5a: “To the church of the Thessalonians
in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…
4 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God,
that he has chosen you,5 because our gospel came to you
not simply with words but also with power,
with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.
“Brothers & sisters” occurs 121x in the NT letters. WOW.
That’s how they saw each other,
though they often came from different cultures/countries &
often spoke different languages.
2 Corinthians 5:16-17: “So from now on we regard no one
from a worldly point of view.
Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!”
We must look beyond our
external characteristics & personalities & life stages &
focus on our common denominator: the Lord Jesus Christ.
You might have nothing else in common with another Christian,
but you can have Biblical fellowship/community together
because of Christ in you both, the hope of glory (Ephesians 2).
Fractions can only be added together
when they have a common denominator—
the number on the bottom must be the same.
Then they can be added together,
though their numbers on top are wildly different.
Thirdly, they put their faith in Jesus into practice together:
1 Thessalonians 1:3,5-8: “We remember before our God and Father
your work produced by faith,
your labor prompted by love, and
your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ…
5 You know how we lived among you for your sake.
6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord,
for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering
with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.
8 The Lord’s message rang out from you
not only in Macedonia and Achaia—
your faith in God has become known everywhere.”
The Thessalonian Christians worked, labored & endured
together for the Gospel.
They didn’t just read about running,
they actually trained & ran the marathon together,
the race the Lord Jesus marked out for them (Hebrews 12).
- Some of my closest friends in high school
were my cross-country teammates.
We talked a lot on 10 mile runs each day over four years:
we ran together & got to know each other well.
We followed our coach together as a pack…
And what did the Thessalonians do, what was their mission?
Same that the early Christians did in Acts 2:
- devoted themselves to the apostles teaching (Bible),
- fellowship & breaking of bread,
- meeting together in each others’ homes,
- distributing food to Christian widows &
- telling the Gospel where they lived & beyond
(“the Lord’s message rang out from you
not only in Macedonia & Achaia”—that’s cross-country!).
They were devoted to activities we can be devoted to as well…
- The Holy Spirit was poured out on them at Pentecost
when they were in the room…together.
- The risen Lord Jesus appeared to the scared disciples
when they’d locked themselves in a room…together.
- Then they fearlessly left the locked room & went
to fulfill their mission spreading the Gospel…together.
We must live out our faith in Christ, & live it out together—
fellowship will grow.
- Soldiers, from different parts of the U.S.,
different ages & personalities, strangers at first,
often develop a lifelong bond of friendship
because of the bootcamp & battles
they endured/fought together.
Same with Christians
as we carry out our mission as Christians together.
Practical Next Steps For Us Here In This Local Church:
- Pray Alone & Together
Fellowship like 1 Thessalonians won’t happen with prayer only,
but it will only happen with prayer.
Pray for the LORD to help us
rearrange our full schedules to create room for us
to know & be known. Pray for courage to risk.
- When my phone’s text limit is full, I only get new messages
by deleting old ones. Cant just add more.
- Same with our schedules:
most of us can’t add fellowship/community
& still live the same way we live.
Thus we need to pray for wisdom to know
what to prune away & the courage to do it.
Pray alone during the week,
and pray together for this on Sunday morning:
before service, during turn n greet, after service:
our Father knits our hearts together as we pray together.
2. Commit/Decide to Invest In This Local Church
Everyone says they want community and friendship.
But mention accountability or commitment to people,
& they run the other way. Timothy Keller
Sporadic attendance won’t grow supernatural community—
we must actively invest in it over the long-haul.
- Same with occasionally attending a health club
or casually interacting with the equipment.
- Same with a plant staying in soil for a few months each year
or uprooting from field to field—fruit won’t grow.
Biblical fellowship & community will not happen by accident
but by us intentionally deciding to
cultivate, plant, fertilize & water the garden of this local church.
Want to impact a city/community?
Don’t just send a check…move to the neighborhood,
open up a business, put down roots,
invest consistently in a specific area with a specific focus.
Before cameras, to capture someone’s image,
you had to have your portrait painted.
Took time. Person’s main job:
cooperate with the painter by being there, in the same place.
Let the painter paint. You be there.
The LORD is painting fellowship/community here by His grace;
we need to be here, committed, in the same place
& partner with Him as He paints a picture
to look like 1 Thessalonians.
“Biblical preaching makes the Gospel audible;
Biblical fellowship/community makes the Gospel visible” (anon.).
3. Get Into A Life Group Or Bible Study
So much of the early Church’s fellowship
involved learning & living the Bible together.
We’re no different.
We simply must plant ourselves in Scripture together
if we want the Holy Spirit to grow
Biblical fellowship/community here.
4. Don’t Aim Primarily For Fellowship/Community
People often get discouraged—& quit!—exercising
because the exercising isn’t their main goal,
their main goal isn’t necessarily
to make good choices with their body & do healthy activities.
Often, their goal is to look a certain way,
to change their outer appearance:
- So, they’ll check the scale & mirror for results
after & during each workout.
- But then they’ll likely get discouraged
by the lack of visible results,
it will seem like exercising
isn’t effective, isn’t working, isn’t worth it.
- They often then lose motivation, then quit.
But if their goal was to do healthy activities,
if their goal was to make healthy choices
that are good for their bodies, regardless of visible results,
because it’s the right thing to do,
they’d continue to exercise, they’d look at the mirror/scale less,
because doing the workouts faithfully would be success!
And you know what they would find after months
of faithfully doing the exercises?
They’d probably be astonished to see that in the long-run
it did affect their appearance.
The importance, then, is what were they aiming for,
what was their main goal…
And so it is with fellowship/community:
don’t primarily aim for it.
If that is our main goal,
we’ll check the scale/look in the mirror each Sunday
& get discouraged if we aren’t getting
- the feelings of fellowship/community,
- if we aren’t feeling less lonely,
- feeling more connected, etc.
Discouraged, we’ll either quit church or
bounce around local churches chasing an elusive feeling.
Instead, aim for faithfulness to the Lord Jesus.
Follow Him, my dear brothers and sisters,
take up your cross and follow Him,
put into practice here in this local church what we learn in the Bible,
week in and week out, for years,
with these people around you right now.
Seek to wash their feet, reach out & pursue them,
pray specifically for them by name or by face/outfit,
ask God to pour into their lives…& then you start pouring,
be a pitcher of water in His hands.
Be the community to others that you wish to have for yourself.
& by the grace of God, if we all do that in ways
that are stretching/risky/inconvenient for us,
if we do those things not for first for community
but first as an act of worship for the Lord Jesus—
remember He said now that you know these things,
you will be blessed if you do them—
we will find over time that the scale & mirror of our hearts
reflect that we have begun to truly experience
the fellowship/community of 1 Thessalonians
right here in this little garden of God that He cares so deeply about.
We’ll be blessed to have the community/fellowship we desire,
not because that was our goal,
but because honoring & following the Lord Jesus Christ
was our goal.
Humble/faithful obedience to Christ
is the fertilizer & soil where Biblical community thrives.
I know this is a lot…elevating God & elevating community alone
is enough to fill a lifetime,
and we still have elevating others/non-Christians next week.
I know this is a lot, but through this “a lot”
God is answering our prayers for community:
Last week I asked the LORD to help my wife & I
respond to our children’s needs
to help them see Christ in us & to reflect Him to our children.
Later that night I was awakened three different times
by the needs of one of my children.
A lot of my heart was grumpy & grumbly.
The third time, it hit me:
Father—You are answering my prayer right now!
You’re helping me to (very imperfectly) reflect You,
You’re helping my children to learn that You never sleep,
that they can go to You anytime & You won’t be irritated
because You’re busy doing something else.
God answered my prayer in a way
that was temporarily inconvenient for me.
Many of us pray for & desire Biblical community/fellowship.
Well, the “ a lot,” the inconvenience we’ll face
as we shift our schedules/priorities around,
that’s the LORD answering our prayers!
By His grace, He will continue to grow & cultivate fellowship here
like in 1 Thessalonians as we partner with Him in inconvenient ways;
it may be awkward and difficult at times, but it is worth it,
it is Him answering our prayers, not just for us,
but for future generations of people who have not been here yet…
I know you are busy…I empathize with you—
please know that! 🙂
But please ask the LORD this question:
Father, with the precious time you give me,
am I often watering plastic plants?
Am I pouring my time—Your time—
into decorative pieces in my life—Your life—
that cannot grow, cannot improve the air quality,
cannot produce any fruit
Show me, and teach me
- to water what matters,
- to water what advances Your Kingdom,
- to pour the time, skills, energy & finances You give me
into elevating You,
elevating Christian community here in this local church’s garden,
& elevating non-Christians out there.
That’s a prayer He is guaranteed to answer. 🙂
Ever seen a video of an adult re-learning to walk?
The person puts in work, lots of rehab,
needs much of support/help.
They are intentional and focused—
it won’t happen on accident or randomly—
it must be decided and worked on,
whether they feel like it each day or not.
And then they try to walk in between
the two horizontal bars/poles…
they struggle, they strain, they sweat…
they look/feel awkward—
they’re struggling at doing something
that most three year olds can do—
but they aren’t worried about the awkwardness…
they want to walk again, no matter what it takes.
They’re completely focused on taking one or two steps,
walking five feet.
What have you felt if you’ve seen a video like that?
Bored…change the channel quickly? No.
Inspired. Moved to tears. Enraptured.
What is the response of people around them when they take steps?
Celebration. Excitement. Exultation.
That’s most of us when it comes
to real Biblical fellowship/community.
That’s what many of us will look and feel like
if we commit to partnering with our King and each other
as He knits our hearts together here.
It will be so difficult/clumsy/awkward for a while…
and it will be so worth it.
There will be so much stacked against us—
- our schedules,
- our lack of desire,
- our idol of safety/predictability,
- our scar-tissue/pain from past attempts,
- seasons where we don’t see any fruit from our efforts…
but it will be worth it.
You know who will cheer? The angels in heaven. Why?
They will cheer the Father, Son & Holy Spirit
as the LORD transforms us into His people
who look and act like Him.
Us relearning to walk five feet in Biblical fellowship
if I can dare to use that word,
their worship of the LORD
because they will be amazed that He can transform us
to do & become what is in many ways unnatural to us,
the angels will be in awe, not of us, but of Him
Who can transform us to do as He as done,
to wash each other’s feet,
as He transforms us from slimy crawling caterpillars
to butterflies that soar & fly across countries.
This journey of fellowship that the LORD calls us into
is dangerous/miraculous/worth it;
not because I say so, not because you feel guilty,
not because you “should.”
- But because every wobbly step we take, together,
- every time we fall and get back up, together,
- will glorify and shine the spotlight
on the awesomeness of
our Father, His only Son & His Holy Spirit…
Hebrews 6:10: “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work
and the love you have shown him
as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”