Christian Fellowship

Fellowship is primarily interaction in the realm of the spirit – either between my spirit and God, who is Spirit, or between my spirit and the spirit of another person or spiritual entity. In this interaction, there is always the element of transfer or influence. It goes beyond the ability to relate on a mental level and the ability to communicate on topics of mutual interest. You cannot place two people or a bunch of people together and think that they are having fellowship just because they are together in one place, neither can you expect them to have fellowship because they share commonality of purpose or similar tastes.
What does the Bible say about fellowship?
1.  1 John 1:3 “……and truly, our fellowship is with the Father and with His son Jesus Christ”.
2. 1 Cor. 1:9 “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”.
3. 2 Cor 13:14 “…..the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”.
4. 1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His son cleanses us from all sin”.
From the above verses, it is clear that our primary fellowship is to be with God. This is something beyond prayer and the reading of God’s word, in fact, prayer and reading are means to fellowship with God. This fellowship began when God united us with Christ (1 Cor 1:30) – he made us one spirit with Christ (1 Cor 6:17). In this fellowship, there is a continual interaction and impartation that takes place leaving us rested, refreshed, energised, transformed that little more into God’s image and enlarged to contain more of divine power.
Next, we are called to have fellowship with each other. It is extremely important to note that we can only have fellowship with each other if we are walking in the light. Two Christians cannot have fellowship if one of them is not walking in the light or is not in fellowship with God. This is where most people get it wrong – they think that the more the social interaction among Christians, the deeper our fellowship gets. Christian fellowship only begins when both individuals are walking in the light. In 1 John 1:3, John calls the believers to have fellowship with him because he was having fellowship with God.
The Word warns us about the dangers of certain fellowships. They are –
1. 1 Cor 10:20 “…..I do not want you to have fellowship with demons”. We can unwittingly bring ourselves into fellowship with demons in several ways – eating food offered to idols, keeping demonic objects in the home, witchcraft of any kind, horoscopes, and the like.
2. 2 Cor 6:14 “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what fellowship has light with darkness?”. Note that this does not mean that we withdraw from the world. 1 Cor 5:9,10.
3. Eph 5:11 “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them”.
4. 1 Cor 5:11 “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral or covetous or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner – not even to eat with such a person”.
5. 2 Thess 3:14 “And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.” Do note that this verse has been abused and used out of context by several groups.

Beloved, may we enter into and enjoy pure and sweet fellowship with God right through the day and then with His saints. May we refuse to touch what is unclean and be sons and daughters of the most High. May all who come into fellowship with us be strengthened, refreshed and encouraged to press into fellowship with God. We are the aroma of Christ.

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Giving

In the New testament, we are encouraged to give ourselves to the Lord first (2 Cor 8:5, Rom 6:13, 12:1) and then to excel in the grace of giving of what belongs to us to meet the needs of others (2Cor 8:7). In the times we now live, we hear much about the giving of our money but seldom about the giving of ourselves to the Lord. We should not get this order mixed up.

The New testament mentions tithing in two places – once when Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees in Matthew 23 and Luke and the other when the writer to the Hebrews was speaking of Melchizedek in chapter 7. In Hebrews 7, the context is in proving that Melchizedek is greater than Levi, not about instruction for the church to tithe. Jesus told the Pharisees in Matthew 23 that they should continue to tithe without neglecting justice and mercy. He also said that justice and mercy were weightier aspects of the law than tithing (Matthew 23:23). This was spoken to the Pharisees and not to his disciples. Nowhere else in the New testament does one read of tithing. One does, however, notice that the New Testament speaks much about giving. I think the reason that tithing is not mentioned in the letters to the churches is because God does not want us to live by rules but by the Spirit – we are in a better covenant. All that we have is from God, there is nothing we have that we did not receive. Although Paul encourage us to decide how much we want to give, I believe that it is a good practice to start by giving a tenth of our income to the Lord and then increase it as God grants increase. We should not be giving just because we want to receive, rather we ought to give as the Spirit leads for all we have is from God. When we do give, the principle of giving and receiving starts to operate and so you will find that you cannot give without receiving. 

Whom do we give to? This is the million dollar question. Do we give only to the church or can we give to others also? It is really simple – if your church is actively engaged in giving according to the criteria shown below, then by all means, give to your church. If not, then you are not bound to give to your church only, but expected to give according to the following criteria –

Lets look at what the New testament says in this regard.

1. Give to those in need whom God brings across your path (Luke 10:30-36). In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we find that he gave of his time and money to ensure that the victim of a robbery was taken care of. Jesus commended the Good Samaritan and told the lawyer who questioned him to go and do likewise. You don’t have to give towards every poor person in the world but you are expected to help those whom God brings across your path.

2. To those in ministry who are dependent upon God (Luke 8:1-3, 10:1-8, 3 John 8, 1 Cor 9:14). Many of Jesus’ materials needs were provided for by some of his followers. Jesus said that the laborer is worthy of his wages. In 3 John, we are encouraged to support those who go forth for Jesus name sake that we may become fellow workers with them. This includes giving to missions and missionaries.

3. To the poor, widows and orphans (Acts 4:34-37, 2 Cor 8:1-7, 2 Cor 9:1-15, Js 2:15,16, Lk 14:13, 14, 1 Tim 5:3-16, Js 1:27) God’s heart is for the poor and needy. We are encouraged to give to the poor, whether it be for their sustenance or towards their education. This includes giving to orphanages.

4. Towards needs in the church (Mark 12:41-44). Jesus commended the action of the poor widow in contributing to the temple treasury despite her poverty. The needs of the church are to be met by the gifts of those that attend the church. The practice of the church hoarding money without a clear objective is definitely unacceptable.

5. Towards your own household (1 Tim 5:8) If anyone does not provide for his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. You cannot have a member of your family being supported by the church, while you are financially capable to support the person.

The Bible speaks of excelling in the grace of giving, that giving is better than receiving, of the principle of giving and receiving. Jesus spoke of giving and receiving in Luke 6:38, Paul spoke of giving and receiving in Phil 4:15. It is in this context, in Phil 4:19 and 17 that Paul speaks of God supplying all the needs of the Thessalonians and of fruit abounding to their account. It was Cornelius’ prayers and giving that came up as a memorial before God (Acts 10:1-4). It is in the context of giving and receiving that Paul spoke of sowing and reaping (2 Cor 9). It is in the same context that he spoke of God providing all sufficiency in all things (vs 8) and an abundance unto every good work. He said that giving to those in need was a duty (Rom 15:27) that is expected to be fulfilled. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7).

Let us excel in the grace of giving.

The minister of Christ

Are they ministers of Christ? 1 Cor 11:23

Let a man so consider us, as ministers of Christ… 1 Cor 4:1

….you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ….1 Tim 4:6

….that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles…..Rom 15:16

But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God…..2 Cor 6:3

Therefore, since we have this ministry,…….2 Cor 4:1

The term “minister” of Christ means a servant of Christ, one who serves Christ, who follows his instruction, one who is totally submitted to Christ.

As ministers of Christ, we are called to receive from Him and transmit or dispense or give out to others what we receive from Christ.  An examination of 2 Corinthians 3 reveals that the minister of Christ is called to minister the following –

1. The New covenant – vs 6. We are called to minister (transmit/dispense/give out) the new covenant, not a mixture of the old and new covenants. We are to minister the new covenant of grace, not a covenant based on performance.

2. The Spirit – vs 6. Jesus said in John 7:38 that he who believes in Him would have rivers of living water flowing out from him. He was referring to the Holy Spirit when he spoke of the rivers of living water. We are called to minister (transmit/dispense/give out) the Holy Spirit. Note that although Jesus is the baptizer in the Holy Spirit, we are expected to have the Spirit flowing out from us like rivers of living water.

3. Life – vs 6. We are called to minister (transmit/dispense/give out) the life of God. The Holy Spirit always brings life – he raised up our Lord Jesus from the dead and will give life to our mortal bodies too (Rom 8:11), he will bring life to our souls (Rom 8:6 NIV) and will bring life to our spirits (1 John 5:11-13, 1 Cor 3:16). He is called the Spirit of life (Rom 8:2).

4. Glory – vs 8,9. We are called to minister (transmit/dispense/give out) the glory of God. Jesus gave us his glory (John 17:22) and we can transmit his glory to others.

5. Righteousness – vs 9. We are called to minister (transmit/dispense/give out) the righteousness of God. In the gospel,  the righteousness of God is revealed (Rom 1:16,17; 3:21,22). This righteousness is what we ought to minister to others.

May we examine ourselves to check whether we are ministers of Christ or whether we are serving ourselves. Let us be cautioned that we are expected to minister the new covenant, the Spirit, life, glory and righteousness. The fragrance of Christ ought to emanate from our lives, not the stench of self.

God’s purpose for the church

An examination of the Scriptures will show us God’s purpose for the church, enabling us to aspire to be the church that He wants us to be. There is a desperate need in our time for churches to have the solution for the worlds ills. The world should be going to the church for answers, not the church to the world.

I believe that we are guilty of a great sin – that of misrepresenting Jesus Christ. We have portrayed Jesus to be weak and feeble by our own lack of power and have been satisfied to be preaching a godliness but denying its power. We spend hours arguing about the second coming and prophecy, we take pride in being different in our interpretations of the Word and tear down anything that does not fit in with our view of Christianity. We can have conferences on the dotting of an i and the crossing of a t, oblivious to the fact that we have no spiritual power. While this charade goes on, the world despises us for they do not see Christ but several groups of people content with squabbling among each other, certain that the other groups are deceived and going to hell.

Thats why I want us to be reminded of God’s purpose for the church so that we could find our bearings and return to the Lord to do His will.

1. Ephesians 1:23, 24 “And He put all things under his feet and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” God’s purpose for the church is to contain the fullness of Jesus presence and power.

2. Eph 2:22 “in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” God’s purpose for the church is for it to be a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit.

3. 1 Tim 3:15 “…in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” God’s purpose for the church is to be the pillar and foundation of the truth.

4. Eph 4:15, 16 ” …may grow up into him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, cause growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” God’s purpose for the church is that the church receives life and direction from Christ. Also look at Eph 5:24 and 1 Cor 12:27.

5. Eph 3:10 ” to the intent that now, the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” God’s purpose for the church is that through the church He might demonstrate His wisdom to the powers of darkness.

6. Matt 16:18 “…on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” The picture here is not that of an embattled church holding the fort in the face of a heavy onslaught, waiting to be raptured but rather of a victorious advancing church, before whom the gates of Hades crumble and fall. God’s purpose for the church is for it to destroy the gates of Hell.

7. Eph 4:13 “…..till we all come to the unity of the faith and knowledge of the son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Eph 5:27 “that he might present her to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” God’s purpose for the church is that it might be perfect, glorious and holy.

May we have a mighty visitation of God, we desperately need it. May we be the church that God intended.

 

Blessing

My definition of blessing is this – “Blessing is divine enablement and favour that results in spiritual, material and physical prosperity.”

God’s blessing upon a person will result in –

1. Us turning away from sin – Acts 3:26 “To you first, God, having raised up his servant Jesus, sent him to bless you in turning away everyone of you from your iniquities.”

2. Righteousness, peace and joy – Rom 14:17, Rom 5:17

3. Protection from evil – Psalm 91

4. Financial sufficiency and abundance so that we can be generous – 2 Cor 9:8 “And God is able to make all grace abound towards you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance unto every good work.”

5. Divine health – Psalm 91, 1 Thess 5:23

6. Supernatural intervention in time of need

In the New testament, you will never find one prayer pleading for God’s blessing. Strange, is’nt it? Are’nt we accustomed to praying for God’s blessing to come down upon us? In the Old testament, however, you will find instances of people praying for God to bless them.

A look at Ephesians 1:3 shows us that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. Look closely, and you will see that the statement is in the past tense – God has blessed us in Christ. This points to an event in the past that has caused God to bless us.

Similarly we will find verses in the New testament speaking about healing, deliverance, outpouring of the Holy Spirit among others. All of these are in the past tense – showing us something that has been already done.

1. Eph 1:3 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.” Note the words “HAS BLESSED”.

2. 1 Peter 2:24 “who himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed.” Note the words “YOU WERE HEALED.”

3. Col 1:13 “He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son of his love.” Note the words “HAS DELIVERED US.”

4. Rev 1:5 NIV “To him who loved us and freed us from our sins by his blood.” Note the words “HAS FREED US FROM OUR SINS.”

5. Eph 2:5,6 “made us alive together with Christ……….raised us up together …….made us sit together……in Christ”. Note the words, MADE US ALIVE, RAISED US UP, MADE US SIT”.

6. Acts 2:33 “having received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you now see and hear.” Note the words “HAS POURED OUT THE HOLY SPIRIT.”

All of these verses point us to an event in the past – the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus as the basis for God’s blessing , healing, deliverance, freedom from sin, pouring out the Spirit.

How then do we experience this in our lives?

This involves what I call “appropriation”.

Look at it this way – Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, right? Yes.

Well then, is everyone saved? No.

Why?

Only those who have believed, repented and received Jesus individually are saved. This is appropriation.

It is the same with blessing, healing, deliverance, freedom from sin, receiving the Holy Spirit and every other benefit in the New testament.

These benefits are already ours – they need to be believed and received. In this context, remember 2 Corinthians 4:13 – “And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, I believed and therefore I spoke, we also believe and therefore speak.” We need to speak out what the Word of God says in this regard. Appropriate every benefit of Christ’s salvation and they will be yours.

You have been blessed in Christ.

God works through the church

There are certain things that God will not do for you, except through his church.

Remember when Saul was met by Jesus on the Damascus road, he was told – “Go into the city and you will be told what you must do.” Jesus did not tell Paul what to do – he wanted Paul to receive instruction from a member of the church that he would understand his dependence upon the church and also the union between Christ and His church.

I pity the loners, those who choose not to be part of any church, who think that it is sufficient to be part of the universal body of Christ, who find fault with every church and every minister they meet, who criticize everything and everyone they do not agree with, totally blind to their own pathetic state. This, unfortunately is an evil that I have seen under the sun.

There are answers to prayer that I have received only when the church has prayed for me, when certain ministers have prayed for me; answers that have eluded me although I have prayed much. In hindsight, God was showing me my dependence upon the body of Christ. I make it a point to get as many people as possible praying for me in times of need. Humility, after all, is an attitude that results from a recognition of our total dependence upon God and our total dependence upon the church.

I pray that we would all learn this lesson well – you have been placed in the body of Christ. It is together with all the saints that we will understand the width and length and depth and height of the love of Christ. Christ is returning for his church.

Abiding in Christ

The subject of abiding in Christ has perhaps been spoken about, taught and written about more than most other subjects in the Bible. When I studied the Word, I found that although Jesus spoke about us abiding in him in John 15, he did not let us know how to abide in him nor did he explain what exactly he meant by the word “abide”.

While seeking to understand the Word, I saw that the first epistle of John shows us how we can abide in Christ. First, let us start by understanding what is meant by the word “abide”.

The word “abide” could mean to rest, to remain, to continue, to stay, to dwell. I believe that abiding in Christ is more than just the notion of remaining in Christ or remaining connected to Christ or relating to Christ. I believe that it means living in an experiential union with Christ where one is consciously aware of his presence and power. We need to grasp this well – it does not refer to an exercise that one does once a day and believes that he is abiding in Christ by faith. It is experiencing his presence and power every moment of the day.

How do we abide in Christ?

1. 1 John 4:15 – “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the son of God, God abides in him and he in God”. It is the person who has received Christ Jesus as Lord that is placed into a union with Christ and can abide in Him. God places us in union with Christ, in fact, the Word says that he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.

2. 1 John 2:24 – “If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the son and in the Father”. It is by making the Word of God our constant meditation and delight that we can abide in Christ.

3. 1 John 2:27 – “The same anointing teaches you concerning all things and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him”. It is the anointing of the Holy Spirit that enables us to abide in Christ. One of the ways that is effective in becoming conscious of God’s presence is by speaking in tongues.

4. 1 John 3:24 – “Now he who keeps his commandments abides in Him and He in him”. Obedience enables us to abide in Christ – keeps us conscious of HIs presence and power.

5. 1 John 4:16 – “He who abides in love, abides in God and God in him”. The love that is spoken about here is the love of God. In fact, Jesus says in John 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, I also have loved you, abide in my love”. The more we meditate upon and understand the love of God, the more we will be conscious of his presence.

6. John 6:56 – “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in Him”. This speaks of relating with Christ as the one who satisfies my hunger and my thirst; as the one who is my food and drink, as the one who is the source of my life.

What is the effect of abiding in Christ?

1. 1 John 3:6 – “Whoever abides in Him does not sin”. Abiding in Christ will bring us to the state where we do not sin.

2. John 15:7 – “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you”. Abiding in Christ guarantees answered prayer.

3. John 15:5 – “He who abides in me and I in him bears much fruit, for without me you can do nothing”. Abiding in Christ causes us to bear fruit. The fruit that is spoken of here refers to the fruit of character and the fruit of works. We begin the bear the fruit of the Spirit and do the works of Jesus.

4. 1 John 2:28 – “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming”. Abiding in Christ gives us confidence to meet him when he appears. We do not need to fear or worry about when Jesus will come again. No matter when He comes, we will be confident.

May we live our lives each day abiding in Christ.

Salvation – 2

The Bible tells me that God has set forth Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. There is no other solution for sin – it is Jesus himself. Since Jesus is the sacrifice for sin, he has dealt with both sin and its effects upon the human race.

The effects of sin are –

  1. Separation from God
  2. Demonisation
  3. Sickness
  4. Curse
  5. Physical death
  6. Eternal death
  7. Defiled earth

Through the death of Jesus, sin has been dealt with once and for all. Since sin has been dealt with, the effects of sin have also been removed. Not only has sin lost its power over the Christian, but the effects of sin have also lost their power over the Christian.

Through the sacrifice of Jesus, we have been reconciled to God. We have been delivered from the dominion of darkness and from the spiritual powers of this world. We have been set free from sickness and disease. We have been redeemed from the curse of the law. We have been saved from eternal death.

With regard to physical death, we must note that physical death is the “last enemy”. This will be taken out of the way at the very end. However, the Word tells us that Jesus abolished death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. This verse shows us that death, though it still exists, has lost its power over the Christian. It is just a door through which the Christian passes into eternity.

Why did Jesus not deal with physical death through the cross and take it out of the way forever? If he were to have done that, all of us would have lived eternally on this defiled earth, which God did not want. He desired that we live eternally on the “new earth”, the earth that has been cleansed of all defilement. This will happen sometime in the future.

Having said this, do we find Christians still bound by the effects of sin? Certainly. How is this to be dealt with?

I believe that we ought to demand that sin and its specific effects be removed from our lives. Through our faith in and declaration of God’s word and this truth specifically, we must appropriate the fact that Jesus death has cancelled sin and its effects from our lives.

May we experience Christ’s salvation in its fullness.