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The Fellowship of Believers

来源:丰台堂 作者:Karen Taylor 时间:2011-05-19 点击:

Sermon:  The Fellowship of Believers by Karen Taylor

Acts 2: 42-47

    Our spiritual life is very important.  We should read our bibles.  We should pray. We should devote time to bible study and meditation.  We should learn the ways of discipleship.   And one of the ways that we can do all these things is to find a place where we can worship together and communicate with other believers.  We should be in fellowship with other believers. The Church as a whole—as the universal church— believes that God, the Father, is the creator of the universe, that Jesus Christ is the son of the Father and emptied himself of his divinity to come to earth as a man.  He was crucified, lay in the tomb three days, and on the third was resurrected. He ascended to Heaven where his remains until he comes again as he promised.  And that God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell among us until that time. What is also true is the need for believers to be in fellowship with others. Our life and fellowship as believers revolves around our faith that these things are true. But there are some who feel that community, that fellowship as believers is not important.  They are very wrong.  People all over the world have risked, have sacrificed, have died to be able to do what we are doing this afternoon—coming together as a community of believers to worship God.

Let’s read our scripture passage for today.  Please turn to Acts 2: 42-47…

42 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”(NIV)

    The passage we just read takes us to the time shortly following Jesus’ death and resurrection.  The Christian church is just a baby…struggling to form, learn, and grow but  even though they had so much in common, they were struggling under the weight of so many different personalities and ideas.  But God in his wisdom has sent another to help…he has sent, as promised, the Holy Spirit. In the passage before these, we read of the coming of the Spirit upon those gathered with Peter to observe the Festival of Weeks or the observance of the giving of the Torah, the Ten Commandments to the Israelite people at Mount Sinai. The Holy Spirit descends upon those gathered and as the Bible tells us…”they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.  And they were amazed and astonished…” and they were confused. “What did this mean?  What did this mean?”

    The scriptures tell us that Peter and the other eleven stand.  And Peter repeats the words of Joel saying, “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.  And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.  And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

    So, why is this passage important?  Why is a fellowship of believers so important?  Why should it be important to you?

1.    First…This passage describes for us the approval of the work of the church by the descension, the coming down, of the Holy Spirit upon those gathered.  We have an account of the very beginning of the church.  If we are to follow the Bible as holy and the word of God, then we should follow its example.  We are called to be ministers to each other.  We are called to go and make disciples, to tell what we know and share what we have experienced to others, to grow the church. Therefore, the importance of a community of faith is a divine and Biblical reality and of great importance.

a.     “Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian, minister, and scholar before and during the Nazi occupation of Germany. He was hanged at Flossenburg on April 9th, 1945.  The day before he died he “conducted a small service of worship for fellow prisoner.  He had just finished his last prayer when the guards came to take him away.  But he said even as they led him out the door, “This is the end, but for me it is the beginning of life.”  Bonhoeffer’s witness continued in that moment and even after his death.  In his book, “Life Together,” he discusses ideas of Christian Fellowship. 

i.      He says that it is a privilege of Christians to live among fellow Christians…a privilege we often take for granted. After all, Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples had deserted him.  On the cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evil doers and mockers.

ii.      But the Christian too, belongs not in a secluded life but in the thick of foes.  It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in the world to share God’s Word and sacrament.  Not all Christians receive this opportunity…they know that visible fellowship is a blessing.

iii.      The physical presence of other Christians is a source of great joy and strength to the believer.  The imprisoned apostle Paul longed for and calls his ‘dearly beloved son in the faith,’ Timothy, to come to him in prison in the last days of his life.  The aged John knows that his joy will not be full until he can come to his own people and speak face to face instead of writing in ink.” (Life Together, pgs13-19)

 

b.    Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. 

i.      Christians need others because of Jesus Christ.

ii.      Christians come to others only through Jesus Christ

iii.      In Christ, we have been chosen from eternity, accepted in time, and united for eternity.

**This happens only through and in Jesus Christ! A Christian no longer seeks his salvation, his deliverance, his justification in himself, but instead seeks it through and in Jesus Christ alone! (Pg. 21-22)

2.    Second, the fellowship of believers is important…

a.     …because it provides a place to observe sacraments together and by doing this helps us to remember.  Jesus said, do this in remembrance of me…Our Christian heritage is very rich.  There are events and sacraments that we need to remember, to share with our families, to pass on to our children, and to participate in to enrich our own lives. Listen to the beauty of this statement by Bonhoeffer as he describes the new existence available through faith and salvation in Jesus Christ.  He compares the change to the dawning of a new day…“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16). The Old Testament day begins at evening and ends with the going down of the sun.  It is a time of expectation.  The day of the New Testament church begins with the break of day and ends with the dawning of light of the next morning.  It is the time of fulfillment, the resurrection of the Lord.  At night Christ was born, a light in darkness; noonday turned to night when Christ suffered and died on the Cross. But in the dawn of Easter morning Christ rose in victory from the grave…Christ is the ‘Sun of righteousness,’ risen upon the expectant congregation (Mal. 4:2) and they that love him shall ‘be as the sun when he goes forth in his might (Judges 5:11).  The early morning belongs to the Church of the risen Christ.”(Bonhoeffer, p40-41)  What beautiful words to share…why would anyone want to keep that to themselves.  Did you hear the words he used through out this passage…church, congregation, they-plural?  These words are describing sharing and fellowship of believers and the wonder and awe of each new day, each new morning. Bonhoeffer goes on to say, “Morning does not belong to the individual, it belongs to the Church of the triune God, to the Christian family, to the brotherhood.”  This models for us a heritage rich in fellowship with others, not individual and separate from others.  Community! Brotherhood! Family! These are words to share with your fellow believers and with your family.  It is your inheritance as children of God.

b.    We need a fellowship for communion with others but also for corporate communion with God.  We need to offer praise and worship to God while we fellowship with each other.  …We should be participating in the Holy rites together, in singing worship songs together, listening and reading scripture together, studying God’s words together…and therefore, growing our personal relationship with God by participating in worship with many people. God loves it when we worship him privately and God loves when we worship him together. 

 

c.     We need the fellowship and experience of the Holy Spirit swelling within our very being and filling us up as we worship. Jesus says in Matt. 18: 20, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.” Simply put, when we worship together we invoke (we ask ,we call upon)  Jesus to dwell with us…and he is here. The presence of the one who sacrificed so much enables us to be more generous, to be more glad, to have favor with all people, to want to come to church more, to share our homes and food more, …by being a part of the fellowship of believer we become more than what we could be on our own.

 

3.    Third, we need the community of believers to share the burden that being a Christian calls us to carry and the journey we must often walk.  God does not promise an easy life.  Even as Christians we will have difficulties.  We will still suffer injury at times, will still experience sickness, will still have to endure the difficulties that non-Christians experience but we have the reassurance that when this mortal life is over we will be perfect with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  We need the community of believers for support when we are feeling discouraged, for the intercessory pray they are able to raise up for us, and for the praises we share when we receive blessings and for the encouragement they can give us as we all grow in our relationship with God. A community of believers gives us the opportunity to teach and to learn from our fellow Christians.  We need the fellowship of believers for the stability and presence a group can give and for the growth that community and fellowship can provide and help each of us with.

 

4.    And yet, we need solitude at times to appreciate community.  Do not neglect your personal and private worship time just because you have attended church this week.  Study your Bible, be sure to pray, meditate, do whatever you do to offer your personal prayers, thanks, and worship to God.

 

5.    And in all these things, try not to grow weary…Gal. 6: 9-10 reminds us, “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.  We should never lose our awe and wonder of being a part of the body of Christ, a member of the fellowship of believers, and the household of faith. Support each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.  As Ephesians 5: 1, tells us “Be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” 

 

6.    Be an active participant in your own faith!

Prayer:  Father God, we thank you for this message today.  We ask that you would be with us as we go out and as we come in.  Lord, help us to reach within ourselves to offer you the best we have in worship and praise but also to reach outside ourselves to be a support in all ways to our brothers and sisters of the faith.  Help us to remember that we are asked to serve others just as we serve you.  Be with us now and in the days to come as we leave this place so that we might return again to worship you and be a participant in the fellowship of believers. Amen.

 

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