The Refreshment from Fellowship with Those Who Love GodPosted: Fri. Aug, 12 2016
The refreshment from fellowship with those who love God
It is the eve of our picnic. Kris and I got this idea for this event almost a year ago when we were walking around in the park where we will be hosting it. Planning a picnic is not as hard as planning a conference, but still, planning was needed and I am pleased at how the congregation here in Salem, the face to facers, have really served to make this as meaningful as it should be. Like any gathering of the body of Christ, whether it be a conference, a home for dinner, or Bible class in the church, it's not exactly the food or the activities that are most important, but the people. This doesn't mean that we don't do our best with the details of planning and executing, but it does mean that we are more like Mary's than we are like Martha's.
I am so pleased that so many are coming from out of town, most of whom are our internet listeners. I know that many others wanted to come, actually, I know all of them would love to be with us, and wouldn't that be a sight? As a pastor it makes me so proud and solidly confirms, yet again, that God desired this church to begin and to flourish. We are based on nothing other than the truth of the word of God and it's Author and Perfecter, our Lord Jesus Christ, and because of this fact, it has prospered and its members are growing by leaps and bounds, including yours truly.
The last two nights at Bible class have included internet listeners sitting amongst us, and it's quite wonderful to see us "regular attendees" light up around them. It is also quite wonderful to see these visitors light up at the prospect of face to face teaching. This is a phenomenon that is only present in the body of Christ. It occurs because we are gathering for something far greater than ourselves and each of us share the gift of that greater purpose. We each have a destiny, yet also, together we have destiny that is glorious and eternal as the unified body of Christ. No matter how different our individual predestinations may be, we all share the common goal of glorifying Christ and serving Him by serving one another. We will be together in heaven, seated together at the wedding feast of the Lamb, each adorned as His bride. No one has yet seen us all together, but when we gather at events like this, it is a snapshot of that glorious day when all of us will be together for the first time, adorned and with our Husband. 1TH 4:16-18 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
No one else is as close to the Lord as we are. We complete Him by means of the very gifts of grace that He has given us; gifts that He willingly and obediently died for. EPH 1:22-23 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all. This is the source of our joy when we are together. It is a treat to be able to see and understand that God has given the same unfathomable gifts to a host of people who are all completely different. We have different backgrounds, education, ages, ethnicities, weaknesses as well as strengths, yet we find unity and peace amongst each other due to the One that we each hold in common.
In the early church travelling Christians sought the homes of Christians when they needed lodging and they were welcomed with joy, and not because of who they were but because of the Master they served. ROM 12:9-13 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
ROM 16:23 Gaius, host to me and to the whole church, greets you.
HEB 13:1-2 Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.
None of us look like angels, but the Greek word also means "messengers," and could mean that the visitor may have a message for the host that God has sent to them via His special messenger. Angel or not, our hospitality rests on the love of Christ which we have for one another as fellow servants and fellow heirs of the promise. The actual identity of the visitor is not important. It is who they serve that is significant.
One of the benefits of fellowship is refreshment. It's comforting to know that one is not alone in his endeavors. Believers with the mind of Christ encourage one another and comfort one another, understanding that the struggles they face and the blessings they enjoy are shared by all. They support and forgive. They do not judge or disgrace with gossip. They do not compete with each other, seeing rather that they are servants of one another. A traveler of some distance has gone to trouble in order to be with his host and the host as well as the visitor are greatly blessed by it. When Paul was being transported from Caesarea to Rome, Julius, the centurion in charge of transporting Paul and who was civil to him, allowed Paul the freedom to seek out his brothers in Christ. ACT 27:3 And the next day we put in at Sidon; and Julius treated Paul with consideration and allowed him to go to his friends and receive care [care here refers to encouragement and refreshment and not physical care].
And similarly, when Paul finally got to Rome after the ordeal of his shipwreck, the brethren sought out Paul from long distances in order to encourage him, and he was greatly encouraged. ACT 28:15
And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.
Luke, the physician/historian who travelled with Paul to Rome and penned the book of Acts, was an eye witness to Paul's thankfulness to God and the encouragement that he received. It was obvious to Luke that this short time of fellowship was tremendously refreshing to this great apostle. These fellow Christians went to the trouble of travelling up to thirty or forty miles on foot to be with the apostle before he faced his trial before Caesar. Paul had been forsaken by many, but not by all, and after his years of toil for the kingdom of God and the hardship that it brought him, to see these smiling faces approaching him must have made his soul swell with joy.
When Paul was imprisoned in Rome he was refreshed greatly by Onesiphorus who came to the city and searched for him. This was a very dangerous thing for Onesiphorus to do since it was likely during the time of the heavy persecution of the church by the emperor Nero. He was likely to find himself in prison with Paul, but this didn't stop him from fulfilling Paul's needs. The churches in Asia were ashamed of Paul's chains and so they deserted him. That had to be deeply disheartening to Paul who cared for the churches more than anything else, but then to see this man come from afar to minister to him at great risk to himself must have been the most satiating refreshment. 2TI 1:15-17 You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chains; but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me, and found me.
Philemon was another believer who refreshed many. It was likely that he opened his home to be a church. Phm 7 For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.
The point is that believers refresh one another when they have the opportunity to gather together in fellowship. All of us have experienced the instant connection and unity that exists between complete strangers who both love the Lord and His word. It is a supernatural phenomenon that exists only in the royal family of God, and when we see it, we must see it for what it is and not ever take it for granted. We will have a great time tomorrow and we will all leave there encouraged and refreshed. Thanks again to all my royal family who have made this ministry a reality. It is a real privilege to serve you all.
2PE 1:5-8 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In brotherly love,
Pastor Joe Sugrue
Grace and Truth Ministries