Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Friday, December 28, 2007

More on Fellowship

Christian fellowship is not possible without all or both parties being in fellowship with the Father and the Son.

This begins to happen when a person has his sins forgiven by coming to the Father through the Son.

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

This fellowship continues to take place when he walks in the light. He has fellowship with other people who have come to the light and who are walking in the light.

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been through God.” John 3:19-21

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

There does not seem to be much of this kind of fellowship in the Christian Communities today. It is for one of two reasons.

1. The people have not come to the light. They have not been forgiven; they are not Christians.

2. They have come to the light but they are not walking in the light.

Although #1 may be true, I will consider #2 in the Roots by the River.

These are Christians whose sins are not being cleansed as fast as they occur. In other words, probably most Christians. There are two major reasons for this.

1. The Christian does not confess his sin.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

2. The Christian does not forgive those who have sinned against him.

Pay attention to the following teaching of Jesus.

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14, 15

“So watch yourselves. "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him.” Luke 17:3, 4

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. "The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35

Read them again.

Is the teaching to the one who sins, or to the one who is supposed to forgive?

What is the consequence to the one who does not forgive?

The greater cause of no fellowship in the saints is “not forgiving” not in “not repenting.”

The forgiver in Luke 17 is to forgive when the other says he repents. The forgiver does not get to judge whether the other is really repentant. He is not a competent judge. To say He is not repentant is to give himself reason not to forgive. He does not have that option.

The seventy-seven times does not mention that the sinning man repents seventy-seven times. Forgiveness is unrelated to the person’s repentance. The forgiveness must be from the heart, not from the mouth only.

To respond by saying “there is nothing to forgive” may be a dodge to keep from forgiving.

Lack of forgiving is a major cause of no fellowship in the saints.

“I can forgive but I can’t forget” is another means of hanging on to unforgiveness. It is amazing what you forget when forgiveness is from the heart.

“I can’t forgive,” is either a way of saying, “I am not saved” or if saved, saying “I will not forgive.” Either way, it is big trouble for the unforgiving. Christians are commanded to forgive.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

If you are unforgiving then that is simply sin. It is a greater sin than the sin which you are not forgiving. Confess it as sin until you are cleansed of it. Then forgive your brother. Two of the ways it is possible to know that you are unforgiving, even though you have convinced yourself that you have forgiven is that, 1) you have no joy and, 2) you are still not in fellowship with him.

You may wonder about a case of Church discipline when we are told not to eat with a person who continues to sin and calls himself a Christian.

“But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.” 1 Corinthians 5:11

“If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matthew 18:17

Certainly, there is no fellowship because of him retaining his sin.

I am not allowed an “attitude’ toward this person. We are to treat him as a non-Christian.

How did Jesus treat tax collectors and sinners?

Even in legitimate church discipline, we should be walking in the light and rejoicing always. To hold a grudge is not forgiving.

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