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Fellowship: You Were Designed for God's Family
Scripture: Ephesians 1:5
Track 4 of 8 in the Purpose-Driven Life series
Running time: 40 minutes, 10 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, October 2, 2005
4th sermon in an 8-part series.
Purposeful Words: A series of Sermons on living a Purpose-Driven life
(Ephesians 1:5)
Copyright 2005 G. Charles Sackett

I saw again yesterday why I value this place so much. Why I hope you also appreciate it so deeply. I don't know all of the story and wouldn't begin to try to tell it in its entirety. All I know is I have been hearing ripples of it over the previous few days and weeks and it kind of all came together yesterday.

Um - Jerod and Crystal got married here yesterday. That was the easy part I guess. Not too long ago Jerod lost his job and it looked as if he were not going to be able to have this wedding come about as they had planned. And the choir got wind of that and decided that they would, as a matter of fact, have their wedding and their reception and everything that went with it.

And it was just a delightful day to see people floating around this building, who normally you would see up here in the choir, over there in the kitchen serving different kinds of things, taking care, cleaning up, setting up, decorating, un-decorating. Well, I'll let them tell you the story sometime in the future. It was just one of those delightful moments when you saw the body of Christ coming together and working and acting as if they really cared about each other.

My suspicion is that's not the only time that's happened nor will it be the last time it's happened. It's just one of those times when it was a visible kind of event where everybody had an opportunity to see it.

And it was the blending of two fundamental purposes for why we exist. One of them we talked about last week, was worship. I say that because it was primarily those people who participate in our worship leadership who made this thing come together. But I say it in part, because the wedding itself was as act of worship in the presence of God. And I say it because, in the midst of the wedding reception, some of our worship team got up and with Jerod, led us in worship during the reception. And we shared together in worship music and I found that interesting blend coming together of those first two things that we have been commissioned to talk about during these 40 Days. Worship being our primary purpose and fellowship being one of the fundamental things that we are wired up to be. We are formed to be a part of God's family, is the way that Rick Warren puts it.

You were to have memorized a verse this week. That verse says, in response to this question, what's the greatest commandment? The first greatest commandment is this. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. You know another word for that. Worship! Love God!

He didn't ask you to memorize the second half of that verse, but it's such a simple half, I'm thinking you could add it this morning without a lot of difficulty. Because the second command is like the first one. Love your neighbor as yourself. In fact, I think it would be beneficial for you to say that with me. Shall we? The second commandment is, ready? Love your neighbor as yourself. There's a word for that in the Bible too. It's called "fellowship". In fact, it's a rather fascinating word, this word fellowship, that occurs in the New Testament. It actually shows up in its noun form, fellowship, in about nineteen different verses. Not always translated fellowship but that's what it is.

It shows up about eight times as a verb. It shows up, well, in places like this.

1Corinthians 10:16 where it is used in the context to the Lord's Supper. We share together, he says. It's a sharing.

It's used in the context of Romans 15:26; in 2Corinthians 8:4 and 9:13 repeatedly about taking up an offering. Huh! Interesting use of that word. We share everything in common is the way that is termed.

It's interesting it's used in Philippians 1:5 and the little book of Philemon 6. It's used to talk about evangelism. Sharing your faith.

This word is used to talk about Jesus in Hebrews 2:14 when Jesus chose to become like us. The text literally says, "He chose to share in our human flesh." The word "fellowship".

The reverse side of that, of course, is Paul's statement in Philippians 3:10. We choose to share in His suffering. In fact, I think the New International Version translates that; We choose to fellowship, to join in the fellowship of His sufferings.

In 2Corinthians 13:13 and again in Philippians 2:1 it says that we share in common with the Holy Spirit.

In Hebrews 13:16; in Romans 12:13 and Philippians 4:15 it's used in talking about benevolence. People helping other people. Literally sharing what we have with those who don't have it. It's a great word, fellowship. It has this kind of basic meaning of having things in common.

In fact, if you want to have your Bibles out, we're going to look at just a couple of texts where this term is used. Just to get a feel for its kind of generic use.

Clear back in the back of your New Testament in 1John 1 interesting use of the term, actually twice in this verse.

1John 1:3 We announce to you what we have seen and heard, so that you may also have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

There's a two way fellowship going on here. We share the Gospel with one another in order that you and I may have something in common together. We can share something. The Gospel. But that comes in a context of already sharing something in common and that is, a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. And so fellowship has both vertical and horizontal dimensions.

We share with each other and we share with Him.

It's used again over in Acts 2:42. In fact, this is among the very earliest places you find it in the context of the church because the church is just coming into being in Acts 2. Peter has stood up on the day of Pentecost. He has preached a sermon about Jesus. The people have heard him say, "this Jesus whom you crucified, God has made to be both Lord and Christ." They want to know what in the world do we do about that. He says, "Well, you ought to. . . Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

And then just a couple of verses later Acts 2:42 about those early believers who responded to Christ, it says this: They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And then in the rest of that chapter he talks about the fact that they eat their meals together with gladness. They share everything in common and over the next two chapters he going to talk about selling houses and land in order to be able to minister to the saints among whom they live. They had fellowship. They had everything in common.

It's used in Galatians 2:9 in a way that I haven't used it in years. But we used to talk about this all the time. We don't do it much around here because we don't do a kind of altar call here that are common in so many churches, but it used to be in the days when altar calls were much more common (by the way, any time you want to respond at the end of the sermon, you're free to come. You don't have to, you know, wait. You're free to come.) But, if a believer came and wanted to become a part of the congregation, it was always my privilege as the preacher to stand there and extend my hand and to welcome them into the family of God.

And Galatians 2:9 says, we extend the right hand of Christian fellowship. It was a statement Paul was making about the fact the church accepted him as a believer. It's kind of a neat image isn't it? That you've been accepted into the family. Someone has literally given you the hand of fellowship. That's how this term is used.

In your reading this coming week, you're going to run across some "stuff" about this issue of fellowship. Rick Warren talks about four levels at which we "share". And at the risk of trying to preach somebody else's stuff, I'm going to give you those four things. Don't blame the rest of it on him. The rest of it's mine, but the four things are his.

The first one he talks about is Membership: Choosing to belong. It's interesting to me that he shows that up first in this context of fellowship, because, quite frankly, as you probably know, we don't make a big deal out of membership here. In fact, it is a rare day that you will even hear us talking about membership at Madison Park Christian Church.

I'm not sure why we have done that. We just have. It's become kind of a thing with us, not to make a big deal out of whether or not you are officially a member here. The interesting thing is that he pushes in the book, in the reading and in the sermon that he had for this particular day is the idea of people taking a stand about where they belong as a demonstration that they believe. Things have changed over the years. When I started preaching in the 1970's, the challenge was to help people believe and then once they became believers, then you encourage them to find a place where they could belong. And so, the typical kind of approach was, if I met you at the local gas station I would say something like, " is there any chance that we could get together and have a Bible study?" And I had a set routine of about a half a dozen Bible studies and frankly, I figured if in six or seven weeks of sitting down in your home talking about Bible things, if you didn't become a believer in Jesus, I simply hadn't done my job right.

Then the challenge was could I get you to feel like you belonged. So then you begin to try to incorporate into the church; find things for them to do; help them meet some people 'til they have a kind of sense of belonging.

Things have changed in the thirty years since that happened because we no longer do it that way. The average person at the gas station isn't going to let you in their house to talk about the Bible six or seven weeks in a row and if they do, they don't have enough common background to really know where to start.

But they will, if you open the doors on Sunday morning, come in and sit in your pews with you. In fact, what's really absolutely fascinating is that they will develop a sense of belonging long before they sense believing. They'll come here and enjoy. They'll participate. They'll drink coffee. They'll listen to sermons. They'll go to classes. They may even sing in the choir or play in the band and then one day, they wake up and realize that God is at work in their life and they say, "I think I believe in this." It's an odd kind of a thing. It's just a shift in the way things happen now. We often have a sense of belonging long before we have a sense of believing. And I think because of that, we don't make a big deal out of whether you're a member here. We just encourage you to come and participate. 'Cause frankly, you don't have to be a member here in order to do most things. We just don't make it a big deal.

But Warren has caused me to go back and rethink that at least a little bit, enough to say, "ya know, maybe we ought to have more emphasis on being a member." I don't know if I'm really absolutely convinced of it but the imagery he uses is something like this. It's like being a soldier, but not having an army. It's like being a football player but not having a team. It's like playing an instrument but not being a part of a band. And you know, quite honestly, there is something to be said for that imagery of being a Christian but not having a place where you call your church home. So there probably is value and those of you who are believers in Jesus finding a place, even if it's not our place, where you locate yourself and say, "I belong" here.

My guess is, your desire in those circumstances would be something like this. I need a place where I can make some friends and have some belonging. I need a place where I can have some of my needs met spiritually. I need a place where I can find some accountability. I need a place where I can seek out an opportunity to grow.

Our commitment to you is really very simple. If you're a member of Madison Park we will do our very best to push you into the shape of Jesus. That's the only thing we'll promise you. We'll not promise you comfort. We will not promise you that you will live with perfect people. We will not promise you that we will meet everyone of your needs because quite frankly, we don't do that all that well. But we will promise you this, that we will try to help you become like Jesus.

Now what that means is, we will give you opportunities for service. We will give you a place where you can learn and grow. We will provide for you study situations and worship opportunities and we will, at your request, because you became a member here, try to hold you accountable to your commitments.

What does it mean? What does it take to be a member of Madison Park Christian Church? Well, in a nutshell, it's this. Do you believe in Jesus? And have you identified with Him in His death and resurrection through Christian baptism by immersion? If you are an immersed believer in Jesus who believes that Jesus is the only way to salvation and you want a church family, we can provide that for you. Because those are the only fundamentals that we really care a great deal about.

Now there are other things that make us a bit distinctive, you don't have to hold those. Belief in Jesus, you have to hold.

Well, let me move on.

The second level he says is Friendship: it's the Learning to share kind of imagery. It's really a fascinating thing when you think about this friendship in the church thing. It isn't so much just the kind of friendship as it is a commitment to "one another." In fact, that's the language of the New Testament. It's the "one another" passages. They show up somewhere, some people say 25 to 50 times. I'm guessing a couple of dozen times at least this phrase, "one another" occurs with probably a dozen different verbs. "Love one another" - "Greet one another" - "Be devoted to one another" - "Be hospitable to one another" - "Encourage one another" - Lots of different things that the New Testament says that we ought to do for each other. It implies that kind of imagery of, we share with each other. We're in this thing together. In fact that's the whole point, for example, of Romans 12.

Romans 12 is this great passage about how we are all part of God's body. This kind of thing we saw up here a few minutes ago. Every part making its contribution. But when you get to Romans 12:9 hear what it says about this "one another" stuff.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Open your home.

The imagery that's occurring in the New Testament is that we have this experience of coming together and getting to know one another and creating relationships whereby we can minister to and through each other.

I was gonna actually bring a magazine with me this morning and hold it up and. . . . . . . doing that. It's laying right there on my desk at home, where it's not supposed to be.

It's a picture, actually, of two preachers, both graduates of Lincoln. One of them is a good friend of mine. He preaches over on the east side of the State of Illinois in a little town where if you stand on the front porch of the church building you can see six houses. It's called "rural ministry".

The other is a picture of another fella that's a graduate of Lincoln who preaches in Las Vegas, Nevada where if you stand on the front porch of his church, you can see about a half a million people and their church runs probably four or five thousand every Sunday.

And the promise of the church in Central is, " the larger we get, the smaller we grow."

We're not pushing you to be a part of a small group or an adult discipleship group so that we can record numbers in a book somewhere. We're encouraging you to be a part of a discipleship class or a small group in somebody's home for one fundamental reason. That's the place where the church becomes the "church gathered".

It's why Jerod and Crystal can have a community like a choir come around them and minister to them in their moment of need. Because they were a part of a smaller group of people.

To come in here on Sunday morning and to be a part of 850 people and to have a need, unless you're going to wear a sign that says, "I have a need", chances are nobody is going to know that. But if you sit down across the table from someone that you have shared with on a number of occasions, in a number of different settings, then the opportunity for you to say, "I have this to rejoice over" or "I have this need that needs to be met" has a chance to surface and the church gets a chance to be the "church".

So one of the levels of fellowship is simply learning to share with each other in those smaller experiences and we highly encourage that.

If you're not part of a class or you're not part of a small group, it's not too late to do that you know. Just speak up and let us know and we'll get you channeled in to the right place.

The third thing that Warren says is that fellowship has to do with partnership. It has to do with doing our part. Being the foot or the hand or the mouth. In fact, thirteen times in the New Testament this word occurs. Fellow worker. It's a form of the word fellowship, but it's combined with the idea of working.

Paul talks about his fellow workers. He has a whole list of them in Romans 16. He talks about Timothy and Epaphroditus in Philippians 2 as his fellow workers. It's each one of us doing that which God has called us to do as we do our part.

It's a fascinating word. It's a fascinating idea that each of has something that we contribute to the body. This word fellowship occurs as much in offering situations as it does anywhere. That's fascinating to me.

Romans 12, Romans 15, 2Corinthians 8-9 the idea of fellowship. The idea of having things in common occurs as much around our finances as it does any place in all of the New Testament. That we see other people who have need and we give what we have to help them.

Now the word fellowship does not occur in this particular verse, but in 1John 3 it asks this basic question. "Do you have this world's goods?" If you do and you see someone in need, and you don't share with them, how do you call yourself a child of God? It's that concept of fellowship whereby we each do our part. Now, it's not just a financial thing. It's a contribution of whatever it is that you do. It's doing your part. It's why we're going to have the Ministry Fair in a couple of weeks and encourage all of you after Sunday services to find a place out here and just take a look and see what are the kinds of things that are going on in this body whereby I may make a contribution. Some of you plug in remarkably well. Please don't hear this as any kind of criticism, some of you, in fact, probably are too involved. But if you're not contributing as a partner in this work, then you need to take a look and say what is my membership here.

I confess to you that one of the reasons that I don't emphasize membership personally is, it's never been anything the Elders encourage me in or just a personal choice. I have this inherent fear that we talk about becoming a member of this place, you'll think that there are privileges that come along with it, like it's a "club". There aren't any privileges that come with this "club". There are only opportunities.

See "Club" mentality says you walk in the door and if there's a piece of trash on the floor you say, "How come nobody picked up that trash?" That's what we have staff to do isn't it? I mean, that's what you do at a club. You want the towels laid out for you. You want the lights on. You want the heat adjusted at the right level because you belong to the club and you deserve it because you paid for it.

Here, that doesn't come with the territory. In fact, just the opposite. When you walk in and you see something that needs to be done, DO IT! Don't wait. This place is yours. So you make your contribution. And we need you to contribute.

This is the sermon for two weeks from now so I'm not going to belabor the point, but I guarantee you that if fifty of you walk out of this room this morning, go around this door, down that hall and go to any one of the three check-ins in this building; and another fifty of you go out that door and go down that hallway and go to the check-in over in the annex, they'll find a place to "plug you in" over the next three or four months. There is no shortage of opportunity to serve.

If all else fails, I gladly will to you the ministry that I have inherited. My ministry is to park in the very far corner of the parking lot, pack a lunch and journey in. And as I eat my lunch on the way in, I empty my bag. And as I'm emptying my bag of lunch, I start filling it up with the trash that was left over from the weekend. And I'll be glad to will that ministry to any of you (not the lunch) (laughter)just the cleaning up of the parking lot on Sunday morning. So that when guests arrive, impressions are good. I'll even supply the Wal-Mart(r) bags. It's a challenge to do our part.

Well the last thing he talks about is kinship: and what he really means by that is the loving relationship that we have with each other. We sang a song last week - we've sung it several times. It's really becoming ingrained in me. "Let what happens in here be what happens out there." I love that line. I like that image of the relationship that occurs in here, the ministry that occurs in here. The worship that occurs in here being taken out there. It sounds so much like Jesus when He says, "They will know that we are Christians by the way that we love one another." Or the way He says, in His own priestly prayer in John 17 "Lord let them be one with each other so that the world will believe that you and I are one." When we love each other the way the church should love each other; when we engage in relationships with each other as "kin", (if you will) as brothers and sisters in Christ, and we demonstrate that we really care about each other, the rest of the world is gonna wake up and understand there's something to this thing.

You know, it really is true, as cliched as this is, as trite as this statement is, it is absolutely fundamentally true. Church is not about religion - it's about a relationship with Jesus. And that gives us relationships with each other. It's not about going to a certain place at a certain time. It's about being a certain people.

We were commenting on this at our Bible study Thursday night and I've been struck by it recently, more so than ever before. And then we saw it again, probably Saturday, I caught a commercial. I wish I had recorded the commercial. It's about forming human relationships. It's all about how we connect with each other and how important we are to each other and the next thing ya know, they're advertising beer! Have you ever noticed that in a beer commercial they never talk about its nutritional value? Well, there's a reason for that. Do you notice that they never talk about the consequences of drinking? Now there's a reason for that too! Do you notice they never concentrate on the taste? They used to. They used to have an argument on television about which beer tastes better. Haven't seen that commercial for years. 'Cause that's not what they're selling. They're not selling taste; they're not selling nutrition; they're not selling value, they're selling relationships. If you drink this beer you'll have these relationships and I'm saying, "THAT's WHAT THE CHURCH IS FOR!" To give us a place where we join together and connect with each other.

And I'll be real honest with you having grown up in a bar, I'd rather connect over that glass of grape juice than over a glass of wine any day, because of what that represents. That's our connecting point. Not what we can hold in our hands. Not that we can put our feet under some magic table, but that we come together around the relationship with Jesus. That gives us kinship. It's what holds us together. It's what makes us who we are.

So I'm inviting you to just kind of hang around, ya know. If you haven't learned to linger, here's your invitation - linger! Just hang out with folks. Get here a few minutes early. Grab a cup of coffee. Go to your classroom and just hang out. When church is over, don't run to the parking lot to see who can be the first one to Applebee's. Grab somebody and sit down in a chair somewhere and just chat. And hopefully, within a week or two we'll actually have (No offense, Roger) real coffee to serve, so that you can. Just hang around - get to know each other. Be a part of the kin, if you will.

Well, here's the rough transition, alright? This is what I tell students in preaching classes never to do. But I'm about to do it, so here it comes, like a freight train. You know you cannot have fellowship with each other. You have friendship. You cannot have fellowship with each other until you first have fellowship with Jesus.

He's the one who ties this together. It's not that we just like baseball together. It's not just that we like music together. It's not that we just like anything together; its that we share this one thing in common. We have the same blood line. We all are related to Jesus and if you're not related to Jesus, you and I can be friends, but we can never be in Biblical fellowship.

Now you may choose never to make Madison Park Christian Church your home. I hope that's not your choice. If you live in Quincy or anywhere within driving distance and you need a place to go to church, we would love to have us be that place. I don't apologize for this place under any circumstances. It's a great place to be a Christian. But if you choose not to come here, that's alright so long as you still choose to know Jesus. Okay? Because that's what's fundamental. Now you can't get along without Him and you can't get along without others, so I'm not asking you not to go to church somewhere. But, I'm telling you this, what's fundamental is not whether you have your name on a roll in our place. The question is, "Do you have a relationship with

Jesus Christ that assures you a relationship with His Father. 'Cause God is not going to come to the day of judgment and say, "Do you have your name on a church roll?" He's going to ask one thing, "Do you know my Son?" and then He's going to turn to His Son and He's going to say, "Do you know Him or Her?"

And do you know the promise of Scripture that I love so very much? The Lord knows those who are His. There will be no doubt He will recognize you when the time comes if you have engaged Him in relationship.

Want to be a part of us? We would love to have you. But we'd love it 100% better if we could just know that you left here this morning walking faithfully in a relationship with Jesus. That He was your One thing.

If we can help you with that, we want to do that. If you know that you need to make a decision for Christ and this is a good time for you to make it, then while we're singing you come. If this is a time that you need to write something down and put it on the tree, then go back there and do it. Just ignore the rest of us and go do it. If you don't even know what question to ask, then come grab us after services and we'll find a corner someplace and we can sit down and talk. If you're a believer in Jesus who has never identified with Christ in baptism, it takes about fifteen minutes to fill the baptistry and we'll fill it between services and take care of it. If you're an immersed believer in Jesus and you need a place that you can call your church, you come and we'll extend to you the right hand of fellowship and say welcome to a place where they care about each other.

Let's stand.