Leap Forward in Fellowship
Philippians 4:1-13 February 29, 2004
Today, February 29, is a day we don’t see very often. It only happens every 4 years. It is leap day. Any year divisible by 4 is a leap year with 366 days instead of 365 like we usually have.
How does it happen that we get an extra day on the calendar every 4 years? It is because every 365 day year is really 365 ¼ days long, and we have to make up for it every 4 years by adding another day to the calendar.
I talked to someone the other day who said they had a friend who was born on leap day. How would you like to have a birthday only every 4 years? This is probably not a good deal if you are under 20 – but over 40 it might be a blessing.
The really bad part of having a birthday on Feb. 29th is that you age 4 years at a time. You would never have a birthday until you were 4, and then again at age 8, and so on. But I imagine most people would celebrate every Feb. 28th.
This is a fitting theme to take note of regarding the passage in Philippians 4:1-13 that many of us are in the process of memorizing for the adult Awana challenge called “Take it to Heart.” You remember that our goal is to complete this at the rate of a verse per week to be finished by Mother’s Day.
How are you coming along on that, by the way?
It is my hope that bringing a message on this passage we are memorizing will help us to understand its importance and keep us focused on the challenge.
As I concentrated on memorizing the passage, it seemed to me it was all about fellowship. And when I put it in context with what comes before it, the theme seemed to connect with a leap forward in concert with what we understand about leap day.
With fellowship being so very important to the church, and yet so hard to initiate, maintain and perfect, it seems natural to assume that any progress is a leap forward.
I am reminded of our little dog, Buster. He goes into fast forward every once-in-a-while. When he does this he pauses at one end of the house and then leaps forward out of the starting blocks to run to the other end of the house. Then he turns around, briefly pauses and sprints back the other direction. All this is repeated until he gets tired or we block his path.
I think we need to be like our little dog – only in pursuit of fellowship as long and as hard as we can until something stops us. Then we need to briefly pause, reassess, and try again. We must leap forward to account for lost time.
Our fellowship with one another, because of our love for one another, is what will influence the world.
This is because only our unified love for Christ could bring such a diverse group of people together in fellowship. This glorifies Him.
Fellowship is the principle in Galatians behind “doing good”. The leap forward is the harvest we will reap.
“9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:9-10 NIVUS)
This is amplified in Hebrews where we see this “leap” of fellowship in worship as progressive and inspirational.
“24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another— and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NIVUS)
We see in 1John that fellowship with one another has its origin with God in Christ which causes us to “leap forward” in purity.
“ We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3 NIVUS)
“6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 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, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6-7 NIVUS)
And Jesus himself prayed for our fellowship as the primary dynamic for the evangelization of the world.
“20 ¶ "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23 NIVUS)
Indeed, fellowship has been the hallmark of the church from the beginning.
“ They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42 NIVUS)
Christian fellowship is so unique, the first believers searched for a word to describe it. They found the solution in an old word no longer in use. They dusted off that word and used it: koinonia. They knew no ordinary word could describe the relationship that existed among believers.
-- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
So, because fellowship is so very important as a leap forward for ourselves, the message of Christ, and the church, let’s take a look at the context of today’s passage to see how it might be a leap forward and then take a look at what Paul has to say about fellowship itself in Php. 4:1-13.
How can we leap forward in fellowship with one another to bless the church and glorify Christ?
1. We must have a firm point of reference in order to move forward in fellowship.
2. We must intercede on behalf of those whose fellowship is broken.
3. We must encourage other trusted believers to promote the gospel by promoting fellowship.
4. We must constantly renew our praise of Christ as our theme of fellowship.
5. We must constantly be influenced by Christ’s fellowship with us.
6. We must trust God to deliver us from any anxiety about fellowship issues.
7. We must believe God will answer our prayers to save us from one another.
8. We must attempt to think well of each other. (2Cor. 6:7)
9. We must emulate the example of others that have been rich in fellowship.
10. We must be thankful for the fellowship we receive whenever we receive it.
11/12. We must not hinder our fellowship opportunities by a spirit of complaint.
13. We must realize that Christ himself is the enabling power of our fellowship.
Stand Firm (Php. 3:15-21)
1. Forget past
2. Keep eye on goal
3. Glory in Christ – not self
4. Live as a citizen of heaven
Subtopic: With Christ
John Gilmour, a godly Britisher who loved to witness for Christ, always carried gospel books to give to people as he had opportunity.
One day Gilmour was walking in a little village when he came across an old Irishman selling lids, kettles, and saucepans. Gilmour greeted the man, "Good morning, how is business today?" "Oh," said the Irishman, "I cannot complain."
Then Gilmour said, "What a grand thing it is to be saved!" The old man looked intently at him and replied, "I know something better than that." "Better than being saved? I would like to know what that is." With a warm smile, the man responded, "The companionship of the Man who saved me, sir."
Mayfair Bible Church: a caring church with a message of hope – because people matter.
Title: How Does Your Church Score?
A church newsletter mentioned a man who visited eighteen different churches on successive Sundays. He was trying to find out what the churches were really like. He said, "I sat near the front. After the service, I walked slowly to the rear, then returned to the front and went back to the foyer using another aisle. I smiled and was neatly dressed. I asked one person to direct me to a specific place: a fellowship hall, pastor's study, etc. I remained for coffee if served. I used a scale to rate the reception I received. I awarded points on the following basis:
10 for a smile from a worshiper
10 for a greeting from someone sitting nearby
100 for an exchange of names
200 for an invitation to have coffee
200 for an invitation to return
1000 for an introduction to another worshiper
2000 for an invitation to meet the pastor
On this scale, eleven of the eighteen churches earned fewer than 100 points. Five actually received less than 20. The conclusion: The doctrine may be biblical, the singing inspirational, the sermon uplifting, but when a visitor finds nobody who cares whether he's here, he is not likely to come back."
--James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 94-95.
Mayfair Bible Church: a caring church with a message of hope – because relationships matter.
During a revival in the central part of New York, a little boy was converted, who desired to join the Church. His father told him he had better wait six months, and see if he could live his religion first. Shortly after, he was in the field with his father, and found a lamb, separated from its mother, bleating piteously.
The father directed the son to put the lamb with its mother. The boy replied, "I think we might as well leave it for six months, and see whether it will live or not; and then, if it lived, we could put it with its mother."
Feeling the force of the application, the father said, "put the lamb with its mother, and join the Church if you wish to."
Mayfair Bible Church: a caring church with a message of hope – because the world matters.
Oxford scholar Dr. Robin Lane noted: "To the poor, the widows and orphans, Christians gave alms and support, like the synagogue communities, their forerunners. This "brotherly love" has been minimized as a reason for turning to the Church, as if only those who were members could know of it. In fact, it was widely recognized. When Christians were in prison, fellow Christians gathered to bring them food and comforts; Lucian, the pagan satirist, was well aware of this practice. When Christians were brought to die in the arena, the crowds, said Tertullian, would shout, "Look how these Christians love one another." "Christian" love was public knowledge and must have played its part in drawing outsiders to the faith."
-- Robin Cane Fox, Pagans and Christians (Harper & Row, 1986), p. 324.
So, if you are in a rut, I challenge you to get out of it because people and relationships really matter in this world.
Give your TV a hug! Joel S. McCraw has suggested that if you are one of those who "gets their religion by watching religious broadcasts on the TV, or listening to the gospel via radio, you might want to step up to the set after a service and "Give your TV a great big hug."
Foolish, isn't it. The electronic religion of multitudes of people creates an emptiness -- interpersonal relationships are so desperately needed to keep our faith glowing and growing. If you drop off your associations with other Christians and disassociate yourself from them in worship and service, you'll run out of spiritual fervor and dedication in a short time. There is no substitute for "going to church and worshiping with others of like precious faith."
Title: Strength in Fellowship
Communion is strength; solitude is weakness. Alone, the fine old beech yields to the blast and lies prone on the meadow. In the forest, supporting each other, the trees laugh at the hurricane. The sheep of Jesus flock together. The social element is the genius of Christianity.
-- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)
Puppy Fellowship: the genius of the pet store.