Politically Incorrect Christianity: Living the Truth--Jesus Christ, The Fellowship of Believers

Notes & Transcripts

This morning we’re going to continue our journey through the Epistle of 1st John. It is Christianity 101. The Apostle lays out for his readers the foundation of what it means to be a Christian. It involves faith and practice. In John’s mind you simply cannot divorce the two.

On the Faith-side, he writes that If you proclaim faith in the risen Christ, you will have some very specific theological beliefs about the Christ. You can’t just believe ‘anything you want’ about Jesus and call yourself a Christian. On the Practice-side, he writes that If you proclaim faith in the risen Christ, you will live a very specific lifestyle. It is a lifestyle lived in holy fellowship with God the Father and fellow believers. If you are living contrary to that, you are fooling yourself, and you simply are not a Christian.

We began a couple of Sundays ago by jumping right into John’s prologue—vv. 1-4:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 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. We write this to make our joy complete.” (1 John 1:1–4, NIV84)

In this passage there are five points I want you to see:

    • Christ our life has eternally existed with the father.
    • Christ our life was manifested in the flesh.
    • Christ our life has obtained for us fellowship with the Father
    • Christ our life has obtained for us a fellowship with other believers.
    • Christ our life has obtained for us the fullness of joy that comes by drawing other people into the joy that we have in fellowship with the Father and the Son.

We’ve looked at the first two already. They are theologically breath-taking in scope. John tells us the Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. He is the Righteous Servant who was incarnated and is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being. He is Life and when we turn to him in repentance and faith, his life become our life and that’s the essence of the New Birth. "And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." (1 John 5:11–12, NIV84).

This morning, we’re going to examine the last three points of this passage: Life in Christ provides us a Vertical Fellowship with God the Father, that also brings us into a Horizontal Fellowship with fellow believers.


    • “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, NIV84)
            1. the key word in this verse is fellowship
              • ILLUS. As Baptists, we often define fellowship as synonymous with food. We thoroughly enjoy each other’s presence, but it’s just so much better if it’s over a plate of fried chicken, potato salad, green beans, and a roll, all washed down with some sweet tea.
                1. we all know that there’s more to it than that
                2. the Greek word in the New Testament that we translate as fellowship is a word that we’ve all come to recognize because it’s been anglicized
                    1. it’s Koinonia and means to have in common or to be in communion with
                3. in verse 3 the word refers to both a horizontal fellowship—the kind we have with fellow believers—and a vertical fellowship—which we have with God the Father through faith in the Son
                    1. the later allows for the former
            2. the focus in the second half of the verse is on a vertical fellowship between us and God
                1. Biblical fellowship is the personal experience of sharing something significant and having something in common with others. It's the pleasure of being in a group where you see eye to eye on essential things
                    1. fellowship is the experience of having common beliefs, and common affections, and common values with others
            3. to say that you have fellowship with God is to say that you have come to share His values, and His affections and His beliefs
                1. there's no way to fellowship with God if you have different values than His
                    1. if you don't see eye to eye with God ...
                    2. if you don't believe what God believes ...
                    3. if you don’t love what God loves ...
                    4. if you don’t delight in the Fellowship of God, it's all over
                2. there is no fellowship without these things
            4. so then, just how do we fellowship with God?—Very practically this is what I think it means to fellowship with God day by day:
                1. First, it means living in the Scriptures—reading them, hearing them, memorizing them
                    1. it is primarily through the Scriptures that God speaks to us
                    2. if you don't know the Word you can't fellowship with Him because fellowship is a two-way give-and-take, and the first step is to hear a Word from the Lord
                2. Second, it means to pray in faith regularly
                    1. God speaks to you a word through his Scriptures, and then you speak to God in prayer
                    2. in the strength of this two-way conversation you walk in the light and obey Him


    • "No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also." (1 John 2:23, NIV84)
            1. if you desire fellowship with the Father, you must welcome the Son into your life
                1. this is why we preach the gospel—that sinners might welcome the Son into their lives and in so doing achieve fellowship with the father
            2. Christ Our Life Has Obtained for Us Fellowship with the Father


    • “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, NIV84)
            1. the focus in the first half of the verse is on horizontal fellowship
                1. our fellowship, the fellowship that we experience here on a Sunday morning in our Bible study classes, and in our worship, and in the hallways, is absolutely fundamentally based on what we have seen and heard of the Christ
            2. there are several implications in this for us and our church
                1. First implication: The great danger to the church is that it tends to base the unity of fellowship on experience and not theology
                  • ILLUS. When I was in Bible College, it was drummed into our heads that “The rope that held Southern Baptists together was our common passion for missions which was financed through the Cooperative Program.” When, as a young pastor, and I would attend any kind of denominational event, it was repeatedly mentioned that “The rope that held Southern Baptists together was our common passion for missions which was financed through the Cooperative Program.” Then, beginning in the late seventies, a lot of us began to notice that many of the people who were telling us that the rope that held Southern Baptists together was missions, were folks who held some really dissimilar theology from rank-and-file Southern Baptists. Missions, we discovered, is not and cannot be the only tie that binds Southern Baptists together. There are some core doctrines that must be at the center of who we are as a people called Baptist or we must simply drop the name. The result was a conservative resurgence where grass-root church members took back a denomination that was being led down the path of doctrinal error and theological irrelevancy by a group of theological and denominational elitists. Because of the conservative resurgence among Southern Baptists, we’re not debating whether-or-not we should ordain openly gay clergy. And because of the conservative resurgence, Southern Baptists are not debating when life begins. And because of the conservative resurgence Southern Baptists are not debating which parts of the bible are true and which are not. It’s the only time in modern history—perhaps all of history—that a denomination has been brought back from the brink of theological liberalism.
                    1. when John wants to establish fellowship with this group of Christians, what does he do?
                        1. he writes them a letter full of theology
                    2. the temptation in the Church today, is to accentuate Fellowship to the detriment of Theology
                        1. sometimes to the point of overlooking heresy
                    3. we cannot and must not forsake fundamental doctrines of the faith for the sake of fellowship
                2. Second implication: The great danger to the Christian is that we tend to base our relationships on feelings and not truth
                    1. does not this text teach that Christians should not marry unbelievers?
                    2. let me say to all you young people so that it’s firmly planted in your mind—Marriage is, first and foremost, for fellowship, and you can't have it at the level that matters if your spouse isn't a believer, and doesn't see eye to eye with you on Christ, and doesn't esteem Him
                      • “The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18, NIV84)
                        1. it’s not good for you to be alone, but it’s better to be alone for a season than to marry an unbeliever who will not share your commitment to Christ
                    3. don't marry an unbeliever
                        1. I would even go so far as to say don't marry a nominal believer—one who can simply take-or-leave their faith at choice
                          • ILLUS. Some of you will immediately say, “But pastor, I know this couple where the husband is not a Christian and doesn’t go to church, but the wife is a wonderfully active church member, and is raising the kids to be Christians.” And I’ll say “Yes, the devil will allow one of those type couples to exist in almost every congregation so as to lull the other 99% into a false sense that “They can do it, too.”
                3. for every one of those marriages, I’ll show you a dozen where a once faithful believer has become like wheat sown on rocky soil because the unbelieving spouse was a greater influence on their life than the Great I Am
                    1. does not this text not also teach that the majority of your close friendships ought to be with born-again, bible-believing, church-going Christians?
                      • “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33, NIV84)
                4. Third implication, We must never sacrifice doctrinal fidelity for the sake of unity
                    1. when John wanted to protect and even develop Christian fellowship, he got theological
                    2. too often, when Baptists attempt to protect our fellowship we minimalize the theological
                    3. I believe that we must be explicitly honest about what we believe, laying our theological cards on the table
                      • ILLUS. One of the growing trends among many churches these days is to minimize doctrine and theology in the pursuit of members. The doctrinal statements of many churches simply reads “Whatever.” The last thing I care anything about is attracting or keeping members by concealing the distinctives that give me fire for God. Who cares? It is deadly to reduce biblical theology to the lowest common denominator of acceptability. It is the death knell of worship, and orthodoxy, and missions, and morality, and growth.
                    4. there are Primary Doctrines of the faith that we must be bull-dogmatic about because they are central and essential to the Christian faith
                        1. Justification by Grace Alone, Through Faith Alone, in Christ Alone
                        2. The Full Deity and Full Humanity of Jesus Which Presupposes The Incarnation and a Virgin Birth
                        3. the Trinity—the Godhead Revealed in Three Distinct Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
                        4. The Fallenness of Man and His Need for Redemption
                        5. The Full Authority of the Scriptures
                        6. The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus from the Grave
                        7. Heaven and Hell and Eternity
                    5. there are Secondary Doctrines of the faith that are distinctive for congregational and denominational identity—for Baptists doctrines that bind us together include
                        1. Regenerate Church Membership
                        2. Baptism by Immersion as a Symbol of our Faith in and Unity With Christ
                        3. The Lord’s Supper as a Symbolic Memorial of Christ’s Death and Atonement for Sinners
                        4. Congregational Polity Under the Leadership of the Holy Spirit
                        5. Pastor and Deacon as the Only Two New Testament Church Officers
                        6. Autonomy of the Local Church
                    6. lastly, there are Tertiary Doctrines of the faith that while important, are not worth disfellowshipping over
                        1. Disagreement about the Finer Details of Eschatology
                        2. What We Believe About Spiritual Gifts—Are You a Continuationist or a Cessationist
                        3. Views on Religious Liberty and Civil Government
                        4. The Use of Alcohol, Tobacco or Gambling
                        5. Methods and Styles of Worship
                    7. the key is knowing what is worth separating over and what is not
                      • ILLUS. The small community of Centerville, Georgia has a population of just over 5000 people. But with a total of 48 Presbyterian Churches, they also hold the record for the most Presbyterian Churches per capita of any town in America. The high number of churches has to do with multiple splits that have taken place over the years because of one issue or another. Originally, in 1899, only one Presbyterian church existed, simply known as "Centerville Presbyterian Church." With about 20 families, the church was, at that time, the largest in the Centerville area. In 1911 a dispute arose within the congregation over whether-or-not the offering should be taken before or after the sermon. Thus the first split took place, with the dissenting congregation forming "Centerville Reformed Presbyterian Church." In 1915 a dispute arose amongst the members of Centerville Reformed Presbyterian Church over whether-or-not to have flowers in the sanctuary. As a result the Centerville Reformed Presbyterian Church split and Trinity Reformed Presbyterian Church of Centerville was organized. Several more splits took place over various issues between the years 1915 and 1929. In 1931 a dispute arose amongst the members of the Seventh Presbyterian Reformed Covenantal Church of Centerville over an issue that no one can seem to remember. The result was the formation of the Third Westminster Trinity Covenant Presbyterian Reformed Church of Centerville. Again, more splits took place between 1931 and 1975 when a major split took place within the Presbyterian Church of the United States. At that time Eleventh Westminster Covenant Presbyterian Church of Centerville voted to remain in the PCUS. Fifteen members broke off and formed St. John's Presbyterian Church. One week later, St. John's Presbyterian Church split over the choice of name for the church. Several members objected to using the word "Saint" in the name of a Reformed Church. Since 1975 several more splits have happened with the most recent occurring in 2008, when a dispute arose amongst the members of Second Street First Ninth Westminster Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church over the issue of the observance of the Lord's Day. The issue in question was whether or not it was acceptable for someone to check their email on Sunday. Those who objected split off and formed "The Presbyterian Totally Reformed Covenantal Westminsterian Sabbatarian Regulative Credo-Communionist A Millennial Presuppositional Church of Centerville. One member said: "I think we've finally got it right now. We now have a church with 100% doctrinal purity."
            3. primary and even secondary doctrines are significant foundations to our fellowship
                1. but as the Presbyterians of Centerville, Georgia teach us: Some ain’t
            4. Christ Our Life Has Obtained for Us a Fellowship with Other Believers


    • "We write this to make our joy complete." (1 John 1:4, NIV84)
            1. John writes this epistle because he longs for the joy that comes when others experience the same joy he has experienced in his fellowship with God through the Christ
                1. our joy is first in the Father and the Son
                2. but it’s also in each other
                    1. John’s contention in v. 4 is that there is more joy in God when we worship him with others
            2. this Epistle screams evangelism
                1. there simply is no way for a person to come into fellowship with the Creator of the Universe except through the One by whom and for whom that universe was created
                2. that name is J-E-S-U-S and his name needs to be shared with everyone
                  • ILLUS. In his autobiography Just As I Am, Billy Graham tells the story of preparing for a crusade in a city to which he had never been. He was wanting the names of people to whom he could personally witness, so he wrote a letter to the mayor and asked for the names of individuals he knew who had a spiritual problem and needed help and prayer. Graham was surprised when a week later, the mayor sent him the city’s telephone book.
                3. the Apostle John tells his readers that we’re proclaiming Jesus to you because we want desperately to have fellowship with you, but that can only happen if, first, you experience fellowship with the Father by having faith in His Son

How do we summarize this passage? Very quickly:

    • Christ is fact, not fiction.
    • Christianity must be proclaimed, not kept private.
    • Christianity is lived in shared fellowship, not lived in selfish isolation.
    • Christianity is about rejoicing, not religion.
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