When a person ceases participating in activities previously shared with others on Friday evening and Saturdays, it begins to create an obstacle in such friendships and the former sharing of time together. Additional obstacles can occur when a person ceases to be involved in the sharing of many other former activities due to a desire to leave certain environments as well as those things that are sin or that can easily lead to sin. These changes, along with many others, tend to rapidly separate those previously existing friendships. Such changes can also create problems in the very closest of relationships in marriage and close family.
As these natural changes are taking place, another change in relationships and friendships begins to rapidly occur. Newly begotten individuals begin to form new friendships as they enter into the most unique relationship (fellowship) that any human can experience. Those who are “called” into God’s Church are “invited” to enter into a unique relationship with God, Jesus Christ, and all others who are “in” the Body of Christ. Through God’s spirit dwelling “in” us, we are blessed to have this awesome fellowship. Christ wonderfully stated that of all friendships and relationships that a person may have forsaken (laid aside), they will receive a hundredfold to replace them.
Relationships reveal what is the heart, desire, and “true” convictions of one who has entered the Body of Christ. Jesus Christ plainly stated how important it is that God be first in a person’s life, above all other relationships, “if” a person desires to remain “in” true fellowship with God.
“If any come to me (through the Body of Christ) and does not love less (often translated as ‘hate’ – but in meaning and context is to ‘love less by comparison’) his father, mother, wife (or husband), children, brothers, sisters, and yes, even his own life also then he cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:26).
Christ is clearly saying that in order to be in a true relationship of continuing fellowship with him and God that one must always place God first in all matters of life in all the closest of human relationships. Not being a disciple (student) of Christ means that He will not teach, lead, guide and direct such a person. Instead, they will not be allowed to enter such fellowship or they will be cut off from receiving any spiritual revelation (instruction and teaching) from God, as all such spiritual food comes through Jesus Christ to his Church. If not repented of, any choice in life that is made due to any relationship with someone which would lead a person away from obedience and unity with God ends a true fellowship with God. True, faithful, and unified fellowship is awesomely important to God and His creation of His Family.
Jesus went on to say, “You are my friends, if you do whatsoever I command you” (Jn. 15:14). In order to be in a true fellowship with God and Jesus Christ it is obvious that one must be in unity with God through belief and practice of whatever (and whenever it is given) Christ gives in direction, correction, and instruction to His Church – whatever he commands. To be a friend of Christ – to be in such a relationship and fellowship – is far more profound than can be fully realized. And even more so, how profound is the relationship we have been given whereby we are to “see” the One Eternal Living God as our Father?
Placing a continuing fellowship with God “first” in one’s life is accomplished by ever growing in greater unity and oneness with Him. After being called into the Church, the rest of one’s human life will consist of constant choices that will reveal one’s true desire to “remain” in that relationship or not.
Paul explained that we are to walk (live) in a worthy manner of our “special calling” from God. He explained how this is accomplished (made possible) by exercising (living) humility (the opposite of pride), meekness, patience, and love (agape – God’s love in us). However, the reality of this is that no one can accomplish this of themselves. Humility, meekness, and patience are not traits of human nature, as selfishness cannot produce such true qualities of character. Mankind can only achieve a very small semblance of such traits that “seem” to be genuine. We must have God’s spirit “in” us to achieve the ability to practice and live such traits as they are molded into our character through God transforming our mind (the way we think).
The point Paul was making of our need to seek such traits, which can only come from God through the power of His spirit at work in our thinking, is so we can work to accomplish what he states next. The reason we need such qualities to be at work in our thinking and behavior (actions that follow) is so we can then work at what is most important about our very calling to begin with: “Endeavoring (Gk. – diligent, laboring, working hard) to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).
To be in the Family of God – Elohim – we must grasp the magnitude of the importance of coming into absolute unity and oneness with God and His one and only true way of life (into full unity with the Word). It is “His way” alone that will give true and everlasting peace – spiritual Jerusalem. Unity with God is the bond that holds true “peace” together.
To grow in such unity, one must fight against pride and learn to embrace humility (wearing sackcloth). If that is not practiced continually then pride will “raise up” (idolatry) some other idea, belief, perceived understanding, and/or selfish interest or desire above what God teaches as true. To grow in unity, one must become teachable (meek) and fight against “the way I see it” or “the way that seems right.” To grow in unity, one must be patient and wait upon God’s timing to reveal to us what we need when we need it. Impatience only leads to taking things into one’s own hands and/or simply acting rashly in life. These three traits of humility, meekness, and patience must also be practiced in our relationship and interaction with others.
Paul stated his great desire for the Philippians that they be unified and that the mind (oneness in thinking) of Christ might be “in” them: “Fulfill my joy that you be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, and of one mind” (Phil. 2:2).
If any “thinking” other than that which is in unity and oneness with the mind of Christ, as well as any conduct or conversation that follows, will only produce discord, division, rebellion, hurt, pain, and suffering – the opposite of peace and what it produces. True fellowship with God, Christ, and the Church can only be experienced through a consistent unity and oneness with God as a result of a continuing and abiding supply of God’s spirit dwelling in a person.
“If we say that we have fellowship with Him (God), and walk in darkness (practice/live something that is not in unity with God), we lie and are not doing (practicing/living) the truth. But if we walk in the light (live in unity), as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son is cleansing us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:6-7).
John is explaining that a person who is in true fellowship with God, Christ, and the Church is one who is repenting of sin in a quest to live in unity (walk in the light) with God. Those who are not repenting of divisive attitudes and behavior (not in unity) are not in true fellowship with God, Christ, and the Church, but instead are living a lie, just as John explains.
Grasping the Importance of Unity
God’s desire for unity and oneness with His one true way of life is great! It is the “only way” that produces true peace, fullness, and absolute joy in life. It is for this reason and of God’s great purpose in the creation of Elohim that He gives such direct and strong instruction to His Church concerning those who have been called who have not placed Him first in their life, but have instead shown disdain for true fellowship with Him.
It is no small thing with God after someone has been granted great grace, which means they have been granted unfathomable fellowship with Himself, His Son, and His Church, that they respond in thinking, spoken words, and actions that reflect contempt toward Him. This grace means they have been offered “love,” given to them to experience from Him, His Son, and from those whom He has called into His Church. Such people have been granted a unique experience of God’s love poured out upon them that has been patient (allowing much time for change), merciful, and granted an allowance in the opportunity for immediate forgiveness upon repentance. But the history of the Church reveals that such an outpouring of “love” from God, Christ, and the Church is far too often received with ingratitude, indifference, selfishness, and therefore, is lightly esteemed.
However, after a good measure of time (patience that is given), God will reveal what is true about any false fellowship within His Church of each individual who turns away from the relationship He has offered them. Most often there are trials (fire) and tests that will finally reveal God’s judgment to remove those who will not yield to His transformation – who will not yield to His government to work in their life. For some, God may have an individual suspended from fellowship for a short time in order to serve as a time of correction to help stress the severity and weakness of one’s true relationship with Him. This is usually granted to those who reflect a potential or otherwise state some desire to be in a renewed fellowship with God’s Church. Unrepentant (no evidence of repentance or desire to change) individuals are simply removed from fellowship – disfellowshipped. Those who are granted suspension who do not follow through with repentance and change are also disfellowshipped.
It is all too often too easy to take a relationship with God too lightly – even for granted. It is difficult for the human mind, even when impregnated with God’s spirit, to grasp the awesomeness and magnitude of such a relationship, as God is not seen physically, but only spiritually through His own revelation. Over the past 2,000 years, God has given few among mankind the opportunity to experience a fuller relationship with Him through a physical group of individuals who have received spiritual life from God– in the Church of God.
If members of the Body of Christ can better grasp the history of all who have had fellowship with God and then at some point have begun to treat it with spiritual contempt and disdain, they should be able to better understand what it means to be removed from such an incredible opportunity of fellowship and the level of seriousness in such rejection.
(Part 2 of this post will cover that seriousness of being disfellowshipped from God.)