"My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ." - Colossians 2:2 (NIV)
We were not meant to live our lives as believers by ourselves. We are meant to be in fellowship, not only with Jesus, but also with fellow believers. Now, hear me clearly...I'm not saying we cannot and should not have friends who are not Christians. The Bible doesn't say that, either. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 (NIV), Paul tells me that I could not live in this world if I didn't have friends who were non-believers. My best friend isn't a believer. However, in order to grow and become more Christ-like in my spiritual walk, I need to surround myself with fellow Christians.
Until 3 or 4 years ago, my instant reaction to my last statement would have been, "No way!" Why? Because of the type of Christians I grew up around and met in my early adult life. I always felt they were looking for a reason to judge me and tell me that what I was doing, the things I was saying, the clothes I was wearing or the places I was going were not Christ-like and God would punish me for them. Maybe that was true and maybe I needed to be told these things, but it was the way I was told that really pushed me away. I never felt I was told these things out of love or encouragement, in order that I might become closer to God, but more out of the need to exude control and also so that the person telling me would feel superior and more God-like in their own life. At least that's the way it felt to me.
But, within the last few years, I have become surrounded by Christians who are real. They aren't ashamed to talk about their own imperfections. They aren't afraid to admit they're still learning what this walk with Jesus looks like. Just like me. At church yesterday, the pastor spoke about discipleship and the "exercises" needed to be a disciple of Jesus. One of them was fellowship. Fellowship means to share experiences and companionship with a group of like-minded persons. It means being active in, not just attending, church. Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV) says, "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 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." In my church, because it is so large, this means serving and being part of a Life Group.
A Life Group is a small group of believers who get together at least once a week to discuss the message, pray for each other, encourage each other through life's rough spots, hold each other accountable for our spiritual walk and just love each other. It is an essential part of my life that I rarely miss. I require the company of these fellow Christians just as much as I require food and water. They hold me accountable in my daily walk with Jesus. I absolutely adore each and everyone in my Life Group. They are my band of believers. And that is a statement I never thought would come out of my mouth much less that I would write about!!
My relationship with Jesus is personal but it's not private. It's meant to be shared with others. With believers, so that I may continue to grow in my daily walk with Jesus. With non-believers, so that they may come to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ and become one of the band of believers I so look forward to spending eternity with.
I was unable to decide on just one quote today, because all of these spoke to me!
"Our love to God is measured by our everyday fellowship with others and the love it displays." - Andrew Murray
"Fellowship means among other things that we are ready to receive of Christ from others. Other believers minister Christ to me, and I am ready to receive." - Watchman Nee
"Aloneness can lead to loneliness. God's preventative for loneliness is intimacy - meaningful, open, sharing relationships with one another. In Christ we have the capacity for the fulfilling sense of belonging which comes from intimate fellowship with God and with other believers." - Neil T. Anderson
"He (God) usually prefers to work through people rather than perform miracles, so that we will depend on each other for fellowship." - Rick Warren
"There is a brotherhood within the body of believers, and the Lord Jesus Christ is the common denominator. Friendship and fellowship are the legal tender among believers." - J. Vernon McGee
"Some Christians try to go to heaven alone, in solitude. But believers are not compared to bears or lions or other animals that wander alone. Those who belong to Christ are sheep in this respect, that they love to get together. Sheep go in flocks, and so do God's people." - Charles Spurgeon
Awesome God, I lift up praise to You for the wonderful companionship I have with Jesus through fellowship with other believers. Thank You for the encouragement we give each other and the accountability we hold each other to. May we continue to grow closer in our relationship with Jesus as we study, learn and walk this walk together. May we be vulnerable, open and honest with each other. May Jesus always be at the center of everything we say and do. In His precious name I pray, Amen.