Today we begin a new message series called “Life Principles.” God’s Word, the Bible gives us principles of truth that guide our lives and relationships. These principles show us the way to live the lives that God created us to live. God’s life principles have two purposes. First of all, they direct us in the right way to live our lives.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
As we learn to trust in the Lord and His wisdom in every aspect of our lives, He will guide us along the righteous path in life. Secondly, God’s principles direct or warn us away from wrong ways to live.
Proverbs 2:6 (ESV) For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
God’s life principles give us wisdom, knowledge and understanding.
Proverbs 2:12-13 (ESV) delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech, who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness,
There are ways of evil, ways of darkness that God warns us about, lest we come to ruin by following them. Now, in order to walk according to God’s life principles, we need to know them, to remember them and we need the power of the Spirit to follow them.
In this series, we’ll be look at the letters of 1,2 and 3 John. These letters were written by the apostle John, who also wrote the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation. John often referred to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. In fact, it was John to whom Jesus entrusted his mother Mary as He was dying on the cross. John and Jesus undoubtedly had the closest relationship of any that Jesus had on earth. We will see the evidence of that in these letters.
Today, my message is entitled “Relationships.” There are two basic types of relationships in life. The first is our horizontal relationships with other people. The second is our vertical relationship with God. Both are essential. In the Bible, the word “fellowship” is used to describe our relationships with people and God. The Greek word for fellowship is koinonia which means “setting aside personal interest and desires and going with another or others for common purposes.”
The common purpose that we have in fellowship with other believers is in serving and seeking God’s kingdom. Biblical fellowship is not simply friendship or social interactions with others. Fellowship is an active pursuit of God’s purposes with other believers. Our fellowship with God is affected by our relationships with other people and our fellowship with other people is affected by our relationship with God. So, let’s begin to talk about fellowship.
1 John 1:1-2 (ESV) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—
Although it may not be obvious on a first reading, John begins his letter by talking about Jesus. Jesus existed from the beginning. John and others had heard Him, had seen Him, had touched Him. Jesus was the word of life, the eternal life, who existed with the Father and came to earth as a human being. John knew Jesus intimately, better than any other person who had ever lived. John’s fellowship with Jesus was not a mystical experience, it was based on the reality of truth. John wanted his readers, including us today, to also …
1 John 1:3-4 (ESV) that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
John is writing his letter so that his readers may have fellowship with him, whose fellowship is with God the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ. Although we are not able to actually see, hear and touch Jesus as John did, we can choose to put our faith in Jesus and experience His truth. When a person believes in Jesus, they enter into a relationship or fellowship with Jesus and God the Father.
Not only does each believer have fellowship with God, they now have fellowship with other believers. The spiritual fellowship we have with God is lived out in the relationships we have with other believers, focused on Jesus. Not only must we experience the truth, we must learn to …
1 John 1:5-6 (ESV) This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
John next shares an important message that Jesus taught. God is light and has no part of darkness. So, if a person says that have fellowship with God, but walks in darkness, something is very wrong. What does it mean to walk in darkness? To walk in darkness is to habitually live in sin without repenting or seeking forgiveness. You can’t have fellowship with God who is light and walk in darkness.
So, if a person claims to be a Christian and have fellowship with God, but lives a sinful lifestyle, their claims are false, they are lying. The fruit of their life shows that they are not living or practicing the truth. A true believer will walk in the light as God is light, they will live a righteous lifestyle.
The first application of these truths about fellowship with God is to look at ourselves. If we claim to be Christians, if we claim to be believers in Jesus, does our lifestyle back up our claims? Are we walking in the light or in the darkness? If we’re walking in the darkness, we’ll learn what we need to do in the next point.
The second application of these truths about fellowship is how we evaluate others around us with regard to their claims. Many, in fact most people in America today, claim to be Christians, to be believers in Jesus. Should we just accept their claims to be true? No, John is explaining to us that we know whether a person has fellowship with God by whether they are walking in the darkness or the light. In other words, by whether their lifestyle is righteous or sinful.
Why is it important to know whether someone is truly a believer or not? First of all, if someone is not a believer, they are someone who needs Jesus. We need to be a witness to them. Secondly, we cannot have true fellowship with someone who thinks they are a believer but are not. We can be friend, we can seek to explain the truth to them, but not have fellowship. Fellowship is based on the truth. Let’s look more closely at the …
A believer, someone who has fellowship with Jesus, is someone who has had a life-changing encounter with Him that completely changes their lives. To have fellowship and stay in fellowship with God and other believers, we must …
1 John 1:7, 9 (ESV) 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 cleanses us from all sin. … If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
When we walk in God’s light, we have fellowship with God and other believers. Does walking in the light mean that we must be perfect and never sin? No, in fact, verse 8 says that if we claim to have no sin, we are liars. Believers still sin from time to time. But the good news is that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from the darkness of sin. How does that work? If we’re walking in the light and slip into sin, we will be immediately convicted by the Holy Spirit of our sin. We must confess that sin to God, who will forgive us and cleanse us from that sin. We can continue to walk in the light. There is a huge difference between falling into a sin, quickly repenting and being forgiven and living a lifestyle of sin contrary to God’s Word. John makes it clear that we must seek to …
1 John 2:1 (ESV) My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
As believers, we don’t have to sin. In fact, as we grow in Jesus, we should in less and less. The life principles in God’s Word are there to guide us not to sin. But if we sin and confess that sin, Jesus is there to forgive and cleanse us. Which puts us back in fellowship with God the Father and other believers.
So, sin does two things in our lives. First of all, it introduces some darkness in our lives, which interferes with our fellowship with God. Secondly, that same sin interferes with our fellowship or relationships with other believers. That is why it’s so important to daily, in fact, moment by moment, confess any known sin to God and be forgiven. God desires to there to be a unity and oneness among believers in a church family. Not only should we seek forgiveness from God for our sin, but we should both seek and give forgiveness to those who have hurt us.
A recent poll showed that one quarter of all practicing Christians in America say there is someone that they cannot forgive. Not forgiving someone is a sin, it’s walking in darkness. Jesus said it very clearly, if you won’t forgive others, than God won’t forgive you. If there’s someone who you feel you can’t forgive, ask God to help you forgive them and get back to walking in the light. Finally, let’s look at another aspect of our fellowship with other believers, which is
3 John 1:4 (ESV) I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
The letter of 3 John was written to a believer and Christian leader named Gaius, whom John had led to the Lord. Gaius was walking in the light, he was …
3 John 1:5-7a (ESV) Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, …
In those days, missionaries and evangelists would go from town to town spreading the good news of the Gospel. Oftentimes these missionaries would be strangers to the town or church they would come to help. John is commending Gaius for helping these missionaries. The hospitality would be providing for food and lodging when they came to town. The hospitality would also involve giving them money as they sent them on their mission trip. These missionaries had gone on their journeys for the sake of Jesus’ name and were to be treated in an honorable way. This hospitality is another way of showing fellowship in the kingdom of God, it was advancing the truth of the Gospel.
3 John 1:9-11a (ESV) I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good.
There was someone else in the church named Diotrephes, whom John did not commend. Diotrephes as arrogant, he didn’t submit to authority, in fact he spoke against the authority of the apostle John. In contrast to Gaius, Diotrephes refused to provide hospitality to the itinerant missionaries and sought to stop those who tried to help them. Gaius was walking in the light, while Diotrephes, claiming to be a believer, was walking in darkness. John called his lifestyle and actions evil. In fact, John goes on to say that Diotrephes has not seen or known God.
One of the ways that we show hospitality as Gaius did is in our support of missionaries around the world. The only way they can spread the Gospel is as churches and people like us give to support them as they travel to remote places in the world. Just this past week, Robert’s Life Group helped provide a meal to the Moms who have chosen to keep their babies with Thrive St. Louis. That’s another example of hospitality.
Closer to home, we can provide hospitality by opening our home to others. Or by providing various needs of others around us. In fact, hospitality is not just for other believers. As we are kind and meet the needs of others, it shows the love of Christ and can open the doors for telling people about Jesus.
God has created us to not live life alone, but to have fellowship both with Him and with other believers. To have fellowship with God, we must put our faith in Jesus and walk in the light. Those who walk in the light have fellowship with one another, with other believers. We quickly confess any sin and ask for God’s forgiveness so we can continue to walk in the light.
We don’t just accept other’s claims to be Christians, but we look whether their lifestyle matches with their words. Why? So we know whether to fellowship with them or witness to them. We both ask for and give forgiveness to all who we have hurt or who have hurt us. Walking in the light means that we shown kindness and hospitality to those whom God brings into our lives. May God help us to grow in fellowship with Him and with one another.