Encountering Christ in the Fellowship of the Saints

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Does the gathering of saints where we assemble reflect Christ? True fellowship is dynamic, but in order to experience this fellowship in our local assemblies, we must not do anything to hinder the life and unity we have in Christ. Fellowship ministers to the physical, spiritual, and emotional burdens of the saints.

Transcription:

It’s certainly a great blessing to greet you in Jesus’ name this morning, and we welcome all of you here. It’s been a very humbling experience for us during this weekend to be together. And I realize not all of you were here through all the sessions, but the Lord has been working here among us.

They say the title of this message is “Encountering Christ in the Fellowship of the Saints.” I just want to call attention to the fact that you have a folder, a program. The beginning of the program it says “KFW,” and you know what the letter “F” stands for in those three initials. And I’d like to do some of that – fellowship. Kingdom Fellowship Weekend. Forasmuch as we appreciate the fellowship we have here, as much as we appreciate the blessing of being together in this way – the revival this is for us to be here – for the equipment God puts into our hearts because we are together here. Our goal is this year, at Kingdom Fellowship Weekend, that we take that “F”, that we take it back home.

There is where fellowship is truly tried. There is where fellowship is truly tested. There is where we find out if our fellowship is with the Father and with the Son. It is back home. There is a tremendous amount in my life that I can hide from you on a weekend. I don’t hide it from my brothers and sisters at home. I don’t want to hide it from my brothers and sisters at home. In fact, we only have fellowship one with another to the extent that we don’t hide it.

So I want to make that point at the very beginning here. What we’re experiencing here, hearing here, what God is filling our hearts with here, we must take back home to our local assemblies, and there we must live it.

Now, a good sermon is supposed to have three points in it. Mine does not. I only have one point. I’m going to try to get this point across. You won’t have to listen very long this morning until you’ll find out what that point is, if you’re extremely discerning. I will not ask you to raise your hand as soon as it dawns on you what this point is. But if you’re paying attention, you will get it, and then throughout the rest of the time we’re together here we will try to reinforce it. But there’s only one point this morning – encountering Christ in the fellowship of the saints.

If you would desire to meet Christ today, where would you go to find Him? If you, for twelve years, would have wasted all your substance, for an embarrassing medical problem, that didn’t allow you to mingle with the public, where would you expect to find Christ so you could reach up and touch the hem of His garment – where would you go to find that?

How many of you know where we are by now? Did you figure it out yet? You where we are, don’t you, Brother Joel, you follow me here?

If you would desire to present your small child to Christ, where would you go to do that? If you were burdened with sin, and hoped to find cleansing and forgiveness, where would you expect to find Christ? You will not find him in Simon, the Pharisee’s house. If can’t you go in that door and kneel down at Someone’s feet. He will not be there. But where would you go?

If you would be of little stature, would you climb a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus? Where can Christ be found?

And now, I’ll make the first point. Someone told me this morning, “Yeah, we have a little house church.” I didn’t say it to the dear brother, but I thought it: “There was a time when this Bible was being written, that’s all they had – was house churches.” That is, they had house meetings. And we have meeting houses.

They had house meetings, and yet, as biblical as it is to have house meetings, many of those house meetings do not work; they are short duration. People find themselves migrating from house meeting to house meeting. And after a time of disillusionment, they make an interesting decision. They decide to start their own, and then invite people to their version. And usually the results are about the same.

I want to tell you why there’s difficulty there. The reason why there’s difficulty is because the purpose for which we’ve done it, the purpose for which we’re migrating and checking it out, and the moving van goes from place to place – and there’s nothing wrong with moving – is because I’m trying to find something, or I’m trying to get away from something. If it’s not our heart’s desire and effort, it’s not the purpose, and as brother John said, our passion, to be sure that anyone ever runs into us, ever encounters us, ever comes in among us, finds one thing when they get there. The greatest need that they have is to find Christ in that fellowship of the saints.

And that is where the world should encounter Christ. That’s where I need to encounter Christ. Because though the lady is burdened with her physical maladies, or though there are sins that she cannot take care of in her life, and she brings an alabaster box, and brings her tears and hair, in order to worship Him.

In many, many ways, I’m the same way. In the assembly of God’s people I must find Christ there; I can’t make it without it. And that is where Christ is found. He’s encountered in the fellowship of the saints. And we should certainly support that with Scripture. This is not the text this morning, but I’m gonna turn to some verses, this is still the introduction, but in Matthew 18. This is Jesus speaking here. I’ll read two verses, 19 and 20. “Again, I say unto you, if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done unto them of my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name…” would someone like to finish that verse? “…there am I.” So if someone is looking for where to encounter Christ, that’s where He is.

And then the question is: “What should be the nature of that fellowship, so that He is there in the midst, and anyone that comes will discover that?” I Corinthians 14, another text that indicates this again very, very clearly, I’m jumping into the middle of a sentence here, if you don’t mind me doing that, verse 23:

“… and therefore the whole church be come together to one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in of those that are unlearned or unbelievers will they not say that you are mad? But if all prophesy, and one come in one that believeth not or one unlearned and he is convinced of all, he is judged of all, and thus are the secrets of his heart are made manifest, and so falling down on his face he will worship God and report that God is in you of a truth.”

These are powerful words from Scripture. It tells you that Christ will be found there. Ephesisans chapter 3 – these are again beautiful words – verses 16 to 21:

“…that he would grant you according to the riches of his glory to be strengthened with all might in his spirit in the inner man that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith that ye being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge that ye may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, to him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”

The church is the body of Christ. The church is His life. His power. His love and his healing. The church is the place of His victory, of His forgiveness, His peace, His boldness, are found in the church of Jesus Christ. That was Ephesians 3. This is Ephesians 4, verses 11 through 13:

“and he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come to the unity of the faith, to the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man…”

This is plural. This is corporate. This is your assembly. This is your fellowship. This is where you’re committed.

“…unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

That’s what the congregation is. That’s what the church is. That’s what the local assembly is. So we we’re preaching there, someone had this great big beautiful whiteboard there that you could draw on, write all kinds of notes, and there was an artist in the audience and I asked him to come up front here and draw a rather rapid version there of the Statue of Liberty. And so that was done and he did a very, very good job doing that, and a in few moments that he quickly drew that up there, he’s an artist. And just – there all of a sudden the Statue of Liberty, stood there right in front of us.

So now, I just use that illustration to illustrate this verse. So here’s this assembly of saints, and here’s the edifying of the body of Christ, here’s the one soul ministering to another one, here is the love flowing, here is life moving from heart to heart. And something strange is happening. This whole thing is growing as this is happening. This thing is growing. And it’s not growing because 25 more moving vans moved into the community in the past year. This thing is growing. What is happening?

This image is being perfected, and we have this glorious representation; we have this glorious presence of Christ in the midst, and we grow up to His stature, we grow up to His fullness, we grow to this representation; we grow up to the point that we are here in this world ministering the way that Christ ministered, and doing for people what Christ did for people. And this is the local assembly. This is what the church is for. And there’s no other place to get this done. There’s no other place that meets this need; there’s no other place to go to find the image of Him who filleth all things, and His glory fills the house. So these scriptures find the greatest fulfillment in that local assembly, that local gathering together of God’s people, wherever that happens to be in the culture, in the community, in isolation, wherever it is, where it find itself.

That’s why I think the competition between churches is such a foolish thing. That’s why “I am better than you are” is such a terrible attitude. That’s why me needing to stand in the pulpit and condemn other groups who did not do it like we do it seems like such an awful violation of the glory that our Lord is worthy of. It just seems like something terrible is happening when I need to do that, because we have the greatest opportunity in all the world to let this stature and fullness in Christ Jesus grow into an image of holiness unto our Lord. Testimony of his presence among us.

Now I know we don’t all do it the same way. Someone has called my attention this weekend to the tremendous variety of people that are gathered here. I know that everyone that is here is welcome here. You’re here because we want you to be here. You’re all welcome here.

If each of us would concentrate on this one thing: if anyone in our communities, if anyone of our neighbors, if anyone that is driving on the highway, if anyone is aware of a little church that is here, if anyone that would drive past would discover that there is a little group of God’s people gathered together, they would have one of the greatest needs in their life that you’ve ever found in Matthew, Mark, or Luke, or John, and they would choose to come to your assembly, and they get out of their vehicle and come into your meetinghouse, and say “I hope that here it can happen. I hope that here – I enjoy it here.” And they don’t know what to expect. If you would think of gathering together with that in mind. We represent the Christ of the Gospel in this community where we are. What kind of a powerful testimony, what kind of word for the Lord, what kind of work and witness would go out from your place? And that would be spread abroad: “If you ever need to meet Christ, go over there. You’ll find it there.”

And I don’t have to go any further before my heart begins to burn. I don’t need to go any further before I see great needs in our congregation at home – things we need to improve, too, so this stature can grow, so men can find this kind of help. We tend to think of church too often as a gathering in the building, as in this expression, for example: “And just where do you go to church?” That question was asked many, many times since Friday afternoon on this campus. And that’s an interesting question, and we understand what you mean when you ask that question. We tend to think of Sunday School, of which no one in the book of Acts ever thought about; they didn’t know that that existed. We might think of bringing a Bible and a hymnbook along with us, or maybe there’s one in the rack in the church where you go. We might even think of this: well whose turn is it to preach on Sunday? These are things we think about when we think of church. But the church is the embodiment of Christ.

As we have fellowship one with another, we have fellowship with Christ. Listen to this very, very well known verse: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Is the gathering of saints where I assemble reflect the person of Jesus Christ? That’s the only place to find Him. And, you know, I realize a person can get on their knees any place at all, and have an encounter with Jesus by faith, I know a person can find a Bible some place that never had one, we read in the Bible that has happened in all kind of interesting ways throughout history.

A prisoner in Vietnam in the war that had to clean the latrines in the prison camp, found these papers that were used there, they were soiled ‘cause they were used for there in the toilets. He saw writing on those papers, and he tried to clean the dirty away so he could read what was on those pages. And he didn’t know what he was reading but he was reading pages of a Bible. Someone was tearing pages out of a Bible to use for that. And he started collecting these papers and when his week was up that he didn’t need to clean it anymore and someone else could do it, he asked his prison-responsible person there if he could keep on doing that for a while longer – to get more papers. A person could find Christ that way – and many have.

But there’s something unique of finding saints gathered together where there’s love flowing, where there’s deep appreciation, where there’s a humble sprit towards one another. There’s a beautiful thing happening when someone notices, someone cares, someone asks, someone invites, someone offers a word of hope. A beautiful thing happens. The needs, no matter how serious they are, how crippling or debilitating they might be, can be brought into this assembly and God uses those brothers and sisters there to minister to my heart, to my needs.

If you hear those words this morning, I wonder if your heart burns. Do you desire that in your life? Is that missing in your life? You might meet with a group of three hundred, all alone, you’re all alone. Why are you all alone? It’s a terrible thing to be alone.

You see the church was birthed by the twin dynamics; two things happening at one time, happening together, that brought the church into existence. We have the united prayer of the few chosen ones, the few gathered ones, we have the united prayer. Then into that united prayer meeting the Holy Spirit descended. I’ll just read that for you there, in Acts chapter 1, verse 14. They’re in an upper room here, it says in verse 13. “These all continued in one accord and prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.”

Chapter 2 verse 1 says,

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place, and suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty rushing wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like a fire and sat on each one of them, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

And the church was birthed here. And we have a unique and beautiful result of that recorded in verses 42 to 47. Some of you may not have been here when this passage has several times been read in this assembly.

“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their bread with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”

So we have this beautiful word “fellowship” here in verse 42. And some of you might know Spanish here in this audience, I just thought I would tell you the difference between the Spanish version of verse 42 here and this that I just read is this that our Spanish Bible says “And they all continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and in fellowship one with another.” That’s in Spanish, it’s not in English. “And in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Fellowship one with another; fellowship with the saints.

Fellowship is a distinctly New Testament word. Fellowship is dynamic, and that means something is happening, there’s a function; something is taking place, when there’s fellowship, it’s not just that two people are together, one is here and one is here. If there’s fellowship, something is going on between those two people. There’s an activity, there’s action. That why I use the word “dynamic.” There’s power here. There’s something that is focusing. Life is flowing.

I will show you a little word picture of this in Mark chapter 5. And some of you may not have Bibles, but I’ll read this to you. This lady, I referred to her in the introduction, she had an issue of blood for twelve years. I think it was twelve years. It says twelve years in verse 25.

But I want to read verse 30. Verse 30 comes to us after she already touched Him and she worked her way through that crowd, and came up from behind, where she said “If I may touch but his clothes, I may be whole.” This is an amazing thought that she had.

“And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.”

And I want you to notice verse 30.

“And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?”

The disciples thought it was an unusual and a wrong kind of question to ask. But Jesus felt something going out from Him. The Spanish Bible says He felt power going out from Him. And that’s fellowship.

And so Brother Leonard asked us to stand shake the hand and wish the blessing, and when we’re having true fellowship one with another, something is flowing, something is happening; something is happening in my life and something is happening in your life. It’s not just a static experience. It’s not just a social club. It’s not just a toast as we snap the edges of the glasses together over the top of the table. It’s not just a (unintelligible). It’s not a snack. There’s fellowship. And that means there something happening from a person to another person.

That means the chords that are broken can vibrate once more. It means that something that is ruined and depressed and lonely and rejected find strength anew, and encourage to start over again. This happens time and again in our services. This happens when we know nothing about. When virtue is flowing in our worship service, it’s flowing between the aisles after the service.

We usually have three church services each Sunday morning in our congregation. Usually the people meet out behind; we don’t have a foyer in our building; it’s a little tiny room, and there’s a little bit of a porch out there and in rains like Costa Rica, so you have to have a roof because there’s a lot of rain. We get 220 inches a year where we live. So the first service is out there. And everyone is so glad to meet each other. It may be a couple days since we’ve seen all those people. There’s not very many of us, but we’re all glad to be together, and after a brief time everybody goes inside the building and sits down, and we have a second service in there, and after that’s over we go back out there again and have a third one and I don’t know how long that one’s gonna last.

But some very, very beautiful things happen in that first service and in the third one. And I think sometimes some things happen in the middle service, too. But something’s happening between people. And for virtue to flow from us, for power to go out from us, it takes a commitment there. And if I have some kind of resentment in my heart towards a brother that’s there, some kind of jealousy, I feel somehow or another threatened by what he’s doing, threatened by his gift, threatened by his contribution, if I feel that in my heart, no, it will not happen. I’ll miss the opportunity. I won’t even become aware, and not only that, but my very nature, my very spirit being wrong as it is, and prideful as it is, and selfish as it is, that person wouldn’t even dare to sneak up behind and touch the bottom of the garment, wouldn’t feel free to do it.

And wouldn’t that other person should be in our assemblies, what kind of church service should we have, how should this local assembly look, so that the person with the greatest need that can possibly be stepping into the building this day can feel free: “I – this is what I’m facing. This is what happened to me. I am a mess. I am not fit.”

It’s like someone said in our service just a few services back, “I’m not fit to be a mother. I’m an awful wife for my husband. I’m a mess. Could somebody please pray for me? Could somebody help me? I am a mess.”

If you’re not experiencing that in your church, if in your assembly if somebody would not feel free to say that, I’d like to ask you something: “Why not?” ‘Cause I want to assure you, you have that in your church just like we have that in ours. I will assure those people are needy up here just like they are needy down there.

That’s not all. I will assure you I am the one that needs it. I am the needy one. I’m the one that has to have a church like that.

I’m trying to help you understand what this means when it says “Encountering Christ in the Fellowship of the Saints.” It’s a very, very beautiful concept. Virtue moves from one to another.

I John chapter 1, yes:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;”

See, Jesus was here then. He was physically here on the earth.

“…the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you,”

How do you do that?

“…that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you,”

Worship declared.

“…that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

Brother Joel, what is that Greek tense that we have here in the word “cleanseth” which means it’s continually progressively perfected? Aorist tense? How do you say that in Greek? Aorist tense.

I will say this that fellowship is always in aorist tense. That’s just the way it is. Fellowship is continuous action. Fellowship is the transmission of life. Fellowship is a parallel circuit where all are united in Christ. If you’re an electrician, you know what I mean. When you have a parallel circuit you can put as many light bulbs, as many whatever you want to, on that circuit as you wish and each one receives an equal amount of it. And all you’re doing is just magnifying the effect of it. And no one loses any of the potency of it. It’s a parallel circuit. We’re all united with Christ. It is impossible that we’re in fellowship one with another, without being in fellowship with Christ at the same time.

What is this fellowship whereby we encounter Christ? Let’s talk about that just a little bit – this fellowship, and it could be that you have the saints of God in this fellowship union with each other, and at the same time you might have unconverted people, some neighbor, some stranger, someone who doesn’t understand these things, some needy person who has their fellowship with God broken, for who knows whatever reason, and they’re observing this dynamic that’s going on here. You need to think about this as you’re leading the singing. You need to think about this as you’re choosing the hymn. You need to think about this as you’re leading the congregation in prayer. You need to think about this as you’re preparing the sermon for the Sunday morning. You need to think about this as you meet with your brother in the aisle after church service. You need to think about this that something is happening here, and there is someone here who needs to encounter Christ. Someone here is observing, is desiring to feel, to touch, to understand.

What is this fellowship whereby we encounter Christ, whereby the lost and the needy around us can encounter Him, whereby the unlearned and unbelievers can come to know Him? And again, I want to remind you, as we heard on Friday night, that this sense, and in a very true sense, this fellowship of which we speak, is a strong evangelism power. It’s an evangelism tool.

Well, they tell me that this word, and again Joel, will you help me one more time here? I don’t how the word is pronounced. Koinonia. So that’s the Greek word for it. Thank you, brother. And this word is not really hard to understand, although I’ve never seen as clear a description or definition of this word in this language as I would have liked to have learned, but let’s talk about the word “participation.” It comes very, very close to our English word “participation.” Participating is something that we share mutually, it’s something we have all received. And it’s an identifying factor that brings us into oneness.

And I’ll use this illustration. Where we live up in the mountain in Costa Rico, there are just little dairy farms up there; you can’t farm this ground up there, it’s too steep, and there’s too much rain; no one needs a tractor to plow fields, no one needs a forage harvester to cut grain, or chop silage. No such thing exists. All you need is a cow to go out there and eat her own grass. And this is dairy country, it’s not really good for anything else. And so cows are up there eating grass. All our neighbors are dairy farmers. So this one little road winds its way up into the mountains, it climbs higher and higher, and that little road unites everyone together, but there’s something unique that identifies each one that lives up there; they are dairy farmers. And it so it kind of makes, you know, an artificial, little identification that brings us all together there. Dairy farming’s not easy there. Sometimes it rains too much, then the grass doesn’t grow. And we don’t have any silos, or any hay mows; you can’t bale hay when it rains 220 inches per year. The grass must grow for the cows every day. So we have this united effect that kinda holds us together.

But in fellowship there’s something else that’s a uniting factor. It’s an identifying fact that brings us all into unity with one another. It is the fact that we’ve all participating in Christ, we’ve all participated in His sufferings, we’ve all have met at the crucial juncture between our will and God’s will, and we have met Christ there. And that factor does something to each one of us. And though backgrounds may be different, and our languages spoken are not the same, culture is vastly different, but this one unifying factor does something to these people that are gathered together in Jesus’ name, with Christ in the midst, that does something between them that nothing else can do. It brings us into oneness. It is the one thing that makes us all alike.

“And the disciples were called Christian first in Antioch.” And this is interesting. I don’t think they named themselves that. I don’t think the people back at Jerusalem said “Oh, interesting, over at Antioch, there’s Christians over there.” I believe this name came from the neighbors observing them. It’s the means by which I see Christ in my brother – I’ll stop right there – …by which I see Christ in my brother. My brother.

And think of the thoughts that are conjured up. And think of the image that comes to your mind. When all of a sudden you think of that one. With whom there’s a tension; with whom there’s a breech of fellowship. And there’s an avoidance. Sometimes unkind words said. And you hear that person’s name and someone tries to give a little word of credit for something that person has done and they appreciate it so much and you can hardly stand that. That someone was speaking well of one with whom your own heart is not at all in agreement. And you find that somehow interesting to try to project some kind of contradictory and balancing word in there that kinda takes some of this prestige away and reduce this person a little closer to the size that you think he ought to be.

And yet I just said I see Christ in my brother. And I wonder how we can do that. Hey, would you try to explain to me what’s going on in our hearts when time after time, day after day, in our local assemblies, immediately there is love and life and peace, there’s unity and there is cohesion. You know the difference between cohesion and adhesion? When there is cohesion, you don’t have to put anything artificial around it to hold it together. You don’t have to take adhesive tape to tape it together because it’s cohesively bound together. The molecules hold together. And there’s cohesion in the church. There’s cohesion in fellowship. It’s something internal. There’s a union of lives, and this beautiful, beautiful word takes us from the word “common” to the word “communion” to the word “communication” to the word “community.” These are beautiful words which mean we all participate in it – it’s something similar – the company of the committed. And it means that I am no longer alone. It means that I am accepted and wanted, and though I cannot explain it, I am needed and included for the first time in my life. And I find out that I can do something that I have never been able to do. In this environment it is safe for me to allow somebody to love me.

It’s a terrible hard thing for many of us to do: allow someone else to love us. And this explains the agapes that were in the New Testament: those love meals that they had. It explains the united prayers that there were, the willing offerings that we see here. The meetings and the being frequently together explains it why they were able to confess things one to another, why there was forgiveness, why there was this gift of restoration in the church, in the brotherhood. Because what Christ did when He was here, we do now. And what He was in this world for, we are in this world for. And as the Father sent Him, even now He sends us. That’s why we are here.

Can you imagine your church, your assembly, your local body being in your community where you are, in your culture, area, I don’t know where you call your place you call where you live, but you are there because Christ is not there, but you are there. Not you individually; you corporately. You in this fellowship of the saints. You in this union with one another. And that is why this is such an important thing on Christ’s heart. That’s why the prayer that we prayed back to Christ this morning – the importance of it. It is imperative. That we do anything – we do not do anything to hinder the image of Christ, the power of Christ, the life of Christ in our assemblies.

Who does not want to be a part of a church like that? And it grows, the Bible tells us in Ephesians. A spiritual house. A holy testimony. The many pictures we have of this gathered brotherhood, this gathered body. One of them I read to you already this morning. I’ll just read it again. You don’t need to turn to it. I read it in Matthew 18. It says in verse 19: “Again, I say unto you, if two of you shall agree on earth…” That word “agree” is such a beautiful word in our Bibles at home: “de acuerdo.” And it’s a picture in the Greek language of a symphony. That’s what the word is in Greek. It’s a symphony, this church. And here, though you don’t know anything at all about London Philharmonic Orchestra. Though you never heard of Sir Nacham Sergeant, you are a symphony. And there’s a harmony that is so very, very beautiful. There are triads, there’s the great chord, coming out from this assembly. There are only two or three are tenor, four or five families, but there’s a great chord coming out of there, a great chord is interesting: eight tones that cover two octaves, and you take this chorus of people, two hundred voices, and they sing this one chord, it can lift you out of your seat. If you’ve ever heard that great chord sung by a group of people. Symphony.

And there’s another word in the New Testament that also just gives us a beautiful image, and imagine the people of the world being drawn to this, imagine you children – raising your children in this church, and they turn the young adults, their youth, and they are drawn to this, they hear this symphony, and they see this tapestry. Not a string or a thread, but a woven, knitted mural. Where all the individual little strings form this beautiful woven picture of the church. We have union there, we have something that is strongly uniting it together, knit together in love.

And as we heard last night – may I borrow a beautiful phrase we were hearing last evening? “Fellowship is the shared communion in daily practice.” That was already read to us – I’d like to read it again. From 1 Corinthians 10 just to put this image before us – verses 16 and 17. And Brother John was certainly right about the fact that there is more than symbolism involved here. There’s something that you get if you do it that you miss if you don’t.

There’s something different that happens to you in the participation that is not taking place with you if you’re not there. There’s something, and I guess I’m going to not use the word mystical, but there’s something spiritual that’s taking place in your life. It’s only between you and God. And there’s a horizontal aspect there with other brothers and sisters.

“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?”

That’s where the word “Eucharist” comes from.

“The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.”

That’s why there’s fellowship, because we’re all partakers of it. And we’re strengthening fellowship every time we do it. It’s just that knitting is stronger and tighter. That symphony is gloriously repeated. So I need to ask a question: Are we experiencing a Christ encounter in our local assemblies? Do we truly have fellowship one with another? Do we meet, come face-to-face, come heart-to-heart with the virtue and power and holy life of Christ that flows from our brothers into ourselves. Do we experience that in our services?

I was preaching in a state here, in the States one time some distance from here, quite a distance from here, from Pennsylvania. Brother called me and said “Would you have time to visit with my wife this afternoon if we were to come over there?” There were living in another state too, but they came to where I was, and we met there. And he sat there and the story he told me was something like this: “For the last two years of our lives something seriously was wrong, but we didn’t know what it was.” And his wife was sitting there beside him and he’s trying to find ways to explain this to me. I want you to listen real closely. He said, “We discovered for two years we had no fellowship.” Ah, my brother, may God bless you! Someone who had enough of Bible understanding to know that there was no fellowship there. There were meetings, there were church services, there was preaching, there was eating food together without fellowship. At first he did not know what was missing; I don’t know if we would recognize it if we were living without fellowship, or not.

Many years ago a man was dying on his bed, and he dying of cancer. He looked up with his flesh wasting away, he looked up and said “Brother Dale, fellowship is where fellowship is. And fellowship isn’t where fellowship isn’t.” I have not forgot those words.

One time I heard a person say these words: “Yeah, you can visit with him all day, but you can’t have any fellowship with him.” I’m using some of these expressions to wake us up to something; to think about something. Are we experiencing fellowship, and are others able to have fellowship with me? And if they cannot have fellowship with me, then what is wrong, where is the problem, what is blocking, what is wrong, if that virtue does not flow, if someone cannot come up and touch that hem? If someone, if that power does not go out to meet a need over here, what is hindering it?  No one has fellowship with pride and selfishness. No life flows there.

“Come and learn of me for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest for your souls.”

I don’t know if this is appropriate to say at a place like this, the time is rapidly going by. We have, in our congregations at we, we have several congregations we work with, we are responsible for, I provide oversight for, we have in our congregation at home some congregational positions, brotherhood agreements that not all of our congregations have. We have felt some in some of our congregations that we would like to represent some things, identify with some things that not everyone in Costa Rico feels is as important as we feel they are. So we’re not the same in everything.

We have people come visit us from other countries where their practices and some of their focus is different from our own. I don’t ever feel a need to ever say to our congregation, I’ve never done it, I don’t know if I’ll ever do it, I’ve never done it until now, I’ve never needed to say, “That’s a direction we will not be going. I thank you, Lord, that we are not like they are. We should close the door to those people so that they don’t – we’ just can’t bring any of that in here.” We’ve never done that. We’ve never held up our congregation or our expression or our identification as something that is superior to others. This is just what we have felt the Lord wanted us to do. And the people are glad to do it. And we try to teach them to be able to appreciate those who maybe see some of these things differently. We don’t need to change because that they have it that way, because we are thankful for what we have, and we’re together on it, and it’s been such a blessing, and we’re raising our children together, and the community knows what to expect of us. And we can do that with grace, with blessing, with victory, without putting down anybody else. It’s a tremendous freedom to be at a place like this. You don’t need to feel in competition with anybody.

I do need to turn you to John 17 one more time. Verse 20:

“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.”

If I were going back to verse 11 we would have found that expression one more time “that they may be one…” (at the end of the verse) “…as we are” – five times here. Not only that they be one. Not only that they have some unifying factors. Not only that they – maybe it’s because they all speak Plautdietsch or because they all have a Latin background. Not only are they one, but they are one as the Father is one with the Son. And the infusion of the divine unction upon our assemblies is equal to the unity of the “one accord” that we are experiencing among ourselves.

This is where love comes in. Love one another. Love cannot lose their brother, but love will reach out and gain a brother. Love will not say “raca.” It will not say “thou fool.” It will not say “moros” where we get our word “moron.” It will not say to the hand “I have no need of you.” It will not say “If I got along without you before I met you, I can get along without you now.” It will not say “You know, if this element would leave the congregation, we’d have peace around here.”

“That they be one.” Why? Because, you see, when Christ was in this earth, and He met needs, and preached, and He talked to people, and children came, and He held them in their laps, He picked them up, and prayed for them and blessed them.

When Jesus was here, out in the storm spoke to the winds. When Jesus was here, He walked on that water. And fish were caught that otherwise could not have been. When Jesus was here, and He prayed to His Father and He spent much time with His Father, and did those things that pleased the Father, and received His words from the Father, and was in constant communion with His Father, and there was no breach of fellowship, there was no division between Them. They were perfectly joined together in one. So His ministry would effectively represent the Father in the earth. And the Father could answer the prayers of the Son, because those prayers came from the Father’s heart. The Father could invest His life and power into His son. He had no question about His glory when He poured life into the life of His Son. And so God can do endless things. There’s no end of what He can do with His Son.

And Jesus is thinking all that, but now He turns it over to us. And in His high-priestly prayer, if you wanna call it that, He’s asking the Father “Lord, we need to teach them to live that way, too.” We must have that same union, that same oneness. So nothing in them would hinder their prayers being answered, their needs being met, their life being given them, the lives being changed, the lost restored, the lonely included. They’ve got to live this way or it won’t happen.

If I ask you “Where does this division spirit come from, and why can’t we get along? Why is my brother offended in me? What have I done?” And that should not be a surprise because every one of us is so faulty. We all make many mistakes. We are somewhat aware of how easily we make mistakes. And if I learn that one of my brothers is offended at me, it should not be hard for me to say, “You know, I’m gonna go take care of that. I’m gonna see him. I am sorry. I don’t know how often I’ve done that. I just know that it’s my tendencies. I’m gonna take responsibility. I’m gonna go do what I can.”

I know it’s hard to offend love. Love is not threatened by another. Love knows no competition. Love needs no credit nor recognition. Love gives life as long as there’s life to give. We learned that in John 13: “He loved them unto the end.”

Your Bible says: “Love never faileth” in chapter 13 in First Corinthians. Our Bible says “It never ceases to be.”

Where there’s love, there’s peace. The unity of Spirit in the bond of peace – the bond of peace – that’s cohesion. That someone didn’t take a chain to wrap around us. There’s no padlock on there. This is not cords. This is not Samson. This is internal, this is the “bond of peace” that holds that together. This is internal. This is a picture of fellowship. And where peace is ruling beautiful things happen. Peace between brothers. And aim for that, and the brother told us this morning, “Make it your intent to have it that way.” We must intend to have it that way. We must intend to gain the brother. We must intend to never divide from our brother. We must intend to learn to appreciate each other. We must plan for that. And there’s no fellowship without light. We walk in the light as He is in the light.

So what hinders my honesty? At home all the brothers know what I’m like. I can hide that from you for a weekend, but I can’t hide it from them. They know what I’m like. See, we really can’t participate in the life of our brother and sister till we understand them and know them. Then when we find what that’s like, we suffer with them when they’re suffering; we rejoice with them when they rejoice.

Oh, about a month ago, a little less, very, very humble brother in our congregation, very humble national brother, they have three small children, the last was just born I think he must be only two months old – Mother? – a month and a half? Nice little baby – they have three small children. And his wife is real tall; she’s taller than I am. And he’s short; I think he’s a little bit shorter than my wife. So – here we have Enrique… And he was having some trouble there neurologically, and they found a spot, front left lobe of his brain. Tomorrow he’s going for an MRI to see just what this spot might be. And she is suffering; she is struggling; his wife is struggling; his wife is – the tears come to her eyes just if you mention anything about it. And we had an anointing service for him. Last thing we did the Wednesday evening before I left the congregation is prayed for him, for this assignment tomorrow morning. You and I can’t take this spot away. You and I are not neurosurgeons. I had an interview with the neurosurgeon about the possibilities of this future problem. We can’t go in there and do that, but he is our brother, and we will not do without him. And we love him. He’s gonna have all the support from that congregation that he needs. He is very, very blessed. He’s very thankful. He is at perfect peace. He is sure that all will be well, though he has no idea how it’s going to turn out. So we suffer with him. If we get a word that the spotting that appeared there was really something benign that’s not of any problem to his development, we will all rejoice together.

Fellowship ministers to the mental illnesses that are around us. The physical ailments. The spiritual losses and addictions that people have. The emotional wounds that people carry with them. Fellowship ministers to all of that. And more things beside. But our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ, and we are here to represent Christ in this earth, and people will encounter Christ when they find a little assembly where these principles are at work, and brothers love each other and there’s no competition, and everyone is thankful and expresses appreciation for the last person that was upfront and contributed a little something, or gave a testimony. Everybody participating. In our congregation you can make a statement in the church service some place and you might be needing some help, and you might be crying as you say it, and spontaneously some other brother or sister in the congregation might just turn around, look at you, and say “But sister, brother, we’re gonna get through this together. We’ll gonna take care of this.” They don’t wait for the preacher to say it.

A few weeks ago we had one of our sisters, a single sister in the congregation, stand in front of the church on Wednesday night and she had made a terrible mistake in her life and she never had told anybody about it. When she was in our home a few hours prior to that, she told me why she had never told anybody about that. It was partly our fault, because she was afraid to say it. But now she wants to say it, and she knows she needs to say it, and she never had a boyfriend before, and at twenty-nine years old she started dating, visiting a young man from the States who speaks another language from what she does. So I asked her “If we make these plans like this, would this be ok, would you feel ok with that?” “Yes, yes, brother Dale, we’ll do it like that.” “Ok, so you come front, I’m gonna stand beside you, and I’m gonna ask your friend to come stand on this side of you. And then, with us there supporting you, you just tell the congregation what you have in mind.” And that poor sister poured out the story of her failure.

And I asked a sister back here to speak to our dear soul and give her some words of direction, and help and comfort, and I asked a brother to stand up and speak to her, and when that was done, they were all ready to sit down, and I said “If anyone else has anything they’d like to say, they may say it.” And a single brother stood up; of course, he was speaking another language, but I’ll try to put it in your words, because your culture is different you might not get this illustration. But in our culture, we call a bill for things that you bought, a thing you must pay, a “factura.” He said “We have this ‘factura,’ this bill, we have this invoice” (I think that’s your word for it) “and someone who is in authority, someone who would have the right and the power to collect that bill writes across there, puts a big stamp across there, put his instrument that says ‘null’ / ‘void’ / ‘cancelled.’” He said, “Sister, there’s no ‘facture,’ no ‘invoice,’ it’s all gone.”

It was a beautiful time there when that was happening. I guess it made it a little easier after that when another brother then, a few services later, wanted to speak with all the brothers on a Wednesday evening. He opened up his life and talked about a serious entrapment that has controlled his life ever since he was a small boy. He got married with this addiction hanging in his life, trying to live the Christian life with this addiction hanging onto him through all these years. Now he has been in our congregation for two years, and he didn’t want to hide if from anybody. He wanted them to know. And one of our national brothers, to him when he was finished, said, “Brother, for all those years you were fighting against that. Brother, if you were fighting, you’re not just defeated – you’re fighting. And now the rest of us join to help you fight that.”

We work with people who have serious emotional problems. Part of our ministry has to do with giving correspondence with quite a few people, even here in the States, who have trouble with their parents, trouble with deep issues in their own lives, having trouble fitting into churches. So it was that a young lady, after about a year of correspondence, I suggested she come to Costa Rico and visit us. Serious emotional problems. The kind of thing that was very close to a very dangerous edge where she was living. There for a couple days, and we were very, very busy over that time, and my wife and I felt we were not doing very effective work in trying to minister to her alone. And so, the second to last day that she was there, my wife said “Brother Dale is real sorry that he has not had much time with you. We feel like we have not done you much good. And you’re worth far, far more than we were able to do for you here.” And here was the answer – encountering Christ in the fellowship of the saints – she said: “Oh, no, Suzanne, no, no it’s not like that at all. I have never seen a church like this in my life. I never experienced anything like this ever. Just being here is healing to me. Just being here gives me hope. Just being here – things I’ve seen in the Bible, I know it’s a reality. I’m going home different from how I came because of what I found while I was here.”

We’re just some national brothers and sisters, first generation Christians, who meet together with Christ in the midst. It’s hard to be among them without sensing that in some another life and hope are present. And we all can leave the service and go out and live it until we gather together again.

I have one more thing to say. Bring this kind of life and vitality to your congregation. You must be like that brother you heard about this morning that said, “Of all people that I know, I know none as well as Jesus Christ.” And make this the object of your worship. Make the intention to live as he lived as clearly as you can. Give him the opportunity to wash out of your life and purge you from anything that would mar that image, so when you have a collection of brothers and sisters, a group of committed brothers and sisters, gathering together, with that image and that stature growing up into the perfect fullness of God, there’s nothing to hinder the image of Christ in your local assembly. We must be like Christ.

“A new commandment I give unto you that ye love one another as I have loved you.”

“No man hath greater love than this that he lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I commanded you.”

If we could leave this assembly with that in our hearts, leave this assembly with that desire within us, go back to our home congregations with an intent to put this to work there in that body, then heaven will echo with results of Kingdom Fellowship 2017.

If there’s someone that feels that blockage with God, that prideful hindrance and rebellion against the Lordship of Jesus, if there’s someone here that is not experiencing the intimacy and the sweetness of a broken life, a yielded life, a sacrificed life, a living testimony, there’s something hindering that work, that’s hindering your church, then I would recommend that we fall on our knees, and call on the name of the Lord, and receive the help we need before we leave this assembly today.

I want to thank you for your patience for listening to these few words; but the encounter with Christ happens because Christ is at home and free to live here, and He makes His habitation here, and the people that know us, that come among us can see it. And needs can be met, and what Christ did is still being done in some place of the world, some place somewhere. Christ is very active and very involved, interceding in all these needs, and has us here to do a task that He left for us throughout all the world.

May God bless you this afternoon.