Tuesday, June 21, 2011

In fellowship, out of fellowship, in fellowship, out of fellowship...

... this was the popular calls this week, asking about being in fellowship with God. It seems that, as the minister was assuring a caller that our sin does not take out of fellowship with God, several other listeners were getting concerned at the possible error he was giving out. One of the concerned callers called and shared the story of how she accepted Christ at a young age, but as she grew older, she wandered off, doing things that she knew were not good things to do. Now, while she knew she had NOT lost her salvation, she felt that she had lost fellowship with God. She was doing bad things, and totally ignoring God. Couldn't that be out of fellowship? 

To be honest, I can understand her confusion, I grew up with that mindset, as well. I spent the first half of my life involved with churches who felt eternal life was eternal, but that didn't mean that God wasn't going to 'get you" when we sinned down here on earth. Although our lives would be spared, we would be out of fellowship with God. God was mad at us, and it was up to us to do something about that. So, we'd I John 1:9 ourselves, in order to get God to not be mad at us anymore. 

The teenage years and young adult years were spent in a pentecostal church. Of course, here I was introduced into the 'backsliding into hell" mindset. This was so much worse than merely being out of fellowship--this was to slide headfirst right into the Lake of Fire because we sinned. Still not sure what the purpose of Jesus's death was in the Pentecostal realm. He died of course, and rose again for us. Not sure what it accomplished, but was assured that He did it "for us", because He "loved us". This was often a powerful guilt motivator. "Jesus died for your sins, and THIS is the thanks He gets?!?! How could you!?!?" was often the accusation hurled at me, either from pulpits filled by various ministers, or myself, when I'd stumble and sin, once again. Looking back, it is with great relief that I thank God for delivering me from that. He didn't have to, but for some reason, when I didn't know I needed gotten, God knew, and did something about it. If it were up to me? I'd still be in that hamster wheel running as fast as I could doing good works, and being as dried up as any mummified skeleton could be. 

No, God doesn't leave us when we sin. That's the whole reason for Jesus dying. His death reconciled us back to God permanently. Now that you and I have been reconciled.... yes, you have been, too. It doesn't make any difference if you believe in God or not. He chose to reconcile us.... to forgive us, mankind... once and for all. Oh, now, we can't mistake forgiveness for Eternal Life--that's a choice you and I have to make. We've all been forgiven, you and I. So, He wants to give us His life, and live His life through us. Will you allow that to happen? I promise you, it's the best thing you can do, if you've not done so already...

Sorry--I wandered off topic for a bit. What I was curious about, during the caller's confession of bad choices growing up..what if we made good choices without any faith? Would we be in fellowship, then? If God turns His back on us, when we do "bad' things--lie, cheat, steal, gossip, drugs, gluttony.. etc... what if we do "good" things, but with no regard to God whatsoever? What if we gave our money to charities? What if we volunteered at the Senior Citizen's center? What if we mentored a student who was struggling in math? These are "good things', one might argue. But, what if we did these in our own strength. What if these "good things' were done with no regard to God? What if God never entered our minds as we went about doing these things?

A verse that comes to mind is found in Matthew 7:

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
Here these nameless folks are, having done seemingly 'good stuff' in their lives, yet Jesus still says He doesn't know them. So, it's not about what we DO, good or bad, but rather who we ARE... a child of God or not.  What's it take to be a child of God? Simple. Believe Him. 
John tells us this:
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
If you have accepted Christ--He lives in you. He didn't just stop by for a visit during an emotional experience--He came to take up residence... He came to live His life through you. Oh yeah. You're in His fellowship. Entrapped in a sinful lifestyle and can't get out? Stop what you're doing right now, and ask for His help in trusting Him. He will not leave you nor forsake Him. You believe He exists. Will you trust Him? You are in His fellowship... enjoy it. 

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