"OUR LIFE TOGETHER" An Accepting Fellowship INTRODUCTION 1. Our study so far pertaining to "Our Life Together" has focused on important concepts related to Christian fellowship: a. That the nature of our fellowship in Christ... 1) Is to be patterned after that found in a family ("An Intimate Household") 2) Is such that we are truly interdependent upon one another (No Life Outside The Body") b. That even those "acts of worship" ordained by God have as a purpose to strengthen fellowship... 1) The "collection" supplies the needs of the saints, but it also increases fellowship between the givers and the recipients ("A Giving Fellowship") 2) The "Lord's Supper" is indeed a memorial and communion with the Lord, but our partaking of it together also involves a communion together as one body ("The Secret Of The Supper") 3) Both "prayer" and "singing" contribute as well ("The Place Of Prayer And Song") 2. Another important concept in developing the type of fellowship that should exist in the church of our Lord is that of "acceptance" a. It is easy for there to be acceptance in a family because of the physical ties b. It is also easy in social organizations that are based upon things the members have in common -- But in the church, it not always easy; for you have a gathering of people of various backgrounds, lifestyles, and interests 3. How can a thriving fellowship exist in the midst of such differences? [The answer lies in understanding and applying the concept of "acceptance" in the family of God. To appreciate the challenge facing the church, consider...] I. THE NATURE OF OUR DIFFERENCES A. THE DIFFERENCES IN A CHURCH CAN BE MANY... 1. Differences in "race" (white, oriental, African-American) 2. Differences in "nationalities" (American, Canadian, Mexican, etc.) 3. Differences in "political ideologies" (conservative, liberal, libertarian, etc.) 4. Differences in "economic status" (poor, wealthy) 5. Differences in "lifestyles" (simple, extravagant, etc.) 6. Differences in "secular interests" (sports, computing, hobbies) 7. Differences in "spiritual maturity" (weak in faith, strong in faith) B. ALL THESE DIFFERENCES POSSESS POTENTIAL FOR DISRUPTION... 1. Prejudice or bigotry in any one area can destroy the unity (and fellowship) in a local congregation 2. Even on a more innocent level, "cliques" can develop among those who have things in common -- How can we be one and enjoy fellowship with so many differences? [The answer lies in understanding...] II. GOD'S ATTITUDE TOWARD "ACCEPTANCE" A. GOD IS NOT ONE TO SHOW PARTIALITY... 1. He revealed Himself to Israel as One who shows no partiality - Deu 10:17 2. Paul wrote of God's impartial judgment to come - Ro 2:9-11 3. Peter also wrote of God's impartiality - 1 Pe 1:17 B. GOD IS WILLING TO ACCEPT ALL... 1. This was the purpose of the vision shown to Peter, and the Spirit falling upon the Gentile listeners - cf. Ac 10:34-35 2. As Peter would relate later at the Jerusalem conference, God makes no distinction - Ac 15:7-9 3. And in his last epistle, Peter wrote that the Lord desires all to come to repentance - 2 Pe 3:9 C. GOD WANTS US TO BE ONE, AND ACCEPT ONE ANOTHER... 1. Even as Christ has received us, so we are to receive one another - Ro 15:7 2. Putting on Christ in baptism, our differences lose their significance as we contemplate our oneness made possible in Him - cf. Ga 3:27-28 [When we understand that God is no respecter of persons, and that we are to receive one another just as He has received us, we are in a better position to have "An Accepting Fellowship". Here are few more thoughts along the lines of...] III. APPLYING THE CONCEPT OF "ACCEPTANCE" A. DO NOT PRACTICE "PARTIALITY"... 1. By showing favoritism towards some, and prejudice towards others - Ja 2:1 2. As an example, consider Ja 2:2-9 a. Where we are told to accept the poor as well as the rich b. This principle can be applied in many other areas where there are differences 3. We must also beware of "reverse partiality" (e.g., where the poor despise the rich, out of envy) B. PUT ON THE "NEW MAN" THROUGH SPIRITUAL RENEWAL... 1. Whatever our differences, we are all to become like Christ - Co 3:9-10 2. As we do so, our differences lose significance - Co 3:11 3. For as we develop Christ-like character, the potential for partiality lessens - Co 3:12-15 a. We will have a heart of compassion, not ice b. We will be kind, not cruel c. We will be humble, not proud d. We will be gentle, not harsh e. We will patient, not intolerant f. We will be forgiving, not judgmental g. We will be loving, not bigoted C. THOUGH DIFFERENCES LOSE THEIR SIGNIFICANCE, THIS DOES NOT MEAN DIFFERENCES CEASE TO EXIST... 1. A Jew is still a Jew, and a Gentile is still a Gentile 2. The poor are still poor, and the rich are still rich 3. Divine guidelines governing some differences must still be respected a. The servant must still honor his responsibilities as a slave - cf. Co 3:22-25 b. The differences in responsibilities between male and female must still honored - cf. Co 3:18 ; 1 Ti 2:11-12 ; 1 Co 14: 34-38 -- Just as all members are to submit to the "elders" - 1 Ti 3: 1-7; He 13:17 CONCLUSION 1. As we grow in Christ, putting on the "new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him", we are more likely to fulfill the admonition of Paul: "Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God." - Ro 15:7 2. Only as we accept one another without partiality can we hope to attain to the level of fellowship the Lord intended for His people to enjoy in the family of God Are you contributing to "An Accepting Fellowship"? Are you willing to accept others, even as God has accepted you?