"THE SIGNIFICANCE OF BEING A CHRISTIAN" Connected To Other Christians INTRODUCTION 1. In summarizing some of the significant things of being a Christian, we have seen that it involves both blessings and responsibilities... a. "A person reborn" provides the blessing of living in newness of life b. "Belonging to the Lord" requires we live up to the calling of being God's special child c. "Living by faith" demands that we continue to trust in God and His Word d. "Consecrated to God" presumes that we pursue holiness in the fear of the Lord e. "Guarded by the power of God" calls for us to stand strong in the power of His might f. "Saved to serve" implies that we work together with other Christians 2. It is this last thought that we expand upon as we conclude this series... a. Christianity involves activity b. Some of that activity involves "working together" with other Christians c. Each Christian needs to understand the importance of our collective work 3. Sadly, many Christians live as though they believed in "solo Christianity"... a. That being a Christian involves minimal involvement with the local congregation 1) They act like "independent" Christians - aloof, isolated, solitary 2) The congregation's work becomes "what they are doing down there..." (instead of what "we" are doing) b. Why is this case? 1) Some may not understand the congregational facet of life in Christ 2) Some may intend to be mavericks and refuse to be a real part of a congregation 4. The consequences of "solo Christianity" are dangerous... a. Such as inactivity, unhappiness, spiritual stagnation, etc. b. Recent studies suggest that people without active involvement in a church are more likely to have weakened immune systems, therefore more likely to get sick c. The bottom line is that Christians rarely survive spiritually apart from their proper relationship with other Christians d. Like a glowing ember removed from the fire of which it is a part...it soon cools and dies (while the other embers remain hot) [Of course, it is not God's intention that this happen. That is why one significance of being a Christian is that we are "Connected To Other Christians". Consider...] I. THE "TOGETHER" ASPECT OF LIFE IN CHRIST A. ILLUSTRATIONS OF TOGETHERNESS... 1. One illustration is that of "fellowship" - cf. Ac 2:42 ; 1 Co 1:9 ; 1 Jn 1:3 ,7 a. Christians are "fellows" 1) "Fellow citizens" - Ep 2:11-22 2) "Fellow heirs" - Ep 3:6 3) "Fellow workers" - Ph 4:3 4) "Fellow servants" - Co 1:7 5) "Fellow soldiers" - Ph 2:25 b. We work together as we extend "the right hand of fellowship" - cf. Ga 2:9 -- The idea is that we share together in the work and rewards of Christian life 2. Another illustration is that of "brotherhood" - 1 Pe 2:17 a. In Christ, we enjoy a family relationship - cf. Mk 3:31-35 b. We are the "house" or "family" of God - Ep 2:19 ; 1 Ti 3:15 -- The Christian needs to have a "family" consciousness about other Christians 3. One more illustration is that of "membership" - 1 Co 12:27 a. The church is Christ's "body" - Ep 1:22-23 b. Christians are "members of one another - Ro 12:5 ; Ep 4:25 c. As members of the body, there are "corporate" (Latin "corpus" means "body") responsibilities d. Body members are functionally interdependent - 1 Co 12: 12-27 1) Not all members have the same function - Ro 12:3-8 2) If the body (and its members) is to grow, each member must contribute - Ep 4:16 -- There are not "vestigial" organs or "decorative" parts; i.e., no useless or unimportant members B. THE CONCEPT OF LOCAL CHURCH "MEMBERSHIP"... 1. The "local" church is different from the "universal" church a. "The church" of Christ universally is the sum of all Christians - cf. Mt 16:18 b. "A church" of Christ locally is a specific group of Christians who function together as a congregation - cf. Ac 14:23 ; 1 Co 1:2 ; Ro 16:16 2. One is "added" by the Lord Himself to the "universal" church upon obedience to the gospel - cf. Ac 2:41 ,47 3. One then should "join" himself to a "local" church - cf. Ac 9: 26-28 a. The mere provision of local churches in God's Word implies... 1) A divine purpose for the local church 2) A corresponding responsibility of Christians to avail themselves of it b. The idea of becoming a Christian and never a part of a local congregation is foreign to the Scriptures! 4. Christian are obligated to participate in the life of a faithful congregation, whenever possible a. The command to withdraw from certain ones implies that participation in the fellowship with other Christians is not optional - cf. 1 Co 5:1-13 ; 2 Th 3:6 b. Much of what a Christian is to do is "for the common good" - cf. 1 Co 12:7 (NASV) [The main idea is that as Christians we have responsibilities to other Christians, in Christ we are truly "Connected To Other Christians". Therefore consider some...] II. SPECIFIC RESPONSIBILITIES TO OTHER CHRISTIANS A. ATTITUDES TO MAINTAIN... 1. Concern for one another - 1 Co 12:25-26 2. Humility, lowliness of mind - Ph 2:3 3. A peaceable spirit - Ro 14:17-19 4. Appreciation for others and their work - e.g., 1 Th 1:2-3 5. Willingness to cooperate, work together - 1 Co 12:21 a. "It marks a big step in a man's development when he comes to realize that other men can be called on to help him do a better job than he can do alone" (Andrew Carnegie) b. "Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success" (ibid.) 6. Friendliness, warmth - cf. Phile 1:7 7. Gentleness, meekness - Ga 6:1 8. Forbearance, longsuffering, patience - Co 3:12-13 9. Forgiveness - Co 3:13 10. Love - Jn 13:34-35 B. THINGS TO DO... 1. Identify as a member of a faithful congregation (place membership) - cf. Ac 9:26 a. Drifters, "floating members", "members at large", etc., are missing an important aspect of Christianity b. The same goes for passive "spectators", those "just along for the ride", "permanent visitors", etc. c. One places membership with the intent of being an actual, functioning member - not a mere appendage to the body d. It involves making real commitments to the group 2. Pray for other Christians, especially those of one's own congregation - Ph 1:9-11 3. Submit to the congregation's elders - 1 Th 5:12 ,13; He 13:7 ,17 4. Attend and participate in the assemblies of the congregation - He 10:24-25 a. The Christian enjoys and benefits from private and family worship, but must not neglect God's provision for collective, congregational worship and Bible study b. Every aspect of our assemblies are vital to the Christian 1) The Lord's Supper - Ac 2:42 ; 20:7; 1 Co 11:17-34 2) Praying - Ac 2:42 ; 4:23-31; 12:12 3) Singing - Ep 5:19 ; Co 3:16 4) Preaching and teaching - Ac 20:7 5) Giving as we have been prospered - 1 Co 16:1-2 ; 2 Co 8,9 c. Our assemblies provide an opportunity for three different involvements: 1) Help in providing for the assembly (e.g., cleaning the building, preparing the communion trays, leading in the service, etc.) 2) Actual attendance at the assembly - attending every service is critical to the overall growth and health of the congregation (let alone self!) 3) Participation in the assembly, to the extent of one's ability a) Worship is not a "spectator" activity b) The crucial question is not "How did the preacher do?", but "How did I do?" c) If one can do no more than listen, then listen in a manner that shows reverence and respect to God's Word! - cf. Ac 17:11 ("they received the word with all readiness...") d. Assembling together is not merely a routine to perform, but a God-given provision for our spiritual good 1) Quibbles and questions about whether we have to, complaints, neglects, etc., reveal an attitude of taking lightly the opportunity for Christians to be together 2) God wants to give us something in our assemblies - our involvement or non-involvement reveals much of whether we desire to accept what God has for us! -- To minimize this aspect of Christianity jeopardizes not only one's own soul, but the souls of others! - He 10:24-25 5. Contribute financially to the work of the congregation - 1 Co 16:1-2 , 2 Co 9:6-7 6. Engage personally and directly in the work of the congregation a. Evangelism - e.g., Ac 8:4 b. Edification - Ro 14:19 c. Benevolence - Ac 2:44-45 ; 4:34-35 7. Help maintain unity in the congregation - Jn 17:20-23 ; 1 Co 1:10 ; Ro 15:5-7 ; Ep 4:1-3 8. Participate in the discipline of the congregation, both instructive as well as corrective - 1 Co 5:1-13 ; Ga 6:1-2 ; 2 Th 3:6-15 9. Extend courtesy and hospitality - Ro 12:13 ; 1 Pe 4:9 10. Find an individual role and fill it - Co 4:17 ; 2 Ti 4:5 CONCLUSION 1. Much of the joy in Christ comes from our relationships with other Christians... a. John had great joy when he heard others walking in the truth - 3 Jn 3-4 b. Paul had joy when he remembered his fellowship with others - Ph 1:3-5 -- Can we not see the importance of being "Connected To Other Christians"? 2. This connection is not only crucial to having joy, but to remaining faithful to the Lord... a. Experiencing all of the blessings the Lord provides for His servants b. Encouraged by others to be diligent in fulfilling our responsibilities as Christians As we conclude this study of "The Significance Of Being A Christian", we have certainly not exhausted what it means to be a Christian. But I pray that in some way I have both encouraged and exhorted you to greater faithfulness and fruitfulness in the service of our Lord!