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First of all, I want to thank pastor Ino for asking me to share God’s word today. I’m very thankful for his life and ministry and for the IBF church community. Before I start today’s message, I want to quickly introduce myself. My name is Ramon but everybody calls me Ray. Together with my wife, Megan, we serve as missionaries here in Japan with Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF). My wife was born and raised in Texas and I was born in New York City and raised in Puerto Rico (a small island in the Caribbean). We have been in Japan for almost 5 months. At the moment, we are studying Japanese full time. Once we finish with our language studies, we hope to work as church planters here in Japan. We are very thankful to God for bringing us to this beautiful country with amazing people. If you see us around don’t be afraid to say hi. We want to get to know you better and we need to practice our Japanese. (Please speak to us!)
Before we begin the message let us pray. (Prayer Time)
In march 11, 2011 Japan was hit by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, one of the largest ever recorded, and it struck off the coast of Tohoku in Japan. The earthquake triggered a massive tsunami, which caused widespread damage and devastation, including the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The disaster resulted in thousands of fatalities and had a significant impact on Japan and the rest of the world. One of the things that I remember from this event is how people from all around the world came to Japan to assist with the recovery efforts. People from all backgrounds coming together to help one another. During that hard and challenging time, we saw glimpses of God’s love amongst people. It was a beautiful picture of people loving each other. There are quite a few events like this we can think about in recent history. Most recently with the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. It is unfortunate that when we think about these bigger expressions of communities coming together to love each other sacrificially it is often tied to disastrous events. However, as followers of Christ we are called to authentic community all the time. God has called us to live within the body of believers loving each other sacrificially. This type of love can change our lives and the lives of the people around us.
That is why today I want to encourage each of us to think about our life as a fellowship, a community of believers.
I titled today’s message The Power of Christ Centered Fellowship.
Today we are going to read about the earliest community of Christians in Acts chapter 2. Jesus had resurrected and the miracle of Pentecost had happened. People were empowered by the Holy Spirit to testify of the work of God to others. The church was growing and people were experiencing true and authentic community with one another. Let us read…
Read Acts 2:42-47.
I believe this passage specifically highlights four things present (or that should be present) in the fellowship of the body of Christ. These are that: Godly fellowship is Christ centered, Godly fellowship is sacrificial, Godly fellowship is worshipful, and Godly fellowship is transformational.
- Seek Godly fellowship that is: Christ Centered
- Seek Godly fellowship that is sacrificial.
- Seek Godly fellowship that is worshipful
- Seek Godly fellowship that transforms.
I want to first encourage us to seek Godly fellowship that is Christ centered. The scripture shows us that there are four elements present within this community of believers.
A. First, they were devoted to the teaching of the apostles, to God’s word John Peter a NT scholar says each of these believers felt strongly to be [“firmly established in the truth, and in fellowship with God in Christ, and on this account, they adhered so steadfastly to the teaching of the apostles.” This community of believers was devoted to growing spiritually together through scripture. The word of God is essential for our spiritual growth. Deuteronomy 8:3 says that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”
B. Second, they were devoted to fellowship and the breaking of bread. I do want to emphasize here the Lord’s supper. As Jesus broke the bread and drank the cup he reiterated for us to do this in “remembrance of him.” I look forward to the times we do the Lord’s supper here at church. This practice is important because it reminds us of the life and work of Jesus, and it marks us as people of his new covenant.
C. And thirdly, they were a community devoted to prayer. Believers are called pray both individually and corporately. Prayer shows our dependence on God and it also demonstrates our desire to see God’s will in our lives, in our church, our families, in our communities. When we pray together it increases our sense of community while also providing opportunity for encouragement. Many times, in my life I have gone through moments of discouragement I have received a prayer from a brother or sister in Christ that installed hope and the peace of God that I needed. Pray together
D. Godly fellowship is Christ centered because Christ himself instructed us to practice each of these. Each of these points are rooted in Christ’s teaching. As believers, in what ways are we devoting ourselves to God’s word, to prayer and to each other?
One thing that we have noted living in Japan for the past 4 months is how community-oriented people are. Streets are clean, people follow the rules, and, in general, people care and show respect for one another. People work together and it is quite impressive, but Godly Fellowship is not only good works or to save face with those around you or to keep social harmony. Our foundation is the forgiveness and redemption from our sins found in Christ and that is what makes us different. Our fellowship must be centered on this truth.
Christ centered community is sacrificial. This leads me to our second point: seek Godly fellowship that is sacrificial. God has called us to live a generous and sacrificial life of love and care for one another. People were coming from all over to see what was happening. Both rich and poor and at the time there was an increasing need for housing and food. The church responded to the needs present within their community, we see Acts 2:45 [45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,”]. The people of God were quick to sacrifice their own comforts to cover present needs within their community. It is not good works just for doing something good, but good works because they truly understood God’s love for themselves and others. The new believers coming from Jewish tradition were used to sacrificial practices established by the mosaic law. But Jesus had fulfilled the law. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice; animal sacrifice was no longer needed. In Christ our sacrificial living looks different, it’s a life of service and love for one another as a response of the forgiveness received from God.
I do want to clarify; God will call us to surrender resources, time, commitments, preferences, and comforts for His glory. But there should be wisdom with our generosity. God doesn’t want us to blindly give to whomever. He wants us to steward our resources and to be intentional and thoughtful in our giving.
Scripture often ties sacrifice and worship which leads to my third point is to seek Godly fellowship that is worshipful. These concepts of sacrifice and worship are deeply tied together. A worshipful life is one of sacrifice as mentioned in Romans 12:2 [“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.] (Romans 12 is a call to a worshipful lifestyle.) The early church’ sacrificial life style focused on worshiping and giving glory to God. Acts 2:43 says that, “They were amazed by God’s work”. In verse 2:47 it also says they praised God, prayed often, and they gathered often. As mentioned previously, this was common practice in the early church. Let us cherish and encourage more times of worship together as the family of Christ. I encourage each of us to take time in our day to remind ourselves what God has done. Start your day with thanksgiving, a worshipful heart is one that is obedient to God.
Finally, I want to encourage each of you to seek Godly fellowship that is transformational. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18, [“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit”.] Therefor true Christ centered fellowship is a platform for us to be transformed into the image of God through love and sacrifice to one another.
Acts 2:43 says, “many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles” and God was continuously adding to their numbers (Acts 2:41 and 2:47). People were coming and receiving freedom from death and experiencing Gods redeeming love. That was happening because of the fellowship of believers were working together in unity as the body of Christ. John 13:35, a verse well known to many of us says, [“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”] True Godly community not only changes us but also changes those around us. The way we love each other and sacrifice for one another attracts others to God. I want to encourage each of you today to think in what ways God want us at IBF to be a Godly community, that is Christ centered, sacrificial, worshipful, and transformational. We have the opportunity to impact those around us with the power of God’s love by the way we love and serve each other.
Conclusion: When we started coming to IBF we had only been in Japan for 1 week. We didn’t know anybody, and we spoke very little Japanese (we still speak very little, but we pray that changes). But the first thing that connected us to this community is our love for Jesus. That is the foundation of our relationship What a beautiful thing; we are from different parts of the world, different life experiences, but God drawn us here today and made us family. The love my wife and I have experienced at this church has drawn us closer to God and has helped us adjust well to making Japan our new home. It has changed us. It has helped us love Japanese people more and see you more like how our heavenly Father sees you. I want to encourage each of you today that just as you have changed our lives, you have the opportunity to do that with each other and with those in your community, your neighbors, and your family. I encourage you to continue to look for Christ center fellowship that is worshipful to God and transformational to you and to those around you.
 John Peter Lange et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Acts (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 56.