“The Power of Pictures and Pithy Paradigms”—8
“The Power of Pictures and Pithy Paradigms” is a series of timeless truths—each of which will serve to reinforce the Feast of the Heart Vision, Mission, and the main motivation for my own life in Christ and love for those He places in my life.
Everyone reformed, revived, a constructive revolutionary!
Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.
- Reformation…we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth of the Bible.
- Revival…we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed.
- Constructive Revolution…we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment.
Fellowship: A Feast of the Heart—Part 2.
Welcome back to the fellowship of the Saints at the training table, Brothers and Sisters! I dearly hope and pray that the race you’ve been running—the marathon in, for, by and through Christ—has been a glory to God and a blessing to you and to others since we last chowed down together.
As promised from last week’s feast at The Training Table, following is the menu for today’s banquet of God’s perspective on fellowship:
- It’s Important: A Top Priority
- It’s Satisfying: A Radical Pleasure
- It’s Compelling: A Perfect Platform
Before we feast on this course of our five-course sustenance of the heart, please let me remind you of a core distinction we made last week, and where our focus will be from here on in: There are “two types of fellowship.”
“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!” “Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt.” “Wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin; how shall my tongue describe it, where shall its praise begin?”
God’s grace abounds… in all sorts and in two particular forms!
1) Common Grace Fellowship: “Every good and perfect gift comes down from above… from the father of lights” (James 1:17). It’s only possible for unbelieving people who enjoy the range of shallow-to-deeper fellowship to have friendships at all because God is “withholding His judgment and the uttermost effects of The Fall” (Genesis 3)—called “Common Grace”. God’s Common Grace—“a non-saving grace that is at work in the broader reaches of human cultural interaction. This gift of God’s grace to humanity in general demonstrates a desire on God’s part to bestow certain blessings on all human beings, believer and non-believer alike.” (What Is Common Grace?, by Tim Keller) “
“James 1:17 means that no matter who performs it, every act of goodness, wisdom, justice, and beauty is empowered by God. God gives out good gifts of wisdom, talent, beauty, and skill “graciously”—that is, in a completely unmerited way. He casts them across all humanity, regardless of religious conviction, race, gender, or any other attribute to enrich, brighten, and preserve the world.” (Keller, The Reason for God, page 53)
Under Common Grace unbelieving people (Romans 1:18-32) aren’t judged, condemned by God and deservedly taken out right now because God is mercifully withholding hell on earth and final judgment while offering His saving, Special Grace* before Jesus returns and its too late.
*But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10)
Immediately upon waking each and every day, the person of faith thanks God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for a heartbeat and the breath of life. These are Good Things that could only come from the manifold mercies of God. The person who has no such faith doesn’t relate to God’s Common Grace in this fashion. God’s Common Grace is simply presumed upon… But it’s so good that it can act as a “barrier to needing to believe in God”: “Why throw myself on the mercies of God’s provision in Jesus Christ? Life’s pretty good.” But when life turns really bad—which it will—God is patient, but not forever.
Unbeliever, turn to God in Christ “Today…” (Psalm 95:7-8).
2) Special Grace Fellowship: Special grace is the work of the Holy Spirit in, a) effectual calling, b) regenerating, c) justifying, d) sanctifying, e) persevering, and finally consummating [when Jesus returns to make all things new] individual sinners. Special grace is restricted to those who actually repent and come to saving faith in Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit—who is following God the Father’s lead (Ephesians 1:4-5) and Jesus’ atoning sacrifice (John 3:16) by “executing on the names” in God’s Book of Life (Revelation 20:11-15) written before time began.
In Knowing God, J.I. Packer writes, “The grace of God is love freely shown towards guilty sinners, contrary to their merit and indeed in defiance of their demerit. It is God showing goodness to persons who deserve only severity, and had no reason to expect anything but severity.” (page 120)
Special, Saving, Sanctifying Grace… “Legal righteousness—a standing before God that says we have kept His covenant—is granted to us when we repent, believe the gospel, and when we trust in Jesus alone for salvation (Rom. 3:21–5:21). With this positional change before the Lord’s heavenly court also comes an existential change: We receive a new heart that can obey God truly, if imperfectly. Having first justified us, the Lord sanctifies us, burying us with Christ so that sin no longer has rightful dominion over us and raising us with Jesus so that we are bound to live out the holiness our Creator has granted us in the Savior (6:1–13). Sin has no legal rule over those who truly believe in Jesus, and we give in to transgression only because we have forgotten that we are under grace in Christ, not law in Adam (v. 14).” (Burk Parsons, Ligonier Ministries)
Once any human being has crossed the line between Common an Special Grace, two things occur:
1) A New Family. He or she is welcomed into a New Family called the Supernatural Church—The Body of all Believers throughout time. Fellowship in the new family is universal! Strangers are transformed into Brothers and Sisters in The Faith. Anyone on earth who has been spiritually born-again into this New Family of Faith shares a bond of faith and friendship that transcends time and eternity. All things in life and death have changed for these family members of the faith—and there is a fellowship that is stronger than blood-family because it shares the experience of having been cleansed by The Atoning Sacrifice and Blood of Christ. Under Special Grace the peace of God’s security and everlasting promise is secured—but there may not be peace between blood family or all others who have not repented and been born-again (Matthew 10:34-36).
2) No More Shame. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. … (Romans 8)
As we have already seen, all of humanity shares the stain of shame stemming from Adam and Eve’s Original Sin: They hid from God [like that can be done…] and covered their nakedness with fig leaves. And we all have carefully placed, known and unknown, little and big, and closely guarded fig leaves of shame covering our Sin and sinning—which represents the fountainhead of all of our debilitating dis-eases in life.
But when we’re forgiven by God in Christ and through the Spirit all shame is objectively gone, but not de-fanged in our subjective experience and choices to continue to allow shame, criticism, the ways of the world, the flesh, and the devil to drag us back to the wardrobe of fig leaves… the covering that estranges us from all people!
Fellowship under the covering of Christ’s sacrifice for all our shame and sin is like no other: The fig leaves of any sort of fallibility don’t have to act as barriers of hiding, conflict, obfuscation, evading, disunity, or idolatry any more. Believers [The Body of Christ] at any time and any place on the planet are united to Christ and His body!
What does it mean that we are not under law but under grace? Lots of things, but in regards to the topic at hand—fellowship—at the very least three things:
To Those Under Special Grace Fellowship with God and One Another… It’s a Feast of the Heart.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8)
It’s Important: A Top Priority
1) So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27). Whether we care to embrace this truth or not, our origins dictate our identity… And what exactly, then, is our first priority:
Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? And he said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:36-40).
All of our priorities of life find their roots and fruits in our identity or origins. All of humanity has their being Image Bearers as their origins and identity. But if digging deeply into our identity has not risen to the top of the list of our priorities, we will never find true purpose, contentment, and a reason for living. It’s vitally—life-givingly—important. Period.
If you have any doubts about this first and foundational truism, inquire of the fish how it feels living out of the water; ask of the bird who cannot fly whether its contented; ponder the Redwood with the roots of an Aspen tree [the shallowest] if life is just fine; consider the Eagle with the wings of a moth about the highs and lows of life; or query the child living in anonymity in a narcissistic hellhole… if he or she is happy.
All bets are off when one’s identity is let loose from his or her origins in the Trinity.
2) Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). As we saw last week and above, we are all fallen, dead, sin-filled image bearers of God. So, as a first priority, we must be born again, confess our sins (Romans 10:9), made new creations (2 Corinthians 5:12), indwelt by the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39), baptized (Romans 6:3), made imperishable (1 Peter 1:23), alive (Romans 6:23), adopted (Galatians 3:26), fruitful (Galatians 5:22-23), and committed to do good works in the name of Jesus (Proverbs 16:3).
3) Agreeing with and in the Lord… (Philippians 4:2-3). When our fellowship with God is the summum bonom—the highest good, especially as the ultimate good and goal according to which all other values and priorities are established—our life for time and eternity will be good, very good (Genesis 1:31)! Not perfect, easy, devoid of serious trials and radical joy, but as close to “very good” this side of Eden restored in the home in heaven God has prepared for those whom have faith.
WHEN fellowship with the God of the Bible—in Christ—is formed, fed, flourished, and let loose in the world, THEN fellowship with others is then formed, fed, flourished, and let loose in the world. This is “the ecosystem of ‘Agreeing with and in the Lord’”: WITH God doing life with others IN the Lord.
Romans 12:16 says, [Be] of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Fellowship with God forms a humble spirit of other-centeredness and mutual co-sanctification.
4) Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses (1 Timothy 6:12). Far too many people of God find themselves on the battlefield of the faith with only their boxers on—there’s no armor to be seen… any where. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
It’s an every day, top priority to fight to maintain fellowship with God—and NOT the world, the flesh [our old sinful ways], or the devil [who is alive, mortally wounded and on Christ’s leash, but well and wreaking havoc].
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, … (Ephesians 6:10-18).
Fellowship with Those in the Faith is Important: A Top Priority
Can’t wait to see all y’all at The Training Table next week!
Rules for Walking in Fellowship, John Owen
Fellowship, Forgiveness, and You, John MacArthur
Fellowship: In One Spirit
Membership is Fellowship, John MacArthur