This lesson is a foundational lesson about walking with God in His grace. If an any doubt, start here after the gospel lesson. We always have to fight the balance between our part and His part in our walk with God. Salvation is all His part–we ARE NOT saved by works. However, we are called to pursue holiness in the power of the gospel. We can easily get things mixed up and live life working to please God instead of knowing Him and resting on His righteousness.
Relationship and Fellowship: The difference defined
One of the hardest things to understand in the Christian life is how to walk this life out. In the gospel, we see that our good works have nothing to do with our salvation. He graciously draws us to himself and gives us life through the righteous life and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. This is a free gift that is received by faith (Romans 3:21-26). Yet, we see places where God calls us to strive to grow more in him and places where we are called to live in good works.
Many times, people sit back and say, “well, there is nothing I can do—God does it all.” Others live their lives in good works trying to “win” his favor. Both of these are not Biblical.
If we are confused as to which of these is true, we will not walk fully in the truth and the freedom that He has called us to. There are two separate concepts at play. These concepts are relationship and fellowship.
Relationship: a state in Christ based on God’s choosing (free gift) and his faithfulness, it never goes away, and we cannot earn it
•Depends on birth (new birth/new heart/new creation)—
Ezekiel 36:25-27, 2 Corinthians 5:16-19, John 3:5-7
•Not because of our effort, It is a gift
Ephesians 2:4-8, Romans 3:21-25, 2 Timothy1:9, Titus 3:4-7
•God’s faithfulness begins and completes it
Ephesians 1:3-10, Philippians 1:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:24 , Psalm 57:2, Psalm 138:8
Example: The best place to understand this concept is family relationships. Your mom never ceases to be your mom. The DNA is there or the adoption contract. No matter what the state of affairs is between you or whether she is alive or dead, she will always be your mom.
Question to answer: Are you in Christ? Do you have a relationship with him?
Fellowship: defines the quality of the relationship
How well are you getting along with your heavenly Father?
Question to answer: What is the day to day status or quality of your relationship with God?
•Requires DILIGENT effort on our part
•Depends on our behavior
•Not about earning God’s favor (because the relationship status is secure) but about knowing him more
•Carries on the sanctification process. Sanctification means becoming more like Christ. The Holy Spirit is in you doing this work as you make decisions to walk in holiness (walking in the character of God).
•Relationship status alone does not guarantee a good relationship (ex. On Facebook, when you look at someone’s status it includes their relational status. Married, single, dating ____ or it’s complicated. From this information, you only know the relational status and not the quality of the relationship. We all know that simply being “in” a relationship is only a small part of the story. It takes time and observation to see the quality of a relationship)
•Involves working out your salvation (There is a difference between having a gym membership and actually participating by working out at your gym. Just like there is a difference in owning cookware and recipes and actually cooking with the tools you have to create a recipe.)
Example 1. You are your mom are always in relationship, but there are times that the quality of your relationship is better than others. This is dependant upon spending time together and communicating to connect/get along. To solve a conflict or to bring growth, there must be a coming together and communication.
Example 2. The quality of a marriage is always changing. What would happen if a couple rested on where they were on their first day of marriage but progressed no further? What if a friendship did not change from the first day you were introduced? How would the quality of your relationships be if you never walked through conflict together sharing your feelings and repenting of sins?
Read Philippians 2:12-13
•What does Paul command to the Cornithians (and us) to do?
•Does He command something apart from God’s help?
•What is the relationship between our effort and God’s work?
Reflect on the following phrases:
V 12—have always obeyed… (active)
V 13 CONTINUED (thought of continued perserverence) to WORK OUT (thought of effort) salvation with fear and trembling
From these words and phrases you can see spiritual growth as an ongoing process. Defining it as a one time thing is as absurd as a marriage that ends with work at the wedding. God definitely is aiding in a believer’s growth, but there seems to be a sense of continued obedience, effort and perseverance.
So, if fellowship is what we are called to, how do we pursue fellowship with God? We pursue fellowship with God through obedience—not to win his attention but to know Him more—becoming more like Him.
OBEDIENCE IS NOT:
•Determined external compliance or merely following the Law…(living by legalism)
Jesus described the Pharisees, who perfectly obeyed the law, as white-washed tombs. On the outside they looked clean because they seemed to obey all the rules. However, in their hearts and minds they did not love God. They were dead on the inside.
•The Pharisees obeyed a system of outward rules that were their outward interpretations of the law given by God. They sought to be pleasing to God by the outward actions, and Jesus challenged them that they missed the mark because they ignored the states of their hearts.
•Further study of this concept—Matthew 5-7—Sermon on the Mount.
OBEDIENCE THAT IS HONORING:
•Flows from a heart that loves God and wants to please Him
•1 John 5:3 “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.”
•Because of our new birth (relationship), we have the Holy Spirit to enable us for growth to obey God (Ezekiel 36::27)
•Matthew 22:37-38 Jesus is asked what the most important commandments to obey are. These commandments are what the whole Bible rests on.
•What are these great commandments that we are to obey?
•Do you understand how these commandments deal with your heart instead of just outside actions? Do you see times in your life where you try to look obedient but your heart is not?
•Obedience to God is not bondage put the pathway to true freedom
We are not prisoners to or slaves of sin anymore because God has saved us through Jesus, but the reality of sin is still there within us. We just have a new master–Christ. The Spirit enables us to choose obedience/righteousness.
•Obedience brings an examined life…’Search me, O God and know my heart, test me and know my thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.’ Psalm 139:23-24
Read 2 Peter 1:3-11
•What does this passage say that God has given those in Christ?
•What is the purpose of these gifts from God?
•What are the places these verses call for your obedience? How active are you to be in pursuing these qualities?
•What is the purpose for growing in these qualities?
•How are these qualities related to fellowship with the Father?
What keeps you from genuine fellowship with God?
•Unconfessed Sin—like Adam and Eve this sin breaks our fellowship with God and we want to hide and make coverings for our sin on our own.
•Closed/forgetful eyes. We are lulled to sleep by treasuring temporal things above our greatest treasure, Christ.
Read Romans 8:12-17
•What does the flesh represent in contrast to the Spirit?
•What do these verses command you to do in regards to the flesh/deeds of the body?
•What is our hope in these verses? By whose power to we put sin to death?
•What relational terms are we reminded of in this passage?
God commands us to put to death sin in the prior verses and commands us to make every effort to pursue the things of his character.
How do you make every effort and where exactly do you need to make a plan? The following are ways to fellowship with God.
•Spending Time in prayer focusing on relating with God and knowing Him for who He is and not demanding from Him.
•Studying God’s word. Being shaped by, reminded of, and growing in the knowledge of God’s word takes discipline and time. Not being in it leads us desperately off course. We begin to mold God into our own image instead of being transformed by who He is from His truth. Life and God then become about us and our comfort instead of the Truth of the Gospel.
•Memorizing Scripture Meditating on and examining your heart with scripture by memorizing it changes you from within. The Holy Spirit then reminds you of the truth you have memorized when you need it most.
•Creating spaces of silence. Turning off your cell phone, computer, radio, ipod, tv—to listen and quiet your heart before God.
•Fasting. Learning that God is your only true need, your only true provider and sustainer.
•Serving in the Body of Christ. Looking for opportunities to serve and love others and move beyond yourself—you are needed. He made us One as the body of Christ. We need one another’s love, encouragment, and service.
•Making tangible efforts to order life to avoid sin. Starving places of sin that we may be inadvertently feeding by different means whether it is who we are around, what we watch, where we go…
•Making tangible efforts to pursue righteousness. Connecting with the body, fellowship, service, using your gifts, etc
•Confessing and Repenting of Sin. Repentance is turning from the sin with the Spirit’s help. This includes seeing where we are enemies of God/disobedient in our hearts, naming those places and making every effort to cling to Him in overcoming those places. This is a specific and daily practice. Most of the time, with time in prayer and His word, He will bring conviction. There is also a time and place where we may need to confess to others if they have been hurt by our sin.
Our prayer is that you take these truths that you are God’s through Christ if you have put your faith in Christ’s work. You are accepted by God not by anything you have done—only because of Christ. You do not need to prove your worth to Him. He does call you pursue fellowship and grow in Him. Please utilize these acts of fellowship to pursue Him with all your heart!
Do I Know God? Tullian Tchvidian
For definition concepts of relationship and fellowship
Respectable Sins Jerry Bridges
For concept of dependant responsibility