Introduction: Hello and welcome to this teaching from Skip Heitzig pastor of Calvary Albuquerque. Skip's messages are shared around the world and we're grateful to hear how God is using them to transform lives. If this message brings you closer to Jesus, we'd love to hear about it. Email us at email@example.com. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give online securely at calvaryabq.org/giving. When we give our lives to Jesus, we become part of God's family. As we connect with him through worship and the Word, it's also important to connect with other believers. We invite you to open your Bibles as Pastor Skip begins the message "Living Life Together."
Skip Heitzig: Good morning. How many of you remember Gilligan's Island? Really? I want to---keep those hands up just a little more, because some of you would have to see reruns because it was a long time ago. Well, congratulations. I remember Gilligan's Island. I hardly ever missed an episode. And, you know, it was about the Skipper and Gilligan. Those were the crew members. And they took five passengers on [singing] "a three-hour tour." And what began as a three-hour tour ended up as a three-year sitcom, ninety-eight episodes. The premise of it was simple. They left Honolulu and they were taking five people out on a nice little excursion. A Pacific storm came their way, they ran aground on an uncharted island, and for three years they were trying to get off.
But what you saw in the episode is how they, from different walks of life and age groups, learned to get together, and how to manage life, how to live their lives together. All the while they were waiting to get rescued. Well, I have thought that the church of Jesus Christ is somewhat like Gilligan's Island. We're on the same boat. We're all on this island called "the world." Some of us feel isolated because of our position in Christ. We are all called to integrate and live life together. All the while we are waiting for the Lord to come and rescue us, so to speak, and take us to heaven, which he will one day. So it's sort of like Gilligan's Island. Now I read one commentator who said he thought the church was more like Noah's ark, that were it not for the storm on the outside, you may not be able to stand the stench on the inside.
I hope that's not true for you. And though it is messy and difficult to deal with human beings, because we are imperfect, still we're part of the best outfit in the world. The church of Jesus Christ was the great idea that Jesus put together and we celebrate that. I want to talk to you about that a little bit today, and principally about interacting with one another, a word we know as "fellowship," a Greek word we also know, koinónia. Most Christians, I've discovered, though they don't know the Greek language, know that word, koinónia. They know a few others, agapé, and a few others. But koinónia is one of the principle words that means "fellowship." It's a word that appears nineteen times in the Greek New Testament.
And it shows up in our word fellowship, communion, community, participation, contribution---all of those often come from the same word, koinónia. But I don't think there's a more overused word or undervalued word like the word "fellowship." We think that we can sanctify any activity at all, as long as we add the word "fellowship" to it. And so we have the Weight Lifters Fellowship. We don't have it, but there conceivably could be. Or the Left-Handed Basket Weaving Fellowship. Or the---[congregant whooping] Oh, all right! [laughter] We've got one in the fellowship out there. [laughter] But it has come to mean in evangelical circles to fellowship means just to hang out together in Jesus' name. "Oh, yeah, we're having fellowship."
It usually includes eating a meal in Jesus' name, having coffee in Jesus' name, maybe a little bit of dessert of gossip in Jesus' name. But I want to speak you to about living life together. I want to begin with a basic principle, I want to show you a proverb, and then I want to look at a group of people in Acts, chapter 2. But I want to begin with a basic principle in Genesis, chapter 2, in the eighteenth verse where we read these words: "The Lord said, 'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.' Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature that was its name.
So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not a helper that was comparable to him." The principle is in the eighteenth verse. "It is not good that man should be alone." The Hebrew construction of that verse accentuates the negativity, so that the negative part is placed at the head of the verse. So it should literally be rendered thus: "Not good, not good is man alone." It's the first time notably that God ever said something was "not good." If you know the story of Genesis, you know that God created different things on different days, and after each time he did it, he said, "It is good," until now, "It is not good that man should be alone." So to fix the problem, God did something very good. Adam would agree. Her name was Eve.
And the Lord brought Eve, that woman, to that man. Before I was married, I thought it was good to be alone. In fact, I thought it was pretty great to be alone. I had a good life. I lived three blocks from the ocean. I had a very quiet roommate, and I had a cat named Scissors who showed up every three weeks, [laughter] a stack of surfboards in the corner---life was good. I'm sure that for Adam certain things were good about life. The simplicity for Adam was good. He had a direct relationship with God his Creator. Very few rules. He had what most guys dream of---a perfect environment, no traffic in the garden of Eden, no taxes, no mortgage. And so life was simple, and that part was good. His responsibility load was pretty good, right? He had, like, the best job ever. He got to name animals.
I read an article this week about the ten best jobs in the world the article said. Now I think they were just talking about jobs in our country, but there was a list of best ten jobs. I won't tell you all of them, but among the best jobs in the world, they say, is being a personal trainer, a photographer, a songwriter, a massage therapist, and an optometrist. I would rank what Adam did as being in the top ten. And I've always enjoyed the concept, the idea that he began the day very ambitious. And so, "Hip-po-pot-a-mus"---long, scientific sounding word. By the end of the day he was just bone tired---"Dog, cat." [laughter] But, "God said, 'It's not good that [he] should be alone.' " What does that mean?
It means, among other things, that God created us, wired us for companionship, that there is another dimension to human beings other than just physicality. There is spiritualty. There is the social element. People require other people. It's how we're made. Dr. Leonard Cammer, a psychiatrist who for thirty years has specialized in treating depression, said, "The human being is the only species that can't survive alone. The human being needs another human being." So, community then is the norm; it's the divine norm. It's how we grow. It's how we develop. You don't grow emotionally, and you won't grow spiritually, unless you have other people. You know, before I was married I thought I was the most wonderful person in the world.
When I was alone, I mean, I was nice to me, kind to me. And because I didn't really have to deal with anyone except a very quiet roommate and a cat named Scissors, I could afford to think that way. And so what happened? God brought the woman to the man and that companionship caused me to realize I'm not so much what I thought I was. And it was that tough interaction of getting along together that honed and still does hone, as sandpaper, taking off the rough edges and the flaws. So that's the basic principle: "It is not good that man should be alone." I want to follow that up by a proverb, a bolstering proverb to this truth, and that's in Proverbs, chapter 18. The first verse says, "A man who isolates himself seeks his own desires; he rages against all wise judgment."
Followed up by verse 2, which I think is part of the context. "A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart." And then now go down to verse 24 of Proverbs 18, which is really the antidote to it all. "A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Here's the proverb, the first verse: "A man who isolates himself rages against all wise judgment." That verse tells me, among other things, that there are events that occur to all of us in life. There are things that happen in our lives that cause us to tend to be isolated. That's the first reaction. We want to be alone. We want to be isolated. We don't want people around.
What are those events? Past hurts, being rejected, a physical ailment that you're dealing with, painful relationships that you have been involved in. And it gets a person to a place---I've seen it time and time and time again---where that person says, "Why should I ever be vulnerable again? All that happens is I get hurt." So what that person learns to do is a coping mechanism. They put walls up around their lives. They build high castle walls, like a medieval castle, and it protects them, but it also alienates and isolates them. And they find themselves rattling around in that castle to their own peril. And that's how they live their entire lives.
The name Albert Speer will be familiar to you, if you've studied World War II history. He was the closest associate to Adolf Hitler. He was an architect and Hitler admired him for his skill. And he was sentenced at the Nuremberg Trials. He was placed in prison and after prison he wrote a book called Inside the Third Reich. He talks about Hitler and his relationship with him. He said, "Probably I would be called Hitler's closest friend," he said, "if that's even possible." For according to Albert Speer, Adolf Hitler couldn't respond to friendship. He repelled human interaction and friendship. He did exactly what this psalm warns us of---he isolated himself and he sought his own desire. "It's not good that man should be alone." "A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire."
There's been a debate raging for years in the justice system, especially the prison system, about solitary confinement. It is a type of punishment in a prison system where a person is completely alienated from human being interaction, and that social depravation was intended to break a person. However, in almost every case they've studied, it never improves a person; it always will worsen that person. If you're trying to fix a person, they say all that will do is just break him and turn him almost into an animal. So we need---by design, by experience---fellowship and interaction. But I'll warn you---you need to know this---fellowship is messy. It's messy business. It is not clean. It is not benign. It is not tame. It is not easy.
It's dangerous, because it means that you will have to risk actually lowering the walls that you have erected, and letting people in, and sharing perhaps---not the first night, not the first time, maybe down the road, but at some point---who you really are, the baggage. You'll discover something, however, when you bring up the baggage---they already know about you and that baggage. You'll be surprised that they have already accepted you. When Jesus spoke about the people he had come to redeem, he listed it in the synagogue that he went to preach in, in Nazareth. And we know the text, but I think we overlook the group and the description.
Here's the passage. Jesus stood up and said, " 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach to gospel to the poor,' " quoting the prophet Isaiah. " 'He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and to set at liberty those who are oppressed.' "Beautiful passage, but did you get a load of the description of the people? "Poor," "brokenhearted," "captive," "blind," "oppressed"---does that sound like a messy bunch? It does because it is. That's our description. That's the church of Jesus Christ. That's who we are. We come redeemed, but we come warts and all, this way.
Basic principle: "It's not good that man should be alone." The proverb: "A man who isolates himself does so to his own hurt or seeks his own desire." Now, Acts, chapter 2, I want you to look at a few passages with me. Acts, chapter 2, the people of God, the church of God is born in chapter 2 of Acts. It's a few years before 40 AD. Takes place at this huge festival in Jerusalem, a Jewish festival called Pentecost where thousands upon thousands of people have gathered. And in one day the church grows from 120 to 3,120 people. Three thousand people respond and this little church in Acts is overwhelmed.
Verse 41, Acts 2, "Then those who gladly received his word," Peter's preaching, "were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continue steadfastly," [or perhaps a better way to put it is they devoted themselves wholeheartedly], "to the apostles' doctrine," [so it's a learning church], "and fellowship," [so it's a loving church], "in the breaking of bread and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need."
"And so continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved." Now this early church that we're reading about in Acts didn't look anything like this church. There was no church building. There were no church properties at the time. There was no staff of people. But there were people, and that's what a church is, it's people. The word church, ekklésia, means a group of people who are called out. We're called out of the world. We're called to integrate together.
We are the church and we must have fellowship with each other, and a that's the---that's the second category in verse 42, "And fellowship," partnership, community, commonality, the sharing of the life of Jesus together. Now fellowship is not primarily a social activity, it is primarily a spiritual activity; that is, it is getting social over spiritual matters. That's what it is---getting social over spiritual matters. There's a few things I want you to notice about the fellowship of the early church. First of all, the fellowship included all believers. All believers had it. Verse 44, it says, "Now all who believed," and I checked that in the Greek, by the way, the word "all" does mean all.
Just in case you really want---"Well, what does the Greek say? Maybe it means 'most all.' " No. It means all. "All who believed were together and had all things in common." So every one of them got together, and as we keep reading in the book of Acts, we find out they got together on the first day of the week (Acts, chapter 20), to celebrate the resurrection. "Now as was their custom, on the first day of the week they came together to break bread." To fail to participate in a local church will go against a direct command of Scripture and against the pattern laid out in the New Testament. I've heard it. You've heard it. "Well, God is everywhere. Why do I need to go anywhere?"
Because you and I need something that can't be provided on an Instagram post, or a tweet, or on the Internet, or watching a service (a church service) on the computer, or hearing it by radio, or seeing on television. You and I need something that comes with a group dynamic. And in Hebrews 10 we're told that "We ought to consider each other to stir up love and good works, and not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some." So the fellowship included all believers; that's the first thing I want you to make note of. Second thing about their fellowship is that the all of the needs in the congregation were being met. All the needs were being met.
Verse 45, "And they sold their possessions and goods, and they divided them among all, as anyone had need." This is a loving church. Now this pulling together of resources was voluntary. It was not mandatory. It was not compulsory. They took it upon themselves to share what they had with other people and meet the need of believers. As John Stott said, "Christian fellowship means Christian caring, and Christian caring means Christian sharing," and they did that. It included all believers. The believers' needs were met. And the third thing I'd like you to notice about their fellowship is that it had a structure to it, a twofold structure: first part, in the temple; second part, from house to house.
We notice that in verse 46. "So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart." Now the temple---you have to just picture in your mind a forty-five-acre complex with buildings and humongous courtyards. And they would meet in the temple courtyards, specifically they met in Solomon's porch. They didn't have coffee like we do. This was the courtyard, the portico called Solomon's porch or portico. And that was the place where anybody could gather, any group could gather for instruction and inspiration. And so thousands of people, the church gathered in Solomon's portico, the temple for inspiration and instruction.
That's the formal meeting place. The informal meeting place is the next part of the structure, from house to house. Now, those two structures that go together give two different messages. The first structure, the formal structure, the temple structure says, "The apostle has something to say." They gave themselves to the apostle's doctrine. The house to house says, "You have something to say and we want to hear it." The first structure, the temple, says "God is Most High," while meeting from house to house says, "God is most nigh," he is close, he is intimate. So they did it in the temple and they did it from house to house. That's how their fellowship was structured.
Homes are better than cafes, restaurants, Starbucks, Teavanas, or wherever you want to hang out---all of those are good. And we have Connect Groups, by the way, that meet in a variety of places. But why is a home better? Because that's where the family is. It's a family setting. It's a more intimate and controlled setting. It's a safer setting. And so this twofold structure was Bible study in the context of community. Two quick facts I want you to make note of. Number one, the church was getting large. They went from 120, as I mentioned, to 3,120 in one day, by the time we get to Acts, chapter 12, before the scattering abroad through Judea happens.
New Testament scholars tell us the church has upwards of twenty to twenty-five thousand people, much larger than our church. Twenty-five thousand people, and yet they all had fellowship and needs were being met. How is that possible? It's only possible with the twofold structure: temple and house to house. And it's possible because they devoted themselves to it, Acts 2:42 tells us. They made it their deal. "They gave themselves wholeheartedly to the apostles' doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayers." Now I want to address something. I want to say something, and I can because I have a microphone, so I shall. [laughter]
I've heard this before. It goes like this: "Well, this church a just too big. I'm going to leave and find a smaller church." I understand that. We all have the freedom to do that, of course. However, when I hear that, I say, "Well, you must also pray that the church you find never grows." They're usually shocked by that. "Well, why would you say that?" "Because if it grows too large, you're going to feel uncomfortable again, and you're going to need a smaller group to go to." And on and on and on and on it goes. Listen, you can have a church of twenty people, two hundred people, or twenty-five thousand people. And you can be isolated and disconnected, or you can be connected and integrated and find fellowship. You can.
And I will agree, there is "a fellowship crisis" in this nation in the modern church. A book that shaped my thinking, I still have it and I read it from time to time, it's called The Trouble with Wineskins by Howard Snyder. This is what he writes: "The church today is suffering a fellowship crisis. One seldom finds within the institutionalized church today the winsome intimacy among people where masks are dropped, honesty prevails, and there is that sense of communication and community beyond the human. 'Our churches are filled with people who outwardly look contented and at peace, but inwardly they are crying out for someone to love them . . . just as they are.' "
You can be sitting here this morning and be surrounded by God's people this morning and still be alone this morning deep inside. And so we have Connect Groups, the house to house fellowship. They're not mandatory; they're voluntary. We're not going to check your small group fellowship card at the door before you're allowed to come and worship with us on the weekend. You can take them or you can leave them. I suggest that you take them, and try this out. We're going to start a series in a couple weeks called Jesus Loves People. Just commit to Connect Groups during that series---that's all I'm asking, just that series---and see if it doesn't benefit and change your Christian dynamic.
One of the things I notice every year around fall, even early winter, is the geese that fly from north to south, and they fly in a 'V' formation. And you can hear them. I mean, I'm inside the house, door shut, I hear them and I go outside to look at them. They fly in this wonderful 'V' formation. And the way it works is that the goose in front is actually providing lift for the ones behind. And the 'V' formation enables geese to fly 71 percent further than if they were to try to go it alone. They can go that much further in a group than on their own.
If when they're flapping their wings and flying in formation, if one gets out of formation, gets too far away from the crowd, he notices immediately because of the resistance, the air drag, and so he'll get back in to take advantage of the lift. The lead goose, when he gets tired, will just sort of go back in formation, and someone else will step in and do the flapping as the lead one, and then get tired, and someone else will take it, and on and on it goes. The honking that you hear, by the way, those are the ones in the back who are encouraging the ones in the front to keep the pace, to keep the flight, to keep the time, so to speak.
Something else I learned about the formation of these geese: if one falls because it's hurt, it's injured, it's sick, two will accompany it. Two will accompany it and stay with that injured goose until it dies or it gets better and then join the rest. You know, I read that and I thought, "We need some practical goose sense around here." [laughter] We are going to achieve our goals better more with a group than on our own. If we share a common direction and a sense of community, we're going to be able to make it better with the thrusts of other people. So, do you want an uplifting experience? Truly, you need both the large-group and the small-group dynamic. I just think that's spiritual health.
Let's pray for that. Father, thank you for the pattern that is given to us. We don't even have to find large books on the purpose and meaning of the church, we just look at your Book and find the pattern given to us by the first ones who do it. The prototype is there. And we learn that they gathered and they committed themselves to learn Scripture through the teaching of the apostles. They were a learning church. And we have that in so many different Bible studies availabilities. But beyond that they had fellowship, they broke bread, and they prayed together. So, Father, we thank you that you've given us so many leaders, and we pray for hundreds more in the leading of these groups. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.
Closing: The body of Christ encourages, comforts, and challenges us as we grow closer to the Lord. How will you engage in community and discipleship? Let us know when you email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And just a reminder: you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/giving. Thank you for listening to this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque.