Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Category: Fellowship

Samuel and Confronting Sin

In the Lord’s providence, we finished up our morning series in James and our evening series in Galatians on this past Sunday. It was quite interesting to me that both sermons finished with exhortations to Christians to be confronting sin in the lives of their brothers and sisters.

As I sat and listened to my friend Paul preach on Sunday evening on a topic very similar to how my message had ended on Sunday morning, I thought to myself, ‘What is the Lord teaching us? What is he preparing us for as a church?’

This morning I was reading from 1 Samuel 12, and came across a very relevant passage. Here Samuel, the outgoing judge, has just appointed Saul as the king of Israel. Samuel then addresses the people and confronts their sin. While this is not the main intention of the passage, I think there are some great truths to be gleaned here when it comes to addressing sin in the lives of others.

  1. Samuel spelled out their sin for them.
    Samuel didn’t allude vaguely to some things that they had done which might be considered wrong, but he had specific sin in mind when he addressed the people, and he was direct in letting them know what it was they had done wrong. He called sin sin. Where they had rejected God and preferred other things, he showed them. They were not left guessing as to what he was really getting at, or whether or not it was actually sin.
  2. Samuel let them feel the weight of their sin.
    Granted, Samuel had a pretty cool trick up his sleeve when he was able to make a thunderstorm appear (I don’t know how many of us will be able to use that one), but one thing he was sure to do was show them how serious their sin was. He didn’t let them get away with a merely intellectual acknowledgement of their sin. He made sure they felt it. When Samuel had showed them their sin and how it had angered God, ‘all the people greatly feared the Lord …. all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die…”.’ His conviction about their sin had resulted in their own conviction, confession, and repentance.
  3. Samuel offered the grace of God.
    When they had experienced genuine conviction for their sin, Samuel said, ‘Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.’ In other words, ‘Yeah, you’ve blown it pretty bad. But trust in the Lord and he will forgive you. Remember, he wants your whole heart.’
  4. Samuel assures them with the best reason to hope.
    Why should they trust him? Why should we trust God that we’ll be forgiven when we’re confronted with the reality of our sin? We should hope because of who God is: he will never change. Samuel offers this to his people: ‘For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.’ In other words, God won’t forsake you, because he’s put his own name on you. You’re his people, called by his name and it has been his good will to make you that way. To forsake you now would be to forsake the pursuit of his own glory and his own joy–something which could never, ever happen. God will be faithful to you, because he cannot and will not abandon his pursuit of his own glory and the display of his righteousness. What a comforting thought! Unless God changes, I can never be forsaken. We who are Christians–who live this side of the cross chronologically–can look back and see that faithfulness of God to his people and the committedness of God to his own people infinitely more than even Samuel could. What comfort in the face of conviction!

This all calls for balance and wisdom. I pray that God will give me grace to be able to pursue my brothers and sisters, to confront them on specific sins, to let them feel the weight of those sins which cost Christ his life, but then to offer the grace of God and the comfort of his promised faithfulness.

Fellowship

When our TAG (‘Truth Application Group’) finished up last week we were sharing with each other what we had learned through the group and during the time period of the group. For me, the answer had several parts, but one of the main things that I’ve been thinking about since we started meeting (and one of the things that’s been the greatest blessing to my heart!) is the topic of fellowship.

Too many people use the word and never think about what it means. ‘Fellowship’ is roughly synonymous with ‘participation’; in fact, one Greek word is translated as either ‘fellowship’ or ‘participation’ throughout the NT. To have fellowship, then, means something like ‘to participate in something along with another person who is also participating in the same thing.

Christian fellowship is even more specific, though. 1 John teaches that because we’re in Christ, we have fellowship with God (within the life of the Triune God himself). We have fellowship with one another, then, when we each participate in the life of God and share that experience with each other so that each of us can better experience the life of God (by sharing the other’s experience of the life of God).

That’s all really wordy and convoluted, so I asked my cousin and really cool graphic designer, Josh Rivers, to do a little graphic for me. It’s below.

What I want to highlight from the above picture is this: shared life experiences does not equal fellowship. Just having things in common in this life (ie. being the same age, same marital status, same life stage, etc.) is not fellowship. Fellowship is sharing in each other’s experience of the life of God. It is necessarily God-centred and God-focused.

The lesson from that is this: If we choose our Christian friends the same way the world chooses their non-Christian friends (ie. how are you like me? what earthly things do we have in common? are we the same age / gender? do you have the same interests?) we’re missing out on more than just fellowship with each other. We’re missing out on wonderful, new experiences in the life of God. What a shame!

Below is another graphic from Josh. This one simply shows how as each one grows closer to God and experiences more of his life, it increases the true fellowship that each person can have with each other.

Do you want to be a good friend to a brother or sister? Grow closer to God and you will be inviting them into the life of God, revealing God to them. This is the essence of friendship.

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