Practical Application of the Word of God
More and more among Christians, the emphasis is on fellowshipping – I recently heard two statements about a sizable Christian gathering that specifically said the main reason people were there was to see each other and be with each other (not to worship God or to learn more about God and His word) – with each other as a primary activity of congregations.
While there is a place and time for fellowship with faithful believers and doers, this lopsided emphasis on human fellowship never includes God and Jesus Christ, with whom we must have the most intimate, most constant, and most continuous fellowship before any and all other fellowship.
Without this kind of fellowship with God and Jesus Christ, our fellowship with other congregants is meaningless, because there is no spiritual depth and spiritual maturity in the relationships.
There is a superficial profession of faith and belief, but it stops at lip service (while going through the motions, the fruit simply is not there) and the conversations are often about the same things we might discuss with someone in our everyday encounters with people we interact with at work, in doing our errands, in social activities.
This always causes me to stop and pause because interspersed with this idea of fellowshipping are the concepts of likemindedness and unity, which supposedly will lead to a human support system that will get us through anything now and for eternity.
And this is where the caveats come in.
Likemindedness is the first caveat. Unity is the second caveat. Left in a void without any qualifications makes likemindedness and unity both potential slippery slopes that Christians can find themselves on before they even realize what has happened.
There are questions we as Christians must ask ourselves about likemindedness and unity. One of these questions is likemindedness and unity with what? An organization? Another person? Other people? A set of human ideas (commandments and traditions of humans)?
Generally, these things are what is being implicitly referred to and what likemindedness and unity means when we hear it in terms of human fellowship within a Christian context.
The problem with this is that we can have likemindedness and unity with a group of other people, but not have complete or any likemindedness and unity with God, Jesus Christ, and the word of God. In that case, being likeminded and having unity does us absolutely no good because we are out of step with God, Jesus Christ, and the word of God, and, therefore, we are on a wrong path leading away from them.
There’s a very relevant example of this in God’s word. If you haven’t read the book of Daniel in a while, I would suggest that you go back and read it carefully and think about how it applies to the concept of a congregation, fellowship, and likemindedness and unity.
The book of Daniel occurred in the time of the Jewish exile to Babylon. We’re told some very interesting information in the first chapter of the book:
“3 Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles,
4 young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans.
5 And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king.
6 Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
7 To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego.
8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
9 Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs.
10 And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king.”
11 So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,
12 ‘Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink.
13 Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king’s delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.’
14 So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days.
15 And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies.
16 Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.
17 As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
18 Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.
19 Then the king interviewed them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king.”
There is a lot to glean from here about our subject.
We see is that there were a group of young men chosen from the tribe of Judah (a fellowship), who had been taking into captivity because of Judah’s unfaithfulness to God, to serve Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon.
Yet out of this fellowship, only Daniel, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abed-Nego) took a stand to be faithful to God and not defile themselves with the food provided by Nebuchadnezzar (implied here is that much of the king’s food would have been what God declared unclean for His holy people in Leviticus 11; while many people who claim to be Christians – and, therefore, God’s holy people – today ignore what God says on this subject, if we claim to be His holy people now, then why would we defile ourselves with what God Himself declares to be unclean food for human consumption?).
The rest of the fellowship of Jewish young men just went along with what Nebuchadnezzar did and said and defiled themselves with the Babylonian food for 10 days. Had Daniel, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abed-Nego) been likeminded and in unity with their Jewish brethren, they would have defiled themselves too.
And this highlights the reason why we must always consciously and deeply consider and carefully choose what we are likeminded and in unity with and to whom? God, Jesus Christ, and God’s word must always be the source and the core of our likemindedness and our unity and we must be always at one with God, Jesus Christ, and God’s word, even if we are the only ones in our fellowship striving for 100% faithfulness to them and to the truth.
Too often, the emphasis on oneness among Christians leaves out the part of the equation that must precede oneness in the human realm, and that is that we must be in complete agreement, which is demonstrated by who we are, what we say, and what we do, with God and Jesus Christ first, foremost, and only, not organizations, not a person, and not other people who may or may not be at one with God and Jesus Christ.
We see two more examples of this in the book of Daniel.
In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego (we can only assume that Daniel was elsewhere and not a part of this gathering, based on the next example we’ll see involving Daniel’s faithfulness to God) alone refused to worship the statue of Nebuchadnezzar, even though the penalty for doing so was death.
What was the rest of their fellowship (excepting Daniel, the other Jewish young men who had been chosen to serve the king) doing? Bowing down to the image! Again, had these three young men chosen likemindedness and unity with their fellowship, they would have chosen to be out of fellowship with God by disobeying the first and second commandments that God gave to His holy people.
The second example in the book of Daniel (and, in this case, Daniel was targeted because of the favor God gave him with the Babylonian and Persian rulers) is when Daniel refused to disobey – with the same death penalty – the same two commandments that God gave His holy people.
What was the rest of their fellowship (excepting Sharach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, the other Jewish young men who had been chosen to serve the king) doing? Obeying the proclamation not to petition any god or man other than Darius for 30 days! Again, had Daniel been likeminded and in unity with his fellowship, he would have chosen to disobey God and obey human dictates.
The lessons are clear for us. There is no likemindedness and unity in fellowships and fellowshipping that is not preceded by likemindedness and unity with God, Jesus Christ, and the word of God first.
If we choose to be likeminded and in unity in our fellowship and fellowshipping in a human context first and only – and that fellowship is not entirely or at all in sync with God, Jesus Christ, and the word of God, then we are, essentially, putting something else above God in our lives, in our faith, in our worship, and we are no different than the majority of the Jewish young men chosen to serve the king who went along with everything they were told to do despite the fact that it disobeyed God and His word.
Again, there is balance here. I am not in any way dissing fellowship among those who are 100% faithful to God, Jesus Christ, and God’s word. However, too often, in Christian fellowships, loyalty and faithfulness to organizations, a person, people, and the commandments and traditions of men are elevated above God, Jesus Christ and the word of God and that becomes the standard of likemindedness and unity.
This can never be our standard as faithful Christians. God, Jesus Christ, and the word of God must be the bottom line, the last word, and the consistent and only thing that we give our all and allegiance to. Anything else is disobedience to God and it is idolatry.