Devern Fromke * Stanford E. Murrell
“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13).
The Objective: Finding Fellowship with God
One of the great challenges of the Christian life is to have daily devotions in order to spend time with the Lord. While Bible studies are important, while learning doctrine is essential, there is no substitute for personal devotions. But the question is how this is done.
Establishing a Sacred Time
In order to establish and maintain a devotional life, the concept of sacred time must be recognized.Sacred time is special time set aside specifically for the Lord. As a church body we have sacred time on Wednesday when individuals meet for prayer and study of the Scriptures. We have sacred time on Sunday morning when two hours are set aside for worship.
The concept of sacred time is found in creation. In Genesis 3:8 there is a strong inference that Adam and Eve were accustomed to meeting with the Lord each day around sunset. “And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.”
Only one thing kept Adam and Eve from wanting to keep their appointed time with the Lord, and that was sin. Nevertheless, grace found a way to overcome the reluctance. Grace found a way to bring Adam and Eve back into the sphere of divine fellowship. Grace still finds a way to bring souls into fellowship with the Sovereign. We are encouraged to establish a meeting time, a sacred time, to be with the Lord.
David established this time early in the morning.
“Unto thee have I cried, O LORD; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee” (Psalms 88:13).
“I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble” (Psalms 59:16).
“Morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned” (Isaiah 50:4).
“I prevented [i.e. I am up before] the dawning of the morning, and cried: I hoped in thy word (Psalms 119:147)”
D. L. Moody once said, We ought to see the face of God every morning before we see the face of man.
Other saints have found quietness in the stillness of the evening or late at night. Whatever time is chosen, let it be kept as an appointment for fellowship with the Lord—which is life’s ultimate privilege. What might begin as a gospel duty will become a grand delight, as there is growth in grace and knowledge.
The Doctrine of Spiritual Fellowship
The New Testament speaks about koinonia, or fellowship, in the following passages.
The early community of disciples found spiritual fellowship around doctrine, closeness, communion, and prayer. Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Every believer has the privilege of fellowship with Jesus Christ. “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9).
One of the early church fathers, Origen (c.185-254) took this calling serious and prayed, “Jesus, my feet are dirty. Come even as a slave to me, pour water into your bowl, come and wash my feet. In asking such a thing I know I am overbold, but I dread what was threatened when you said to me, ‘If I do not wash your feet I have no fellowship with you.’ Wash my feet then, because I long for your companionship.”
The believer is commanded to break fellowship with an individual who is involved with the occult or practices evil continually. “But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils” (1 Cor. 10:20). “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11).
Christians are never to knowingly enter into fellowship with unbelievers. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14).
Ministering to the saints is an expression of the spiritual koinonia. “Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints” (2 Cor. 8:4).
Christian fellowship is expressed in part by extending a kiss, a hug, or a hand, of love and grace to others. Some physical gestures, for Christians, are not meant to be social amenities but spiritual signs of mercy. “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision” (Gal. 2:9).
“And to make all men see what is the fellowship [i.e. oikonomia, administration] of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:9).
The gospel of Jesus Christ is designed to unite souls. “For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:5).
The fellowship of the local community is rooted in a common enjoyment or partnership with the Holy Spirit. “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies” (Phil. 2:1).
Physical, mental, and emotional suffering enables the believer to identify with the person and work of Christ. Paul wanted to experience what Christ experienced and to make the Lord’s sufferings his own. “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Phil. 3:10).
Communication of gospel truth draws people into apostolic fellowship. “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).
One clear manifestation of fellowship with the Father is to walk in the light. “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6).
In as far as believers walk in truth and in the light the basis for true fellowship exists, and the forum is found for cleansing and forgiveness of sins. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Four Facets of Fellowship
We can meet with the Lord daily. “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).
“Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors” (Prov. 8:34).
Twelve percent of all American adults read the Bible every day of the week; while 52 percent do not read it at all. Another 33 percent read the Scriptures at least once during a typical week. (Barna Research Group, May 9, 1991. “To Verify,” Leadership).
Percentage of American households with a Bible: 92 %
Percentage of Americans who read the Bible outside religious services: 37 (Virtual America (The Barna Report 1994-95). “To Verify,” Leadership.)
We can commune with Christ intimately. “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2 Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Phil. 2:1-2).
There are two attitudes toward personal devotions. One is that it is drudgery. “How many Christians look upon it as a burden and a duty and a difficulty to get alone with God! That is the great hindrance to our Christian life everywhere.” (Andrew Murray)
The other is that the time is well spent. “God has hemmed me in to nothing, that I man have nothing, do nothing, want nothing, save Himself.” (Jim Elliot, The Journals of Jim Elliot)
We can participate in the Lord’s purpose. “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:9).
We can become partners with the Lord. “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;” (Phil. 3:10).
Anything, and everything. A Christian minister who lived in another century confessed, “I throw myself down in my chamber, and I call in and invite God and his angels thither, and when they are there, I neglect God and his angels, for the noise of a fly, for the rattling of a coach, for the whining of a door.” (John Donne in Sermons (No. 80). Christianity Today, Vol. 31, no. 10).