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Sep 17, 2023

Building Spiritual Family Fellowship

Passage: 1 John 1:5-7

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Life Together

Keywords: darkness, encouragement, fellowship, light, serving, comfort, devoted to the saints, one-anothers, humility through confession, shared prayer


This second message in this short series on Fellowship focuses on a handful of the things God calls His children to if we are to experience the kind of sharing of the life of Jesus among ourselves in fellowship.


Building Fellowship in our Spiritual Family

Life Together Series—Fall 2023

1 John 1:5-7

September 17, 2023

1 John 1

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.


            Last week we continued our Family Camp theme of “Fellowship”.  We saw from this first chapter of 1st John that THE most important aspect of experiencing great fellowship with other Christ-followers on the human plain is having great fellowship with God.  We looked at ways to deepen our fellowship with every member of the Trinity:  God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. 

CHECK:  (Show Spiritual Practices list.) 

So how did it go last week?  Did you actually add in any new “fellowship-engagement” with God?  Deepen an existing fellowship experience with Him?  How did that bring more “light”…more of the presence/person of God…into your experience? 

            Today’s text picks up one of the Apostle John’s favorite images of God—light—and applies it to the sphere of fellowship in the family of God.  Light and darkness is a common theme in the Bible.  That’s because the Bible is all about God and, as John tells us here in vs. 5, “God IS light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 

Light & Darkness Theme in the Bible

  • Darkness is used metaphorically for evil and for the lack of the presence of God, even for hell itself.
  • Light is used of God himself and of the purity, holiness and righteousness of all God is and does and of what life is like in right relationship with God.

ILL:  Renound physicist and atheist Steven Hawking:  "There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”  To which some Christian responded, “Well, atheism is a lie of God-deniers who are afraid of the light.”

John is reinforcing here in 1st John what Jesus said in the Gospel of John:

John 12:46—I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

John 8:12—“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Essentially, every moment we are truly following Jesus is a moment we will not be in the darkness of sin or evil.  Only in those times when we choose sin instead of God does our life begin to take on the characteristics of people disconnected from God.

ILL:  That happens too often, sadly, in the relationships where it should least happen—between God’s people who know what living in the light of Christ is like but still too often choose the darkness of themselves or some other gods rather than submission to God at various times. 

  • Marriages in conflict.
  • Churches in conflict.
  • Christian friends in conflict.

Wherever there is a poverty of fellowship, we can attribute it to people walking, to some degree, in the darkness of sin.  This is why John can tell us in vs. 7, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.” And he will go on and tell us the opposite is true:

1 John 2:9Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.

1 John 2:11But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

What a description of conflicted churches or marriages or Christians!

            When it comes to conflict between God’s kids, rarely, if ever, is one Christ-follower 100% right and the other is 100% wrong.  It may begin that way—with one person walking in blatant sin and the conflict arising from them being confronted with that sin by a brother or sister who is not walking in that sin. 

But in almost every prolonged loss of fellowship or presence of conflict between two or more, the darkness of sin usually comes to play a part in that lack of fellowship in both parties.  That’s why Paul says in Galatians 6:1 when talking to us about how to help a brother/sister who is walking in sin, Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” 

            Fellowship with one another will always be a direct reflection of the fellowship we are having…or not having… with God.   Christian fellowship is a sharing of the life of Jesus Christ together when we are together.  It flows from what we have “in common” in Christ when we come together. 

APP:  So, if we are longing for deeper fellowship with our spiritual family, the best thing we can do to experience that is to press into Christ ourselves.  I can’t make you walk in the light more.  I can only choose to do so myself.  And as I do, I will certainly be a brother in Christ who will be inviting you into life with me in Jesus.  And anyone else who is walking in the light is going to be attracted to others who are doing the same.  Just as those without the life of Christ in them usually prefer to hang out with others who are walking in darkness like they are, so those who are experiencing the light of Christ in their souls will naturally want to walk in that light with others experiencing the same. 

            WHY does it seem so hard at times to experience good fellowship with one another?  The answers to that question are multitudinous, as deep as they are wide.  The reality is, there is more darkness in each of us than we see or want to see.  The entire Christian life is an experience of inviting the light of Christ to invade more dark or darkened corners of my life.  Life has a way of blinding us to those thoughts, emotions, reactions and ideas that are not in agreement with those of God. 

ILL:  Path of Life event on Thursday night.  The tech crew was having problems getting the audio to play on several different videos.  I’m sitting there as a not-so-light-filled pastor thinking, “How is it that the host church staffed the technical team with people who don’t know how to get the audio on simple videos?”  Quite loving, merciful and kind of me, right?

            Thankfully, Sherrie, the Director of Path of Life, was leading the address at that time.  Instead of getting frustrated with the tech team, the light of Jesus just came out of here with a comment like, “Oh, I feel so bad for our wonderful technical people at times like this.  How frustrating to be in their shoes right now and how grateful I am for all they are doing.”  Shame on ME, right?  You see, that is a sister in Christ walking in the light of compassion and kindness rather than the darkness of personal frustration about all the work she had gone to to make it a well-oiled presentation. 

            In Acts 2:42 we are told that the first Christ-followers in Jerusalem “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”  The newly-received Holy Spirit was putting those desires in their hearts and they were making the decision to “devote themselves to” the Apostolic teachings, to shared meals/communion, to prayer and to “fellowship”. 

            Here is the 2nd decision/commitment we must make as God’s people if we are to experience life-transforming fellowship:  we must make decisions to be devoted to shared life together. 

Q:  How do you know what or who someone is devote to?

  • How they spend their time.
  • How they spend their money.
  • What they talk about most.
  • Where they invest their effort.
  • The depth of relationship they evidence with others.
  • What they do when they are free to choose the above.

Q:  Do you think there ought to be a hierarchy of shared life/ fellowship within the family of God?  By that question, I mean to confront the reality that all of us have a finite amount of time, money, energy, communication capacity, etc.  We must all make daily choices about how to spend them and with whom.  Shared life with the people of God, wonderful as it is intended to be and as important as God considers it, is not the only thing God wants us to devote ourselves to.  The Word of God calls us to also devote ourselves to things like…

  • Work that earns capital to feed ourselves and bless others.
  • The Gospel that needs to be shared with everyone and across the whole earth (missions). This means we are called to also invest solid resources into relationships that will not initially or perhaps ever lead to godly fellowship.  But God calls all of us to love our neighbors.  Doing so takes time, money, energy, friendship, etc.
  • Rest and renewal—at least 1/3rd of our 24 hour day.

The commitments we are led of God to make in life will also determine the shape our fellowship takes.

  • Christ is our first and foundational commitment. So spending ourselves to experience fellowship with Him clearly is priority #1.
  • If you are married, your spouse and, Lord willing, your family are clearly to consume much of you and your resources. If you are loving them like God calls you to, family fellowship will be a major component of your fellowship investment.  In fact, Paul in 1 Corinthians 7, when talking about the advantage to church ministry that singleness brings, makes it clear that married people better not short change their fellowship responsibilities to family in the name of “ministry” or “church”. In 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 Paul hammers it home (pun intended) that a man should not be considered for church leadership unless fellowship in the home with his family is clearly his priority as evidence by children who respect him and his leadership at home. 
  • After that, we’re left with the entire body of Christ, the church, as candidates for our fellowship investing. Here God gives us a lot of freedom and leeway.  Just as in families certain siblings will be closer to some siblings more than others due to natural factors like birth order, ages, sex, temperament and abilities, so in the church we may tend to gravitate to certain people based upon our age, station in life, spiritual gifts, and so forth. We’re called to some level of fellowship/shared life with everyone.  But the reality of our finiteness means we will have a finite number of fellowship relationships in life and not all of them will be at the same level/depth. 

NOTE:  But there is a curious component to Christian fellowship that doesn’t happen in most relationships.  Since Christian fellowship is a sharing of who we are and what we have, it is possible that vast differences, particularly in socio-economic terms, can actually lead us to deeper fellowship with those unlike us.  That is the whole emphasis of 2 Corinthians 8-9 where Paul calls on that part of the church that has resources to “share” or “fellowship” with those, churches and people, who don’t have enough in our spiritual family.  Acts 4:34-35 illustrate that reality in the life of the 1st Church of Jerusalem. J.B. Phillips translates it this way: 

A wonderful spirit of generosity pervaded the whole fellowship. Indeed, there was not a single person in need among them. For those who owned land or property would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and place them at the apostles’ feet. They would distribute to each one according to his need.”

Being devoted to fellowship led them to intuitively know spiritually that a good part of fellowship is meeting needs in the family of God. 

APP:  What proof exists that you have made a decision to “be devoted to fellowship” with actual people of God, actual spiritual brothers and sisters? 

  • If you are married: how deeply are you experiencing connected with Christ with your spouse?
  • If you have believing children, how are you pursuing Christ-dominant relationship with your offspring?
  • If you have been part of the church for more than a week, who in God’s family would say, “I’m being blessed by your commitment to share life and yourself with me”?

When the life of God is truly dominant in us, fellowship with our spiritual siblings will actually dominate our relationships as well.  It will be a dominant drive of our soul.  We’ll be drawn to share life with spiritual brothers and sisters more and more (though not always…every family needs time away from each other!). 

For the last part of this message, let’s look at some other KEYS to Christ-experiencing fellowship for any Jesus-follower.  Let me suggest 4 of them.  (Next week we’ll look at some of the roadblocks to Christ-experiencing fellowship that may be hindering us even today.)

            Nearly 60 times the N.T. writers call us to DO or NOT DO something towards or with our brothers or sisters in Christ.  They are called the “one-another” commands for the church.  Most of them are clues to what makes for deeper fellowship in the family of God.

The one-another that occurs most frequently is “encourage each other”  

#1.  “Encourage each other.” parakalew (I Thessalonians 4:18—with God’s word; 5:11; Heb. 10:25) 1 Thess 5:11--“Build each other up.” Hebrews 3:13 exhorts us to “Encourage one another daily.” Hebrews 10:24 calls us to “Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  

            Of the just under 110 uses of this word in the N.T., most of them refer to something verbal. 

  1. to call to one's side, call for, summon
  2. to address, speak to, (call to, call upon), which may be done in the way of exhortation, encouragement, entreaty, comfort, instruction.

#1.  “To call to one’s side, call for, summon.”  This happened to me yesterday.  Someone who has been an important part of Mosaic in the past called and asked if I would come to the hospital to pray with her, her son who is dying, and his wife, her daughter-in-law. She was issuing a verbal call as well as an emotional one to enter into their dark valley of death, be with them and “share” this sobering, heavy experience.  We read scripture.  We prayed.  We hugged.  We shed tears.  We talked about the more important things of life.  We “fellowshipped.”

            Know what happens every time I’m called to do that?  A special bond is forged.  Friendships are deepened.  Fellowship happens.


  • Inviting others into our pain, our times of weakness, our suffering almost always leads to deeper fellowship and experience of Jesus together.
  • Just think about the people you have had the deepest fellowship with through the years. Chances are you’ve cried on each other’s shoulders.  Chances are you’ve been through some painful things together.  Chances are they or you called and said, “I’d really like you to come and be a part of my pain.” 

When was the last time you invited (not demanded) someone into your experience of pain/weakness/hardship?  And if you are fortunate enough to have someone entrust to you their pain, treat it as a holy trust.  Church, we fellowship when we ask others to “come alongside of us” in our challenges.

            This is also why support, recovery and accountability groups are so valuable.  If we’re humble, we know that we could benefit from inviting others into our life journey.  Just sharing the challenges of your week regularly with people who love you enough to listen and pray for you is one of the best demonstrations of Christian fellowship.   

#2.  The second part of this “encourage one another” involves us taking the initiative to speak into someone else’s life. 

  • According to Titus 1:9, I’m doing that now as I exhort you through the teaching of the Word. We’re sharing the Word of God “in common” and I’m encouraging you to put it into practice.  Exhortation has a bit more challenge and call to it than simply encouragement. 
  • 1 Timothy 2:1—Paul “exhorts” the church to make “supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks…for all men”, especially for those in authority over us. This is strong encouragement to engage in something.  APP:  this is what real fellowship between us should do.  You should be calling me to faithful obedience to Christ whenever you sense I may be lacking in some area the Lord has clearly called us to live into. 

ILL:  seeing someone at CL last night that left Mosaic a few years ago to go to another ministry…and then another church.  So I simply asked, “So where are you fellowshipping now?”  They laughed (nervously) and said, “I knew you were going to ask that!”  I smiled…and waited for their answer because that’s what ‘encouraging/ exhorting’ does.  It cares enough for the health of one another that it keeps calling us into God’s blessings. 

  • A 3rd form of “encouragement” is probably what most of us associate with the term “encouragement”: “to console or comfort”. 2 Corinthians 7:6-7 illustrates this in the life of Paul when he says, “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.”  Encouraging one another is most needed when life is hard, when we’re discouraged or ‘downcast’ our depressed.  Notice that consolation is both a “being with” behavior [“comforted us by the coming of Titus….] and a “speaking to” behavior [“He told us about….”]

The irony here is that far too many Christians, when downcast or discouraged, shy away from church.  I can understand that a little if your church is nothing but a ‘happy-happy’, upbeat, power-of-positive-preaching sort of place.  That’s why worship services must run the gamut of celebratory and contemplative, rejoicing and reflecting.  We need both presence and word, people and proclamation. 

APP:  Who do you know today in the body of Christ that could use some encouraging, comforting words or listening ear?  Your fellowship will grow when you spend time listening to their heart and sharing some words of encouragement. 

Here's a second fellowship-building ‘one-another’:

#2.  “Serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others.” (I Peter 4:10)

            By far the deepest fellowship I’ve had through the years was with other believers with whom I’ve served the church while putting my spiritual gifts to work. 

  • Staff/missionary teams: Philippines, Spain, Baptist churches, Bible churches.
  • I found my wife by “serving” a bunch of highschoolers in a church in Portland, OR. Talk about a “fellowship dividend”!
  • Ministry teams: whether as a young person in summers serving in camps and rural communities with a team of youth OR serving in one or two of our building Bible studies with a team. 


  • Do you know your spiritual gift(s)?
  • Where are you having regular opportunity to exercise that?
  • Even if you don’t know your gift, are you experiencing growth in fellowship through serving the body of Christ on a regular basis in a team that is experiencing fellowship?

If you need help figuring out either part of this equation, talk to your pastors.  That’s why we’re here—to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.”   

#3.  “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.” (I Peter 5:5) “Confess your sins to each other.” (James 5:16)

I’ve put these two ‘one-anothers’ together because admission of our sins and imperfections to others requires that we be people of humility.  You simply will not find someone admitting their past failures let alone their current ones who is not a humble person.  One of the saddest indictments on the church today is that it is not a place of authenticity and transparency. 

But I can tell you that those of you with whom I have and feel the closest bonds of fellowship are those who are unashamed about the past that God is delivering them from.  More often than not it is those who have come from some very dark experiences and have been so overwhelmed by the grace of God over them that they don’t care what people might think of them; they know what God thinks of them…and they are joyful in that.   

I truly feel SO blessed to be in the company of those of you who have been so beautifully liberated from past abuse, past crimes, past trafficking, past abortions, past sexual immorality, past marriage melt-downs…and the list goes on.  You are the ones who model humility and godly confession to me that makes our fellowship so rich and meaningful here at Mosaic.  This truly is the power of the Gospel that leads us to powerful fellowship. 

I’ll end with a very simple and practical fellowship-building “one-another”:

#4.  “Pray for each other.” (James 5:16).  Rather than talk about this one, I want us to practice it today.  This may push the comfort level of some of you.  If so, it’s a necessary ‘push’ done in love.  Increased fellowship usually requires pushing some comfort zones just a bit.  But I’m trusting the Holy Spirit to use it this morning to prove to all of us that deeper fellowship with each other is a risk worth taking.  

APP:  Turn to someone near you (preferably not a family member though that is better than no one).  Ask them, “How can I pray for you today?”  When you are asked that, try to give a 30-second or less answer to that question .  (You can ask for a longer version after the close of the service if you want.)  Then, take another 60 seconds to PRAY for each other…

  • Audibly, if you are okay doing that.
  • Silently if you’re uncomfortable praying with someone else.

After 2 minutes, I’ll close us all in prayer.