THE PRACTICE OF KOINONIA
ROOTED pertains to the beginnings of or the origins of the Church which is recorded by Luke in the book of Acts. (At one time the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts were joined together as one book with two volumes.) For we want to see the blueprint of what the Church looked like in its formation, the book of Acts (and the Letters to the Churches is the go-to. Imagine what it would be like if the Book of Acts wasn’t in the Bible?
In this series, we want to explore and answer the question: WHAT CAUSED THE EARLY CHURCH TO GROW, FLOURISH, SPREAD AND BECOME STRONG in the midst of immense impossibilities at their time?
“Humanly speaking, [Christianity] had nothing going for it. It had no money, no proven leaders, no technological tools for propagating the gospel. And it faced enormous obstacles. It was utterly new. It taught truths that were incredible to the unregenerate world. It was the subject to the most intense hatreds and persecutions.” -Dr. James Montgomery Boice
The core values and high priorities that the Christians were rooted in the book of Acts should also be the same roots we have today because they are the same commands, instructions and teachings of the same Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ we follow today. Let’s go back to the basics - let’s go back to the ROOTS. If we don’t neglect the roots, we will be sure to take care of the tree and the fruits. Today, I will be speaking on BEING ROOTED TOGETHER: The Practice of KOINONIA (fellowship/sharing together)
The Bible has several passages that use the illustration of the ROOTEDNESS to demonstrate a healthy Christian Life. If you know me, you know that I love plants. And among the most basic thing to know about caring for and propagating plants are taking care or not neglecting the roots. If the roots are healthy then the plant is healthy. One of my favourite verses on this is in:
7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
8 They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
PAUL uses this figure of speech of roots in his letters too:
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
But in our CHRISTIAN LIFE EXPERIENCE we may find that not everyone develops this kind of rootedness. or the promise of flourishing and fruitfulness we see in the Bible and we ask the question why?
FOUR ROOT CAUSES
1. NO ROOT
A bouquet of roses is nice to look at and may remain alive for a few days but it will eventually die. Why? Because it is not planted and it does not have roots.
JESUS mentions a similar problem as He explains the meaning of the Parable of the Sower:
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.
A willingness to die to self is a sure way to develop roots and it is often in the context of following Jesus and serving Him and others:
24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
2. SHALLOW ROOTS
How do you make a Bonsai?
Bonsais are made by cutting the roots and preventing it to grow deeper or bigger. The same principle applies to potted plants. If you don't want it to grow taller or larger, don't transfer it to a bigger pot. But if you want to cultivate it and see it flourish, plant it to a larger pot or better yet, directly to the ground. Shallow roots will produce shallow Christianity. It's cute but, there's no fruit that will be of benefit to others..
12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
13 planted in the house of the Lord,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green…
But we are called to be PLANTED in the HOUSE of the LORD. Time and time again, when a Christian decides to commit and be planted in a church family, God uses that community to bring out the best in the Christian. The flourishing promised in the Scriptures cannot be divorced from the life in the community God designed us to be a part of.
3. BITTER ROOTS
A common problem to plants that are not growing or leaves that are witing or browning; or plants that are supposed to be flowering or bearing fruits are roots with fungi and diseases that cause the roots to rot. Most of the time what can be observed in the visible is caused by what is invisible - what's underneath the soil.
14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
Bitter roots could be anything in the heart of the Christian that's unyielded or unsurrendered to the Lord. If root problems are not dealt with, you can be sure it will manifest on the plant.
IT IS NOT WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU BUT WHAT HAPPENS IN YOU THAT MATTERS
4. BETTER ROOTS
Why are Forest Trees more vibrant, more fruitful, stronger and bigger and taller?
They belong to an ecosystem; a network of root systems that are intricately interconnected to one another and no earthquake or landslide or any threat can easily destroy. The Book of Acts paints a picture of this kind of ROOT SYSTEM or TOGETHERNESS of the BELIEVERS that we know was intentionally placed there by the Holy Spirt for us to be instructed to do the same.
They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. Acts 2:1
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
Mylyn mentioned this last Friday in our Tarrying - GOD LOVES TO GATHER HIS CHILDREN. You will find the phrase “One Another” in the Bible over and over and over again. The Christian Life is a Communal Life. We are Created for Community. The Modern Western idea of individuality and independence goes against the very nature of Biblical Christianity. JESUS’ last words to His disciples before His crucifixion was “Love One Another As I Have Loved You!” The highest value of JESUS is GOOD and LOVING RELATIONSHIPS and particularly of His followers to one another.
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
UNITY doesn’t mean you agree on absolutely everything- there will be differences, there will be conflicts, there will be disappointments, frustrations, etc. But the question is do you love one another to commit to stick together? There will be many things we will not agree on, but I am very sure that they are all very menial compared to the greater reason of why we gather - DO WE AGREE THAT JESUS IS WORTHY OF ALL OUR WORSHIP? DO WE AGREE THAT JESUS IS OUR KING? DO WE AGREE THAT GOD CALLED US FOR HIS PURPOSE? Etc. It will be awkward if JESUS comes back again or takes you Home and then asks you, why did you stop coming to church? Why did you stop serving? What reason will you give?
You can pray alone, you can read the Bible alone, you can sing to God alone but you can never fellowship alone.
Hebrews 10:24-25 NLT
24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
The problem is, Satan has twisted the idea of Church adn Christianity in the modern times. We don't understand what "koinonia" mean in its Biblical essence and therefore do not practice it as we should and as instructed by the Lord. Watch this video clip and reflect on what it reveals:
A true follower of Christ and servant of the Lord has a mindset that asks: "What's in Me for it?"; rather than the consumeristic mindset of the world that asks: "What's in it for Me?" The Christian servant asks "what can I contribute?" and not "what can I gain"?
Today I’d like to cut off the head of 2 kinds of devils: 1. The one who whispers in your ear that you don’t need the Church 2. The one who paints an unbiblical view of the Church in your mind
It is the voice of the devil that deceives many Christians today and convinces them that they can be a Christian without going to church or committing to a church. In a generation of “busyness”, it is always the church that’s being sacrificed. In the book of Acts, a committed member of the Church gathered every day in the temple courts. 30 years ago a committed church member gathered at least 2 times a week. In the 20th century, you are a committed member when you attend the church 2 times a month. Why so?
If we are indeed “The Followers of the Way”, as the Acts Christians were called, we may well observe that JESUS Himself was a Church-going man. (They had synagogues at the time - not necessarily "church" as in Acts) But there they read and listened to the Word of God and they worshipped and prayed.
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read…
Not just that He was committed to the gathering of those who seek God; JESUS was the One who builds the CHURCH. If He is building it and I don't care about it, or have very little regard for it, then how can I call Him my Lord?
… and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
We are called by the Lord to be ROOTED TOGETHER! The Book of Acts demonstrated that the strength of the believers was yes, first and foremost in the Lord, but also in the love of Christ that dwelt richly among them and made them one.
QUESTIONS for DISCUSSION: 1. Why do you think Luke documented and wrote the events that have transpired in the book of ACTS? Why is it important for us to know about them?
2. Why do you think the 1st Century Christians always gathered together?
3. Discuss the four root causes and share what your insights and learnings are from each one.
4. Why is it essential for us to be rooted together in fellowship?
5. Fill in the Acronym: We should be Rooted Together in: P_ L_
A_ N_ T_