Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Thrill of Participation

Probably second only to the sadness of unrequited love is the depressing feeling of being left out of a pleasurable shared experience.  Others get to enjoy it – you are left out;  what could be worse than that!  It is a kind of ‘Hell on earth’ to miss out in that way. Contrast that difference between the sadness of being excluded and the thrill of full participation in something wonderful and you will have touched upon a key insight in Christian belief.

God’s Word describes some ‘entering into the joy of your Lord’ and others being ‘cast into outer darkness… (where) there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Matt. 25.23-30), This applies to more than the end of the world or Judgement Day.  It also describes the difference between participating in the life of the Body of Christ and not participating.

By the ‘thrill of participation’, I do not refer to merely attending church activities – even the Divine Service.  People can attend things, but still be left out of the true benefit of the activity.  True ‘participation’ has to do with the original meaning of the word.  ‘Participation’ is but one of several shades of meaning of the single Greek word: Koinonia.  Other meanings of that word are ‘sharing’, ‘fellowship’ and ‘communion’.

The thrill of Koinonia belongs to those who, not only show up and ‘walk’ with other people, but who – above all - walk with the Lord in repentance and in favour with God and men. ‘…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’  (1 John 1.7).

Talk to sportsmen and they will make a distinction between simply being ‘in the game’ and being ‘in the zone’!  Being in the zone means ‘You have total focus. Your performance is effortless. You are in synch within yourself, and you display total dominance in whatever you are pursuing’.   There is nothing hypocritical, superficial or perfunctory about being ‘in the zone’.  And the result is thrilling.

That is what God intends Communion to be.  Fellowship with Him is supposed to be full integration into His life.  Those who are ‘double-minded’ - who try to ‘serve both God and Mammon’; for example, will not know the thrill of participation.  They may show up, but their spiritual walk will be hindered by the weight of un-repented sin.  Far better to ‘lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith’  (Hebrews 12.1-2),

Being in Communion starts with ‘going to Communion’, but does not end there with the forgiveness of sin.  ‘How can we who died to sin still live in it?’  (Romans 6:2).  No, communion does not end with God’s forgiveness; it BEGINS with God’s forgiveness.  It continues with a discipline to forsake sin and follow Christ who leads us in ‘the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake’ (Psalm 23).

‘Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.   For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved’  (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).

Remember the comparison I make between the Christian life and soaring in a glider.  Don’t let divided loyalty to God force you to hit the ground.  Remain aloft by His grace.  Live every moment ‘prayerfully’.  ‘Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:22-24).  Taste the thrill of full participation, full communion and koinonia and you will not look back.

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