Broadcast

Getting Hugs from an Invisible God

From the series Pathways to Intimacy with God

Are you tired of superficial relationships? Do you long to deeply connect with other Christians? But you just don’t know how? Join Chip to learn the secret of establishing and developing lasting, godly relationships and how it's possible to get hugs from an invisible God.

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Message Transcript

One of the most powerful communication tools in all human society is a very simple thing. It involves your hands, your arms, your shoulders, and it’s called a hug.

Now if you think I’m kidding I’m talking about great research has been done on the power of what happens when one human being hugs another human being. In fact, I have it a little bit before me.

It says, “Hugging is healthy. It helps the body’s immune system, it keeps you healthier, it helps cure depression, it reduces stress, and it induces sleep. It’s invigorating, it’s rejuvenating, it has no unpleasant side effects. Hugging is nothing less than a miracle drug.”

It goes on to say, “Hugging is all natural, it’s organic, naturally sweet, has no pesticides, no preservatives, no artificial ingredients, and is one hundred percent wholesome. Hugging is practically perfect. There’s no movable parts, no batteries to wear out, no periodic check-ups, has low energy consumption with high energy yield. It’s inflation-proof, non-fattening, requires no monthly payments, has no insurance requirements, and is, therefore, non-taxable, non-polluting, and, of course, fully returnable.”

You know there’s a lot of different ways that we hug. Powerful. I mean, sure, there’s the, you know, the sort of the “Christian hug” of people that you don’t know. You know how they, you know how it goes? Mmm. You know? “Hi brother, sister,” you know? Sort of like that.

But I don’t know about you, I have been where I have lost a loved one or I have been the pastor where someone has lost a baby, or one particular friend I remember, who very unexpectedly lost his wife. And he’s been like a dad to me for about thirty years.

And I’ll never forget the embrace that we had. I flew in the moment I found out. And there’s, you know how it is, the living room and people were in shock and our eyes met and we came and, I mean, it was, we just locked. And we didn’t say anything. He just needed to know there was someone there that, thick and thin, we’re going to be here for each other.

Have you had one of those hugs? And before I left we had a similar hug and I said, you know, “I need you to make a couple commitments to me,” because I knew he was going to go through a very difficult time.

We probably talked on the phone three times a week minimum for the next year or year and a half. It’s one of those hugs that when you’re the person in pain you put your face in the person’s shoulder and you just want them almost to hold you up.

Or there’s the other kind of hugs that when you’re a dad or a mom when your kids are small and they get really excited. You know the kind that crush your air pipe? They’re really trying to tell you they love you. “Okay, honey, goodnight!” And they go, “Oh, I love you, Daddy!” [Coughs and hacks] “I love you too, honey.”

And there’s the hugs of lovers, of expressing thoughts, and feelings, and warmth, and desire, and affection. There’s the hugs when you go see grandma and granddad.

Or one thing I love to do, I mean, I would actually pay for this. I’ve been in a lot of airports lately. But I kind of like it when I have a delay, at times, and I like to get at the place, especially near holidays, where families are being reunited. And you know you watch them come with wheelchairs, and you watch them come with someone on the side and, you know, “Oh I noticed you shaved your moustache!” And you just watch them, zoooooom, zoooooom they come together. And, you know, “Oh, come here, come here! Let’s take a picture!” “Oh!” And the grandparents when they come and get the kids.

What do we all do? Hugging. There’s the hugs of belonging, there’s the hugs of affirmation, there’s the hugs of understanding, there’s the hugs of depth and intimacy, there’s the hugs of, “This may be the last time I see you.” Isn’t that what happens with some of us with aging parents? And every time you leave them there’s that hug that says, “I don’t know if we’ll get to do this again.”

But you use your hands, and you use your arms, and you use your shoulders, and two people come together in appropriate ways and it’s powerful. I mean psychologists say probably apart from listening intently to another person, with eye contact, there is few things you’ll ever do on the earth to communicate your love for another person like an appropriate hug in an appropriate way.

And here’s the question I have. If God is so loving, and if God cares so much for us, and if hugging is so powerful, how do you get a hug from an invisible God? I mean how does He hug us? I mean how does He put His arms around us? How does He tell us we’re affirmed? How does He hold us when we feel like our world has fallen apart? How does He say, “Hey, you know what? It’s going to be okay.”

And I’d like to suggest that the answer to that can be found first in the early Church and then right from Scripture.

We’re in a series called Paths to Intimacy with God. There are certain things that followers of Christ have done for a couple thousand years and followers of Yahweh have done before that. There are ancient, well-worn paths. They are not new, that those who have had a heart for God and those who have come to know and follow Christ, these paths are etched in to the history of the Church.

And this is entitled How to Get Hugs from an Invisible God. And I’d like to suggest right under there it says, “And they were continually,” speaking of the early Church, “devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.”

And you might put, if you have a pen, right before the word fellowship put a little mark and write “the fellowship.” In the original text there’s a definite article. It wasn’t just a fellowship. It wasn’t, this is not a picture of the early Church having coffee and a couple donuts, “Bob, good to see you.”

This is “the fellowship.” It’s a very technical term. The Greek word is “koinonia” and we’ll look at it in a minute. But just as Jesus touched the lives of the early disciples in His physical body, so now the Spirit touches our lives, through His spiritual body.

I mean have you ever thought about this? I mean if you were Peter, or John, or James you think those guys ever had a bad day? You ever think they got a hug from Jesus? You ever think there was eye contact and Peter feeling really bad?

You know in John 21 when he gets forgiven, forgiven, forgiven when Jesus says, “Do you love Me, do you love Me, do you love Me?” Can you imagine that conversation not ending with Peter in Jesus’ arms and feeling the embrace of Jesus going, “Peter, you did blow it big time and I want you to know you’ve been forgiven big time. And I’m not putting you on the shelf, I got a plan for your life.” I can’t imagine that happening without a deep, warm embrace.

When Jesus walked on the earth, when He saw little children, they would come up into His arms. When He saw a woman who lost her only son and the coffin is being passed, I can’t imagine that He did not only raise the son from the dead and then go to the mom.

And it says, “And He restored the son to the mother.” What do you think He did? “Okay, go ahead.” You gotta believe that He put His arm around that woman and said, “Here’s your son back.”

You see, when Jesus was in His physical body the way He would hug people was with His arms and His shoulders and His feet. But when Jesus was resurrected, He no longer hugs us in His physical body, He hugs us in His spiritual body.

Notice what it says in your notes, I Corinthians 12 verses 13 and 14, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.”

The word “baptism” here, there’s no water in the text. The original meaning of the word “baptism” literally means, “to dip,” but the word also means to have the idea of identification. And he’s talking about the moment you, or the moment I, when we understood that we’d sinned and we violated a holy God and that we were in desperate need and we accepted the free gift of Christ’s grace on the cross to pay for our sin, and we were birthed again, the moment you received Christ the Spirit of God sealed you for all eternity and then placed you or identified you in this body, this thing called the Church.

So everyone in this room that has the Spirit of God living in them, who is born again, that has a new relationship with God through Christ, you were baptized, I was baptized, or placed, or identified in this new thing called the Church. And there are many parts and we’re a part of this brand new thing, the spiritual body of Christ.

Notice it says, “How does the body work? How does Jesus laugh? How does Jesus touch people? How does He weep today? How does He comfort people? How does He hug people? How does He feed people? He doesn’t do it through a physical body He does it through His Church.

When you feed someone, when you hug someone, when you console someone, when you love someone, when you pray for someone, when you buy someone a meal, when you do it unto the least of them you are doing it, what? “Unto Me,” Jesus said.

So when the body is working, when we’re reaching out and touching and loving and caring the way Jesus would in His body because He lives in us that’s how God hugs us.

How do you get a hug from an invisible God when you’re in need? The Spirit has united all believers into one interdependent body, or team, under Christ. We belong to one another.

See we unconsciously tend to think of church like a hotel. It’s a place you come and visit, you eat, get some nutrients, say hi to a few people, and then go on your way.

But the biblical picture of the Church is not a hotel, it’s a home. A hotel is a place that you visit to get your needs met. A home is where you belong and where you both give love and receive love, deal with problems, and actually create a few yourself because you’re human.

Notice what the text says. Romans 12:4 and 5 says, “Just as each of us has one body,” speaking of our human body, “with many members,” you know, hands, feet, eyes, head, “and these members do not all have the same functions,” so my eyes have different functions than my ears and my nose and my feet, “so in Christ we who are many form one body and each member belongs to all the others.”

If you have a pen underline that, will you? That’s an almost unheard of realized concept in the American Church. It says, “And each member belongs to all the others.” We are His spiritual body, we are His team, we are His hands, we’re His feet, we’re His eyes, we’re His arms, we’re His ears – we all belong not only to Christ but do you see the point? We belong to one another because we belong to Christ.

The reoccurring theme of the New Testament Church is this koinonia or unity that they have. The love, the affirmation, the consoling, the comfort – Jesus now does it through you to other people because His Spirit is expressing His love and His heart to them through you and then He loves you through them because His Spirit in them is giving you the love and affirmation and understanding that you desperately need and I do too.

So question: Why is this so important? Why is it critical that we understand that the way God hugs us is through His body? Well, the fellowship or koinonia is the vehicle through which God’s people express and receive love. That’s what I want you to get.

This word “the koinonia,” we’ll examine it in just a second. That’s just a, you know, it’s a Greek word that has a lot of meaning and in the ancient Greek language, long before it went into the New Testament, it just meant “a partnership,” “a union.” It had a military alliance. You could have a koinonia. We have a military alliance. Our team, this army and that army, “We’re going to go together and fight them.” That’s a koinonia.

But as the New Testament writers picked up the word and they began to add more and more import into what it meant, I’ve got a couple word studies here.

Koinonia is more than a common experience with one another. Koinonia is life in the body of Christ. It’s communion not only with each other but each other with the triune God.

It’s our communion with other believers that’s dependent on your relationship and active communion with God. It’s synonyms like “share” and “to participate,” “to be associated,” “to giving,” “to sharing,” “to be liberal,” “to have a companion, a partner, a sharer,” “to be connected in some organic, measurable way with other people.” That’s what koinonia is.

And the way God expresses His love and the way we express our love is by this thing called “the fellowship.” It’s God’s vehicle for us to express and receive Christ’s love.

Do you have that pen handy? I’m going to ask you to do a little Bible study with me. Let me read the text, it’s the picture of the early Church. I mean it’s an awesome picture. It’s a picture of Christians hugging one another emotionally and physically and spiritually. And I’m going to read the text in Acts 2:42 through about 46 and then get that pen or pencil handy and I’m going to have you circle a few words that highlight this sense of commonality, commitment, belonging, and sharing and see if you don’t pick up what’s really happening in the early Church.

Verse 43 says, “Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and miraculous signs were being done by the apostles.” Verse 44, “All the believers were together and they had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes, they ate together with glad and sincere hearts.”

Now are you ready? Go to verse 44 and circle the word “all.” This isn’t a special clique, a special group. All the believers. Circle the word “together.” They were together. Circle the word “common.” They had everything in common.

You know it was not communism. There was still the ownership of personal property but what they said was, “I belong to God, all that I have belongs to God, so I own this and it’s mine to choose to give or not to give but I’m going to take all that I have and all that I am and I make it available to share as anyone would have need.” That’s the picture of what was going on.

Notice after the selling of possessions, notice, circle the word “anyone.” They gave to anyone as had need. This wasn’t just the “cool” people, not just the good looking people. This wasn’t the people that everyone liked.

They gave as anyone had need. There was a bond, there was a belonging to one another that cut through. All were involved and whoever had need could participate.

Verse 46, “Everyday they continued to,” circle the phrase, “meet together.” Where? “First in the temple courts and then they broke bead,” circle the phrase, “their homes.” Then circle the phrase “together.” Do you realize in those few verses, look how many circles are on your notes.

Together, all, common, together, anyone, meet together, their homes, together. And then go back and look at a few of the verbs. Notice they were glad, sincere, they, no one had need. They gave. There’s a sense of people coming together. Two major themes emerge.

And the two major themes are very, very simple. Number one, as you read this verse and as you read the book of Acts and Church history you understand we express our love for Christ by expressing our love for His people.

You might write that down. Nah, forget writing it down. Just live it. We express our love for Christ by expressing our love for people. His people. They belong. They matter. They’re His sons, His daughters, they’re our brothers and our sisters.

The way I say to God, “I love you” is I give my time, and my energy, and my resources, and my emotions as directed by the Holy Spirit living in me, to those of you that God has me rub up against so that the Christ in me, could express His love to you.

That’s how I love you. And that’s how I love Christ. We express our love for Jesus not in some ethereal, “I love God, I raise my hands when I sing, I write a check now and then.” It’s about real, live relationships. All those things are fine.

But I John said, “If I say I love God and have no love for my brother I am a liar and the truth isn’t in me.”

I had an experience with my wife and my daughter that I don’t know that I’ll forget. These notes I left or I thought I left down at the office. And it was, like, late afternoon Saturday and who wants to go anywhere by yourself on Saturday?

And so I kind of said, “Hey would anyone ride with me, you know, please, please, pretty please? And I’ll buy dinner on the way home if you’ll come.” You know? I just, I don’t want to go down in that dark building by myself and yeah you know?

And so we got down there and it had been a pretty interesting day anyway. And when I pulled up there’s a lady sitting on the steps. And I’m thinking, you know, you know with a toboggan. And kind of a funky looking long coat.

And I got out of the car and I’m thinking, “I need to get my notes,” and I said, “Excuse me.” And she goes, “Are you a manager here or do you work here?” And I said, “Well I work here.” And she goes, “Well, you know, if it’s okay is it okay if I stay here tonight?”

I said, “Well I know in general they kind of frown on that and this is not exactly the safest neighborhood. “But all I want is that little alcove. It’s getting really, really cold and I believe in God and I’ve been talking to Him.”

And I’m thinking to myself, “You know it’s been, it’s been a pretty wild day and what I need is a homeless lady right now.” I mean those are my honest to goodness, from the heart thoughts. Not proud of them but those were the thoughts.

And I said, “Well I’ll tell you what. Could you, could you just stay right here? I’ve got to pick some stuff up in the office and I’ll get right with you when I get back.” And so, you know, I open the keys, set off the alarm, turn it off, find my office, and of course I can’t find my notes. Hmmmmm.

And so I’m coming back and as I’m shuffling things around now, you know, I’m thinking to myself like you would, “Now what am I going to do with this homeless lady?”

And I’ve memorized a few verses but I don’t think I even really memorized this one. And the thought came to my mind, “When you’ve done it to the least of these you’ve done it unto Me.”

And I said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” “Just love her.” I said, “Okay.” So I’m thinking, “I’m not sure how I’m going to love her but she’s not going to sleep here.” One, it’s way, way cold and she’s got a thin coat, number one. Number two, I’m afraid what might happen. And number three, you know, the people that keep all the insurance and forms think, “There’s big liability here, Chip, you better make sure, if you knew about this, if something, you know.”

And so I didn’t know what to do and I came out and I kind of looked at Theresa, you know, hand signs, “Okay, you know, what do you think, you know, what do you think we ought to do?” You know?

And so I said to her, I said, “You know, you can’t stay here. But, you know, I, let me figure out a way to put you up in a hotel and we’ll get something straightened out. What’s your name?” Are you ready for this? “Gloria.” Hm.

And so we got in the car and she had a couple bags and she was proud, inside she had a new sleeping bag and we put them in the trunk and she sat in the back with Annie and was very articulate. Very articulate.

And as we went down I said, “Gloria, are you hungry?” She goes, “Well, no, I couldn’t accept anything.” And this and that. And the long in the story, you know, we’re sitting in a little Mexican restaurant, the four of us and we had dinner with a homeless lady.

And, you know, I, you know, I had one of those days where, you know, your emotions were all over the map. I gotta tell you, dinner with a homeless lady and dropping her off at La Quinta and sharing our testimony about what God was doing in our life and…

You know that passage where it says now and then you entertain, you know, angels unaware? I don’t know if Gloria was an angel but she was an angel from God for me. I think my attitude did the biggest 180 in a twenty-four hour period and I thought, “Oh, Jesus, what a privilege to express my love to You by just being Your hands,” nothing big.

Well, you know, I wasn’t even motivated to do it. It’s not like, you know, I was big, super Christian. I mean I just finally got to where I would obey. And that lady was a delight. And, you know, we figured out this place and the lady at La Quinta could figure out what’s going on and, you know, gave her this special deal for two nights and we went and took her stuff up to her room.

And, you know, the three of us drove home and you know what I learned? I learned we express our love for Christ by expressing our love for His people. And you say, “What do you mean, ‘His people?’”

She said, “I’m a Christian.” And she said, “You know I know it’s going to get real cold and I called down to the shelters and they just give me the run-around.” She said, “Just before you came up I just said, ‘God, would You please take care of me today? It’s going to be really cold tonight. Would You help me?’”

And I thought, “You know what? This lady got a hug, didn’t she?” She got a hug. She got a hug from an invisible God. And, you know, God orchestrates this stuff because I had looked through my briefcase about four times, “Where’s my notes, where’s my notes, where’s my notes?” to anxiety, “I gotta preach tomorrow. I can’t find my notes, oh, I’ve left them in the office.”

Well, I got news for you. Once we went through all of this I went back up and they were just right there in my briefcase. You know? They were right there so I guess God has a way of making you see what He wants you to see.
Two major themes emerge.

And the two major themes are very, very simple. Number one, as you read this verse and as you read the book of Acts and Church history you understand we express our love for Christ by expressing our love for His people.

You might write that down. Nah, forget writing it down. Just live it. We express our love for Christ by expressing our love for people. His people. They belong. They matter. They’re His sons, His daughters, they’re our brothers and our sisters.

The way I say to God, “I love You” is I give my time, and my energy, and my resources, and my emotions as directed by the Holy Spirit living in me, to those of you that God has me rub up against so that the Christ in me, could express His love to you.

That’s how I love you. And that’s how I love Christ. We express our love for Jesus not in some ethereal, “I love God, I raise my hands when I sing, I write a check now and then.” It’s about real, live relationships. All those things are fine.

But I John said, “If I say I love God and have no love for my brother I am a liar and the truth isn’t in me.”

The second observation out of this passage that is absolutely critical is not only do we express our love for Christ when we express our love for His people, we receive love from Christ when we receive love from God’s people.

You know sometimes we think, “God, do You love me? God, do You love me? God, do You love me?” And someone comes up and says, “Can I give you a hand?” Or, “How’s everything going?” “You know would you quit it? Don’t bother me right now. God, do You love me? God, do You love me?”

And, you know, then someone calls and says, “You know, you know we’re going to go do this. Do you want to?” “No, I’m too depressed. You all go ahead. God, how come You don’t love me?”

And, you know, the way God loves you, He’s not going to call you on the phone probably. Okay? The way God loves you is He’s going to bring one of His children into your life, maybe in a way that you like and maybe in a way that you don’t like to express His love to you.

And, by the way, when we talk about love, you know, you can get real sentimental and real emotional. Love is not ooey-gooey feelings, high-fiving, arm around one another, and having warm emotions. That’s nice. I love that.

Love is giving other people what they don’t deserve, caring for them when they don’t deserve it out of obedience to Christ. It’s giving people what they need the most, when they deserve it the least, at great personal cost to yourself. That’s love.

Now I like it when it’s filled with good emotions and high-fives and the warm feelings and that sense of “Kumbaya,” holding hands in the room. I mean I love that as much as the next guy. But let’s not confuse sentimentality and emotions with love.

We receive love from God when His children, or believers, do and act in ways that are consistent with the Spirit’s leading. Now, I don’t, you know, I have been convinced now for many, many years that the way God teaches me to preach is that He usually takes me through the message before I get to give it.

Someone asked me, you know, pastors say, “Hey, where do you get all those illustrations?” And, you know, “I got a book with five thousand illustrations.” I don’t have any books of illustrations. And I don’t look at any books with illustrations. I have found if I just keep my eyes open God gives me more each week than I know what to do with.

I got loved this week. I didn’t get ooey-gooey love, I got deeply loved. I sat in one of our Starbucks with a guy in the church here who, four different times admonished me about one area. “Hey, hey are you loving? Are you loving? You know are you loving? You know, Chip, I want to, you know, you know, you got that intensity. The balance between heat and light. I sense there’s a little more heat at times than there is light. You know do you really understand?”

And, you know, like the fourth time I said, “You know I got it, okay? I mean this message from God. Unless He wants you to say that one more time, I got it.” And I thought about it deeply. And, I mean, I went home and did three or four things in response to that.

And you know what? When I walked out I felt closer to that man than I felt to him any time I’ve ever been with him. Because you know what I’ve learned? Only the people that really love you tell you the truth. Only the people that really love you are willing to risk the relationship and put everything on the line to help you see something that God wants you to see. And they’re humans and they’re fallible so maybe it’s only eighty-two percent right or sixty-seven percent right.

You know what? Even sometimes if people are down on you it’s maybe only twelve percent right. But that twelve percent is from the Lord. You need to listen.

God loves you and God loves me and He expresses it through His people to you and to me. And sometimes it’s an arm around the shoulder that’s a hug and sometimes it’s a gentle, caring from the heart rebuke that you need.

And sometimes it’s a meal and sometimes it’s getting help to learn your spiritual gift and sometimes it’s helping someone move and sometimes it’s a dinner and sometimes it’s a phone call and sometimes, like this week, I got a number of notes that I just read them and I just thought, affirmation. “Dear Chip, thanks, dut, dut, dut, da, da. And God used that.”

And I just thought, that’s not just stuff. God leads people to write notes. God leads people to make calls. God leads people to take money that is His that is on loan to them to give it to love and to care for others.

We express our love for Christ by loving each other and God expresses His love for us by using people in our lives.

Let me give you the meaning of biblical fellowship or koinonia. And I alluded to it but, you know, those of you taking notes going, “You know he went too fast.” It’s to share, it’s to have in common, it’s to partner, it’s an association, it’s a communion. A togetherness and a bond of the heart that grows out of our bond with Christ.

In fact, by way of word picture it is a group of people so filled and so in love with Jesus, by means of the Holy Spirit that they, with reckless abandon, love one another out of every aspect of their lives.

See koinonia fellowship, it’s not a good feeling with a nice pot of coffee in a small group. Koinonia can happen there but there’s a lot of small groups koinonia doesn’t happen. But that’s a good environment.

It’s when people are so filled with the love of God that it spills out into love for one another, so that the heart of God through the Spirit of God, through the normal hands, and arms, and shoulders, and feet, and eyes, and time, and talent, and treasure, gets transmitted from one believer to another believer, not because the other person deserves it, but because we belong to one another. Because we belong to Him.

Koinonia or “the fellowship” is a union with Christ that goes so deep that we recognize our union with one another so we begin, imperfectly of course, but to treat one another exactly the way Jesus would treat us, if He happened to be living in our body. And He happens to, doesn’t He? That’s koinonia.

Three characteristics out of this passage of koinonia in terms of, by way of application. First, it was for all believers, verse 46. No distinctions were made. No race, no color, no socioeconomic differences, no different ethnic backgrounds. All the believers.

I had the privilege of preaching at an all black church. It was a three-hour service. And after I get done preaching usually I’m kind of tired and if I know I have another one that night it’s like, “Boy, I need to kind of rest, you know?” I drove home, the worship was so rich, the fellowship was so rich, the time was so great with God. And I saw how different parts of the body of Christ and the differences in the way they did it and to be candid, just with my background, I just really fit in. It was a lot freer. And no one was in a hurry.

And they, you know, the people just lined up for prayer and the deacons were anointing people with oil and I felt prompted, I just went, man I got down on my knees for about twenty minutes and had a great time with God and met a gal, started singing, and we all started swaying. And, man, it was just… I started doing this, you know? It was just a time with God’s people that come from a different culture that was so rich, and I dream and long for this passage getting lived out in my life, your life, and this church. You know? All believers. It was for all of them.

And the second characteristic: It held the believers together. It promoted unity in the midst of extreme diversity and notice in this passage, the health of the group was more important than anyone’s individual agenda. They had all things in common and everyone who had need, their needs were met.

And then finally, it met the needs of the believers. It wasn’t just a gathering. Koinonia is not getting together either in small groups, or large groups, or medium sized groups, or in a church. It’s not just gathering together in the name of Christ. Real needs have to get met. Have you ever been someplace where if there’s not needs met there’s not love given or love received. It’s real. I mean, that’s the Spirit of God, working in your spirit and your life, to move you to think outside yourself, to want to do something for someone else who doesn’t have.

That’s koinonia. It’s for all believers, it holds us together, and it meets needs. Why is this so important? Is this just important because I have needs and you have needs? And is this just important because Jesus is not here anymore and I need a hug, and you need a hug, and people need a hug?

I’m going to suggest that the importance is far beyond my needs and your needs, as important as those are. I’m going to suggest that the impact of koinonia can’t be underestimated.

I’ve got two stories I want to read. I’ve put them in your notes but you can open your Bible if you want. And I have very little comment. But I want you to think. I want you to think of the, what’s the power of the fellowship, the meeting of the needs, the caring, the belonging to one another?

And right after this text the Spirit of God places, at the end of chapter 4 of Acts, this positive story about a man named Barnabas that exemplifies the power of koinonia and then immediately afterwards He gives another story that’s negative about people who fake koinonia. And the huge implications that it has.

Listen as I read you a little story. “All the believers were with one heart and one mind, no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own.” Can you imagine that place? “But they shared everything that they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and much grace was upon them all.” There were no needy persons among them.

“From time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them and they brought the money from the sales and they put at the apostles’ feet. And it was distributed as anyone had need.”

Do you get the picture of what’s going on here? I mean this is radical. This is radical, radical, radical. The Spirit of God is doing something in selfish hearts. They’d been transformed. And then in case you want a specific picture, “Joseph, a Levite from Cypress who the apostles called Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement,” sold a field that he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.”

And when you do a little research on Barnabas you learn that he was from Cypress. And Cypress was like downtown Manhattan in terms of real estate.

And so he sold a pretty sweet piece of real estate because he thought, “You know what? I’ve got a lot of physical, material resources and we’re birthing this church and things are really happening and I think I’m going to exchange some of those financial resources to meet the needs of a lot of people,” and he did. Positive example of koinonia.

The text goes on, negative example: Ananias and Sapphira. Now the text says, “Now.” Put a line through that. It’s an okay translation. It’s “but.” It’s “but.” And that’s important because the author wants us to know, “What you just heard is one thing, here’s the contrast.”

“But a man named Ananias was together with his wife Sapphira and they also sold a piece of property.” In other words, like, exhibit A, here’s exhibit B. “With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself but he brought the rest and put at the apostles’ feet.

“Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and kept for yourself some of the money you received from the land?’” And then notice where he’s going here. He’s saying, “Hey, it was yours! No one said you had to give it all.”

“Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold?” Answer, “Yes.” “And after it was sold wasn’t the money at your disposal?” In other words, you could give eight percent, thirty-two percent, eighty-five percent, half of it.

“Ananias, it’s your stuff. No one says you gotta give this.”

But notice, “And after it was sold the money was at your disposal, what made you think of doing such a thing? You haven’t lied to men but to God.”

You understand what he did? He said, “I sold it for ten thousand dollars.” He really sold it for fifteen, kept back five so that everyone would think he’d given all to Jesus.

The sin is not about giving. The sin is not about money. The sin is about hypocrisy. The sin is about acting like you love people and making people think you care more than you really care.

It’s the first sin recorded in the New Testament Church. And you’re thinking to yourself, “Well, you know, everyone has a few downfalls. I mean hypocrisy, like, how serious could that be? We’re all a little bit hypocrite, right?”

Read on. “‘You haven’t lied to men but to God.’ When Ananias heard this he fell down and died and great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then the young men came forward and they wrapped up his body and carried him out and buried him. And about three hours later,” you know, here we go, the scene changes, the camera changes, the zoom lens go back.

Ananias… they watch the guys walking him out. And, you know, I mean, people were going, “Whoa. For just lying? For being a hypocrite? I mean, bang! Heart attack.”

Three hours later Sapphira comes in, “Hey! Is my hubby been by?” “As a matter of fact…”

So notice the interrogation here. So here we go, “About three hours later his wife came in not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her,” he gives her a chance, “‘Tell me, is this the price that you and Ananias got for the land?’ ‘Yes, we’re so committed, we’re so loving, we care so much. You know Barnabas, all the strokes he got and how he became a real hero in the Church? We would like to be just like him. Having people think that we’re wonderful, loving, caring, and sacrificial. Yes, that’s exactly the price.’” I think I’m reading into this just a shade.

“Peter said to her, ‘How could you agree,’” in other words, you’re in cahoots, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord?” And then it gets very sober. “‘Look, the feet of the men who buried the husband are at the door and they will carry you out also.’ At that moment she fell down at his feet and died and the young men came in and finding her dead carried her out and buried her beside her husband and great fear seized the whole Church and all who heard about these events.”

You ever wonder why the Spirit of God would place this in the annals of the early Church as the first sin recorded? You see koinonia and hypocrisy can’t go together. We are all, we’re human, we’re fleshly, we spend probably more energy trying to convince ourselves some and other people a lot more that we’re loving and caring than we’re really loving and caring.

Our image and what people think and how we come off in our flesh just becomes so paramount. And see there can’t be real koinonia if the real care doesn’t come from a real heart that’s really sincere.

And so you notice the extent of our impact is directly proportional to the unity and the authenticity of our fellowship.

See real koinonia is about real unity. Not phony unity, not we’re all together, we all agree on everything, everything is peachy.  Real unity is forged out of authentic conflict and real unity is forged out of a commitment to the truth. And real unity happens when you just flat out care for people when it costs. And the extent of our impact as a body will be directly proportional to the genuine unity and the authenticity of our fellowship. Jesus said it best. A new commandment He gave to His disciples, “That you love one another. By this all men will know that you’re My disciples if you have love for one another.”

I think what God wants to birth as He is birthing elsewhere in many, many churches He wants to birth a group of people that say, “We want genuine koinonia and it begins with me. I want to express my love for God by loving you. I want to receive love from God by having people, not only tell me the truth but put their arm around me.” And the extent of our impact will be the genuine unity that we have, and the authenticity that we have, both before God and before one another.