Losing Fellowship with Christ – Thomas Smith
Losing Fellowship with Christ
Pastor Thomas Smith
I love the Sunday night service. I'm glad you make it a priority. I tell our people frequently in our church, that if I could only make one service on Sunday, it would be the Sunday night service. I enjoy Sunday night services so much and I'm glad to see you here. Hopefully there are some guests here as well. Welcome!
It is a joy for us to be here. My wife Rhonda and I have looked forward to this time to fellowship together. We are going to be looking in Luke chapter 2. We do have a number of friends and acquaintances in common. Your pastor, I, and Brother Parrish were able to attend a conference that we host every other year. That would have been in 2016, and I appreciate them coming down there. It is a joy to be at Fairhaven Baptist Church, thank you for the invitation and we are really honored to be here.
We are going to be looking at Luke's gospel the second chapter. If you are able to I would like to ask that you stand with us for the reading of the word of God in Luke chapter 2 and verse 41. The Word of God says, Luke 2:41-46 “Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.”
A lot takes place in the second chapter of Luke's gospel. Earlier in the chapter, we have the record of Jesus birth in verse 11, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Then as he was brought to the temple as was the custom for the dedication of a child, verse 22 “And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord.” Then it tells us in verse 39, “And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.”
Jesus, of course, was born in Bethlehem only about six miles from Jerusalem. He was taken to the temple there in Jerusalem for the formal dedication of this new baby. Then they're making their way back to Nazareth in Galilee, not Jerusalem, or Bethlehem of Judea, but north 65 miles or so to the city of Nazareth where they were from. Then the Bible tells us in verse 40, talking about the early days of Jesus growth, “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.” Then verse 41 “Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.” So this is setting the stage for what we are about to look at in the scriptures this evening.
By the way, this is a good example for families, it says his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. I think every family ought to live that way﹘consistently every day, every week, every year doing what God would have them to do. Their faithfulness, their leadership, their example is evident.
Verse 42 tells us, at that time he was twelve years old and they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. So at 12 years old they are going to make this trek. It says, they went up to Jerusalem, up in elevation, really down geographically. If you are looking at your map it is about a 65-mile journey. They didn’t take the train, they actually walked or rode animals or a wagon, but it was a long ride 65-miles. It was a pretty good journey, and so we have a snapshot of something that happened in the life of Jesus when he was 12 years old. The Bible says that they went there and in verse 43 it says “they fulfilled the days.” They fulfilled that week that had to do with the Passover in the time of celebration and then they returned.
Their discovery - he was missing
Verse 43 also records, that “the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.” Now this is an amazing thing to think about. I think about it in the context of the scripture, I also think about it in the context of the day and age in which we live. Think about what it would be like, for you or I as parents, to be traveling along and all of a sudden realize that someone is missing. Actually at our church that happens, not frequently, but occasionally someone goes home without their child. Sometimes I think it's accidental, sometimes I think it may be intentional, but I always make sure the child gets back with their parents. It happened just a few weeks ago. Sometimes because of multiple cars, you know parents coming to church at different times, and so anyway it happens.
So they're finding themselves in this situation where Jesus was missing. I'm just trying to capture in my mind what it must have been like for that to happen, to find out that he's not with you. Imagine what they had been going through in this incident where Jesus was missing and they recognized it. Look again if you would in verse 43, and think about the impact of this “And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.” The next verse “But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.” Jesus was not with them, Jesus was not there. I mean just thinking about it strikes panic to me in the heart of every parent.
My wife and I live about eight miles from town. The town that we are associated with is a small town of about four thousand people. We live about eight miles away from that and so we live in rural setting. We live on that property and our children and their families live on the same property, we call it the compound. We were there one summer day a couple of years ago and a child was out there on the property riding his bicycle. We knew it was the son of one of our families in the church, one of their children, and he was riding his bicycle and playing with our grandkids and playing on the trampoline. He and his parents live about two miles from there. We are just busy around the house doing chores and stuff when the phone rings and it's this boys mama and she's frantic. I mean she's frantic, she's in a panic, she's crying, she's sobbing, crying because her son Caden is missing. Saying I don't know where he's gone, and we've called the police and the police are looking for him and would we help. She didn't think I knew where he was. She just wanted me, I'm her pastor, to please pray for God to miraculously help us find our child, and I said well Christina I'm looking at him. Don't play tricks with me! I don't know why she would think her pastor would play tricks on her, but anyway I said sure enough Christina he's right here. I'm looking at him. Man it wasn't a minute later and his dad comes flying down that gravel. Oh boy, . . .and again, I didn't stay around for the pep talk, the welcome home, and all that sort of stuff.
I have told you several stories but let me give you my favorite story. I read this article years ago, it was actually in a Christian periodical. In this periodical the title of the article was “Left Behind.” The pastor writing this article said it was about one of his members, actually it was his music director, who had been returning home from vacation. He had been traveling for a week or two and on his way home he stopped for fuel. When he stopped to gas up the automobile his wife had been sleeping in the back of the van. So he finished up, paid at the pump, got back in the van and headed on back toward home. As he was driving along he got tired and was sleepy and called out to his wife to come and assist him with the driving responsibilities. At that time he realized she was not in the vehicle. When he was fueling up the tank she went inside the store and so he's driving along without her 60 miles down the road. He realized someone's not in the vehicle. When she didn't respond he's in panic. I'm trying to get you all in a panic tonight. When she didn't respond, he starts flying back down the highway this was his testimony his exact words. All the exits and all the service stations look the same. Back at the service station his wife, without her cell phone, without her purse, without a penny to her name, finally convinces the store clerk the situation's serious. Let's get the Highway Patrol out looking for her husband. Finally the husband thought to look at the credit-card receipt from the gas pump. Two hours later he finds her, . . . once again I'm sure it wasn't pretty.
Back to the text here. Jesus is missing and Mary and Joseph are looking for him. It says in verse 44, “but they supposing him to have been in the company,” and just a little emphasis on the phrase “in the company.” In my mind, I visualized this family from up north in Nazareth of Galilee making this trek on foot several days long, every year at the same time, on the same road. I'm convinced that probably they were familiar with people that were along that road. There wasn't just a small family they had all of their relatives and friends because everyone who could make that trip did. Passover is the most important day of the Jewish holiday festivities and so they're making this journey. It was not just like going to church, it was an annual trek with lots of people and their cousins and relatives and friends. They have not seen them for months or maybe for years and they are traveling along. As they are going they notice that he is missing. Look again if you would please in the Bible, it says in verse 44, “they supposing him to have been in the company went a day's journey.” They did not notice it immediately they traveled for a day. We are just estimating, maybe 1/4 of the way back to Nazareth, maybe 1/5 of the way back to Nazareth, but a day passed before they discovered that he was not with them.
I'm sure you're drawing the conclusion, you are making this parallel, because I see some similarities in this that we could apply to our life spiritually. How that sometimes it is not immediately that we notice something is not right spiritually in our life. For them it took them an entire day even to recognize that Jesus was not there. I can identify with their discovery. Their discovery was that Jesus was not with them, and by the way, this is the condition of every unsaved person, they are without Jesus Christ. I know some people act as though and speak as though God is always with us. It does not matter what your station in life is, or what your spiritual condition is, we are all children of God. But the Bible does not teach that. As a matter of fact, the Bible says that before we get saved we are without God and without hope in this world. That is really where the mass of humanity is﹘without God. You may be a good person, you may even be a religious person, but if you have never been born again you are without God. You need something more than you need a raise, and more than you need more friends, you need God in your life. You need a relationship with God that is real. So this describes the condition of unsaved people.
Don't make the mistake of wrongly supposing. Notice what it said in verse 44, “supposing him to have been in the company.” Don't make the mistake of supposing that God is with you, when in reality he may not be with you. That does not mean he does not know you and care about you and surrounds us in his presence, but without salvation we are without God. The day that you get saved, the day you trust Christ as your Savior will be the greatest day of your life for a lot of reasons. Sometimes people come to Christ because their world is falling apart. I can relate to that. They are coming to Christ for a lot of different reasons, but the best thing that happens when you get saved is that God becomes a part of your life. They were without the Savior.
Let me apply it to those of us who are saved. If we are like they were and we are going along in life, we may not even recognize it immediately, but something begins to happen. There is a disconnect between us and Christ as far as our fellowship is concerned as far as our communion with him is concerned. Don't misunderstand what I am saying, if you are saved you can never be unsaved. Aren't you glad about that. Aren't you glad that it's eternal security. Amen!
It is good to know that it is all of the grace of God, he saves us by his grace and he keeps us by his grace. He said I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. Jesus said no man can pluck you out of the father's hand. I know some people say yeah, but you could choose to disavow Christ. No, no man can take you out of the father's hand, that includes yourself. The pastor preached this morning a great message on the person of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of God seals us until the day of redemption. So I am not talking about losing your salvation but I am talking about losing your fellowship, the closeness of his presence. Sometimes we can come to that awareness that there is something missing in our life even though we are saved. There is something that is not right in our life. Just like these parents in our text, we sort of assume that he is always there in reality. He may be there positionally. He is there as far as being our Savior and our Redeemer and our dwelling presence, but maybe he is not working in our life the way he once did. Maybe he is not directing our life like he once did. Something could be missing in our worship. One of the many things that drastically changed when my wife and I got saved (a lot of things changed but one thing changed) was we had a relationship with God and we loved to praise Him. It was not uncommon for me to be in a Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night service, like we are here tonight, with tears running down my cheeks for only one reason. I couldn't believe that he loved me the way he loved me and had done for me what he had done for me.
I wasn't conscious, you know sometimes people come to church they are conscious, of a lot of things or mindful of a lot of things. Who is here who is not, who they are talking to, who they are sitting with. I tell you I only had one thing, in those days, on my mind and that was a Savior that loved me and died for me. Sometimes we can lose that nearness to him in our worship. Our worship is not what it once was, our concern for lost souls is not what it was, our prayer time, even reading the Bible. Sometimes we can all do this. We can be reading our Bible and we are reading the words, but it is not like it once was. It is not like pouring over the Word of God as though God himself is speaking to us through the Word of God. I am just telling you sometimes if we are not careful, I am not saying he leaves us, I am just telling you there is a disconnect there is something missing. I want to say tonight there is nothing more important in life than knowing that he is with us. Knowing that he is leading us . Know that he is working in our life. He wants to be intimately involved in our life. We are not talking about a feeling we are talking about a spiritual reality. We need God working in our life. Moses said to the Lord over there in the Old Testament, Lord, if you are not going to go with me I do not want to go. Far too many times, people who claim to be saved are going about their daily routine and going through the things of their life and taking care of their business with little regard for the fact that God may not be even directing them or leading them. The Bible says, “in all of thy ways acknowledge him.” God wants to be involved, young person, in every aspect of our life. Paul wrote to Timothy and he said, in my first answer no man stood with me, but the Lord stood with me and strengthened me. We need the Lord working in our life. The discovery that this family had was that Jesus was not with them.
Their distraction - they were preoccupied
Look with me if you would please to the Word of God again. It tells us in verse 44, “they supposing him to have been in the company went a day's journey...They sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances.” I want to think not only about their discovery, but second of all there distraction because that is really what happened to them. They got so busy doing things that they were enjoying doing, that they left off thinking about Jesus Christ. Like I said, it was like a family reunion, it was like an extended vacation, it was one of the highlights of their calendar year. Just think about this, how could you forget about Jesus. I mean we were blessed with three wonderful children but sometimes I can see how I forget about one of them. How do you forget about Jesus? I will tell you how, they were so preoccupied. They were preoccupied with other people, they were preoccupied with other things. Jesus was out of sight and out of mind.
I just want to say to you tonight it is possible for us, especially in the busy culture and life that we live, to get so busy with stuff that Jesus is really not in the forefront of our thoughts and our minds. I can relate to that sometimes we get so involved in things that Jesus gets left out. By the way, it does not have to be bad things. It can be things like our job, things like our responsibility with our children, and even things like the ministry. You would say, well pastor, you know surely you would not ever fail to give Jesus the attention that he needs in the ministry. It can happen to all of us, where we are just doing work. I want to tell you something more important than work and that is our relationship with Jesus Christ. They were preoccupied with all these other things. They had so much other stuff they were giving their attention to and the same can happen in our life. Something is missing in our relationship, but it can be other things, things like social networking. So much time and attention is often given for people. They have time to search their Facebook account but they don't really have time to meditate upon the Word of God. Maybe our hobbies, our video games, things that consume us, things that distract us, and because of that our spiritual lives are suffering. Let's be reminded tonight that God had one primary purpose in putting us on this planet and that is that we might have fellowship with him. That is the priority. Not just working for him but fellowship with him, communion with him, a relationship with him that is why God put us here. All for his honor and all for his glory.
So tonight maybe there is something that has been allowed to come into our life. Maybe something that has been allowed to remain in our heart that robs us our fellowship with the Lord. I was just thinking, as I'm going through this part of the message, about the message we heard in the main service this morning. About the danger of bitterness and anger and forgiveness. Please hear me tonight, if I as a Christian hold a grudge or if I am angry toward a person, I am unforgiving toward a person that does not mean I will lose my salvation. But it does mean that I am hindering my fellowship with God. We cannot go around with things in our heart having ought against our brother or sister and act as though it doesn't matter to God. It does matter to God. It grieves, as we heard this morning, the Spirit of God. Whatever it is that has taken time and space that Jesus deserves we need to identify and we need to either regulate or remove it from our lives.
I was thinking a little while ago about that great passage, and I'm not going to turn to it for time's sake, in the same gospel where Jesus paid a visit to some friends that were dear to him--Mary and Martha and Lazarus. You may remember the story where Mary, it says, was sitting at his feet listening to his words. Martha was in the kitchen frying chicken and okra and just making a good healthy meal for Jesus. Martha busy busy about home making and those kind of things, nothing wrong with that stuff, I tend to like it myself. She had a complaint and her complaint was about her sister. Her complaint was to Jesus. She said basically don't you see that I am working and she's not doing anything but just sitting there soaking up every word you say. Jesus said to Martha, I love the way he said it, Martha, Martha. I could just hear it “Martha, Martha, thou are cumbered about many things, but one thing is needful and Mary have chosen that good part.” There is something more important than cooking dinner and that is spending time with me. We can have that same syndrome in our own life. So busy and even getting a bad attitude about it. Imagine that a bad attitude, why aren't these other people helping. Don't they see what we are trying to do. Why aren't these other people helping. I'm not saying I haven't had those same thoughts. I'll tell you Jesus made it clear one thing that supersedes everything else and that is being with Jesus Christ. We need to make time for it. We need to make it a priority. We need to make sure we have that in our schedule. Their discovery that Jesus was missing, their distractions caused them to lose contact with him and disconnect from him.
Their desire - was to find him
There is a third thing I want to think about this evening. We have looked at their, discovering their distractions, and now let’s look at their desire. Look with me if you would please in verse 44, “but they supposing him to have been in the company went a day's journey and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances.” This was their desire to find him. They sought him. They began to look for him. You know it is one thing to recognize that something is missing in your Christian life, but it is another thing to do something about it. Lots of times I think people come to our worship services and they know something is not right but they leave knowing something is not right. They come back next week knowing something is not right and they go home again knowing something is not right. Their desire was to find him, we've got to find him. Look what it says in verse 45 “and when they found him not…” these were frantic days. I've got this thing and it may seem silly to you, but often as I read the Bible I find myself wishing to see that. So here is my desire, God knows that I have said it a lots of times. I would like to think that God has all these things archived in heaven. So we can just sit around and watch them one day on VHS, or blue-ray. I mean I could just see them going from relative to friend and relative and frantically crying out but we can't find him. Where is he. Have you seen Jesus? So this was their desire, it was to find him. To me, maybe I'm wrong but something tells me, there was nothing in their world more important at that moment than finding Jesus Christ. By the way, this is the way it ought to be in our life. This is where I think true revival comes. When we are seeking Him because we need him, we don't just need ritual or religion we need him. We need the person of Jesus Christ. We need his fullness. We need his power. We need his wisdom with His grace. We need his fellowship. This must be our desire.
I want you to hold your finger if you would at Luke chapter 2, and I want to go to a passage that you'll be familiar with, part of the Old Testament book of Jeremiah. In Jeremiah chapter 29, talking about our desire to find him. our desire to fix whatever is wrong. In Jeremiah chapter 29 verse 12, the Bible says, “then shall you call upon me and you shall go and pray unto me and I will hearken unto you.” Isn’t that a great promise you'll call upon me you'll go and pray unto me and I'll hearken unto you. Jeremiah 29:13 “and you shall seek me and find me when you shall search for me with all your heart.” Then the first part of verse 14 of what wonderful words and “I will be found of you saith the Lord.” God wants to be found. God wants us to have an unhindered fellowship with him. Hebrews 11, tells us that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. This should be a priority to us.
I want to go back to this thought maybe there is someone here tonight, you don't know the Lord, maybe it has not really been a priority. Do I really know him, am I sure I'm going to heaven, is He a part of your life. I'm telling you according to the Bible, if you've never been born again you have no hope of going to heaven no matter how many good things you do, no matter how many times you have been to church. That ought to matter to us, I mean to be without Jesus is to be without life. He that hath the Son hath life, he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. Religion can not give you life, only Jesus can give you life. God is seeking for you and if you are here and you are not saved tonight, you ought to be thinking mentally I have to make this a priority.
I can remember, even though it's been well over 40 years ago I can vividly remember, what it was like when for the first time as an adult I understood that I needed God in my life. Our lives were wrecks. This is not an exaggeration, I say with a great deal of regret, but I for several years of my life, I dropped out of school when I was in high school. For several years of my life hardly a day went by that I didn't put some kind of substance into my life. I thought about myself as I was hearing the story about this hymn and the writing of this hymn. I know what it is like to stay in the bars until everybody is gone and you are the last one out and come home to a broken-hearted wife. Then wonder can it ever be right. I am telling you by the grace of God through the invitation of a friend of my wife we started attending a church similar to this. We were not going to put on any kind of a show. We were not going to try to improve our social status. We were going because we were going down for the last time. I'm telling you by the grace of God he saved us and changed our life and I've never gotten over it. Aren't you glad for salvation that is real.
You may be here tonight and you are not saved. You are thinking nobody can fix what's wrong with me. I'm telling you Jesus Christ can fix what's wrong with you. Because what is wrong with us is not just our friends or our habits. What is wrong with us is something in our heart on the inside of us that man cannot get to. But I'm telling you God who made us can change us from the inside out. To be without Jesus is to be without anything valuable in life. If you are here tonight and you are not saved ask somebody to help me with this. Then maybe you're here tonight as a Christian, and it just seems like if you could just get away from all the business and the responsibilities and the stuff we do. You realize I've been kind of pushing Jesus out in some way. We have got to begin to seek Him earnestly. Their desire was to find him and sometimes people don't even realize it for over a day. Sometimes we don't realize it but something's missing something's not like it used to be. Can you imagine how seriously they must have frantically sought him. I'll tell you what a blessing it would be if when we assemble like this together we all came unified with this one purpose. We just come into to seek the Lord and make sure everything is right between us. They discovered that he was missing. Their distractions hindered them from recognizing it and their desire was to find him.
Their decision - we are turning back
We will conclude with verse 45 still in Luke 2. “When they found him not they turned back again to Jerusalem seeking Him.” Their decision was, we are turning back. We are not going on without him. We are going to backtrack. It doesn't tell us exactly where they were, but we're gonna backtrack every place we've been, until we find him. Don't you reckon it was kind of humiliating as they went to their cousins and their friends and people they didn't know and said, you know I hate to tell you this but we've lost our son. Well, how long has he been gone? Well, several days! I mean what an embarrassing thing to have to say we've lost our son for days. I want to state the obvious tonight, and that is this, if we are really going to seek Him sometimes we have to go back to the place where we left off. Their decision was to go back.
At some point it becomes impossible for God to really stay with us and bless us. Maybe things we are looking at, maybe conversations we are having, it may be associations, it may be attitudes of unforgiveness or pride but I'm telling you He won't bless those things. We may want him to act as though everything's cool even though we've got things in our life that are not to Him. Maybe we are not giving God what we ought to be giving Him in way of our time, maybe with holding our obedience, or tithes and offering whatever it might be. Like pastor said, I have been pastoring in the same place for almost 37 years. I know what it's like for people to have this idea. Well I think God understands. If I am disobeying, if I am not doing what God wants me to do, I think everything's still cool. I am telling you, God will not bless disobedience. It could be a position we take, it could be an attitude that we have, it may be spiritual neglect in our lives, it may just be familiarity. We've sung the song so many times and we've heard the story so many times that it sort of lost its meaning. But I want to tell you the songs have not lost their meaning and the message does not change its meaning. Sometimes our heart has changed.
Amos 3:3 you know the Word says, “can two walk together unless they be agreed.” You know, if you read the rest of this story, we're not going to turn to it but, when they came and found Jesus there in the temple they were sort of upset with him. Jesus said, don't you know that I must be about My Father's business. Jesus is gonna be about his Father's business. Jesus doesn't have to be about my business, but he's gonna be about His Father's business. If I am going to walk with him I have got to be about His Father's business. Not just doing what I want to do, when I want to do it, the way I want to do it. I mentioned that how humiliating it must have been and it would be humiliating for us tonight, but I have to admit you know I've been busy doing a lot of stuff but I've really been walking without the Lord in the way that I know I could and should. I have left him somewhere but I really need to rejoin him.
I'll tell you if just one person here tonight said, you know that's me. That's me … my wife wouldn't know it, my husband wouldn't know it, my parents may not know it, my children may not know it but God knows it. There is something that needs to be dealt with if I am going to have that kind of relationship with him that I need to have. Could you imagine the relief of them finding Jesus? What a great day that was. I am thinking about that man that found his wife. He might have regretted that for a little bit, but later he said what a great day that was. I don't know if this is true or for you or not, but I know it has been true for me. There have been times even as a pastor when I've recognized I need something more than anything else right now. I need to get everything else off my plate and I need time alone with God because something's not right. I will tell you what a joy it is to have him back walking with us in blessing us. God wants us to want Him.
So if you are here tonight and you have doubts about your salvation, you are not sure, you ought to come tonight. You ought to talk to somebody about it. We are not going to try to force anything on your life, but I will tell you, you need the Lord. I highly recommend Him. You need the Lord. You ought to come tonight. It will be the greatest decision you ever made.
Maybe you said preacher, I've got this settled, I know I'm saved. Maybe you are thinking I don't want to go another day. By the way, you may need to go to somebody and say, you know I have had this attitude, and I know I said this and I shouldn't have said it. I'll say you act like God's kind of particular. He is real particular. I don't think there are any little things when it comes to fellowship with God, but boy it's great to get it right. Praise God for it!