Thursday, January 21, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Fellowship seasoned with Grace

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 31 Num. 29
“Fellowship seasoned with Grace”
First Published: July 23, 1998

In Luke 1, we learn that after Mary had been informed by the angel that she was carrying the Christ-child, she immediately sought the fellowship and company of her older cousin Elizabeth. The story that Luke recounts in 1:39-45 is a beautiful picture of two believers sharing spiritual fellowship with one another and encouraging one another in the faith: “Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.’”

There are at least four lessons for us in these glorious verses. First, we learn here that communion with other believers is an important means of strengthening our faith. Observe here the benefit of fellowship (“shared life” is a good way to define this over-used but frequently misunderstood term) between believers. Both women had been called to extraordinary tasks, and they strengthened one another for those tasks in fellowship. Thus, we should always regard communion with other believers as a means of grace. As J.C. Ryle once said: “First let us seek the face of God. Then let us seek the face of God’s friends.”

Second, this account also reminds us that Christian fellowship always entails spiritually-minded conversation. Note the clear spiritual language of Elizabeth: (43) “my Lord” and (45) “blessed is she . . . .” These dear and godly women did not content themselves with discussion of common and daily matters, but spoke spiritually about spiritual things. Do we find it easy to speak of spiritual things in a natural way (without seeming pretentious or flippant)? This doesn’t mean that spiritual things are the only things we talk about with our friends, but a noticeable lack of spiritual conversation in our normal practice ought to be a warning sign for us.

Third, that Christians should both be heartened by and encourage one another’s faith is another good lesson we learn through Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. Did you notice the high praise Elizabeth bestows upon the grace of faith as she encourages Mary (45)? Well, do we notice, appreciate, and encourage one another’s faith? Do we tell one another? And do we exercise faith like Mary’s?

Fourth and finally, this passage points us to this principle: Christian ought frequently to meditate on the person of their Lord. Note Elizabeth’s preoccupation with the person of Christ (43) “my Lord” she calls him. And even her baby, who would be known as John the Baptist, in the womb recognizes his presence (41, 44)! These are beautiful examples of how Christians ought to be moved by contemplation of the Lord Jesus. So again we ask ourselves: Are we moved by thoughts of our Lord? Do we frequently meditate on him?

May the Lord truly make First Presbyterian Church into a “community of spiritual encouragement” and may your fellowship be seasoned with grace this week.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

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