I have met many people who openly proclaim they don’t need church. They have an attitude that says, “Me and God have got our own thing going on.” Church is not a priority nor is fellowship with other believers. When it comes down to it, God has declared that we need one another. There are over 50 “one another” passages in the New Testament. God did not intend for us to live out our faith alone. He purchased us and made us one body (the Church) in the blood and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When we are saved we are unified together with all believers. We are meant to live, breathe, and function in the community of other believers. When we forsake these relationships we miss out on tremendous blessing.
Many times the two reasons why fellowship is not a priority is privacy and protection. People are just not willing to get to know others or be known by them. Yes, relationships can be messy. Yes, they can also open us up to hurt and disappointment. However, despite these “ifs” God still calls us to love one another and bear with one another. The Lord knows what He is doing by commanding these things because He knows exactly what we need. Many times we convince ourselves that staying away from others is what is best for us. We think, “If I stay away than I won’t get hurt” or “If I stay away than people won’t know this about me” but the truth is when we stay away we are really only hurting ourselves.
One of the ways that we fight off sin is through fellowship. Paul teaches in 2 Timothy 2:22, “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” There are actually three commands in this verse. One is to flee from youthful lusts. We are to run (at times literally!) from sin. We are to do whatever we can to get away from the youthful lusts of this world. John describes the things of this world in 1 John 2:16 as, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life.” John goes on to say that these things will pass away and die along with the world. We are not to hang around these things, make them our practice or pursue them. Instead (here is the second command) we are to pursue the things of God, which are righteousness, faith, love and peace. Notice all of these things are not found in ourselves but in Christ. So we are to run from ourselves and run to Christ. As Jesus said we are to “deny ourselves” and follow Him. There is a third command in this verse that is often missed. Paul not only tells us to flee from sin and pursue Jesus but he commands for us to do so “with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” We are to fight sin and go after Jesus not as lone rangers but as a band of brothers. We are lying to ourselves if we think that we can fight off sin alone. God has given us a provision in other believers to fight against sin and focus on Jesus.
God has also given us the opportunity for much needed encouragement in one another. The writer of Hebrews continues with the call of community in the New Testament with this passage in Hebrews 10:23-25, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” There are times we may feel like giving up on church. We may be going through a rough time that drives us to seclude ourselves or we may just get caught up in busyness that we slip away from fellowship. See from this passage that we cannot make this a habit. The writer pleads with the people not to make this a pattern. Missing a few Sundays can become a destructive pattern in our lives that keeps us from valuable necessities for living. We need love, we need to partake in good deeds, we need encouragement, we need to know that there are others out there holding onto the truth that we are so desperately trying to hold onto. This passage tells us that we find all of that in gathering together. You have more than you know to offer to this body of believers!
A good picture for the word stimulate is a “spur.” When a horse slows down in the race, the jockey gives the horse a spur to push him on. There are times spurs hurt. There are times they are uncomfortable but that horse needs the spur to run in the right direction and win the race. In the same way we need the spur of one another. We need one another to challenge us, to love on us, to serve us and to encourage us so that we are each heading in the direction of Christ.
Thankful For All That I Have In You, Pastor Rudy