Though we sometimes think of spiritual growth as being a personal journey, different for every individual, the Scripture tells us that there actually are certain things that universally promote the spiritual growth of the Christian — call them patterns. Last week we observed what the very earliest Christians did. After being baptized on the day of Pentecost…
Acts 2:42-47 “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
Last week we looked at the portion of the growth pattern in which these early Christians devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings, and how growing Christians still do so by staying in the New Testament Scriptures. But there is more that serious disciples have always been devoted to (as Acts 2 shows us) and will always want to devote themselves to in pursuit of spiritual growth. Today we’ll look at Fellowship and worship with the assembly of the saints.
Spiritual growth is not and never has been a solitary thing. For some this is sort of counter-intuitive, after all, “Isn’t spiritual growth all about what goes on privately inside of the individual?” While spiritual growth is indeed about what happens in the heart, one of the ways that it happens in the individual is in the fellowship of the church — with others.
The truth is that we a great deal of our time in secular pursuits — just do the math:
- How many hours a week do you usually spend at work?
- How many hours do you usually spend with non-Christian friends and/or family?
- How many hours a week do you usually spend in secular (non-religious) entertainment?
- How many hours a week do you spend at worship or with Christian friends?
- What is the ratio of time “in the world” vs. time with positive Christian values?
Now, take that ratio and think. What sort of influence does the world try to exert on us daily or weekly (priorities, language, “fun”, moral boundaries, attitudes, etc.)? Conversely, what do the Christian people and influences try to encourage us to do? So, is Christian fellowship important? Paul warned the Corinthians, (1 Corinthians 15:33) “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” The truth is that Christians with several friends within the church with whom they spend time are 1) more likely to grow and 2) not as likely to fall away.
Worshiping with the church
A common mistake that many modern religious people make is to think that the worship assembly is really not that important. But personal, private worship at home in isolation from other Christians is just not enough to grow spiritually (or please God). The growing Christians of Acts 2 devoted themselves to “the breaking of bread…praising God…” How does assembled worship help us to grow? When we partake of the Lord’s Supper we together remember the Lord’s death for us and that we have been made both sons of God by covenant and the visible body of Christ (the church) — both having responsibilities toward others. The singing of the congregation (Col. 3:16) teaches and admonishes us all in ways that we cannot do on our own. The Scripture tells us (Acts 4:31) that there is special power in corporate prayer (prayer offered together as a church). Preaching in the assembly from God’s word provides us all with a little reality check regarding our beliefs, our words, our deeds, our attitudes, and our spiritual growth. And even giving together allows us to do much more than we could do alone. Add to this the fact that we are commanded to do so (Heb. 10:23-25) and it becomes clear that it is much more important than modern folks believe. You see, it’s not so much that stronger Christians go to all the worship services and Bible studies of the church as much as it is that Christians that go to all the worship services and Bible studies of the church become stronger.
Follow these patterns and watch how you grow! Next week we’ll talk about prayer and involvement.