The Bible tells us that God desires for His people to fellowship with one another. Indeed, the writer of Hebrews tells us that participating in the fellowship of the church is something that ought to be a core value for every Christian. Starting today, we will be looking to verse 25 of this passage to learn what we are told about the priority of fellowship.
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing” - Hebrews 10:25 (NIV)
First Baptist Church is structured in such a way as to help you live a purposeful Christian life. We have, what we like to call, “three groupings for growth.” First, there are large group gatherings. Our Sunday morning worship celebration gatherings are the best example of such a grouping. Second, there are mid-sized group gatherings that are life experience or age specific. Our Sunday morning Bible Fellowships are the best example of such groupings. Third, there are small group gatherings that are intergenerational. Our Growth Groups are the best example of such groupings.
Through Sunday morning worship you can acquaintances; through a Sunday morning Bible Fellowship you can develop friendships; and through a weekly Growth Group you can experience family.
A Worship Celebrations are like the foyer to your home. It is a place where you can meet people and get acquainted. A Bible Fellowships are like your living room. It is a place where you can get to know others better as friends. A Growth Group is like a kitchen. It is a place where family gathers to talk over their day, their struggles in life, and to determine how they can help each other get through things.
Now, if you and I are going to obey this command of Scripture, we will be faithful to be involved in whatever opportunities are afford us to come together with God’s people. Here at FBC, we’ve tried to make it simple - the primary way for you to participate in the fellowship of the church is for you to weekly be part of a Sunday morning worship celebration, a Sunday morning Bible Fellowship, and a weekly Growth Group meeting. With this in mind, let’s note what we are told about meeting together with God’s people:
1. We are to do so intentionally - “Let us”
We must be intentional when it comes to gathering with God’s people, because if we are not, we will often find reasons to do other things. If we are not intentional in making this choice, we will easily let other people or other things make the choice for us, and before we know it, we have done what the writer warns against, we have developed the habit of not meeting with God’s people.
In the Bible, believers are often compared to sheep. This isn’t a compliment. Sheep are dumb. Most animals survive if released into the wild. But sheep have no survival skills whatsoever. Give a sheep freedom and it’s going to be eaten or starve in a couple of days. That’s because sheep are bred to only be able to live with the protection and sustenance provided by the shepherd within the safety of the flock.
Likewise, the Christian life is not designed to be lived outside the context of community. It is only as we “stay with the flock” that we will be in a position to be fed and led by our Shepherd.
But we can imitate sheep in another way. Sheep tend to be easily distracted and stray from the flock, which causes them to fall prey to predators.
If we are not careful, we can allow things in this world to distract us and tempt us to stray from the fellowship; and before we know it, we find ourselves totally separated from the fellowship of God’s people.
The chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken. - Samuel Johnson (British author)
There are many Christians today who are part of a church membership, but no longer part of the church fellowship. Most of them didn’t intend to quit. They just allowed one thing after the other distract them until they found themselves no longer part of the fellowship of their church. That’s why we must be intentional about meeting together with God’s people. Because if we are not, we will naturally drift away and find ourselves in a place where we are no longer being fed or led by God.
“We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” - Hebrews 2:1 (NIV)
“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” - 1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)
Just like sheep have predators that attack when they wander from the flock, we open ourselves up to be devoured by the evil one if we stray away from the fellowship. That’s why we must remain vigilant and intentionally choose to participate in the fellowship of God’s family.
2. We are to do so persistently - “Let us not give up”
The words, “give up” make us think of another reason someone forsake fellowship with God’s people. Not only can we be tempted to “give up” meeting with God’s people by the distractions of the world, but by the “unattractions” of the church. Perhaps they have been hurt or turned off by a brother that was less than perfect. Indeed, any time imperfect humans beings come together, the potential for greater imperfection is intensified. But the writer of Hebrews urges us to not “give up.”
Conflict is often required before we experience community. Until people have gone through conflict together and come out on the other side, their relationship is untested. Working through differences constructively, however, forges deep bonds of trust.
The strongest marriages are those that fought their way through tough issues to achieve a hard-won mutual trust. These husbands and wives know that more challenges will come, but that doesn’t scare them. They know they can work through them together and be the stronger for it because they’ve done it before.
You see, the Bible tells us that if we are going to learn how to walk in right relationship with God, we must also learn how to walk in right relationship with others. That’s why He insists that we gather together as His people. Within the context of learning how to love each other, forgive each other, care for one another, be patient with one another and put up with one another, God can make us more of what He has in mind for us to be. True community is often arrived at by means of working through conflict. That is partly why the writer of Hebrews
admonishes us to not “give up.”
3. We are to do so habitually - “as some are in the habit of doing”
“Good habits are hard to acquire but easy to live with. Bad habits are easy to acquire but hard to live with.” - Anonymous
Gathering with God’s people is a habit that is easy to live with, because the support, the encouragement, the counsel, the accountability, the concern, the interest, the prayers, the advice, the opportunities one receives by being involved in God’s family make life a lot easier.
By contrast, not being a faithful part of God’s family means I am choosing to “go it alone,” and life lived alone is hard.
The Christian life was never designed to be lived alone. Right from the beginning, when Jesus began calling disciples, He first called two disciples. He didn‘t just call one. It was Andrew and John. When Andrew began to follow Jesus he was called to be with Jesus but he was also called to be with John. And John was called to be with Andrew. And every other disciple that the Lord added was not only called to follow Him but called to join the community the Lord had already gathered.
There are some people who try to live the Christian life alone. They become separated from God‘s community. When you get separated from the community of God and start living on your own, one of two things will happen.
Depression - You‘ll get lonely and discouraged and depressed because you think you’re the only one going through struggles and depression and sin, and you’ll can get easily picked off
because you‘re a stray, isolated sheep.
Degeneration - You’ll get so puffed up with pride and arrogance because you don’t need anyone else that you become not a person who is following Christ‘s steps at all.
Conclusion: Where are you with respect to fellowship with God’s people? Have you expressed a commitment to a local congregation? Joining a church says “I not only want to be part of the life of this church, but I want this church to be part of my life.” do you need to become part of the church membership?
As a member of FBC, are you an active part of the fellowship? If not, why not? You may need to make a commitment to take a new step in going deeper with the fellowship of FBC by committing to participate in Bible study or a small group.
Are you about to give up? Why? Do you find you are being distracted by the things of the world? Do you find you are unattracted to some things in the church? Thank God for that revelation! And ask your church family to pray with you and help you work through it.