Summary: We need the church community, and the church needs us. Therefore we need to meet regularly for fellowship, and participate actively in encouraging one another.
This passage tells us 2 things: (1) we need the church; (2) the church needs us to play our part.
You cannot live a good Christian life all by yourself. We need to be part of a community called the church. This is even more so, the Bible says, as "we see the Day approaching." We are drawing closer to the day of Christ’s return; therefore we cannot “give up meeting together.”
You and I cannot be on our own. We need the church. We need to be a part of this community. My spiritual “well-being” is a community thing.
Verse 19 tells us we are encouraged to draw close to God. Through Jesus Christ, we come to know God and we are encouraged to enter into His presence. We "draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith."
And then verse 23 says we can hold on tightly to the hope we have, because God is faithful.
What more do we need? The requirements did not stop here. The Bible says we do need something more.
Verses 24-25 tell us what we need: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
It is very clear here - besides having personal faith and hope, we need to meet together. We need to do this even more today, because we’re nearer to the day of His return. We need the church community, to help us stay strong and faithful to God.
It is not dispensable. It is God-ordained environment for us to grow. We need brothers and sisters-in-Christ to encourage us, to help us, to pray with us - we need to love another and do good deeds together, the Bible says.
There is no substitute for this. There is no such thing as a solo Christian. There are many things you can do on your own, but to grow strong in your spiritual life - that you cannot do it on your own. We need each other. We need each other on a regular, deliberate basis.
What is a brick made for? It is used to build houses. If you see one lying on the ground, then it is not used for its intended purpose. It may be a very good brick, but it is a good-for-nothing brick. It is useless, because a brick is meant to work together with other bricks to form a wall or house.
If you are a Christian without a church, you’re just like a brick not attached to the house. You are not really serving your purpose. We are actually living contrary to the life that Christ expects us to live. It is through the church that you are able to stay strong and do God’s work in this world today.
It’s difficult to freeze stirred-up water because molecules in motion produce friction - heart. So water that is moving won’t freeze easily. Prov 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Only in the community called the church can we stay fervent and strong.
THE BURNING EMBER
A pastor went to see a member who very seldom attended church. The man presented the usual argument that he could worship just as well at home and be a good Christian. He really didn’t need the church.
The two men were sitting in front of a burning fireplace. The pastor reached over while the man was talking and took out a burning ember. In just a few minutes, the ember had lost its heat and grown cold.
He said to the man, "My friend, that is what is happening in your life. As soon as you isolate yourself away from the church, the fire goes out."
Do you see now how important a church is to you? Do you know how important it is to meet together?
We treasure Chinese New Year reunions. We make extra efforts to get back home, even for those who are overseas. It’s the family get-together. If one or two family members missed the reunion, and you do not know why - never called, just did show up - will the family be worried, will they be sad? Yes, most likely.
How much more this spiritual family? We are going to be together for eternity to come. Therefore whether I come to church or not is everybody’s business. Not just the pastors, although they ought to have the greater responsibility. But the Bible says here very clearly, it everybody’s business. You have a part to play, and I have a part to play.
The Bible tells us one clear reason why we meet together - to encourage one another. The emphasis is not on what we can get from the assembly, but rather on what we can contribute to it. It’s not about self. It’s about others. If we only focus on self when we come to church, that perspective is not correct. We are told to spur one another, to encourage one another. When we come to church, we should be thinking of someone else.