One reason for that need is that biblical love and the doing of good works is seldom automatic. Even with the very life of Christ in me, I need motivation, sometimes strong motivation. I’m an introvert and if I try to “hibernate” too long, I find my interest in serving others begins to wane. A hermit lifestyle feeds my selfish old nature. People, particularly Christians who are walking with the Lord, motivate me. I need them.
This principle is also illustrated by the many “one another” verses in the New Testament. The Lord tells us to love one another, pray for one another, and so on. The strongest exhortation to stick with it and be with other believers is this:
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)While attending church is mainly a way of expressing corporate worship, it is also God’s method of accountability. When I am with godly people, I am motivated to pull up my own socks. When I see someone struggling in their faith, I’m motivated to help them with the pulling. We need each other.
It is true that God uses others as sandpaper for my bumps and lumps. When I am with difficult people, or people who irritate me, or even people that I admire very much, I am more aware of my sinful attitudes and selfishness. To my dismay, I do and say things that I never knew were part of the way I am. I feel exposed. It is not a pleasant feeling, but this is a good thing for it gives me further reason to confess my sins to God and be cleansed. How else would I grow if I remain blind to my own failures and faults?
Those who don’t go to church or who say they can worship God by themselves might belong to Christ, but they are missing one of His provisions to become more like Him. Around others, my faith and practice is tested. If the tests reveal growth-hindering things, I can take them to Him and He will change my heart.
Sometimes I pass the tests. Maybe someone is lagging in obedience, or sagging in faith. My words and actions may stir them up, motivate them to spiritual disciplines, deeper faith, or confession of sin.
The Greek word translated “stir up” is the root for our English word “paroxysm” meaning a “convulsion.” In this context the Greek word speaks strongly about the tremendous impact I can have on other believers and they can have on me. However, this will not happen in a vacuum. We need each other.
The older I am, the more winter in Canada makes my bones ache with the cold. I tend to want to hibernate, turn off the phone and stop reading email. Yes, we get out every Sunday to church, but the closer my relationship with God becomes, the more I realize that once a week with other Christians is not enough. I need exhortation and encouragement, but I also need opportunities to consider others and how I can encourage them. Yes, we do need each other.