By Carl Curry
Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common (Acts 2:44).
The above passage portrays a most blissful scene of the early church. This peacefulness was soon to be interrupted by internal commotion and external persecution. This turmoil demanded more than ever that the Christians come together for periods of mutual exhortation.
Do you ever stop and ask yourself why you assemble with Christians? What can you do to make your presence in worship more meaningful for yourself and others? I intend to suggest one determination that you can make which will multiply many fold the benefit you receive from attending Bible studies and other worship assemblies.
How much time does the church spend each week in worship and edification? A time analysis demonstrates that at most the church comes together in a normal week only four hours out of a possible 168. This is less than 2.4 percent of the hours available in a week. Some are only able to take advantage of one of these hours, while others choose to do so. A simple analogy may shed new light on the importance of these hours.
What would you do if your doctor informed you that you have developed a very serious medical disorder? He indicates that there is an effective treatment which if followed precisely will arrest the illness. His treatment plan includes a change in diet; sugar, coffee, salt, and greasy foods are to be eliminated from your diet. A change in your behavior is necessary; you must get at least eight hours of sleep and thirty minutes of exercise everyday. Finally, you must receive three shots a week. He sternly warns that any departure from this treatment plan may result in serious physical problems and possibly premature death.
The assemblies of the saints are analogous to the three shots required each week. There are many teachings of Jesus which combined together form parallels with the change of diet and the modifications in behavior. Jesus has also issued the same warnings as the physician. Failure to comply with his instructions places your spiritual well-being in jeopardy and may cost you eternal life. Assembling with the saints is as necessary to your salvation as is putting on the new man.
What can you do to increase the value you derive from assemblies? For too many saints, worship has been reduced to nothing more than a mental exercise or a psychological game. Like many Athenians they spend their time “in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21). The Greeks boasted of their ability to participate in the lengthy philosophical discussions. They appreciated the intellectual stimulation. Jesus died leaving his last will and testament for much more than a topic for mind games. Although the Greeks were impressed by such, Jesus never reduced himself to that level.
The game proceeds something like this. The preacher rants and raves thoroughly raking those in the assembly over the coals. After letting loose with both barrels, he concludes his address feeling great because he really gave it to them today. The listeners feel good also because they really had it given to them today. Somehow, the ranting and raving exercises all shortcomings out of the speaker and the hearers. Then, all involved gear up to do it again next week.
A major problem with this scenario is that no one has experienced lasting benefits. Even though a biblical lesson may have been presented, it was delivered in the wrong spirit, and the listeners likewise received it in the wrong manner. The whole process was exercised in the mind, and the message never left the pew.
True religion according to the gospel of Christ is not a psychological game. True religion is characterized by action (Jas. 1:27). Jesus intended that his audience would take his message home with them. Certainly, they were to think about it and try it (Acts 17:11), but, as soon as it was established in the heart and mind as the truth, it was to be manifested in the speaking and the doing of the hearer.
The single most important change that you can make in your current practice of worshiping with the saints is to take what you learned and put it to good use in your life. This will change your whole attitude towards worship. You will arrive expecting to learn something that will be of use to you, and you will be amazed at how this expectation can change the entire appearance of the assembly. Your zealousness will have a profound effect on the others in attendance and also will make an impression upon those who witness your changed manner of life. You will be surprised at the response you will receive from your peers.
Now, all of this may sound too good to be true, but it comes with a divine guarantee. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. . . But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (Jas. 1:22,25).
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 18, p. 562
September 17, 1987