Making Biblical Decisions: Working to Grow and Help Others Grow in Christ, Part 3 – January 5, 2024

The writer of Hebrews challenges us to consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. As we make decisions in life, we ought to consider how these decisions impact our fellow believers in our church to love one another better and to serve one another well. As we consider the call to make decisions that cause us and others to grow in their walk with Christ (to stir up love and good works), we must consider three crucial elements of this call.

First, we cannot accomplish these Biblical decisions apart from the local church. In verse 25, the writer of Hebrews reminds us that the first primary decision we make as believers is to join the assembly of God’s people. God expects believers to attach themselves to the local church. It is not a coincidence that the writer of Hebrews follows the challenge to love and good works with the command not to forsake assembling with the local church. We cannot consider how our actions will edify if we are not actively involved in the local church. Sadly, many Christians are under the false impression that their commitment to the local church is optional. In our idolatry, we view other decisions as more important than the local church. We allow family, sports, activities, and feelings to determine our attendance at the worship service. As long as our calendars are free, we will attend. However, if something comes up, we will gladly sever from Christ’s body for the week. Through these actions, we demonstrate our values. We value these other items over Christ and His Body. Our idolatry for these other things causes us to value the table of demons over the table of Christ. We reason that it is not a sin to miss the Church gathering. Yet, we fail to consider that we are sacrificing what is best on the altar of what is permitted.

Second, we cannot fulfill our obligation to encourage our fellow believers in their walk with Christ if we do not gather with them. A primary purpose of the church gathering is to promote growth in ourselves and others. Sadly, I have generally observed three wrong responses to the church gathering. Some choose to value other obligations or desires over the church gathering. We fail to recognize that when we choose not to gather with fellow believers, we miss the opportunity to encourage growth in Christ. Inevitably, the Christian then feels disconnected from the church body because, well, they are disconnected. Others have chosen to believe that assembling with the church is not necessary for spiritual growth. They reason that they can read the Bible themselves and do not need the authority the church provides. These individuals fail to reckon with 1 John 2:7-11 in which we learn that walking in the light requires a love for God’s people. We cannot walk with God and not walk with God’s body, the church. The last group seems to think it does not matter if they attach themselves to a local church. Much better, they rationalize, to hop around to many local churches. Unfortunately, these individuals fail to recognize that when they do not attach themselves to a local body, they cannot effectively enter into the lives of their fellow believers. They choose numerous shallow relationships and no pastoral authority over a few deep relationships and strong pastoral authority. Perhaps this choice is because they do not want a deep relationship that stirs up love and good works, which require vulnerability, humility, repentance, and submission. Yet, through this failure, they miss the glory of growing in Christ, which comes through the edification of Christ’s Body.

Third, we seek to make decisions that spur ourselves and others to grow in Christ because Christ is returning. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that we do these things more each day because Christ’s return draws ever closer. This mindset places our attention on the Eternal Kingdom over the present world. This mindset causes us to recognize the temporal nature of the things we assign importance. When we gather with God’s people, we capture a glimpse of the eternal kingdom and are reminded that Christ is coming. We make Biblical decisions that will encourage growth in Christ because the things accomplished for the Eternal Kingdom withstand Christ’s judgment.

Because the Eternal Kingdom holds the primary position, we seek to encourage others to grow in Christ by sacrificing for others over our pleasure. Christ informs us that following Him requires self-sacrifice. In Mark 8:34-38, Christ tells us of the high cost of discipleship. We must sacrifice our lives for Christ and others to make Biblical decisions. To follow Christ, we must first deny ourselves. Often, the primary concern in our choices is our views and pleasure. We give little thought to the impact on others around us. Yet, being Christ’s disciple requires self-denial. This goes against every grain of our sinful nature. We inherently believe that life is about us. Pride is so deeply rooted in our hearts that we think God has wronged us if He does not comply with everything we consider correct. This denial of self is more than giving up doughnuts for lent. This is more than placing some money in the offering. Self-denial means that you completely turn your back on yourself. It means you no longer determine your goals, aspirations, and desires. Jesus informs us that if we would be His disciples, we must abandon our self-righteousness and sin and submit wholly to Him.

We live in the most affluent society in the history of humanity. The American dream has driven this affluence: The idea that you can be whatever you want with hard work and drive. We have lived with the promise of comfort. As a result, we live for pleasure and fun. We live for ourselves. But what if this is not the way of Christ? What if the call from Christ is actually to say no to ourselves? This is what Christ is telling us. We are to give up our dreams and ambitions for the cause of Christ. Biblical decision-making requires us to actively seek to help others grow in their walk with Christ.