Stronger Together in Jesus
Shift used Puzzle, and even collaborated with soldiers from a foreign hostile nation, in his schemes to gain power and control over the other creatures of Narnia. But when the real Aslan appeared and defeated Shift, a band of dwarves who were deceived by Shift's false Aslan refused to believe in the genuine one and decided to go their own way. They had become so jaded that even when taken into Aslan's country (a symbol of heaven), they could only perceive themselves as being locked in a dark, smelly stable.
There are many who have reacted to being misled by a professing "Christian" or other religious organization preaching a different gospel (Galatians 1:6-9) in much the same way as most of the dwarves did in C.S. Lewis' story. Not wishing to be deceived again, they reject most churches as false and avoid association with any of them. They decide to worship and read God's word alone, foregoing fellowship with other believers.
These are challenging times for Christians to gather and worship together in person. In Communist, Islamic, or other authoritarian countries, believers gathering together often bring severe persecution, imprisonment or death. Increasingly in Western countries, government sanctions of various kinds are imposed for doing so.
Nonetheless, the importance and necessity of assembling with fellow believers remains. It is essential and cannot be neglected or adequately reproduced by video conferencing technology, something that cannot fully mitigate the isolation from others and the loneliness it brings. Living separate from a strong local assembly of believers can spiritually weaken and leave one more vulnerable to the deceptive schemes of the enemy. God created us to give and receive the benefits of friendship and community. This point is illustrated in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, which says:
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”
Friends can help you accomplish more than you could achieve on your own; companions can help in times of need; partners can bring comfort; and friends can provide protection in difficult situations.
The following are several key characteristics of a strong local assembly of believers.
- A proper perspective on Scripture: Does it hold to the divine inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures as the foundation of truth, and the accurate record of God’s revelation to humanity? Does it believe the Bible is the only rule for Christian faith and practice? (2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:20- 21)
- Bible teaching and preaching is emphasized: Is there a strong commitment to high-quality Bible teaching? Are believers being fed from the Word each week? (Acts 20:27; 1 Timothy 4:13-16; 2 Timothy 4:1-5) Is Scripture taught in its proper context?
- Doctrinally sound: Where does it stand on fundamental tenets of the Christian faith? This includes the deity and virgin birth of Jesus Christ; human depravity; the all-sufficient work of Christ on the cross; His death, burial, and bodily resurrection; and salvation by grace through faith in Him alone.
- Consistent practice: Is what is believed and taught consistently practiced?
Being part of a church fellowship with these qualities will help believers “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18), protect against being drawn away into false teaching, help build up the body of Christ through shared talents and service, and provide comfort and encouragement in difficult times such as these.