There are many Christians who walk the path thinking that it can be just them and God. Some of have been hurt by people or a church or religious group and in fear or anger will not open themselves up to sharing their lives with others. Some have specific ideas about who their god is and becoming part of a fellowship of Christ Followers and allowing the Spirit to work and speak through others means they will have to give up some doctrines that do not align with the Truth of the Word.
There are just as many who do not enjoy time with God, just the two of them. Perhaps they are afraid to open themselves to Him. They may be ashamed of their pasts and do not want God to see how very broken they are. Some do not know how to hear God’s voice and the few quiet times they have had have not had fruit. Some think they will not be able to understand the Bible on their own and rather than finding help or trying, simply excuse themselves from a personal pursuit of friendship with the Lord. Still others say they have no time to spare for God.
Some Christians rarely spend time with a small group of just a few, engaging in conversations, sharing themselves, praying for each other, or enjoying time with one another on a personal level. They use the busyness of life as an excuse. Maybe they would like to but are afraid of that kind of intimacy. It might be that the declare they are introverts or prefer to enjoy spare time alone. Maybe they are waiting for the invitation from someone else to get a cup of coffee, go for a walk or have game night.
It takes courage to engage, open up, and enjoy the benefits of these connections. The Christian life was never meant to be one of solitude. It requires unity with God and His church. We will look briefly at each one of these situations and see a little of what the Bible says about it.
Since we follow Jesus, He is our example of the will of God. He lived perfectly within God’s will. Did Jesus go to church? You betcha! Even as a child He understood the importance of going to the temple. In Luke 2:41-51 we read about the twelve-year-old boy staying in Jerusalem after His family had left to return home. When His parents realized He was not with them they searched everywhere for Him. Verses 46-49 read,
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.48 And when his parents[ saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?
This is not the only reference to Jesus going to the temple. Here are a few others.
And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. 38 And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him. Luke 21:37-38
Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled. Mark 14:49
And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him Mark 11:27
Hebrews 10:21-26 says,
and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins
We are to draw near to God and remember what happens when we draw close to God, He completes it, He draws near to us! (James 4:8). When we choose to meet together, we are choosing to meet with God, drawing ourselves to Him as He draws us close to Him. We enter together in faith of our salvation, knowing our hearts have been cleansed and we can go to Him and one another, because we know the gathering together with God and the saints (our brothers and sisters in Christ) is not about condemnation for the sins we have already been forgiven of but the reinforcement of righteousness. When we come together to worship God, to learn, and to encourage one another we stir one another up, we strengthen one another to live a life worthy of the calling and the price paid for it.
Why was the early church so powerful? How did just a handful of believers spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the known world at a time when there was no television, no worldwide news, and no cars, trains, or planes? Acts 2:42-47 describes the way they lived.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
They devoted themselves to the teaching they received from the apostles. They devoted themselves to the fellowship, that is the community of believers. They devoted themselves to the breaking of bread, that is the enjoyment of one another’s company as well as the command to remember Christ through the Lord’s supper. And they devoted themselves to prayer. What was the result of that devotion? Awe came upon every soul and miracles were being done through the apostles. They were living in unity, they had all things in common. They cared more for each other than they cared about bank accounts and possessions. This lifestyle created joy, increased generosity, and gave them ever-increasing reasons to praise God. This lifestyle gave them favor with all people! People around had to see them in a favorable light because they genuinely doing good even under persecution. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved!
The Bible is full of commandments for how to treat one another. You can not obey a “one another” commandment when you are not among your brothers and sisters. Just a few that come to mind immediately are:
- Love one another as I (Jesus) have loved you. – John 13:34, John 15:12
- Forgive one another – Ephesians 4:32
- Encourage one another – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
- Submit to one another – Ephesians 5:21
- Bear one another burden’s – Galatians 6:2
You may gather regularly, perhaps once or twice a week with the church as a whole and in your small group, life group, Sunday school class or whatever you call it, but maybe you do not have the joy of spending time with two or three people on a personal level. Many of the one anothers listed are really meant for a few people together. Confessing your sins to one another, encouraging one another, praying with one another all are possible and should be practiced in the larger community but they are perfected and augmented in the closeness of the few.
Even the Son of God had a tight knit group he spent time with. He often took Peter, James, and John and the four of them would be alone together leaving the other nine, who I would guess, knowing how humans are, also formed their little groups (Mark 5:37, Mark 9:2, Mark 13:3, Mark 14:33, . Read the passages about Jesus’ time with just the few and you will see that they were able to ask the Lord deep questions, they witnessed and took part in miracles, and they were let into Jesus’ confidence to witness a part of Him that others would not get to see yet. These groups are not exclusive cliques, but circles which promote growth, encourage transparency, and strengthen each participant. We need these close friendships. Jesus didn’t exclude others from this circle, In Mark 13, Andrew was with them privately asking Jesus questions.
Proverbs 27:17 reads,
Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 gives this poignant picture,
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
And Jesus said this in Matthew 18:19-20
“Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
It is imperative to the Christian walk that we walk with others, but just as vital, is spending time with God alone. Jesus, the Son of God is God (John 1:1), yet even He sought out time to spend alone with His Father. In fact the more famous He grew, the more crucial this solitary time was. Luke 5:16 reads,
But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray
Some other instances of this are recorded in Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:23, Luke 3:21, and Luke 6:12. If Jesus’ needed to go to a isolated place, close to God, don’t we need it so much more?
Prayer opens heaven for us (Luke 3:21). That time alone with God praying in the Spirit edifies us (1 Corinthians 14:4). When you are alone with God, what you do, the seeking, the prayer, the worship, and the stillness all bring you closer to Him, it strengthens that relationship between you and your Father, Husband, Maker, and Friend. What you do is for you and God, not to look like a good Christian, not to impress the members of your congregation, and it is not formulaic. In Hosea 6:6 God said,
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
Two different occasions of Jesus’ quoting this scripture are recorded in the Gospel of Matthew; both times He was speaking to religious men who flaunted the traditions, rituals, offerings, and sacrifices of religion rather than know God and pursue a relationship with Him (Matthew 9:13, Matthew 12:7).
When describing the relationship God desires and comparing to the ceremonial false relationship of religion, Jesus gave us a direct command to spend time alone with Him. Matthew 6:5-6.
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
What is your priority? Time alone with God reflects the precedence of your relationship, your desire for God’s will, and your faith in who He is. It is a lie that you do not have the time to spend with the LORD. If getting up an hour earlier or even going to bed one hour later is not possible, if your job or family take all your time, I will boldly say that maybe your faith is not as strong as you think. Maybe your faith is in yourself as provider or your family as the object of worship. Matthew 6:31-34 encourages us to make God our priority.
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.34 Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Whatever it is that takes your time and energy is where your heart is; Jesus said,
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21).
Believer, if you do not enjoy each of these ways of spending time with God, I encourage you to step out in faith, be part of The Church, a local faith community, a circle of close Christian friends, and dedicated time for you and the Lord apart from others.