We have been considering the topic of Spiritual Growth on the last several Sunday evenings. We first talked about the necessity of being confident in our relationship with God in order to facilitate spiritual growth. Last week we discussed the importance of taking a disciplined approach to the Word of God. And this evening we want to look at another important key to spiritual growth, and that is developing a love for the local church.
How can we develop a love for the local church? Let me say tonight that 'love' is an oft misused and misunderstood word. Love is not an emotion, or feeling, but it is an act of our will. It is a decision or a choice we make. Regardless of how we might feel about our sweetheart, we do not 'fall into love' or for that matter, we do not 'fall out of love'. To love or not to love is a conscious choice that each of makes. And the same is true with our love for God. We understand that God made a choice to love us, and we see that love expressed by Him giving His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins. We must also make the choice to love Him!
(Matthew 22:37) Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
The same is true for the local church. We know that Jesus loved the church…
(Ephesians 5:25) Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; For us to grow spiritually we must become more and more like Christ, and if we want to grow to be more like Jesus, we need to learn to love what Jesus loves. So tonight we want to discuss the importance of loving the local church. How do we do it?
I. We develop a love for the church by being here!
(Hebrews 10:24-25) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
A. "Consider one another"
1. We are to be thinking about one another, fellowshipping with one another.
2. Not living in isolation from each other all week and only seeing each other on Sunday mornings.
3. Have any distant relatives? Compare your relationship with them and those who you see all the time.
4. Spending time with one another helps us to think about one another's needs and how we might be able to best minister to them.
B. "Provoke unto love and to good works"
1. The word 'provoke' means to stir up or incite.
2. We are to look for ways to "stir up" one another in "love and good works."
3. This carries with it the idea of motivation and encouragement.
4. Christians will be hard pressed to find such motivation and encouragement anywhere other than in their local church.
C. "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together"
1. Does this mean we should be at every service? Yes!
2. If we love the church we will not blow off public worship, Bible studies and fellowship times.
3. If we will develop a love for the local church we won't be like "some" in that day who were negative examples.
4. But we will desire to be present and to be "exhorting one another."
5. Even more as we see the 'day approaching'
6. What day? The day the Lord returns for His own.
7. Where do you want to be when Jesus comes? At the ball game…the movies…on the couch…or with His people?
II. We develop a love for the church by honoring the leaders.
(1 Thessalonians 5:12-13) And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
Note: Nothing will edify the church and make it a place of joy and spiritual growth more than a right relationship between the pastor and the people. By contrast, nothing will do more damage and devastate a church like conflict between the pastor and the people.
A. Pastor's responsibility to the people.
1. The first responsibility of the pastor is HARD WORK.
a. That is what the word 'labor' means!
b. To work until the point of exhaustion.
c. But note the key phrase, "among you."
d. The heart and labor of a pastor is in the midst of the people.
(1 Thessalonians 2:9) For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.
2. The second responsibility of the pastor is is SPIRITUAL OVERSIGHT.
a. The phrase "are over you in the Lord" means to have authority or be in charge.
b. The pastor is responsible to lead and give oversight to the church.
(Hebrews 13:7) Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
(Hebrews 13:17) Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
3. The third responsibility of the pastor is HONEST TEACHING.
a. The phrase "admonish you" speaks of the teaching ministry of a pastor.
b. Teaching and preaching is only one part of my responsibility, but it is an important part.
c. "Admonish" means "to put in mind, to caution, to warn."
d. It speaks of instruction with a view toward correction, teaching you in order to protect you.
(Acts 20:31) Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
B. The people's responsibility to their pastor.
1. The first responsibility is to KNOW THEM.
a. "To know them that labor" goes beyond a casual knowledge of who they are.
b. They are to recognize them as being godly leaders.
c. They are to appreciate their hard work, oversight and faithful teaching of the Word.
(1 Timothy 5:17) Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
2. The second responsibility of the people is to ESTEEM THEM.
b. For their personality?
c. For their good looks?
d. For their education?
e. No, esteem them "for their work's sake."
I will close here for this evening, and we will look at the rest of this passage next week as we consider how to develop a love for the local church.
These first two thoughts are of great importance. If we are not in attendance, we will not grow spiritually…there is no debate on that one. God established the local church to accomplish His work in the world, but more importantly to accomplish His work in each believer! And the most important relationship in the church is the relationship between the pastor and the people.
Are we growing spiritually? If not, there is a reason.