Why Do We Sing?

Why do we sing in church? Do we sing because it makes us feel good? Do we sing to put on a performance and showcase how talented of a musician we are? No, we sing to worship the Lord. God didn’t say we have to have the best voice, or that we have to perfectly understand how to harmonize during a worship song, but He did say that we need to lift up our voices to praise Him. We get to make a joyful noise for the Lord, as the Psalmist says:

Oh, come let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
-Psalm 95:1-2

The Potential Pride of Worship

It’s Sunday morning. You are either about to lead the church in worship, or you are about to join the congregation in singing. Now stop. Where is your heart? 

Are you thinking about how your outfit looks and how excited you are that so many people are in the congregation to hear you sing? Are you standing among the congregation thinking judgmentally about the elderly couple in the back who sing “way too loudly?” Or, are you focusing your eyes and your heart on the Lord? Are you praying that the Lord will use the words you sing to hopefully soften the heart of someone to understand the good news of the gospel? Are you thinking about the Scripture you are about to proclaim through song? 

In the book Sing, Keith and Kristyn Getty make the point that congregational singing can be a “radical witness to the world.” Coming together as a body of believers and whole-heartedly praising  God will not only be impactful in our personal relationship with the Lord, but it also enables us to inspire non-believers to meet with our Savior through song. Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians:

Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.
-Ephesians 5:19

Christian singing should begin with the heart. Next time you are about to sing in church, pause for a moment, and have a heart check. Pray that the Lord will align your heart’s desires with His will during worship. 

Created to Sing

Oftentimes, during worship, we may feel self-conscious. 

Now stop. The Lord created each of us to be able to sing. He didn’t create each of us to be able to become a famous singer, but He did create us to be able to make a joyful noise. So, sing loudly! Be bold as you proclaim the truth of the gospel. It pleases the Lord to hear his children coming together as a body of believers and singing praises to Him. The Lord doesn’t want just the “best” or most confident singers to be heard during worship, He desires to hear each of our individual voices. 

A church that sings is a healthy church. Yes, the worship team should be heard so that the congregation knows which words to sing next and what the melodic line sounds like. The worship team acts as the shepherds and the congregation members are the sheep. However, the sheep should also be heard. It fills the hearts of worship leaders to hear their congregation singing along with them. Each voice coming together to sound as one, unified in the name of Christ, is incredibly beautiful.

The Significance of Worship

It is midway through the worship service, and you feel like you are just going through the motions. You are physically at church and singing the words on the screen, but your mind is in a thousand different places. 

Now stop. Music in the church has had quite the journey. At one point, the Protestant church didn’t allow music because church leaders believed it would distract from the service. Then music became available in the church service again, but only for worship leaders and pastors to take part in. 

Music wasn’t accessible to the members of the congregation. However, Martin Luther did not like that. He wanted everyone to be able to sing in church. He understood that God created us to enjoy beautiful things, and so Luther found it unreasonable that we couldn’t enjoy music in the very place that people were coming to meet with God. He even stated, “If you want to train your children in the faith, give them the songs of the faith.” 

Now, think about what your worship experience would be like without music. Yes, we would still get to hear the sermon and Scripture from the Bible, which are both incredibly important, but there is something missing. The element that music brings in isn’t just an “ice breaker” to half-heartedly take part in at the beginning of the service. It is a way to focus our heart and mind on the Lord as we enter a time of worship. Music is powerful, and it allows you to sing to the Lord what is on your heart, and it is also a way for you to understand the words of Scripture through the line of a melody. Sometimes hearing a certain ringing chord or perfect harmony can create a space for you to come and meet with God. 

Why We Sing

We sing because God created and calls us to do so. Yes, worship should take place in church, but truthfully, our whole lives should be worship. We should wake up each morning with a song of praise on our hearts that we are ready to sing from the rooftops. 

I want to encourage you before the next time you sing from the pews in church, or lead a congregation in worship to think about these things: What are you singing? How does what you are singing point you to Jesus? And then, go sing loudly. It is a gift and a joy to sing to the Lord. It is a gift and a joy to be able to stand alongside your brothers and sisters in Christ and sing to the Lord. Singing worship songs doesn’t mean that you put aside what’s on your heart while you sing. Singing in worship means that you bring what’s on your heart, and as you sing you lay those things down at the feet of our Savior. 

Keep singing, friends. It’s how I feel the most connected to the Lord, and I hope it will help you feel connected to Him too. In the words of Martin Luther, 

Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.

Christian Unity Despite Theological Differences

It is crucial for Christians to know that, within the Church, not all Christians are doctrinally unified. Ideally, all Christians would believe the same doctrine and the idea of disagreements would be foreign to the Church. It is God’s will that we reflect the perfect unity of the Father and Son (John 17:11). However, so long as we live in this world which is devastated by sin, there will be errors in our understanding of God and His commands. One day we will have perfect unity in Heaven but we must fight to obey Christ’s command for us to be unified with other believers in the meantime. 

The first step towards obeying this command is being able to recognize our Christian siblings. Below, I will discuss how we can identify our siblings in Christ by our shared faith in the gospel. After that, I will discuss how we can relate to our Christian siblings who share these beliefs but differ on things which are not the gospel.

Although the information below is foundational to the faith, we must be careful not to turn this into a quiz someone must pass before you worship with them. Not knowing all the details of the gospel, or not being able to articulate them well is not an indicator that they are unbelievers. We become Christians long before we become theologians. Remember, it is possible to have our minds filled with true doctrine while we remain as spiritually immature as new converts. Let us pray for grace and wisdom in applying the information below.

The Glorious Gospel: Our Basis for Unity

Christians must affirm the Bible as the word of God. The contents of the 66 canonical books are not the product of lofty human thoughts, nor are they a flawed collection of human attempts to write what God told them. Just as 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” (see John 10:27, 2 Peter 1:21). The Bible is the only book in which God has chosen to speak clearly to His people. Thus, it is vital for all aspects of the Christian life.

Another essential belief is that the God of the Bible is the only God who exists. He is not one of many gods (Isaiah 44:6). This God, the only one who exists, is triune. This means He is one infinite being shared by three distinct persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each distinct person fully shares the essence of God which means they are each fully God, but they are not separate gods. Christians must agree on who God is so they can unite themselves under His rule and worship Him together (Exodus 20:3-6).

As our next essential, we have the gospel. Monotheism and the inerrancy of the Bible—mentioned above—are necessary for us to believe the gospel which is revealed to us by the one true God of Scripture. The gospel is the means by which people enter in relationship with God (Romans 1:16). A rejection of the gospel which reconciles us to God by faith alone is spiritually fatal. Every detail of the gospel is important (Galatians 1:7-9).

To understand the gospel, we must understand the nature of mankind. From birth, all people are corrupted by sin, and consequently, they walk in disobedience against God. We all intentionally sought what was contrary to the will of our creator, and for that rebellion we incurred the righteous judgment of God. God cannot turn a blind eye to sin because He is righteous, and wickedness cannot go unpunished (Proverbs 17:15, Colossians 3:5-7). 

Fortunately for us, God in His great love and mercy, sent His Son, the second person of the Trinity, to suffer in place of those who would believe. He was born into the world through a virgin, and while He remained fully God, He took on flesh to become fully man. The Son lived a perfect life, perfectly keeping all the holy rules we broke, and He was crushed by the wrath of God which we deserved (1 John 2:2, Ephesians 1:5). By His sacrifice, He paid for all His people’s past, present, and future sins. After His death, He was resurrected on the third day, and He ascended to the Father’s right hand in Heaven to intercede for us (Romans 8:34).

It was God’s eternal plan to save His undeserving people in this way. Because the perfect obedience needed to please God was performed by Jesus Christ, salvation does not involve any of our obedience. It does not include baptism, church attendance, or anything else we do. We simply confess that we have sinned against a holy God and plead His forgiveness. By simple faith, we receive forgiveness. We are renewed in such a way that we want to love and obey God after we put our faith in Him (Romans 3-4, Ezekiel 36:25-27).

If you have not obeyed the Lord’s command to turn from sin and find reconciliation in Jesus Christ, I invite you to do so now. Please flee the wrath to come and put your faith in Christ. He is the only way to God (John 14:6). This gospel is powerful to save evil sinners like you and me. It is the basis for unity for all Christians, but it is also the only path to eternal life with God.

What if We Differ on Non-Essential Doctrines?

Non-essentials are doctrines that do not alter the gospel which unifies all Christians. Examples of these would be how a church’s government should be structured, who should be baptized, and whether we can sing contemporary-style music, or if we should only sing Psalms. It is a mistake to think these doctrines are unimportant because they all affect how we worship God. Some of them, such as beliefs about sacraments and church government structure, will prevent us from worshiping in the same church, but they should never keep us from affectionately loving each other and having fellowship outside the church building. 

When meeting people with different views on non-gospel issues, focus on the fact that you have a common faith. The gospel that has brought you both to God has made you into one spiritual body under the headship of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). Acknowledge glorifying God and serving His people as your common mission, and diligently look for ways to commune. If you’re a Presbyterian and you have friends who are Baptists, find ways to have fellowship. You may not attend the same church because of your differing convictions, but you can certainly evangelize together, pray together, or simply enjoy a meal together. There are people with differing theological views on this very website that you visited to read this article. We are united by the gospel, and we have banded together to edify fellow Christians and spread the gospel. The ways in which we can work with people who differ over non-essential doctrines are innumerable. We just have to be willing to look for them.

Our interactions with believers who have different convictions should not be dominated by heated exchanges and controversy. Continuous quarreling rarely, if ever, changes one’s doctrinal views. With that said, I am not discouraging respectful debates. Discussion encourages people to scour the Scriptures and evaluate their beliefs. If we take the Bible seriously, we will want to see eye-to-eye with other believers. Our only option for striving toward the goal of theological unity is to have loving, educated discussion aimed toward building up the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:29-32). 

The Basis of Our Unity

Remember that we are not ultimately unified on the basis of our shared theological beliefs. The blood of Jesus Christ, applied by the Holy Spirit through the gospel, brings us all to the same God (1 Peter 3:18). With this in mind, pursue your Christian family who is faithful to the same gospel and pray that God will work through you all together. Our basis for unity is much stronger than our non-essential reasons for separation. One day we will not have to struggle with these differences, but until that day we must intentionally seek fellowship with our Christian siblings united under the one gospel.

How Worship Forms the People of God

Every Sunday, millions of people walk into churches across the world to hear a message, sing, and pray. Unfortunately, in the United States, we have created a culture around going to church in order that we might be put into a better mood, feel happier, and “experience” the presence of God in a new way and then post about it on our social media. There is now a surge of phrases emerging in conversations on the sidewalk outside of our churches, phrases like: “I didn’t feel it today,” or “I couldn’t sing that song again, we sang it last week.”

Like many things in our consumer-focused society, we have made worship about us, our preferences, and our feelings. Emily Zell recently wrote that “it becomes problematic when we come to worship for the sake of an emotional high” (emphasis added). If we come to church or set aside quiet time with our chief motivation being to get a “spiritual high,” we are doing a disservice to ourselves. Worship (in this article worship references both corporate worship and how we live our lives) forms the people of God by providing us with a proper theology which in turn reorients our motivations.

Worship and Our Feelings

We have a kind, loving heavenly Father who desires that we know and enjoy him. We have been given the unique opportunity to worship the Father in particular and personal ways. It is important to note that there is a place for our feelings and our emotions in our times of worship. 

For instance, recently we have had several articles come out about the season of Advent. The seasons of the church calendar aim to stir in our hearts different emotions and mental images to push us to see a specific aspect of Christ during that season. In advent, the Scripture plans we read or songs we sing are trying to get us to feel a sense of longing, of desire for Christ to return again. When our singing or reading is accompanied by feelings it is easier for us to continue in doing those disciplines everyday and it helps us to dive deeper into a personal relationship with the Lord. However important our feelings are to God, they are not the purpose of our worship.

The Value of Corporate Worship

A.W. Tozer says, “What we think about when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” We need corporate worship because in the church, we pray, sing songs, and listen to sermons that all build our theology (what we believe about God). Corporate worship gives us accountability with other believers in our community. By consistently attending the same church and placing ourselves under the doctrine of our churches, we are committing to reflect the beliefs of the church and more importantly, the teachings of the Bible. Thankfully, when we stop reflecting those things or when we miss church consistently, we have people who know us and are able to lovingly draw us back to the kindness of the Father. In this way, through good community and sound corporate worship, we are slowly formed to be compassionate, loving believers who walk humbly with one another and with God. 

We Worship with Our Lives

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
-Romans 12:1

In addition so worship in our church services, we worship the Father with how we, as believers, live our lives. Worship is formative and manifests in a myriad of ways. We worship the Lord in how we do our homework, how we fold our laundry, how we greet people on our college campuses, and even in how we run on the treadmill. Each of these things is worship because each of these things and every small detail of our lives glorifies the Lord in how it represents His character or brings to light our desperate need for a savior, Jesus Christ. 

There will be times when we need to pray or need to read our Bible for the first time in a while but we don’t seem to have a desire to do so. When we submit to what we know about God’s character, and when we pray even a one sentence prayer or simply open our Bible to a chapter we’ve read a dozen times, we are submitting to Him and developing obedience that helps to form us into a better light bearer of Christ’s Word. 

Our Response

In other segments of our “How ____________ forms the people of God” series we have explored the topics of community, liturgy, and prayer. Each of these practices helps form our worship which in turn forms us. Intentional community forms the people of God by providing us with accountability for how we live our lives. With gospel-centered community, we are able to make our day-to-day lives look more like Jesus’ and less like our broken ones. Through liturgy (consistent routines that shape our lives) we create patterns that help us to make time in our busy schedules to dive into the Word of God—even in times where it is hard or perhaps painful. Prayer allows us to enter into the throne room of God and petition Him about every burden, joy, fear, excitement, or trouble with a promise of peace in our souls.

Each of these practices helps form our daily lives, which forms our worship, shaping us as well. Let us now go, keeping in mind the prize set before us, to glorify the Father and one day be made perfect in His presence.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
-Philippians 3:12-14

Advent: Worthier than All

That I might know Him and the power of His resurrection
-Philippians 3: 10

It is the season of Advent again, and with this comes the busyness of Christmas time. This means long lists of gifts to buy and things to do. Far too often, this distracts us from what we ought to be doing during this time—beholding the glory of Christ. 

The season of Advent is about God who became flesh, emptied His glory, and perfectly obeyed the father. This is one of the most essential focal points of Scripture, yet how are we preparing our hearts for Him during this season? In the midst of this Christmas season, are we letting our hearts dwell on the person of Christ? 

While I was considering this question for myself one morning, I was struck with three questions that were worth asking myself. It’s easy for me to be distracted and to get carried away with worries that are not edifying; however, these questions, in sum, reveal three hard spiritual truths that I have been wrestling with this semester. The Lord has been faithful to reveal these to me, and I hope that by sharing them you are able to refocus your heart as well. I pray that in this season, we may be able to truly focus on the incarnation of Christ and his future glory, and I hope that this will change our hearts and bring us more into obedience and holiness.

Am I Willing? 

This is a question that has been on my mind throughout the semester. I ask myself, am I willing to give up all for the sake of Christ? Do I truly believe He is better than anything this world can offer? 

Alongside this question a passage from 2 Samuel comes to my mind. In this passage, David builds an Altar to the Lord as the Lord had commanded him. However, in order to build an altar, David is required to buy the threshing floor. David insists on paying the full price for the threshing floor as he says: “I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that which costs me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24).

Here we see an example of obedience that I hope is inspiring to you. If we truly believe that Christ is worthier than all else than we should be willing to give up all for the sake of obeying Christ. He is more worthy than anything this world could offer us. He is better than any worldly pleasure. 

George Whitefiled, in his sermon titled Contemplating Christmas, describes this when he states that, “you can never [be in] want when the love of the Lord Jesus Christ is the subject. So let Jesus be the subject.”

Beholding the glory of Christ is better than anything else we could ask for or want, and being satisfied in the love of our Father is all we need. This is because we were created for worship, and we were made to find our delight in Him and Him alone

David says in one of the final Psalms,, “You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Psalm 145:16). He is all we need. His love is satisfying of our every desire. But do we believe this? May we rest in this truth and be willing to give up all we have in obedience to Christ. 

Am I Longing?

Not only should we ask ourselves if we’re willing, but are we longing? Are we longing for the day of Christ’s return? Or are we finding our satisfaction in the pleasures of this world? A passage in Romans 8 comes to my mind when I think about this:

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
-Romans 8:22-23

The good things of this world and the beauty of His creation are nothing in comparison to the glory of Christ that will be revealed to us one day. Everything in this life that is good is a shadow of what is to come if we are reconciled to God through Christ Jesus our Savior. 

In order to behold Christ and His incarnation we need to believe this.  Through Christ, all things are being made new, and this is the hope that we have as believers: we are new creations. The hope we have is revealed to us in the transformation of ourselves, and it is a glimpse of what is to come. One day, we will stand before God, guiltless and clothed fully in His righteousness. One day, we will not struggle with our sin or shame anymore, and we will be fully equipped and happy to glorify God eternally. This is what we have hope in and our hope is anchored in the incarnation of Christ and His work on the cross. 

Am I Ready? 

And lastly, am I ready for Christ’s return? Am I actively pursuing holiness in my life? This is a question we must ask ourselves as believers every day. This is not an easy question for me, or anyone, as we so easily see our failures. I so easily see my spiritual laziness and areas in my life that I am not laying before the Lord. 

Recently, I have been reading Disciplines of Grace by Jerry Bridges and it has been eye opening to understand both the pursuit of holiness yet the dependence on Christ in that very pursuit. Bridges describes man’s primary purpose to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. In order to do this, He writes:

The most important dimension [of glorifying God and enjoying Him] is our wholehearted obedience: our desire to obey Him with all our heart, soul, and mind.

This is how we glorify God, this is how we as believers can find satisfaction in Christ and Christ alone. I pray that we can be filled with obedience to Christ, and a willingness to pursue righteousness. Not because righteousness is what we rely on for salvation, but because our holiness gives glory to the name of God. Ultimately, this is for the act of bringing glory to the father. 

May we lay down all we have before our Savior Jesus Christ. For he is more worthy than anything else in this world. Let’s be willing to sing the lyrics of Crown Him with genuine hearts:

It’s not my life to live
It’s not my song to sing
All I have is His
For all eternity
It’s not my righteousness
It’s not my faithfulness
All I have is His
For all eternity
And we will
Crown Him, crown Him
King of glory
Crown Him, crown Him
Lord of all.

Let us behold Christ and the love of our Father this Christmas season. May we be willing to give up all we have, may we long for the return of Christ, and may we prepare for His return through our pursuit of holiness. All other priorities fail in comparison to recognizing the goodness and glory of Christ. We will fail in our willingness, longing and readiness for Christ, but let us fix our eyes on the One who meets us in our failures and is able to keep us from stumbling. In our failures, His righteousness continues to cover us.

Advent: Waiting for the King

One of the things that I decided to do during Advent this season is to read through the Jesus Storybook Bible advent reading plan. This has been so sweet because it has reminded how extensive the build up to the incarnation really was. Humankind was waiting for Jesus for such a long time. The moment that Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, we were promised that a Savior was coming. In Genesis 3:15 when God is talking to the serpent He says, 

I will put enmity between you and the woman
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.
-Genesis 3:15

We are immediately promised that someone will come and though Satan will hurt him, this Promised One will defeat Satan for good. Sally Lloyd-Jones paraphrases it beautifully: 

Before they left the garden, God whispered a promise to Adam and Eve: “It will not always be so! I will come to rescue you! And when I do, I’m going to do battle against the snake. I’ll get rid of the sin and the dark and the sadness you let in here. I’m coming back for you.” 

Since that moment, everyone had been waiting for the Promised One. And more and more clues kept appearing as to exactly what he would do and what he would be like. God provided a ram as a sacrifice for Abraham. This showed us that God is faithful to provide a sacrifice. The Levitical laws illustrated for us the cost of being close to God. It showed us that the blood of a spotless lamb needed to be shed to make atonement for us. Judges showed us that we were in need of a Perfect Deliverer because the Israelites kept turning away. Isaiah prophesied that a child would be born and that the government would be on his shoulder. 

And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end.
-Isaiah 9:6-7

The list goes on and on. People were waiting for generations for this Promised One that would come to set everything right again. 

And then he came. As a helpless baby born in a feeding trough. And as the story unfolds we see him fulfill prophecy after prophecy after prophecy. All that time of waiting, God was writing a story. This Great Author was weaving it all into a masterpiece. And looking back it is so clear that every story was whispering Jesus’s name. 

This big story is so important to remember and meditate on because it changes everything about how we view our lives. 

Advent Informs Our Waiting

We almost always feel like we are in a season of waiting. We always seem to be looking ahead to the next stage of life, or looking for something to make our current stage of life better. We wait for a spouse, a job, clarity for our future, and so many other things. And if we are in Christ, then we are awaiting His return. We are waiting for Him to come and make all things new and to dwell with us. 

Similarly, God’s people waited centuries for the Promised One to arrive. They longed for the Messiah to come and battle the evil one. They longed for deliverance. And it felt like God wasn’t answering them. It felt like God had forgotten His promises. One place we glimpse this frustration is in the prophet Malachi 1:2: “‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have you loved us?’” 

For those of us following the story of the Old Testament, we see how completely ridiculous it was for the Israelites to say this to God. He is steadfast and faithful to a faithless people. And yet they say to Him, “How have you loved us?” as if it hasn’t been clear since the beginning. 

And yet we are so quick to question God. We feel the agony of waiting and we look to God and dare to ask how he has loved us. We seem to have chronic covenant amnesia. We forget how faithful God is to us and that He is always working for His glory and our good. 

When we take time to remember that God is always on time and has been since the beginning of the world, we can remember that God will also always be on time in our own lives. Not only have we seen His faithfulness in our own lives, but we have seen it in the big story of the world. We can trust his timeline because we serve a God who sees and knows everything, is always working for His glory and our good, and always keeps his promises. 

Trusting God with Our Story

At its core, Christmas is a reminder that God always keeps his promises. The baby in the manger that we sing about is God’s covenant faithfulness in flesh. And this baby is a reminder that God is always at work even when it feels like he is not. Looking back on the story of the world, we can see God’s hand through all things. 

The same is true for our own story. But sometimes it seems like trusting God’s faithfulness is harder for us. We see that God has been at work in this big story, and yet when it comes to our own story it is so easy to doubt the promises of God. When our lives do not turn out like we expected, we look to God and say, “How have you loved me?” It is in these moments that we have to zoom out. We need to be reminded that God is worth trusting with our story because God is the perfect Author. 

This is what Christmas reminds us: if we can trust God with the biggest story ever, we can trust him with our own story too. We must ask Him to pry our fingers off of our expectations and control, and trust Him with our story. We can do this because just as God has control over the story of the whole word, he has control over our story too. And this is worth resting in. 

So this Christmas, remember that God is always at work, both in the big story of the world and in your story. Rest in the truth that just as God has been at work since day one in the story of the world, he has been at work since day one in our stories too.

How Catechesis Forms the People of God

Catechesis is Inevitable

We are always being catechized. The world is feeding us questions and answers all the time. We are swimming in questions as simple as, “What should you eat for lunch?” and as serious as, “What is the purpose of life?” We are also swimming in answers. Every movie or show we watch, every book we read, every conversation we have gives us questions and answers.  If we do not catechize our children and ourselves, the world will.

If this is true, we need to be intentional, especially in the church, of teaching people how to ask good questions and find good answers. Catechesis is a valuable means towards this end. 

Catechisms Function Like Our Minds

The church needs catechisms because catechisms meet us where we are. They speak to the very format in which our brains work. We tend to think in questions and answers. “What is this feeling? Hunger.” “How do I make it go away? Eat food.” “What food should I eat? Pizza.” The list goes on. 

In this very way, catechisms fill our minds with what we need and want. When someone is made to memorize a statement of faith, it can be harder to memorize and harder to apply because they do not know what question this statement of faith is answering. With catechisms, we are able to grasp both questions that we need to consider, and answers to which the Bible points. 

Questions Matter

In his book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Nabeel Qureshi writes of his early life growing up in Islam. When he writes on the first time the question, “Is Jesus God?” comes up in conversation, he immediately feels deep guilt and shame and apologizes to Allah immediately for even questioning him for a moment. 

When I first read that, I felt a deep gratitude for the fact that we serve a God that allows us to ask questions. They are all over Scripture. In fact, it is incredibly important to explore the nature of questions in the Bible and in the Christian life. An excellent book on this topic is Matthew Lee Anderson’s The End of our Exploring. He discusses the first question ever asked: “Did God really say to not eat of the tree?” (Genesis 3:1) and God’s question after the Fall of Adam and Eve by asking, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9).  

By the first question being from the serpent, we learn that our questions are not free from the reign of sin. But God also uses questions to meet us in our shame. Anderson beautifully states: 

The question, ‘Where are you?’ expresses an interest in Adam and Eve, Even from the beginning in the moment of our sin, God does not only want to be Lord over us but God with and among us. Relationships demand mutual self-disclosure…By posing a question, God moves toward Adam and Eve and gives them the opportunity to speak with Him. His question rebuilds the ground between them that their sin had ruptured…It is the first moment of God’s redemptive activity: in asking, God reminds us that He will listen as we speak, even if we utter a confession. And the question helps Adam and Eve find themselves by acknowledging where they had gone to.

And these are just the first two questions in Scripture. They are all over the Bible. From David asking, “How long, O Lord?” (cf. Psalm 13) to Peter saying to Jesus, “O Lord, to whom else shall we go?” (John 6:68). Questions are everywhere. We must know how to ask good questions, and learn to embrace the “exploration” that comes with question asking. 

Catechisms Teach Us Questions and Answers

By offering a list of questions, and not just a list of statements, catechisms model how to question well. We learn the kinds of questions to ask, as well as learn that it is good to be asking questions such as, “What is our only hope in life and death?” or “What is the chief end of man?” These are huge questions, and catechisms ask them for us. It is almost inevitable to ask questions such as these in life, whether spoken or not. Catechisms affirm our wonderings and show us what it looks like to bring those into discussion, to bring them into the light. 

However, catechisms do not leave us in our questions. They provide answers to the significant questions in life and in our walk with Christ. By catechisms providing us both questions and answers, our questions are validated and a starting point is given. We have a home base answer to go explore more fully. It is never a good idea to take catechisms as canonized scripture, but they can be a helpful resource. We must always rely on Scripture to point us toward questions and answers, but catechisms are  incredibly helpful, and shape how we learn to hide important biblical truths in our hearts. 

Catechisms Order Our Knowledge

Matthew Lee Anderson writes, 

I was never catechized, and I feel the lack of it now and then. In fact, I would say that my theological education has proceeded in something of a haphazard fashion: I have generally followed my interests, rather than a set programme of learning, and the result is that I have somewhat serious thoughts about a wide range of issuesbut little depth on many of them…This way of proceeding has some advantages, but I think they generally pale to the benefits that come from a more disciplined, rigorous approach…It seems to me that undertaking a catechetical process allows one to establish a coherent framework of answers out of which one can inquire and explore. Having a robust architecture developed within our minds allows us to put details in place that we would never notice or observe otherwise.

Anderson’s own personal story helps us see the benefits of catechisms as resources to provide a framework for our knowledge. In having a set of questions and answers that range a variety of theological points, we get to dip our feet into many different concepts, and put them in conversation with each other. 

The New City Catechism, a more recent catechism, is a helpful example of this. Even the first two questions follow a logical progression and put different doctrines in context. 

Question 1: “What is our only hope in life and death? That we are not our own but belong body and soul, both in life and in death, to God and to our savior Jesus Christ.”

Question 2: “What is God? God is the creator and sustainer of everything. He is eternal, infinite, and unchangeable in his power and perfection, goodness and glory, wisdom, justice, and truth. Nothing happens except through him and by his will.” 

In just these first two questions, we not only learn important biblical principles, but we learn how to ask questions, and what questions should follow new information. In Question 1, we learn that we are not our own but belong to God. It logically follows, then, that we would want to learn more about who God is and what he is like. If we belong to someone else, we naturally would like to know more about them. We also see how the view of our own hope shifts when we know more about God. 

J.I Packer writes,

…superficial smatterings of truth, blurry notions about God and godliness, and thoughtlessness about the issues of living—career-wise, community-wise, family-wise, and church-wise—are all too often the marks of evangelical congregations today.

Catechisms are incredibly significant and helpful in having a larger framework of essential theology, as well as learning how they inform each other. 

Catechisms Create Dialogue

The introduction to the New City Catechism says 

The catechetical discipline of memorization drives concepts deeper into the heart and naturally holds students more accountable to master the material than do typical discipleship courses. Finally, the practice of question-answer recitation brings instructors and students into a naturally interactive, dialogical process of learning.

When we are taught how to question and how to answer, we can begin to build confidence in bringing to the surface our own questions and doubts. Catechisms model dialogue, an essential aspect of the Christian life. We bring our questions both to God and to each other. By having questions and answers modeled, we can make questions and dialogue a much more commonplace aspect of our lives together in the church. Jesus came down to earth and had dialogue with his people. This matters, and we should do likewise.

How Children’s Ministry Forms the People of God

What Does Jesus Say About Children?

Jesus’ helpers tried to send them away. ‘Jesus doesn’t have time for you!’ they said. ‘He’s too tired.’ But they were wrong. Jesus always had time for children.  ‘Don’t ever send them away!’ Jesus said. ‘Bring the little ones to me.’ …You see, children loved Jesus, and they knew they didn’t need to do anything special for Jesus to love them. All they needed to do was run into his arms. And so that’s just what they did.

In this sweet excerpt from The Jesus Storybook Bible, Sally Lloyd-Jones begins to answer the question we must start with when we discuss children’s ministry: “What does Jesus have to say about children?”

When the disciples try to hurry the children away so that Jesus can focus on his “more important work,” Jesus stops the disciples and welcomes the children in his arms. If Jesus “always has time for children,” we must ask, do we? 

Many people today view children’s ministry as glorified childcare, a place to drop off your children while you socialize, or a place to volunteer in order to spend time with sweet and adorable children. Some even flippantly disregard children’s ministry by remarking that while we should strive to give children decent information, we should rely on adult ministry to fix all of the inaccuracies they absorb as children. This must not be the case, not only for the children’s sake, but for ours as well. 

Children Are Image Bearers

We must take children seriously because first and foremost, they are image bearers. Running around our church hallways are a bunch of little children , who were uniquely created in the image of God. Every conversation we have with a child is a new opportunity to know God more deeply. How would children’s ministry change if we remembered that every child who enters our ministry is an image bearer of the God of the universe? 

More than that, if these children know and love Jesus, then they are our brothers and sisters with whom we will spend eternity. C.S. Lewis famously writes, 

It is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.

We love and serve children because God created them in his image, and they are worthy of our care and our time. 

Children Need Us to Teach Them

In Psalm 71 the psalmist writes, 

With the mighty deeds of the Lord I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone. 
Oh God, from my youth you have taught me, 
And I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to my old age and gray hairs, 
O God, do not forsake me, 
Until I proclaim your might to another generation, 
Your power to all those who come. 

In this chapter, the psalmist asks to live long in order that he can tell the coming generation of all God has done. Similarly, we must have a similar desire for the little ones to know and trust in the good news of the gospel. 

Children have malleable hearts. They are sponges of information. They are constantly amazing us with the amount of detail that they can remember and repeat. They are always listening, watching, and applying what they learn making us some of their biggest influences and role models. The responsibility of a role model is one that we should steward well. 

We can steward and love  their listening hearts well by teaching them faithfully. While we do not need to aim to teach them with the same theological density that comes from the pulpit, we should teach them with the same theological accuracy. Children listen and they remember.

Children Show Us Need

Children are more attuned to their needs than we are of our own. They rely on adults for their most basic needs. From the minute they are born, they are utterly helpless. While children’s ministry should be full of teaching and discussion, it is, on a basic level, fulfilling children’s needs like food, water, and safety while their parents are elsewhere. This may seem like a mundane aspect of the ministry, but our hearts need it. As Joseph Hart says in his hymn, Come Ye Sinners, “All the fitness He requires is to feel your need of Him.”

We need this “need.” We naturally want to prove our independence and self sufficiency, but Jesus works on our hearts in order to show us that we are insufficient and in utter need of Him. We are helpless without him. When we are near to children who are so aware of their own needs, we will be reminded of our own needs.

Children Show Us Wonder

A few years ago, I was teaching 3-year-old Sunday school on Heaven and this sweet little boy in my class said, “Miss Emily! Guess what? I’m going to Heaven someday!” Without missing a beat, the little boy’s best friend exclaimed, “No way! Me too!” They spent the next few minutes in complete excitement that they would get to “play together forever with Jesus.” I remember sitting there watching them thinking, “Wow, do we get this excited about Heaven?” 

If we are being honest, we may not even thinking about Heaven everyday, much less get so excited we can barely stand it. We need children to be examples for us of what it looks like to be in awe of the good news of the gospel. We need to begin to recapture a childlike wonder for the beautiful truths that become mundane to us as life goes on. Children are vital gifts to us in this way. As we teach them the stories we have known for many years, we must watch their glittering eyes and pray that the Lord would restore in us a wonder we once had when we first believed. 

Be Like Children

The Jesus Storybook Bible says it well:

Well, after all the laughter and games, Jesus turned to his helpers and said, ‘No matter how big you grow, never grow up so much that you lose your child’s heart: full of trust in God. Be like these children. They are the most important in my kingdom.’

Children’s ministry has deep effects on our souls. Let us not only serve the children of our church well, but also watch them intently. They show us more about who God is, who we are, and how we can relate to Him. They are made in the image of God and show us need and wonder. Even in our pursuit of further biblical knowledge, may we never lose our child’s heart for God and for the gospel. May we continue to marvel at our own salvation and the promise of the new heavens and the new earth with a childlike wonder. Jesus loves the little children and so must we.

How Community Forms the People of God

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. 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! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
-Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Over the past four years, I have spent my summers involved in camp ministry. While all vastly different, my summers at camp have each brought such a sweet community that has encouraged me and pushed me to grow in my walk with the Lord.

During this time, fellow believers have sharpened, stretched, and challenged me in how I view myself and others in light of the gospel. I have come to see an immense amount of grace and revelation of my own sin as I have learned to rely on others. This has given me the perspective to truly see the body of Christ at work. Through my experience, I have come to see the importance of community in a believer’s life and how it is a way to experience growth and grace in a believer’s life.

Why is Community Important?

Community Brings Encouragement

First, community brings encouragement into believer’s lives. There will always be times in our lives when we feel distant from the Lord or “spiritually dry.” However, it is during these times where community will help us to continue in our walk with the Lord. While we are not to rely on others fully for our spiritual nourishment, our brothers and sisters in Christ can help encourage and challenge us by publically living out their faith. Romans 1:11 says:

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

We see in this passage the place of community in a believer’s life. Community with others is a way to bring mutual encouragement by seeing one another walk with the Lord. Seeing the Lord use others as His vessel, and seeing Him use their different gifts and talents for His purpose and Glory will encourage us in knowing how the Lord has made us equally unique for His glory. In 1 Corinthians, Paul discusses this in reference to the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12 reads:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
-1 Corinthians 12:4-6

Community is an incredible picture of the body of Christ at work. While we see others’ differences and gifts, we can be comforted in knowing we serve the same God and see a glimpse of His nature.

Community Brings Accountability

Community not only brings encouragement, but it also brings accountability. When we surround ourselves with fellow Christians, it will be easier to notice our own sin. However, we should not grow discouraged by this. At camp, we have the phrase “It’s a privilege to see your own sin.” This simple phrase has grown to become a sweet reminder to me in my walk with Christ. It is a privilege because, in the revelation of our own sin, we can take comfort knowing the Holy Spirit is at work. In John 12:46, Jesus states that “whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”

The work of sanctification in a believer’s life is one that continues to draw sin out of our lives and shine light into the darkness.
When we notice our sin, it is not just a privilege, but a comfort, as we see our need for Christ. Charles Spurgeon put it well when he stated that:

The person who is a sinner is the kind of person Jesus Christ came to make clean.

When we see our own sin, we see our desperate need of a savior. Community helps in the revelation of this. As we are in a relationship with others, God uses others to show us our faults and point us back to the gospel.

We are also called into accountability through community as we are pushed to be more like Christ by finding people also seeking Christ. Proverbs 27:17 speaks of this when it states, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

When we choose those chasing after Christ as friends, we can be brought into accountability with our own weaknesses. As we speak truth into each other’s lives and pray for one another just as Scripture commands, we will be challenged to become more like Christ, and held publically accountable for the recurring sins in our life.

What is True Biblical Community?

Community is a way in which God brings about spiritual growth among believers. Without community, we lack both accountability and encouragement. True biblical community is one that constantly and consistently points to Christ while displaying the grace of God to others in their lives. Community that seeks to glorify Christ should be united, prayerful, and Christ-exalting.

United

When we are striving to live for Christ together, we should be striving for unity. Community brings about an opportunity to both extend grace to others and receive it from them when we fall short. It is easy to get caught up in our differences, to focus on the faults of others, and to remain in our division. However, we should strive to seek peace with fellow believers. In Colossians 3, Paul reminds us of this by saying,

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
-Colossians 3:12-14

Prayerful

Secondly, we can be brought into a deeper community with believers by praying together. God promises that “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20).  I have seen the Lord most clearly at work when believers pray together. If you are discouraged by pre-existing division or attempting to find God-honoring friendships where you are, I suggest that you start praying with and for people.

Ask others how you can pray for them and set aside time with them to pray specifically for them. Prayer can be a tool for God to bind us more closely together. When God uses prayer to bring us together, we are shown our collective need for Him. There is unity when believers come together in the adoration of God and humbly place their needs before Him.

Christ-Exalting

Lastly, community should be focused on exalting Christ. Community allows us to see a glimpse into the kingdom of God as [ultimately] the goal of it should be the glorification of Christ and a celebration of His work on the cross. When we experience a genuine, Christ-exalting community, we see a foretaste of what’s to come in eternity. We see a glimmer of Revelation 7, which says:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.
-Revelation 7:9-12

What a picture of what is to come and what believers must long for! How gracious that our loving Father would give us each other as we continue to walk in our faith. It is essential that we know we do not have to do life alone, but we are able to lean on each other, bearing with one another our burdens as we continue to point each other to Christ. The song “We Will Feast In The House of Zion” illustrates this, as it says:

We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more

May we all seek a community that is centered around Christ, unified in His love, and aimed at bringing glory to Him, for this is a picture of eternity.

Is Church Membership a Requirement?

There is no Bible verse that says, “join a local church.” Many object to the idea of church membership for that reason alone. But is this argument even reasonable?

What is church membership?

In Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever, a leading advocate of church membership, wrote that the five following responsibilities of church membership includes:

  1. Regular attendance at services
  2. Regular attendance at communion
  3. Consistent attendance at members’ meetings
  4. Regularly praying for the church at which you are a member
  5. Giving to the church regularly

Dever is not alone in believing this. John Piper, D.A. Carson, John MacArthur, Albert Mohler, Ligon Duncan, and Timothy George all endorsed Dever’s teachings in this book. To be clear, listing big names does not prove that anything is biblical, but it is important to establish that Dever’s understanding of biblical church membership is supported by many well-respected Christian leaders. Let’s look at why they believe these things.

What did the Epistle Writers Assume?

Here are some introductions to the New Testament Epistles:

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.
1 Corinthians 1:2

Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me, to the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
-Galatians 1:1-3

Notice that Paul addresses these letters directly to churches which are assemblies of believers. He could address his audience in this manner because of their habit of regularly gathering together. He writes under the assumption that the church itself would be meeting together in a context where the letter would be read aloud.The concept of a Christian who did not belong to a church would have been foreign to Paul.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
-Colossians 1:1-2

And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.
-Colossians 4:16

The introduction and closing statement above assume that the believers will be gathered together to read the letter, and they confirm that there were specific churches receiving letters. Being part of a church, not a wanderer who comes and goes as he or she pleases, was the norm in the earliest churches and ought to be the norm in ours as well.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 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.
-Hebrews 10:24-25

The writer of Hebrews commands believers to assemble regularly. Neglecting to meet prevents believers from encouraging one another to obey Christ as they eagerly wait for His return.

Biblical Commands for Church Leadership and Discipline

1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9 teach the qualifications of church leaders. How would Paul appoint leaders if they were not going to preside over an assembly of Christians? Appointing leaders suggests that there is a group that needs to be led, and these leaders cannot fulfill their callings to teach, care for, and lead a group unless the members of the group are committed and submissive to the leaders’ authority. The apostle Peter explicitly commands elders (church leaders/pastors) to lead the congregation and the congregants to submit to leaders.

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
-1 Peter 5:1-2, 5

Is it possible to obey God’s commands without Church membership?

1 Corinthians 12:7-26 is one of the clearest passages on how the members of Christ’s Body should function. We will examine chapter 12 verses 7-26 in two parts.

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. -1 Corinthians 12:7-11

Verses 7-11 begin with Paul saying that the Spirit gives to each believer a gift for the “common good” of other Christians. The last verse here, teaches that the Spirit freely chooses to distribute gifts to Christians so that they may serve other Christians. How can we be obedient to the Holy Spirit’s will without pledging to serve a community of believers with our gifts? It is incredibly difficult to devote one’s gifts to serving Christians if they do not commit to a church by means of membership. One who refuses to consistently serve with their gifts in a community of believers is not adequately caring for their fellow Christians. We should rejoice that we can serve in a way that pleases the Triune God, and that we can be blessed by the gifts of God directly through our Christian siblings.

If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
-1 Corinthians 12:17-20

Continuing with his discussion of spiritual gifts, Paul parallels the Spirit’s giving of different gifts to Christians with the various functions of the human body. Each person with particular gifts within the Body of Christ is represented by a body part. In verses 17-20 he explains that no Christian is truly separated from the others even if they claim to be, and that the body is made whole by all the parts being unified.  

But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
1 Corinthians 12:24-26

Since the body parts represent Christians, one of the points that Paul is making here is that Christians have need of each other. If one does not commit to serving the other through church membership, how can the body be complete and how can the eye receive the benefits of what only the hand can do. Committing to church membership is part of submitting to the Holy Spirit’s purpose in giving gifts. All Christians are bought with a price, born again for good works, and commanded to sacrificially serve the Body of Christ at all times (Philippians 2:1-11, Ephesians 2:10, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Next Steps

Be mindful that you bring both problems and gifts into whichever church you join. Remember that your love toward other believers is proof that you love God (1 John 4:20) and that you are commanded to lay aside your own privileges for the sake of your fellow Christians (Philippians 2:1-11). Look diligently for a church that preaches the truth about God and the gospel. The gospel is that Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, took on human flesh died for the sins of all who recognize themselves as having fallen short of God’s standard (which is perfection) and trust in His sacrifice. All who repent and believe the gospel will be forgiven and adopted as God’s children. The sinner must trust in Christ and not his or her own works, since they cannot bring about forgiveness by their own deeds (baptism, church attendance, etc.).

Whoever trusts in Him will worship God in Heaven for eternity. The church you join should practice the sacraments of baptism and communion as the Bible commands. Do not blindly rush to join a church, but if you are not a member anywhere you need to be looking. Also, college students, do not be deceived, you must join a church. You may only be in your college town for a few years, but God has still called you to submit under a body of elders and be committed to serve in your local church. God has died for us to enjoy Him through serving other Christians and being served. We should be obedient to this call at all times.

Walking in Accountability

For much of my time as a believer, I made a conscious effort to pursue after the Lord by myself. This doesn’t mean that I wasn’t attending church or Bible studies, but it does mean that there were aspects of my walk with Jesus that I was dangerously attempting in isolation. During my senior year of high school, God blessed me with a group of friends that not only studied the Word together, but kept each another accountable to daily Scripture reading. Throughout this time, God gave this community a desire to expand that accountability. It began to grow in other areas such as personal holiness. By loving each other despite our sin, we reflected God’s love for his people. Tim Keller writes in The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God,

To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.

As believers, we have been designed for community. Without it, we are far more susceptible to the desires of the flesh, and far less encouraged in our pursuit of a deeper relationship with the Lord. This is what makes accountability so important.

If you do not have a community of friends around you that act as an accountability group, reach out to your church. If you do not have a church, please contact us for resources on finding gospel-preaching churches in your area.

Once you have a small group of friends, begin meeting together for Bible study and prayer while you consider how you might commit yourselves to one another and to the Lord. Since arriving to college, the Lord has opened up so many doors for deeper accountability with fellow brothers in Christ. Shortly after arriving on campus, the Lord allowed me to meet a group of other freshmen who were passionate about the gospel and had a similar desire to see the Lord change and mold us through accountability. A few weeks into college, my friends and I began meeting in dorm rooms as we studied the Scriptures, prayed for one another, and encouraged each other. As time went on and we grew comfortable with one another, and each person committed to walking in accountability in both Scripture reading and personal holiness. I watched this community develop and see the Lord move as nineteen year-old men confessed their sins to one another, prayed for one another, and encouraged one another with the truths of the gospel.

The first night that this happened was one of my favorite nights of college thus far, because I remember leaving with a zeal for the Lord and a heart full of gratitude. As time has gone on, we have begun to keep one another accountable in other areas as well. In this concise article, I will address a few of the ways that you can walk in accountability with one another.

Scripture Reading (2 Timothy 3:16)

Charles Spurgeon once said, “Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years.” Daily Scripture reading is one of the most important spiritual disciplines for Christians. At first, it can be difficult and even scary to approach Scripture, but the benefits that come as a result of faithful devotion to the Word each day are innumerable.

There are many places within the Scriptures that command the reading of Scripture. In Psalm 1, the Psalmist describes a stark contrast between the man who seeks counsel from the world and the man whose “delight is in the law of the Lord.” The latter is known by his meditation on the law day and night while the former is known by his destruction. In Matthew 4:4, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 saying, that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” As Christians, it is clear that we have been called to commit ourselves to reading and delighting in the scriptures.

Prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

There are many similarities between our commitment to prayer and Scripture reading. In the same way that Scripture reading is foundational to our Christian walk, prayer fosters spiritual growth and fuels our desire for personal holiness and evangelism. Both of these spiritual disciplines are ways in which we interact and grow in our knowledge of the Father. In fact, Scripture reading and prayer are dependent on one another. Scripture reading informs our understanding of the God to whom we pray to and prayer illuminates and helps us understand the Word that we read. Committing to seek God in daily prayer can seem difficult, but the rewards of growth and joy that come as a result remind us why we pray.

I would encourage you to consider praying each day for specific people in your life, for your school or workplace, non-believers in your community and for believers across the world. Prayer is powerful, not because of the person praying but because the God who we are praying to. In the words of The Valley of Vision, “Let me know that the work of prayer is to bring my will to thine, and that without this it is folly to pray.” The purpose of prayer is not that God’s will would be conformed to ours, but that our will would be conformed to God’s.

Personal Holiness (1 Peter 1:16)

As we approach, perhaps, the most stereotypical spiritual discipline, we must be reminded that personal holiness is not limited to merely avoiding lustful actions. Personal holiness is putting our joy in the Creator rather than in created things, including ourselves. I believe that at the root of all of our sin is unbelief. When we sin, we are displaying a lack of belief that Jesus is better. Austin Stone Church put it well in their song, “Jesus is Better” when they wrote:

In all my sorrows, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
In all my victories, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
Than any comfort, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
More than all riches, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
Our souls declaring, Jesus is better – make my heart believe
Our song eternal, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” As Christians living in accountability, we must confess our sins to one another when we fall short and meet each other with grace as the Father greets us. Admitting that you have fallen short and praying that the Lord would lead you to kill this sin is an essential part of walking in personal holiness accountability.

We kill sin because we believe that Jesus is better. We kill sin because we want to place our joy in the finished work of Christ. We kill sin because we know if we don’t it will kill us, as John Owen famously argued. All of this is done not out of a desire to earn the approval of God, but out of an understanding that while we could never earn His approval, in his grace God provided a substitutionary atonement for us. Our understanding of God, as revealed by the Scriptures and strengthened through our faithfulness to prayer, leads us to kill sin.

Evangelism (Matthew 28:19)

In light of all of this, we should be passionate about seeing others “glorify God and enjoy him forever.” This means that we must share what the Lord has done in our lives and declare his atoning work. Psalm 107:2 says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble.” God, through his Scriptures, has commanded the people of God to make known the work of God. As believers, we can wrongly assert that the call to fulfill the Great Commission is only for mission trips and only applies to one week out of the year, but in fact, God has called us to live on mission. He has called us to share the gospel with the homeless man on the street, the co-worker in the office, the student in the dorms, and the non-believing family member in the home.

God has called his people to declare the gospel. The easiest way to do this is by fulfilling Psalm 107 and declaring what the Lord has done in your life. We should regularly practice articulating and sharing the gospel through our testimony. This is something that could be implemented into your Bible studies or could be practiced in another time. Maybe even consider going out to evangelize with your small group. We have been redeemed by this gospel and it would be foolish to keep it to ourselves. We need accountability to aid us as we fight both the fear and laziness that is so prevalent among us.

All of these spiritual disciplines are connected. Scripture reading and prayer are the fuel that propels us to fight sin and to share the gospel with others. May God lead us and give us the desire to walk in accountability with one another so that we might love him even more and may he remind us of his great love for us. We will stumble and we will fall, but his grace is sufficient in our weakness. In the words of Matt Chandler, “You can’t out sin the cross of Christ.” May we rejoice in that truth as we reflect upon the love of God displayed through the cross.