A little boy scraped a chair across the kitchen floor and climbed on it to reach a cookie jar on the top shelf. His mother heard the noise and called out. “What are you doing in there?”
Caught with his hand in the cookie jar, the child replied, “I’m fighting temptation.”
It’s been said there are two pains in life – the pain of discipline, and the pain of regret. Discipline weighs ounces while regret can weigh a ton or more. We so easily talk about what we should be doing. We are not always good at practicing the self-control necessary to do it.
I can sympathize with Paul when he says in Romans: I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. (15:7)
Paul is sharing something personal. He wants to do right but doesn’t. It’s almost as if we are a split personality. We could decide not to do something wrong, but just deciding is not enough.
Peter told Jesus at the last supper, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you.” Yet we know what happened just a few short hours later.
Here is one answer: All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper, and to prayer. Acts 2:42
“That’s too simple, or is it?” The early church dedicated themselves to a four-part formula:
- Teaching – Connecting with God through worship & scripture.
- Fellowship – Mutual support in the midst of joy and sorrow.
- Sharing – Sharing food, resources, and time to anyone in need.
- Prayer – Deepening our personal relationship through the Holy Spirit.
This is the foundation for any church expecting miracles: A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. (Acts 2:43)
I understand that even the best athlete can only go so far on their own. Natural ability, the desire to win and dedication is not enough. Sooner or later, every athlete needs the aid of a knowledgeable and talented coach. A coach works to improve your technique which will enhance natural ability. A coach can support the athlete when the spirit sags which keeps the athlete going. Good coaching is critical for any athlete that wants to compete on a high level.
Like Athletes we cannot live the Christian life alone. This is the teaching of Acts and the foundation for any church. We need Christ and the church in the same way an athlete needs a coach. There is only so far we can go on our own.
Years ago, I and several men attended an organizing meeting where we learned the value of supporting each other. We were challenged to name five close friends other than our spouse that we shared our deepest struggles and joys. Friends who had our backs during our most difficult moments. Most of us, including me, couldn’t name five or four or three or two or even one. Oh, I had lots of friends, but I didn’t have that kind of friend. I knew I needed help.
We formed a men’s group and vowed to meet early every Sunday morning. We had breakfast, shared Scripture and had devotions but we also laughed and cried and told stories. But in the midst of it all we learned to depend upon Christ and each other.
That’s how we become a church for Jesus. A group of ordinary, mistake-prone, sinners coming together to support and nurture each other.
The worship service is only a part of what it means to be the church. Music, prayers, and sermons are all helpful but what is really important are the relationships that come out of worship and the ministry that happens in our community because of those relationships.
A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.. – Acts 2:43 & 47
Or you could scrape a chair across the kitchen floor, climb up on the counter, stick your hand in the cookie jar and shout: “I’m fighting temptation!”