As you watch more mature Christians dealing with their children and relating to their spouses, you are learning far more about Christian parenting and marriage than you realize. As you hear more godly believers speaking with grace, gentleness, and courtesy in members’ meetings, you are learning how Christians ought to express themselves. As you watch them interact with others in Bible studies, you see meekness, humility, and wisdom lived out in front of you rather than defined propositionally in a book. By their lives, we are stirred up to love the Lord and one another more; we have a greater desire for and understanding of the good works He calls us to.
Meeting together for public worship on the Lord’s Day gives us the opportunity to be encouraged by the sacraments and by the corporate singing of praise as we teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Col. 3.16). As we meet, we are stirred up and encouraged by the trustworthy teachers who have been called and equipped by the Lord, whose calling has been recognized by the church and who have been given the solemn responsibility of watching over your soul (Heb. 13:17). Your pastor has spent his week studying a particular text of Scripture with you and your congregation in mind, praying that the Holy Spirit will help him understand it and apply it rightly to you, praying for you to be shaped and transformed by that message. As we sit under the ministry of the Word together, as we hear what the Lord is saying to His people, we are admonished and exhorted to love and good works.
Meeting together is sometimes messy. We sin against one another. We are frustrated and irritated by the weak, the silly, the complaining, the self-pitying among our brethren. It would be so much easier to stay home and get our teaching online. But the Lord works all things for His people’s good, and the very presence of tensions and sins can be a means of sanctification in His hands. Trials (and trying people) teach us patience and steadfastness (James 1:2–4). When we are sinned against, we learn to forgive whatever grievance we have, just as God in Christ forgave us (Eph. 4:32). When we sin, we learn to humble ourselves, perhaps even publicly, confess it, repent, and receive forgiveness. In the church, we replay the dynamic of the gospel over and over for all to see and rejoice in.
If your love and good works are waning, could it be that you are undervaluing the role of your brothers and sisters in your sanctification? I wonder, when churches have been unable to meet in person for the sake of our own and our neighbors’ health, have we felt keenly the absence of this God-ordained setting for discipleship?