The last facet of our diamond is by no means the least important when it comes to assurance. In fact, without it – unless there’s legitimate reasons – I would be worried if someone who called themselves a ‘Christian’ did not participate in this.
At the most basic level of assurance is Christian fellowship in a local church, best expressed in church membership.
Why be part of a local church?
Because in the church we are nourished by God’s ‘means of grace’ and because a lone ranger Christian is a contradiction in terms.
Means of Grace: God’s Word & Prayer
The means of grace are traditionally the reading and preaching of God’s Word, prayer and the sacraments – what we call baptism and communion. They are called this because they are the means in which we feed on and are supplied by God’s grace by the power of His Spirit. We need to be constantly in touch with these means, otherwise we might easily drift and forget the good news.
To sit under God’s Word is to be nourished by the living active sword of God’s Word on a regular basis. Being fed and being taught more of the gospel of our Triune God through His Word. In this regard, the reading of God’s Word is also vital. We want God’s Spirit to be shaping us and changing us through these divine means. Without them there is little or no hope of growth or endurance. Without coming in to contact with God’s Word in some way, there’s really no foundation for repentance and belief. Do we value God’s Word and the preaching of his Word?
The second means of grace that is vital is the importance of prayer. Individual prayer is important, but so too is group prayer. There is something powerful and amazing when Christians pray together, which Acts demonstrates in various ways. Are we devoting ourselves to prayer together? Do we fully understand that prayer is one of the chief means by which we are changed in the midst of our circumstances? That God uses our prayer to shape us and grow us.
Now when it comes to assurance no doubt some of you will feel a twinge of guilt after reading the last two paragraphs. When it comes to prayer especially, we all know we don’t pray enough. This is the constant struggle of nearly every Christian. You are not alone in your struggles. Nor do you have to pray for a long time. Short, multiple prayers throughout the day might be better than one long prayer.
Means of Grace: Baptism & Communion
Finally, we have the sacraments or the ordinances: baptism and communion. The two things Jesus commanded the church to do. Baptism is the first act of obedience in the Christian life, physically acting out the Gospel by being submerged into the water and coming up again. This is a reflection of Jesus being submerged in the tomb and rising to life and how we put to death our old life and now follow him in our new life. It symbolises the washing away of our sins and a commitment to new life in Jesus. If you’ve not been baptised and you call yourself a Christian, why not?
Then we have communion – that physical reminder of the gospel and God’s grace to us. When we taste the bread and wine, we’re tasting afresh the goodness of the Lord and by the Spirit meet with the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the gospel we can touch. We remember Jesus and his sacrifice. We identity with Him and we look forward to his return, knowing this meal is a taster of the greater banquet to come! Delight in this together!
Discipleship is Key
But alongside the means of grace, we have our second reason church fellowship is key: because Christianity is not a solo project. A lone ranger Christian is a contradiction because Christians are meant to live in fellowship with one another, discipling each other and making new disciples.
We can’t do that effectively if we’re not together, united together in a common cause for the gospel. Are we spending time with other Christians, learning from them? Extending and benefitting from hospitality from them? Loving them? Serving them?
The local church is the place where discipleship flourishes. We can learn through one-on-one engagements or group studies – we can reach the lost together and come to know God better together through experiencing trials and life together.
That words ‘together’ or ‘one another’ combine to emphasise a central theme running throughout the NT. We see it dozens of times – but one example that is perhaps pertinent to life in these COVID times is this one from Hebrews 10:24-25:
‘And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.’
If we do this together then the diamond of assurance will grow stronger as the Spirit works in the church to make our faith more beautiful, unbreakable, and precious than ever.
 You could argue (I think persuasively in my mind) that there are more ‘means’ than this. Some have argued church discipline is another, whilst singing praises and hospitality could be others.
 Some people find it difficult to read God’s Word – I don’t want to add to people’s guilt. Reading the Bible throughout the history of the church has mostly been public in emphasis since the majority have been illiterate throughout the ages. There’s no command in the Bible to read your Bible every day and it won’t make you any less Christian. The Father loves you regardless. Yet on the other hand, we should seek to be influenced by a regular diet of God’s Word – whether read publicly, privately, together, or on audio. Without it our growth will be stunted. Without it, it is almost impossible to know God better (Ephesians 1:17). This is why regular attendance on Sundays is so important. In it we enjoy fellowship through the Word, hearing it read and preached together, praying together and enjoying the sacraments together.
 See Acts 4:23-31 and 12:5-7.
 If you do struggle with prayer (or with reading your Bible) please get in touch. You don’t need to struggle alone.