One of the things I always dread at my children's birthday parties is the idea that someone is going to give them play-dough. Inevitably, you end up with little crumbles of dried play-dough scattered through the carpet or squished into the floor. Half the time, they end up leaving it out and it dries out. Lots of toys you can leave out and it doesn't hurt the toy (unless you accidently step on it and break it). Play-dough is not that way. Play-dough has to be played with or sealed up. If you leave it out by itself it ends up drying out and then it becomes useless. If it is out, play-dough has to be pushed or shaped or prodded or rolled or pushed through those little play-dough squisher accessories they sell. If not, when left exposed to the air, play-dough become nothing more than a dry, lifeless chunk of colored crumbling rock.
Hebrews 3:13 reads: "But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin's deception" (HCSB). Some people make the mistake of thinking that the life of a Christ follower is one that can be lived in isolation. If a church makes us angry we can just go to church at the lake or in our living rooms listening to a preacher on TV. We make the mistake of thinking of our local churches as nothing more than classrooms where we are given Christian educations and, if needed, we can just home-school ourselves. Unfortunately, coming together as a church is about more than an education program. The author of Hebrews, when talking about how some people had stopped coming together wrote this: "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25 , NIV).
You see, we need to be poked and prodded and shaped and pushed through little squisher accessories by our interaction with other believers or we can be hardened by the sin in and around us. If we don't have people to encourage us and whom we can encourage in return we are just like that lump of play-dough that slowly hardens until it's not good for much of anything. We get bad ideas that are never tested by the wisdom and experience of others. We allow bad habits to form that we never notice until they have become lifestyles. We miss out on the insights and help that other believers can give us and the encouragement that enables us to navigate difficult situations.
The life of a Christ-follower was never intended to be lived in seclusion and isolation. In fact, Jesus' teachings and the writings of the New Testament seemed to take for granted that we would exist in a community of believers. When Jesus taught the Lord's prayer, he prayed, "Our Father in heaven…Give us our daily bread…forgive us our trespasses." Not my. One of the greatest traps we can fall into as Christians is the trap of thinking we can live a Christ-centered life on our own. We need to interact with other believers, to encourage each other, to learn from each other, to pray for and sharpen each other.
Don't let yourself get isolated. Find a body of believers where you can get involved, loving, serving, helping and encouraging each other. And if you already have that kind of fellowship, don't let it go. Trust me, you don't want to harden up like a lump of play-dough.