Far Too Many Words About a Simple Topic
Question: Why go to church?
Too many words…
• Because we gain a second family who is near at hand and who cares about us and will help us.
• Because it’s the best place to offer collective worship which is a proper and necessary complement to our individual home devotions.
• Because God likes this.
• Because it’s what Christians do. Not all people in church are Christians, but all Christians go to church.
• Because it’s the best place to hear the Gospel preached, the Bible taught, to get married or have a funeral, to be baptized or share communion, and is a counter culture to the impurity and materialism of the world which should benefit any parent who desires better things for their children.
• Because it serves the role of a hospital for the injured soul, a fortress from which to assail Satan’s forces, and a bank to invest our time in things eternal “where thieves cannot break in and steal nor moth corrupt.”
• Because it’s the proper place to bestow the first fruits of our labor, namely, the tithe, which literally means the ‘tenth’.
More simply put…
Did God create the Church? Why?
“To be a conduit of His Love and Truth” comes to mind. “To serve as an object of His affection, to bless and to rebuke” maybe. What else?
However, whatever ‘reasons’ we come up with to undergird our obedience (that was intended to be a wisecrack; obedience needs not to multiply reasons), we should never trifle with God by joining a church and then not attend regularly. Nor should we cheat ourselves out of the abundant life which Christ has promised by only attending but not being active.
So, another Question: What does it mean to be active in a church?
Too, too many words…
• It is not joining lot of committees, donating lots of time and money, or being busy in general.
• It is not unquestioning allegiance to a pastor, a denomination, or a creed.
• It is not seeking position or authority so that we may invest our skill set, but rather instead asking if we can be useful and accepting whatever is given to us with joy.
• It is not excusing sin in others nor asking sin be excused in us, but rather admitting our own weakness and being patient with the weaknesses in others, which when sin must be rebuked, we say first “I too am a sinner saved by grace. Our Savior deserves better from both of us.”
• It is praying for fellow members by thanking God when they are blessed and pouring our hearts out to God when they are afflicted. And it is also asking others to pray for us.
• It is asking questions, holding others accountable, and being easily accepting of reasonable explanations. Also, it is being a good example for the children and each other.
• It is discovering our spiritual gifts and rejoicing when we get to use them.
• Supporting missions, reaching out to the poor, finding ways to spread the Gospel.
• Attending Sunday School, attending bible studies, attending work days. Faithfully.
• Being dependable. Kingdom work needs dependable people.
• Asking “What are we doing for the hungry, the prisoner, the homeless, the jobless, the widow, and the orphan, namely, kids in the neighborhood who have no home life, a.k.a. church orphans.
More simply put…
What does it mean to be active in a marriage?
“Being mentally and emotionally present” comes to mind. “Supporting, encouraging, protecting, comforting”, maybe. What else?
However, when we are active in a church there is always a temptation to think that God is impressed by how much we are ‘doing’ for Him. Indeed, some cults deceive their members into believing that being active for their church is how they will be judged worthy for Heaven (the technical term is ‘works righteousness’). To be sure, God does judge our works, but the question of forgiveness of sin and standing before God, that is, being fit to live in Heaven with Him, has already be decided at Calvary and not by how much we do or pray or give or anything else.
Therefore, a last Question: If how hard we work or how active we are does not impress God nor assure our place in Heaven, what does?
First, if we are seeking to impress God, we have already started badly.
Second, if Jesus is not our Lord and Savior, nothing else really matters. Like Noah, we’re either on the boat or we’re not.
Third… there is no third. Without Jesus, we can’t face the Last Judgment nor accumulate treasures in Heaven. So the last question might be better put: If we are then indeed ‘in’ Him and He in us, how shall we then live?
Far, far too many words…
First, bible reading, prayer, church attendance, and giving are very good barometers for doing a quick check of our spiritual condition. If they start to decrease, we should ask ourselves what is distracting us.
Second, when we hear someone going on and on about humility and submission and joy and patience and the like, these are indeed part of mature Christian living, but they are imparted to us by the Holy Spirit and not because we decided to be these or have these.
So, Third, try these on for some practical and unoriginal ways to allow the Spirit to ‘holy up’ our Christian walk.
• Prayer before Bible reading - Before we start to read our Bible, we should confess our sins, pray for the wisdom to understand what we read and the will to change if change is called for, and maybe be thankful that we can dedicate this time for reading our bible and for having so many easy-to-understand translations, and then begin reading our Bible. This is how we show reverence for the Word of God.
• Look for opportunities to pray: for someone else, especially in their presence; when you eat; when you begin your work day; for people you like and especially people you don’t like [Alert: It’s impossible hate a person you’re praying for]; a daily prayer list; at a particular time of day; whenever you feel confused or when you’ve lost something or if you’re worried; or just for the fun of it. At some point you begin to talk to Jesus all the time, just like He is standing right beside you, which spiritually speaking, He is.
• As much as is in you (some of us introverts take a while to network), get to know the people with whom you are worshipping. When we start to know ‘lives’ as well as names, it makes praying easier and more effectual. It also makes giving easier and helping others more satisfying. And, it makes it so much more gigantically disappointing if things don’t work out. :(
• Giving is worship. Remember that. And how much we give is not as important as how we give, namely, with gladness and thankfulness. Some will feel the call to give till it hurts. Some to give as soon as they receive any increase lest holding on too long burns their hands. Some will budget because they budget everything. Some with be spontaneous because they are romantics. There’s no right or wrong way except if we are personally expecting something in return which doesn’t make it worship anymore but instead makes it a transaction.
And for those who want a little extra sauce with their Christian living… waaay too many words:
• Will Jesus return? Well, of course, yes. But how often each day do we remember this or ponder it, let alone live like we are expecting it?
• WWJD is not a terrible paradigm, but here is a better one: in any situation, in any relationship of life, ask yourself “What would a Christian ________ do?” Examples: a Christian parent, a Christian employee, a Christian business owner, a Christian patient, a Christian friend, a Christian wife or husband, a Christian salesperson, a Christian customer.
• Contemplation is becoming a lost art. Devotional contemplation will reward any soul who practices such without strings attached or preconceived expectations. So it is with any of the other increasingly rare spiritual disciplines like fasting, pilgrimages, withdrawals, short term missions, and c.
FYI - Prayer is when we talk to God, thinking is when we talk to ourselves, meditation is mental focusing, contemplation is listening when no one else is in the room or seeing with our eyes closed and turning off our internal on-going discussion.
But fearful is the question and life-shattering can be the answer if we would press our Master to further increase our devotion and holiness.
• And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, even God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and mother.
And he said, All these things have I observed from my youth up. And when Jesus heard it, he said unto him, One thing thou lackest yet: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. Luke 18:18-22
Do you truly want to know more? Teach. Do you truly want to love better? Listen. Do you truly want to see God? Like Saint Francis, kiss the leper. And don’t be surprised when your Savior asks you to sacrifice something dear to you. We so easily forget that everything belongs to Him anyway, it’s just on loan to us till the train leaves for paradise. And it is often that what is dearest to us is the same thing that is standing between us and Him, and us and the heartfelt relationship we could be having with the One who loves us so.
Returning to basics, there is nothing like prayer and Bible reading to keep our faith fresh. Service will not always be satisfying and, especially if done out of our own strength, we will eventually run out of steam. But prayer and Bible reading will put the wind back in our sails and we will feel like continuing on, which FYI, that’s the Holy Spirit renewing our strength.
But if your Bible reading becomes dry and your prayers feel mechanical, get the Church to praying for you because… it’s not just you and God, or just you and Jesus. No. It’s you and God and Jesus and the fellowship of the saints, and God planned it that way. Remember that.
More simply put…
That’s why we go to church.