Why you HAVE to go to Church - A Must Read!!!
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We have talked extensively about giving thanks in all things, and the last two meetings we spoke of giving thanks to God through Jesus Christ in our sanctification, and also in our suffering. Now we turn to a matter and manner of giving thanks that is near and dear to this pastor’s heart. That is the idea of giving thanks to God though Jesus Christ in our solidarity.
Solidarity is defined as common interest and active loyalty within a group. They go together: not just doing activity, and not just being within. Not on the outside and not stationary, inside and involved. Not simply showing up once in a while and perhaps participating when we want to, but staying within the group and in an active way. To both be present and to participate regularly.
The promises of God are yea and amen, and God wants us to possess them all in abundance. Now, while some promises are things God will bring to pass no matter what, others are like a garment waiting to be worn; they are for those who meet the conditions of them. When we meet those conditions, and we continue to pray, to give thanks, and believe in God the possibilities turn into probabilities as we put on the promises of God like prophecy.
There are promises of God that have been given to the Church, but many in these last days have come to believe that these promises are simply for individuals in the Church, which to them means simply saved individuals. This is not so, however; these promises are for the universal Church, yes, but they are appropriated by the individuals who are resident and active within the universal, invisible Church’s visible expression, which is the local church. If you are missing from the local church, you will be missing some of the blessings.
Let’s ask a question that is asked, every day, in many ways.
Do you have to go to church to be a Christian?
The answer to this is simple, but the reality of what this question is trying to point out isn’t as simple as it may seem, because many are not focusing on what is really meant by this question.
To simply answer the question, then, do you have to go to church to be a Christian?
The answer is no.
However, lets now propose a different, more pointed question that actually gets to the heart of the matter.
Do you have to go to church when you are a Christian?
The answer is yes.
Lets state them together, so that you may think about this, and begin to realize where we are going next.
Do you have to go to church to BE a Christian? No.
Do you have to go to church WHEN you’re a Christian? Yes.
Now people can get all up in arms about this statement, but what they are doing, not me, what they are doing is focusing on the legal aspect of it, not the spiritual aspect of it, and they fail to recognize that their spiritual lives will indeed suffer if they are not in church. Period. God knows it, everyone else knows it, and you know it.
What many people fail to realize is the benefit of just being there. It is very much like when I counsel couples; I always get them to commit to praying together at night before they go to bed. I am sure many of them wonder why this is so important. They probably feel like this exercise, as they might call it, has little chance of actually helping them.
However, what they are doing in their fleshly minds is trying to reason out why this is valuable inherently, and come to believe that the prayers won’t solve anything. They are looking at the prayers as some sort of vehicle that will magically deliver a message or some innate power that will get them to the next level. The answer isn’t always in the prayer by itself, it is that we honor God by doing it, and then He begins to line up the events and situations that will help us overcome the obstacles.
People are looking at the prayer itself, and wondering, what can that possibly do, I need money right now, or I need this or that to stop happening, or I need a job. It isn’t that He will give you a message right then and there, that this and this is what you should do, though He may, it is that this and this will start happening, all in response to your obedience to worship God and honor Him with prayer. You are leaving it on Him, in a way. You are coming in to His presence, as a couple, and the mere fact that you do this, becoming more intimately involved with God together, is why God becomes more intimately involved in your situation.
Church is the same way. The message may not have all that jazz for you in your mind, and the music may not move you as much as what is in your CD player right now, but that is only part of the plan God has for church. If you will just submit to God and commit, really now, to the local church, God will commit to your local lives. When you miss church you are not simply missing the message, you are missing the method.
The leading God gives is not only through the probing eye of the pastor, and not only through the community of believers assembled there, it is also just by attending yourself, in that God will then attend to your wants as you have attended to what He wants. Participating in church precipitates the providence and provision of God. When you open the doors of your will, then God will open the doors of your opportunity.
Saying that you can be a believer without going to church is like saying you can be a tennis player without stepping on the court. People say that they have a problem, that is why they couldn’t make it to church, but in truth they couldn’t make it church, and that is why they have a problem. God knows your heart, and God knows if you are looking for an excuse. If that problem weren’t there, would you have gone then? Then why didn’t you come that one particular week you didn’t have to work, or when you didn’t have that problem? You had better go when you can or God will make sure you can’t. Instead of looking for one reason not to go to church we should be looking for one reason to go to church. It is just like what we were studying in Jeremiah 44 (Arrow of Deception teaching).
The Church is a community, which is supposed to reflect the fact that God, in His tri-unity, is also a community. He is one, yet is three distinct persons. We are one in Christ through the Spirit, but we are also distinct persons.
Jesus put it this way when He was praying to God for His disciples: The glory which you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as we are one; I in them, and you in me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that you sent me, and loved them, even as you have loved me (John 17:22-23).
Notice here that Jesus speaks of the glorious unity, which His disciples should have, is not some internal state of affairs, but a visible unity, which no one around can possibly deny. Jesus wants His followers to form an objective society in order to demonstrate that God is a society – a community of love between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit into which we have been brought as members.
Earlier when we talked about Romans 1:7, which leads “to all that be in Rome”, we were talking about all the believers, as we discussed. Now lets examine that for a moment. Who and exactly where were all the believers in Rome? How could Paul make sure that the letter would be read to every believer in Rome? How did Paul know where to address this letter?
The answer is simple. Paul addressed the letters he wrote to CHURCHES, because there was no thought of believers acting like lone rangers outside the fellowship of other believers. The church is an essential part of the gospel!
Is the church essential to the gospel? If so, why? The Church is the Body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23) and Christ is the Head of this Body (Colossians 1:18). Furthermore, He is the Savior of this Body (Ephesians 5:23) because He died for the Church (Ephesians 5:25).
When you are saved you are made part of the Body of Christ: another way of saying the same thing is that one cannot be saved without becoming a part of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13, 27). Therefore, the church is an essential part of the gospel. We cannot become a part of a Body and then separate ourselves from the rest of it, and expect to live.
You may think that all you need to do is stay connected to the Head and you are all right, but when you are separating from the rest of the Body, you are also separating from the Head. You cannot be nourished by the Head while at the same time un-sewing yourself from that which you are knit together (Colossians 2:19). We only increase with the increase of God as we are holding the Head and we stay knit together with all the joints and ligaments. You may think that you can continue to be a part of the invisible body while at the same time declining to participate in the visible body, but you are only fooling yourself.
We give thanks to God through Jesus Christ by attending and serving the institution that He founded, the Church, and we serve the universal church body by serving its visible expression, the local church body. God has a covenant with the Church.
Church is about fellowship, yes, and it is also about worship, yes, and worship in the context of fellowship is good and right. However, church is also about discipleship, and this takes leadership. All of this is necessary for the proper stewardship of a church through its members.
Let’s look at some negative and positive reasons for attending a local church.
To those who say they don't need to or have to go to church, or ask the question, "Why do I have to go to church?" …
Going to church honors God, does your absence?
Preaching helps build the building (edifice - edification - preaching) and it is essential for the exhortation and comfort of believers, in addition to their regular feeding on the Word. Also, most that I have observed who give the excuse that they don't need to go to church to be fed and led aren't actually feeding on Christ at all, or very little at best.
When you avoid church, you are avoiding the community of believers that need your gifting, 1 Corinthians (12-14) speaks plainly to this. Romans 15:14 / Colossians 3:16 – you cannot admonish and edify others without fellowship! In other words, you are being selfish, and you are ripping me off personally! He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit; that is, one with Christ, AND ALSO, one with each other. Are you really part of the Body of Christ?
It is the fellowship of the church where we find Jesus Christ. Jesus is active in His Church. Yes, He is active in individual lives, but those lives find more power in the context of the local church.
It is the fellowship of the church where we find protection from the demonic forces of evil and sin in this world. We call it a sanctuary for a reason, folks.
It is the fellowship of the church where we find encouragement in life. We can't keep on the path with Christ without the help and support of other Christians.
It is the fellowship of the church where we become Jesus Christ to the world.
The church is where we can find the best vehicle for our growth. We hear the Word preached and taught, and it stimulates us in our own private devotional and study times.
That, in the “spiritual bodybuilding” aspect, is like “taking your vitamins” The second part of “getting big” is to engage in resistance training. In accordance with this idea, the environment of the church provides two important features of growth producing conflict:
Authority who will challenge you with truth and correct you when you are wrong.
The environment of believers who are imperfect and whose rough edges will serve as sandpaper to smooth out your wrinkles. “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17). Hurt feelings are probably the greatest reason why people leave churches, but deepening your roots in Christ and His Word can immunize you against such tenderness. “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165).
If anyone thinks he is spiritual, just get close to your brethren, and you’ll find out what’s really inside you. People are like “mirrors” in which we can see ourselves as we really are. Matthew 7:3-5, consider how having a beam makes us see everything as having a beam in it. Sometimes we don’t notice a certain type of car all over the road until you own one yourself. If there’s bitterness or a lack of love, it will become exposed. When you hide from church, you are exposed.
It doesn’t matter how agitating, rude or unspiritual your brethren might be. This does not justify your intolerance or impatience with them. These attitudes are characteristics of your own immaturity – a weakness in YOU that needs perfected. This is why some people run from church to church – because it exposes their bad side. They see their own sins and blemishes revealed in their relationship with the brethren, or they become outraged when their self-willed desires or sins are challenged through convicting preaching or correction.
If a person remains an “island” to themselves they will never have to face up to the spiritual immaturity within them. But exposing themselves to the environment of the church will cause them to face conflicts that must be overcome in order to grow up. A sign of a spiritually mature person is that they can be loving and patient with anyone (1 John 2:10 / Galatians 5:22-23), and they can humbly submit themselves to truth and the correction of authority (Hebrews 13:17).
Many would fight against God’s institution and claim they don't have to go to church by appealing to the “priesthood of all believers.” Yes, it is true we are all able to come to God through Jesus; we are all a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5-9 / Revelation 1:6), and no one else is a mediator between God and man but Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). So, you are a priest, but did you consider the fact that the priests served in the temple!
Another objector (read: REBEL) may use what we just said and then say, “okay, but I am the temple – take a look at 1 Corinthians 6:19, pal! Of course, this is easily refuted by pointing out that the church is also the temple, 1 Corinthians 3:16 – so there!
And furthermore, looking back at the 1 Peter 2:5-9 passage, it says that we are lively stones. Now consider the fact that God, in 1 Corinthians 3:17, says, “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (the church). If we are lively stones, yet we are absent from the church, the temple of God, then are we helping build the church, or are we hindering the building of it? Well, we certainly aren’t helping matters by not being there!
We may not feel like we are tearing it down, but our lively stone is supposed to be a part of the building. You might say, well, it can be built without me. Okay, then God will indeed build it without you, but then just remember you won’t be a part of it. If God has to build the building without you in it, then you are not a part of it, e.g., you are not a part of the temple, you are outside, and it was your choice! See?
You will either leave the church or believe in the church. As the days of Noah were, so will the coming of the Son of Man be (Matthew 24:37). Noah pleaded for people to come on board, and he didn’t promise good times, great music, hot babes, or any other thing in the world except a bunch of dirty, stinking animals! Are you going to get in the Ark or not?
If you are out of the church you are out of God’s will. Part of finding a good one is you staying and growing and helping it to be a good one.
Instead of looking for one reason not to go to church we should be looking for one reason to go to church. No more selfish excuses – GET IN CHURCH, AND STAY IN CHURCH.
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