I realize you may not be a believer like me, but obviously you believe in something because if you didn’t I doubt you’d be reading this blog.
My church family is indispensable to my survival, not because the people in it are able to deliver me, but because the God in us makes us a support group to empower each other in good and bad times.
My church family is far from perfect, and we’ve never claimed to be perfect, but this I can write with all confidence. My church family is perfect for my family and me. I don’t know exactly how Jesus brought together the twelve Apostles, but I do think the Holy Spirit instructed Him as the Holy Spirit inspires and educates me in choosing who I include in my “inner” circle. That sounds very high-brow and exclusive, but when you’ve been betrayed by other people you learn to narrow your inner circle. I think this is biblical, Jesus centered and wise. You might disagree, and that’s fine because these kinds of conversations are good to have when we don’t just tickle each other’s ears with nice comments. Life is messy, and if someone says otherwise they are trying to “sell” you something. There’s a powerful reason Jesus chose twelve followers for His inner circle, and obviously He spread His message all over this global village with that small group. Small Group Ministry was created by none other than Jesus Christ wasn’t it? It wasn’t some big mega church in the U.S. Now those particular churches have much to teach us, but our ultimate church and small group leader is the Father, Son and Spirit. Let’s never forget that.
Churches, small groups and people will come and go, but the Church of Jesus Christ will never fade from existence. Our allegiance should never be to an individual or group. Our loyalty should rest in the sinless Jesus who knew how to bridge the gap between the Father and human beings. He knew how to be with people, and I suspect from reading John 17 He knows how to be with God. He is the ultimate Advocate who never loses a case, and even though man may be able to kill the body they can never take our position away from the right hand of God because Jesus is Counselor, Jury and Judge in case you were wondering. That’s security money can’t buy, and no matter how hard we try we’ll never earn it. He gives it to us. Talk about pro-bono. Wow.
Church is what I depend on to remind me of this every week several times a week, and coming to table such that we do every Sunday is my constant reminder that the “security deposit” for that transaction was made by Him. He paid a debt I can never pay. That’s why I try everyday not to sin. Sin separates me from God. Sin crucified Him on a Roman cross, and I wonder like Ray Boltz if He “feels the nails every time I fail?”
I don’t try not to sin because I think I can. When I go into a day with that kind of attitude I inevitably fail every time. I try not to sin because I know the payment that went into my sin debt, and I know the pain my sin causes Him and others. It’s an attitude. It’s a heart issue. It’s not because I’m afraid of getting caught. I get caught even before I do it in the eyes of our LORD.
There is no possible way to avoid temptation. Each one of us is tempted. That’s life in this body. But we do not have to give into temptation as mankind has done from day one. There’s nothing new about that. We know the good we ought to do, but when we don’t do it we sin. And the vice versa is true as well. Sins of commission and omission are equally grievous in God’s sight. The sin now is getting caught isn’t it? Never mind that the actual transgression of doing sin is wrong.
My church family keeps me accountable to that higher calling. My God is merciful, kind and loving toward me in my darkest days. He sustained Adam, Noah, Abraham, Daniel, Jeremiah and Malachi as He continues to turn the hearts of the father back toward the children. Hurt people hurt people, but when we place our faith in a God who saves us on a daily basis from evil we cross a threshold that some spend a lifetime searching for.
If you’re searching for a church for what they can do for you then you are never going to find a church. Does God direct us to the church we need to be with? He most certainly does. Is there a church that might be wrong for you? I think there is. I’m not here to send you to the church you need to be at. I’m not even going to narrow down the denomination. There are some nonnegotiables that we have whenever we’ve been church “shopping.” Number one is that the church believes in Jesus Christ coming to earth through a virgin birth, dying on a Roman cross, but the Father raised Him on the third day. He also sent those baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit the gift of the Holy Spirit to be a help in our earthly lives. Those are the things we will not negotiate based upon our understanding of His word, the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. There are many congregations that adhere to that world view. Jesus is not only central to our theology, but we see that theology throughout the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Many have laid down their lives for that message to continue. In fact there are more martyrs today than there was in the first century because Satan knows his days are numbered.
As Russ talked about discouragement and fear this morning I could not help thinking about my struggle with depression. Russ was right. Those two things are huge in Satan’s battle against us to overshadow the light. I fight discouragement and fear in this very moment because I know this message is not popular with a large percentage of people. Is it any wonder the Bible talks about the narrow and broad ways? This is my summary, but I think the passage says broad is the way that leads to destruction, but narrow is the way that leads to righteousness.
I only know what you know about the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, but how can we ignore such a dramatic situation? Had even five righteous been there God would have saved them, but there was only four, and you know the end of that story. It’s quite simple really, and we don’t have to camp out long to understand what and why it happened. I’m not going to wax on anymore than this to say that our God means what He says. He wants our full devotion.
I’m not binding church attendance on every man, woman and child. Church attendance for me is a must, especially in light of my struggle with depression. I’d be dead had it not been for my LORD, my wife, my church and my daughter. God’s mercies are for everyone whether they go to church or not.
I know the Bible does not say verbatim, “God says go to church.” Satan goes to church. Look what Satan tried to do with Jesus in the desert. Satan is powerful. Satan is not all powerful, all knowing or all present like God, but I guarantee you he doesn’t have to be. He is ruling minds and hearts with his network, and you know the damage he is causing. I don’t have to spell it out for you here. You can see it on the news channels this very moment.
God is also ruling minds and hearts, but He does not force us to give Him our devotion. He never has. He never will. He knew where Adam and Eve were when He “looked” for them in the Garden. He knows where we are now.
He knows the number of hairs on our head, and He knit us together in our mother’s wombs. He knows how and where we will die, and He knows the day Jesus will reveal Himself to us again.
Find a church family my dear friends, and put your trust in Him, not the church you find.