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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Church on Sunday

Because of my Fibromyalgia, every morning I wake up aching and feeling bad. The last thing I want to do is do something. Some mornings are better than others and some are worse than others and some mornings are so bad I can't get up. Yesterday was Sunday morning and I would rate it a 6 on a pain scale of 1-10 (with 1 being no pain and 10 being the worst pain). I did't feel like going to church. I had a hard enough time getting my teeth brushed so I could make a bowl of cereal for breakfast. My wrists ached while I brushed my teeth and my neck is so stiff I can barely turn my head.

In my head was my sinful nature whispering...Why don't you just go back to bed? God would understand. You don't have to go to church to be close to God. Just give in to it and you can read the Bible later to make up for it. Blah, blah, blah.

I'll be honest with you, sometimes I listen to that voice and don't go to church for no real reason other than I just don't feel like it. I'm a saint only by virtue of the blood of Christ. I still have my sinful human nature and sometimes it wins the battle yet Christ forgives me and I am cleansed by His blood and sacrifice. Thank You, Jesus!!!!

But, why do we go to church? Why does it please God for us to go to church? Why do we have to meet with a bunch of people and get all dressed up and drive all the way to a building?

People, who aren't Christians, think that church is just a social club, a place to meet friends, a support group and tithes are your membership dues. You can switch churches whenever it suits your fancy just like you do with other civic clubs. You go for entertainment, to give your kids wholesome group activities that are chaperoned. If it ever becomes uncomfortable, your feelings get hurt, your needs aren't met...then leave and check out the club down the street.

People, who are Christians, can get these same worldly ideas and they become unchurched ("It's not necessary to go to church to meet with God") or church hoppers ("I'm just not getting anything from this church, I think God is leading me some where else").

These are not the reasons why we go to church! We are being influenced by the world if we think they are. I'm writing this for myself, not just the reader. These are my thoughts on why church is important.

Reasons for going to church:
1) God called out a people and told them to stick together. They weren't suppose to marry outside their group, they weren't suppose to enslave each other, they weren't suppose to fight each other. God called them to come together at certain times of the year and celebrate religious holidays together. These were called Feasts. Anyone who joined this national group was supposed to become one of them, not vice versa. These people were called Hebrews, Israelites, Jews, sons of Abraham/Isaac/Jacob-Israel. They were NOT to become so friendly with the world that they would intermarry or start following and worshiping their idols. Since Jesus Christ, God's people includes everyone who accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Act 3:25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, "And in your Seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed."

Gal 3:6-9 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. Therefore know that those of faith, these are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations through faith, preached the gospel before to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all nations be blessed." So then those of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

By faith, I am a child of God, one of God's people. I am no longer a citizen of this world but am an alien in a strange land, a foreigner. I must live here until my God calls me home. But while I live in this world I am to be a representative of my homeland, Heaven, and of my leader, God. I should be different from those of this world. I shouldn't intermarry or follow after the world's idols and fake religions. I should celebrate my religious holidays along with others from my homeland. I shouldn't fight or enslave my fellow Christians and we should stick together. Others looking at us, should be able to tell that we are foreigners. We should speak differently, dress differently, act differently so that everyone can tell that we are Christians. Anyone who wants to join us should be welcome but they must become one of us and not us become one of them. They should become Christlike, we should not become Worldly. We are a distinct people who have been called out from this world, set apart. If God told the Israelites to stick together then we, as His people, should stick together. There is much we can teach others and much we can learn from others. But only if we gather together.

2) God commands us to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy. He also tells us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.

Gen 2:1-3 And the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made. And He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He had rested from all His work which God created to make.

In the 10 Commandments:

Exo 20:8-10 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is the Sabbath of Jehovah your God. You shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger within your gates.

Exo 31:13-17 Speak also to the sons of Israel, saying, Truly you shall keep My sabbaths. For it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, to know that I am Jehovah who sanctifies you. You shall keep the Sabbath therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone that defiles it shall surely be put to death. For whoever does any work in it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done, but on the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to Jehovah. Whoever does any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Therefore the sons of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant. It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever. For in six days Jehovah made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested, and was refreshed.

Deu 5:12-15 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as Jehovah your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day shall be the sabbath of Jehovah your God. In it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your ox, nor your ass, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger inside your gates, so that your manservant and your maidservant may rest like yourself. And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and Jehovah your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and with a stretched-out arm. Therefore Jehovah your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.

In the prophets:
Isa 56:1-8 So says Jehovah, Keep judgment and do justice; for My salvation is near to come, and My righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who lays hold on it; keeping the sabbath, from defiling it; and keeping his hand from doing any evil. And do not let the son of the stranger, who has joined himself to Jehovah, speak, saying, Jehovah has utterly separated me from His people. And do not let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. For so says Jehovah to the eunuchs who keep My Sabbath, and choose things that please Me, and take hold of My covenant; even to them will I give within My house and within My walls a hand and a name better than of sons and of daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. Also the sons of the stranger, who join themselves to Jehovah to serve Him, and to love the name of Jehovah, to be His servants, everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and takes hold of My covenant; even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples, says the Lord Jehovah who gathers the outcasts of Israel, Yet I will gather beside him his gathered ones.

Isa 58:13-14 If you turn your foot because of the Sabbath, from doing what you please on My holy days, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of Jehovah, honorable; and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in Jehovah; and I will cause you to ride on the high places of the earth, and feed yourself with the inheritance of Jacob your father. For the mouth of Jehovah has spoken.

In the New Testament:

Mar 2:27-28 And He said to them, The sabbath came into being for man's sake, and not man for the sabbath's sake. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the sabbath.

Heb 10:23-25 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering (for He is faithful who promised), and let us consider one another to provoke to love and to good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

3) Jesus, Himself, observed the Sabbath. He met with others and taught the Word of God.

Mar 1:21-22 And they went into Capernaum. And immediately on the sabbath day He entered into the synagogue and taught. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the sabbath.

Mar 1:21 And they went into Capernaum. And immediately on the sabbath day He entered into the synagogue and taught.

Mar 6:2 And when the sabbath day had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him, were astonished, saying, Where does this one get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to him, that even such mighty works are done by his hands?Luk 4:16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And, as His custom was, He went in to the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read.

Mar 16:9 And when Jesus had risen early the first day of the Sabbath, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.

Luk 4:16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And, as His custom was, He went in to the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read.

Luk 4:31 And He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days.

Luk 13:10 And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.

The Early church practised gathering together:

Act 2:41-47 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized. And the same day there were added about three thousand souls. And they were continuing steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine, and in fellowship and in the breaking of the loaves, and in prayers. And fear came on every soul. And many wonders and miracles took place through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things common. And they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, according as anyone had need. And continuing with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they shared food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

4) Keeping the Sabbath means setting apart a day of rest and a day to focus our attention on God. It is His day, not our own. And, yet, when we practise the Sabbath, we benefit and are blessed. It is a supernatural consequence. It doesn't make sense to keep the Sabbath. Why not work another day and reap the money? Why not spend the time in doing something we like to do? Why not go to football games, races, hunting, etc? There is nothing inherently wrong with these things. But our primary focus, our first priority, should be God. It is God's day so He should be first priority. Going to church helps us to keep our priorities straight. It forces us to focus on God, get our minds off ourselves and worship and learn more about God. It helps to re-set our minds like pushing the Reset button on a machine to re-orient it back to it's correct settings. Once our priorities are reset and God is foremost in our minds, then the rest of the Sabbath day becomes one of enjoyment no matter what we do. Because we are enjoying it with God and not excluding God.

5) Christians, for centuries, have withstood horrible conditions in order to meet together and encourage one another to stay strong in Christ and learn about God. There have been secret meetings in catacombs; driving long distances in covered wagons to meet at the nearest church; brush arbor meetings (meetings under sheds made of brush); tent meetings with sawdust floors; meetings in little churches that had no heat, no air conditioning, no cushioned pews, no sound systems; churches have met in log cabins because there were no buildings; churches have met in store fronts; churches who couldn't afford pianos; meetings have taken place when all they had were stumps for the preacher to stand on and quilts on the ground for the congregation to sit on; secret house churches have met in countries where it is illegal and they run the risk of imprisonment and death for meeting in Jesus' Name. And, yet, we are so spoiled in this day and age, that we complain that it's too bad outside to go to church, or; it's too pretty outside to waste time going to church, or; the sound system isn't right, or; it's too loud; the seats aren't cushioned enough; it's too hot; it's to cold; it's too long a service; I don't get anything out of it; So and so hurt my feelings; it's all the way across town; blah, blah, blah. We should be rightly ashamed of ourselves when we make frivolous excuses for not going to church at least once a week. The great cloud of witnesses in Heaven (those who have gone on before) would blush in shame at some of the ridiculous excuses we make when they suffered so much more to gather in Christ's Name. Yes, there are reasonable excuses and yes, Christ is forgiving of all who truly repent. But there are an awful lot of silly excuses.

6) "Church is nothing but hypocrits." Have you heard this excuse? I have and I understand why they would say that. We are all hypocrits! Yes, everyone in church is a hypocrit at one time or another. We are sinners saved by the grace of God. We still have our sinful natures to contend with until we die and go to heaven so we will sin and people will see us sin and then they will see us in church. Sometimes it takes time for God to get through to us and get us broken from a certain sin. Sometimes we repent real quick. But those on the outside have no idea what is taking place or has taken place on the inside between that person and God. All they saw was Jim Bob in the bar on Saturday night and again at church on Sunday. Who knows what is going on between Jim Bob and God? I don't so I shouldn't judge, especially if it has nothing to do with me. And then there are the fake Christians that infiltrate every church. They claim to be Christians, maybe even being baptized. They may be very active in their church but, they aren't really Christians. It is their social club or group support or client list they visit every Sunday. They may intellectually assent to Jesus Christ having lived and died and rose again but they haven't really accepted it in their hearts. It's never changed their lives. It's never gone deeper than a mild acceptance. It's like being able to quote a geometry theorem and yet never having put it into practise and used it. It really never makes a change or difference in their lives. And, frankly, they don't want it to. They are satisfied with things as they are. And, if anything bad happens and breaks their facade, they are apt to say, "Well, I tried God and it just didn't work for me." So, yes, there are hypocrits, sinners in the church. There is no one perfect in this world so a perfect church would be an awfully small one. You become a believe in Jesus Christ and join His body of believers. Then you join a local church body and commit to it like you would a marriage. You take the good with the bad unless it's so bad you have a real reason to divorce it.

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