Who Needs the Church?

Who Needs the Church?

There are many people who go through life thinking that their relationship with God is just fine while they have little or no relationship with the church.  The reasons they give for staying away from the assembly range from hypocrisy, real or imagined, to the idea that they can just as meaningfully worship at the fishing hole, in the garden or on the couch.  The line from the Don Williams song rings true for them:  “I don’t believe that heaven waits for only those who congregate.”  Their view of Jesus may be that he simply wanted to spread a message of love.  They may see the church as a non-vital body part like an appendix that they can just as easily do without.

The Role of the Church engulfs all those who fall short of perfection.

The Role of the Church engulfs all those who fall short of perfection.

No one can deny that the church is an imperfect thing.  By its nature it will always be imperfect because it is made up of imperfect people just like the folks who criticize it for its imperfections.  But neither can one deny the church’s rightful place and priority in the life of the Christian…if one believes what the Bible says.  The New Testament simply knows nothing of a faithful Christian who is willfully unattached to other Christians through corporate worship and spiritual fellowship.  Here are just a few of the truths that the New Testament teaches us about the church.

First, the church is the body of Christ (Col. 1:24).  To cut yourself off from the church is to be cut off from the body, to be amputated.  The amputated hand is not only cut off from the arm but also from the head, who is Christ (Col. 1:18).  Let’s be real clear.  The amputated body part dies.  So does the amputated Christian.

The church is also the bride of Christ (Heb. 12:22-24; cf. Rev. 21:2).  Think about that for a minute.  If we are part of the church, we are part of the bride of Christ.  So if we leave the church, what are we doing?  Aren’t we basically walking out on Christ?  Ending our spiritual marriage to him?  (Rom. 7:1-4)

The apostle Paul said that the church is the place where God is glorified (Eph. 3:21).  If one leaves the place where God is glorified, how does that one going about glorifying God?  Isn’t it a sign that this person is more concerned with what they want than what God wants?

Paul also called the church the household, or family, of God (1 Tim. 3:15).  To leave the church is to leave God’s family.  It is to be the prodigal son or daughter (Luke 15:11-32).  And until we, like the prodigal son, “come to our senses,” we’ll be sloppin’ with the pigs.

Peter called the church the possession of God (1 Pet. 2:9).  If we decide to no longer be a part of the church, we decide to no longer be part of what God owns.  Therefore, we are striking out on our own, being on our own man or woman rather than God’s.  That might sound good for a while, this independence, but as far as eternity goes it is the last place we want to be.

Finally, Paul said that Jesus is the Savior of the church (Eph. 5:23).  Do you want Christ to be your Savior?  Do you want him to save you from an eternity in hell?  If you do, then you need to be in his body, the church…because he is the Savior of the church.  The church is who he saves.  Back in Noah’s day, there was only one place to be if you wanted to avoid drowning…in the ark.  Today, there is only one place to be if you want to avoid hell…in the church of Christ.

The church isn’t perfect as it exists on the earth.  We’ve already established that fact and that’s news to no one.  But it is perfect in its design because God is its Designer.  God created it with the realization that it would be populated by imperfect people.  A few of those imperfect people may be insincere hypocrites who have no interest in being truly transformed.  God knows who they are.  But the rest of them are conscientious men and women who are acutely aware of their own sin and shortcomings.  They know they are not perfect in and of themselves.  But they also know they are perfected by the One who is.  So they stay with his church.  You would do well to stay with it too.

Otherwise you’ll spend longer than you bargained for with those hypocrites you allowed to keep you from the church.

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Haunted Houses of the Formerly Faithful

Haunted Houses; Lifeless Lives

Haunted with sin, lifeless, and fallen.  Hope dwindling away.

Haunted with sin, lifeless, and fallen. Hope dwindling away.

You see them all over town – empty, vacant, hollow and haunted-looking. Of what am I speaking? The now darkened and deserted houses that dot the town’s geography where formerly happy families once lived, laughed, loved, played and worked? No. I speak of something far more sinister, saddening, and soul-wrenching. I speak of the empty, hollow, haunted and hounded look in the now spiritually dead and lifeless eyes of some of the once faithful but now fallen away brethren of the Lord’s church; those whom, as one brother recently commented in bible class, now have “that” look. Those who once lived, laughed, loved and served the Lord fervently, as they walked in, and reflected, His light to the lost world around them; but who now suddenly skulk and scurry away, back into the shadowy darkness of their own sin and shame at the approach of any of His servants and children of Light (See: Ephesians 5:8-17). These are the spiritually dead; the walking and upright spiritual zombies of today who have retreated and returned back into the shadowy and sin-filled darkness of the ‘dead in their sins’ world; a world of darkness which scripture describes in definitive and devastating detail (See: Luke 9:57-62, Ephesians 2:1-3, and 2 Peter 2:12-22).

Now it breaks my heart and brings sorrow to my soul when I stop to consider the unbelievably tragic, terrible, and torturous eternity that these formerly faithful brethren have chosen for themselves by their failure to stay faithful to the Lord, His word, and His church (Hebrews 10:19-39). And so, as a matter of self-preservation and spiritual survival, I have had to learn, come to understand, and try to implement in my life, some other spiritual truths relevant to their reckless and self-chosen return to the world, so that I don’t get so overwhelmed by sadness and sorrow that I sink as well. And so, here are some truths that I would subsequently now like to share with you as well, in order to help ensure your own survival in such tragic circumstances.

To begin with, as is so often the case when formerly faithful and fired-up brethren suddenly fall or choose to walk away and rejoin the world of the spiritually dead, just like those nearing physical death, they often become very non-responsive. Heartbroken and now suddenly-forsaken spiritual family members who, in most cases, have done absolutely nothing wrong, unloving, unscriptural or deserving of such desertion whatsoever – any more than their now also deserted Savior – can write, call, text, tweet, e-mail, send cards, seek to visit, and make all manner of loving and concerned effort to contact and revive them – but all to no avail. There will be ‘no voice, no one will answer, and no one will pay attention’ (cf: 1 Kings 18:29) to the faithfuls’ pleadings. And even if the still faithful child of God should happen to encounter their now fallen away brethren at the local supermarket, sporting event, or other venue, those now choosing to walk in the darkness of their sin will often turn away and seek to avoid contact with those still walking in the light at all cost. And when they do, the faithful are often both stunned and devastated! We don’t understand how one can so suddenly be so repulsed by the very Christian love and kindness they so recently embraced! But why wouldn’t they? This response makes absolutely perfect sense when you really stop and think about it – and it does so on several different levels!

For example, stop and consider: If you or I were to choose to willfully walk away from the most incredible, unbelievable, eternally and infinitely powerful and wonderful blessings that the great God and Creator of this entire universe and plane of existence could ever possibly provide (Ephesians 1 + 2; Romans 5 + 8); if we were to choose to trade away our blood-purchased, perfect and perpetual eternal inheritance, for a sip of soul-searing, soul-shattering, and soul-destroying soup of sinful self-indulgence (cf. Genesis 25:29-34; Hebrews 12:14-17), well, we’d be overcome by our own guilt and be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves too, wouldn’t we? Of course we would! And so are they! We must understand that this is precisely where they are and where they’re coming from when they turn away and won’t even speak to or acknowledge us in public! In their incredible guilt and shame, they simply can’t stand to see or be in the presence of those of us who are still in possession of the Father’s loving light and favor which they have so fatally, foolishly, and frivolously frittered away – even though many of them will never admit it even to themselves! But we know. And how do we know? Because of the immutable and invincible light which God’s word sheds on the subject! That light of God’s word: which the faithful respect while the faithless reject; the faithful learn from, while the faithless leave from; and which the faithful strive to keep walking in, while the faithless seek to keep running from (Psalm 119:105)!

Look again, long and hard, at what Jesus said in John 15:18-25. He said that the world would surely hate those of us who kept on following Him, simply because the world hated Him whom we seek to keep following! We can’t follow in Jesus’ foot-steps on the trail He blazed, without encountering some of the same hate-filled pitfalls of that narrow path He traveled! That’s what Jesus Himself told us in John 15!

He also said there that the world would hate Him without a cause – and so too would they do to those of us who would continue to follow Him. We don’t necessarily have to do anything wrong whatsoever, or in any way deserving of such deliberate distancing of the faithless from us. We don’t necessarily have to do anything deserving of any of the other, assorted, avoidance responses from the now fallen away, out-of-service, and back in the world of sin and darkness brethren which some would constantly blame and/or berate us for either. That’s precisely Jesus’ point in John 15:18-25! All we have to do is to continue to obediently walk in the light of God’s word, still seeking to live our lives in as righteous and holy an upright manner as is absolutely possible, still walking in the light of our loving Lord and only Savior! And just like Jesus with the disobedient, unfaithful and rebellious world of His day, even our occasional presence in their lives serves as far more than enough of a constant annoyance and unwanted reminder of the fact to those brethren who have now re-entered the world of the spiritually dead, that “they have no excuse for their sin” (vs. 22) – none! And they certainly don’t want to be reminded of that, ever!

And so, some seek to avoid us at all cost. It’s really as simple as that. It’s not that we’ve necessarily done anything wrong or perhaps in any way mistreated or failed to love them – in fact, quite to the contrary! It’s the fact that we’re still seeking to daily live, love, and walk in the light of God’s word and presence – and that they’re not – that’s the problem! They can’t stand to be exposed to the light any longer because their deeds have once again become evil! Hear Jesus’ words in John 3:19-21: “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.

Please remember that passage’s perfect and powerful truth the next time a formerly-faithful but now fallen away member of the Lord’s church does everything in their power to turn away, display their disgust, and take immediate and evasive maneuvers to avoid you in public at all cost; or, the next time you reach out in Christ-like love and concern, only to encounter nothing other than stifling silence in return from those who have once again returned to their lives of sin; those spiritually-dead, spiritually-lifeless, spiritual zombies who are seeking to scurrilously scurry undetected and unexposed even further back into the dark and shadowy crevasses of their own self-chosen path of sin, death, darkness and destruction. Pray for them. Cry for them. Love, reach out, and hurt for them! Maybe someday such prodigals will see their way and need to return home. BUT IN THE MEANTIME: you must never allow yourself to become so burdened and bewildered by the grief of their loss and be so subsequently overcome with sorrow, that you also, eventually give up on the good fight and join them – Satan would love that! Instead, as far as their obviously scripturally-confirming current condescension is concerned when it comes to you and your Christ-like love, attitude, and outreach towards them: “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets” (Luke 6:22-23).

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Loving Commandments

Loving Commandments

In John 13 we find Jesus and the disciples at supper While washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus told Peter that if he refused to be washed then Peter would have not part with him. Upon completion of the task Jesus proclaimed that he had left them an example to follow: an example of love, humility and service. Then in the next three chapters Jesus goes on to explain what love really is and what it means to be a disciple of Christ.

We show love to God by following His commandments.

We show love to God by following His commandments.

Love, as we have defined it, means sacrifice! But love also means keeping the commandments of the Lord (John 14:15). Love is the means by which we show others the way to Jesus (John 13:35). While we hear a lot about love in the greater religious world we seldom see true love in action. We do indeed see folks do some of the things that God says, we see them give sacrificially, we hear them give lip service to praising and glorifying the Lord. But doing some of what God says isn’t doing all that God says. And ignoring, distorting, and trampling on God’s Word is not loving. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Which ones, Lord? Silly question, right?

“You shall love the LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37–39). Show your love today by giving yourself to the Lord fully in obedience and faithfulness. Show your love today by doing some good deed for someone in need. Show your love today by forgiving your brother his trespasses. Show your love today by sharing the message of the greatest love ever know. Share the good news with someone today!

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