“I Grew Up church of Christ”
“I grew up ‘church of Christ.’” How many times have you heard it? You’re talking with someone and the subject of ‘church’ or ‘religion’ comes up, just as it recently did with my wife and I. We were in a department store, and during the course of a brief conversation with one of the store staff, we inserted the subject of ‘church’ into the conversation as we usually try to do, and the lady asked me what church I “pastored.” When I answered that I preached for the church of Christ, she responded, “I grew up church of Christ.” And that was certainly not the first time we’d heard that particular statement.
But what exactly does that sad sentiment and statement, ‘I grew up church of Christ,’ really mean? Due to the regularity in the recurrence of this response from so many, I’ve given the answer to that question quite a lot of thought lately… and the answer – no matter the cause – is actually pretty terrifying as far as I can see. And I have to wonder if those who so often and easily just allow that phrase to arbitrarily roll off of their tongues, have spent much time at all in truly considering what those words really mean in light of biblical teaching.
“I grew up ‘church of Christ.’” That obviously means that growing up, they had the precious privilege of being around, amongst, involved within, and surrounded by, a congregation of God’s blood-bought, grace-pardoned, and while far less than faultlessly perfect, God’s yet forgiven people (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 1:2-10; 1 Jn. 1:5-2:2). They had the opportunity to learn, and grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord (2 Ptr. 3:14-18); and to come to understand, accept, and obey the blessed gospel, rightly dividing God’s word of truth (2 Ptr. 1:2-11). It means they had the chance to go to heaven and spend eternity with God and His blood-bought people, but eventually chose for whatever reason, that such a life of love, and belonging to and with the Savior both here and hereafter, wasn’t what they wanted. And so, they opted to leave the Lord and His people – along with all the blessings and privileges of sonship in both the earthly kingdom and the heavenly places (Eph. 1:1-12; Col. 1:13-14) – for a few brief moments of non-submission to Him and eternal torment to boot (Jms 4:4-10, 13-16).
Now, perhaps it was a particularly difficult teaching that they didn’t want to accept that caused them to leave the Lord and His people. That is certainly nothing new; Jesus encountered the very same sorts of folks regularly (Jn. 6:60-69; Mk. 10:21-22). How many people have left the Lord’s church today because of her faithful adherence to the Lord’s instruction on such topics as marriage, divorce, and remarriage; or the exclusivity of teachings such as are found in Ephesians 4:1-6; amongst other life-altering and sometimes difficult to adhere to topics?
Perhaps it was some “hypocrite” in the church whose double-standard they could no longer stand. But once again, that doesn’t provide adequate reason for their non-compliance to the Lord’s commandments (Matt. 23:3). And besides, if one leaves the Lord and His people because they let some “hypocrite” come between them and God, who’s closer to Him?
And then again, perhaps it was just some form of personal persecution that resulted from their being a truly biblical Christian, or something as simple as the allure and activities of the world around them that caused them to abandon the Lord, His people, and His eternal presence and protection (Matt 13:20-22). Doesn’t matter; the end result is still the same (vss. 36-42).
One who “grew up church of Christ,” but then abandoned and no longer assembles, works, and worships with the Lord’s church, needs to deeply and thoroughly consider the absolutely-guaranteed-by-God, eternal life and death consequences of their actions, as contained in God’s “forever firmly fixed in the heavens” (Ps. 119:89 ESV) word:
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of fire which will consume the adversaries.
Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
FOR YET IN A VERY LITTLE WHILE, HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME, AND WILL NOT DELAY.
BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM.
But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. (Hebs. 10:23-39 NASV).
That one passage about says it all, about those who “grew up church of Christ,” but have long since abandoned the assembling of themselves together with the Lord and His church, as it gathers around the table with Him in their Father’s house each and every Sunday. That willful, deliberate, and ongoing sin to abandon the assembly will undeniably cost them their eternal souls, according to God, period – and we need to make absolutely certain both in, with, and because of nothing less than the love and word of almighty God Himself, that they know that!
Simply said, God is going to honor whatever choice they make here on earth – whether they want to be with Him and His people constantly or not – for all eternity. And although Satan will surely have them deceived into thinking that they can somehow have Jesus without having anything to do with His church at this point, the biblical fact of the matter is, that with God, it’s all or nothing; it’s a “package deal.” 1 When one comes to Christ, they come to “the living God,” “the heavenly Jerusalem,” “an innumerable company of angels,” “to the general assembly and church of the firstborn,” “to God the Judge of all,” “to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant,” and “to the blood” all together (Hebs. 12:22-24). These elements, according to God, are intimately, intrinsically, and absolutely and eternally inseparable. Subsequently, just as one comes to all of them when they come to any one of them, so they desert and abandon all of them when they leave or forsake any one of them. Hence, to leave the church of Christ, is to also leave the blood, Person, and protection and intercession of Jesus Christ Himself as well (Hebs. 5:7-9, 7:25)! I believe this somber but sobering truth is exactly why Hebrews 12:25-29 goes on to solemnly warn:
See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.
And so we would beg and plead with any who might be reading this, who “grew up church of Christ,” but have, since adulthood, abandoned, forsaken, and shrunk back from their assembly and association with the saints of God and therefore the Son of God as well, to please understand the gravity, penalty, and eternality of such a presumptuous statement and position. Whatever it was that caused you to leave, the Father, as well as myriads of loving brothers, sisters, and heavenly beings, are all anxiously awaiting your return (Lk. 15:all).
Yes, it’s true; there will always be hypocrites, as well as weak people who are trying but sometimes fail, present in the Lord’s church. The church is the people – and not one of them is perfect (Ro. 3:23). But although all are far from perfect except in the loving eyes of their loving Father in heaven, due to the blood of Christ with which they’ve been clothed (Gal. 3:26-27), one day the sincere and faithful (although once again, not completely faultless or flawless aside from the grace of God and the shed blood of Christ) in the church will be perfected forever, while the rest will be sent on to hell by Jesus Himself (Matt. 7:21-27, 13:41-43). But no matter which category they currently fall into (and only God alone truly knows), no one else’s current faults and failures should serve as the very reason you choose to lose your eternal soul and willingly spend eternity in hell with some of those very same “hypocrites” whom you perhaps claim you left the Lord’s church during your short life on earth in order to avoid! Think about that!
And then, please come home… while you still can (Lk. 16:19-31). The Father and His faithful are praying and anxiously anticipating your return… In the meantime, is there anything we can do to help? Please let us know! And please don’t let Satan steal out of your heart, the truth you’ve just put ingested into it (Matt. 13:1-23; Jms. 1:19-22; 1 Ptr. 1:13-2:3)!!!
- To hear a very thought-provoking audio sermon on this vey subject, please go to: http://www.clevelandcoc.com/?p=4717.