You know what I like about the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Their unity, they’re centralized. If the universal church (all believers) were that unified, we could do an even mightier work. Why don’t we?
A couple of reasons come to mind, we take it for granted, and we think of our churches as Burger King, where we can have it our way.
What do you mean ‘take it for granted?’
Our salvation and God’s grace and favor in offering it to us. We can’t earn it, it’s a free gift that came at the cost of Christ’s life. Say a prayer, and then keep on doing what you do, without even trying to make a Kingdom impact.
Statistics show that people attend church 3 out of every 8 Sundays. Try that with work. Reasons are given, too busy and don’t have time. That’s a pretty good indicator where God is on a person’s priority list.
In the parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-20) Jesus says “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” Is that you?
How can I prevent that?
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?
There’s a lot of deep theology in there. It’s challenging. I spent weeks on grace and salvation after a challenging sermon. Is the reason you’re not in church because it doesn’t feel good? You feel convicted?
If you never walk out of church feeling convicted, I warn you, your heart is hardening. Jesus cares for and lifts us, but also disciplines when we are wrong.
What can I do?
Endure, cling to Christ and don’t let go. Be tender-hearted and mature enough that when the Bible or Holy Spirit says to do this or don’t do that, you listen and obey. That’s being trained by, and walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:13-26).
God’s grace, His undeserved favor, isn’t to be wasted, cast aside, and we can’t negotiate the terms of it. It’s the most important thing ever. To do otherwise cheapens it.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer had a lot to say about cheap grace in The Cost of Discipleship…
Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church. We are fighting today for costly grace…Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing…In such a church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin…
Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.
It calls for a life of ongoing repentance.
Yes, an awareness of the cost of your salvation, and the joy that the deliverance from hell into eternal life is yours. “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13)”
Working it out, not working for, means growing in God’s grace by trusting Him more because faith is the only way to be saved. Because you trusted God to save you, it’s easy to follow and listen to Him. Because you love Him for what He did for you, you seek to please Him and avoid anything that doesn’t.
When you sin, and you will (I did right before I typed this), ask for forgiveness with a repentant heart, not one wanting a rubber stamp.
What’s this have to do with going to church?
The universal church–actual followers of Christ–is called the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). Christ is the head of the church (his body), and as such, that means we have to sacrifice our preferences so long as it doesn’t go against the essential doctrines.
Why is this important?
Paul says it best in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
You have a purpose, and you cannot do it very well lone-wolfing it (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). You need encouragement, relationship, and people who love you enough to confront you when you’re wrong. Find a Bible-believing healthy church that’s like a family and go get involved. Do more than listening to a preacher for an hour and singing some songs. Serve, make friends, make a difference for the kingdom.
That spiritual drought will end with a torrent of living water.