Tuesday, September 24, 2013

So you don't go to church, but you're going to heaven?

Just think how uncomfortable you'll be in heaven! Yes. If you're a Christian and you seldomly frequent God's house here on earth, it's unlikely you'll be in your comfort zone in heaven. I know what you're thinking "You don't have to go to church to go to heaven!"  Your thinking is true. However is that what the Lord has planted in your mind or do you suppose that the devil's desire is for you to remain outside the church?

First off, to quote the old saying "Being in church no more makes a Christian than being in a garage makes one a car."  The plan of salvation does not include going to church. Right now you may feel relieved. This is your "out"! 

Let's examine what it does take to be a Christian.

1) Belief in Jesus as the son of God.
2) Knowing you're a sinner and deserve punishment.
3) Accepting that Jesus died in your place although he was innocent.
4) Loving Jesus for dying for you.
5) Feeling sorrow that you have sinned.
6) Repenting of your sins. (Praying. Asking Jesus for forgiveness).
7) Believing Jesus yet lives, you too will someday be resurrected.
8) Living in faith.
9) Loving others enough that you feel pain for their sins too.

All the above is a package deal! You can't skip even one aspect of God's plan.

1-8 are criteria to become a Christian. Nine is evidence that 1-8 are effectual. Loving Jesus is paramount for salvation. Loving others is the work of faith in action. The two together are the Greatest Commandments!  Loving others is the driving emotion behind the Great Commission!

Matthew 22:37 "Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

Stop everything!  Ask yourself "Do I love those around me?" We have difficulty loving even those we "love". Many rebel against their parents and while most actively love only those in their immediate circle of friends. Christians lie to themselves about loving others. I don't!  I have difficulty loving those whose ideas conflict with my own faith. I love others who're different, those who don't love God and those of different cultures. However, those who denigrate Jesus, I have trouble loving.

Jesus loved us all. He cried for us and died for us. Yet I still have difficulty with my pride!  Likewise, everyone it seems fail to love others! 

If I can't love others, am I really loving Jesus? He's the one who commanded that I love others and I'm not doing that! Yes, opinions can differ, but love is unconditional. Shall I love only those with whom I'm in agreement? Can I love Jesus to the extent that I obey only what I want to obey? Emphatically no! Love must be genuine! I confess! I need forgiveness for not only NOT loving others, but for actually despising them. I need forgiveness for not loving Jesus enough to obey him in all things! Forgiveness of a Christian's sins is just as it is for the new initiate into Christ's discipleship. To love (criterion 9) a Christian must actively examine and pursue criteria 1-8. It's not being "saved again", but it is practicing what one confesses to believe! Communion with God by prayer is the place to start. Saying where you fail God is a start, but listening to God is the ticket to change!

How well you practice The Great Commission is an indicator of how much you love or whether you love at all!

Matthew 26:16  "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen."

Since Jesus was speaking to the eleven disciples you may think that this is for them alone. However, if you are a follower of Jesus, you too are a "disciple of Christ"!  Failure to be a preacher doesn't let you off the hook. As a believer scripture tells us that we're priests.

1 Peter 2:5 "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."
As a Christian you are one of the "stones" on which the church of Christ is built. Being that, you're a member of the "holy priesthood"!  I know what you're thinking! You just want to be a Christian; you don't want to be a preacher too! The choice is not yours. You are to tell the world about Christ.
The "spiritual house" is the church. The church is not the building, but the whole of those who believe!  Each believer is a stone upon which the church is built. You, Christian, are part of that church. Not only are you a stone, but you are to be "as lively stones".  "Lively" means active!  There are things you are to do. The Greatest Commandments and the Great Commission are two of the activities it takes to be a "lively stone".
The church of brick and mortar is man's feeble attempt at being a church. It's there that we praise God by song and message, minister to people and demonstrate love. There people contemplate their lives, listen to teaching, feel conviction and commit their lives. Yes, it can happen at other places too, but it's more likely to happen where there is corporate love and prayer. Likewise, we can pray anywhere, but church is where we come to focus with others! Group prayer, scripture tells us is more effectual than individual prayer.
Hebrews 10:24 "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."

From Hebrews we see that it's crystal clear. Christians are to assemble (go to church) to love each other. In church we are to "exhort one another", which mean that we urge others by using stirring argument laden with truth, concern and love. Our desire is to fulfill BY GOING TO CHURCH, the Great Commission! We are to turn others to Christ!

So you don't go to church? Paul, inspired by God, tells us that's where Chrisitans must be. Some forsook the church and Paul rebukes them.  Not only is that where Jesus expects us to be, but we must be there to fulfill the Greatest Commandment! We're there because we love Jesus and we love others!  Not being in church is a show of disrespect of Jesus as well as not having much concern for the eternal destiny of others. You go to church because you love Jesus and you obey his wishes!

Are you uncomfortable in church? If you feel uncomfortable where love is shown for Jesus and others, do you expect to be comfortable in heaven; a place of unbounded love of God and others? You may have just enough "fire insurance" to keep you out of hell, but do you have enough love and faith to have joy in the presence of God and his saints?

If there's no desire in your heart to be in church, is there really a desire to please Jesus in your heart? If you're seldom in church ask yourself "Do I really love Jesus? Am I truly a Christian?" We're not speaking of "loving going to church", but loving "being in church". Satan will put everything he has available to keep you from "going"; and that's why you hate to "go", but once you're there, do you love"being" in church? If not, maybe the uncomfortable or lazy Christian should review criteria 1-9! Are you really a Christian? Have you backslided?

We all know that we come short of pleasing God!  By refraining from worshiping him in a building designed to magnify him, are we truly "living stones" and of the "holy royal priesthood"? It would seem that a priest of God would choose to be in the house of God! Are you a priest without a mission? Are you a priest without a house? Are you a priest without love? Are you a priest without Jesus?


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