Friday, March 16, 2012

Are you a Christian because you go to church? Part 2

Are you a Christian because you go to church? This is an interesting question. I bet you think the next thing I will ask is what denomination is the church?


Nope.


Does denomination and doctrine matter? Most certainly! But if you have truly started living for the Lord, then you'll figure out soon enough if the church you attend is a good church.


The question I have for you is, "Why do you attend church?"


1. Do you attend church because that is what everyone does? It is what the typical American family with 2 cars, 2 kids, one dog, and a white picket fence do on Sunday mornings (or even Saturday evenings now). It is how your kids will learn to be good, moral citizens. Plus, your Mom calls and asks what the kids are learning in Sunday school each week and there IS NO WAY you can admit that you skipped church!


2. Do you attend church to network your business? There are so many people who attend that large church down the road and everyone knows that Christians tend to stay within their own church friends / family when looking for doctors, dentists, insurance carriers, builders, real estate agents, etc. The best place for you to grow your customer base is in that big church, so you are there on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings (with a business card in your pocket for anyone who may seem interested).


3. Do you attend church because it makes you feel good? Do you serve as much as you can (or in a vital ministry) and feel as if you are giving so much to the church that it may be adding to your "good" bank that God is keeping up in heaven. Do you picture God as the ultimate Banker and He is constantly adding to your account when you do "good deeds" and deducting when you "slip up" (aka sin).


4. Do you feel as if you are doing some sort of penance for the week? Maybe even thinking this is something you need to do in order to get through the pearly gates? You know that you have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (as we all have) and feel justified when you attend church each week? Does taking communion or hearing God's Word taught make you feel closer to God and this removes the stain of sin in your life? Do you feel less *complete* or like a bad Christian if you are not able to take communion for a week, month, year?


5. Do you attend church to sing praises to your King? Do you love belting out Hallelujahs to God? Do the old (and some new) hymns echo in your ear all day long after singing them corporately as a church body?


6. Do you attend church to be around fellow believers? Are you encouraged by sharing life with others who love the Lord? Do you look for ways to love on others in the church so that you are both encouraged? Do you feel as if you are running on a battery pack all week and come to church each Sunday to be recharged by the reading and studying of God's word and praising His name?


If you resonate with numbers 1-4, you might want to do some more evaluating. If you resonate with #5 and #6 then you should be encouraged. The Bible tells us that the church body was created for...


1. First of all the church is for believers in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Matthew 18:17 gives guidelines on what should happen if a church family member refuses to repent of a habitual sin. Not only is this to ensure the person is in fact a believer (not giving the person false hope in a shallow relationship with the church and Christ), but also to keep the body of Christ pure. Even just one person who is habitually entertaining sin can give the devil a foothold and split a congregation (it happens all the time - how many churches are in your neighborhood?).


Self Examination time: Do you notice an increasing hatred of the sin in your life? Do you willing subject your personal thoughts and actions to someone else in the church so they may hold you accountable? If someone pointed out a sin you were committing, would you be willing to repent?


2. In Acts 2, we are given a little picture of how the first church conducted their daily lives. They are committed. They are set apart from the world. They are sharing, kind, giving, and gracious. The church is to be different than the world, but in a good way (not a snobbish way). They are to be the hands and feet of Jesus and be eager to serve each other.


Now all who believed were together, and had all things in commonand sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their 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. {Acts 2:44-47}


Self examination time: Are you different than the world (in a good way)? Do you have a servant's heart, being ready at all (or most) times to help others? Do you share your time, money and life with the church - and are you happy about that?

3.  In Acts 20:28-31 Paul explains the role of the elders of the church. They are watchmen over the flock. They are to protect and guide the congregation. That means they are to spend time studying the scriptures so they are able to teach others.  They are to pray for the congregation and be willing to comfort those who are hurting. They are to confront sins within the body and be willing to follow the tough love described in Matthew 18.


Self examination time: Do you submit to the authority of the elders in your church? Do you see them as shepherds leading a flock (yes, that would make you a sheep) - protecting and loving each little lamb? Or would you rather sneak in and out of church and go virtually unnoticed by the elders? Do you fear an elder getting to know you or see you in your daily life (everyone looks pretty good on Sunday mornings, eh?)? If your Pastor dropped by on Friday/Saturday night unannounced, would he be welcomed with open arms?

4.  One more point (because I could go on for a very long time, which I kind of already have) about the church. This one is in reference to the church in Laodicea. They are described in Revelation 3 as a lukewarm church. This is neither on fire (hot) for Jesus or indifferent (cold) to the things of God. They claim to be followers of Christ, but you would not know that by the way they lead their lives. A very strong warning comes from our Lord as He addresses this problem church:

“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:   “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.  Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked  I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.  To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’”


Self examination time: How would you rate your dedication towards Christ. Sure you say you love Him (at least I hope you do), but are you *on fire* for God? Do you live as though Jesus is your King or is someone or something else reigning on the throne? The answer to this, and to all sin issues, is to repent and believe. Believe in Jesus. Trust in His promises. Life is so empty and disappointing without Christ at the helm. Be zealous and repent and there you will find true joy. Not saying it will always be easy, but you will have joy.

Remember the song, This Little Light of Mine? Sing that to yourself as a reminder to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!



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