f. Association with His Children


Key Verse: Heb 10:24-25 "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

Many people complain that going to church is a waste of time. They complain that the church consists of too many hypocrites. Why go there, if we can also worship God at home? Is it really necessary to go to church? What do the Scriptures say about that?

It is true that being a Christian means first and foremost to have a personal relationship with our Saviour Jesus Christ. Matt 6:33 "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…" Nothing is more fulfilling to have Jesus as our friend, and have Him guide us. The world can take our job away. It can also take our possessions and our family away. It can even take our church away, but nothing and nobody can take that relationship with our Maker away. This is why so many Christians can endure the persecutions they are undergoing!

Please note that Mat 6:33 does not say "Seek only". It says "Seek first". There are other aspects in our Christian life that we need o seek. Is going to church one of them? Jesus being our example (What would Jesus do?), let us see what kind of example He demonstrated towards the church of His time.

Luke 4:16-22 "He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them,

"Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. "Isn't this Joseph's son?" They asked."

It was Jesus' custom to go to church. Was His church any better than ours? What did Jesus have to say about its leaders? Matt 23:13 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to."

It doesn't seem that the church in Jesus' days was exemplary. Even in those days there were a lot of hypocrites, even among its leaders! Did this stop Jesus from going to church? No. If it didn't stop Jesus, our example, from going to church, why should it stop us?

Notice what Jesus did when He went to church: He testified about His Father! What a great opportunity to share the gospel! The church does not consist of perfect people, but of sinners. Many do not have a personal relationship with their Maker. We can be detrimental in helping them find Jesus in their life. Didn't Jesus use this opportunity of going to church to share the joy of knowing God?

Now, did Jesus' disciples go to church after Jesus' ascension or did they stop altogether from going to church at all?

Luke 24:52-53 "Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God."

Even the disciples went to church continually after Jesus ascension to heaven. They used this as a way to praise God and share their joy with others.

Were there any hypocrites and sinners in the early church? Absolutely! 1 Cor 5:1-2 "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?"

This is but one reference to hypocrites and sinners being present in a certain church. There were many other cases listed in the New Testament. You see, not all those who go to church are saved. The church consists of sinners and God gives us the opportunity to help these people find Jesus in their life, while praising God at the same time! Praise be to God!

What are some reasons to go to church, besides following Jesus' example?

Ps 84:4 "Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you."

There is a blessing uttered to those who go to church! It's a great place to praise God and share your joy with others!

Mic 4:2 "Many nations will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths."

At church God will teach us His ways as we hear His Word being spoken and it will give us direction for our week. No matter how bad the sermon is, or how hypocritical the congregation is, God will use some aspect of the service to speak to the heart of the sincere seeker of God's presence.

Heb 10:25 "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

It is also a place where we can encourage one another and give each other support by listening to one another, helping one another, loving one another and praying for one another.

My friend, you do not need to carry your burdens all by yourself. Great support is available at your church. Yes, there are hypocrites, but there are also some genuine Christians available. Help is available. Why not reach out to that help?

The head of the church is not the pastor or a certain church committee. It is Jesus Himself!

Eph 4:15-16 "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."

Jesus is the One who makes it possible for us to grow and learn what true love is. At church Jesus gives us the opportunity to apply what He commanded us: John 13:34-35 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

What a powerful testimony to our community when Christians follow the head of the church, Jesus Christ and learn from Him what it truly means "to love one another". Only through Him will we realize that "each member belongs to all the others."

Rom 12:5 "So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others."

Only if we all remain grounded in Him, will we experience true unity!

1 Cor 1:10 "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought."

Attending church will give us the opportunity to reach out to others and draw them closer to Jesus. We will be able to use to His glory the talents given by God's Holy Spirit.

1 Cor 12:7 "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good."

Eph 4:11-13 "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."

Walking in Jesus' footsteps means that we are walking in His light and walking in His light includes to "have fellowship with one another". It makes sense. If Jesus was willing to die for those in the church, we can't but have fellowship with those who Jesus dearly loves!

1 John 1:7 "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin."

Question 1: Why is attending church important?

Answer:

Question 2: What should our purpose be when attending church?

Answer:

Question 3: Did Jesus and His disciples attend "church"?

Answer:

Question 4: Who is the head of the church?

Answer:


Now one may ask: "Which church should I attend?"

The answer is simple: Ask God's Holy Spirit to guide you to a Bible-believing church that trusts in God's Holy Spirit. Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit will be our guide:

John 16:13 "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth."

Take Him up to His Word and ask Him to guide you to the church of His choice. You will be amazed of His answer.

I can attest to this. After having attended a legalistic church, finding a church to God's liking was going to be hard, at least that was what I thought at first. I had finally accepted Jesus into my life and wanted to do His will. I prayed for God's guidance to know where He would like me to attend. His answer was quite clear: "Attend Word of Life". I was confused. I had never heard of that church before and went to ask my wife. As she had had patients from that church, she knew exactly where it was located and it wasn't too far from where we lived. Since then that church has changed its name, but we have been blessed attending this Spirit-filled congregation.

Assignment: Take time (this may take a couple of weeks or more) with your Forever Friend and ask Him to guide you to a church of His choice. Wait for His answer and once you have it, commit to start attending that church. You will be blessed and will be a blessing to those attending that church.

Enjoy reading the following stories.

Avoid churches where Jesus is not welcome and which promotes their own agenda, not God's.

a. The Filthy Old Man

It was a beautiful Sunday morning. People were filling the church to its fullest capacity! As they entered, each were given a bulletin filled with announcements, topic of today's sermon, what songs they would sing and who to pray for. At the end of the line stood an older man. His clothes were filthy and you could tell that he had not bathed in days. His face was covered in whiskers where he had not shaved for a very long time.

When he reached the usher, he removed his tattered old brown hat in respect. His hair was a long, dirty, tangled mess.

He had no shoes on his feet, and wore only soiled, black socks. The usher put his fingers to his nose and glared at the old man and said, "Uh, I'm sorry sir, but I'm afraid we can't let you in. You will distract the congregation and we don't allow anyone to disrupt our service. I'm afraid you'll have to leave."

The old man looked down at himself and with a puzzled look on his face, he placed his old brown hat back upon his head and turned to leave. He was sad as he loved to hear the choir sing praises to the Lord. He loved to watch the little children get up in front of the church to sing their little songs. He carried in his pocket a small worn out Bible and loved to see if the minister preached a passage from the Bible that the old man had underlined. He was respectful enough and didn't want to cause any commotion, so he hung down his head and walked back down the steps of the big brick church.

He sat down on the brick wall near the edge of the church yard and strained to listen through closed doors and windows to the singing going on in the church. Oh how he wished he could be inside with all the others.

A few minutes had passed by when all of a sudden a younger man came up behind him and sat down near him. He asked the old man what he was doing.

He answered, "I was going to go to church today, but they thought I was filthy and my clothes are old and worn, and they were afraid I would disrupt their service. Sorry, I didn't introduce myself. My name is George."

The two gentlemen shook hands and George couldn't help but notice that this man had long hair like his. He wore a piece of cloth draped over his body tied with a royal purple sash. He had sandals upon his feet, now covered with dust and dirt.

The stranger reached out to touch George's shoulder and said, "Hello, George, don't feel bad because they won't let you in. My name is Jesus, and I've been trying to get into this same church for years, and they won't let me in either." Author unknown. If anyone has a proprietary interest in this story please authenticate and I will be happy to credit, or remove, as the circumstances dictate.


 

b. The First Time

I saw him in the church building for the first time on Wednesday. He was in his mid-70s, with thinning hair and a neat brown suit. Many times in the past I had invited him to come. Several other Christian friends had talked to him about the Lord and had tried to share the good news with him. He was a well-respected, honest man with so many of the characteristics a Christian should have; but he had never put on Christ.

"Have you ever been to a church service in your life?" I asked him several years ago. We had just finished a pleasant day of visiting and talking. He hesitated. Then, with a bitter smile, he told me of a childhood experience over sixty years ago.

He was one of many children in a large, impoverished family. His parents had struggled to provide food, with little left for housing and clothing. When he was about ten, some neighbours had invited him to worship with them. The Bible class had been very exciting. He had never heard such songs and stories before. He had never even heard anyone read from the Bible. After class was over, the teacher took him aside and said, 

"Son, please don't come again dressed as you are now. We want to look our best when we come to worship the Lord." 

He stood in his ragged, un-patched overalls, looked at his dirty, bare feet, and said, 

"No, Ma'am, I won't, ever." "And I never did," he said, abruptly ending our conversation.

There must have been other factors to have hardened him so, but this experience formed a significant part of the bitterness in his heart.

I'm sure that Bible teacher meant well. But what if she had really understood the love of Christ? What if she had studied and accepted the teachings found in the second chapter of James? What if she had put her arms around that dirty, ragged little boy and said, "Son, I am so glad you are here, and I hope you will come every chance you get to hear more about Jesus?" I reflected on the awesome responsibility a teacher has to welcome little ones in His name. How far-reaching her influence is! I prayed that I might ever be open to the tenderness of a child's heart, and that I might never fail to see beyond the appearance and behaviour of a child to the eternal possibilities within.

Yes, I saw him in the church house for the first time Wednesday. And as I looked at that immaculately dressed old gentleman lying in his casket, I thought of the little boy of long ago. I could almost hear him say, "No, Ma'am, I won't, ever." And I wept.

Thanks to Bill Dorman chaplain@bdadvertising.com

 

Being part of a church means to love one another like Jesus and reach out to the untouchables.

c. The Hands of Christ

During World War II, a church building in Strasbourg was destroyed. After the bombing, the members surveyed the area to see what damage was done. They were pleased that a statue of Christ with outstretched hands was still standing. It had been sculpted centuries before by a great artist.

Taking a closer look, the people discovered both hands of Christ had been sheered off by a falling beam. Later, a sculptor in the town offered to replace the broken hands as a gift to the church. The church leaders met to consider the offer and decided not to accept it. They felt the statue without hands would be a great illustration that God's work is done through his people.

Truly, in the church, we are the "hands of Christ". If Christ is to minister to the poor, it must be through our hands. If he is to take care of the sick, it must be through our hands. If he is to reach out to those who are lonely, it must be through our hands.

"Together you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of that body." (I Corinthians 12:27, NCV).

See something around you that Christ needs to take care of today? He has no hands........but your hands!

Author unknown. If anyone has a proprietary interest in this story please authenticate and I will be happy to credit, or remove, as the circumstances dictate.



d. High Office

I read one time the story of Ambrose, a great figure in Early Church history. He was the Roman governor of Liguria and Aemilia, a great scholar who ruled with such loving care that people were said to regard him as a father. The area's bishop died and discussion arose regarding a successor. In the midst of the discussion, the voice of a small child lifted above the noise of the crowd, "Ambrose-bishop! Ambrose-bishop!" The crowd took up the cry. Ambrose actually fled the city by night to avoid the high office being offered him by the Church.

It is said that when John Rough summoned John Knox to the ministry publicly, from the pulpit in St. Andrews, Knox was appalled. History of the Reformation reports that John Knox burst forth with abundant tears, and withdrew himself to his chamber. His countenance and behavior, from that day until the day he was compelled to present himself in the public place of preaching, did sufficiently declare the grief and trouble of his heart. No man saw in him any sign of mirth, nor yet had he pleasure to accompany any man, for many days together."'

These are merely examples of two great men who maintained a true sense of their own inadequacy for high office. Ambrose was willing to serve as governor but was humbled by even being considered for the office of bishop. John Knox was humiliated and therefore walked in humility. We need to fertilize the fields of humility. That's the place where the flower of unity grows. I'm afraid the Church today makes more room for self-promotion and position seeking than did these two great gentlemen who were humiliated even at the potential of being chosen to be a servant of the Lord. Where is the servant's mentality among us? It's time for the towel, not the sword.

Tenney, Tommy. God's Dream Team. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1999, p. 44-45.

 

e. Mental Comfort Zone I was preaching in a church in California recently. I was to begin ministering on Sunday evening. I came early to hear the pastor preach Sunday morning, and it was wonderful. There was such life in it. I knew he had a message prepared, but he was not bound to it. I could tell the Spirit of God was speaking right through him even though he was more of a teacher than a preacher. He was teaching prophetically. He was speaking the oracles of God.

The next day as I was in prayer, I asked the Lord why all pastors can't speak with that kind of unction and life. I was feeling sorry for the pastor who could not speak as well as that man could. The Lord replied to me by saying, "John, everyone of the persons I have called to minister can speak with that kind of life. The only problem is that they limit Me by their preplanned sermons and notes. They can't trust Me to speak through them!" Men have limited God to their understanding of Him instead of allowing Him to operate through them as a vessel. Every time I've yielded and let God speak through me, He has revealed to me more of His nature.

Why must we try to put God in the box of our mental comfort zone? Too many try to put Him within their intellectual limits. You cannot confine the move of the Spirit to your understanding. To try to put God in your realm of mental reasoning is like trying to hold the wind in a cage. He is like the wind. To confine Him is impossible. All you can do is just yield to Him!

Bevere, John. The Voice of one Crying. Apopka: Messenger Press, 1993, p. 23-24. We, as members of a church, are important to God. If we don't stay in His will and strive for unity, the church will be as good as dead.


 

f. The Nail

As the story goes, they built a new church building and people came from far and wide to see it. They admired its beauty! Up on the roof, a little nail heard the people praising everything about the love structure-except the nail! No one even knew he was there, and he became angry and jealous.

"If I am that insignificant, nobody will miss me if I quit! "

So the nail then released its hold, slid down the roof, and fell in the mud.

That night it rained and rained. Soon, the shingle that had no nail blew away, and the roof began to leak. The water streaked the walls and the beautiful murals. The plaster began to fall, the carpet was stained, and the pulpit Bible was ruined by water. All this because a little nail decided to quit!

But what of the nail? While holding the shingle, it was obscure but it was also useful. Buried in the mud it was just as obscure, but now it was useless and would soon be eaten up by rust!

The moral of the story-EVERY MEMBER IS IMPORTANT TO THE CHURCH!

You may, like the nail, feel obscure at times, but just like the nail, your absence is felt. When you are not present for worship, in some way the body of Christ hurts.

We are ALL a part of the Lord's ministry.

Author unknown. If anyone has a proprietary interest in this story please authenticate and I will be happy to credit, or remove, as the circumstances dictate.



g. Story of the Little Grape Stem

Once upon a time there was a little grape stem. This stem was so glad to be alive...She drank water and minerals from the soil and grew and grew. She was young and strong and could manage quite well...All by Herself.

But then, the wind was cruel, the rain was harsh, the snow was not one bit understanding, and the little grape stem suffered. She drooped, weak and suffering.

It would be so easy to stop trying to grow, to stop trying to live. And the grape stem felt poor! The winter was long, and the stem was weary.

But then the little grape stem heard a voice. It was another grape stem calling out to her…"Here, reach out...hang on to me." But the stem hesitated. "What would this mean?" She thought, for you see, the little stem had always managed quite well...All by herself.

But then, ever so cautiously, she reached out towards the other grape stem. "See, I can help you", it said. "Just wind your tendrils about me and I will help you lift your head." And the little stem trusted...and suddenly she could stand straight again.

The wind came...and the rain...and the snow, But when it came, the little grape stem was clinging to many other stems. And although the stems were swayed by the wind...and frozen by the snow, They stood strongly united to each other. And in their united strength...they could smile and grow.

And then, one day the little stem looked down and saw a tiny stem, swaying and frightened. And our little grape stem said, "Here, hang on...I will help you." And the other stem reached up to our grape stem...And together all the stems grew...Leaves budded...flowers bloomed...And finally, grapes formed And the grapes fed many.

Author unknown. If anyone has a proprietary interest in this story please authenticate and I will be happy to credit, or remove, as the circumstances dictate.

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