Grace For The Journey
Yesterday, I began a short four-part series of blogs looking at the Bible’s teaching about the church. In that blog we saw that God has always had a people who He called, changed, and commissioned to be His messengers. As we grow in our walk with God we will be distinct in our thinking, talking, and living. In today’s blog, we will see that every believer needs to be a part of the local expression of God’s church.
Everyone is seeking community. The nature of man is to seek and thrive in a social community with other people. Years ago, a popular sitcom entitled Cheers illustrated that well by their community. The show began with a theme song that told a story. The words to the theme song are . . .
Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
You wanna go where people know,
people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows
Although this is a 1980s sitcom theme song, it tells a story about the human heart. We need community. Life is hard and often discouraging. Everyone needs a safe haven from the world. For the characters of Cheers it was a bar. For the Christian, it’s the church of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We need more than community,
We need the church.
Recently, Donald Miller the author of Blue Like Jazz has come under heavy scrutiny because of an article he wrote on his blog where he basically admitted that he rarely attends church because he doesn’t like to sing “church” songs with a group of people. What Donald Miller was admitting was that he doesn’t need the church. He went on to talk about how he doesn’t like to listen to preaching either. Although Donald Miller received much critique for his opinions, it’s a tell-tale sign of our present culture.
Everyone is seeking to reinvent church.
Following the wave of negative response that Donald Miller received for his original article, he responded to the criticism with another article (“Why I Don’t Go To Church Often – A Follow Up Blog”) that reinforced his positions. Much of his positions sound like postmodern thinking that views boundaries through a negative lens. However, Mr. Miller recognizes the need for community. In response to the idea that one must be part of the church to have community, he writes:
These comments also surprised me. It was as though people thought because I hadn’t been to church in years, I had no community, that I lived in isolation. This is untrue. My community is rich, deep, spiritually sound, gracious, sacrificial and at times (because I’m an introvert) exhausting.
What I hadn’t realized before I read those comments, though, was that I had worked to create my community. Community is everywhere, and every church you’ve attended was a community that somebody sat down and created. I happen to think a lot of them look exactly the same and have no problem making mine look different, but it’s still a community. Millions of people who do not attend church have rich, meaningful communities that they created or have joined. You could create your own community out of your home in a matter of months.
The issues that Donald Miller raise in his article are not new ideas, positions, or philosophies. In fact, many people started to forsake the “assembly” or gathering of the church in the early church times). As a direct result of that new way of doing church (or not doing it at all) in the days of the early church, Hebrews 10:25 was given to us by the Holy Spirit. There the Bible says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” As we consider the necessity of community within the boundaries of the local church, I want to break down the beginning phrase of Hebrews 10:25, then I will give several key points of application that are brought to the surface that we must evaluate and take seriously.
God led the writer of Hebrews to use the phrase, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” for a special reason. Some expositors have understood the word rendered here as “assembling” – ἐπισυναγωγὴν (episunagōgēn) as meaning “the society of Christians,” or “the church;” and they have supposed that the object of the apostle here is, to exhort them. not to apostatize from the church. But the more obvious interpretation is what is commonly adopted, that it refers to public worship. The Greek word (the noun) is used nowhere else in the New Testament, except in 2 Thessalonians 2:1, where it is rendered “gathering together.” The verb is used in Matthew 23:37; Matthew 24:31; Mark 1:33; Mark 13:27; Luke 12:1; Luke 13:34, where it is rendered “gathered together.” It properly means “an act of assembling, or a gathering together” and is nowhere used in the New Testament in the sense of the church. The command here is, to meet together for the worship of God, and it is enjoined on Christians as an important duty to do it. It is implied, also, that there is blame or fault where this is “neglected.”
Why those referred to here are “forsaking” or neglecting public worship, is not specified. It may have been from such causes as the following:
(1) Some may have been deterred by the fear of persecution, as those who were thus assembled would be more exposed to danger than others.
(2) Some may have neglected the duty because they felt no interest in it – as even some professing Christians now sometimes do.
(3) It is possible that some may have had doubts about the necessity and propriety of this duty, and on that account may have neglected it.
(4) Or it may perhaps have been, though we can hardly suppose that this reason existed, that some may have neglected it from a cause which now sometimes operates – from dissatisfaction with a preacher, or with some member or members of the church, or with some measure in the church.
Whatever were the reasons,
The apostle says that they do not as valid,
But that Christians should regard
It as a sacred duty to meet together
For the worship of God and exhortation.
None of the reasons above, or any others, should deter believers from this duty. With all who bear the Christian name, with all who expect to make advances in growing in our love and living for Christ and Biblical knowledge, it should be regarded as a sacred duty to assemble together for public worship. The Christian faith contains social elements; and our lives are to be strengthened by learning more about God’s grace and invigorated by worshiping together. Some has aptly said,
“There is an obvious propriety that people
Should assemble together for
The worship of the Most High,
And no Christian can hope that his graces will grow,
Or that he can perform his duty to his Maker,
Without uniting thus with those who
Express love and surrender to God.”
Hebrews 10:25 is written because some of the early Christians had given up these strengthening and instructive means that God has provided when His people gather together.
In light of these truths, how are we to live out this command? We will look at five practical points in tomorrow’s blog.
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”