Written by Peter Blanch
Last week in our sermon on Magnification, we considered together the goal of glorifying God’s Name in all we do. We saw how that goal affects everything in our Church life together including why we gather together in the first place. I applied this by saying that our church is not here to tickle your interests each week or to entertain you for an hour; we are not here to help you gain control of your life with you in the driver’s seat; we are not here to give you a retreat from your problems. The reason we gather together is to keep turning you back to a life that centres on God rather than on yourself. To allow God his rightful place in your life.
One area of life where allowing God to be in the driver’s seat makes a massive difference is in the area of our regular church family gathering.
When it comes to our regular gathering at church I understand that there are many pressures and options that stop us from attending. For some of us there is the job, the overtime or the house maintenance. For others there are family demands, sport, tiredness, study. Added to that there may be late Saturday nights, hobbies and interests, and of course sometimes laziness. There are also personal issues of being hurt and facing the difficulty of forgiving, or feeling that you do not fit in. Perhaps you are shy and that makes the social gathering a threatening experience. And of course some sicknesses make it impossible or unwise to attend.
While I understand the pressures that keep us away from our church family gathering, I also strongly believe that behind some reasons is a refusal to set Christ-centred priorities in our lives. I say ‘Christ-centred’ because to love Christ is to love his bride, the Church. Your love for Christ is expressed by loving his people – but you can’t do that if you don’t meet with them regularly! This means that we need to say ‘no’ to whatever constantly weakens our commitment to the body of Christ. It may mean saying ‘no’ to some overtime or ‘no’ to the expectations of others. Christ-centred priorities mean that I won’t allow other priorities to regularly conflict with the closest thing to heaven on earth – the Church.
To live in a Christ-centred way like this might mean that I won’t get to enjoy my hobbies and leisure interests as often as others. But, that is OK because I know that there’s an eternity of time in heaven so I am content to wait. Christ-centred priorities will also mean that if I am shy or hurt I will still gather week by week with those odd and sometimes prickly Christians at church because they are the ones for whom Christ died, just as he did for me.
Critically, gathering with other christian people in Church is deeply linked to magnification – the bringing of glory to Gods name. The apostle Paul spells this out in Ephesians 3:10, when he explains God’s intent in gathering his people regularly:
His [God’s] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realmsEphesians 3:10
God’s desire is that you gather regularly with other Christian people in church in order to magnify His name, not just on earth but in the heavenly realms. This verse says that when forgiven sinners from all nations gather together around God and his word in church, God’s incredible wisdom is displayed to the heavenly realms! First and foremost this is the reason for our regular attendance at church – because it brings glory to God’s name in the whole universe.
There are other reasons God gives for prioritising regular church gathering.
- Each member of the church has been gifted by God to serve others (1 Corinthians 12). By being inconsistent in attendance you stop Christ from ministering to you through his people. And you deprive others of the gifts that God has given you for their good. Don’t forget … you are God’s gift to the Church! Your sheer presence encourages, but your absence is profoundly discouraging. Remember it was the faithfulness of others that allowed you to be cared for when you first came to Christ. It is now your turn and your responsibility to be there for others who are new and for those who have not yet come to Christ.
- God commands you to meet regularly with other christians. It is not an option. “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.” (Hebrews 10:25)
- We need you! The church grows in godliness only “…as each part does it work.” (Ephesians 4:16). I plead with you: don’t hold us back from being the bride that Christ wants us to be. One day we will be presented to our Lord Jesus as his bride – and we need you to help us to grow more like Jesus as we wait for that day.
- You need us! You won’t make it alone. God brings his people together so that we can run the race of faith together, learning, changing, helping, encouraging and spurring each other on.
- Finally, think of your example to others. Irregular attendance sets a bad example for younger Christians. They rightly look to you and your choices to help them work out what the normal Christian life is like. Our choices are shaping the godliness of the next generation of Christians.
As you look around today and each week at church, be thankful to God for these people He has given to you to encourage, to be encouraged by and to help you stand firm for the sake of His glory.