Yesterday was the first Sunday in years that I didn’t make it to a service at my church. There’s nothing like a bit of bronchitis to keep you at home. And the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that God really knew what he was doing when he established the “church” and called us not to forsake meeting together (Hebrews 10:25).
Without that regular meeting together with other Christians, both on Sundays and at other times through the week, it is easy to become extremely self-focused. (Well that’s what I found out!) We forget the bigger picture, where God is holding the circumstances of both our lives and the universe in His strong hands. Without that frequent encouragement and challenge from God through His word, and His other children, your perspective can go extremely awry. God lives in us together, through His Spirit. Being a lonely ‘coal’ away from the collective ‘heat’ of others makes you forget the strength and power of the living God that is in us together. We are part of the Body of Christ, the gathering of Christ’s followers, and like all bodies we function best when we are being used, when we are active. It’s hard for the body to be active if parts are missing and isolated.
Being part of the Body is a privilege, despite the fact that we will struggle at times to treat each other as Christ would. Yet this is God’s design for growing and strengthening us. As we rub shoulders with other saved sinners we learn to bear with each other’s imperfections, in love. Going to church is so good for us because it gets our eyes off ourselves (like Peter in Matthew 14) and onto the excellent One who holds all things together. He knows us by name and holds our head above water. He knows that our greatest happiness comes from pouring our adoration towards Him!
“God knows who He is. He knows what He’s worth. And He knows the best thing He can give us is Himself. So in calling us to prize Him above all else, God is both gaining the praise that is rightfully His alone and causing us to gain the greatest treasure we will ever know. God is not an egotist seeking more than He deserves from us. Rather, He is God, choosing, in worship, to reward us with Himself.” (Louie Giglio – “The Air I Breathe” 2003, p.31)
When we see ourselves as part of the Body of Christ, we see ourselves as something greater than ourselves – something designed by the Undescribable Merciful one True God!
I have a number of Christian friends who for various reasons are unable to share regular time with a church family. This has challenged me to consider how we can be better at including those who find themselves in this situation – even those within our church family who are unable to gather with us regularly. The church* is the people and it does not have to be contained by walls or geography.
On the other hand, if you are the thing that is keeping you from being part of a church family, don’t let fear or geography or travelling time keep you away. Don’t miss out on the thing that will grow your faith and confidence in God, that will allow you to give and receive encouragement, to sharpen others and be sharpened in Christ, to publicly declare the praises of Him who brought you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Praising God is so good for us! Gathering together is even better!
I’m really looking forward to next Sunday when hopefully this sickness will not stop me getting to church! Being part of the gathering will be sweet medicine, without the nasty side effects of what I am currently taking!
* By church I don’t mean any particular modern form of the church, merely the gathering of Christians, which began a few millennia ago, in the first century AD. This practice of gathering is one huge common denominator we have with those who first called themselves Christians.