For the week commencing 4 August 2019
Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on “Dear God, do I have to go to church?”
Next Sunday we begin a new series called “Dear God”, where we look at just some of the questions or doubts people would love to raise with God. Here’s the plan:
11 Aug Do I have to go to church? Heb 10, 1 Cor 12, 1 Peter 2
18 Aug Why aren’t you real to me? Psalm 13
25 Aug Sometimes I’m not sure if you care Psalm 62, 2 Cor 12
01 Sept How can I trust your promises? Psalm 46, Psalm 119
08 Sept I’m not a very good Christian Romans 10:9-13
15 Sept My kids don’t want to know about you Mark 10:13-16
“Do I have to go to church?” Not only asked by sleepy teenagers on Sunday morning, the question implies some assumptions about church which are worthy of closer examination. The question assumes that (a) church is compulsory for Christians; and (b) that at best, the whole experience of church is something to be endured, not enjoyed. Next Sunday’s sermon will challenge both those assumptions and from the passages we’ll look at, will endeavour to understand not only God’s intention for Christians in gathering for church, but the amazing benefit and blessing of being part of the body of Christ.
DAY 1: Read Hebrews 10:19-25
Since the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus has opened the way for us to draw near to God, we can and should draw near to God! We can run to him without fear now, as our sin has been dealt with. We have been cleansed from a guilty conscience and having been joined to Christ in baptism, our whole selves have been washed. This ‘drawing near’ is not referring specifically to what we do in an hour in church on Sundays, but in all of life. Every moment of every day is to be lived ‘drawing near’, because God has made that wonderfully possible. And yet there is a sense, as we gather for corporate worship, that we draw near to God in a particular and focused way. What an awesome privilege – and one we neglect to our own detriment.
V24-25 are very significant for our understanding of mutual responsibility as believers. We need to consider how to spur one another on in love and good deeds and to encourage one another in our relationship with the Lord Jesus. When you get together with other Christians, whether that be on Sundays for church or simply for a coffee or lunch, do you ask yourself, “how can I spur my brothers and sisters on toward love and good deeds”? What can I do, to inspire others to be more loving and more generous in doing good? How can I encourage them in their walk with the Lord? And it is because we have this awesome and weighty mutual responsibility, that we must not give up meeting together. It is too important. Show me a Christian who has stopped gathering with other Christians, and I’ll show you someone for whom God is no longer their passion or focus. Not only are they neglecting their responsibility to their brothers and sisters, they are also seriously missing being spurred on and encouraged by others. The result is not good! So – because we have the freedom to do so – let’s draw near to God. And because we have the responsibility to do, let’s not give up meeting together, but seek to spur one another on and encourage one another – especially as the day of Jesus’ return gets closer and closer!
DAY 2: Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
We saw yesterday, that we have a mutual responsibility to spur one another on towards love and good deeds and to encourage one another in our relationship with the Lord. In today’s passage, we see that we have each been uniquely gifted for such mutual ministry. People who are not believers, encourage one another on in their idolatry (v2). People who are believers – who by God’s Holy Spirit at work with them proclaim “Jesus is Lord” – encourage one another on in the Lord (v3).
Although different Christians will be called to and equipped for different ministries, the one Holy Spirit does that calling and equipping and is at work in all believers (vv2-6).
Every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and the work of the Spirit in the life of each believer is for the common good. We are not gifted by the Spirit in a particular way for our own benefit – so we can boast about it or use that gift for our own glory. Gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, the ability to distinguish between spirits, different languages or interpretation of languages – or whatever gifts we have – are all for the benefit of others. The list of gifts here is not exhaustive and there are other gifts listed elsewhere in New Testament. But Paul’s point here is simple – all gifts are the work of the one Holy Spirit and all gifts are for benefit of others.
How has the Lord gifted you for the benefit of others? It is quite simple to work out. What do you love doing and what are you good at? That is how the Lord has wired or gifted you, for the service of others! The challenge is to get on and put those gifts to work!
DAY 3: Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-30
“Do I have to go to church?” The answer is both ‘no’ and ‘yes’. ‘No’ in that we do not live now in the realm of legalistic requirements as if God is sitting ready to mark the roll and we get more points if we go! But ‘yes’ in that being part of a church, is the way God has uniquely and magnificently made it possible for us to live out our relationship with him, and find the help and encouragement we need to live for him!
Together, Christians make up the very body of Christ! Therefore, one part cannot say to another ‘I don’t need you’. Every part of the body is vital. Every part has a crucial role to play. No one is unimportant. No one can be done away with. And therefore, no one should dismiss church, in the belief that church is optional! If you say, “I’m closer to God in the garden”, you’ve missed the point of gathering with other Christians and you’ve missed the significant part in the body that only you can play!
To claim to be a Christian and not take part in the life of a local church is like signing up for membership at a club but never attending; purchasing a membership at the golf course but never playing; buying a car and never driving it; getting married and living separately from your spouse. You’ve missed the point and you’re missing out.
DAY 4: Read 1 Peter 2:4-12
We finish with this remarkable big picture of what God is doing with his people. Under the new covenant, there is no physical temple, where sacrifices are offered. Yet there is a spiritual temple, offering spiritual sacrifices. Every believer is a living stone in God’s spiritual temple. What is the role of this spiritual temple? In a sense – the same as the role of the physical temple in the old covenant. It is be a place where people meet God! So, in v9 you’ll see that together, Christians are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. That is who we are! We must reject the individualism of the day and see the plan God has to use us his people together in the most powerful way imaginable. We have a role as God’s special possession – as his priesthood – that we can simply never do on our own: to say to a needy world – look at the glory and wonder and truth and magnificence of God himself!
“Do I have to go to church?” If you’ve caught God’s vision for his work in the world, you won’t ask that question. You’ll ask more importantly – how can I best serve and take my part in God’s church so that the glorious message of the Lord Jesus can be proclaimed to the world!