"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. " Psalm 51: 5-6 KJV.
My goal in this series is to shine a light deep into your psyche and reveal those things that you and I have as core beliefs that guide our behavior. Some of our behavior as Christians is based on traditions we accept without clear definition of where those traditions came from. Other beliefs come from our inherited sin nature and are hidden for the most part.
When we all began our journey to please God and we failed to live up to what we believe God expected of us, we automatically acted out shame, guilt, and fear. It's part of our fallen nature.
On the other hand, after we begin our life with Jesus, we are guided in part by the status quo, what everyone else is doing and especially those we look up to, our parents, leaders in the church, etc …
This is where things can become confused, it did for me anyway and since you are reading this article, I bet it has for you too. As I said before, in my search for peace at a very young age, I saw a very different Jesus in the people in church than I saw in the bible …
Let's talk about church attendance for a minute. Attending church the way we do in America and around the world is a tradition that has been passed down since nearly the time of Jesus. There are a few references in the bible to how and when the believers met together and what they did when they met, and you may be surprised to find out that it was nothing like Church today!
Let me say before I start that I really do not want to get in a Theological debate over this issue. You should work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (See Ph. 2:12). Remember my goal here is to shed light on traditions and natural incredations that we call Christianity.
I want to help you get free from religious pressure, and if you do not agree with me that's perfectly alright with me. I would just like you to take an honest look at this with me and see if it is a place where you are under pressure or guilty and shame.
So, having said that, let's dive right in …
There is no instruction in the New Testament on set times to worship. If it is there, I've never found it! There are references to Christians meeting in their homes and in the temple, on Saturdays and on Sundays!
I learned in Bible College that you can notgue from silence. In other words, if there is not specific reference to something we can not just assume it's so when the Bible is silent on an issue. There is traditional precedent for meeting on Sunday, but not biblical instruction.
I said all this to say that you can be perfectly in the will of God if you do not go to church. Remember our right standing with God is based on the gift of righteousness, not our performance.
Now, having said that let me say that we all need the body of believers that make up the church! We need instruction and fellowship, guidance, prayer, and deliverance. But we do not need the feelings of inadequacy and pressure that comes with connecting with people who are not like Jesus!
Making the case for our need for each other, Paul said, "And let us consider one another to provoke unto and to good works not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is ; but exhorting o ne another : and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. " (Heb 10: 24-25)
We need fellowship, but not control. We need instruction but not doctrine. We need connection with God, but not a set of rules! Are you getting the picture? We need each other but we do not need everything that comes with the modern church.
The early Christians met daily for fellowship and food at times (Acts 2:46). They met house to house and in the temple! Paul made a reference to some gathering of offering on the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16: 2). In the early church the meetings were more spontaneous, more alive and dynamic — They understood the incredible liberating nature of what Jesus accomplished on the cross. They were genuinely excited beyond belief and it was reflected in the world hearing the Gospel of Jesus!
Whether you attend church or not you can learn of Jesus and receive His great atonement. You can walk with continuous fellowship with God and live in His blessings. If you are not attending church, do not sweat it — God will show you how to connect with the "right" people. People He has prepared to be real friends to you. Trust Him with your connections and do not let the enemy deprive you of His blessing if you have not found your place yet.
For some of you, God may be calling you to gather people in your home for fellowship, food, and sharing. For other, there may be a local body that you connect with. Whatever the case, just know that God is pleased with your heart attitude towards Him, not your ability to get in a church somewhere!
Let's get away from this idea that if you do not attend a traditional church on Sunday, that you are not in the will of God. Let's not be afraid to go against the status quo if it brings peace in our lives. And do not be afraid to step out in your gift and calling to do great things for God.
I do not have any reason to use the bible to convince you to go to church. Trusting God for your relationships is very important to God because He wants to put you in a good place, among real friends. Jesus will be the best friend you will ever have and He wants the best for you while you are here!
Because of the organization of the 21st Century church, Pastors need people to attend their churches and they need to teach on tithing and offerings in order to keep the structure together. This can be a pitfall for leaders and can skew the message.
Let's get to the place where everything we do is done in faith and springs from our relationship with our Father, not some tradition of pressure we feel. The First Century move of Christianity was pushed forward by individuals, empowered by God, operating in their individual gifts!
You are the Church, you make the difference and it's Jesus in you who can deliver you, provide for you, and use you to do great things with your life while you are alive on this Planet … Connect with those that God brings in your life and allow His lordship to guide you in those connections wherever they are in a local church or not.
I have much more to say about this subject but I'll save it for another day.
By Ray Matthews
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