Church, a Meeting Place of the Saints….Attendance Not Required?

Matthew 16:18: And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

I met a man several years ago who blessed me with some amazing books which I added to my spiritual library. At the time we met, I was moonlighting at a local gym that he frequented regularly. When he came in, usually early in the morning, he and I would stand at the front desk and talk about God, what He was doing in our lives, how we had been used by the Lord to impact others, and so on. We would often talk through his allotted workout time. When we did, he would simply grin at me, shake my hand, tell me to be a blessing, and we would part ways. In all of our conversations, my friend never spoke about church, never mentioned his church family, their activities, or even a particularly uplifting bible study or sermon he had recently heard.  When I came to this realization, it struck me as odd that my friend did not discuss church. So, I resolved to ask him about it. As someone who was attending two fellowships at the time, my friend’s answer to my question was astounding; he told me flatly, with the slightest ting of anger in his voice that he did not attend church, that church was a an institution created by man to control the masses, that church was, for the most part, full of false people who knew how to talk the talk but when it came to walking the walk, well, they were just as sinful and two-faced as the rest of the world. While I was not a new believer, I was new to bible study and the blessing of a living and active relationship with my savior. I didn’t know what to say. Soon after that conversation, my friend  retired and moved to Arizona. I have not seen him in many years but I think of him whenever I pick up one of the books he gave me.

Looking back on the encounter today, it is obvious to me that my friend was hurting. He had most likely been hurt by a church fellowship in the past. I am sure that many of you know what that feels like; I know that I do. Many times, Christians develop closer ties to their church family then they have with their blood relatives. This happens because God is present in every interaction.  Our Lord makes this promise in Matthew 18:20. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” This means every conversation has the potential to be spirit lead. For those that call on the Lord, the interactions are deeper, more meaningful, and life changing. When the abiding spiritual bond between believers is broken by sin, because the bond was blessed by the Lord, the pain caused by the sin, whatever it might have been, is unimaginable. The resulting spiritual tear is a soul wound that often is never mended.

The church is about communion with God, it is about being in the presence of Jesus Christ. The church should not be about a pastor, a musician, or a particular program because without Jesus the church is a building erected by man seeking glorification of self. Without Jesus, the church is a gathering place for believers in the religion of self. God is not present because no one in a place like this has called on the name of the Lord.  When humans do things in their own strength the results are a self-esteem convention at best. At worst, the results are disastrous. No matter where the results fall on the spectrum, without Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) they are not what they would  have been.

While the church is attended by man, it was created by Jesus Christ and built on Petra (small stone). That small stone is the faith of the believer. It is not Peters actions or his own thoughts but the faith he exhibited earlier in the 16th chapter of Matthew that resulted in this exhortation from Jesus. Picking up in verse 16: Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ the Son of the living God.”  17: Jesus answered and said to him, ” Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not reveled this to you but my Father who is in heaven.

Jesus built His church on the faith of His believers not on believers themselves. Philippians 2:13 For it is God who works in you both to will and do for Hos good pleasure. When believers gather we are  edified, reconciled and strengthened not for gratification of self but for the glory of God almighty. That God would choose to bless us with fellowship in Him with other believers is an amazing gift. It is a gift that proves we are truly in an age of grace wherein it is not God’s will that anyone should suffer. 2 Peter 3-9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promises as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us , not willing that anyone should perish but that all should come to repentance. 

Is the church to be perfect? Not in the slightest! The church in Christ is perfect but we, His people,  are sinners and therefore incapable of producing perfection. If you have been wronged by a church body, forgive them  as Christ forgave you on the cross.   Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward is in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.  If the only perfect man to ever walk the planet saw fit to die for you and me, does it not follow that we should forgive as we were forgiven? This is not an easy task but the results are blessed of the Lord. If you haven’t been to church in a while, then find a church that preaches from the bible and loves Jesus! The results will change your life.

What is the name of the one book that always reminds me of the friend that I knew so many years ago?  The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. We are all ragamuffins, reaching up with unclean hands for our loving Father. Church is where we gather, we imperfect, we broken; to be cleansed and hold each other both up and accountable. My friend had grown weary and allowed his flesh to take him away from the place on earth Jesus left just for him. Have you grown weary? We all do. I leave you with this promise from the gospel of John 16:33: “These things I have spoken to you that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

 

Grace & Peace,

LD

*If you would like to know more about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, email me at savedIIserve@gmail.com and let me know! I will be happy to lead you through what the bible says about salvation and accepting Jesus Christ as your savior.*

 

 

 

 

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