Friday, October 9, 2009

A Changing Encounter

Are our Churches social clubs? Before you get upset with me, I know the Church is the Body of Christ (Colossians 1:24) of which Christ Himself is the head. The church of the New Testament comes from Greek word ecclesia meaning those "called out" or "the assembly". But that is not where I want to begin. I want to think about how we approach this place we call the "Church" or the "House of God".

Ecclesiastes 5:1 says:
Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil.   [The New King James Version. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Ec 5:1.]

Why do we go to church? This is where many have messed up. I think many "go to church" for the wrong reasons. Here are just a few reasons I think people go to church:
  1. Many come to church to see and be seen. You know the ones:
    "I have an new outfit and I just have to show it off!"
    "I wonder if John Doe will be in church today. You know he lives a life contrary to Christianity. I can't wait to see if he is there!"
  2. Many come to church to promote a business.  Some people utilize public gatherings to promote themselves or their products. They feel that if they "do Christian things" people of the Christian faith will be more apt to buy their products or services. 
  3. Many come to church to make themselves feel better. The altar is certainly a place that a person's guilt and shame can be removed. However, some people believe that just walking through the doors of the sanctuary can accomplish everything they need in their lives. In other words, they are saying "I have done my good deed for the week".
But is that what the Bible says? No. It says when we come into the presence of God we need to "walk prudently". Walking prudently means to walk wisely. When you walk prudently it literally means to "watch your step".

Why do I say that sometimes we are just "hanging out" and doing the social thing? It is because we don't watch our step. If I go to the Grand Canyon and I decide to take one of those narrow pathways down to the base of the Grand Canyon. How will I travel that path? Am I going to run as fast as I can down that narrow path? No. Am I going to take my mountain bike, put it in high gear, and see how fast I can make it to the bottom? Absolutely not! Why? Because in doing so, I show no respect for the large drop-off on the side of the canyon. If I have no respect for something that can alter my life, I will probably do something I will regret. Therefore, Solomon says that our approach to God is important. Come to God's house, enter into the presence of God to learn something, to worship, to commit, to be changed. Too many times we focus on the sacrifice rather than the purpose. "It is such a beautiful day. It is a perfect day to be out on the lake, but I am going to make the sacrifice and get ready to go to church because that is what I am 'supposed' to do".

Focusing on the sacrifice rather than the purpose is not the picture of the New Testament Church found in In Acts 2:42-47:

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.  Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.  [The New King James Version. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Ac 2:42-47.]

These verses paint an awesome picture of the actions and attitude of the Church. Yes they made a sacrifice, but that was not their focus. Their focus was upon their obedience and their love for God and others. They met daily, learned the apostle's doctrine, ate together, and became the example of Christ to others.

The Bible says that our approach to God should be prudent. It should be in humility, with wisdom, and not arrogance. When we come into the house of the Lord we should come seeking Him, and in doing so, it will change our actions and appearance.

Do we look like the Church? If so, I hope it is in the image of Christ.

In Him,
Doug Johnson

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