I don’t always get up on Sunday morning filled with expectation and faith. I don’t always arise energized to face the day, especially on Sunday. I don’t always enjoy the prospect of an early start to make it to church on time. The main reason for this is that I’m human.
Our nature is to pursue things that are familiar, comfortable, and pleasurable. People are hardwired to flee from uncertainty, fear (especially of death), and difficulty if there’s no guaranteed payoff. This is why it’s so hard for many to act on New Year’s resolutions to go to the gym (and keep going), eat better (and continue eating better), quitting bad habits, et cetera.
Going to the same church with the same friends every week, without being challenged theologically, spiritually, or otherwise prompted to change, is like going to the gym three times a week to drink Cokes, eat donuts and hang out. You’re there, but you’re not doing what the place is meant for.
I purposely avoid situations like that–I avoid churches that do not challenge me, because I realize it’s very easy to submit to placebos and empty routine.
Honestly, I’d rather not go to church at all than attend one where I get nothing from it than the membership card and “fire insurance.”
But there are days I don’t want to be challenged. Yet I still get up, and I still go to church. I go and stand and sing and worship and listen to the sermon. I know that even pastors have days where they’re phoning it in. Funny thing is some of the most effective and impactful sermons have been the ones where the pastor was thinking he (or she) would rather be anywhere else that day. I’ve heard this from multiple pastors in various denominations, so I believe it’s true.
God uses the humble, the resistant and the willing spirit. He knows how we’re made because He made us.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. [NASB]
The Galatians were guilty of being legalistic. Legalism produces rebellion, because if I am forced to go to church, my natural instincts are to push against the tyranny of being told what to do. The flesh rebels against the Spirit, which is why Spirit (Holy Spirit) is a gentleman. Nobody is forced to accept Christ. At least not until He returns, and then all things will be laid bare and every knee will bow (Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10).
I go to church not out of legalism, but out of obligation just the same. I am obligated to grow in Christ, lest I atrophy in faith. Just like those who stop going to the gym (raises hand) can atrophy in strength and become fat and idle, some who stop going to church can similarly become weak in faith.
Not everyone, mind you. Some people skip the gym and work out at home, or are naturally athletic. Some people can read their Bible, engage others outside of church, and keep their faith built without the weekly routine. But most (in either realm) cannot.
Everyone has vices. Some are attracted to alcohol because of its soothing, crisis-forgetting effects; some run to sex; some to drugs; some to greed, to fill the hole in their soul. We are not responsible for the great vice attractor in our lives–these things are in one way or another wired into us (it could be DNA, or how we were raised, or something else, but it’s usually not a conscious choice).
Where I am going with this line of reasoning? I’m talking about temptation.
The alcoholic never truly rids him or herself from the temptation for a drink. It might be very small after years of being clean, but it’s always there. The sex addict never truly loses the lust. And after talking with drug addicts of various stripes, I’m convinced that recovered addicts always face their demons, ever after decades.
It’s no different with faith. We tend to live in this sinful world, not the one God created for us, and Christ vouchsafed for us, made real through faith. When our faith is weak, we are more likely to fall into other temptations we believe we’ve beaten. When our faith is weak, we are more likely to make it weaker.
Therefore, I have an obligation to myself, and to others struggling the same as I am, to assemble and go to church on a regular basis. Here’s what the Bible says in Hebrews 10:
19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a [hsincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
I go to church when I don’t feel like it because my going might encourage someone else who feels even less like going than I feel. I go because someone else might encourage me, and stimulate me to love and good deeds. I go because I have an obligation as a Christian to myself and to others in Christ to strengthen my faith. I go because I know in my heart that He who promised is faithful.
If God is not faithful, then what good is salvation? If He is faithful, then what good is my rebellion?
But He is faithful, so I will go to church and worship. Even if you are one of the fortunate ones who can encourage others, wake up ready to face each day with faith and strength, and build yourself up in the Word of God, I want to encourage you also to get to church. We who go are not so strong, and we need you.
Whenever I consider skipping a Sunday (that’s the day I go), unless I’m truly sick or away from home, this Psalm always reminds me.
Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty [cexpanse.
Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. That’s why I go to church, and why I hope you do also.