I am stepping away from the direction of my last few blogs. It is isn't that I feel enough has been said about that because there is much more that can and should be said. But this morning, as I was reading in 1 John, I felt compelled to write.
I love John's epistles, especially 1 John. If there is one book of the Bible (other than Psalms) that I would say is my favorite, it would have to be this one. What a pastoral, loving heart John had. It must have been a joy to have been in Ephesus with John during the last years of his life. I can only imagine how peaceful and caring he must have been - though I am sure that he would thunder loudly when someone tried to change the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. He truly would have been on of the Sons of Thunder. even while you hear his loving, pastoral heart in this letter, you can also hear in his writing the uncompromising spirit that says, "Don't you try to change what my Lord has said. If you do, I will take you to the mat!"
So many things jump out at me as I read and study. I thought about those who say that they can be a Christian and not attend worship regularly and frequently. They do not need to receive the Lord's Supper all that often in their lives and they are still good Christian people, following the Lord. "Whoever says 'I know him' but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected." (1 John 2:4-5a ESV) The person who claims to follow Christ but then sees worship as optional, as something that he does not need to regularly be a part of, needs to listen to John. People were saying the same things in his day. "You don't need to worship to be a Christian." "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian anymore than going to a stable makes you a horse." You have heard the people say these things. And I bet you have tongue tied trying to answer them. What do you say? After all, there is a grain of truth in what they say.
Yes, and there is a cupful of deception in what they are saying as well. "By this we know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked." (1 John 2:5b-6 ESV) You say you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Then walk as He walked. Follow His commands. But His command is only to "love one another." You forget that He did not come to set aside the Law of God but to fulfill it for us. Not to do away with it so that we do not need to follow the Law in our lives. He came to empower us to be able to live under that law in the love of God.
Do you love God? Then why do not worship Him? You worship Him at home, on the golf course, lieing in your bed each and every week? I doubt it. I know, you will tell me not to judge you. Often, when a person says that, they mean that the Law is condemning them in their sin and to stop saying that because they don't like it. "You are not to judge others," will be said. I reply, "By this we know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked." Jesus worshiped EVERY week. Every Sabboth He was was in the synagogue or the Temple. He did not despise preaching or the Word.
That is exactly what we do when we avoid regular, weekly worship (and I am not talking to those who are ill, shut-in, homebound, having to work people). You know who you are. You don't make the conscious decision to "not" attend worship. Worship isn't a part of your thoughts. You don't think about it on Saturday evening when you go to bed. You don't feel convicted on Sunday morning as you sit at home driking your cup of joe while reading the paper. In fact, you don't think about it at all. Then when the preacher or some other "Bible beating" Christian mentions worship to you, you come back with "I don't need to worship to be a Christian." Really? You really don't need to be fed from Word and Sacrament? Your faith is so strong in and of itself that you are not assailed by the attacks of the devil, the world and your own sinful nature? You really have such a powerful faith that you do not need to heed the Word of the Lord that tells you that you are not to forget the Sabboth day, that you are not to avoid worship? Boy has the devil fed you a line! He has convinced you that you can stand against him without the help of the Holy Spirit working through the Means of Grace. That is like the Taliban convincing our soldiers that they don't need to arm themselves or wear their body armor because they have nothing to fear from the Taliban warriors because they won't attack them or offer to hurt them in any way. WOW! Would we want our Marines going against the Taliban empty-handed? Would we want them to be unprepared and underarmed? Of course not.
Then why do you go into your daily life, the spiritual battle that it is, without the power of the Holy Spirit working in you and guiding you? You aer told, walk in the same way that He walked. You need worship. You need to hear the Word preached and proclaimed. You need to receive the body and blood of your Savior for the strengthening of your faith. You NEED these things. To not receive them, to avoid them, to despise them, is utter foolishness. It is committing spiritual suicide.
"By this we may know that we are in him..." Worship, Godly, Bible-based, confessional worship is what you need in your life. I need it in my life. I cannot live spiritually without it. It doesn't mean I am a better Christian than you if I attend worship. But then again, it isn't a competition to see who is "better." It is a walk of faith and life in which we walk together as brothers and sisters in Christ. We need what He offers to us. And we need each other in this walk.
See you in worship this weekend.