"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .

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Thursday, June 3, 2021

Church Assembly: How Important Is It?

by A.M. Kisly

"Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as a transfusion of blood is to a sick man."  
D.L. Moody

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to live in a place where it is Illegal to be a Christian?

We have had the blessing of living in a free country, though times they are a changing. The first amendment to the United States constitution begins, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”

Fast forward almost 250 years and religious freedom is one of the most pressing issues in American culture today.

In many parts of the world, it is near impossible for believers to gather together for church. They do not live in a country with religious freedom for all. They do not have big beautiful church buildings, comfortable pews and air-conditioning, but millions of them meet in underground churches that must change locations continuously so as to not draw attention to themselves. They don’t have large congregations to enjoy fellowship with other believers, they secretly meet in small groups, and seldom meet otherwise. They do not have extravagant multi-member worship bands with amplified sound. They sing a song together very softly. It takes a lot of effort on their part to meet together as believers, and even though they run the risk of being arrested or killed, they continue to meet. They are hungry for God’s Word, and Christian fellowship.

Are we?

Do we enjoy our religious freedom, or do we take it for granted?


For some of us the biggest challenge in coming to church is the annoyance of traffic, the desire to catch up on beauty sleep, play that round of gulf, or feeling like you’ve earned a day to do as you please after working hard all week.

EXCUSES, EXCUSES!


And then there are just the ridiculous excuses like, the pews are too hard. It’s too hot, or it’s too cold. The church is full of hypocrites. The pastor’s sermons are too long. I’ve heard it all before. Church is boring. My kids are bored. We are just not on the same page. I have to work on Sundays. I have family obligations on the weekends. I hate the music…and on it goes.

Last but not least are those who know better than God…I can study my Bible on my own. I don’t have to attend church it’s not a salvation issue, so it doesn’t matter much. I have Christian friends, they are my “church.” There aren’t any “good” churches near me. Going to church doesn’t make a difference in my life.

Some believers claim that since going to church does not save people; they are saved and get to go to Heaven by getting right with God.  Well what is it to "get right with God?"  What happens after we receive salvation?  We begin a new life, and we walk in newness of that life.  The Bible offers zero examples of anyone who was right with God, and chose to be an island, forsaking God's people, and God's commands.  Not only does Hebrews 10:25 clearly state that we should assemble together, but we should encourage others to this habit. This assembling and exhorting should be “all the more” not “all the less!”

While there are in fact legitimate reasons for occasionally skipping out on church, most of the time it just isn’t the case. As far as I am concerned these are nothing more than excuses for disobedience. Though we are no longer enslaved to the law, we are certainly free to honor the Lord with our lives. We are marked by our obedience to Him. 

And just a word of warning, missing church becomes a habit of some. Believers who have this habit are just like an automobile engine that goes bad, it always misses before it eventually quits.  


PRIORITIES

The New Testament repeatedly emphasizes the importance of local assemblies. In fact, it was the pattern of Paul's ministry to establish local congregations in the cities where he preached the gospel. Hebrews 10:24-25 commands every believer to be a part of such a local body and reveals why this is necessary.

Hebrews 10:16-25

16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;

17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.

19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,

20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;

21 And having an high priest over the house of God;

22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
What a blessing! What a joy! What a privilege!

THE CHRISTIAN FAITH IS AN ASSEMBLING FAITH

We have been living in extremely unsettling times. When everyone was living under quarantine during the pandemic, the government, and the culture at large had come to conclusion that it was not necessary for Christians to assemble together, that a person can be a Christian without regularly gathering together with other believers in worship and fellowship.  I am here to tell you that this is simply not true!  

It is better to obey God than man!

The Christian faith is an assembling faith. The very word church in the Greek is “Ekklesia” which, in the ancient Greek, denoted a group called out to come to the assembly.  Assembly is in the name. 


The New Testament assumes that all Christians will share in the life of the local church, meet for worship and instruction, accept, nurture and discipline, and share in its vision, mission, and work. Hebrews 10:25 shows us a clear command that we are to identify with Believers in the local assembly. The word for assembling of ourselves means “the gathering together of a group,” with the root of the word implying “a complete collection.”

Paul gave Timothy special instructions about public meetings, he said, "Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching" (1 Timothy 4:13).  Notice that it is in the context of local assembly that hearing the Word, being called to obedience and action through exhortation, and teaching really takes place.

We live closer to the Coming of our Lord than the early church did. Therefore, if anything, the command is more pressing in our time than in theirs.  However, they left us an example of assembly that cannot be denied or ignored.

Acts 2:42 says,  "And they continued stedfastly (constantly, firmly) in the apostles' doctrine(teaching) and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
"  

So the purpose of believers gathering together is:
  • to learn God's Word, and the implications His Word in our lives
  • to join together to carry out acts of love and service to one another
  • to commemorate the Lord's death and resurrection through the breaking of bread; and they prayed.

IN THE FACE OF PERSECUTION, PLAGUES & DEATH

Throughout the history of the Church, when real persecution started, they did not abandon the assembly. Instead, they risked death to meet for worship and fellowship, they still do in countries where Christians are persecuted.  Unfortunately, there have been many in the churches of America that have conformed to the pressures of society.  How many pointed the finger at fellow believers for continuing to assemble during the pandemic?  How many fell prey to fear of news organizations?  How many trusted political leaders rather than the Lord?  When the barbarians invaded the western empire, the church did not cease to come together. When the bubonic plague wiped out a third of Europe, the church bells still rang as people gathered to pray to God for an end to the plague. When smallpox ravaged the eastern Native American populace,  it was the Christian Pilgrims who risked death to care for them. 

GOD'S WORD IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME

God has called us into His body, the church!

The local church is a representation of the worldwide body of Christ.  It is the place where we count it a joy to minister to others, and be ministered to among God's people. It is the place where a believer can receive the kind of teaching, accountability and encouragement that is absolutely necessary for us to stand firm in our convictions. 

Not only has God called us into His body of believers, but commands us not to forsake the local assembly.  

It is high time to wake out of slumber and sleep.  It is high time to walk by faith and not by feelings.  It is high time to esteem what God says above what we say or think.  It is time to walk in obedience so that we can experience  spiritual growth, His blessing in our lives, and the joy of fellowship.
James 1:22-25, says, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”
CHALLENGE

You are an important member of the body of Christ.  You are loved and you're needed. Let me challenge you this week to not neglect,  or forsake the gathering of believers.  Move away from making it optional, and make it a priority.  God certainly knows what is best for us.  It is time to trust Him as we walk in obedience to His Word. 




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