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|The Nashville Statement
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
My complete profile...
Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich
His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
- Rose Cole
[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day.
- David Kjos
Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
- Jonathan Moorhead
There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
| Why Christians gather together weekly
|Let me qualify what I mean by Christian before I get into this post.
A lot of people identify as Christians, but identifying as a Christian doesn't make you a Christian anymore than identifying as a 56 Buick makes you an automobile. When I speak about Christians in this post, I am not talking about every Tom, Dick and Jane who considers themselves to be a Christian. You don't become a Christian simply by calling yourself one.
Before God made a new covenant with man (in and through the person of Jesus Christ), the salvation of God was restricted to those descendants of Israel who had inherited the promises of Abraham and Isaac (i.e. the Jews). Not every descendant of Abraham inherited the promises given to Abraham, but only those who were of the same faith as Abraham, and who were humbled before God in willful obedience. This is what it means to have a faith like Abraham's. It is to be one who intentionally repents of their indifference to God's rule, accepting instead their true status as a creature obligated to live in accord with the dictates God, who has a divine right as their Creator to command their obedience. They trust God to save them from His wrath, because He has promised to do just that for those who, in genuine humility, truly are submitting themselves to God's commands on a daily basis. Said in plain language, they have faith in God and repent of their indifference to God's right to rule over them. When I speak of repentance, I am not describing what some describe by that word. I am not saying stop doing bad things, and start doing good things. Repentance is not a repentance from one kind of work to another - it is a repentance of (turning away from) one's former rebellion against God's rule, and a turning toward a life of committed submitted obedience. Faith without repentance saves no one.
That was true of the Jews even before the Mosaic (or "Old" covenant). Under the Mosaic covenant, people who weren't descendants of Abraham could still worship God and be counted as within God's covenant if they  joined themselves to one of the tribes in Israel, and  had the same repentant faith that characterized Abraham. But the Mosaic covenant was only a foreshadow of God's full redemptive plan (in Christ). A new and better covenant was promised - covenant that would save not only descendants of Abraham, but as many descendants of Adam as would humble themselves in repentance to God's rule, and trust in God alone to redeem them from their condemnation and debt their sins had earned them.
A Christian therefore, is more than someone who considers himself or herself to be a Christian. It is more than someone who understands and agrees to the truthfulness of the Christian claims - a Christian is someone who has called Jesus Lord, because they have committed themselves to obeying Him a their Lord - and they trust in the work He has done, and is doing to save them. There are all kinds of people who believe that Jesus was the Messiah, and call themselves Christians, but they haven't surrendered themselves to Christ's rule - choosing instead to trust that they'll be forgiven in the end because they believed the facts to be true. They believe, but having no repentance - they never progress in their faith, because their faith lacks the necessary foundation of genuine repentance.
So when I speak of Christians in this post, I am not talking about the kind of secular, cultural "christians" (lower case "c") who "believe" that God just wants everyone to get along, be kind to each other, and live and let live. I am not talking about "christians" who toss out the bible wherever and whenever it disagrees with the sinful culture they find themselves in - I am talking about people who side with Christ against this culture, even to their own inescapable detriment.
The "christian" who is not striving to live a holy life, is almost certainly not living the life of a Christian. It could be that they are genuinely saved, but woefully ignorant of what they are called to be. It could be that they are genuinely saved, but weakened in walk because they are malnourished, and trying to walk the Christian walk in exile or isolation - but it is certainly possible, if not likely, that they were never saved in the first place. They've come to a cultural form of Christianity which being nothing more than a spiritually vacuous form of religion that shares the name, but has no power to deliver them (or anyone else) from their sin.
Sadly, those who are snared by the devil in a counterfeit form of Christianity are more often than not, satisfied with their lot. I don't say these things to belittle or offend, though if you find yourself in that camp, you will find these things offensive, and perhaps feel I am angry at or hateful towards people who have a different form of Christianity that I do. But I'm not angry, and I'm not hateful. I mention these things because I believe they're true, and if they are, then the greatest service I can render anyone is to show them that their form of Christianity isn't biblical, and suggest earnestly that they examine the scriptures to see if these things are true. God help anyone who thinks they are a Christian who isn't pursuing an obedient, holy life.
So... getting back to the topic at hand: Why should real Christians gather weekly?
The "go to" text that tells us we should be gathering regularly together with other Christians is straightforward enough:
"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." - Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV
But I think the author's word choice gives us some insight into the problem he was addressing when he wrote this. Note how he carefully couches this instruction - He doesn't simply write that we are to "meet together" he includes the error that he is correcting with this instruction - the error being that of neglecting other Christians. You have everything you need in this verse to plumb the depths of this instruction with me.
I'm going to assume that what the author prescribes here, is intended to be a small picture of what genuine Christianity is supposed to look like in practice. I'm reminded of Paul's similar instructions to the Galatians in Galatians 5:13-14, For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Christians have been set free (from their former rebellion against God's rule in their life), but this freedom isn't a "get out of all your responsibilities" free card. Christians are called to serve other Christians through love.
The (selfless) service Christ calls Christians to render to each other (and to non-Christians also) is not to simply appreciate or respect them. We should do that, but our service has a goal - and that goal isn't to make each other feel better. It is to build one another up in our faith, and to strengthen each other in our Christian walk. Consider Paul's instruction to the believers in Thessalonica:
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. - 1 Thessalonians 5:14-22, ESV
Here Paul is describing those who are ministering to other believers. In the church at Thessalonica while some were ministering to one another - others were idle. Let's take a step back for a moment. You might think that the only ministry going on in church is coming out of the pulpit - but that is culturally skewed imagine. Each believer (not just the pastors) is supposed to minister to other believers on a regular basis. If you're not doing that you're "idle" - your showing up, but you're not contributing.
I'll be the first to say it: some churches have a culture that lends itself to this kind of stagnation. By culture here I don't mean simply traditions - I mean to describe a shared attitude about the church is gathered together to accomplish. Some churches gather to hear a sermon. The sermon is the product, and the hearers are consumers of that product. People come to that church to hear the sermons. More often than not, it's really the pastor who is the product, - his personality and charm. The sermon is a by-product. In some churches, the music is the big thing, or the programs. Whatever it is, there seems to be only to kinds of church culture. The first and I fear all to common, is the consumer culture, where people come to church to get something out of it. The second is the one we find in the scriptures - one where we come to serve others rather than to be served by others.
The short answer to the main question of this post, is that Christians gather together weekly because they recognize that God has called them to serve one another in love, and in humble obedience to that command, they not only gather together weekly, but often more outside of the weekly gathering, where they encourage and help one another to live lives that honor and please God. People leave churches these days for the most selfish reasons. I don't like the pastor. I don't like the music. I don't like the service. I don't like the people. Even though Christians are reconciled to God through Christ, it doesn't mean that all our affections line up with that calling. We are still selfish people at heart, and that means we often pursue our own wants rather than what God wants. We don't come to church to serve others, we come to church to be served. If we don't like the service - we move on.
Spotty attendance, short lived memberships, etc. are all indicative of a mindset that views church as a service to be consumed rather than as a place we go to minister to others. I can't tell you what you should be doing when you come to church - but I can tell you what you shouldn't be doing. you shouldn't be idle in the service.
If you're a genuine Christian, God has given you the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit imparts to every believer something they not only can use, but are expected to use, to build up their local body of believers. We serve one another in the strength God supplies - that works itself out practically in this way: we enjoy doing the ministry we are called to.
Find out what your gifts are, and minister to one another as often as you are able. You'll be doing what you're called to do, and you'll love it. Trust me.
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