Engaged With The Church

Screenshot (1331)

My Musings – While not the only reasons, some believers have forsaken the church because they feel it is full of hypocrites or they believe they can worship at anyplace or anytime. It is true that there is a certain degree of hypocrisy in some who attend church – they pretend to profess, but they do not really believe. The church should not turn these away for they need continued exposure to the truth, so they eventually will believe. True believers, on the other hand cannot be hypocrites. They do not pretend at something that they do not believe. It is just the opposite. They believe, but have trouble living up to what they believe. But let’s be realistic. All true believers profess Christ, but none fully live like Christ.

We must remember that accepting Christ (salvation) is an event that occurs instantaneously. Becoming like Christ, on the other hand, is a process that takes a lifetime as we increasingly yield our lives to Him and allow Him to work in our lives. Some are further along the road than others, which is the very reason we should not forsake the fellowship. We all need the encouragement, accountability and authority that the Church provides. We all need support at one time or another. We can all also return the favor by providing the support that others need at some time or another. But a support group needs a group. It cannot function in isolation and it functions best when all members are present.

Worship and praise can occur in isolation, however. It frequently does and should. But that does not mean that it is the only time we can experience worship and praise. The thing about good experiences is that we usually cannot wait to share them with someone else. That is what makes worshipping and praising God together such a profound experience. We get to share it with others.

God has characterized the Church as a body. Like a body the Church is made up of many members, yet it forms a whole. If one part is missing the whole body suffers. An ear can, to some degree, compensate for the loss of the eyes, but the whole person will suffer nonetheless for the loss of the eyes. So it is with the Church. It functions better as a whole, if all of the members are accounted for and functioning in harmony with the rest of the members.

Besides being a support group, the Church serves as the primary means by which the world is evangelized and once evangelized, they are assimilated into the body and are discipled. Without a doubt Christ is the head of the Church. But the body is what carries out His commission to go, be witnesses, win converts and make disciples. This is a continuous cycle. We go out into the world as witnesses. When converts are won to Christ they are brought into the body where they can be discipled. Eventually, they are able to go out and the cycle begins anew. While this can, and does happen one-on-one without the involvement of the larger body, it works best when the entire body becomes involved.

Of course, as we all know, the universal Church consists of a multitude of local churches. In fact, today each locality has many different churches. But the same concept applies.

Individual Christians within a community should be part of one of the local bodies, rather than trying to fulfill Christ’s commission as an individual agent.

Typically, a new convert is brought into the local Church that the one who won them to the Lord attends. Often this is the person’s parent’s Church. But sometimes people have moved away from family or came to faith in a manner (e.g., evangelistic meeting, radio ministry, personal crisis) where there is no one to introduce them into a local body. Other times Christians who are already a member of a local assembly moves to another community and must find another church to attend. In these cases, the question becomes which one?

Nowadays there are many to choose from. There are many denominations within one community. In larger communities there often is more than one church of the same denomination in the same city. There also are churches with different worship styles. Finally, as our culture has become more and more diverse, and more tolerant of different beliefs and lifestyles, many fellowships have sprung up that do not always hold to the truths of Scripture. They might worship a “supernatural” being or force that is not the God of the universe. Their religious commitment may be legalistic with an emphasis on external observance rather than an internal the change of heart. There may be attitudes of permissiveness, beliefs that are compromised or a quiet profession of the lips without practice in the lives. There may be an undue emphasis on religious conformity with no evidence of spiritual transformation. Or the belief system may be one of convenience and preference, rather than sound in doctrines, that are often inconvenient. So, one must be careful when choosing which church to belong to.

The dictionary defines religion as:

  1. The service and worship of God or the supernatural;
  2. Commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance;
  3. A personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs and practices;
  4. Scrupulous conformity;
  5. A cause, principle, or system held to with ardor and faith.

Let’s take a look at these five principles of religion and how they might be applied to help identify a church that merely “pretends” to follow truth, versus one that “proclaims” and follows the truth.

CHURCHES THAT PRETEND AT THE TRUTH

The Service And Worship Of God Or The Supernatural

Tolerates the service and worship of other “gods” –Be careful or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them.” (Deuteronomy 11:16, NIV 1978)’

Accepts beliefs in alternate paths to God – “I am astonished that you are turning to a different gospel-which is really no gospel at all.” (Galatians 1:6, 7, NIV 1978).

Commitment Or Devotion To Religious Faith Or Observance

Characterized by legalistic commitment – “You have neglected the more important matters of the law- justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” (Matthew 23:23, NIV 1978).

Concerned more with external observance – Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’.” (Mark 7:6, NIV 1978).

Institutionalized System Of Religious Attitudes, Beliefs And Practices

Attitude that grace equals permissiveness – “Everything is permissible-but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible-but not everything is constructive.” (1 Corinthians 10:23, NIV 1978).

Beliefs often compromise the Word – See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends upon human tradition and the base principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8, NIV 1978).

Does not put religion into practice – “My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice.” (Ezekiel 33:31, NIV 1978).

Scrupulous Conformity

Conforms to rules and rituals established by man – “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value.” (Colossians 2:23, NIV 1978).

A Cause, Principle Or System Held With Ardor And Faith

Adopts causes, principles or systems that are convenient – “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3,4, NIV 1978).

CHURCHES THAT PROCLAIM THE TRUTH

The Service And Worship Of God Or The Supernatural

Insists upon service and worship of only true God – “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” (Deuteronomy 6:4, NIV 1978).

Acknowledges that Christ is only path to God“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” (John 14:6, NIV 1978).

Commitment Or Devotion To Religious Faith Or Observance

Characterized by spirit of devotion – “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8, NIV 1978).

Concerned more with faithful heart – “What does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 10:12, NIV 1978).

Institutionalized System Of Religious Attitudes, Beliefs And Practices

Attitude that grace is evidenced by obedience – “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed.” (James 1:25, NIV 1978).

Beliefs are consistent with the Word – “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” (Titus 1:9, NIV 1978).

Puts religion into practice – “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22, NIV 1978).

Scrupulous Conformity

Emphasis is on spiritual transformation – “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2, NIV 1978).

A Cause, Principle Or System Held With Ardor And Faith

Strives to follow sound doctrine even if inconvenient – “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.” (1Corinthians 15:1, 2, NIV 1978).

One definition, two applications that could not be further apart.  Yet Satan would have us believe that the first application is just as valid as the latter.  A more fitting definition of the one true “religion” would be”

  1. The service and worship of the only true God, accessible only by faith in Jesus Christ;
  2. Commitment and devotion that goes beyond external observance to a faith that transforms the heart;
  3. A personal relationship with Christ that develops an attitude of voluntary obedience and beliefs that are true to the Word, and that results in a faith that is practiced;
  4. Spiritual transformation and renewal;
  5. One Gospel, based on grace, accepted by faith and held firmly by the Word.

My Advice – It should be clear that a church is more than bricks and mortar. A building does not make a church. It is the people inside the building that make up the church. In fact some churches exist without a church building. Most, if not all, of the first century churches functioned quite well without a building program. But like a physical church building, the church body is only as solid as its foundation. It might look good on the surface, but underneath there may structural defects. The defect can be so serious that when the winds and rain comes it risks being blown away or falling.

This is why it must be built on a solid foundation (Christ). What does your Church stand on?  Who does it really serve and worship?  What is it committed and devoted to?  What are its attitudes beliefs and practices?  To whom is it conforming and does it result in transformation of the heart?  Is it following the cause of Christ with ardor and faith?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s