It is my intention to write a series of brief articles under the topic: church-going. It will surely harm no one, and it may be of abiding value to many if we try to give account to ourselves of our church attendance and the fruits which we ought to expect from this activity.
We are a “church-going people.” If some one should ask you as to why you go to church, what answer would you give? Do you go to church merely because your father and mother accustomed you to do this, or because in the circles in which you move it is the custom to go to church and you would spoil your name and reputation if you did not go? Just why do you go to church?
Facing the Question!
May be your answer would be that God expects you to go to church on Sunday and that you wish to obey his commandments. This of course would be a very good reason. The will of the Lord should at all times and in everything be the rule for our life. It is well, however, to remember that this is not enough. In the minor prophets especially we read about a churchgoing people with which the Lord is not at all pleased. He says concerning their obedience that it nauseates him, that he refuses to even listen to their prayers and that he will not have regard unto the sacrifices which they bring. Do you ever face the question what God thinks of your attendance in the house of prayer? If you never consciously face this question I am quite sure that the God, who commands you to go to church, is not at all pleased with your church-going.
You well know that we deal with a God who looks not only upon the outward deed, but considers also the inward attitude of our heart. We should go to church because we love to be there! There should be with us something of the sentiment expressed by the psalmist when he declares: “I was glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Or as we read in Psalm 84: “How lovely is thy dwelling place, a Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yea, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.”
Why did the psalmist long for the house of the Lord? Because God would be there and he communes with his people in the house of prayer. The only valid reason to go to church is because Cod has appointed the assembly of his people to be the place where he will meet with them and speak to them of his peace.
God Loves the Church Most!
This does not mean that this is the only place where God will meet his children. There are other places. But this is one of them and it is the place which God especially desires. In Psalm 87 we read that “God loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.” This means that God loves the dwelling places of Jacob. For me expressed in New Testament language this means that Cod loves the Christian home. The home which is built to be are to be a reflection of the Father’s house. The home in which he is the center of all things. God loves that home. But he loves the assembly of his people more than all the Christian homes. If we love the Lord we shall be most anxious to meet him. And if the Lord says that he loves most to dwell where his people come together to worship him, the heart which truly loves Cod will declare: that is the place where I love most to be. We should go to church because we love God and desire to please him.
We should go to church because it is good and pleasant when brothers dwell in unity. For there the Lord has commanded his blessing, life for evermore. The soul that loves God seeks his blessing. The blessing of the Lord means more to the heart of God’s people than anything else. The blessing of the Lord means to them that God is favorably disposed towards them. For those who have been brought out of darkness into light there is no greater good than the blessing of the Lord.
We should go to church because it is there that God speaks to his people and reciprocally, his people speak to him. It is well to ask ourselves whether this is the reason for our going to church. Does this make Sunday the greatest day of the week for you? What is there about this first day of the week. which makes it desirable in your eyes? Is there in your heart that delightful anticipation of meeting your God, the God who made you; the God. who in Christ Jesus has become for you the fountain of every blessing, without which life would have no meaning?
Formal Religion Unsatisfactory
Why do I ask these questions? Because I am afraid that even the best among us often loose sight of this. Our religious life so easily becomes a mere formality; and we are surprised that our religion is not a great dynamic force which gives direction to all of OUI· living. A mere formal religion cannot bring satisfaction and joy to our souI. It cannot bring us the feel ing of peace, which is so desirable in a pilgrim’s life full of trials and tribulations.
Especially in our day of spiritual lethargy there is good reason to examine our religious life. The ever increasing worldliness evident among professing Christians ought to tell us that there is something wrong, some thing very seriously, wrong. God does not occupy the central place in our thinking, speaking, and acting. Material things so often have far greater value and importance in our estimation than spiritual things. I am convinced that no one who truly loves the Lord will deny this. Jesus warned us that it is possible that the growth of thorns can easily choke the seed of spiritual life. We are so busy with earthly things that the spiritual things receive very little or no attention. And all this is reflected in our church-going, The complaint is constantly heard that there are too many Christians who are quite satisfied to go to church services once only on the Lord’s Day, and who misuse the Day for “pleasure,” in travel, outings and mere social visits.
Why do you go to church? Is there in your heart something of the desire of the psalmist, who declared: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple”? Unless we go to church because we want to meet with Cod, it may very well be that our very church-going some day will rise up against us and damn us. I am sure, to put it mildly, that no one would like this to happen!