The Weight of the Law

www.bible.com/72/gal.6.2.hcsb

Do you know how heavy the Law is? If I read this verse right, the Law weighs exactly as much as the burdens of my fellow believers. Now, let’s break that down a little bit.

We are to carry one another’s burdens. That demands fellowship, just as I spoke about in a post a few days ago. When you participate in fellowship, you make friends, and friends share burdens, struggles and sufferings they are dealing with. Ok. So as friends, we share in the carrying of other’s burdens. That is called love. We love one another and so pray with them, weep with them, listen to their stories, offer to help as we are able, and in general try to lighten the load our friends carry with them.

Paul says that when we do these things, we are fulfilling the Law of Christ. That law is the new commandment He have to us, to love one another. The distinctive of the Christian community is that we live each other. Our religion isn’t about every person trying to be perfect for themselves and their own salvation. True Christian religion is that we give freely of ourselves for the sake of each other. We love one another as Christ loved us.

I have been in “Christian” churches where this was not the case, or better, when there were enough who ignored the law of Christ as to make the rest ineffective. But Christianity forms it’s beginning has always been about you, not about me. It has always been other-centered. Jesus didn’t die for Himself, but for the whole world. When we love and give and share, we don’t do it to earn salvation points, but because we’ve already been saved. And we simply extend that grace to others. This is why Christianity is different. It doesn’t focus on the self in its religious “duties”. It focuses on those outside of ourselves. To live our neighbor as ourselves, to love one another, especially those in the Christian community, as we love, support, and encourage.

If you don’t have a community like that in your church, I am very sorry. I would say to start one, even within the church, but it seems so foreign to many churches I don’t know where I would even begin. I feel that my own church where I attend is doing a good job at this, and I would love to invite you all to know what that feels like. You might check out http://www.betterlife.church and see what the fuss is about. But I encourage you as a fellow Christian. There are churches like this, even if you haven’t found one yet, that loves people, rather than forces them to pretend to be perfect.

God bless you today.

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Working Together

www.bible.com/72/heb.10.24.hcsb

Did you know you are not the only Christian? I know right? Mind-blowing! Close on heels of “do not neglect the gathering of yourselves together” is this gem, “let us be concerned about one another to promote love and good works.” Who knew there were others to “one another” about? And yet key to the Christian experience is the idea that there are others.

The greatest commandment in the New Testament is to “love one another as I have loved you.” That requires others. That requires community. You cannot be a Christian in isolation. How often do you see Christians alone in the New Testament? Where is the Christian discipline of solitude practiced? Yes, Paul did it, on the way to Athens. Once there, he preached a message, and suddenly he wasn’t alone anymore. Others believed his message and they became a community.

The medieval practice of the Christian hermit was never commanded in Scripture, and it should never be practiced today, especially when temptation abounds and we need to be accountable to one another, encouraging one another in love and in good works. Don’t be a Lone Ranger Christian. It’s not Christian. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto.

God bless you today. Let’s get together. Love you all.

Why go to Church if I don’t feel well?

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It seems especially true in winter that people are sick and they miss church, but this can happen anytime. Now, you can’t blame someone when they are sick that they miss service, right? We all get sick sometimes, and sometimes, we do the Christian thing and don’t share the illness with others. Parents of newborns are encouraged to stay home from church for this reason. But this reason can be used too readily, so that a slight cough and the uneasy headache are called upon as unwitting accomplices in the delinquency of Church attendance.

And what about those who are too old or infirm to attend Church? These are the homebound elderly or those whose chronic illness keep them from attendance. Shouldn’t there be an exception made for these too? Conversely, is the Church off the hook if these people can no longer attend Church?

The Scripture is quite clear to both sides of this. “If anyone is sick, let him call upon the elders. They will come and anoint the sick . . .” (James 5:14) I think it goes without saying that missing a Sunday is excusable, since most illnesses clear up in a week’s time. But this verse seems to speak to the more chronic conditions that keep someone from attending church regularly. The homebound and the chronically ill still need to be fed spiritually. The Church needs to engage them on at least a weekly basis. This verse implies that the one sick at home is not simply to just stop attending, but continue to be involved in the local church, calling upon the elders. If a Church has not made contact with you for being absent, then this verse demands that you contact the church and tell them you are ill and need a visit. Church leaders can’t read minds. Being at Church is so important, even for the sick, that the elders, in their shepherding role, need to continue to minister to them.

Non-Christians don’t really use this excuse, unless they are older. but being older, have a greater need for interaction. This is a perfect situation for outreach, and should not be avoided.

Why go to Church when I am so busy?

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Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
(Jas 4:13-15)

How busy are you? When you find yourself incredibly busy, and don’t have any spare time, you need to take moment and ask yourself who are you busy for? What is your goal that you are this busy? Fore example, if you are always busy doing work, what is your goal? Pleasing your boss? Providing for your family? Avoiding something else in your life? If you are too busy for Church, what are you busy doing? Who are you serving? This is only a problem for people for whom Church is not among the higher priorities. And I don’t anyone should demand that Church be the highest priority. That spot should be reserved for Jesus. But if you don’t have five minutes for Jesus, then you are practicing idolatry, and that is sinful.

Now it is important for Christians to make Church as attractive as possible so people will be drawn to Church, rather than repel them. But is that really the priority of Christians as well? What makes a church attractive isn’t the building, the worship service, or the style of preaching, but the spiritual beauty of the people. People who are winsome, thankful, joyful, and peaceful. I would want to worship with believers who care, who always have time, or will make time for me. It is off-putting to worship with people who are always busy because you feel they never have time for you. What kind of person do you want to attend church with? Then that is the kind of person you need to be. Don’t be so busy that you can’t be with God’s people on Sunday morning.

Why go to Church if it doesn’t mean anything to me?

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The problem here is that the non-Christian sees the Church as irrelevant. This is half-true. Many Churches gave up trying to be relevant years ago, just focusing on preserving what few they have left and keeping up appearances until Jesus comes back. I have seen churches give up on trying to reach the world because it costs too much. For them, evangelism isn’t relevant to their mission. The lost-ness of the world doesn’t mean anything to them. Many “little old church ladies” are more concerned about making sure their preacher’s shirts appear ironed than about making sure their neighbor knows about Jesus.

A man will not see any logical reason to attend a church service in order to preserve his soul. It simply doesn’t make sense. How does attending an hour or more a week with a group of people you kinda know change your eternity? The answer is, it doesn’t. That answer is in the saving power of Jesus Himself. Only then do you understand the spiritual significance of His Body, the Church. The non-Christian will not feel compelled to come to Church until their soul has been touched and made sensitive to its need for redemption. It is odd too the animosity expressed toward Church, since for the most part it is harmless, except when it isn’t.

But Christians too fall victim to this problem. Some might say, “The message I hear on Sunday morning is not the same truth that I read in the Bible.” Others might throw in that they feel the Church just doesn’t speak to them where they are, or that the Bible they hear on Sunday morning isn’t relevant to their lives. This is usually a symptom of a Christian who doesn’t spend much time with God through the week. For a person far from God will fail to pick Him out of a crowded soul.

For Christians, the answer is easy. Spend more time with God, and just with God. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) You want to come away from a Church service filled? Hunger for righteousness. Thirst for Righteousness. Desire even more time with God, and you will not leave unsatisfied.

Non-Christians will acquire a desire for Church when they see such desire modeled. When they see the fire kindled in believers for the Word of God and the fellowship of the Church, they will have a desire for God, a hunger for the presence of Jesus in them. They look for His face in yours.

Why go to Church when I am not loved there?

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It ought to be to the Church’s shame that this statement is every uttered. This hearkens back to the last question, but it is the more naked resentment and hurt feelings. It is hard to win back those who have had a prior relationship with your church. “A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.” (Pro 18:19 ESV)

Again, the problem seems complicated. There are a couple of possibilities.  The person in question is complaining because he or she doesn’t “feel” loved. At some point in the past, someone offended them and now they believe that everyone in the church feels the same way as that individual, since no one else offered an apology, or came and visited their home (I have heard this expressed). More likely no one else knows about the offense. It is just as likely, everyone knows the person who did the offending, and don’t want to “rock the boat”. This kind of church believes that one person leaving the church is easier to stomach with than confronting with the Offender. Personally, I believe that such an Offender needs to be dealt with as Ananias and Sapphira, but that is God’s judgment to decide, not mine.

However, for the offended, they are depriving the whole fellowship of the Body of Christ by not attending any Church because of their own hurt feelings. The Whole body suffers when one suffers (1 Corinthians 12:26). This behavior is selfish, that is, it cannot see past itself and its own pain. And such a one believes that it is he who deserves the apology from all, or even a few, rather to take the example of Christ, and accept the suffering for His sake. They may well be owed an apology, but is it for them decide whether this grievance should keep them from all fellowship? Did Christ demand an apology from the Jews who insulted him at the foot of the cross? Does Christ demand an apology from you every time you insult Him by ignoring Him, or pushing him aside for your own priorities? What this question shows isn’t a greater holiness, but a lack of grace, though such was extended to them through Christ. (Matthew 18:21-35)

Why go to Church if Church is unfamiliar and uncomfortable?

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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.
(Heb 10:24-25)

Most non-Christians avoid the Church because it is unfamiliar. They believe that they need to have “church clothes” in order to attend and not be shunned. Sadly, many churches shun new attendees exactly because they are unfamiliar, especially close-knit and clique-ish type churches. (James 2:1-4) Then again, people will attend church even if it is standing room only, if its message is relevant enough, its people warm enough, and its worship inviting enough.

First, we must dispel the notion that we require a certain type of person we accept for attendance. We ought to be welcoming to all. Shame on any believer that makes style of clothing a standard for fellowship. When the church began, it was the clothing of slaves and ordinary people that made the cut. There was no such thing as Sunday clothes. Sunday was a work day back then.

But second,  understand that this question is probably a smoke-screen. It is not the building or pews, or most times even the strangers they meet there that give rise to this question. It is the emotional attachments to previous buildings or relationships that make a person feel truly uncomfortable in church. Whether a person attended a funeral at a church, or went there as a kid, or knows someone in the church who has hurt them or whom they have hurt, a person will feel uncomfortable with church. Help them work through their hurt, maybe even the resolution of hurt feelings. But most importantly, love and understanding will help this person overcome their fears. It will take time, but “don’t give up on meeting together.” If the person feels uncomfortable with going to church, offer to pray with them, and offer to sit with them.

Third, now that they have settled into a particular routine of not going, even going to another church will be difficult. People go to new churches because that is where their friends are going. Having an inside connection like a friend will go a long way to getting someone to try going to church for the first time. This also means that simply “inviting” someone to church isn’t enough. If you invite someone to your church, who do they know? Your best kids program and preacher’s sermon won’t be enough to keep a casual attender. They will stay because of who they know. Try being that person.