By Pastor Don Strand
Ahhh, Sunday. A day to relax, perhaps to sleep in a bit, maybe just unwind from the workweek and catch up on some things around the house. Or, perhaps your Sunday includes taking the kids to soccer or Little League or play days at the local arena. And ever since your oldest kid made the traveling team, (bragging rights!) Sundays are fully committed. Church? Oh, right. It seems that more and more, church gets in the way of an active, busy life. And since you can listen online, why take the time and expend the energy (and fuel) to actually go to a church?
First of all, we go to church because God commands us to do so. We are commanded to appear before our Holy Creator to hear of His just condemnation for our sin. “Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law,” (Deuteronomy 31:12, ESV).
“Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!” The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge! Selah “Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God.” (Psalm 50:5–7)
God commands that all His children gather before Him to hear His fearful words of condemnation against our sin. Paul makes this clear in his letter to the church at Rome. …both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:9b–12).
God commands each of us to appear before Him regularly, and He has established the church as the place for us to appear.
The second reason we are to go to church is to hear the good news of salvation, full and free, through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. God’s condemnation of sinners is followed by His promise of redemption and cleansing for all who believe. This good news is the gospel. This redemption was prefigured in the Old Testament system of Priests and sacrifices. Then Moses said to Aaron, “Draw near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering and make atonement for yourself and for the people, and bring the offering of the people and make atonement for them, as the Lord has commanded.” (Leviticus 9:7).
So they slaughtered the bulls, and the priests received the blood and threw it against the altar. Then the goats for the sin offering were brought to the king and the assembly, and they laid their hands on them, and the priests slaughtered them and made a sin offering with their blood on the altar, to make atonement for all Israel. (2 Chronicles 29:21b–24a).
These shadows of redemption by sacrifice became reality in Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God. David points us to Christ in Psalm 40, verses 6 through 8: In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”
John the Baptist recognized Jesus immediately and exclaimed “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus described His work in this way on one occasion. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
Paul sums up the essential truth of the gospel and its centrality to God’s redemptive plan when he writes this to the church of Corinth. “Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:1–4).
We don’t go to church to hear a message of self-help. We go to hear that we can’t help ourselves. We need to hear the gospel because it tells us that, through faith alone, we are credited with the righteousness earned by Jesus Christ. That is the only righteousness that can restore our relationship with an infinitely holy God. We need to hear this over and over again because we are forgetful people.
Being reminded of the good news of the gospel, we can’t help but express joy and praise to God. To be surrounded by others filled with joy and praise is the third reason we need to go to church. Not everyone we meet during the week will be joyful and polite. At least we can find that in church, or at least we should. Going to a church that understands it’s purpose in proclaiming the Word of God also gives us a source of internal joy and peace to help us deal with the people we encounter in daily living. Consider these verses. “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”” (Psalm 50:14–15).
“for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” (Psalm 63:7–8).
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16).
These are just three important reasons we need to go to church. We are commanded to go; we do need to hear of our fallen condition as God sees us, and that enables us to understand the implications of the gospel. The result is praise and joy regardless of circumstances and the desire to share this good news with others.
Next week we’ll talk about some of the practical considerations of why we need to go to church and how we should prepare ourselves. See you in church!