(…continued…) With all that in mind, think again about what was in part one about how relationships die from lack of communication. Much has been said about whether or not one can be a Christian without going to church, and the short answer is yes, of course, you can be a Christian without going to church. I’ve seen some wonderful Christians who did not ever go to church. We are not saved because we go to church, we are saved because Jesus died on the cross to forgive us of our sins, and has promised that all who believe in him shall be saved. John 3:16 doesn’t say one word about going to church, and yet the whole Gospel is right there: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that whosever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” See? There is not a word about going to church. But there is in John 3:16 that word about ‘believing,’ and believing implies some sort of relationship, some sort of connection, or response, or whatever you want to call it. God’s love is freely given, but it is not forced on one who will not have it. The danger of no worship is the same danger that is in any relationship in which there is no conversation. In time, the relationship will die. There are warnings in the Bible about that. Because when people insist on paying no attention to God, in time, they will not care at all about God or His promises. And then, faith and belief are gone, and the John 3:16 promise is lost for all eternity.
Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minnesota is a small school. It was smaller still when I attended there in the 1970’s, with only 200 students. Everybody knew everybody and I made some very good friends. When we graduated we all said we’d keep in touch, but we didn’t. A few of us went on to Mankato State, and we’d see each other occasionally. I went back to homecoming the year after I graduated, and many others went back then also, and we had a great time. But that was it. Since then, I’ve kept in touch with only one friend, and we are now very good friends– but there is no one else. A while back I was on the Bethany campus and ran into an old classmate– not a close friend, but a guy I knew back then. I recognized him only because he teaches there now and gets his photo in the college newsletter occasionally. He did not recognize me, and I did not refresh his memory. I just asked where the bookstore was, and he told me; and that was it. We would not have had much to say to each other anyway. It’s been too long without any conversation.
Worship is what keeps the conversation going and the relationship alive. I have known some wonderful Christians who did not go to church. But each one had found other ways to keep the relationship alive, usually by their own disciplined life of prayer and Bible reading. Many folks are not that disciplined, and drift into disinterest and unbelief. God does not leave them, but they leave God.
Worship has, for countless generations, provided the opportunity for God and his people to keep in touch. Even Jesus went to worship on every Sabbath, ‘as was his custom,’ says Luke 4:16. Let’s not imagine that we can get along without that which Jesus himself needed.
Exodus 20:8 — Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
Luke 4:16 — (Jesus) went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.
Hebrews 10:22a…23…25 — Let us with confidence draw near to God with a sincere heart, in the full assurance of faith… holding to the hope we profess, for he who has promised us is faithful… And let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another as we see the Day approaching.
MORNING PRAYER BY JOHN STOTT:
Good morning, Heavenly Father; good morning, Lord Jesus; good morning, Holy Spirit. Heavenly Father, I worship you, creator and sustainer of the universe. Lord Jesus, I worship you, Savior and Lord of the world. Holy Spirit, I worship you, sanctifier of the people of God. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.
Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in your presence and please you more and more. Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow you. Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three persons in one God, have mercy upon me. Amen.