There are so many opinions on “church” out there, even in the Christian community. Some people believe you can commune with God solely on a mountain top. Then others count you unfaithful if you miss a church service. So what does the Bible say? Do I have to go to church?
In the heritage that I was trained in, Heb. 10:25 provided the command that said “Yes. You have to go to church.” (“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together…” ) I do appreciate that the assembling of Christians was a high priority, but, in my experience, this verse has been used as a guilt stick to smack church members with. If you miss a few services this will most likely be the verse that gets quoted to you.
To be fair, that verse is only a small fraction of the message of Hebrews 10. In the same nugget of scripture we are shown how the new law transformed the old Judaic system. “Going to church” is not equivalent to “going to temple.”
And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so. For he says, “This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”
No longer does God rule His people through a legal code of conduct. He now puts the message on the hearts of his people who ARE the temple (1 Cor. 6:19). So “going to church” must not be a requirement of the law because that check mark system is gone. This law of the heart requires a willing sacrifice (Rom. 12:1).
After making it clear that our sins are gone, another impossibility under the Old Covenant, the writer goes on to say:
And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.
Because the Holy Spirit testifies to the new covenant and Jesus provided the ultimate sacrifice, NOW we get to walk right into the presence of God himself. THAT is huge. That is spiritually colossal. Don’t pass up the magnitude of that too quickly. We don’t have to “go to temple” or “go to church” to be in God’s presence. We are in His presence continuously because we are His temple.
The believer who receives this unfathomable gift has only one charge, take it and don’t let go. “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm…”
The problem is once that gift of salvation is yours, the enemy pulls, pushes, and tempts his way into your heart to get you to let go. When the Hebrew letter was written, Christians were being jailed, tortured and murdered in an attempt to destroy their loyalty to Jesus Christ.
Today, most of you who read my blog are not facing that type of persecution. But you will be led into addictions to prescription drugs or sex outside of marriage. Satan will pull at your allegiance by giving you a new job that distracts your spiritual vision. Demons will call out your name to get you to lose your temper, take God’s name in vain, love money, serve two masters or simply lose your confidence Jesus. That’s why we are told to “hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm…”
The amazing thing is that we don’t have to fight this alone. In the middle of the tug-of-war for your soul there is a defense. God prepared a way to build you up and keep you strong for the fight. Your nourishment and rest comes from being together.
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
So “Do I have to go to church?” Nope. You’ve gotta BE the church (1 Cor. 12:27-28).
Being the church requires more of us than “going to church.” It requires more than holidays or even every Sunday. It requires all of you. And it requires us to do all of what Hebrews 10 says.
- think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works
- do not neglect our meeting together, as some people do
- encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near
Stop looking for reasons you don’t have to “go to church” and start looking for reasons to “be the church.” Our spiritual lives depend on it.
Tomorrow more on the “how-to’s” of “being the church.” See you then!