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by Tom Ross
"Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law: And that their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it" (Deut. 31:12-13).
Though our text is found in the Old Testament and was directed specifically at the nation of Israel, I believe that the principles found in this passage may be applied to God's elect today. Our God is a gracious and loving Father who knows what is best for His children in every age. God commanded the children of Israel to gather the people together to hear the Word of the Lord and be instructed by it so that they might fear and serve the Lord acceptably, and live a life of consecrated obedience. When He issued this command it was intended to be a help and a blessing to His people, not an unnecessary burden to be borne. When preachers preach about faithful church attendance and the sin of forsaking the assembly they are not doing it to be hateful or hurtful to anyone. Rather they are attempting to be a blessing to God's people by faithfully declaring the whole counsel of God. Please keep this fact in mind as you read the remainder of this treatise. Jesus gave all of His people a solemn warning in Matthew 5:19 when He said: "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
There seems to be a growing indifference and apathy among God's people towards church attendance and public worship. As I visit door to door in our community I hear many people saying: "I don't believe you have to go to church to be a Christian", or "I can worship God in my own way at home just as well as I can at church." Going to church never made anyone a Christian, but if you don't go to church faithfully you will never be a successful Christian. You can and should worship God privately in your own home, but you are disobeying God and robbing yourself of manifold blessings if you refuse to assemble with the Lord's people in public worship. You cannot live as well outside the church with the Devil's crowd as you can inside the Lord's church with God's children. The excuses that most people come up with for not faithfully going to church are usually just a smokescreeen to hide their sin. There are a myriad of excuses for not going to church. Some people say the weather is too bad. Others say that Sunday is their only day to sleep in. Others say they are just too busy. For many people God's commandments are just not a priority. Many would rather pursue a course of worldly pleasure, self-fulfillment, and care-free living than discipline themselves to be faithful to God's house. I realize that there are times when people are going to be providentially hindered from going to church because of employment, distance, or sickness. I am speaking to those who can go to God's house, but don't. I would like to offer the following Scriptural reasons why people should faithfully go to church every time they are physically able.
If you are a child of God who has been born of the Spirit, washed in the blood of the Lamb, and are on your way to Heaven you ought to want to assemble with the Lord's people. God has made a miraculous difference in your life. II Corinthians 5:17 declares: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away all things are become new." When God saves a person He changes their attitudes and affections. Before I was saved I had little or no interest in the things of God, especially in going to church. However, once the Lord changed my heart I couldn't get enough of church. I started going to church every time the doors were open. I wanted to express my gratitude to God for saving me from a life of sin by worshipping and praising Him in the assembly of His saints.
I thank God for a pastor who faithfully taught me the importance of consistent church attendance early in my Christian life. By the grace of God, since I have been saved, I have only forsaken the Lord's house willfully only one time. I will never forget the conviction and feeling of regret that burdened my heart that one time. I was so tore up over my sin that I went to the throne of grace to ask for forgiveness and the grace never to forsake the Lord's house again. Dear reader, if you have been changed by the power of God in salvation you ought to want to be in church every available opportunity. Your pastor should not have to badger you to get you to come to church!
Hebrews 10:25 declares: "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." Faithful, consistent church attendance is required of God's people because God has commanded it. None of God's commands are to be taken lightly or to be considered as optional. God is our Master, our Owner, our Ruler, and as such we ought to respectfully obey His commandments. Ecclesiastes 12:13 declares: "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." I fear that many professing Christians obey and respect men more than they do the commands of God. How long would you last on your job if you came to work only when it was convenient or when you felt like it? You go to work faithfully because it is your responsibility to do so, not because you feel like going. In like manner you should go to church not because you feel like it, but because God has commanded it and you are responsible to obey Him!
Obedience to God's commands is a proof that you have truly been saved. I John 2:3-5 states: "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whosoever keepeth my word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him." I John 5:2-3 declares: "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous."
We prove our love for Jesus Christ through obedience to His holy commands. John 14:15 states: "If ye love me, keep my commandments." John 15:14 declares: "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." If you profess to be a follower, a friend, a lover of the Lord Jesus Christ , then you should strive to obey Him with every fiber of your being. If you can willfully and flagrantly forsake the house of the Lord without being convicted of sin and disobedience you have a serious spiritual problem. Jesus said: "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say" (Luke 6:46)? Dear reader, if you think I am being too harsh or judgmental, please understand that all I am doing is quoting Scripture and asking you to apply it to your life! "Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth" (Gal. 4:16)?
One of the choicest and grandest privileges of the Christian life is to publicly assemble with the saints in the Lord's church for the purpose of worship. What joy and gladness should flood our hearts each time we anticipate going to God's house to worship Him! The Psalmist declared: "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD" (Psa. 122:1). How refreshing it is to be able to cease from the rat race of the daily grind to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness in the presence of His saints. After dealing with the world all week, public worship serves to revive our spirits and encourage our hearts.
We are to faithfully go to church so that we can lift up our voices in praise and song to our gracious Creator and Redeemer! We ought to rejoice that we have the opportunity of hearing His Word faithfully declared and expounded by one of His servants! By publicly worshipping the Lord we are declaring our allegiance and loyalty to Almighty God. In worship we are expressing our love and gratitude to God for who He is and what He has done in our lives. When we engage in public worship we are manifesting to other believers as well as the lost world at large that our Lord is worthy of our highest praise and dedication. Our attitude toward public worship ought to be that of the Psalmist's when he said: "How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God...Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee...For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness" (Psa. 84:1-2; 4; 10).
During the earthly life of Jesus Christ, He faithfully attended the synagogue, which was the place of public worship for the Jews. They would gather to read the law, and have one of the teachers expound the truths of the Old Testament. Luke 4:16 states: "And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, AS HIS CUSTOM WAS, HE WENT INTO THE SYNAGOGUE ON THE SABBATH DAY, and stood up for to read." If it was customary for our Lord to be found engaging in public worship on the Sabbath day, then it ought to be customary for the elect to be found in church on the Lord's day. If we claim affinity with the Lord Jesus Christ we ought to take heed to the admonition of I Peter 2:21 which states: "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow in his steps." I John 2:6 declares: "He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." If the great Head and Lawgiver of the church faithfully assembled to engage in public worship, as His professed followers should we not heartily strive to follow His example?
The Holy Spirit has been pleased to appoint pastors to oversee and feed the churches of the Lord Jesus Christ. Every time the church meets for worship the pastor has the solemn responsibility of nourishing the saints of God with a substantial diet of the Word of God. God-called pastors go to great lengths to prepare messages from God's Word to edify the Lord's people. Much time is spent in earnest study, prayer, and meditation in the preparation of sermons.
Out of respect for God's Holy Word and His ministers, church members ought to anticipate with joy and faithfully attend each service of the church so that they may hear the wondrous truths of the Bible expounded. If every church member fed their bodies like they feed their souls I am afraid many would starve to death! The attitude of every church member ought to be like those in Acts 10:33 which states: "...Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God."
It is sad, but true, that in many churches across our land there is little reverence for the Holy Bible. Professing ministers handle it carelessly and spend much time joking and entertaining their hearers from the pulpit. This type of ministry seems to be popular among the masses. However, where a true servant of God is preaching the whole counsel of God, with sermons chocked full of the glory of Christ, earnest souls should attend each service with great delight. There will be little or no growth in the Christian life if a person fails to receive a steady diet of Scriptural preaching. I Peter 2:2-3 declares: "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious." If you have little or no desire for hearing God's Word faithfully proclaimed it may be that you are a hypocrite with an outward form of godliness, void of any inward power. John 8:47 declares: "He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God."
Not only is Christian growth a result of hearing the Word, your faith will also be nourished and strengthened through hearing God's Word. Romans 10:17 states: "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." The best place for any person, whether lost or saved, is to be consistently in attendance upon the preaching of God's Word.
As God's people come to hear the Word of the Lord, and be fed and nourished by it, they are to go forth applying and practicing the truth in their daily lives.If you do not faithfully attend church to hear God's message on a consistent basis it is highly unlikely that you will practice the principles of Christianity in your daily life. Hearing and doing God's Word are intricately liked together. James 1:21-22 states: Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." I have no doubt that the moral degeneracy and breakdown in our land is directly linked to the failure of people to attend church regularly to hear God's Word faithfully preached.
It is highly unlikely that a person will be built up in the most holy faith if they rarely attend church.The public worship of God in His house, and all that it entails is aimed at building up and maturing God's people. As we sing the great hymns of the faith our hearts should be rejoicing. As we lift up our hearts in united prayer and supplication we ought to anticipate God's blessing upon our congregations. As we fellowship with other believers around the things of God our souls should be encouraged to continue to fight the good fight of faith. Oh that God would give us the same desire as the Psalmist who wrote: "One thing have I desired 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."
The church is called "the pillar and ground of the truth" (I Tim. 3:15) because it supports and upholds the faith once delivered to the saints.It is the Divinely appointed place of instruction and edification for the saints of God. The church is like God's school where scholars come to learn their lessons which equip them for service. God's people are instructed and challenged from the Word of God through the preaching of the Word. A person who attends church haphazardly and irregularly cannot expect to grow up to be a mature Christian. The reason why many Christians are immature and easily deceived by error and false doctrine is because they don't attend church like they ought too. Ephesians 4:11-14 declares: "And he gave some apostles: and some, prophets; and some, evangelists, and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive."
Each time that we prepare our hearts for public worship and faithfully attend the house of the Lord we are providing a proper example to our children, other believers, and the lost world at large. Each time we engage in public worship we are declaring to everyone our allegiance and loyalty to the cause of Christ. Every time we willfully neglect the house of the Lord our actions show that we have little respect for God and His ways. I agree with Milburn Cockrell who wrote: "The indifference of church members to the institution that stands for Christ is the greatest hindrance to the progress of Christ's work. A person has no more interest in the souls of men and Jesus Christ than he has for Christ's church."
What kind of example are we setting for our lost relatives and neighbors when we fail to go to church consistently? Even lost people scoff at a man's religion that doesn't have enough power to take him to church! What do visitors think when they come into our churches on Wednesday nights and see the church house nearly empty? Do they see a church that is not seriously committed to God? What kind of example are we setting for our children when ball games, boating, fishing, and other pleasures take a precedence over the Lord's church? These are questions individuals ought to seriously consider the next time they contemplate willfully missing church for no good reason.
Our failure to attend church regularly will have a corrupting influence on others as II Chronicles 27:2 implies: "And he (Jotham, v. 1) did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Uzziah did: HOWBEIT HE ENTERED NOT INTO THE TEMPLE OF THE LORD. AND THE PEOPLE DID YET CORRUPTLY." Jotham's failure to publicly worship the Lord had a damning effect upon Ahaz his son of whom it is written: "For he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim. Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel." May God help us to remember that little eyes are watching the examples that we set for others!
Jesus Christ is the Head and Lawgiver of His churches, and as such He is in attendance every time the church assembles. He walks in the midst of His churches. He has deposited His glory in His church according to Ephesians 3:21 which states: "Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus through all ages, world without end. Amen." If Christ's glory and presence is found in His churches then should we not make every effort to be faithful to assemble in His name and enjoy His blessed fellowship? Matthew 18:20 declares: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Christ has promised to meet with His people when they assemble in His name and we should count that a most glorious privilege. I wonder what our dear Saviour thinks when people stay home to watch television rather than come to worship and fellowship with Him in His church?
People will go to great lengths to converse with and be in the presence of a famous person. Jesus Christ is the most important person in all the universe. He is spiritually present in all of His churches when they meet together for public worship. We ought to never willfully allow one opportunity of fellowship with Him pass by through neglecting God's house. Oh that God will change our attitudes so that we could say with the Psalmist: "LORD, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth" (Psa. 26:8).
1. Please receive this message as it was intended. My only desire is to edify God's people and prepare them for the Judgment Seat of Christ. As a preacher of the Gospel I must strive to glorify Him and obey the injunction of Jeremiah 26:2 which states: "Thus saith the LORD; Stand in the court of the LORD'S house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD'S house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; DIMINISH NOT A WORD."
2. If God has dealt with you and convicted you of willful neglect of His ways then please repent and seek to do God's will. Ask Him for grace to faithfully attend His church every time you are physically able. Carefully consider your ways and then solemnly vow to God that you will be faithful and consistent in church attendance. Then pay your vows to God by doing what you promised you would do. Psalms 22:25 declares: "My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him."
3. If you are unfaithful in church attendance and remain unconcerned and unchanged by this message please understand what you are saying by your actions. You are displaying ingratitude for what the Lord has done for you. You are showing a lack of interest in the great work of the church. You are being indifferent to your responsibility. Finally, you are manifesting an unwillingness fulfill your duty to stand by your church and your pastor. "Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things" (II Tim. 2:7).