100 Answers in 100 Days

More questions answered on this blog:

Sharing answers to the various questions of faith I have faced, and which others have been challenged with also.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

#46: Do I need to go to Church to be a Christian?

It's of utmost importance to recognize that salvation is not achieved through the merit of what we do. Salvation is a free gift from God to us, received by faith. Going to Church doesn't merit salvation. A person living in a remote area where there are no Churches can still be saved. However, we do need to ask ourselves how a saved person ought to live their lives. Jesus said “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) The Christian life is one of obedience and service to Christ.

It's unfortunate, but we do find a certain attitude amongst Christians of almost trying to find the minimum possible commitment to Christ. To say “I don't have to go to Church to be a Christian” may be true, but we must examine the motive for making this assertion. If we are looking for as many Christian activities we can get out of because being involved in Christian activities is socially unacceptable or embarrassing, then we ought to seriously examine ourselves. This same principle goes for any Christian activity which we are ashamed of. Jesus said:

For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. (Mark 8:38)

We are to be a light to the world – to demonstrate the gospel and the love of Christ in the way that we live. Whenever we are identified as a Christian, people are faced with the reality of Christianity – they begin  to consider what the Christian life is really all about. And when, for example, we give up our Sundays to attend Church, the world considers that there must be something in it that we find worthy of such a sacrifice.

Jesus also said:
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)

People really need to see our love for one another. And of course it ought to be genuine Christian love which comes from a supernaturally transformed heart. If your reason for not attending Church is because you really can't stand the people there, this is again time for some serious self examination. Paul said, “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2). How are we to bear one another's burdens if we don't associate with other Christians? This “law of Christ”, which is to have love for one another, requires us to associate with other Christians. The world needs to see Christians as a community of people who enjoy associating with each other for fellowship. And of course, friendships which develop at Sunday service will carry on throughout the week.

Associating with fellow Christians is actually very important for various reasons. “No man is an island”, and one reason we need each other is for encouragement. One of the best ways we receive encouragement is simply through hearing about the experiences of others; how they've been blessed as well as how they've struggled, and how they've overcome their struggles through faith. One thing that I would love to see in my Church would be regular opportunities for people to share their testimonies of what God has been doing in their lives. In this day and age, a lot of Christians feel that it's sufficient to download sermons from the Internet, buy worship music off iTunes, and talk to other Christians on Facebook. But let's think about this... if I tell you some testimony from my life here in this blog, it is nothing by comparison than when I am able to tell it to you face to face, where can ask me “How did you feel at that moment?”, and I can tell you exactly how I felt and what was going through my mind. Or maybe I'll tell you some amazing story that really blows you away, and you will think “Well, that's him... he must be a 'super-Christian!' That would never happen in my life.” But to hear amazing stories from your peers is valuable; people you know well, and whose strengths and weaknesses you know. Because if your peers can live by faith, then so can you. You won't find that kind of encouragement outside of face to face Church fellowship.

There is perhaps one last point we could make to encourage Church attendance, and that is to consider the Lord's Supper. The Lord's Supper is a memorial of Christ's work on the cross, and it is a public confession of our faith where we all stand together as one, and show our participation as a declaration of our faith. But another of the things it signifies is the fellowship of Christians with one another. Paul says “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). The Bible has a lot to say about the unity of believers as one “body”. It refers to the Church as the “body of Christ”. That is, since Jesus Himself is not physically on the Earth, the Church are His hands, and His voice, and His listening ear; to do the work of Christ on the Earth. Just as the Lord's Supper teaches us about the saving work of Christ, it also teaches us that we are to be “one body”.

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:26-27)

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