Summary: In the first century, as in the Third World today, the basics of commitment to the Church were understood. God’s Word is clear on this.
BEING A FAITHFUL PART OF THE CHURCH
MARCH 9, 2008
Pastor Eric J. Hanson
Read I Peter 2:4-10
A GODLY ASSUMPTION
Did you know that the writers of the New Testament assumed that the people of the Lord in each city they wrote to, were faithful in being there when the church assembled each week? Did you know they also assumed the people were involved in little groups through the week? This faithfulness dynamic is clear from the way the epistles are written. An underlying given is this: If someone knows the Lord, they are functioning as part of the local Church.
There were many problems in the early Church. These are addressed in detail throughout the letters written to the Christian believers of those times. Absenteeism was not such a problem. There was some of it, but it was a small problem compared to others. The writer of Hebrews did address it within the larger context of encouraging each other. Listen to this.
Read Hebrew 10:23-25.
How can we encourage, teach, train, and receive, if we are not in regular, dependable attendance? Now listen to this!
Read I Corinthians 14: 26-33.
How can these wonderful things happen at full effectiveness if a large percentage of the disciples, the living stones, the members of the Body, are missing? Paul assumed that the whole Church was present at such times as described here!
SOLDIERS UNDER THE COMMAND OF A KING
Because the Kingdom of God is indeed a Kingdom, and Jesus is our King, therefore we are each soldiers in the Army of God. Listen to this!
Read II Corinthians 10:4: “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are divinely powerful, for the destruction of fortresses!”
That, dear friends, is soldier terminology! We joined God’s army the day each of us said “I choose to Follow Jesus Christ”. We came under the authority of a Lord, the Commander in Chief, on the day that we said “Lord Jesus come into my heart”.
As in Earthly armies, every single member of the Lord’s army is needed and has general training and responsibilities. We also each have a specialty or two that God has called us into. Like Earthly soldiers, it is foundationally critical that we be present whenever our unit, made up of those stationed at our base, is assembled.
During the Viet Nam war, one of my friends who was in the Army went A.W.O.L. That is to say that he was absent without leave. He simply went home to South Paris, Maine and hung out with his old friends, just as though he wasn’t in the United States Army. Do you know what happened? He was arrested and hauled over to the county jail. Then the military police came and picked him up. They took him back to his post, his fort, and he was put into the brig. The reason this happened to him is as follows: When he was inducted into the Army, he was no longer a private autonomous individual. He became a soldier under the command of the army.
In God’s army, the church, there are many today who are AWOL. There are many reasons why this is so. One is that some who get drawn toward faith in Jesus Christ, do not stop and think about the seriousness of becoming a Christian.
• It means that I now belong to Jesus Christ. He is the head, and I am part of his very body while still here on Earth! Therefore I am to be always tuned in to Him, and completely under His command.
• It means that one day, I shall be part of the Bride of Christ, and that God desires to sanctify me to that end!
• It means that I am a living stone being built together with the other living stones, held together by the mortar of strong and rigorous relationships within this living house of God.
Somehow first Century Christians did not find this to be hard to understand. Somehow, Third World Christians today also do not find this to be hard to understand. American Christians, particularly in the North East, are another matter. Our Culture tells us that we are consumers, and that church life is just a commodity to be partaken of when one feels like it. But for anyone who belongs to the Lord, that view is a lie.
PITFALLS OF FALLING OUT OF CHURCH LIFE
If I am not faithful in Church attendance, prioritizing it to the extent that I am consistent at it, I too am AWOL. No spiritual MPs are going to show up at the homes of those who are absentees. They won’t be carted off to some brig. Here is what does happen, however. Believers who are cut off from the ongoing life of the Body of Christ go into invisible jails, invisible brigs.