The wisdom of “going to church” is obvious to any who give some godly thought to the idea. “Going to church” is an occasion of gathering with the saints for the purpose of glorifying God and, to a lesser degree, encouraging the saints. Others “go to church” because it is part of their weekly routine and, as we know, routines are comfortable. While that idea may not be ideal, it is not necessarily a bad reason to “go to church;” it would be better, however, for one to adopt a reason that has something more spiritually substantive than physical routine. For many people, “going to church” is an occasion to get another off one’s back—which is a terrible reason to go! Those interested in God will never give thought of “going to church” for less than the proper reason of loving the Lord.
Those who love the Lord “go to church,” not because they have to, but because there is a desire to do so. “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NKJV). Sometimes this important (all-important) reason is forgotten.
In the above passage is a word that is often abused or misunderstood; that word is “forsake.” We are told, by some, that if someone misses “church,” then that one is forsaking of the assembly—and that is sinful. Consider a scenario: You are on your way to Wednesday Bible study; you get a call from someone in a tight spot. They are really asking for help because they don’t know what to do. You answer that call, and then tend to their need, and miss Bible study by doing so. Have you sinned? Some will assert that you have. Unfortunately, some of those who so think lack spiritual discernment. Is there forsaking in this? Hardly! The meaning of the word forsake means to abandon (as any quality English Dictionary will so attest). In fact, the NET translates the first portion of the verse this way: “… not abandoning our own meetings…”
Lest we misunderstand, it is certainly possible to sin by missing the assembling together with the saints, but that has everything to do with the heart’s desire, which precipitates physical actions. Thus, in our scenario, as one prepares for Bible study, but gets a call to respond to that human need, then the answer is an obvious NO, there is no sin involved.
This brings us to an application that fits each of us. The Lord does not need anything from us, but He wants everything that belongs to us. If He has our heart, then we will do whatever it is that He says He wants done, and we will do so out of love for Jesus. Jesus said to His disciples, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10). “Going to church” falls within this sentiment. If we would pattern our lives after the pattern of Jesus, then what the Holy Spirit said in Hebrews 10 will be no burden at all, but a desire.
Why do you not attend? Is it because you really don’t love the Lord like you want others to think that you do? If you can attend and don’t, then your words are not heard. If you can’t attend and desire to do so, the Lord knows why. The challenge to each of us is for each to seek to please the Lord and not man, including oneself. RT