Church is Worth the Effort?
For forty years I have gone to church more Sundays than not. That’s a lot of hours spent sitting, and not always on comfortable chairs. Over the course of 40 years, my feelings about church have ranged from “hate it” to “tolerate it” to “wouldn’t want to be anywhere else” and everywhere in between.
There are a lot of reasons not to spend Sunday morning in church. It’s summer in the beautiful Pacific Northwest right now. Activity and sunshine abound. And Sunday mornings can be a struggle just to get a family of five up and out the door, much less in a state ready to worship. And going to church makes our family stick out like a sore thumb among our neighbors. So why make the effort to show up?
Having weathered the “hate it” and “tolerate it” years, I am currently in the “wouldn’t be anywhere else” years. There were many weeks when I wanted to choose a different activity or a different church. Yet Sunday by Sunday, I kept showing up because even when I didn’t want to, I was convinced that Scripture says it’s important and even necessary.
There are a lot of bad reasons to go to church. To look good to others, to try to win favor with God, to make yourself feel more righteous, or out of a legalistic attitude. Only Jesus can win us favor with God and make us righteous. It is because of Jesus’ sacrificial love for us that we can value and appreciate our church body.
So, if we don’t go to church for the reasons above, why do we go? In Hebrews 10:25 the author makes a case for his exhortation to the church to “not neglect meeting together, as is the habit of some…” Is this a legalistic command? Or is it intended to instruct us as to how we can walk side by side with Jesus in this earthly life? Hebrews 10:19-25 answers these questions and shows us why we make the effort.
Drawing Near (Hebrews 10:22)
The book of Hebrews makes the case that Jesus is better. My pastor recently preached a sermon series on this. Here in Hebrews 10 we see that Jesus is a better sacrifice. With his once for all sacrifice for sins upon the cross, he made a way for anyone who will to enter the presence of God freely. We can “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 10:22). Jesus’ blood has cleansed us from the guilt and shame of sin. Therefore, we can worship him openly, fully, without reserve.
This is what we should be doing on Sunday mornings. We can gather at our various churches ready to draw near to God together. Because of course, we can be near to God at any time in any setting. But church is God’s design for us to come together and worship corporately. Some would argue that they best worship God in other ways and in other places. But we cannot deny that God intends for us to regularly worship him gathered together with other believers in the context that Scripture calls the church.
Holding Fast (Hebrews 10:23)
If Jesus is indeed this better sacrifice, then our churches should be a place where we hear truth proclaimed. The songs sung, the prayers prayed, the sermons preached – they should all remind us of what the Bible says. We so easily forget. We need to be reminded.
The Christian life is all about “holding fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” We need to cling to the truth of who Jesus is and what he has done. For if we start to let go, we waver. We need to be reminded that life with Jesus is so much better.
Holding fast to truth is really hard when we are isolated. We will find it so much easier if we have close relationships with others who love Jesus. We need others to remind us of God’s goodness and faithfulness. These relationships are designed to be cultivated at church. God’s design for church is intended to help us not to confine us.
Encouraging One Another (Hebrews 10:25)
When we gather together in a church setting, we are living out our confidence in Jesus' better sacrifice. In unity, we "enter the holy places" as a church body. And in this way we encourage one another to persevere.
But when we neglect meeting together, we become lone rangers. And lone rangering is hard! We need each another. We need to be cheered on by those who remind us that Jesus is, without a doubt, better.
Church isn’t meant to be a drag and a bore. It is meant to be a gathering of like-minded people who want to know, love and serve God. Church is meant to encourage us. And it is meant to make the Christian life easier. Take comfort in God’s good design and don’t “neglect to meet together.” It is well worth the effort to show up!