By Mathews George
MOST of us have a reasonably good job where we make reasonably good money. We are healthy and intelligent, we live in pretty homes and drive comfortable cars, occasionally we entertain ourselves with vacations and expensive toys, and we eat things we love to eat….. …pretty good life, isn’t it?
Adding God to this dimension is pretty demanding. The reason?
God requires time to be with, whether it’s time to pray or going to church…or attend Sunday school…or doing missions…He requires a word that is often used in marital relationships and the word is ‘commitment’.
So unintentionally and in some cases without us being of aware of what’s happening, God slips to be the last priority. We tell ourselves: ‘If everything else gets done, then I will be there…if all my other priorities…like children, business and home are done then I will give time to God.’
Welcome to the most dangerous time in our life! This is the time when we think we don’t need God. We may claim to know Him, we may still claim to love Him…..but, but we simply don’t have the commitment, God requires from us.
He becomes like that pet or plant we bought sometime ago. We nurtured it for so long that we know it’s still part of the family but we don’t bother to spend time with it.
A spirit of complacency develops without God. It knowingly creeps into every decision we make, every thought that proceeds from our mind.
What are you saying here, preacher? Isn’t it important to spend time with family, isn’t important to pursue my career and provide? Oh, yes they are important, but for a believer God and worshiping Him in a corporate environment becomes the most important part of his/her existence.
I would be the last person to argue that commitment to church attendance will be an index to judge our measure of love towards God. Nor am I arguing for a stale commitment to church attendance.
But I strongly believe that church becomes an indispensible aspect in creating the right environment for spiritual growth. It becomes the field in which God’s seeds are planted. It becomes the body in which healing is experienced and hearts are restored with the joy of God’s salvation.
Going to church is a visible, tangible expression of our love and devotion to God. It is where we can gather with other believers to publicly bear witness of our faith and trust in God, something that is required of all Christians.
There is a chilling reminder in Matthew 10:32-33 “whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my father in heaven.”
Many people who come to me say they don’t go to church but they sit at home and watch Joel Osteen. He, sure, can give you a ‘feel good factor’; a heartwarming audio visual display of affirmation and encouragement while we sip coffee on our beanbags. But faith becomes even so meaningful when its experienced in a corporate setting, because in our faith healing very seldom flows from a hi def TV set. It stems out from the interaction of people with people, from handshakes and hugs, from words of encouragement and high fives, from praise and worship, from testimonies and prayers and from exchange of peace and communion. That’s where we can bring Him offerings of praise, thanks, and honor which are pleasing to Him. The psalmist wrote, “I will declare your name to my brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise you” (Psalm 22:22).
Folks, Jesus is inviting us every day to such an understanding of his faith.
This is an invitation to the most important gathering in our life….much more important than anything that can keep you away from it.
God is inviting us to a life of abundance, a life of spiritual prosperity and communion.
While telling the parable of the great feast, Jesus said: “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
Jesus is reminding people about the eternal invitation that God lays down for each of us to fellowship with Him, to sit at His banquet and enjoy the joy of His hospitality…to be with other invitees at the banquet and exchange love.
Notice here all these people made excuses, all these excuses were genuine and sincere….work duties, family responsibilities, financial needs and other reasons.
I don’t really think that all these people who gave excuses had anything against the owner of the house, they might have known him, and they might have previously experienced the goodness of the meals he provided…because they were invited people, the first invitees, those who have already established a relationship with the master.
Nevertheless, at that point in their lives, when the invitation was made to them there were other things that dominated their life that gained priority over the banquet.
Notice the expression of the master when the servants came back without any success. “He became angry…go out and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame…bring all the people so that my house will be full.”
God graciously invites all to come to Him. The response may be in two ways: (1) Many are self-satisfied and preoccupied with their own lives and miss out on the invitation (2) Only those who are aware of their inadequacy will accept the invitation…the lame, the poor, the crippled and the blind.
Church, are we aware of our inadequacies? The best day in our life would be the day we surrender to Jesus and say… “I cannot handle my life with my own weakness”…and then if you listen carefully, you would hear your Master’s voice “My strength is made perfect in your weakness” and in your weakness you come to church – a source of empowerment. That is a promise our Lord gave – that His church would be a place that would “experience a special visitation of (His) presence.”
His word says “if two or three are gathered in my name…I will be there (not maybe or sometimes but will).
In my name, by implication, means whenever ‘Jesus’ is the object of gathered prayer, worship, praise, preaching, etc. Even though Jesus resides within the heart of every believer, He honors a gathering in His name by coming in the ‘midst’, with His power, awareness, and anointing.
In such a gathering, Christ is able to do things in hearts that He may not at any other time. The Scripture says that God inhabits the praise of His people (Psalm 22:3), and in such an atmosphere the Holy Spirit will often manifest spiritual gifts that minister to the body of Christ.
How about the fact that it provided fellowship? Gathering together also has compounded importance to the relationship of the Christian brethren. The Bible makes it clear that a right relationship with God requires a ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ alignment – that is, we must have a vertical fellowship with God and a horizontal fellowship with other believers. It is not possible to love God and refuse to love the brethren. If you have a problem loving other Christians, you have a problem in your relationship with God.
Scripture warns us that unforgiveness towards others will negate God’s forgiveness of our own sins (Matthew 6:15). “But if you do not forgive men their sins your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins”. John wrote, “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him” (1 John 2:9-10).
Here is one of crucial aspect of church. Gathering combines our spiritual strength in prayer. The Bible indicates that agreement in prayer with other believers gains favor with God. There is this verse in the Gospel of Matthew which normally goes unnoticed. It says “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven” (Matt. 18:19).
It is an assertive assurance given by Jesus about the power of corporate prayer. There is multiplied strength in the combined faith of God’s people, and it is clear that greater spiritual gains can be realized through corporate prayer and worship.
This agrees with how God has historically blessed the union of His people in battle against their enemies. “Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight; your enemies shall fall by the sword before you” (Lev. 26:8).
“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing! And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked (Revelation 3:15-17).
He says He will spit you out of his mouth for being lukewarm. Too many of us are neither hot nor cold. I encourage you today, my friend, to make a decision to go after God. Go after him with all your heart, mind, and strength. If you ride the fence, come to the banquet. Put on the robe of righteousness that is given to you freely. Enjoy the bounty of rich foods and great fellowship that is available at the wedding table. Be prepared to say ‘Yes Lord. I believed.’
Rev. Mathews George is a pastor at Tucker Street Church in Greater Memphis Area in the US. He has mentored many people around the United States and India. He believes that only in understanding and accepting Jesus into lives true healing takes place. He can be reached at his email ID: mathewsown [at] gmail [dot] com