Friday, October 30, 2015
Does going to church make you Christian?
If it is important for you to read up on what the Biebs said, well, here is the link: http://www.complex.com/music/justin-bieber-interview-2015-cover-story.
So what about the question of Bieber (and others)? “Does going to church make you Christian?” Since we are not given the privilege of looking into the heart and discerning the faith as only God can do, what are we left with? Words? Well, yes. Words count; your confession of faith counts. But even more than words count, worship does count. Jesus own example shows the importance of Temple and synagogue. As was His habit, He went to church. There is not much disagreement in this. And so did His disciples. In fact, it was universally regarded that failure to go to Temple and synagogue was in itself a sinful act, a repudiation of the third commandment. Luther certainly picked up on this by tying the failure and refusal to worship to the act of despising the Word of God. Not all that long ago it was expected that if you belonged, you went to church. Period.
Our Lord promised that where two or there were gathered in His name, there He was in their midst. He taught us to pray Our Father. These are both liturgical statements that bespeak liturgical acts of one within the community of those whose common confession and life flow through the means of grace. It was not controversial until more modern times. Now it is offensive to suggest that if you believe, you will be in church on Sunday morning (unless illness, work, or other major impediment prevent it).
Hebrews gives us a hint that although the expectation was always there in the beginning, Christians did need prompting less they neglect the meeting together (Christian assembly) as some are wont to do. The problem now is that most Christians who say they believe are wont to stay at home and worship privately (at least that is what they claim). Faith without works is dead said St. James and the commandments, the practice of Jews and Christians, and the theology of the New Testament presumes that the minimal work of faith is to get yourself to church on Sunday morning. Period.
Some do not like such blunt talk. I am sure our Lord can abide the fuzzy and casual way we practice faith and how we make the worship of the Lord's day in the Lord's House around the Word and Table of the Lord optional and non-essential to the faith we claim lives deep down in our hearts. You are not given the option to go to church when you want to or when you feel like it. Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. It is a command. Let me be even more blunt. It is a sin which must be confessed and repented of to miss worship. The repeated missing of worship is, as Luther suggests, a hint that the one who misses does not really believe what he claims and may actually despise the Lord and His Word.
Does going to church make you a Christian? Well, it may not make you a saint but it puts you where the Word and Spirit of the Lord are at work to make you Christian and keep you one. Going to church may not make you a saint but I would say that it is a pretty darn good indicator that you seek to be one (by God's grace and favor and not of works). The opposite could be said. Does not going to church make you Christian? Well, it is a pretty darn good indicator you are not one! And it is a good way to distance yourself both from the faith and the faithful. Moral of the story: Go to church! There is hardly a reason worth considering why you should miss the Lord's House on the Lord's Day and the gracious fellowship of the Lord's Word and Table.