Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Monday, September 27, 2010

An Open Letter to the Church

Church attendance is down in many Christian churches. There are a number of reasons for this, but I blieve the main reason lies in the hearts of individual believers.  People are simply putting other things before their commitment to serve God.   I think it is important to address this, because I believe that church attendance is key to maintaining our salvation.

So I want to offer the following Bible study as a way to encourage you to attend church. Your attendance shouldn’t be to please me, but because you have identified yourself with Jesus.

Hebrews 10:23-25
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,25 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.

I want to take this passage of scripture and break it down so we can get at what the scripture is speaking to us.

Hebrews 10:23
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Let us hold fast to our confession of hope. As Christians we have hope in Jesus. Jesus has promised us eternal life. He has promised us heaven. The wonderful thing about this is that heaven is promised to us, not because of what we have done but because of what Jesus has done. In Buddhism, there is the idea of Karma: That your karma affects what happens to you after you die. Karma says that how we live in this lifetime will affect where we go as we wait to be reincarnated. Karma tells us which level of hell we are assigned to and the life we will have when we are reincarnated. It is all based on how we live. But you and I know that we have all done things that are wrong. We have all damaged other people and we have all violated guidelines for righteousness. So if it is up to us we can never achieve heaven. The Buddha cannot change our Karma; he can be no help to us as we go through our lives. It is dependent on us. There is no hope in that. The bible tells us that we all fall short. It tells us that there are none righteous. That includes me and it includes you. So in that belief system we will be doomed to repeat life over and over with no hope of entering heaven. But in Jesus we can have hope because he has died for us. In a way he has changed our karma. Heaven isn’t dependent on us, it’s dependent only on what Jesus has done and us confessing faith in him and repenting.

If we’re Christians we believe that Jesus paid a price for our sin. We need to hold fast to that confession of faith, because it is the basis by which we will be judged. That phrase “hold fast’” means to grab a hold of it and not let go. How do we do that. We can hold fast by doing things that will increase our faith in Jesus. Or doing things that build faith.

1. Prayer. Prayer strengthens our relationship with Jesus. Think of it like this: If you have a friendship with someone but you never speak to that person or spend time with them what happens to the relationship. It will begin to break down, because there is nothing to strengthen that relationship.

2. Read your Bible. As you read the Bible you see the faithfulness of God demonstrated over and over. You can see the prophecies that have been fulfilled. When Jesus was born that was the fulfillment of more than 300 prophecies. As you see his faithfulness and the truth of prophecy you can realize that you can believe God. God never changes he is just as faithful today as he was in Biblical times.

3. Go to church. The Bible in Romans 10:17 tells us that, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” Hearing the word of God strengthens faith.

These things will help us to hold fast to that confession of Faith.

Let’s now examine verse 24 of our text:

Hebrews 10:24
24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,

This verse speaks of being an example. We are to consider each other in an attempt to stir up love and good works. Let’s face a fact here, people are watching our lives. What do other people see when they watch your life? Is what your doing stirring up love and good works? Is your life an encouragement to others to do the will of God?

This is the real issue. We are not alone in our salvation. There are other people involved in our destiny and the will of God for our lives. We look at other Christians to understand how to live and to act as a Christian and other people look at our lives. Someone else fulfilling his or her destiny in Jesus may be dependent on our example. All of us are examples to someone else. We are definitely an example to other people in the church, but beyond that friends and families gain their understanding of Christianity from watching us. Does your example demonstrate the importance of living out the will of God? Can someone who isn’t saved look at your life and see how important Jesus and your salvation are to you? Do they see you talking about Jesus, maybe even confronting them about Jesus, but don’t see you placing any importance on being in church? Because believe me they are forming their opinion about Jesus from watching how you live.

In the last verse of our text we read this:

Hebrews 10:25
25 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.

This verse simply tells us that we should attend church. Through our attendance we are exhorting (encouraging) one another. We build our faith and we help to build someone else’s by church attendance. This is vital if we want to have the faith to endure until the end. I’ve been preaching a number of sermons, recently, on faithfulness. Faithfulness is a sign of our faith. But if we’re not there to hear them how can we be stirred up to love, good works and faith.

Finally, we must understand the purpose of the church. The purpose of the church is to reach the lost for Jesus. In a number of cases that means friends, families and coworkers. Our goal is to reach them as well as neighbors. We are placed in this place to reach people in Taoyuan City. That’s what this church is placed in this city to do. But we lose momentum when people don’t faithfully attend church.

When we don’t attend church:

1. We send a message to our friends and families that church isn’t really important to us. We are telling them that church is just a place where people gather, like a social club, but that there is no power to change lives there.

2. The Bible establishes that God has chosen the foolishness of the message preached to save those that believe (1 Corinthians 1:21). If we don’t attend church we miss God’s chosen method of salvation and change.

3. When we don’t attend and someone we have invited does, then the only connection that they have to the church is missing. They have come because of the relationship they have with you. They are likely to not come back because you have let them down.

Assembling ourselves together builds bonds between us: Bonds that will help us to weather the attacks of the enemy. It is important to us to come together as a fellowship of believers:

1. To build up each other’s faith.

2. To strengthen our own faith.

3. To develop relationships that will help us to reach our own personal destiny in the will of God.

4. To hear the word of God preached, God’s method of change and salvation for us.

An excellent question to ask yourself is this, “Is my salvation important to me, or are there other things that I have placed before my relationship with Jesus?”

The rich young ruler asked Jesus what must I do to inherit eternal life? The question is what thing shall I do to go to heaven. Jesus answers him in an interesting way. He begins to list off commandments: Specifically, the commandments that deal with our relationships with other people. And the ruler tells him, “Cool, I’ve done these things since my youth.” Then Jesus tightens up a little bit, he says, “There’s one thing you need to do still, sell everything you own, give it to the poor, take up your cross and follow me.” Jesus isn’t saying that you have to be poor to be saved. But what he’s doing is focusing on the issue in this man’s life; his possessions. He’s saying if you value something more than your relationship with Jesus, you can’t inherit eternal life. He says that in another way in the Luke 14:

Luke 14:26-27
26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.27 “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

That word hate doesn’t mean what we take it to mean in our generation. It only means to love less. So what Jesus is saying is that we can’t be his disciple if there is something we put before Jesus. Jesus wants to be first in our lives. If we are going to call him Lord, we need to treat him like he’s our Lord.

This letter is intended to encourage you and exhort you to be an active part of the church. It is not intended to condemn anyone. I want to see you get the most from your relationship with God and I’m concerned that some of you are putting other things before your relationships with Jesus. I understand about work commitments and I understand about family commitments. But I really want you to focus on what is keeping you from church.

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