Probably the majority of those who read this article go to “church” on a weekly basis. In some fellowships, a bulletin guides the participant through a ritualistic experience of worship. Still others receive a mini-newspaper of current and future events that are offered to the constituency. There may even be sermon outlines so one can follow the message and write notes on its content. To leave the building uninformed would be the fault of the recipient. In some assemblies, there is no organized ritual, just a free flow of energy culminated by a feeling of fulfillment. What it comes down to is different strokes for different folks. Whatever brings us into a true and appreciative experience with our Heavenly Father is what really matters.
The real issue is not the type of worship we follow, but how does the message we hear affect us? Are we hearing what God is saying through His messenger, or are we just chair warmers fulfilling our obligatory attendance? Every Pastor knows that the success of the message is weighed by the actions of the hearers. To simply hear the sermon, congratulate the Pastor on a fine message, and leave with no intent to put action into what we heard is blatant hypocrisy.
For thousands of years the Word has gone out, and countless generations have failed to implement what they have heard. In Ezekiel 33:31, the prophet illuminates a hidden problem that has continually crept through the centuries of proclaimed Believers. Through prophetic utterance, Ezekiel expresses that God’s people came to hear the Word, but did nothing with what they heard. The people regularly attended worship, but their listening was laced with indifference. They professed love for one another, but their heart was centered on themselves.
Why is it so easy to accept the lies of the Devil and so hard to implement God’s Truth? Why does the visible tend to overshadow our Faith? Why do people fail to act on His Word? Why do circumstances trump our Faith? Why do we doubt God’s ability to fulfill His Word? What is the basis for our failure to act on His Word? There seems to be immunity to His Word. WHY?
Jesus gave a teaching that all three synoptic writers each recorded to emphasize His teaching to the Jews, Romans, and Greeks. Jesus simply said that you could not sew a piece of new material on an older garment or put new wine into old containers. The results would cause a failure to fulfill their intent. (Matt. 9, Mark 2, Luke 5) It is the same principle when it comes to Christians who try to fit the “new life” into their old ways. It just doesn’t work. We punch our Sunday morning time card and, when the service is over, we smile and walk away feeling we have fulfilled our weekly commitment. The message’s effectiveness is judged by the action of the hearer. When the message has no room in our lives, we convert the worship experience into a horizontal fellowship hour.
Many Christians are convinced that the way to eternal life is simply believing in the finished work of Jesus on Calvary, and that the evidence of that belief is their weekly attendance at a church of their choosing. Is that what the Scripture teaches?
The Apostle Paul understood what following Jesus was all about, “…I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) There is no room for self in a Christ centered life. To read the Word, hear the Word, live the Word, and share the Word, should be the desire of every Believer. There is no flexibility in a Christ centered life. The next time we hear the proclaimed Word, let us open our hearts and prepare to put works with our Faith.