“The loss of health by neglect of rest, and the loss of soul by neglect of hearing the gospel, soon turn all seeming profit into real loss.” – C.H. Spurgeon
I remember quite well sitting in those same blue-clothed pews when I was Carson’s age, playing with the same transformers and drawing the same, strange cartoon characters week after week on the offering envelopes (yep, that was me), doing my best to talk to my friends quietly enough that we wouldn’t get caught, and just loud enough to make a joke that would make them laugh.
Fast-forward 10 years, and not much changed. Take the transformers out of my hands and replace them with a cell phone that I could text with, and you still had an immature believer chomping at the bit to leave the worship service to play video games and eat lunch. My there-ness at church didn’t mean I was actually there. Okay, yeah, my parents could check “present” in my imaginary attendance box, but my heart was far from worship. Not even in the same zip code.
As I reflect on all the times God graciously dealt with me despite my total disregard of His place in the universe and history, starting way back when I was Carson’s age and bleeding even into now from time to time, I have to ask myself, how do I change? How do I listen with better focus, a sense of urgency, and a readiness to learn, while making the most of the 3-ish hours I have with the my brothers and sisters every Sunday?
The truth is this: Anything not done in faith is sin (Rom. 14:23; Heb. 11:6). That’s astounding to me. God values His own glory so deeply that any time we act on our own volition, a moment when we say, “see, over there, I did that!” God says: “Transgression. Condemned. Evil.” Every moment we sit in the pews without regard for God and the Gospel — every note we sing during worship that isn’t done and driven by the Holy Spirit is offensive to God and is coming between us having a close relationship with Him (Rom. 8:6-8).
Ever since the human race was cut off from the life of God in the Garden of Eden, humanity has made pretty clear just where they stand in relationship to their Creator: they don’t have one. They are enemies, and they hate any attention, affection, and glory given to anyone else other than themselves. The same nature that led Cain to murder his brother, or led the men of Sodom to do unspeakable things leading to their destruction by fire from God, or led Israel to participate in the sacrifice of their children — that same nature lives in you and I. As John Newton said, “The seeds of every sin reside in every human heart.” If you really want to know the stuff you are made of, read Romans 1 to the end of the chapter.
This is why the Gospel is so near and dear to us, and why we preach it unapologetically: we need it for every moment and situation, and unless it affects our efforts we’ll all be individual Dead Work Factories! We need the Gospel to worship, pray, and learn God’s Word in a way that pleases God. Christ lived perfectly for you, took the wrath of God for you, and conquered your sin nature for you so you might be fruitful in every good work (Col. 1:10).
If we aren’t in the right frame of mind and aren’t allowing the Gospel to shape our church attendance, even when we are doing a good thing like going to church, we could actually be stunting our Christian growth. That absolutely doesn’t means you don’t go because you may not be walking with the Lord well next Sunday, quite the opposite…we are commanded to meet together in order to be around other believers to point us to Christ through Word and activity (Heb. 10:24-25). However, the daily Christian life looks a lot like this:
2) we’re immediately confronted with our sin nature (1 John 1:8),
3) we repent to God for where we have fallen short (1 John 1:9),
4) and we walk by faith in our new nature, which is the power of Christ’s resurrection life in us to meet God’s perfect, righteous standards in whatever we’re doing (Rom. 6:8-11).
Colossians 3 puts it this way,
“5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices…”
First, recognize your “you-ness.” For believers, this sin nature has been positionally crucified and condemned at the cross already (Gal. 2:20). God, because He is timeless, sees this as a done deal. For us, the act of “putting your sin to death” is way less mystical than it sounds — God says your sin nature was put to death, and Christ claimed victory over it at the cross, so agree with Him!
And finally, after the negative, Colossians gives us the positive aspect to the Christian life. Unregenerate, unsaved people don’t have this new nature:
10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
This is Christ in you, your new nature, if you are a child of God. You now have two natures, two potential sources from which all actions flow: one leading to sin and death, the other to life and peace, warring against each other at the same time (Gal. 5:16-17). We are commanded here to “put on” our new nature like clothes.
The Lord’s Day is our one opportunity during the week to pray, worship, and sit under the teaching of God’s Word together. It’s an opportunity to walk by faith in the Gospel in order to hear the Gospel. Sounds funny doesn’t it? But thats how unbelievably needy we are. Christ has to do that work for us too.
Let’s be sure to come humbly and prayerfully, realizing our absolute inability to do anything pleasing to God on our own, and in full recognition that all we have is Christ — with our hearts set on walking moment by moment with Him. Let’s trust the Holy Spirit to reveal to us His desires for every situation we find ourselves in on Sunday morning. Let’s come with a sense of urgency, knowing that our personal growth and maturity is necessary for the growth of everyone, since none of us are in a vacuum (Eph. 4:10-16), and that we’ll have to bring God’s Word to bear on our own personal suffering at some point in the near future.
Let’s expect to be encouraged and encourage others toward good works, and be ready to use our spiritual gifts to serve one another.