When is it that the “real stuff” of the Christian life occurs?
By pastor Jimmy Buehler
Sunday morning. We wake up. We drive to the church building, shuffle in our children, sing, hear the Word, pray, and partake the Lord’s Supper. We go home and prepare for the week ahead; weeks filled with work, school, meal planning, practice, and other activities. Between these activities is where we practically apply what we have learned in corporate worship. In other words, it’s in these times when the “real stuff” of the Christian life occurs, right?
Sadly, this is probably at the forefront of many believer’s minds as they think about the Christian life and faith. Meaning, their Sunday morning worship is only as good as their individual and personal faith and practice throughout the week prior (or after). But as you read through the New Testament letters to various churches, you see that the Apostles emphasize corporate realities over and above individual realities time and time again. In the New Testament alone there are nearly 60 “one another” commands ranging from “love one another” (John 13:13; this command occurs at least 13 times) to “do not lie to one another” (Colossians 3:9). In our ruggedly individualized culture, we have been trained to believe that the “real stuff” of the Christian life occurs in our private prayer closet, rather than in participating in the greater life of the church. This isn’t to say that there are no personal aspects to our faith, but it certainly was never meant to be at the expense of the church.
Hebrews 10:25 is one of the most clear and explicit commands for Christians to go to worship. Within its greater context, the writer of the Hebrews is encouraging the church to persevere in the faith. Regardless of who you are, this is true of you: you are weak when alone. Satan knows it. You know it. The Bible knows it. This is why God has given us means that come to us in corporate worship. The preaching of God’s Word that brings forth Jesus Christ to our weary and sinful hearts through the lips of a preacher. Baptism that washes us with water and is a sign of our union with Christ. The Lord’s Table as a meal of covenant renewal and that is used by God to strengthen our faith and confirm His promises to us. What is more “real” than the gospel being preached and made visible in these sacraments? Corporate worship is not when we bring our individual sacrifices of private worship throughout the week to the table, but rather a celebration of Christ’s sacrifice and provision of a faith-bolstering feast.
The “real stuff” of the Christian life is found in participating in the corporate worship and life of the church. This means that our individual practices of private worship have a greater end in mind: to benefit our brothers and sisters in Christ. So this week as you ready yourself on Sunday morning to attend worship with God’s people, remember this glorious truth: what you are about to do is very real. God has gifted you a church family to belong to, and a place to hear about His grace and forgiveness in the gospel. These realities are the “real stuff” of the Christian life.