“Skipping Church” and the Path to Destruction.
Recently, at my church, we had a sermon by Rev. Wielenga entitled ENTER THROUGH THE NARROW GATE. This sermon was on Matthew 7:13-14. Often, during a sermon, the pastor will give an exhortation to the congregation based on what they have heard. Not only do we need to hear the message, but we need to be encouraged to act after God’s Word has been proclaimed. When we hear what the Lord demands of us, we will be held accountable if we do not obey. So during this sermon on Sunday morning, Rev. Wielenga gave his exhortation to enter through the narrow gate and walk on the narrow road, taking careful steps on this road that leads to life rather than taking the wide path that leads to destruction.
Ultimately, Matthew 7:13–27 reveals that there are only two options. We will either follow Christ in everything or we will go down the path of destruction. There is no salvation outside of Jesus, who is the narrow gate, and there is no such thing as half-hearted commitment to Jesus; You can’t just stick one leg through gate and keep the other one on the wide road. If we are not fully on the narrow road of discipleship, then we are on the wide road to eternal damnation. God hates Luke warm Christianity, God has promised to spew the lukewarm out of his mouth!
So practically speaking… Later, on that same Sunday in the afternoon as the worship service began, the church was half empty. I was taken aback. Hadn’t we all just heard a sermon and been given an exhortation only a few hours prior regarding the narrow and wide paths? About taking careful steps? I heard the sermon. I know that all my brothers and sisters heard it as well. And I know that not all of them got sick in the few hours in between services. So where were they? Watching TV? On Facebook? At a friend’s house? Watching a football game?
Maybe they had enough of Rev. Wielenga’s quiet, calm demeanor when preaching, he is not the most animated, and prefers a logical well thought out preaching style. Perhaps people stayed away for that reason? Is that a good reason? Can we stay home because we prefer a different preaching style? Would they have gone if someone else was preaching? So, if that is the case…that we would go to hear one man preach and not another…that is putting a man above God’s Word! That is elevating messenger above the message! And that is…well that is idolatry!
I know what it is to be on the wide road…I made the choices to neglect church attendance. So you can try to pull the wool over my eyes – but it won’t work, I have been there and I was the king of excuses. Any excuse would do, be it: I am tired, or family is coming over, I am going to my mom’s in White Rock, I am going camping or on vacation, or a big sports game was on, or the baby needs to sleep…the fact of the matter is that I DID NOT WANT TO BE THERE. Period. I was on the road to destruction. I would rather watch TV than go to church. Let’s read Hebrew’s 10:23 – 27
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
That is some pretty serious stuff. This is God talking to you and me. Not the unbeliever. The unbeliever has not yet professed his faith. This is God talking to those who profess to believe! “If we deliberately keep on sinning” is immediately preceeded by do not give up meeting together. If we neglect meeting together as a body of Christ we are deliberately sinning.We have choice. And the choice is the narrow or wide road. Spur each other on in good deeds, not giving up meeting together…I can see how that can be translated as “stay home and watch TV.” Not.
I believed that God had chosen me, but I was walking on the wrong road. Something was not right with that picture. I had a choice to make. I was on the wide path; it included lots of pleasures, sins, and choices I made in the name of “Christian Freedom.” For me skipping church was one of the symptoms of a much larger problem. That problem was unbelief. Unbelief in the promises of God. If you are prone to skipping church, please take a moment to see where your priorities are. Look at the path you are on. And if it is the case for you, that you missed the narrow gate and are on the wide path please stop deceiving yourself. You can get off the wide road at any time the narrow gate is hard to find, but when you find it you can’t miss it.
So skipping the worship service aside, what else in your life should be left on wide path? For me it included giving up smoking. It included cutting way back on the amount of alcohol I consumed. I included making cleaner choices to what I was viewing on TV. It meant giving up my video game addiction. It meant giving up the immoral things I looked at online. It included making a resolution to be a better husband and father. It included a resolve to be more consistent in my tithing. But most importantly it included devoting myself to a life of discipleship. He fundamentally changed my mind and my heart as I dove into the great truths of the Bible. The love of Jesus permeated my life and I slowly became more involved in Church, he awakened in me a love for the lost and the poor, He awakened in me a love for my brothers and sisters – which is the reason I write this today.
I am not saying life is any easier now, discipleship is not easy. It is hard. Yes grace and salvation are free, but once we profess our faith we are called not to a life of comfort and prosperity. We are called not to a life of doing what we want in our Christian freedom. No we are called to suffer for Him. That includes being stretched out of our comfort zones by standing up for what is right, it includes sharing our faith, it includes reaching out to the needy, it includes joining together as the body of Christ in our congregation whenever the elders call us to worship. That means for those in my church – twice each Sunday. It includes being persecuted, being made fun of, and slandered for the sake of Christ. The Christian life is hard! Discipleship is hard. And God blessed me with suffering for His name. Yes my suffering is a blessing. With that suffering also came and joy and peace.
Christ’s way is narrow and we shouldn’t dare to think otherwise. If you profess to believe then live like you do! I am not saying be legalistic, I am just saying that following Jesus means that we abandon our agenda for His. Following Jesus means a new orientation in life, away from self and to him and others. And what better way to express this new orientation than in corporate worship twice each Sunday?
I hope to see you at Church on Sunday.