“Hypocrites in the Church? Yes, and in the lodge and at the home. Don’t hunt through the Church for a hypocrite. Go home and look in the mirror. Hypocrites? Yes. See that you make the number one less.” – Billy Sunday
Why do people go to church anyway?
Church not your thing? Tell me your story.
“I tried that church thing. Bunch of hypocrites mixed in with losers and assorted other misfits who can‘t (or won‘t) have any real fun. Who needs the drama? Bible thumpers really annoy me anyway. So called sinners are more fun. I‘m basically a happy person. I guess I believe in a higher power; the man upstairs. Just not sure what or who that is. I‘ll live my life the way I like and do good things whenever I can.”
Fine. I hear you. A happy agnostic.
Now, let‘s turn our attention to all you faithful Sunday-go-to-meeting folks. What compels you to return week after week to the place where the faithful gather for worship?
- Etc., etc.
How many church services have you attended over the years? Ever wondered, “What am I doing here?” Week after week you respectfully go through the motions prescribed by your religion. To what end? Just to feel better?
And what is religion anyway?
- Is it just a set of dogmas which help you to understand the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe?
- Is it just something that you follow with blind ritualistic devotion?
- Is it a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs? (And if so, does that make church an assembly of persons who share a common adherence to a particular set of doctrines and practices which govern their lives on earth?)
And what is life anyway?
- Is it just living out our allocated time and then disappearing in death?
- Is it just learning to subsist while we pass these earthly years?
- Is it just chasing after the elusive brass rings of happiness and fulfillment while simultaneously dodging as much pain and sorrow as possible?
And what is truth anyway?
- Is it just living in harmony with fact or conviction?
- Is it subjective or objective; relative or absolute?
- Is it just the product of a cultural consensus?
Wait, I hear the voice of the confused and the misinformed,
“Religion is about the higher power. Something is out there and I believe in it, you know. I‘m good with that. And life is, you know, being alive and living like a good person should. Now Truth, that‘s whatever works for you, man. My truth can be totally different from your truth but they are still both truths, you know? Anyway, who cares about all this stuff?”
I care. And, I suspect that I am not alone. For most people, knowing the truth is very important. No sane person would deliberately believe in a lie.
“I hate how hard spiritual transformation is and I hate how long it takes. I hate thinking about how many people have gone to church for decades and remain joyless or judgmental or bitter or superior.” – John Ortberg
Have you heard of Pontius Pilate? He was in charge of the Roman province of Judaea from 26-36 AD. He is best remembered for his role in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.
33 Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him. 34 Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?” 35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” 37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” 38“What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime. (John 18:30-38)
At first, Pilate finds no reason why Jesus should be sentenced to death. He even tried to persuade the crowd to let him go. However, being a quintessential politician; he soon caves to the madness of an unruly special interest group (the angry mob). But, not before attempting to avoid personal responsibility for the death of Jesus by ceremonially washing his hands of the whole matter.
Let‘s not miss the significant statements Jesus made regarding the truth when he was being interrogated by Pilate. He said,
- I came into the world to testify to the truth
- All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true
Pilate‘s well-known response to Jesus still reverberates in the hearts of mankind to this day. He said, “What is Truth?”
When it comes to that question, you may be more like Pontius Pilate than you care to admit. You see, a genuine Christian will accept something as truth only if it is consistent with the thoughts and ways of the architect of all things (God). The scriptures teach that His thoughts and ways are on a much higher level than those of mankind.
8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT)
Oh the foolishness of humans who think they will ever be fully aware of what the architect of all things knows. God alone delineates truth because He IS truth. God is the basis of all we perceive as reality.
“The Church is not a gallery for the exhibition of eminent Christians, but a school for the education of imperfect ones.” – Henry Ward Beecher
When Jesus spoke (prayed) to the creator (God) on our behalf, He asked that we would be made a distinct and separate people in the earth (Holy) by way of our knowing the truth.
13-19”Now I‘m returning to you (God). I‘m saying these things in the world‘s hearing so my people can experience my joy completed in them. I gave them your word; the godless world hates them because of it. …They didn‘t join the world‘s ways, just as I didn‘t join the world‘s ways. I‘m not asking that you take them out of the world, but that you guard them from the Evil One. They are no more defined by the world than I am defined by the world. Make them holy consecrated with the truth; Your word is consecrating truth. In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world. I‘m consecrating myself for their sakes so they‘ll be truth-consecrated in their mission. (John 17:16-19 MSG)
Truth as revealed to us by the creator of all things is what sets us apart from the ordinary inhabitants of earth. When you are in tune with the one true God, you are the genuine “illuminate” – the enlightened ones.
Jesus also said,
“You will KNOW the truth and the TRUTH will free you”. (John 8:32)
Wait, I hear the voice of the cynic and the skeptic,
“Free me from what? Like, I‘m already a free man. I am the master of my fate and the captain of my soul. I don‘t need the God crutch. That‘s a bunch of @#$%.”
Yeah, right. You keep telling yourself that.
For the rest of us, knowing the truth is what liberates us. We are freed from,
- The Law of Sin and Death
- The bondage of empty traditions
- The prison of endless guilt & fear
- The pain of loneliness and rejection
- And the robotic cycle of religious obligation without joy and significance
Jesus, our liberator, came to this planet to teach us the actual meaning and purpose of life. In essence His message was very simple:
- You are lost – I AM the way.
- You are deceived – I AM the truth.
- You are the walking dead – I AM the unlimited life you need.
Isn‘t that what we all want – genuine life – not mere physical existence? The Spirit of life in Jesus compels us onward with a definite purpose for our natural terrestrial life and then propels us into eternity with the creator when this physical existence is over.
“Sunday morning church service is not an enormous priority; spending time with other believers is.” – Donald Miller
So why attend church?
Thought I forgot, didn‘t you. Yes, we‘re back to that question once again. Why assemble with other people who seek to know the truth about God? Certainly not out of duty or obligation. Here are just a few reasons:
- To celebrate life beyond existence
- To encourage and to be encouraged
- To see the Truth unfold more clearly
- To grow in genuine wisdom and knowledge
- To learn how to serve the purpose of God almighty by becoming an instrument for His use in this lost and rapidly decaying world order
But perhaps the most compelling reason to find an assembly you can be comfortable in calling your “church” home is that the scriptures (God‘s Word) tell us we should,
25 Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord‘s return to earth is coming nearer. (Hebrews 10:25)
Soon we shall behold Him – face to face. Until then, spend time with those of like faith and be occupied in the work He‘s given you to do. Invest your “talents” wisely. That way, when he returns, you‘ll have something of eternal value to show for your life.
Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabbid Coastal Junkie ®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656