Sermon: Going To Church

Written by Timothy

Going To Church
sermon transcript

Ephesians 4:17 – So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.

Today we will talk about the importance of going to church. I really don’t want anybody to feel guilty from the sermon, or if you do feel guilty, I want you to get to a place of joy with it. The Gentiles have all kinds of excuses, reasons, and justifications for not going to church. I invited a man to church one time, and I thought I had heard every excuse, but when I said, “Why don’t you come over to church?” He replied, “Well, I don’t have my shoes on.” Either he thought I would buy that excuse or he was just totally desperate. So, I said, “Well, no problem! Just come barefoot.” We’re so small, I’ve even said to people, “Well, that’s okay, we’ll come over to your house.” People have all kinds of excuses and reasons why they don’t want to come to church. We want to get our hearts to a place where all of those excuses disappear.

Ephesians 4:17 – insist on it in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.

So often the world’s attitude is that a church gets in the way of life, but those of us who love the Lord with a first love need to have an attitude that says life gets in the way of church. It totally needs to flip-flop. When our flesh gets in the way and we don’t feel like coming or things just don’t quite work out, we are missing our first love. We need to fan it into flame. Think about when you had a first love, especially when you were in high school or even younger. When you first fall in love with somebody you think only about that person and you want to be with him or her all of the time. You write little notes back and forth. You basically become consumed with the other person. Jesus Christ is looking for this kind of first love and these are the kind of individuals and lovers that he will come back to get.

Revelation 2:1-2 – To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance.

When you looked at them outwardly, these people worked hard and persevered. You couldn’t accuse them in terms of not serving the Lord from an outward point of view.

Revelation 2:2 – I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.

This was a group of Christians that, from all outward appearances looked like they were on fire for God, because they did all kinds of works. They tested individuals to find out whether they really were of Jesus Christ or not. Now, listen again to what it says:

Revelation 2:2 – …you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not…

Not only did they test them, but they also found them to be false. Now, most people live their Christian lives making no judgments at all, testing no one. But this group of people not only tested, but they tested in such a way to prove these individuals to either be of Christ or not to be of Christ. So, in terms of an outward kind of zeal, they could not be faulted.

Revelation 2:3 – You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

We would say that they are strong Christians because we usually measure outwardly. We would say that they really loved the Lord. We would call them brothers, except one thing is missing.

Revelation 2:4 – Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.

They did all of the right things. They even had a certain amount of joy, but it wasn’t a first love kind of joy. They didn’t live to go to church. Church wasn’t the exciting part of the week. It wasn’t what they looked forward toit just fit in. They knew they needed to go, but they weren’t bubbling over with joy. They weren’t excited about the possibility of coming together as a body. They didn’t have a first love that thought during the week, “I can’t wait to get to church to fellowship. I can’t wait to lay down my life in a new way.” They had forsaken their first love even though they had these other outside things right. I don’t want anybody to feel guilty from this sermon because God doesn’t want anybody sitting in these chairs who is here out of guilt. God doesn’t even want individuals sitting here because they know it is the right thing to do or they have just a little bit of joy about it. God wants you sitting here because you feel ecstatic about being here, you look forward to it, and that your attitude is that life gets in the way of church, not church gets in the way of life. And so, we need to be individuals that have a first love, and this is what I want us to measure.

Our attitude about going to church is part of losing our own lives. On church day, our attitude should be one of watching the clock because we can’t wait to go to church. Yet sometimes we get up in the morning to go to work and as we begin to labor, something starts to get in the way. It looks like we need to continue to work (or study or whatever activity). But God wants individuals that are burdened because they cannot get to church, because something stands in the way. It becomes a contest that shows what we truly love and care about.

Mark 8:34 – Then he called the called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

This we know well, but look at it again:

Mark 8:35 – For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me…

And then Mark adds something else that is not in the other gospels. He adds a little touch.

Mark 8:35 – …but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.

The workers are few. The worshippers are even fewer. Those who have a first love and are ecstatic about Jesus Christ all week long. Those who live, breathe, and love church who think about church like a first love and the most exciting thing they can do—are true worshippers. “But whoever loses his life…” whoever gives up his daily life, his activities, and what he wants to do for the gospel will save it.” After all, think about it, what is heaven? Heaven is going to church. When somebody says, “Do I have to go church to be a Christian?” that is like saying, “Do I have to worship when I’m in heaven?” Church is nothing more than a preparation for us to go to church all of the time. If we don’t find church to be exciting or our first love in Jesus Christ, why would we want to go to heaven? All people do in heaven all the time is worship the Lord God. It is church at all times. In fact, scripture says no physical temple exists, because God is the temple. He overshadows everything, and so you literally stay at church all of the time. God wants those who have lost their lives who find church to be the supreme joy in Jesus Christ.

We will look at Psalm 122 this morning. Again, if you feel guilt, then let that be a good thing that drives you back to the Lord to ask, “Lord, give me that first love. Give me the zeal. Give me this joy.” Again, we don’t want anybody coming here because they feel like they have to or they know it is the right thing to do or it is the lawful thing in Jesus Christ. This should be a first love, a thing of emotion, and a thing of life. I know individuals that come to church consistently, but I don’t necessarily see a first love. And then, there are those hindered from attending, but I know that they have a first love and I am at peace with them not being able to show up every single time the church meets together. It depends upon what beats in the heart, for what beats in the heart will show in terms of our actions and our behavior and what we strive to do. If you have a first love, you will push forward to grab hold and fulfill that love.

Psalm 122:1 – A song of ascents. Of David.

Of course, a song of going forward. A psalm of singing and moving forward in the Lord.

Psalm 122:1 – I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

I rejoiced! I was excited! I was happy with those who said, “Let’s go to church. Let us go to the house of God.” He participated in fellowship with those who were excited about going to the house of God. “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’” If we have a first love, we are drawn to other individuals who have a first love. What God looks for and what we should look for are other individuals excited about church, who are the first to be here and the last to leave. “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”

Psalm 122:2 – Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem.

This isn’t just talk, this isn’t just words. Look at his feet. Look where he’s standing. Look at his behavior. Look at how he conducts himself. He stands at the very gates of Jerusalem. He is ready for when the doors open. We often joke about women being the first ones at a sale, and they stand at the doors before they are unlocked. Well, this is the kind of first love that we are talking about. Individuals who stand there before the gates have been opened. So, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking we have a first love without looking to see what our feet declare. What do our actions show? Are we a people that demonstrate by our actions that we have a first love? Again, this isn’t law. We are so far from law in this that it isn’t even funny. This isn’t a matter of an attendance board, nor a matter of marching over to other people’s house to make sure they show up. We want individuals to have a first love, and if they are unwilling to have a first love, then go somewhere else where it isn’t required. We don’t want to fellowship with anyone who doesn’t want to be here and doesn’t find joy in it. But, we want to insist that we won’t think like Gentiles anymore. We will not behave, act, and think like the world does with all of its excuses and its justifications and its whitewash for what it does. We want a first love that does everything from a joyful heart.

Psalm 122:2-3 – Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together.

Jerusalem is a city that comes together in a tight place. People are fellowshipping. People are in contact with each other. They are aware of each other’s needs. They experience communion with each other. It is not like a city where everything is spread out where you really don’t know your neighbor. In this closely packed city everybody knows everybody. And so, when we come together to Jerusalem, when we come together to the church, we experience a time of deepest fellowship and communion with each other. It isn’t a church where you come together and everybody has their space, everybody has their life, everybody has their little corner they can hold onto. Our city is closely compacted together, nothing is hidden, everybody walks in the light, everybody is aware of the same joy or the sadness that other individuals feel. People are not spread out with huge yards and their own room. Instead, we come together to worship and to know each other.

Psalm 122:4 – That is where the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, to praise the name of the Lord according to the statue given to Israel.

Gad has walled us into this kind of fellowship to a city that is closely compacted where we are in each other’s lives in a very deep fashion. He has called us to a place like Jerusalem where a wall that guards and protects everyone who worships there. He has called us to a family where we love one another. If the city is attacked, everybody is attacked because everybody’s home is the same home and everybody is together. Basically, you feel like you have a room in this large house and not a house that is your own mansion. “That is where the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, to praise the name of the Lord.” And so, church is the opportunity for us to praise the Lord together. He knows it is the time that I can sing. I can only sing when everybody is here together drowning out my bad voice. It is the only time that I can praise the Lord. I can’t do it by myself. Even I embarrass myself then and all I can envision is God being embarrassed at me, like “Don’t sing like that.” So, it is a time when we can come together, where we cover over one another’s faults, and all might praise the Lord and give glory to him. According to the statutes given from the Lord, they come in obedience to his law; they come in obedience to his word. They come, testing the apostles who claim to be apostles, but are not. They come to those who are worshipping in truth and in spirit. All of their truth, their spirit, their zeal, their love, and their fire come together under one place. Church ought to be an exciting place! It should be what we look forward to. We need to crucify that Gentile thinking within us, the flesh that just considers it something to do. Be on guard against the flesh, because the flesh will say, “I just don’t feel like going today,” especially when you are dealing with sin and struggling with things. It seems to be the last place that we run to is church. Don’t ask me why. Staying away from church is like having a stomachache and running to the 7-Eleven to get a chilidog to take care of it. It makes no sense at all. Or, if your car is broken, going down to the boat docks and going sailing won’t fix anything, and yet we do that.

Psalm 122:4-5 – …to praise the name of the Lord according to the statute given to Israel. There the thrones for judgment stand, the thrones of the house of David.

Going to a place where you know truth will be spoken, where God will pronounce his judgments, where he will act and reveal things that ought to excite us. The world has no concept of truth or right or wrong, and they live in these gray areas where everybody is debating and arguing. There are no finalities that say that this is right and this is wrong. And so, they live in anxiety where they can’t nail anything down, where one man’s opinion means one thing and every man’s opinion mean everything, and they just discuss and debate. We come to the house of God where there are answers, where there is yes and no, where there is right and wrong, where there is a God who lives and acts. We don’t go to a church where anything goes and if you want to declare your opinion, it is as true as anybody else’s opinion. We come to the throne of David where judgments are made. There is security and rest in that. There is real rest in knowing that if two brothers have a problem with each other there is a judgment seat where they can go and get it worked out. We can take all of the confusion that we have as to what is proper and not proper, and we can enter the house of God and say, “God, what is right and what is wrong,” and God will tell us. Then, we know what to do, and we can rest in that.

Psalm 122:5 – There the thrones of judgment stand, the thrones of the house of David.

For those who love the Lord, the thrones of judgment are a blessing and the fullness of grace. Those who love their sins and wickedness won’t go to a church like this. If God indeed actively judges within his church, he will keep away those who are not worthy to be here, those who worship just because it is the thing to do or because they get something out of it.

Psalm 122:6 – Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure.”

Those who have a first love can be secure in the Lord. They are the ones that can walk with peace. And, look at what they pray! Verse 6 says “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” During the week, we need to pray, “God, grant us your peace. Grant us your security. Do all that is necessary to make this holy and secure.” And, when we pray, we don’t pray for ourselves. We are a part of a much larger church. We are not talking about just praying for this little corner of the world. We basically just have a little closet in this city, and we are praying for the peace and the protection of what we are responsible for. We are going up to our wall and making sure that it is strong, and we hope that everybody else is doing the same thing so that the city, the whole church, is built up and strong. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” Let that be the prayer that rises within us during the week. Let all of our anxieties be put aside. Take all of your prayer concerns of this week and all of the things you are burdened with, even all of your sins, and just begin to pray for “the peace of Jerusalem.” You will be blessed in that, also. But, how often we are so burdened with our own life. We are not losing our lives for the gospel. We are just trying to lose our life just to gain some peace. We should be inviting the people to church in such a way that they see our first love. Everybody has their church doctrine and their opinions, but how often have you bumped into somebody where you saw their first love and that drew you to their church. We can debate all we want, and that is what most places do, but we want people to see our first love that comes from the Holy Spirit and that is why they are drawn to church. Really, what we want people to get is a first love for Jesus Christ, not to accept some doctrinal statements. That will come later.

Psalm 122:6-7 – Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. “May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.”

Next, look at verse 8. And, as we read this verse, crucify your thoughts of, “Well, I don’t feel like coming to church,” or “It’s just not going to fit in conveniently to my plans.” Maybe you are not coming to church to get anything out of it.

Psalm 122:8 – For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.”

You may not think that it is convenient for you to be here, but what you have got to ask yourself is: Am I going to be at church for the sake of somebody else? Maybe I will go to church and I will not get anything out of it, but who will be hindered in Jesus Christ because I am not there? Who won’t be able to walk with the gospel because I am a part of the foot and if I am not there, the foot will not be able to do its work? “For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’” There are times when my flesh and even my spirit do not necessarily feel like coming to church, but it is beyond me and it is beyond my little personal feelings and my little comfort zone and my spirituality. It comes down to: What about my brothers and sisters? What about somebody else? Will they stumble? Will they fall? Will they not be built up? Maybe God wants to speak through me to encourage them and I am just not there and they falter during the week because I was not where I was supposed to be.

Psalm 122:8 – For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.”

I will bring peace. I will bring God’s grace. I will bring a blessing. And so, what we should be doing during the week is saying, “God, give me some grace. Give me something to encourage someone or to rebuke them or to change them, to do whatever is necessary to make them strong in youto build up the walls of Jerusalem.” Again, this has to be a first love. The church can’t lay this down as a rule. I have tried that, where I just say, “Okay, I need to pray for everybody.” It just doesn’t last. Our minds totally go somewhere else. We have to ask God for a first love and for brothers and sisters within the body to burn with love for his church. We have to have his fire. Then, we will declare with emotion “Peace be within you.”

Psalm 122:9 – For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity.

We need to lose our lives for the gospel. The workers, the laborers, and the worshippers are few that worship with a first love. This Psalms ends with praying for the sake of the church, and for the sake of others. David’s thoughts are off himself and onto the very house of God, unto God’s glory and unto his friends and his brothers who worship there.

Psalm 122:9 – For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity.

David has shown his activity, zeal, and effort. Indeed David even saved up for the temple long before the time came to actually build. And, even as he was dying, he was saying, “I have all of these things I want you to use for the temple. I will never see the temple because I’m going to die, but I leave behind this to be sure the work can be done.” And so, his feet were standing at the gates and he was actively storing up. Let our attitude during the week, be that we are storing up our treasures to come together as a body to build up the body for the sake of other people.

Let us pray especially for lots of individuals who are out there who are burdened by the church, who are weary of the church, so they don’t go because there is nothing there. Let us pray that God will then open up other churches where they can go, where there is some fire, where people have a first love because it is within the context of all of us together that God has chosen to glorify his name and to manifest himself.

Ephesians 3:8-10 – Although I am less that the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church , the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.

It is God’s intention that as we come together the manifold, the completeness, the fullness of God brings everybody together and that fire burns even hotter. We refresh, we build up, we strengthen, and we make holy because God has chosen through the church that his wisdom should be made known. I have part of the wisdom of God and you have a part. God works it all, but when all of that wisdom is brought together, we can work and we can labor.

Ephesians 3:10 – …that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.

Remember what the sign of authority is for? It is for the angels. When we come together, God is saying, “Look at the church,” and he is showing it to the heavenly realms. God is saying, “See these people who worship me with a first love. See how they like to fellowship. Look at the condition and the world in which they live, and yet they are coming out and being separate.” Can you imagine how proud God is? Can you imagine how excited he is to bring you to heaven? God is finding those individuals who are willing to say no to the world and all of its demands. It is hard work to say no to the world nobody says this is easy. Christianity is not a convenient kind of religion at all. It is the most inconvenient. Everything gets in the way of living for Jesus Christ. Not only does the world get in the way, but also Satan is there to make sure that it is very difficult for you to do so and our flesh is right there in line with the ways of the world. But Scripture says we no longer think like the Gentiles do. We come out of all of that. We fight against it. When we come together, God says, “Look at those individuals who want to fellowship together. Surely they are worthy to be here in heaven to fellowship together for eternity.”

Ephesians 3:10-11 – His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Look at the power and the eternal quality, which is what the church is supposed to be.

Ephesians 3:12 – In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

In which context are we approaching God with freedom and confidence? Where can we find the freedom to come in before God, to worship him, to love him, and to get our hearts cleansed?

Ephesians 3:13-15 – I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory. For this reason, I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.

We are part of the whole church, not only in the world, but also in heaven. There is a church that God will bring together, and a lot of our brothers and sisters are in heaven and a lot of them are here on earth, but one day he will bring us all together who love God with a first love. In other words, if you are not ecstatic about going to heaven, you won’t be ecstatic about coming to church. If church is an inconvenience, then heaven will be one big inconvenience. If you find walking in the light, loving each other, rejoicing in the truth, having the judgments of God in your life, coming together and worshipping in purity a hard thing, then you will not find heaven to be heaven at all, but heaven would be hell for you. But, we are a people that are losing our life and finding it a joy to surrender everything to God and to die more and more. When we go into heaven and completely lose our life that will be the supreme joy and the blessing that God can give us in Jesus Christ. So again, if church is in the way, then heaven will be in the way.

Ephesians 3:15-16 – from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.

Look at the content of what he is talking about. It is not this little individual Christian life but the fullness of the church and the fullness of the body. Look at verse 10 again. It says, “His intent was that now, through the church.”

Ephesians 3:16-18 – I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints.

Paul doesn’t think about accepting Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. He is always thinking in terms of the church as a whole and the saints as a whole and everybody coming together to fellowship. It is only within western thinking where we own things, or that we also own Jesus Christ as our little personal Lord and Savior whom we keep in our pockets.

Ephesians 3:18 – may have power, together with all the saints.

So, when I come together with all of the saints, I will be able to do the following:

Ephesians 3:18 – To grasp how wide and how long and how high and deep is the love of Christ.

If you want to experience more and more of the love of Jesus Christ, it is not always found in the prayer closet. It is found when we all come together because each of us are partaking and sharing in the love of Christ and as we come together that is magnified. Christ is glorified as we share with one another and give heat to one another from the fire that burns within us. When I am down a little bit spiritually and my fire is dwindling, I can see the love of Christ in somebody else’s life and that rekindles my fire, refreshes me, and causes me to press on. If we are all strong and on fire for God, if we all have a first love in an equal amount, there would be no stopping anything that we could do in Jesus Christ. As Scripture says: “That you may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” Has anybody gotten to the point where they can say, “You know, I have grasped from God exactly how wide is the love of Christ.” If you haven’t grasped that yet, then why do you think that you can do it all alone and just skip church? You should want to come together to know how wide, how long, and how deep is Christ’s love, and that will be found in the context of all the saints coming together. Just think what our love will be like when we enter heaven with all of the saints from down through the ages and all of the heavenly hosts maybe then we will begin to taste a little bit of how wide the love of God is.

Ephesians 3:19 – and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…

When most churches talk about the love of Christ, they are talking about it from a position of knowledge. They have read a textbook called the Bible. They have certain doctrines down. They have certain feelings in their life. But, we are talking about experiencing and having in our life a first love that is magnified and glorified and the fire becomes hotter and hotter. It is something the world knows nothing about and something that is seen very little even in the churches.

Ephesians 3:19 – And to know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Think about what he is calling us to in church! “I want to know the fullness of God in my life.” Think about what you are demanding from the church. And yet, this is exactly what God wants us to demand. He wants a first love that says, “I want everything. I want the width. I want the height. I want the depth. I want the fullness of God in my life.” That becomes real in the context of church, in fellowship, and walking in light. Paul’s faith not only believes this is possible, but also look at what else he adds.

Ephesians 3:20 – Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…

Most of us don’t even know what this passage is talking about, and we certainly don’t think of it in relationship to the church, do we? We don’t walk away from church filled with a first love, let alone to think that we’ve got God immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. Are we so overflowing with grace and power that we can’t stop or contain ourselves? And yet Paul says:

Ephesians 3:20 – Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…

How much do you imagine and dream of what the church can be? I don’t mean in terms of flowery shows and projects, but in terms of the height, depth, width, and glory of God.

Ephesians 3:20 – …according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church…

It’s not about one individual, project, or ministry being lifted up but rather multitudes glorifying God’s name. We are talking about the manifold wisdom, God glorifying his name in millions of different ways, where you could spend ten years looking at this one glory and then another ten years looking at another glory. It is more than we can ask or imagine. The reason so many churches have one individual lifted up is because the glory of God is not there. If the glory of God were there, no man could be lifted up because that glory overshadows everything else and everybody is full of grace, everybody has a first love.

Ephesians 3:21 – To him to glory in the church and in Christ…

Our prayer should be for the Lord to bless us so the glory can go to the church for the sake of our brothers and friends. We will pray for the prosperity of Jerusalem. Why do we ask for spiritual gifts? Usually within the church, it is to puff up an individual, not for the honest blessing of somebody else.

Ephesians 3:21 – To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Do you feel my heart in this? Do believe that I believe? Do you burn with a first love?

Let’s go to Hebrews 12:14 because this is the passage that people usually quote to get people to come to church. If somebody doesn’t go to church a couple of times, someone else will show them that Hebrews says, “Let us not give up meeting together.” But, they don’t quote the Scripture from a position of first love, from a position of fire, from a position of what is going on in your heart, but rather from a position of “Well, we need you to be there,” for whatever reasons or motives.

Hebrews 12:14 – Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

Where is holiness? Where are the judgments of David? Where is the purity? Where is healing? It is found through walking in the light, as we meet together. The manifold wisdom of God is found within the church.

Hebrews 12:15 – See to it that no one misses the grace of God.

In the church, I can walk in the security of knowing that if I am beginning to miss the grace of God, I know that there is enough light at church to deal with it and expose it. We are to be a body, a group of people who see to it that no one misses the grace of God. Not from legalism or law, but from first love. That is how we measure. If you have a first love and somebody else begins to fall from their first love, it is easy to tell right off the bat but not because of some outward sin that they have committed. Most of the church doesn’t start challenging somebody until the outward sins have appeared. By then, it is evident to even everybody in the world. But, we are talking about a first love where I can tell when a brother’s love or a sister’s love is beginning to cool down, because I myself have a first love. But, if I don’t have a first love and their fire is dying down and mine is dying down, guess what will happen. We will think we are walking on equal ground. The body is a place of security, of knowing that when I am falling into sin, when I am struggling, if I come to church I can be healed. We all want to go to heaven to be healed, don’t we? We all want to go to heaven in order to have our sins finally cleansed, and be in a place where we don’t sin. We want to go where no sin is permitted. Well, church is to be a small taste of that, and so when you find yourself in sin, the last thing to do is run away from church. That is the first thing to run to. If we don’t run to church, it’s like saying, “I know that I am in sin. I know that I am a sinner and I just don’t want to go to heaven to have it dealt with.” That makes no sense at all.

Hebrews 12:15 – See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

There has to be action, zeal, and praying as David prayed in Psalm 122. Pray that Psalm during the week and ask God to put it in your heart with fire. “I will pray for the prosperity of Jerusalem.”

Hebrews 12:16 – See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.

This is all in the context of the body and the church. Look at the judgments and how it even comes down to how we eat in the Lord. We need to look deep within the hearts, and see if somebody is selling their birthright over a meal. There are times when the contest is between church and family obligations. The family wants to go out on Sunday to eat, and there is a choice between church and going with them. What beats in our heart? God could possibly tell you to go with them, but what beats in your heart? Is your heart saying, “No, I don’t want to go with them, God, even if you tell me to go”? What do we show and declare before God? It’s not a matter of what are we permitted to do, because our choice would always be to go to church and be in the house of God because that is where the fire and the zeal is at. There are a lot of people selling their birthright for a single meal and they know it not.

Hebrews 12:17 – Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.

Later on, he realized his folly. He wept for it and it pleaded for it and he repented of it and he asked for the blessing again, but it was not to be his because he had so disregarded the blessing. He didn’t have a first love, and so the choice was there and he chose what he wanted to do. He regretted losing the blessing, but he didn’t want a first love. The body comes together so that we might cleanse ourselves of anything else but Jesus Christ. We walk in fellowship where the greatest of love is seen. Does this brother or sister have a first love? Is it growing? Is it fanned into flame? Is it alive? Is it powerful? Is it burning away everything and all of the demands of the world? Or, are they slowly growing cold?

Hebrews 12:18 – You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm.

He is saying, “Look at what you have been called to!” Not to law. Not to legalism. Not to what Moses called the people.

Hebrews 12:19 – To a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them.

You haven’t come to that kind of law, that kind of relationship with God. There they were with Moses, the trumpet blast was blowing, Moses was preaching, and they pleaded with Moses not to preach anymore because they couldn’t stand what they were hearing. You haven’t come to that kind of fear and trembling!

Hebrews 12:20-21 – Because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”

This isn’t the gospel call. That is what we’ve been called to. We call this legalism. “You are required to be at church every time church meets.” That is not what it is supposed to be, nor is it supposed to be a guilt trip. We’re not talking about the kind of mountain, where you are stoned if you don’t come to church. We are talking about life. We are talking about love. We are talking about fire. We are talking about falling in love with the living God, of tasting how wide and deep is the love of God, knowing that manifold wisdom in our life. And so, when somebody comes to me and says, “You know, you have an option. Can you go to lunch with me on Sunday?” I’ll say, “No thanks. I’m going to experience some manifold wisdom of God today.” If the fire burns hot enough there is no contest. You don’t even know that you are beginning to be tempted because the love is so overwhelming that there is no choice. Most of us are being tempted and most of us are being drawn and most of us face the turmoil, because the first love isn’t there. That is why you can do all of the things that the church in Revelation did, but they didn’t have a first love that was burning with hot fire and love. Look at what we have come to. Look at what church is supposed to be.

Hebrews 12:22 – But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.

I might even be working for somebody who says, “We need work overtime,” or “We need you to work this holiday.” No way! They won’t get in the way of me going to heaven. I’ve got someplace better to go.

Hebrews 12:22 – … have come the heavenly Jerusalem, to the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly.

Now I ask you, where do you want to go? Do you want to work overtime or do you want to go to a place where there are thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly?

Hebrews 12:23 – To the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.

This is what we have come to. A lot of you have tasted this and experienced this. This faith came alive and it was a choice between doing some fun activity or going to church and your response was “You know, the fun isn’t worthwhile.” Continue to fan it into flame. Continue to make it hot and bright. Continue to let it show and to shine, to pray for prosperity, and to move on to the depths, the heights, and the widths of God’s love. You have come “to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect.” Come to church where you will be judged because that is where you will be made perfect. You are being prepared for what? The wedding feast, of going to heaven to make your garment clean. The church is the place where we come together for inspection, where we say, “Do see any stains on my garment? Is there anything that needs to be cleansed or pressed or whatever needs to be done?” And, that is what church is about making yourself ready for the wedding banquet. This is supposed to be an exciting thing in a party atmosphere and a thing that we look forward toto leave this world behind with all of its demands and its sin.

Hebrews 12:23 – You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect.

Do you want to be made perfect? Does that really burn within your heart? Then church is where you should, since that is where the fellowship is, and it’s what God has chosen.

Hebrews 12:24 – To Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

All of this is within the church.

Hebrews 12:25-26 – See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time, his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”

All of our concerns, our worries, and our daily activities will be totally destroyed. The minute we enter heaven’s gates they will totally disappear and you won’t care about them anymore. All of the things that we are so burdened with, all of our problems, our anxieties, our sins and all the demands everybody puts on us family, friends, the world, activities everything will immediately disappear in an instant.

Hebrews 12:26-27 – At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken.

What in your life can be shaken? Can family photos be shaken? Can husband and wife relationships be shaken? Indeed they will be. There is no marriage in heaven. Your job, your labor, and your school will all be shaken.

Hebrews 12:27 – The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken that is, created things so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

What in your life cannot be shaken? The righteousness of God and a first love. It says in scripture that love is stronger than death. If we have that first love in God, even though we die, we will live! So, what does your heart beat with? What do your feet declare? What is in your life right now that cannot be shaken? Let loose of everything that can be shaken and let there be a first love. Become a Christian who lives an inconvenient kind of life, who is impractical in everything you do. Everything about our lives is totally the opposite of the world in terms of how we conduct ourselves with friends and family and what we talk about and what we do. Let it be so. Let it be from a first love.

Hebrews 12:28 – Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”

This is what we are being called to.

Look at the first church and how the Holy Spirit shook them. This is what we need to pray for.

Acts 2:40-41-43 – With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.

That is a taste of heaven, is it not?

Acts 2:44-45 – All of the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had needs. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.

When you begin to think we meet at church too much, consider that we don’t meet every day. There is not a sermon or a meeting every day. “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.” This is what beat within their hearts. This is what their spirits wanted. They were alive in this. They longed for it. And yet, with some of you, I have to say, “Call me, let’s communicate, let’s fellowship.” It is like prying wisdom teeth out. You would think it was the worst torture, the most inconvenient thing to do. I’m not saying you have to fellowship with only me. You may not even find the time for that but begin to do it with one another. “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.” If they lived in our time, it would say, “Every day they talked on cell phones constantly.”

Acts 2:46 – They broke bread in their homes.

They were fellowshipping together. It was just like fellowship, fellowship, fellowship. And, so when somebody whines, “You go to church too much,” our response is, “What in the world are you talking about?”

Acts 2:46 – They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.

They were excited about this. This was a joyful thing to do. This is what it meant to be baptized, to receive the Holy Spirit, to walk in the fullness of grace because within the church this is what God has chosen to do. I know we can’t meet together every single day, all of us together, but what we can have is a heart that would long to do so, and if we were in a place to do so, we would really do it. “Every day the continued to meet in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes.” They didn’t whine about, “Well, we can’t go to the movies and we can’t go shopping.” Oh, let the shopping go let’s just go eat together. Let’s just break bread. “And they ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” What a church! To have a church that just lived verse 46 at heart not from law and not from legalism, not because it is set down it is just because that is what beats in the heart. You will be with the same people in heaven. Are you going to be in heaven for half an eternity and say, “I’m tired of hanging around these guys I want to go somewhere else”? Then, there is something wrong with your heart. What do you beat with? What do you long for?

Hebrews 10:19 – Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus.

Again, this is all going to be within the context of the church. Now, let’s slow down a little bit and look at this.

Hebrews 10:19 – Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus.

Confidence! They had glad and sincere hearts because they knew they could march in with all of their sins before the living God and receive the grace they needed. They knew they had problems. They knew they needed to be changed, but they had confidence that they could march in together and seek the living God and their lives would be changed. And so, this is what should happen within the church. It is not a bunch of people moaning and groaning about all of the sins in our lives, but all of us watching each other change in Jesus Christ, thinking that everybody else is better than ourselves, pressing on and getting cleansed in Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 10:19-22 – Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.

What does it say in Acts? They met together with sincere hearts. They really wanted to be with each other. They really wanted to fellowship with each other. It wasn’t forced. It wasn’t contrived. It wasn’t a law. These people wanted to be together, they spoke the same language, they understood walking in light and fellowshipped, and they grew in the grace of God. They saw sin dealt with all the time, but they considered it a joy.

Hebrews 10:22 – Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.

Let our confidence be rich! This is what God has called us to. If we want to be cleansed, if we want to be changed, if we want his joy, if we want to see his glory, it is within the context of the church that will take place.

Hebrews 10:22 – Having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience.

When you have full into sin and have a guilty conscience, what do you run from? You run from church. You run from fellowshipping in the light. It is the wrong thing to do every single time. If you want to be free from the guilty conscience, don’t run around in your little prayer closet moaning and groaning before God and trying to get yourself all ready to come to church. The blood, the altar, and the light are at church where you will be delivered. Then you can receive the freedom of a conscience that is delivered from its guilty feelings, and have your body washed with pure water. We all have to go out in the world and we have to go outside the camp. We are forced to do so. In fact, in Acts the church was all together having a good time and what does God bring along to get them out into the world? Persecution. It says they are then scattered. Wherever they go they begin to preach the gospel. If we had our choice, we’d just sit here within church all day long enjoying the fellowship and walking in the light. We’re going to get to do that for all eternity, so why not start now. Well, God brings along his work to get in the way. And, what he brings along is our life and obligations to get in the way, and when that doesn’t work, he will bring along persecution to get us scattered in order to preach the gospel, because we want to be together. We want to be in heaven. We want to die right now. We are sick and tired of this world. I want to leave everybody and everything behind. And, I love you guys, but I’d be out of here if he gave me a choice. “Having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” We all have to go out into the world. We all have to get dirty. We all have to get grungy, and it is within the context of the church that we come and get refreshed again, where we receive pure water that cleanses us and makes us holy. And so, when you find yourself growing cold and having futile thinking like the Gentiles, and you begin to avoid the church, come in and get refreshed. At church is where you need to be. You need to come in and be cleansed. That is where we are made well again. We all have to go into the world, and we get wounded and we get bruised and we get beat on and all kinds of things come against us. This is where we come together to heal one another’s wounds, to be made strong again so we can go back out and find those few individuals who will come in and worship with a first love.

Hebrews 10:23 – Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

God will do the work, he will deliver, he will cleanse, he will make holy, he will make us strong, and he will manifest his wisdom. He has chosen to do this within the church and so we can have rich confidence. What does verse 24 say?

Hebrews 10:24 – And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

So, the church comes together and you get suggestions from one another. The church is supposed to be one giant suggestion box, but everybody always wants to hear individually from God. I hear it all the time. “Well, I haven’t heard that from the Lord.” Well, I’m telling you in the Lord. I mean, you just heard it! No, I’m not the Lord, but he told me to tell youhere is a suggestion! We are to consider, examine, and ask, “Lord, can we do this?” We can imagine a lot of things. Let us ask the Lord. Let us spur one another on. Let us say, “Here, give this sermon tape out. Serve here. Love over here. Watch out for this.” This is what the church is supposed to be. It is where we come together to get the battle plan of love to go back out into the world.

Hebrews 10:24 – And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

And so we come together not to evangelize, not to win numbers, but to encourage love and to talk about how love conducts and how love behaves. In other words, we have a first love, Jesus Christ, and so all we talk about is our first love, which is loving him and speaking about love. And so, we build one another up in love. Toward love and good deeds. The next verse is the passage every church quotes. I guarantee that in most churches, if you don’t show up for church, they will go to Hebrews 10:25, and that’s all that they mean! They read you a law. They say, “This is what is written down.” They don’t back up and go through all of the things we’ve talked about today. There is no sense of a first love or a fire that burns. They don’t compel people in terms of a first love for Jesus Christ and a pursuit for righteousness in his holiness and his glory. They just talk about “don’t give up meeting together.”

Hebrews 10:25 – Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.

Why doesn’t he just simply say, “Whenever the church meets, everybody must be there!”? Because, God doesn’t want to lay down a law. He doesn’t want it to be a rule. He says this in the most gentle, kind, inoffensive, indirect way that he could say it. Read it again: “Let us not give up meeting together.” That’s pretty benign. You would think it would be a little more direct, but that is the whole point. We’re not going to demand that you have the glory of God in your life. We won’t force you to experience this.

Hebrews 10:25 – Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Now, we are much closer to the Day approaching than they were. It is at hand and our time is very, very short. In fact, as we look at the situation in the world, each week you wonder if it is just going to break down the next week. Think about all of the plans you have, all of the concerns, the worries, all of the family obligations and all of the things that flesh wants to do this can all break down in one day, even more as the Day is approaching. And so, life gets in the way of church is what it amounts to. My flesh gets in the way of fellowshipping.

Hebrews 10:25 – Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.

There will be times when church is dry and your flesh doesn’t want to be there, but establish a habit that carries you through. Be there no matter how inconvenient or what kind of excuse you can think of. “As some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another daily. That is why I am saying, if don’t feel like coming to church for yourself, if you don’t even want to do it for the glory of God, come for the sake of somebody else. They need your encouragement. They need your grace. They need your strength. Come to bless somebody else.

Hebrews 10:25 – But let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Let us whisper in one another’s ears, “You know this world will be shaken.” Let us begin to have secret code words that only we understand. After all, we are a cult and when somebody begins to talk about all of these things that are in the way, just simply turn to them and say, “Is it going to be shaken or not?” And, that should light within us a flame that says, “You are right. It can be shaken. It will disappear. Let me give myself over to what is holy.” Satan wants to get us so involved with the things that we can see, that are right here before us, the immediate things. But God is saying, “Have some faith! Those things will be shaken. They will disappear. You will be in heaven with me forever. Just how significant is this problem? And, just how important is it that you fulfill this obligation? Just how important are the husband and wife? You will be with me forever.” How important is that fun thing or this activity or whatever it is you want to do?

Hebrews 10:25 – Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

We should be so excited and so encouraged when people come together to want to love the Lord because they are just one more brother and sister we have to fellowship with in heaven. Just being here, you don’t have to come with some big spiritual word. You don’t have to come being Mr. or Mrs. Spiritual and have all kinds of tongues and blessings. Just being here, just simply saying, “I love the light, I just want to watch. I just want to see God glorify his name. I just want to examine his glory and see him working in individual lives,” is enough. Just being here worshipping in simple humility is enough to refresh somebody else and to keep him or her from sin.

Let’s go ahead and pray:

Father, remove from us any foolish thinking we have concerning church and awaken our hearts, Father, that we would come together with zeal and with fire, with love and with fellowship. Father, work within us more than we can ask or imagine the height and the width and the depth of your love. Work these things, Father, which we cannot work and work the things of heaven, Father, which we know not. Prepare us, Father, to make us holy, to be with other brothers and sisters, to celebrate and rejoice with thousands upon thousands of holy ones, Father, that are worshipping you. Father, we long to come to church where we never have to leave church ever again. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

This transcription has been edited to a reader friendly format. Every effort has been made to be true to the speaker’s original message. Any mistranslations are unintentional.


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Host of The Consider Podcast
Examining today’s wisdom, madness, and folly.