Saturday, April 23, 2016

"A God Who's For Us," By Charles Lawson

     Maybe it is due to the nature of my life these days.   Maybe it will always affect me thus.  However, I do not recall having a message so minister to my soul this morning:  I just kept sobbing.  I could listen to it, every day.

     Those who know me intimately well, may understand why this message so touched my soul.  Yet, I know that I am certainly not the only one to be benefited by such a blessed sermon!  I also know it may minister to another, in a completely different fashion.  Well, here it is, for your great benefit:

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Why I Stopped Attending Church

     Many times in my relationship with Christ, I have failed Him.  If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know this fact about me--I do not hide it.   Well, one area wherein I failed Him, was when I stopped going to church.

     Oh, at the time, I had my reasons.  Other than being out of town and unable to get to one, or, being ill, the reasons I had were inexcusable.  Yet, I stayed away, nonetheless.

     So often, in my immaturity, I was back and forth in attendance.  There would be long stretches, where I saw myself being faithful to meet often with the saints.  However, every time I started dabbling with sin; every time I made unbelievers my closest source of friendships... My walk with God became weaker:  thus, my time with church less and less, until I just...stopped.

     One day, by God's grace, I did not want to go back and forth in attending church services.  I did not want to stay an immature Christian!  Why?  Simply put:  As a blood-washed soul, I knew it was where He wanted me to be.  I knew I was weak in this area, by making many an excuse to not attend.  Yet, the sweetness of walking closely with the Lord, and His people, far outweighed the temporary gratifications of the flesh.

     Church is where a believer can grow.  Yes, we need to spend time with the Lord, daily:  praying to Him, reading and studying the Bible, listening to Christ-exalting music, and the like.  However, God wants us to be meeting together:  to encourage each other; to provoke one another to love and good works; to edify one another; to reach the lost together; to use our gifts for God's glory, and the benefit of others; to learn, from God-ordained teachers and preachers; etc.

     Just like God wants the Christian meeting with other Christians, Satan wants to alienate us from each other.  I can see that fact, looking back upon my short time as a Christian. 

"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." 
(Ephesians 4:11-32)

     He used temptations, lies, fears... Whatever he could, to keep me from being at the church meetings.  Sadly, I succumbed.

I stopped going to church, because:

1.) I feared man.  I wanted to avoid any uncomfortable confrontations, due to unresolved conflict (s).  I, also, was afraid of any emotional hurt occurring, again, as I had experienced in the past.

"The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe." 
(Proverbs 29:25)

2.) I cared more about indulging my sinful pleasures, than dying to self.

"Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." 
(Romans 8:12-13)

"That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." 
(Ephesians 4:22-24)

3.) I wanted to "fit in" with unbelievers.  When I started esteeming the opinions of those people who cared nothing for my God of weightier importance, than the heart of my Saviour, I put myself in a dangerous position.  Wanting them to like me, it did not take long before my God-honoring lifestyle started disappearing; being replaced with a carnal, self-indulgent one.

"Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame." 
(1 Corinthians 15:33-34)

"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." 
(2 Corinthians 6:14-18)

4.) I believed the lies that told me I should just stay down in the mire; that my church would get tired of seeing me back and forth in my attendance; that I had messed up too much to be of any good use; that no one would notice my absence, because no one really cared... 

"Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." 
(1 Peter 1:13-16)

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world." 
(1 Peter 5:8-9)

5.) I began enjoying sin's pleasurable season, more than the sweet, sweet fellowship with the Lord, and His people. 

"Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;" 
(Hebrews 11:25)

6.) I allowed my embarrassment keep me from those who cared for my Christian testimony.  When dear Christian folks I knew, lovingly confronted me, I was so ashamed.  Rather than straighten myself out, by repenting and allowing God to guide me, I kept hiding in a hole.  

"I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you." 
(1 Corinthians 4:14)

"Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." 
(Galatians 6:1-2)

7.) I surrounded myself with people I knew would not help me follow the Lord.  God wants us to be kind to all, but to be surrounded by fellow believers, who will help us keep our focus on Christ.

"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." 
(Hebrews 10:24-25)

8.) I did not keep good, open, regular communication with the Lord.  I neglected prayer and reading my Bible.  I always started my Bible reading with such great intentions.  However, once I got into the "so-and-so begat..." portions, it was easier to lay aside my Bible, for something more "interesting." It would be years before I really read through the Bible, and realized all the wonderful material awaiting me!

"And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
(Luke 4:4)

"Pray without ceasing." 
(1 Thessalonians 5:17)

9.) I did not purge out the leaven in my life, but rather, foolishly held onto it.  Since I neglected personal Bible reading and study, I was my own spiritual discernment.  Of course, once the flesh got a taste for some "new" sin, it did not want to let go of it.

"For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin." 
(Romans 7:14-25)

"But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." 
(1 Corinthians 9:27)

     Now, some of these things were gradual, and overlapped each other.  This list is not in chronological order, either.  Though there were moments where I repented, sought God and His grace, and saw victories over these issues, these are some of the major, key areas of problems, that I see were instrumental in keeping me from church.

     Why am I sharing all this stuff with you?  Well, I know, all too well, the dangers when we neglect meeting with the saints.  It is not because the church is wherein lies our salvation.  It is not because we earn extra points with God, by having a good attendance record.

     It is because we will find strength, as we worship the Lord with other blood-bought Christians.  It is because we will find strength, as we listen to Holy Spirit-filled preaching and teaching.  It is because we will find strength, as we share burdens for/with one another, before our gracious and merciful Saviour.  It is because we will find strength, when our spirits are low, in the encouragement of fellow believers.

      It is where we find contentment, when we are able to utilize the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given to us.  It is where we find courage, to be ambassadors for Christ.  It is where we can find a reprieve, when we are bombarded by the world.

"Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.  Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." 
(1 Corinthians 12-13)

     I see many, many professing Christians, going down the same detrimental path I once walked; and, if I be not circumspect, will go down, once again.  Oh, how my heart aches, aches, for them!  How we must pray, pray, and pray some more for them!  How we must speak, charitably, to them, about this matter!

     Maybe some who profess to know Christ, do not really know Him.  How much more in earnest ought we to pray!  They may be fooled into thinking they are saved, when they still are a child of the devil.  Therefore, their indifference to the Lord, and absence from the church fellowship, is of no surprise.  It is a sad, sad case; one that needs much prayer!

"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." 
(Matthew 7:21-23)

"Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
(John 6:29)

"They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." 
(1 John 2:19)

     Sister, if you are reading this article, and have been going wayward, why is it?  Is it because you are saved, but, like many of us, have yielded to sin, rather than Christ?  Are you believing the Satanic lies being hurled your way?  Do you believe, as I once did, that you might as well stay defeated?

      Please, do not continue!  God will gladly be gracious and merciful unto you!  Go to Him with true, godly repentance.  Share your heart with Him.  Allow Him to help you!  Then, move forward.  Get back into church--a good, Bible-believing, Bible-teaching, Bible-preaching, church.  Keep your nose in the word--even if it be at the end of your day, and only one small passage--Be fed!  Do not forget to pray:  share your heart, most importantly the parts you do not like--He is more than capable of handling it!

"Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." 
(1 Peter 5:6-11)

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