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"No Assembly Required?"

n contemporary culture, gathering with fellow saints on the Lord’s Day seems to have little significance in the lives of professing Christians. As the warm rays of bright, Sunday morning sunlight peek into our windows, awakening us in a seemingly discourteous manner, we ask ourselves: “To church or not to church?” (Shakespeare would be proud). This is a real quandary for some believers. However, there are many more who don’t struggle with this at all. They treat the assembly of the saints as one of the last options on a long list of possible Sunday activities. They will gather with God’s people if they don’t have anything better to do.

There are many issues that underscore the danger of this approach. Consider spiritual nourishment. I find it funny that we (Americans) have no problem stuffing our faces with food and indulging in all sorts of delicacies. According to the CDC, around 35 percent of Americans are obese. We make sure we have our 3 meals a day, in addition to snacks, desserts, etc. It seems we feed ourselves physically to excess. I can personally relate. I struggle with low blood sugar levels if I do not eat regularly. I often get faint and become nauseated if I go too long without nourishment. But if we feed our bodies the moment they tell us to eat, why would we starve ourselves when it comes to spiritual things?

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” Matthew 15:8-10

Remember when Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness? Jesus had not eaten for 40 days and 40 nights. So, in his humanity, He was certainly very hungry. Knowing that Jesus must have physically hungered, Satan asked him in, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Mat 4:3). Jesus, knowing what Satan was doing, answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (v. 4). If you notice, Jesus does not say that we shouldn’t physically feed ourselves, but rather that our lives do not depend on physical bread alone but by the Word of God. It is our spiritual bread that we truly can’t live without.

Have you ever been horrified at the sight of withered little children who haven’t eaten in weeks? My friends, I see many Christians who may be physically well fed, but spiritually they are walking skeletons. People use many excuses for not attending church on a consistent basis: “Well, work piled up this week and I’ve got stuff to do at home” or, “God understands that I need some me time.” Whatever the reason, there are spiritual anorexics everywhere. The preaching of the Word goes out week by week. They have the choice to feed themselves but do not. Once again, the question is not whether salvation depends on going to church (it depends on Christ’s work alone). But there are consequences for not regularly attending corporate worship.

I can hear some of you say, “Yes, yes... We all know we must hear from God’s Word. We just don’t need to make every service.” While Scripture nowhere says that you will burn for all of eternity if you do not attend church, our regularity says something about what we deem important. Aside from that, there is much to be said for assembling as much as possible.

One of the benefits of our assembling together is the encouragement we receive from one another. The writer of Hebrews makes this point in the tenth chapter beginning in verse 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."

Sadly, many today are making a habit of forsaking the assembly to their detriment. We are made for one another; we are a body. Christians who don’t think they need the assembly are like are like errant body parts floating in limbo. Imagine if your big toe was floating along beside you somewhere instead of being connected to your body. Gives you the creeps right? Well forsaking the assembly should give us the creeps too.

We should also remember that, when we meet for worship, something grand and glorious is going on, even though we may not see it with our physical eyes. By the Spirit, we are lifted into the heavenlies to gather around God’s throne and worship with myriads of angels and all the saints from all ages. The writer of Hebrews describes it this way:

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.” (Hebrews 12:22-23)

When we assemble for worship, we no longer ascend an earthly mountain in Jerusalem. Regardless of how it appears in the natural, by the Spirit, we ascend a heavenly mountain to a New Jerusalem. We worship with all of those who came before us. That is, in itself, a glorious thought that should inspire us to rush into church every time the doors are open.

In closing, we should remember that, when we are worshipping together with the saints of God, we are rehearsing for the great assembly in eternity. Can you imagine giving an excuse to God in heaven that you had to “catch up on laundry” or "had better things to do”? Newsflash, in heaven everything will center on worshipping the Almighty God with His saints.

Is assembly required? Yes, if you value your spiritual well being as much as you do your physical well being. Yes, if you value others in the body of Christ and take seriously the ministry God has given you. Yes, if you value the immense privilege of gathering spiritually around God’s throne. So, I hope to see you on Sunday. Perhaps it won’t be long before you’ll have to exchange your spiritual skinny jeans for spiritual stretchy pants! How about it?

- Jordan McGehee