The music is too loud. The flashing lights hurt your eyes. The person sitting behind you can’t sing but doesn’t seem to realize it. The people on the platform dress like they’re at a barn-raising, including the preacher. You happen to know that the lady sitting in front of you lives with her boyfriend, and the greeter goes to his car for a smoke halfway through the service. I hate to break it to you, but going to church is not the solution to your heart’s longing for something spiritually fulfilling.
As a former pastor’s daughter who went to church at least six times per week, I can honestly tell you that the act of regular attendance is not going to fill that emptiness or give you hope for the future. But I’d like to share what can. I’ll swing back to the benefits of going to church afterward.
Let’s start at the beginning—the very beginning. God created humans in His image. We were meant to talk to God regularly and enjoy a personal relationship with Him. Adam and Eve’s paradise was not only a description of the garden where they lived. They literally walked and talked with God.
The story of God’s love for us is found in the Bible, a book that has lasted for thousands of years that many like to call God’s Word. It wasn’t long after God made those first humans that they gave into temptation and disobeyed Him, creating distance between man and God. There’s nothing like lying and cheating to cause strain on a relationship.
When we don’t make space for God in our lives, we sometimes feel an emptiness or a void (as Adam and Eve must have felt immediately). We might question the purpose of life or focus on all the bad things around us that cause us anxiety or pain. We were never meant to face those things alone, my friend. The One who formed you in your mother’s womb wants to give you strength, comfort, and hope.
Later, humans separated themselves from God so far that He could only find one family that still revered Him. The Creator decided to destroy everything and start over with Noah and his loved ones. But even then, God had a plan to create a way for us to find that intimacy with Him that Adam and Eve experienced. He wanted to set up the lineage in which He would insert His Son. Because God’s plan involved sending Jesus to be born and grow up as a human, to show the rest of us earth-walkers what God’s love looks like and sounds like. The plan also involved His death—an unjust, dishonorable execution.
The only perfect human to ever walk this earth knew His Father’s agenda. Jesus lived a life of love and servanthood, and then He bore the punishment for all of us for allowing sin to separate us from God.
The resurrection of Jesus showed the world that He was not merely a human but the Son of God. The Father’s plan was complete, and He called it salvation.
Salvation is the key that unlocks comfort and hope because this free gift is an intimate relationship with God. When we accept His plan, we invite Him into our hearts and ask Him to reign there. We submit our lives to Him, recognizing that He is the Almighty God and rejoicing that He still sees each of us and loves us no matter what we did in the past.
It is from that moment of salvation that praying, reading the Bible, and, yes, going to church become ways to strengthen our relationship with God. We talk to Him, get to know Him by reading about Him and hang out with others who have similarly met Him. When we go to church as “believers,” our purpose isn’t to look around and nitpick about the music, the dress, or the sinful nature of other attendees. We join together with people who also need His daily grace and mercy to worship Him in song and listen to theologically-educated people share from His Word. Going to church each Sunday helps us grow in our walk with Jesus.
Without a heart change, however, going through the rituals of religion will not save us. It will not bring us comfort and hope. Only God can do that.
Have you invited God into your heart to be LORD over your life? How could that simple receiving of salvation change the way you live? Could you use more love? A caring Heavenly Father? Comfort when your heart is breaking? Hope for an eternity with Him?
What’s the downside? Don’t look for the Church to fulfill you. Look to God.
God, I need You in my life. I’ve tried to do it on my own but it’s just not working. Forgive me for thinking I knew better than the One who made me. Thank You for loving me enough to offer the gift of salvation and the promise of comfort and hope. Cleanse my heart from sin, and help me to grow and become more like You. Amen.
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