Please, come to church!

Yes, please come to church. Do it for me. Really. I have a lot riding on this and truly need you here.

I know, that definitely sounds like a whiny and insecure pastor pleading for people to come validate his ego and soothe his fears. Sadly, deep down, we all know there is SOME truth there but that is for a different time. I genuinely NEED you to be at church. You see, I am a struggling sinner and your presence in my life is critical to my walk with Christ.

The Apostle John writes,

“If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1st John 1:6-7).

Do you see the three connected points in this text? We have fellowship with Jesus which allows us to have fellowship with one another which all works together to bring cleansing from our sin.

Initially, this sounds confusing if not outright heretical. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that only the work of Jesus on the cross can cleanse me from my sin, bringing forgiveness and reconciliation. Look at the text though. The point at which John states that the blood of Jesus brings cleansing is in the context of believers already being in fellowship with Jesus as well as with each other. The cleansing John writes of must be something other than the cleansing that comes at the moment of salvation.

We find a clue in the word translated “cleanses”. John wrote the word in a form that speaks of an ongoing cleansing from sin. At salvation, I was cleansed once for all from the penalty and power of sin but what lingers is the presence of sin in my life. I am still a sinner, albeit a forgiven sinner who has been adopted as a child of God and made alive in the saving work of Jesus. A sinner though, nonetheless, which brings me back to why I need you at church. Yes, at church. Sure all this all can take place in any number of venues, but the unmistakable will of God for His people is they are together as He has called them to be together. In the Old Testament, that was the nation of Israel with all its failings and all its structure. In the New Testament that is the church, the local church, the endlessly dysfunctional church. That one.

On an earthly level, your fellowship with me participates with the work of Christ to continually cleanse me from the sin that lingers in my life. For me personally, that happens in several ways.

1)         Your life is an example to me.

You have no idea how many times just being around you has been used by the Spirit of God to convict me of sin. You didn’t even need to say a word to me. I saw you or heard you act in a way that was Christlike and in being exposed to God’s goodness in your life, it exposed something hideous within me. You had no idea, you couldn’t have known, but you did and as a result I began to change.

2)         Your testimony encouraged me.

Testimony? WHAT testimony?! I know, you didn’t get up on stage and “share your story”. You weren’t filmed for an interview and shown in service. All you did was tell me how God blessed you and was faithful to you. The bit of your life story you shared with me in those 180 seconds had nothing to do with my situation except for one thing: I needed to be reminded that God was faithful. Your story may have been about a test at school, a job interview, or that you found a $5 bill in a pocket but it reminded me to not give up and to keep going. Your simple and seemingly mundane account of a minor incident in your life was huge for me. I was reminded to stay faithful because of you.

3)         Your presence allowed you to see a darker side of me and call me out.

You probably don’t remember that Sunday you almost didn’t come to church but came anyway. You were there when I expressed a faithless thought, an unkind attitude, or acted in some way inappropriate for a believer. You witnessed something you didn’t think was good and you approached me on it. I was embarrassed, maybe even a little (or a LOT) defensive but it got me thinking and the Spirit of God brought that to mind at a critical moment and prevented me from really blowing it.

My fellowship with Jesus, my fellowship with you, and being cleansed from my sin; it all fits together. So come to church. I really need this. Trust me, it is worth it.

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