“I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, Jesus.”
So says one of the first worship songs i ever heard and wholeheartedly sang after becoming a believer. It is a beautiful song, and its message is one the church desperately needs today.
Too often in the church these days the focus has been taken off of Jesus. But what does the song say? It says the heart of worship is Jesus. This is where our attention is supposed to be. Unfortunately, though, a very sneaky idol has crept in and replaced Jesus, even in “Reformed” churches. This is the idol of the church.
Now, look. I recognize that God loves His people (John 3:16). I recognize that God bought the church with the blood of His Son (1 Peter 1:18). I recognize that to attack God’s church is to attack Christ (Acts 9:4-5). So i don’t write this post flippantly.
I’d be the first to say that a Christian who thinks he can do life on his own is not a lone-wolf, but rather a lone-sheep (Isaiah 53:6). This is worse than being a lone-wolf. A wolf can protect itself; a lone sheep will be chewed up, digested, and excreted by the wolves and lions and demons in this world (not to mention inside himself). The sequel to Stranded will discuss this very topic at some length.
So yes, we must be in churches, but the church is not the end goal. The end goal is Christ (Philippians 3:12-15). We need Jesus (Philippians 3:20-21). He died to reconcile us to Himself (reconciliation to other believers is merely a byproduct of reconciliation to Him [Ephesians 1:3-2:10 vs. Ephesians 2:11-22; former is about salvation, latter is about the church]). But the focus is Him (Hebrews 12:1-2). It is not brother and sister so-and-so who attend the same local body.
Ten years ago we needed books about the church. It was a heavily neglected topic. We got these books from solid pastors like Mark Dever and those he trained up. However, i firmly believe the church has been overemphasized to the point that we are now guilty of idolizing it.
Sure, we still need to preach on the church. We still need to exhort people to join a church (Hebrews 12:24-25). (If you refuse to join a church, why would you want to be in heaven someday? It’s an eternal church service.)
But, once people are part of a church, they need to be regularly pointed to Christ (Romans 1:15). They need to seek Him above all else. They don’t need to be given ten opportunities a week to spend time with people from their church and basically shamed if they don’t go to all twelve events (i purposely didn’t let the numbers match). They need Christ! (Acts 4:6).
If fellowship with people from our church is so important that there must be calendered opportunities for it just about every day in the week, then i would simply like to pose a question: why limit it to people from your church if there are other blood-bought believers in your city who you could be fellowshipping with as well? (Colossians 4:15-16; Titus 3:15; Revelation 4:9-10).
It’s a consistency thing.
I know the church is potentially an idol because i once had a friend tell me, “When I look at you I see Jesus.” He later explained that his meaning was tied to the fact that as a part of Christ’s body i am Christ on earth. I looked him in the eyes and rebuked him. “Never say something like that again.”
Jesus is allowed to refer to the church as Himself (Matthew 25:40), but we see nowhere in Scripture where a human makes the same kind of statement (2 Corinthians 5:20 might be the closest example). The people of God at the Final Judgment are surprised to find out they physically served Jesus during their lives (Matthew 25:37). If we actively think we are serving Jesus now, how can we be surprised at the judgment? Let’s never think of ourselves more highly than we ought (Romans 12:3).
While the church is essential, it didn’t die for us (Ephesians 5:25). It didn’t predestine us for adoption (Ephesians 1:5). It didn’t humble itself for us (Philippians 2:5-8). That is not to say it shouldn’t be filled with humble individuals, but too much preaching on the church as a corporate entity makes individuals slip through the cracks and say, “Well, I guess I’m included in that,” whereas preaching Jesus requires people to ask, “Do I truly believe?”
Preaching Jesus requires people to ask, “Do I truly believe?”
I’m trying to get back to the heart of worship. It’s Christ! It’s not the church (even though the church is an excellent, valuable thing!).
As John concluded his letter emphasizing the utter importance of the church, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
In this with you.
Soli Deo Gloria
Thanks for reading.