Worship/Assemble (or Don't) at Your Own Risk - Part 6
So here’s the thing. You have a choice. You have free will. You should love/adore God, but God won’t make you love Him. You should honor/respect God, but God won’t make you honor/respect Him (on earth). You should worship God individually/collectively, but God won’t make you. He has given us choice. And that’s what this series has been about. The choice to worship God when others might choose not to. The choice to worship God even if danger is present. The choice to assemble even when there may be risk - real or just perceived. It is our choice.
But here’s the thing - We will be judged for our choices. Our choices are not without consequence - either here and now or eternally. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds (choices) in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) ”And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,”
(Hebrews 9:27) But it’s not just judgment of what we did, but what we could/should have done but didn’t.
“Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) Jesus tells the “Parable of the Talents” where the servant who received one talent chose to bury it and the judgment of the master came down against as He raged, "And cast out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 25:30) Likewise, in the following parable Jesus tells of those who did not “feed” Him or “clothe” Him. Their judgement was not against what they did, but what they should have done but didn’t. "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Matthew 25:46) From these teachings, we should clearly and without a doubt understand the severity and consequences of our choices. What we choose to do and what we choose not to do.
Many may choose not to assemble to worship because of fear. Because they fear any number of risks that we’ve discussed in this bulletin series. But throughout the bulletin series, we’ve shown from the scriptures that our faith needs to conquer our fear and that our love for God and our neighbor will compel us to assemble and worship if we are able. Yes, it might be difficult sometimes. It might be challenging sometimes. It might even be risky sometimes. But hopefully it is always worth it… because fundamentally it is the right choice.
Hebrews chapters 9 and 10 contrast worship under the Old Law and priesthood with that of the New Covenant and Christ Jesus concluding, “Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)
This was not just a “drawing near” in a spiritual sense, but as the body of Christ drawing near to one another as well, approaching the throne of God. We can understand that by the context - the very next two verses, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,” (Hebrews 10:23-24) Holding fast the confession of hope without wavering would bring out action, not inaction. In particular, stimulating fellow brethren to love and good deeds.
We see from the following verses that some saints weren’t doing that in the 1st century as they should, (and in a very specific way as well) and we see what judgment the Lord speaks against them. “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near. For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES.” (Hebrews 10:25-27)
There are many sins we could go on willfully committing and receiving the following judgment described here, but how many are there contextually? And what is in the immediate context that would be considered sin? Not a sin of “action”, but a sin of “inaction” - what they weren’t doing that they should have been doing! Did they have their reasons? Absolutely! The following context alludes to possible persecution. Or perhaps with time, the pull back to the old ways had rendered them unfaithful to the gospel. Whatever the excuses may have been, the Holy Spirit makes it clear that the excuses were not good enough. God expects faith to result in faithfulness and that is seen in our deeds/choices/actions.
The clear New Testament teaching of God’s expectation is that He expects saints to assemble and worship together. Plain and simple. To deny this truth is to deny the truth and simplicity of plain New Testament teaching and example. Sometimes there will be risk, but what risk do we face in not obeying God or putting Him first?
People who don’t take the opportunity to assemble with the saints and worship God in spirit and truth on earth, are not going to get the opportunity to assemble with the saints in heaven either. Perhaps we should consider that truth when deciding ourselves whether or not we will assemble and/or worship God.