Why does gathering together as a local church even matter? In the epistle of Hebrews, believers were instructed that the glorious privilege of access to God through Christ Jesus came with certain important responsibilities as members of His body that make the Church really matter. We can recognize these important responsibilities that make the Church really matter.
Below is an automated transcript of this message:All right, good morning, Church! It’s good to see you online this morning. I say, “See you,” but I’m looking at some names here on Facebook. Right now, Devon, Jackie, Crystal, Karen, Carolyn, Joy, Cindy and Mike are here. Welcome; it’s good to see all of you online! Looking now, at our church online website, I see Gail, Jackie, Dale, Cat…so many others. I hope, if you’re watching online right now, perhaps you’ll call your friends and family and have them join you as we do church online this morning.
It’s good to continue our series with you today. I have a couple of announcements before I begin the message today. One is that starting on July 5th, we will resume our in-person services in addition to our online services. We took two weeks off out of an abundance of caution, but now we’re ready to reopen . That will be next Sunday, July 5th, for both campuses, at the Wilson campus at 9:15am and 11am and at the Rocky Mountain campus at 10:30am. The difference in our services will be that we’ve added some new methods of mitigation to stop the spread, and we will be expecting all attendees as well. Our volunteers will wear masks voluntarily, following the governor’s executive orders. We would remind people that we invite you to join us either online or in person, based on where you are in your life right now. If you’ve recently been exposed, if you’re experiencing symptoms or if you have a cough, please stay home. But, if you’re ready to be in person, come bring your mask and join us. Otherwise, continue enjoying our worship services online.
Also, I wanted to remind you that we’re so thankful for those of you that are still faithful in your giving. You can give online and we just appreciate it so much. Our ministry is still going forward every day and every week. We’re still doing the ministry that God has called us to, and so we hope that you’ll continue to be faithful in your giving. You have been and we thank you and we thank God for you.
We would also ask if you’re online, don’t be passive about being online. Talk to us online. We have shepherds, online pastors helping to hear your feedback, and they’re ready to pray with you if you have a prayer request. So, I hope you will be active online.
Having said those things, I want to begin our sermon today. We’re continuing our sermon series entitled, “What Really Matters?” Our sermon series theme verse comes from Philippians 1:10 (NLT), “For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.”
As we continue this series today, we have entitled this particular message, “Church matters.” ”Church matters.” Last week, as I said earlier, we decided to take two weeks off and just do church online out of an abundance of caution. And as a result, we became kind of famous, or maybe some would say, infamous, on several news channels. I was interviewed at least four times last week by several news channels and one of them was WRAL. Maybe some of you all saw that Sara Krueger and I did an interview together. Here’s what’s amazing; you could do a 30 minute interview and maybe three seconds of what you said will appear. Here’s the question she asked that has continued to resonate inside me for the last week. She asked this question, “Why is it so important for your church to meet together in person?” You probably saw the news video. I was kind of stumped; she caught me off guard there for a second. I didn’t expect that question; the thing I said was, “Well , it’s not the same. Being online is just not the same.” The more I thought about it during the week, the more I wanted to really think theologically about that. Why is it important for God’s people to gather together on a regular basis? And so I’ve entitled this message, as I’ve mentioned, “Church Matters.”
Listen to this email that a youth pastor recently got back from one of his graduating youth members who went to college. How’s it going? Have you found a church to attend yet? This young lady responded like this; I’m not going to a church, so it’s just me and my relationship with God while I’m here… But that’s slowly been strengthening… Kind of on my own terms… Which works!!! And I’m working on making my relationship less about me and more about God… So what she was saying was, I don’t think I need the church just to have a personal relationship with God. This made the youth pastor really question what he had taught her. He said she seemed to reason that person relationship meant she didn’t really need church. You know, why even go to church? Why do we need it? He began to talk about this, he said, “With so many online sermons on demand, endless worship, music playlists and a French press in my cupboard, why should we go to a physical church when we can just lie in bed and watch it through our sock feet? Besides, when you go to church, who needs that hipster worship leader? There’s better preachers on every channel, and besides, I have better coffee than what the church offers me in that Styrofoam cup.”
Maybe that’s how you’ve been thinking. Why do I need the church? Why does church really matter? Why does gathering as a local church even matter?
In the Epistle of Hebrews, the believers were instructed that the glorious privilege of access to God through Christ Jesus came with certain important responsibilities as members of His body, which is the church. I think we can recognize these important responsibilities that make the church really matter.
How can we do it? As we look at the text today, I think we’ll see three important responsibilities that make church really matter. Let’s look at the book of Hebrews 10:19-25 (ESV) “19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” This is God’s word.
Three important responsibilities that make Church matter:
1. We gather together to draw near to God in worship.
If you would circle in your Bibles, if you have your physical Bibles there with you or if you are able to take notes, you’ll notice that there are three “let us” statements in this scripture. Three times the author of the book of Hebrews, in the word of God, says to the church of the Hebrews, “let us.” Which, by the way, the book of Hebrews was written primarily to Jewish background believers, believers who had come to believe in Jesus the Messiah who probably had a Jewish background. He’s writing to them and saying that here are three responsibilities and all three of these begin with this phrase, “let us.”
Before we dig in, though, I want us to look at verses 19 through 21. Verses 19 through 21 tells us the privilege that we have in Christ, which then brings about the responsibilities that we have in Christ. Let’s work on our privilege in Christ.
First notice, that verse 19 begins with the word, “Therefore.” We always ask the church when we encounter the word, “therefore,” in the text, we should always ask, “What’s it there for,” right? “What’s it there for?” And so, it usually is like an equal sign in the text. It means that whatever preceded now equals what’s coming. In this case, it’s pointing to a summary he’s going to make and a transition.
For ten chapters, many believe the apostle Paul is the writer. Some believe it might have been Luke or some other person. Hebrew Hebrews is one of the few books in the New Testament without an “autograph.” Whoever wrote it, in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes up through ten chapters.
Here’s the privileges we have in Christ. Here’s the supremacy that we have in Christ. He summarizes it in just two statements. One is, he begins with the word, “since;” in fact, both of these sentences have the word, “since.” 19 “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God,” He’s saying that we have confidence to approach the throne of God. We have this privilege now because Christ has sacrificed His life on the cross. If you want to know God personally, here’s what the Scripture is saying; you have to come in the blood of Jesus. You have to come under the covering, believing in the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And so, he’s reminding us of this. He’s saying, since we have this.
Do you have it? Do you have the blood of Christ that has washed away your sins? If you have that, you can boldly enter the Holy Place. Now This is a reference to the temple, the place called the Holy of Holies, where the high priest, the Jewish high priest, could only enter on one day of the year and that he had to come in carrying the blood of the sacrificial lamb. He would sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat, which was the ark of the Covenant. He could only pass through the curtain on that one day per year, which was the day of the Atonement, which is in Hebrew, Yom Kippur. That was the only time that the high priest, who had to be a descendant of Aaron, could enter.
Here’s what the Scriptures say now, though, because of Jesus. Because of His blood, the blood of the Lord Jesus, who is the lamb of God, when you have that blood applied to your heart, you are like a high priest. You can go every day at any moment. This is a privilege you now have in Christ Jesus, by his blood, which was spilled for your sin; you can approach God boldly. You can do it confidently. So, that’s verse 19; that’s the first “since” privilege.
And then, in verse 20 he goes on to say, “20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain,” That’s pointing to the former curtain, which was the curtain that separated the holy of holies. But now it speaks more of that curtain, which was removed spiritually for us, because Jesus died in the flesh. In other words, it’s new as compared to the Old Testament. Why? Because He not only died, but He rose from the grave and He lives today. He is a new and living way to approach God.
Here’s the second “since.” The first “since” was, “since we have confidence because of the blood of Jesus.” And then, the second one is in verse 21, “since we have a great high priest over the house of God,” And so, we have a living high priest. His name is Jesus. He’s the Lord of the Church, and, since we have Him, He’s forever sitting at the right hand of the Father, continuously praying for us. This is what the Scripture is saying. These are the privileges we have, we have access to God and we have a high priest.
We can now see this first responsibility that is found in verse 22. It says, “Let us draw near.” Do you see it? “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” “Let us draw near.” Any time you see this scripture, to draw near, it has the idea to come into the presence of God. It’s an invitation to come into the presence of God.
In Leviticus 9:7, we’ll see that, Moses says to Aaron when he’s instructing him as a priest, he says, “Draw near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering and make atonement for yourself and for the people.” This phrase, “draw near,” is an Old Testament phrase that now has new meaning in the New Testament because of the blood of Jesus and the priesthood of Jesus. We can draw near, but not just alone. Certainly, we can draw near as individuals; you can do it right now, whether you’re in your living room or your bedroom or your kitchen. Maybe you’re driving in your car; wherever you are. You can do it right now as an individual.
But that’s not the invitation here in Hebrews, chapter 10. Take note that it says, “Let us draw near.” You can’t do “us” by yourself. You can’t do “one another” alone. It says, “Let us;” it’s in the first person Plural. This is the command. This is the responsibility. Friends, listen to this. Let us gather together and draw near to God. That’s what the scripture is saying. This is a responsibility . Since we have this holy way, this new and living way, open through Jesus Christ, this privilege that no one else has because of Jesus, do not stop gathering together. Let us draw near together, approaching the throne of God. This is the invitation. This is the responsibility. This is the scripture, he says. Let us draw near.
Now, how should we draw near? The scripture says, “Let us draw near with a true heart.” In other words, not because someone else told you, not because I told you, but because your heart desires it but because you have this new heart in Jesus. And so, you can come wholeheartedly and our worship is true.
It continues to use this Jewish language, this Old Testament priestly language, it says, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…” In other words, our hearts beat with the assurance that we know who we are in Christ Jesus. 22 “…with our hearts sprinkled clean…” from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. In our heart, we are sprinkled clean. You see, that’s how the priest had to be sprinkled with the blood, their clothing and and their bodies had to be sprinkled with the sacrificial blood in order to enter into the temple. And then, it says, “from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. And so, they had to wash. If you were to go to Israel today, I’ve been there, you will find there outside the temple are ruins of literally dozens and dozens of places where they have baptismal pools, where the priests and the men and women would go into these these baths and clean their bodies and put on white clothes before they would enter the temple.
What does this mean for the Christian? Well, I think, first of all, it means spiritually, that our hearts are to be cleansed and sprinkled with the blood of Jesus and that the washing of the word, which is that that which we’re doing right now. We’re hearing the word of God and it “washes” our bodies. But it might also lend itself towards the right of baptism that we are to be baptized in the water as an outward symbol.
And so, we see this in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (ESV) 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free…” That seems pretty important right now, that as believers, we no longer identify ourselves by our racial background, Jew or Greek, or our cultural background as slaves or free. We are baptized into one body, a new people. And so, we see this invitation.
You see, the church, as we remind ourselves here all the time, “The church is not the steeple the church is the people.” “The church is the people” and it exists in two states. It exists in the state of being gathered and the state of being scattered. It gathers weekly on the first day of the week, which has been the pattern for 2000 years on the day that Jesus rose from the grave. It gathers and then it scatters Monday through Saturday. Now, we might gather on other days for our small groups or for a revival or or other meetings. But that tends to be the way the church is. “The church is the people, not the steeple. We’re the church gathered and we’re the church scattered.” Here, a responsibility is “ the church gathered.”
This is an invitation to “draw near” to God corporately as the Church gathered. Hebrews 4:16 (ESV) “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” You can’t do “us” without each other. Let us draw near to God together. That’s one of the responsibilities of every believer who has the privilege of knowing God through Christ Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is that we gather.
We see this invitation in this writing by Jonathan Leeman, he talks about the importance of the gathered church. He says, “The gathering of a church is both an ‘embassy’ of Christ’s kingdom and the temporary ‘geography’ of that kingdom.” And so, the church gathers in a certain place and it represents, for that moment, an embassy on planet earth for the Kingdom of Heaven that is to come.
Now listen, am I trying to beat up somebody who hasn’t been ready to come to church yet? No. Here’s how I want to put an application to this. This leads us to draw near; to gather. We’re offering online. I don’t think the book of Hebrewshad in mind online services. But we have them. We’ve had them for the last couple of years available, and so this is new. So here’s what I would say if you’re if you’re right now online with us, you checked in at 11 o’clock and you’re engaging. You’re saying things. You’re taking advantage of this; you’re actively engaging. You’re with us right now. You’ve gathered together with us and you’re seeing the other names of people commenting and you’ve brought your kids into the room. You brought your spouse into the room. You’re engaging.
What I would say to you, based on where we’re at right now, based on the fact that we’re under “stay at home” orders and we are protecting ourselves from Covid 19. I would say, as long as you’re coming online and you’re engaging in the live service, you’re keeping your responsibility. You’re letting other people know, I’m drawing near together with you. Now, if you’re deciding, you know what, I’m just gonna let it record so I can sleep late and maybe I’ll watch it later tonight or sometime during the week. Here’s what I’ve noticed. If you wait to watch it later, you’ll just keep on waiting. You won’t do anything. Here’s the other thing that happens; we didn’t get the privilege. We didn’t get the wonderful fellowship that comes from your interaction. We didn’t hear from you. And so don’t let the fact that you have to stay home because you have symptoms or you are engaging with someone who’s high risk or you are high risk yourself. You stay home. You do what you’re supposed to do. We’re providing this online service, but that’s no excuse for being passive about how you interact. Keep your responsibility. Fill out the online connection card. Let us know how you’re doing. Engage with your pastors. Get involved online. Now, if you’re able, because you have no symptoms, because you feel healthy you’re not interacting with anyone who’s high risk, starting next Sunday, come back and be with us. Wear a face mask for the protection of others and we will see each you socially distancing from other families and you’ll be able to keep this responsibility.
Here’s the habit that we will fall into; there’s these 1000 other churches that we could watch online. They’re all great but they’re not our church. They’re not the local one that we can meet in. But, this guy’s better than that guy, and this guy can sing better than that guy. And that guy can play a guitar better. And he’s a better drummer. What we do is, we make it about me and we make it about performance and it’s never been about that. It’s about coming together and approaching the throne of God. There’s something that happens. The Holy Spirit never leaves us as believers, but there’s something special that happens when we come together. The Scripture says you have a responsibility because of your privilege in Christ Jesus to draw near together .
The second important responsibility that makes Church matter:
2. We gather together to hold fast to our confession through discipleship.
This is the second responsibility. You see it in verse 23 it says, “Let us hold fast.” In other words, “hang on, don’t let go of;” hold fast. It’s this idea of taking firm possession of now.
I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed it, but when you get out of the habit of being together with God’s people and you have all these other influences in your life, if you’re watching the news 24/7 and you’re on social media all the time, you’ll start noticing that you lose your peace. You start taking sides, you start feeling all of these opinions. You start feeling anxiety and fear; different things start taking hold of you. Why is that happening? It’s because all of your input right now is from the world. That’s what’s going on.
If you want to hold fast, hold fast by holding on to the Lord together. The responsibility is that we come together to hold fast. We don’t hold fast out there, scattered all over the place. Now, we can talk about the church scattered, but the purpose of this message is the church gathered, which is the invitation here.
The second responsibility is to let us hold fast to our confession. Now, the word, “confession,” is a great word in the Greek. It says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope.” So what’s this word, “confession?” What does this word mean in the Greek? “same word.” That which we profess together. Here, it is our mutual hope in Christ Jesus that our gathering is rehearsal for heaven. It means that we come together and we make the same profession of faith. We come together and we say, my hope is not in politics, my hope is not in some movement. It’s not in some social justice movement. It’s not in some answer given by another man. It’s given by the one man, Jesus Christ. Our hope is in Christ alone. We come together and we tell each other, you know what, I got caught up in this or I got caught up in that movement where I got caught up in this political position. But you know what? I’m back with God’s people now, and I’m remembering now as we confess together what we believe in. “As iron sharpens iron,” we begin to make the same confession. We begin to say the same word together, and we profess the same hope.
And so, it says in verse 23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.” What does the word, “wavering,” mean? It has the idea of leaning up against the wall; you are not really ready to take a stand. It might have the idea of, when the wind blows, that you go with the wind, you waiver. And so, the scripture here is saying not to waver, not to be moved. We are to be immovable in our one confession together.
There’s an anchor that’s built into the seven-day week; we are to begin the week by giving the first day of the week to the Lord. We’re God’s people, so let us gather together. Let us gather together online if that’s where we need to be right now, based on our health, we gather together online, but do it at the same time so that we can engage together and we can talk to one another. You can interact with your pastors; you can interact with one another and build one another up by saying the same word. You get to a certain part of the sermon. I can’t watch it right now, because if I was watching, I couldn’t preach. But somebody ought to be saying, “Amen,” right now. Somebody should be typing, “Hallelujah Amen.” Others will hear you say it, and it will build them up because we build each other up. This is what we’re called to; its the importance of the gathered church. And it’s based on, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering. For he who promised is faithful.” He’s going to keep his word. He says He’s coming again. He said He would keep us until He does, and so we don’t have to worry. He’s faithful. He will keep his word.
We read this in 1 Peter 1:13 (NLT) “So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.” It speaks of the corporate activity of the church in preparation and in exercising of discipleship. This is what happens when we come together. It sharpens our confession of faith. We might have been out there kind of losing hope, sort of getting hopeless, anxious and worried. But when we come together , there’s something special that happens when we hear the word of God in a live environment, in the moment it is happening.
I’m nobody special. The only thing special about me is that Jesus lives inside of me. But when we gather together as the saints of God, the Holy Spirit is present in a manifest way so that the preaching is alive, so that the congregation experiences something together. If you’re watching online right now, if you lean in and you engage, you’ll experience it right there in your living room. Here’s what I’m saying; we need to sharpen one another, so let’s do it. Let’s come together and let’s hold fast to the confession with one profession that Jesus is our one and only hope.
Now listen, you go anywhere on planet Earth and you can be a Christian and keep it to yourself and nobody will bother you. But the minute you start gathering together with other believers, the world will come against you every time. The world is always against the gathering of believers . All you have to do is see what’s happened in China over the last few years.
The church in China is one of the fastest growing, one of the largest groups of believers on planet Earth. But in recent days, they’ve been shutting down churches and tearing down buildings. What really worries the people, in the communist government overseeing the land of China, is they get worried about people gathering and saying they are citizens of heaven. They want them to be communist comrades. But the Christians say that King Jesus is the One over them. The comrades want them to look up to the sovereignty of the Communist government, this makes them nervous, and so they begin to tear these things down. Unfortunately, for that government and every other government that attempts to do so, you cannot destroy the church. The gates of hades will not prevail against it. But, take note of this, in every human government, there comes a point in time where that government will attempt to shut down the gathering of the church. It’s the gathering of the church that makes the world nervous.
Are you saying, “Amen!,” right now online? Are you thinking through this implication for yourself? It wasn’t Covid 19 that caused church attendance to decline in America. No, church attendance has been declining for the last 20 years. There’s so many other things competing. Let’s not blame it on Covid 19. We have just become so mediocre in their commitment; we have become so weakened and so concerned about self. We need to remember the responsibility to draw near to God together and to hold fast to our confession together.
The third important responsibility that makes Church matter:
3. We gather together to stir one another up to loving service.
The third responsibility is to gather, to stir one another up to loving service. We gather together to stir one another up. Are you stirred up right now? I’m stirred up! We gather together to get each other “cranked up” and encouraged!
Are you ready to go out? The church scatters for six days a week. We go to all of our jobs, all of our places of education, all of our homes and neighborhoods. And wherever we go, wherever you are, that’s where the church is. The church scattered is important, but it needs to gather in order to be empowered and stirred up to go and scatter with the mission.
Let’s look at verse 24 and 25 as we wrap up here. Verse 24 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” It’s the third “let us.” (1) Let us draw near, (2) Let us hold fast and (3) Let us consider how to stir up one another. There’s the word, “love,” right there, to sacrificially love one another and to do good works towards one another and toward this world. Let us consider how to do it and you don’t do it by neglecting your meetings together. So if you’re thinking, well , I want to be part of the church scattered, but I really don’t want anything to do with the church gathered, then you’re not listening to the Holy Spirit’s command in the scripture. I love the mission of the church. I just don’t care about getting together with the church because I don’t particularly like other Christians very much. I don’t really need them. I’d rather be a “lone ranger” Christian.
Paul or Luke or whoever wrote the scripture for the book of Hebrews keeps saying “one another.” I tend to think it was Luke because I think Luke was the one who stayed with Paul throughout his ministry and it has a lot of the earmarks of how Luke talked. But, it also sounds a lot like Paul. They must have already been running into people that were saying, I got Jesus, now why do I need the rest of you people? Well, it’s because you have a responsibility to come together and stir one another up to love and good works. You don’t do it by neglecting meeting together. It’s not optional.
Verse 25, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Why is Day capitalized? It’s the day that Jesus returns. Do you think it’s closer now than it was yesterday? I do. As we look around our world today, doesn’t it look like we are in need of Christ’s return? Absolutely. And so, as you see the day coming, you should gather all the more, in order to prepare yourselves to go out and scatter in Christ’s loving service.
Now, one of the things that I see here, in these last two verses, is the “one another” statements. 24 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” You can’t do the one anothers without each other; you can’t do one another without the other. We must get together to do these things and to do the “one anothers” in the Bible.
I did a study of the “one another” commands in the NT this week. I counted 24 unique ones with only a cursory study. They’re all built on this one command in John 13:34 (ESV) “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” That is Christ saying to love one another. That’s the main command. But if you start reading to the scripture: (Rom 12:10) Outdo one another in showing honor. (Rom 12:16) Live in harmony with one another. (Rom 14:13) let us not pass judgment on one another. (Rom 15:7) welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you. (Rom 15:14) instruct one another. (1 Cor. 11:33) Wait for one another. (1 Cor 12:25) care for one another. (2 Cor (13: 11) comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace with one another. (Gal. 5:13) through love serve one another. (Eph. 4:2) bearing with one another in love. (Eph 4:32) Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Col 3:13) bearing with one another, forgiving each other. (Col 3:16) teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (1 Thess 5:11) encourage one another and build one another up. “You can’t do the one anothers without one another.” “Let us gather together and stir one another up to love and good works.”
In the last 30 years, certainly, the church may have needed a course correction. Maybe we had overdone the gathering and underdone the scattering. But now, we’ve gone in the opposite direction. We tend to try to make the church all about the things that we do outside the church, and perhaps we’ve gone too far that way. That’s the tendency that we have. I think we need a new emphasis on the church gathered in order to empower the church scattered.
I want you to think about this, “the church gathers for strengthening, but it scatters for service. It gathers for worship, but it scatters for witness. It gathers for praise, but it scatters in power. It gathers for fellowship, but it scatters in faith.” We gather in order to be empowered and equipped so that, when we scatter, we are able to be what God’s called us to be.
I want you to think about what’s going on in our nation right now and what’s going on in our own church, in their own city, right now. As we face what’s going on right now, it’s making it more and more difficult for us to gather, but we’re offering every way we can. We offer online, and then we’ll be back in person next week for those that feel able to do so. We gather in order to take responsibility, to meet the world with the good news of Jesus.
Listen to a couple things here: (1) On the street corner of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood in Minneapolis, where George Floyd died a few weeks ago, did you know what’s going on there? The riot has turned into a revival. There’s a preacher and his wife that has set up a little stage there on the street that is still closed, and hundreds of people have been coming to Jesus. You haven’t seen this in the news, have you? Hundreds of people who are going there to lay flowers or they’re just there to see what happened there. Hundreds of people are being saved and baptized, and you could go online and watch the videos. The riot has turned into a revival.
(2) Did you know there’s a revival going on in Iran right now because of Covid 19? As the Muslim people are hiding in their homes, the Christians, who have been secret, are now coming openly out and feeding people and taking care of the sick in Jesus’ name. They’re risking not just Covid 19, but they’re risking their own lives in a persecuted country. They are seeing a great revival in Iran right now because of the way they are meeting people and taking care of people.
During this time, only a couple of weeks ago, one of our members, Blake Rudy, let his employer know that we were available to distribute food. And so, we distributed food two weeks ago. Judy Walton, one of our members here, said, I think people are probably afraid to give blood right now, and we always need blood. So, we sponsored the Red Cross yesterday. I tried to get an appointment, and it was full, and so I’m going to go to the next opportunity. The Mathison’s, right now, are helping us get ready for KidzFest, which starts next Tuesday. We’re going to be doing an online version of KidzFest this year. Because we had our office closed, the Mathison family have been allowing all the Amazon orders to come to their home and they are filling all of these bags that that we are going to be giving out. We’re going to have a drive thru pickup for our members. We’re delivering packets to other communities around town that have daycares and summer opportunities for children. They’re packing up, in Ziploc bags, supplies for half a million of just one particular item to be given out. Hundreds of kids throughout Wilson and Rocky Mount will receive these packets.
Now I could go on. We should all, right now, be looking for opportunities to gather so we can get encouraged and we get our minds and our hearts off of all the disturbances, all the anxiety and all the fears in this world. We gather so that we gain power to get back on mission as the scattered church Monday through Saturday. And then we gather on a weekly basis and we gather either online, actively engaged, or we gather in person when we’re able so that we go back out and we represent the body of Christ. Can I get an “Amen!” out there? Anybody out there and in the listening range of what I’m saying are you actively gathering and fulfilling the three responsibilities?
Let us draw near. Let us hold fast and let us stir one another up. Are you being obedient in these areas? I want to pray and I’m going to ask the band to come up in just a moment. I want to pray, and I want to give you an opportunity, if you’re here listening online or wherever you are right now. If you have not experienced the privilege of having the blood of Jesus applied to your life so that you are made right with Him by believing that He died on the cross for your sins. Have you ever confessed your sins? If you’ve never done that, I want to pray with you right now or if you’re here this morning listening and you’re thinking right now, I need to rethink my commitment on the church gathered, that it’s not just one of those things I could do with or without. I’ve fallen into a bad habit of of neglecting the “one anothers” that the scripture gives. What a privilege I have in Jesus. But I’ve neglected His body.
Wherever you are right now, let me pray for you. Dear Lord Jesus, first of all, I pray for that person that does not know the divine privilege of being right with God through Jesus Christ. If that is you, my friend, you can pray right now. Right where you are. Pray like this, Dear Father, I’m a sinner and I need Jesus. I believe He died on the cross for my sins. I believe He was raised from the grave and that He lives today. I want Him to come into my life. Lord Jesus, come into my life. Forgive me of my sin and make me the person you want me to be. Cleanse me and make me a child of God. If you’re praying that prayer right now, He will save you and He will make you one of His own and you will have that wonderful confidence of knowing Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Maybe you’re here and you’re listening now and you’ve been in the habit of doing the Christian walk by yourself. Now, be honest. You’re pretty beat up, aren’t you? You’ve fallen prey to who knows what kind of movement or political cause or maybe you’re hiding in fear. Maybe you’re covered with anger right now because you’re just angry at everything. You’re caught up in all of the world’s noise and all the chaos. Just listen for a second, Dear Lord, forgive me. I need you. And I need Your people. We’re called to one another. We are called, first of all, to God through Jesus Christ. And then we’re called to one another. Oh, Lord, forgive me for falling into a habit that didn’t include your people. Lord, we love You and we pray all this now in Jesus’ name, Amen.