From a recent Gallup poll, among the top reasons people are drawn to the Christian community and the church are for spiritual guidance, to worship God, for fellowship with others, and because it is the traditional way they were brought up. Interestingly, also among the top ten responses was that people go to church “for no reason in particular”.
From what I have observed, people are drawn to a church community to be encouraged through Sunday sermons, singing, and praying with others, and sometimes even through serving in the body of believers. In a church community people can make friends and enjoy social times with those who are at least somewhat like-minded. People go to church on Sunday and then go home feeling better, perhaps more relaxed and less stressed over problems in their lives -- at least for a while. I wonder if these people ever ask the serious question. Is Christianity true? Do you think the reasons given in the Gallup poll and my observations would give a person a firm foundation to stand upon in the face of persecution? Do they give comfort, strength, and encouragement in a world where the values our country was founded upon are disdained? Do they lead to action that might promote a return to the place from which we have fallen?
In John 8:31-32, Jesus told his disciples that if they “continue” (NKJ & NASB) or “abide” (ESV) in His word, they will know the truth. So if you and I really want to know if what we say we believe is true, we will have to do more than go to church, listen to sermons, and fellowship with friends. We desperately need to get into God's Word. We need to read and study and meditate upon His Word and "continue" (or "abide") in it, which means basing our lives on it, obeying it, living it, following Christ's example, and following in His steps (1 Peter 2:21). Only then will we know for sure whether or not what we say we believe is true. We will not discover the truth for ourselves by listening to sermons, researching great scholars, browsing the internet, or socializing with friends at church. Jesus told us the way in John 8:31, and He is the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
The other thing Jesus said about the truth (John 8:32) is that when we know it, the truth will make us free. The gift truth gives us is freedom. When we immerse ourselves in God's Word, learning it, storing it in our hearts, and living it in our lives then we are free people - free from fear, from hatred, from critical judgmentalism. We are free to love other sinners, free to give of ourselves with reckless abandon, and free to stand up and speak out boldly for the truth we have come to know and love.
I don't know about you, but I believe those are the kind of people our hurting world needs right now. That is the kind of person I want to be! Will you be one of those people? Will you encourage others to join you? When will you begin?
written with love and concern,
p.s. This blog was inspired through reading the works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who stood faithfully for the truth during the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was faithful even to death (Revelation 2:10).