You need to go to church. Sometimes people say ridiculous things about Jesus and Christianity. And here is something crazy: Christians can be the worst of all at this.
Here is one of the most ridiculous things I have heard believers say, “You don’t need to be a part of a church to be a Christian.” Some nuance is needed to pick this statement apart because there are some christians that are separated from the body of Christ. But when I have heard this statement the overall meaning is that we can do this on our own… that we don’t need to give or receive fellowship. That we can live as amputated limbs without the rest of the body. Well, below is one of my attempts to Biblically deconstruct this idea. Here are some notes and a link to a sermon I recently preached on this. At the core of this message is the truth is that Christian community is tied to the work of Jesus on the cross and in our lives. The need for fellowship and worship is much bigger than “being a good Christian.”
Hebrews 10:19-39 “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 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.”
Community starts with understanding what Christ has done for us. This is true because sin has separated us from God and one another. And the most important work, the first work is to repair the breach that our sin has caused between us and our God.
Sin separates us from God, and God from us. And sin also separates us from one another. God’s righteousness has barred us from his presence. And because our consciences are defiled, being in the presence of God is no longer pleasurable. We now run from him rather than to him. The OT temple worship was a depiction of this situation. We are separated from God’s presence, but he has made a way for us to return and be cleansed.
The work of Jesus (especially v. 19-21), as described in this passage, shows us 4 things that are the foundation of Christian community. We cannot separate the way we relate to God from the way we relate to other people.
1. We are welcomed. We have bold access to God’s presence because of the sacrifice of Christ. His blood has cleansed us. We are no longer banished. This is not because we have become good enough or worked hard enough. This is purely because of his work on our behalf.
2. We are clean. Our hearts have been sprinkled by his blood. We are washed and forgiven and our consciences can be at peace. What the Old Testament animal sacrifices could only depict, Jesus has accomplished. We no longer need to be controlled by guilt and shame.
3. We are secure. A promise is only as good as the one who makes it, and we are safe and secure because he who promised is faithful.
4. We are in process. Though we are forgiven and accepted completely, there is much work to be done in us, on us, and through us. And this work is explained (in part) in this passage. God is at work in us through other believers. We desperately need them to help and encourage us.