Wednesday, January 03, 2018
Psalm 122:1-3 I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!” 2 Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem! 3 Jerusalem—built as a city that is bound firmly together.
I was a weird little boy. I know most of you are probably thinking that the weirdness has carried over quite well into adulthood, but when I was a boy I was different. I’ve met a couple of young men like me since then, but not very many. My criteria for me measuring weirdness is even weird. Maybe it shouldn’t be defined as weird, but it certainly stood apart from the normal behavior of kids my age. You see, I had a strong desire to know the Word of God. I loved going to church. I carried multiple colored pencils so I could highlight my Bible according to a color-coding system I had developed. I still have that Bible if you ever want to see it. I diligently took notes in my Bible on every page used by the preacher as a text. I went to church Sunday mornings and Sunday evenings and Wednesday nights. It brought joy to my life to be in the presence of God and His people.
This passion started out when I was a young boy because it was expected – dad was the pastor. But I remember even as an 8-year old not having to be begged to get ready to leave for church. I remember clearly being excited about going to Sunday School and learning yet another story that told me about this incredible God who loved me. I memorized every assigned verse. I was excited for every opportunity to learn more about Jesus.
When I got to High School and could make my own choices about church attendance, I stayed weird. I never missed church because of sports or recreation of any kind. I never stayed home to watch an important game on TV. I never missed because I was busy or tired from being previously busy. I never missed to spend the day with friends. The people I cared about most and wanted to be with also never missed. There was an intimacy of fellowship that combined with the excitement of hearing from God which made church impossible to miss. I anticipated every opportunity to be with God’s people and experience the deep love of true fellowship.
If you are under the age of 40, you are probably having a hard time relating to what I have just written. Culture has redefined the importance of church. In fact, the church has redefined the importance of church. There is a philosophy permeating our society that church is just the cherry on top of a perfectly good and delectable hot fudge sundae. If I have my own devotions, and live my life pleasing to the Lord every day, then church is not really all that important. God won’t mind if I spend my summers playing soccer or golf or fishing or camping or just working on my lawn. I can still be a Christian and not go to church. That may be true, but it is NOT God’s plan for life. It is NOT His will for you. He intended the abundant life of a Christian who is experiencing His peace and presence, to be lived in the context of the local church as a functioning and vital part of the body of Christ.
King David expressed the importance of Christian community when he said, Jerusalem is built like a city that is bound firmly together. Look at that words bound firmly. They do not refer to the close proximity of the houses in the city. It refers to the way people related to one another. The words in Hebrew literally mean to join together in fascination and have fellowship.
The people of the city joined together in intimate fellowship because they were fascinated with the same thing – the worship of God. That unifying fascination with God brought them into intimate fellowship in all areas of their lives. The city of Jerusalem, which for us today represents the church, became the center of their lives. Even those who did not live in the city were thrilled with the opportunities they had to enter the city and become a part of the fellowship (see verse 4).
It thrills me to see young families learning this principle. They are being bound firmly together in the context of Christian fellowship. They spend more than just Sundays together. They eat together. They play softball and basketball together. They golf and fish together. Their first choice of friends is with people who have the same fascination for God that they have. And the church is once again becoming the center of their lives.
But we must be on guard against two things. First, that fellowship with others does not become the end in itself. It is the worship of God that holds us together. It is fascination with the things of God that unites us. Satan would like us to become fascinated with each other and lose sight of God. Satan would love to destroy the unity of our churches by getting us to care more about the people of the church than the Lord of the church. Satan would love to influence us to think that so long as we are with God’s people during the week we don’t need to be in church on Sunday. Satan wants us to classify church as a cherry. We must be alert to these deceptions of the Devil.
And second, we must be cautious that by becoming firmly bound together we do not close our doors to further growth. Firmly bound does not mean cliques. When small groups of people become satisfied with their circle of friends and stop reaching out to include others, then they have lost sight of God and have become self-serving. We are to bound firmly together so we can make room for more.
I pray that our church, and your church, will continue to get more closely and firmly bound together. That will require us to establish two goals for our personal lives. First, get more and more fascinated with God and the study of His Word. And second, get more and more inclusive as you reach out and bring others into the fellowship of fascination with God.
Then maybe, in a good and Godly way, we will all be identified as weird.