i have good news and i have bad news. First the bad news. No, first a hint of the good news, you're gonna need it. Jesus died for sinners and was raised for their justification. You got that? Really got it down deep and in the forefront of your mind? No really, put it on a piece of paper in front of you and look at it when you read the rest of this and get either angry or depressed. Done? Good, now you're ready for the bad news.
We, the church of God, have our priorities severely out of whack. We, the Bride of Christ, do not love our husband.
This is not me indicting you. Hear me, this is me, like Isaiah saving the seventh Woe for himself, saying, Woe is me! For i am a man of uncommitted affections living among a people of uncommitted affections! i praise you with my lips, Lord while my heart is far from you! We, like Gomer, chase other lovers all day while our husband patiently waits for us to return home. Then we, like Gomer, when we struggle and get beaten by our false loves, cry out and get bound up by the one who really loves us. Over and over and over again.
There was a time when i led two Bible studies, home fellowship groups at the same time while attending a third, my first time doing so actually. i have been in churches all my life. This is what i've seen. Bible studies and extra-sabbatical activities struggle to maintain regular attendance. It's all, "this night works for me/ that night doesn't work for me." At the same time, church has become optional. We protestants revel in our freedom from sin so much we have used it as license to not care, to feed our own laziness, our own comfort rather than seek first the kingdom of God! Is it a sin to miss church? No. Is it a sin to say to God, i would rather sleep than join my brothers and sisters in worship today, than pray, than seek your face in teaching and service? i dunno, but i'm gonna go with 'probably.'
Read the Word. Where is God? Among his people! Where does God always want to be? Among his people! In the center of them. Where two or more are gathered in his name. The only time Jesus, God, was alone or sought to be alone was when he was praying. When he was coming before his Father but even then, in his lowest time, when he was in the Garden, he still wanted his friends near and praying too! Together! The tabernacle and then the temple which are foreshadowings of heaven and true worship were gathering places. Large crowds came out to Jesus, the true temple and priest. Revelations, Isaiah, Ezekiel saw and show the worship of God in heaven and it is a gathering of the nations. Not-quite-random sampling of the Bible... umm, Acts 2.
"2 And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in the same place."
"14 But Peter, standing with the eleven..."
"42 And they were devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayers. 43 And fear came on every soul, and many wonders and signs were being performed by the apostles. 44 And all who believed were in the same place, and had everything in common. 45 And they began selling their possessions and property, and distributing these things to all, to the degree that anyone had need. 46 And every day, devoting themselves to meeting with one purpose in the temple courts and breaking bread from house to house, they were eating their food with joy and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding every day to the total of those who were being saved."
Why, brothers and sisters, do we struggle so hard? Why is their no revival? Why do we not see the Holy Spirit moving in power? Why are our churches dying? Our children walking away from the faith? Apathy. The opposite of love is not hate, it's apathy. We have forsook our first love! What you love, you make time for. You adjust your calendar for what's important and God and fellowship it would seem are just not that important. If when we seek first the kingdom of God, all these things will be added to you, then no wonder when we chase those things instead, all we get is tired! Why do we struggle with the Bible? Why do we not have a love for others? Why does our sin overpower us? Why are we in debt? Why do we not change? Aren't we new creations?
Ah, if you, like me, are asking these questions, now is the time for the good news!
God does not bless success.
D'ja get it? That was it! That was the good news! Or more to the point, God does not bless YOUR success. He can't! You won't succeed! You don't know how. You lack the resources. You lack the strength. You lack the wisdom. God demands and deserves total allegiance. All your heart, mind and strength! Perfection! Rejoice! You ain't got it!
God blesses JESUS' success! And Jesus' success was FOR you! For freedom you have been set free! Not for license to now go and pursue your princes and lovers, but to truly, truly fold yourself into him! Not to do it right this time, to finally do it better, to work harder, to somehow drum up love in yourself but to respond to the one who truly loves you!
"In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4)
Start now! Start at home! Start alone, pray, read the Word, pray, pray, pray, but then, like a recovering addict, (which you are!) get to group! You cannot do this alone! You need brothers and sisters and mentors and there are brothers and sisters and mentees who need you! You need to serve as much as you need to serve! You need the Gospel preached to you every minute of every day, through word and deed and prayer. You need to remind others and you need them to remind you of what Jesus does for you, what he's done for you and what he has promised to do! It may seem slow at first, it's going to be a struggle and a fight, Satan does not want you to change! Satan wants you fat, dumb and working your pants off to please God. But stay! Stay here with Him, be faithful even when you don't FEEL it, believe! He just asks you to believe and has even promised to give you the gift of belief! You cannot make yourself fall in love... but Jesus, the lover of your soul, is looking to woo the pants off you! Gosh i hope that's not blasphemous, but reading Song of Songs, i don't think it even comes close enough to the truth!
Gomer, come home!