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What Luther Says

Going To Church

Some of you may have seen this article making the rounds online...

If You Don't Go to Church, You Won't Go to Heaven! 
EXCERPT: "If you don’t go to church, you won’t go to heaven. Not because God is keeping track of how often you have come. But instead because where Jesus is, there heaven is also. Jesus is where His Word is preached and His sacraments are administered. We call that church."

Ouch! Now, if you're anything like me, then a provocative title along with an excerpt like that probably hit a nerve (as it should). I mean, we as believers know that it's true, but we also feel like it's somehow "too harsh" the way it's all worded.

Is that really the case though? Is the problem with the writer and the words he chose or is the problem within us and the Old Adam that bristles at such things?

I'll admit, one of the greatest struggles I face (and continue to face) is changing the branches on my family tree so-to-speak. In plain English, I struggle with trying to get my wife and kids to look forward to church each week to the point where they want to go instead of always fighting me on it.

Look, I get that we're not the first family to go through this, and that we certainly won't be the last either, but I gotta say it's becoming increasingly more difficult and disheartening for sure. After 30-45 minutes of complaining and whining, stomping feet, and staying in bed to sleep until the last possible minute before we have to leave to get there on time, there's only so much patience left in my tank for the drive there, which is often more of the same. Sometimes, by the time we arrive, I feel so beat up and discouraged I almost want to turn the car around or just sit in the car in peace and quiet all by myself.

It's a shame that it has to be this way, but it is what it is. I get that my wife and I did not grow up in families that went to church each and every week much less in families that properly understand the basic of what's going on and really happening during the Divine Service.

Instead, "Going To Church" was always just something that Christians did because we had to and only the "super religious" went all the time. With that in mind, I know that it will probably take many more years before my wife and I are on the same page regarding the importance of going to church each week. Our kids are still young enough that they're taking their cues from us so one one parent says "Yes!" and the other says "No!" you can probably guess which one they often side with.

So, yes, seeing an article like the one I just shared above, during a week when we didn't make it to church and I was already feeling bad about it, really hurt. Still, I will continue to pray about it and will continue to do what I know to be right, and will cherish His grace and forgiveness for the days we don't make it to church.

In the meantime, I'll keep trying to fight the good fight by attempting to teach my wife and kids why going to church is something we should all look forward to each and every week. I want them to understand what happens all around us, and for us, and to us whenever we find ourselves sitting in the pews each Sunday.   

Recently, I saw this excellent quote on Facebook...

By the way, the book this quote is from is FANTASTIC! Get yourself a copy if you don't have one already and especially if you're a non-Lutheran.

I'll admit, this truth was something that took me a very long time to finally understand, because it was always about ME, MYSELF, AND I and ME NEEDING TO DO SOMETHING for God in order to "prove my faith" to Him, myself, and others and to "earn God's acceptance/forgiveness/love" rather than me going to church to simply RECEIVE CHRIST CRUCIFIED for my many sins in thought, word, and deed, and to RECEIVE HIS FREE GIFTS like Absolution, Holy Baptism, and Holy Communion, and to RECEIVE HIS FREE PROMISES for me, for you, and for all mankind even though I did/do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to deserve any of them (Psalm 51; Isaiah 64:6).

Thank God I don't have to save myself, because I couldn't do that even on my best day!

Also, going to church doesn't make me "better" than others, but it does make me better than I was before I went simply due to what Christ does for us and to us there, which is what I so desperately need from week-to-week.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV) And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 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.

For more on the benefits of going to church, please check out "Q&A: Attend Church More + Receive Communion More = A 'Better' Christian?" an enjoy a more in-depth treatment of this important topic.

In short, it's like Pastor Matt Richard once wrote...

"My friends, we do not go to church or promote more frequency of the Lord’s Supper in order to ontologically climb to a new Superior-Christian status, but we advocate for these things because we always sin and thus, we always need the good, free, and gracious medicine -- poured, proclaimed, given, and shed for the forgiveness of our sins. Indeed, gifts and more gifts -- for us. They are freely given. That is the way it is with our Sunday Divine Service, where the Lord serves us."

This is most certainly true.

I always like to think of two things whenever this subject comes up in conversation.

First, there's that classic church sign that reads: "What's Missing In CH   CH? UR!"

Second, there's also the reality that we will be spending eternity with other believers worshiping our Lord and Savior, and so I'd rather not despise today what I'm going to adore tomorrow.

Revelation 7:9-10 (ESV) After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"

In a Lutheran layman's terms, no Christian is "better" than another because he/she goes to church more and/or receives Communion more, but that doesn't mean we should neglect going to church given all the gifts God delivers to us there.

NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just your average everyday Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to "Confessional Lutheranism" and one who recently escaped an American-Evangelical-Non-Denominational mindset a little more than 4 years ago now despite being a Christian my whole life. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way back into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with the Bible, our Confessions, and Lutheran doctrine in general (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can not only correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1), but repent of my sin and learn the whole truth myself. With that in mind, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavily influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I will defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!

About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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