“My son’s games are on Sunday, so we can’t make church. I try to catch the podcast while I’m working out, during the week…”
I hear that with increasing frequency. The contemporary version of The Good Life (that’s the American Dream… morphed to the American Nightmare) has repainted the family portrait of the past. Sundays used to be the sacred slot on the weekly calendar; now, it’s the canvas on which the peer competition paints aspirations, across the generations. Mom and dad both work all week; kids have classes, tutors and club-team practices. Saturday and Sunday are sliced-and-diced into piecemeal portions, and the conflict demands that some options miss-out. “We can’t make church…”
Why sweat it? You’re already “saved,” and that faith transaction can never be rescinded. God isn’t flighty: what He starts, He promises to finish. Entries into the Lamb’s Book of Life are made in indelible ink (the blood of the Lamb); once you place your trust in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, inclusion in the eternal Kingdom cannot be withdrawn. So, what’s the big deal?
Paul knew that finding life in the Son was not the end of the spiritual marathon; it’s the starting line. What does God expect from the now-redeemed? “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12-13). Did you catch that? “Work out your salvation…”
In a time when the tough tasks are often outsourced, and swiping a credit card is the net-effort exerted by the privileged, the idea of taking personal responsibility for the heavy lifting seems a bit archaic. What does God expect of us? Again, Paul’s insight: “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
God does not relieve us from culpability for our own progress: the task of personal purification and growing holiness is our assignment, at the risk of stepping outside the zone defined by informed “fear and trembling,” within our “reverence for God.”
Sunday church is the place where we find assistance in this herculean task; the specialists are there to help: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:11-16).
You are a “part” of the Body of Christ – the Church. If you have kids, you are cultivating them for their future inclusion in the Church and its historic task (we call it “the Great Commission”). How will they discern the right direction for their life, in stark contrast to the cultural alternatives that have scheduled their games on Sunday?
Answer: they’ll follow your lead. Work out your salvation; go to church for assistance in becoming holy (that’s spiritual maturity). Breaking out of the passive observer status (modern church attendance, giving 65 minutes to be an audience for the Concert + Ted Talk). Seek the pro-bono position of your Kingdom Calling that will rightfully demand your highest level of focus and sacrifice. And, expose your family to that process, so you pass that legacy of faith/work to successive generations…
That was Paul’s ultimate outcome imperative, for the folks who were active members in the churches he planted in the First Century: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Pass on any external Sunday demand that compromises your ability to do what your faith deserves: show family and friends what it means to be fully committed to the One who is fully committed to you…