An ancient biblical writer once lamented that everyone in his day lived in autonomous independence of God while relentlessly pursuing personal status, wealth, health, successful work, pleasure, and leisure. Daily observing a culture of indulgence and self-affirming pride, he did his best to behave well, stay pure, and seek after God. But all he experienced was trial after discouraging trial. It seemed everyone else was getting ahead while he was falling behind. They were living it up; he was living without. “In vain I have kept my heart clean,” he cried.
Is there nothing new under the sun?! This scene has played out again and again in history in the lives of serious-minded Christ-followers who have learned that in this world we will have tribulation (while many who have little reverence for God do just fine, thank-you). The turning point for our dispirited friend above came from the last place most people think to look. He went back to church (technically, back to the sanctuary of God). He returned to the place where the truth of God about things present and things to come was clearly articulated. Life makes more sense when God’s perspective on current and future realities is known.
There is a future for the godless, and a future for the righteous; they are not the same. None are righteous apart from the merits of Christ’s death and resurrection, but through faith in His gospel we are saved to the uttermost. We are made secure, not by our good behavior, but by His completed work on the cross. He is our refuge.
On the verge of giving up on God, our psalm writer made one more trip back to the community of faith. His conclusion: “For me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge that I may tell of all your works.” He discovered God’s nearness in the community gathering of God’s people. That’s where God is worshipped; that’s where truth is told about life and death; that’s where stories of God’s faithfulness to one generation are told to the next. He confesses at one point that if he had walked away to embrace what his culture was pursuing, he would have betrayed the next generation of God’s children.
We can’t do that. Children need to hear about God’s work in earlier generations. One protection against defection is a faithful congregation of vibrant Christ-followers (parents, grandparents, and friends) who confidently testify that though “our heart and our flesh may fail, but God is the strength of our life and our portion forever.” The next generation needs this. Being in church is where they will hear it.
Dave Horner is Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Biola University; he grew up in Boulder and has been a friend of Calvary Bible for many years. Dave recently wrote an article entitled, “We Need to Get Back to Church”. Turns out being together in church is good for us! Dave says,
[W]e need to go back to church for our children’s sake. [A]ccording to the Harvard study, “regular service attendance helps shield children from the ‘big three’ dangers of adolescence: depression, substance abuse, and premature sexual activity. People who attended church as children are also more likely to grow up happy, to be forgiving, to have a sense of mission and purpose, and to volunteer.”
As we get ready to ramp up another year of post-Covid ministry, let’s get our families back in church as often as we can. Young and old together, telling the story of God and His gospel to each other. And let’s think about those in our sphere of influence who need to be around the community of faith so they might find faith in Christ for themselves.
With you on the journey,