by Pastor Tim Burt
Matthew 16:18 “…upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”
As I was getting ready to go to bed last night, I felt the Lord engaging me for the purpose of stirring you up today. This was His conversation with me: “Tim, where do you think you would be one year from today spiritually if you stopped going to church?” “And what do you think would change in your life because of it based on what you know and have learned through experience and from my Word?” As I began to think about it, my mind started spinning immediately. I responded: “Lord, I know that within one year my spiritual fire would cool off. I’d probably engage in more carnal thought, activity, and behavior. The thought of going to church would become awkward. I’d feel “out of it.” I’d probably be running or hiding from those I was closest to. And the devil would work to discourage me and convince me that writing Fresh Manna was a waste of time leading me to quit writing it.” “The devil would lie to me, accuse me, and discourage me because I wouldn’t have the additional encouraging and exhorting presence of your Spirit that I receive when I am in church, that offsets the negative forces that come against me in life.“ “I know I’d start to feel overwhelmed and backslide to some degree.” “From there, unless I made some changes and got into a church that vigorously taught your Word and challenged me to be involved and be used of you, I’d slide back even more – to what degree I do not know.”
In giving this response to the Lord, please understand that I am not a wimpy Christian. I have a strong walk and relationship with the Lord. I know what to do and try to live it. But I have also watched hundreds of Christians back slide first from church and then in their Christian walk over my 31 years of service to the Lord. (Get ready for a potentially offensive statement) First of all, I have NEVER and I mean NEVER seen a strong, rooted and grounded Christian that really understand God’s will, who has lived a purpose-filled life, that didn’t go to a good Bible teaching church. NEVER! (That will probably unsubscribe a few readers.) Secondly, I have NEVER seen a strong Christian stop going to church that remained focused on living for God with a STRONG purpose-filled walk. NEVER! Everyone that I have seen drift from church has then eventually drifted backward in their walk with God, has become down on the church, and has created their own view of what a Christian life should be like. They’ve become highly critical of the church and have backslid to living a life highly filled with an acceptance for worldly living. And most I’ve seen go through this have divorced their spouse.
Because I know these things, I am not so stupid or prideful as to think that I could somehow survive what I have never seen others survive.That would be pride – something I hate. I wouldn’t survive because it’s not God’s plan for Christians. If I stopped going to church, the loss of the presence of God from the pulpit and the touch of God that comes through the interaction of those in the church would contribute to a deteriorating spiritual walk.
The question might arise, “Pastor Tim, are you saying that church is the only place that the presence of God can touch my life?” The answer is absolutely not! I hope and pray that those that take the time to read Fresh Manna are touched by the presence of God through it. I hope that you are touched by the presence of God in your time spent meditating on God’s Word. That usually happens in varying degrees with people. I hope that you are touched by the presence of God in your prayer time with the Lord. That also happens in varying degrees with people. There are other ways God touches our lives with His Presence. All those contribute to our heart being touched and trained by the Holy Spirit. Those times contribute to being challenged to change personally and challenged to reach others for Him. They are all a part of what help us become strong Christians living a vigorous Christian life. But, the loss of being in a good church is too great a loss for us to survive. It would be like a hole in the boat that is bigger and allows more water in than we can keep up from bailing back out.
The Church corporately and locally is God’s idea. It needs you and you need it. Just because a building is called a church, doesn’t mean it is. All churches aren’t created equal. A church consists of a Pastor that is “born again” (read John chapter 3) that knows and teaches the Word of God, that brings people to a revelation of eternal life through Jesus Christ alone, that ushers the congregation together to worship the Lord sincerely from the heart, and who continuously challenges his congregation to grow spiritually and influence others for Him. The people are the church. They work together to serve one another and give of their time and resources to help the church and one another thrive in God. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, “… upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” The rock Jesus referred to is the ability to grow in revelation of Jesus and His will in your heart. Jesus said that it was upon this He would build His church and Satan couldn’t stop it or us!
There is something that happens in a good church that helps us to change and become more Christ-like. It helps us to learn and grow in Him. It helps us to become strong and purposeful. It helps us to walk out our walk with God being an influence in a dark world. Without it, we struggle to walk in this life as Christians in the way that we should. Ephesians 4:11-12 (MSG) says “…God has filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church.”
I know that some of those that read this haven’t been able to find a church that seems alive in God like I’ve described. I exhort you today to try to find one. Pray and ask God to help you and direct you. If you are shut in and have no ability to get to church, pray and then ask someone to help you find a Christian broadcast or a local Bible Study teacher to come and help you. Pray in faith and God will help you in a way that I might not have described here. He is faithful and the church being you and Christians meeting together, is His first love!
If you can’t find one or attend one for whatever reason, then you better find touches of God through vehicles like Fresh Manna that you treat like your church until you can find one. Read with the greatest level of expectation to hear from God. Apply what you hear like you were hearing from your Pastor. This is critical to establishing a strong walk with God.
Hebrews 10:25 “Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but let us exhort one another more and more as we see the day of Christ’s return approaching.”
In His Love,
Pastor Tim Burt
Published by Pastor Tim Burt
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