I have noticed lately that many people assume that if Christians meet in person to worship, they are doing so to be rebellious. I even get that impression (or actual accusation) from other Christians. The truth is we don’t gather in rebellion, we gather in obedience and faith.
The Lord calls us to worship Him as a family — together — and that is what we strive to do. We don’t want to forsake gathering together to worship, as some have gotten into the habit of doing, because God tells us not to do that (Hebrews 10:23-25).
The world has always tried to discourage believers from gathering to worship the only true God. In fact, many would prefer that we don’t worship the only true God at all, beginning with Cain’s actions against Abel. The Bible is clear that Cain killed Abel because he could not stand Abel’s righteousness, and it appears that since God accepted Abel’s worship but not Cain’s that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“Do not gather for worship.” They say it one way in China, in another way in Iran, and in another way in Pakistan. They even say it in many cities and states in our nation. Even though the Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court has said we have the “right” to worship, states try to ignore that right.
It is popular today among many within our nation to denigrate the U.S. and its founding. Why? The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution proclaim our freedom of religion. They clearly state we have “inalienable rights” endowed to us by our Creator. They also say we have a right to the free exercise of our religion. I believe that is a major reason some Americans speak against those founding documents.
There are many who are opposed to the acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty and authority over the human race, and they resent that our adherence to Him can supersede government’s perceived “right” to order our lives in the ways it sees fit.
This is nothing new. The state has always been against the true Church of God in one way or another (except when the state “controls” the church). At times the state seems polite to the Church, at other times it even seems to be in bed with the church (not good), but the truth is the state, if it had its way, would often have the Church well in the background, if not buried in obscurity.
It may well be that God is allowing the current oppression against churches because too many of our churches have tried to look so much like society. In many ways we no longer look “‘separate,” which is what God calls us to be, and the less separate from the world the Church becomes the less relevant we are regarding righteousness and sin.
Clearly some think the more the Church looks like society the more relevant it will appear, and the more attractive it will be to the world. That is not true at all. There are many concerts people can go to for a musical emotional lift, and there are many self-help, life improvement conferences you can attend to help you change your behavior, but that is not what God calls us to.
God calls us to trust Him; to entrust ourselves to Him through repentance and faith in Jesus, the only Savior, so that He can change our very nature. That is something you can never do, no matter how hard you try.
God talks about this great need in Jeremiah 13:23 and Romans 3:10-18. Without Christ coming into your life you will be separated from Him, and lost for all eternity.
This is why we turn to Christ in repentance and faith. This is why we gather to worship God, and to be changed by Him as we honor and obey Him in worshiping Him, listening to His Word, and applying it to our lives through the work and power of the Holy Spirit.
About a month ago some of us, maybe 100+ from various churches in town, gathered on the steps of Tooele City Hall to speak out against the oppression of the various states or municipalities who are trying to keep people from openly worshiping God. We did this by singing Christmas songs as an act of worship and unity with other believers across our nation.
Some would say it was a waste of time because our group was so small, and in addition we are not experiencing that kind of oppression in Utah. But it was not a waste of time. Hundreds of thousands, if not over a million voices across our nation, were raised up to God at the same time to intercede on behalf of those who are not being allowed to gather for worship in a nation that guarantees you can freely exercise your religion.
Praise God that He calls us to gather to worship Him. Praise God that He calls us to lift our voices to Him. And praise God that He acts on behalf of those who love Him, who trust Him, and who have entrusted themselves to Him.
Again, we do not act in rebellion; we act in faith, trust, and obedience.
Jon McCartney is pastor of First Baptist Church of Tooele.