4626 Highway 36 East Somerville, AL 35670
We are all familiar with tragedy -- often far more familiar that we would like to be. Tragic news from distant places on our globe come to us on a regular basis Drought strikes an African nation leaving thousands to starve. Civil unrest tears at the fabric of a Middle Eastern country and thousands live an entire lifetime without knowing peace and tranquility. An earthquake leaves hundreds dead an thousands homeless in Eastern Europe, and the list could go on and on. And often, tragedy hits closer to home -- an automobile accident leaves a mother and father to grieve over the loss of a son or daughter, a friend receives the diagnosis of cancer, a fire leaves a family without a home to go to at the end of the day.
But not all tragedy is of the physical nature. And not all tragedy is so readily apparent. In fact, quite often events occur that have tragic consequences and almost no one notices. One such occurrence takes place when a Christian deliberately forsakes the assemblies of the church. No news crew is rushed to the scene to document its occurrence. A news anchor does not lament the awful nature of this tragedy. And yet, it is an event that has tragic, and often eternal, consequences.
If you deliberately forsakes the assemblies of the saints, you have a detrimental effect on others. Young Christians are looking for examples to follow. How tragic indeed for a newly converted Christian to get the idea that attendance at worship or Bible study is optional for one who ought to know better. If that new convert goes to heaven, it will be in spite of your example and not because of your faithfulness.
Even faithful brethren who are determined to be present "every time the doors are opened" are affected by your sinful example. You leave them wondering whether you really are serious about spiritual matters. You leave them wondering whether you love the world more than you love the Lord. You leave them wondering whether you enjoy the company of the world more than Christian fellowship. You leave them wondering whether you can be counted on to do the things a Christian is responsible to do. And you leave them to wonder how is the best way to talk to you about this sin -- for it is a sin to deliberately forsake the assemblies of the saints (cf. Hebrews 10:24, 25).
But of course, you suffer the greatest consequences when you deliberately forsakes the assemblies of the saints. With every services that you forsake, you weaken yourself a little more, making it easier to miss the next time. You put yourself in league with Satan, who would love to see the doors of the church building locked up and its windows boarded up. You ruin your example with those outside the church and make it impossible for yourself to teach them that the church is the most important institution in the world. And you disappoint the Lord who loved you and gave his life for you.
So that there is no misunderstanding, I mean by "deliberately forsaking the assemblies" that one is somewhere else when he or she could be present at church. Some responsibilities and circumstances make it so that we cannot be at every service. Obviously, when one is sick he or she has not deliberately forsaken the assemblies. But many of the excuses that are often offered simply do not justify the absence. If we honestly seek his kingdom and righteous first (Matthew 6:33), where will we want to be when God's people meet to worship him?
Unlike many of the tragedies, about which we can do nothing -- earthquakes, droughts, diseases -- this tragedy can be avoided. Every Christian who deliberately forsakes the assemblies can just as easily choose to be present to worship God and to study the Bible. If you choose to miss worship in order to engage in the worldly things -- TV, ballgames, shopping, etc. -- you can just as easily choose to be present and enjoy the company and fellowship of other Christians. Every Christian who deliberately forsakes the assemblies can determine never to do it again!
If you have deliberately forsaken the assemblies of the saints, you have disobeyed a clear and plain command of God -- "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25). If you have deliberately forsaken the assemblies of the saints, please consider the effect it is having on your fellow Christians, on people outside the church that you are responsible to reach with the gospel, and especially on your soul. Don't risk going to the judgment guilty of this sin -- repent of it today and determine to be there "every time the doors are opened."
Thomas W. Larkin