A Call to Worship the Lord – Not Church

I love to read Brian LePort who blogs at Near Emmaus because he has a heart for the Lord in his writings.  However, today’s post provokes me to take exception because it extols church instead of Jesus.  He writes:

For those who are worshiping with others this morning, and for those who are not because you are experimenting with a “private religion”, let me share this thought from Eugene Peterson (A Long Obedience in the Same Direction , 175):

Among other things, Peterson says this:

“Membership in the church is a basic spiritual fact for those who confess Christ as Lord.”

By this logic, the Lordship of Jesus is denied and the kingdom of God is obscured.  Read the Sermon on the Mount and see that it is a call to personal morality, not churchgoing.  If gathering with the washed was what Jesus wanted to see, He would have extolled rather than excoriated the Pharisees.

Peterson also says:

“We can no more be a Christian and have nothing to do with the church than we can be a person and not be in a family.”

We produce righteous fruit if we walk in the light of the Lord and consider every human being as part of the family. However, if we separate ourselves to church and think that God’s family is a subset of the human race called church then we deny the full efficacy of His sacrifice (1 John 2:1-2) and make the mistake of the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14.

Jesus Christ is Lord over heaven and earth. May we all repent – today and every day – from our sins, that the judgments for them may not overtake us. The Lord wants righteousness from us, not churchgoing. This means purifying our hearts and truly living for Him instead of ourselves (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

Related post:  We’ve Substituted Churchgoing for Righteousness

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4 Responses to A Call to Worship the Lord – Not Church

  1. Brian LePort says:

    @Mike: As I said on my post, this is a false dichotomy. If I am creating a “Jesus v. the church” paradigm than so is Paul in Romans telling the church they are one in Christ, and not in Adam, therefore they ought to be in unity. In Ephesians there is no separating being “in Christ” and being in “the body of Christ”. In Hebrews we are told not to forsake the coming together for worshiping Christ. In the Book of Revelation the final scenes are not glib individuals but worshiping masses. Even in the Gospels a new nation is formed around the disciples. 1 John indicates that there is a difference between being one “of us” and then going out from among us indicating there never was a relationship with Christ.

    The Sermon on the Mount is not about being a good individual. It has horizontal elements that cannot be ignored.

    • Mike Gantt says:

      If I am creating a “Jesus v. the church” paradigm than so is Paul in Romans telling the church they are one in Christ, and not in Adam, therefore they ought to be in unity. In Ephesians there is no separating being “in Christ” and being in “the body of Christ”. In Hebrews we are told not to forsake the coming together for worshiping Christ.

      These references all refer to the time before the day of Christ. Today, the whole human race is the body of Christ.

      In the Book of Revelation the final scenes are not glib individuals but worshiping masses.

      Now there’s a false dichotomy…as well as argumentation that is not worthy of your otherwise gracious spirit, Brian. For all individuals are not glib and all masses do not worship.

      Even in the Gospels a new nation is formed around the disciples.

      Yes, and we who would be disciples today should hope that we are similarly light in the world. But we do not need to consider ourselves greater than others. On the contrary, we should be their servants.

      1 John indicates that there is a difference between being one “of us” and then going out from among us indicating there never was a relationship with Christ.

      As with your earlier references, these applied to the time before the coming of the Lord.

      The Sermon on the Mount is not about being a good individual. It has horizontal elements that cannot be ignored.

      1. Your two sentences don’t match. You go from virtually saying it has no vertical orientation to saying it merely has horizontal “elements.”
      2. You should read it again. There is not a word in it about separating as a group. (Even if it did, it wouldn’t say to do so in over 30,000 different denominations.) The sermon does have horizontal elements; I never suggested it didn’t. My point is that it’s horizontal elements extend to every human being. Otherwise, you will behave like the priest or Levite who sidestepped the needy on the Jericho road.

      I know this is hard for you to believe, Brian, but the kingdom of God has come…and the church isn’t even looking for it. The Lord Jesus deserves better.

  2. Brian LePort says:

    @Mike: How is the whole human race the body of Christ? This sounds like realized eschatology at its worst. Where do you get this?

    As regards my statement on Revelation it seems you missed the point altogether. But then again, now that I am getting a glimpse of your eschatology, I may have been missing your point altogether as well.

    I don’t know how a call for the Christian community gathering together opposes our servanthood to the world.

    As regards the Kingdom of God, no, it is not hard for me to believe it has “come”, but it does seem you are merging its coming with its physical, eschatological establishment. Jesus said some would see the Kingdom of God before they died and then this happened when he was transfigured. But that does not leave out that final, eschatological establishment which you seem to deny.

    • Mike Gantt says:

      How is the whole human race the body of Christ? This sounds like realized eschatology at its worst. Where do you get this?

      From reading the Bible. I fully explain the accomplished Second Coming in Whatever Became of Jesus Christ? There you will find the rationale which essentially states that, given the description of the Second Coming in the New Testament, it has to have been a spiritual event; and, given the New Testament’s timetable, it has to have occurred in the 1st Century A.D. Do not think that because it was a spiritual event it was somehow less important than a physical coming would have been. On the contrary, spiritual things are greater than physical things.

      I don’t know how a call for the Christian community gathering together opposes our servanthood to the world.

      Driving past all the people in need in order to reach church is like the priest and the Levite speeding down the Jericho Road, bypassing the wounded man. More fundamentally, such gathering implies a Pharisee-versus-sinner attitude which makes us adopt the Pharisee’s attitude in Luke 18:9-14. We should do our kindnesses toward the least of His brethren, which include those hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick, and in prison (Matthew 25). – and there are around us all the time.

      As regards the Kingdom of God, no, it is not hard for me to believe it has “come”, but it does seem you are merging its coming with its physical, eschatological establishment. Jesus said some would see the Kingdom of God before they died and then this happened when he was transfigured. But that does not leave out that final, eschatological establishment which you seem to deny.

      In Matthew 24:34 Jesus repeated His promise that at least some of His contemporaries would live to see the coming of His kingdom, indicating, among other things, that the experience of the Transfiguration was not the coming of the kingdom but rather a foretaste and foreshadowing of it. Therefore, far from denying the final eschatological establishment, I am declaring it.

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