Have You Developed a Bad Habit?
Updated: Jan 27, 2022
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another,
and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
I have to confess that I have always been a major church enthusiast. I love going, I love touring other churches, I love learning how other churches operate. I love partnering, networking, associating...I love it all! Even as a young boy, I eagerly anticipated worship. At my house, Saturday evenings were a time of preparation for church the following day. I vividly remember watching my dad with his shoe polish kit carefully shining his dress shoes on the living room floor. I can still see my mom standing patiently at the ironing board, so everyone had a properly pressed shirt for church the next morning. For me, it was a time to decide what to wear and to get my Sunday clothes laid out.
Never once in my childhood did I go to bed on a Saturday night wondering if we were going to church in the morning. Never once. And that is still as true today as it was years ago. Sunday is the Lord's Day, and church is where the people of God meet for worship. One of the greatest gifts my parents gave me, maybe the greatest, was the assurance that, as I drifted off to sleep on Saturday night, I knew exactly what I would be getting up for the following day.
Gathering together with our church family was a priority and, in my young life, it was never in doubt. I never had to wonder if the weather would impact our decision to go to church or stay home. I never had to talk my parents into taking me to church. I was truly blessed.
The writer of Hebrews encourages believers to remain steadfast in the privilege and joy of meeting together for worship. “Do not neglect to meet…” he admonishes, "...as is the habit of some..."
As is the habit of some...
This warning is Scripture is not referring to missing worship because you are sick on a Sunday. Nor is it a prohibition against going on vacation. This is not a call for a legalistic approach to church attendance. Instead, it is a sad observation that some churchgoers have not changed much since Biblical times. There was a need then as there is now to confront those who are in the habit of neglecting to gather with God's people. Believers who are committed to Christ and committed to each other are given the blessing of meeting together to sing, study, pray, encourage, serve, give, and build each other up to love and good works. Why then, are some in the habit of disregarding such a blessing?
To be sure, neglect is a serious offense. We all know there are laws against neglecting your property, your pets, and your kids. But what about the mandates that God has put forth in Scripture? Neglect, when applied to participation in the body of Christ, is an offense to God that may have subtle and unintentional beginnings. Perhaps a decision was made to stay up late on a Saturday leading to an even easier decision to sleep in the next morning. Was the intention to establish a habit? Probably not. Or maybe you attended your church, but something was decided that you disagreed with, so you chose to stay home the following Sunday in protest. It was not your plan for it to become the norm -- it was just for one Sunday only, right? And week after week, month after month...a new habit forms.
When we get out of the habit of regular participation in the church, attending worship becomes a week-to-week decision that must adhere to a rigorous criterion: Is it too sunny to be stuck in church? Is it too rainy to get out? How do I feel today? Did someone make me mad last week? What’s on tv that I’m going to miss? How will this impact my eight-year-old’s budding sports career? For some, what started as a single Sunday became a new habit. A new settled way of life.
Habits can happen unexpectedly. They are often the result, not so much of strategy, but simply of neglect.
Those who neglect corporate worship likely have not neglected to create a laundry list of excuses for doing so. I wasn't getting fed; The people at the church were hypocrites; I can worship God in my own way; I struggle with organized religion; The music was too loud; The sermon was too long; The people dressed too formal; The people dressed too casual; I use Sundays for family time; Sundays are the only day I have to catch up on housework; My children are involved in sports each weekend; I watch church online; I listen to my favorite preacher on a podcast. Could it be that one or two (or all) of these sound familiar to you?
The interesting thing about habits is that they can be either wonderful or devastating. Some habits are the result of a new resolution, careful planning, and sheer will power resulting in improved finances or health. These can be great habits that enrich our lives. Yet, the other side of the habit coin is not so joyful. These habits, the bad ones, can be birthed in one careless moment. Their origin may be so subtle that you do not even realize they are there. If you have gotten out of the habit of attending church, let this article be a mirror, reflecting this bad habit for what it is: a refusal to obey the Word of God. As always, there is forgiveness and acceptance when we turn away from destructive habits! Will you recommit to honor the Lord and once again establish the priority to gather on the Lord's Day for the worship of God and to encourage other believers? In short, establish a new habit!
Christians gather on Sundays to give praise and worship to our King. We gather to serve and encourage each other. We gather to help strengthen our faith in the face of difficult days. God gave us this privilege as a gift of mercy. Do not neglect it. And suppose you are out of the routine of participating in worship on the Lord's Day. In that case, there is good news! Sunday is a fresh invitation for you and your household to enjoy once again the benefits of meeting with the Lord in the presence of your brothers and sisters in Christ.
No…your local church isn’t perfect…but none of us are.
Yes…people will still disappoint you…
but you may be the instrument God chooses to encourage the downtrodden.
Remember, gathering with fellow believers is dualistic in purpose. It is an opportunity to encourage and to be encouraged, to serve and to be served, to teach and to be taught. You cannot minister through a computer screen, and you cannot lead by example in your easy chair. If you have neglected your local gathering, I ask you to shake off that destructive habit today. This Sunday, will you to gather for worship and joyfully enter the house of the Lord? God’s Word commands us to do so! In obedience to Him, you will find that there is no greater place to be!
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