Temple: A structure reserved for religious or spiritual activities such as prayer and sacrifice (Wikipedia).
Local church: A local group of believers with biblically qualified elders, meeting for the purpose of building up one another and training one another to obey Christ’s Great Commission and to reflect the living God in their various gifts and services. (1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1-2, Titus 1:5, Matt. 28:18-20)
Like many Indians, I too have had for many years equated churches and temples because of that “sense of peace” that one experiences in quiet temples, and in vast, empty cathedrals.
Now if you are a Bible-wielding Christian who loves Jesus, you would know how different going to a Hindu temple and being with the church is. But are there ways in which you might be treating your church like how some treat temples- like a thing of mere rituals and forgotten tradition? Here are some points that you might want to consider:
1. Being with the church for my well-being and my family’s.
Though I used to be a very pious, temple-going, Hindu boy, all I cared about was to stand before the idols, chant mantras and shlokas and pray for my well-being and my family, and ask for the things I wanted (mostly success in studies). My life before becoming a Christian was truly about my well-being (not even my family’s, honestly). Do we have such wrong motivation for meeting with the local church?
Then it’s possible that you’re worshiping not Jesus, but yourself, your ambitions and your family!
A church gathering is not a source to get what you desire. Sure, you can try- but if you owe the forgiveness of sins and your new life to Jesus, the builder, center and the life of His people, then meeting with the church should be all about reminding yourself of the good news that He saved you from God’s judgment and has loved you. Your aim must be the building up of believers in the body of Christ, which is the church. Hopefully, it makes sense to be about what He wants, not what we want!
2. Being with the church to earn favour from God.
“Punya milta hai” is the catch-phrase in Hinduism. You will get favour from God or some type of blessing from God if you go to a temple. Even better if you offer a huge sum of money. Even better if you pay for some really prominent pooja or yagna.
But according to the Bible, no one, not even the people of God, which is the church, can justify themselves or earn an impartial God’s favour (Gal. 2:16, MSG). Sin and injustice will never go unpunished. Good deeds don’t outweigh bad deeds in our flawed courts, much less would such nonsense fly with God, the lover of justice. No “special” offering could be given by man to the pure, holy Creator, the Original rights-holder and owner of all things anyway.
Do we have such aims with our church gatherings? Do you expect to be in the good books of God because you play an “important” role in your church? Without you the church can’t move ahead, right? 😛
Or because you offer the most money? Or because you serve the most?
If that’s how we operate, we risk becoming laughing stock one day before the Lord Almighty and His universal church! God mocks all proud attempts, wherever they are made (James 4:6). Please enter the fellowship because you are thankful for your Saviour and His people! Or have you forgotten that you were once an outsider, living in utter, spiritual darkness?
3. Being with the church only to ignore the people of God.
What an oxymoron is that statement! The local church is the people of God, but just like I would be hardly bothered about the troubles of the people praying right behind me at temples, we could be selfishly all about what we can get from this “church service”. As if God created the church for us to be served (Gal. 5:13, MSG)!
The church is not a building, it is a people. If you find an empty church building, please remember that the church has left the building.
Beware of ignoring and thinking less and praying lesser for your church, the bride of Christ. The universal church of God will one day rejoice with Him in His throne-room in stunning, glorious heaven (Rev. 7:9,10)!! He holds her so precious, He died to become her Saviour.
4. Being with the church without involving non-Christians.
As a Hindu, I was least bothered in showing others what my “religion” or temple was about. And given my selfish tendencies, it is no wonder. I was my own god, my life was good as long as my things are getting done, you know.
Not so with the children of God! Sadly, so many of us “attend” church week after week, and don’t invite non-Christians to join us in witnessing the amazing, gracious privilege of beholding the body of Christ and to hear the wonderful good news that might save our lost friends and family from certain eternal torment and everlasting hell.
We have kept hidden our best blessing, Jesus Christ, to ourselves probably because we are afraid- as usual(?)! Or because we think our church is not the perfect or right place to invite our friends. Really?
Surely God doesn’t need a perfect church to save souls? Since when?! He uses the foolish message (1 Cor. 1:18) called the good news of Jesus to save whoever He has mercy on!
Is it a small offence that you despise the people Christ lavished His priceless love on? Let’s go to Jesus and ask Him to change our hard hearts; there is hope in Jesus yet again!
My colleague’s innocuous question
A colleague and friend asked me last week, “So is it mandatory for you to go to church?”.
I could relate with his point of view; his question sadly assumed that one would not go to a church unless it was mandatory, a rule in the “rule-book” called the Bible! I responded by saying that it’s a lovely thing for me to go, be with the church group, and to meet other fellow believers there, learn from the Bible and learn about Jesus Christ more. Going to be with the church is a command that I obey with joy, so it really was not about “mandatory”!
And that is something all of us who are Jesus-followers today will do well to remember. There might be traditions in our great country where people go to religious places of worship, because well, “my parents are doing it”, or “my community expects it”.
No. Jesus and his church are worth all of our time, life and more. That’s the testimony of the simple yet powerful church we see in the book of Acts (Acts 2:42-47)! May we look into the Bible, the Word of God, and participate in our local church wholeheartedly not for our sake, but for making Him famous!
How have you seen other people or yourself turn churches into temples?
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