Date: July 10, 2009

Bible Text: Hebrews 10:23-26 |


Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 28.  I’m going to preach a message that I call, “The Sin of Missing Church.”  Now, I didn’t make a mistake in using the word “sin.”  I believe it is very scriptural, and you’ll see that.  I was thinking, though, that the majority of the people who I want to preach this to missed church today.  Sunday is the Christian’s Sabbath.  For centuries the Jews worshiped on Saturday, the seventh day; but Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, and everything changed.  Again, in Matthew 28, Jesus was crucified, and the two Marys came to visit His tomb.  Starting in verse 1 we read, “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.  And, behold, there was a great earthquake:  for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.  His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:  And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.  And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye:  for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.  He is not here:  for he is risen, as he said.  Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him:  lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.  And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail.  And they came and held him by the feet, and worhipped him.”


On the first day of the week, we read, He rose. John 20 is really the same passage about the day that He rose.  John 20:19 says, “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week [Sunday], when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.”  They assembled for church.  They were scared to death, and the doors were shut and locked.  Again, the Lord’s Day is the prominent day of the week for Christians.  It’s a day that we are to give over for worship, for prayer, for praise, for learning.


For centuries Christians would never work on the Lord’s Day.  They would never work on Sunday.  They would never play on Sunday.  I guess in my generation, we thought we knew more.  I can remember when the old-timers frowned upon us teenagers.  I would come to church early and help set up the chairs.  Then we would have Sunday School and church.  Then we would go knocking on doors afternoon when we would play football.  Then we would come to church on Sunday night and do things after church.  When I was preparing this message, I remembered the old-timers saying, “You shouldn’t do that on Sunday.”  I remember kind of scoffing at it and halfway laughing, “Why not?”  I think I’ve seen why not.  As usual, the old-timers were right; and ever since these prohibitions were broken down, Christians have pushed the Lord’s Day aside.  Now Sunday is a day of play, a day of just doing whatever we want to do. When I was a young man, businesses were not open on Sunday; they called them the “blue laws,” I guess. Even many restaurants were not open because it was the Lord’s Day.  It was Sunday.


John 20:26 says, “And after eight days again [the next Sunday] his disciples were within, and Thomas with them:  then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.” Again, the second time He met with them was Sunday. Turn to Acts 20:7.  “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread…” Some time has gone by.  Saul is now saved; his name is changed to Paul.  He is now preaching.  And what day of the week did they come together?  “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.”  Remember the young man who fell out of a window?  He fell asleep after hours of preaching! But people today start looking at and shaking their watches.  People didn’t do that in those days.  Why not?  They didn’t plan other things.  They didn’t have to run home and see their favorite TV program.  The alarm wasn’t going off, and the dinner wasn’t waiting. It was the Lord’s Day.  It wasn’t their schedule; it was His schedule.


In I Corinthians 16:1-2 Christians are told to tithe on the first day of the week.  Why were they supposed to tithe on the first day of the week?  Because that was when they went to church.  “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.  Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.”  Turn back to the last book in the Bible, Revelation 1:10.  Decades have gone by, and John is starting to write this Book of the Revelation saying, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet.”  The Lord’s Day.  This is not our day.  We do not do God a favor by coming to church on His day.  It’s His day.  It’s the Lord’s Day.


My text is in Hebrews 10:23-26.  “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;).  And let us consider one another…”  What does that mean?  We should help one another.  We should think of one another.  We should not be selfish.  “…to provoke unto love and to good works...”  What are we supposed to do as Christians?  I see Fred back there.  I’m supposed to help him, and not just as the preacher.  We’re supposed to help one another.  Tom should help Fred.  Dan should help Tom.  We should help one another.  Wally helps somebody else.  Not that we think we’re better, but we’re supposed to help one another to grow and to be good Christians.  You are not going to do that in the right way without a local church.  “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works...” What we should say is, “Hey, Tom, I didn’t see you at work party.  Come on, Tom, we missed you.  Let’s go.”  Good works, love.  “Tom, I haven’t seen you out soulwinning.”  We’re supposed to help, not browbeat people.  “Come on, let’s go, it’s fun, it’s great, let’s go!”


Look at verse 25, “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.”  We’re supposed to help one another.  “Come on out to church.  Come on, Robert.  I don’t know what you’re doing, working overtime?  You missed it, it was a good sermon.  You needed it, Robert. Come on.”  That’s how it is supposed to be.  Exhorting one another.  And what does it say?  “…so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”  How do you see the day approaching?  As the world gets worse, the more we need church.  Isn’t it a shame that as the world gets worse we have less attendance in church? We’re not as serious as we once were.  Verse 26, “For if we sin wilfully…”


What is it talking about?  “Forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.”  What is it called?  Sin.  “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.”  Isn’t that clear?  We’re supposed to be in church.  Today it seems everyone has excuses for not coming to church.  It seems as though they think they are going to catch the plague!  “I don’t want to go to church.  I don’t know what’s going to happen.”  I know what they are afraid of—that God is going to get a hold of them?  We’re supposed to come and be helped.  We’re supposed to come and be encouraged and uplifted and taught and blessed.  Oh, people say, “It’s too hot.”  “It’s too cold.”  “We’ve got company.”  “The baby sneezed on Friday.  We can’t come to church on Sunday.”  And if they don’t have any sickness, they may catch it!  I put a news article on the board that said if you sanitize your kid too much, he won’t be healthy.  It said they are supposed to go to nurseries and chew on those toys.  You protect them too much and they will be sickly as they grow up.  They won’t have an immune system.  But from the time a baby is born until four years old people say, “Well, maybe he’s too young to come.”  And after he’s four, then he doesn’t want to come.  You’ve heard it, haven’t you?


The weather is used as an excuse a lot, isn’t it? Somebody figured it out.  It rains hard eight Sundays a year.  It snows bad six Sundays a year.  It’s hot seven Sundays a year.  It’s cold eleven Sundays a year.  They have company eight Sundays a year.  They go visiting, traveling, ten Sundays a year.  That makes a total of 50.  That leaves Easter and Christmas.  And then they have to stay home and prepare for company.  I heard a preacher say that a man told him he couldn’t come to church on Sunday because he shaves six days a week, and he has to give his beard a rest on Sunday. He was serious!  But if you’re a Christian, you have no decision to make.  It’s the Lord’s Day.  Someone once said, “An excuse is nothing but a skin of reason stuffed with a lie.”


It’s commanded of God to attend church on Sunday.  I don’t know if you are more spiritual than these first disciples, but they did it.  Jesus met with them until He rose to heaven.  We read in the Bible that where two or three are gathered together, He meets with us—2000 years later.  What could be more important than that?  Is it that my sermons on Sunday morning are so enlightening that you don’t need anything more all week?  Is it that you are so spiritual that you don’t need Sunday night?  No.  The spiritual come on Sunday night because they are spiritual enough to know their needs.  The non-spiritual—those who are backslidden—don’t come because they are listening to the devil.  The Bible says to forsake not “the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is…”  God says, “Some won’t be faithful, but don’t be like them. You be faithful.”


I read about a missionary to China many years ago.  He told a story of one of his church members. I don’t know if it is still this way, but he said that the Chinese coins had holes in the middle and they had a device on their belts in which they would keep their coins.  His church member was very excited.  He came to the missionary and said, “I went to be a friend to this beggar, and he diverted my attention.  When I left, I found that instead of having seven coins, I had six. He stole one.”  The missionary made the application that God gives us seven days and when you take the Lord’s Day—it’s stealing.  God doesn’t say that Sunday is a day of pleasure.  Now I know this flies in the face of some of you newer Christians, but this is what the Bible teaches.  It’s not a day of pleasure.  It’s not a day of visiting.  It’s not a day of camping.  It’s not a day of sports.


It has amazed me from the first time I had that church down in South Carolina, when people would say with a straight face, “I can’t come because of this.” It’s the Lord’s Day!  I hear all the time:  “Sunday is the only day I can do whatever.”  No, it’s the Lord’s Day. Camping is fine.  Visiting relatives is great.  Having a good time is good.  But don’t take the Lord’s Day. Don’t say your schedule won’t allow you to be faithful to church Sunday morning and Sunday night.  If you can’t be faithful, change your schedule.  This Holy Bible says the tithe is the Lord’s, and this Holy Bible says the Lord’s Day is His.  Just as the beggar stole the coin from that man in China, when you take the Lord’s Day for yourself, you are stealing it from God.


Second, it’s commanded to give on the first day of the week.  We already looked at I Corinthians 16:2, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.”  When you bring your tithe to the church and give God’s way, you’ll be surprised at the deepening of your spiritual life. Again, when you disobey God, you don’t learn.  It’s just like when you are a student.  Your teacher knows when you are not getting past a certain point, and he stops and tries to get you past that point.  God can never bless you the way He wants until you become obedient.  That’s why I say if you are here and you’ve accepted the Lord as your Savior but you’ve never been baptized, get baptized.  That’s kindergarten.  That’s the beginning, and it’s so easy.  You don’t have to do anything except stand there and smile.

God makes the first step very easy.  But then you need to be faithful in church.  Read your Bible.  These are the basics.  But giving is also part of it.  You’ll be surprised once you do what God tells you to do, how spiritually uplifting it is.  When you give what God leads you to give, you’ll be surprised at the ease with which you meet your obligations.  An unsaved banker cannot tell you how to live better on 90% than you can on 100%.  But God can.  New Christians, don’t just think I’m trying to get money out of you.  We’re doing better financially the last two years than ever in the history of the church.  We’re not trying to shake your money loose.  I’m trying to be blessing, I really am.  I’m not Jimmy Swaggert, or Jim Bakker, or anybody like that. This is a local church.


God says, “I’ll rebuke the devourer for your sake.” I’m not saying every time you get sick or have your car break down that you’re out of the will of God; but in my 52 years of being a Christian, I have seen He’ll rebuke the devourer.  He takes care of you.  It amazes me how much better a Christian who is living for Him and giving and tithing can live on 90% than another person lives on 100%.  Maybe He’ll make you more healthy.  I don’t know what it will be.  You’ll pay the same for meat and clothing, but if you give and follow God’s simple instructions as to how to take care of your money, you’ll do better giving than if you didn’t. That’s a fact.  When you give God’s way, you have more money left over even for His work.  Some of you new Christians might say, “Wait a minute.  I can’t get by now.”  Try it.  Consider how much money goes for booze, cigarettes, drugs, even medicine.  Consider how much money goes to the gambling casinos.  They have to have ads now to “gamble responsibly” because of all the people who have fouled up their lives gambling.  If you live for God and you tithe for Him, you’ll be shocked at how well you live.  You’ll be surprised that you ever doubted God about tithing.


It’s sad for me as a pastor when older Christians think they can’t.  I expect it to take time for new Christians.  At first they think they can’t.  Maybe after the Stewardship Banquet they start giving for a while, and as soon as the devil comes, they quit.  I’m not saying you’ll never be tight, but that’s how you build your faith.  That’s how you see blessings.  Do you think I never get tight?  You never have good stories if you never get tight!  When people stop giving, they never see the blessings of God.  They live like they are making half of what they make.  Some of them pretend to tithe, but they give after their taxes and their benefits are taken out.  They won’t trust God.  Why don’t you trust in the God you say you believe in and give on the first day of the week?  You’ll be surprised what a blessing it is.


Thirdly, it’s commanded of God to study the Bible.  II Timothy 2:15.  “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  That’s what our Sunday School is about.  Study.  Studying doctrine, especially for the adults.  “Study to shew thyself approved….”  That’s what our midweek service is for. Right now we’re studying the family and teaching on the family.  That’s what Sunday morning and Sunday night are for.  That’s what I’m trying to do right now. We are studying the local church.  I’m instructing you, and we’re studying the Word of God together.  I know some of you are thinking right now, “I can do it at home.”  That’s popular today.  What if we took that attitude when it comes to our day school?  What if we had no compulsory attendance as far as the school is concerned?  What if we just said, “Study when it is convenient.”


Now I know what would have happened when I was a kid if they had said, “Study when it is convenient.”  I hated school.  Before long, we would have a bunch of kids growing up illiterate.  Without scheduled, disciplined times of study, they would be playing ball, they’d be visiting, they’d be hunting, fishing, working—just what backslidden Christians do on Sunday. They would not be able to function in society any more than non-faithful Christians can spiritually.  Boys and girls won’t study what they need to unless they are scheduled to.  As Christians, if we’re going to grow at all, we should come to church and have a scheduled time of study.  “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.”  Consider a kid who quits school at 16 or 17.  He goes to work at McDonald’s and he’s going to “get rich.”  What is he going to be like at 65 unless some drastic change comes into his life?  He is going to be poor.  His life will not be at all what it would have been had he stuck with it.  Any time someone says he can “worship God in the woods,” he is going to end up poor.  He needs leadership.  He needs teaching.  People say, “Well, I go listen to the birds sing.”  You’re denying the Word of God, and you’re denying common sense. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”


Today, more than at any other time, people push the local church aside.  They don’t need the leadership of the preacher.  They won’t follow.  They don’t listen to the pastor unless he agrees with their ideas.  Reason with me.  Why did God create the local church?  Why did He in this Book put so much emphasis on the pastor, the deacons?  Why did He give them so much preeminence?  You know that I give a lot of time to the family, probably more than any other subject in the Bible.  But if you know your Bible, you know God spends His time on the church of Rome, and the church of Ephesus, and the church of Thessalonica, and I could go on.  Pastor Timothy.  Pastor Titus.  There’s something wrong in the thinking of the average Christian today.  They’ve taken the local church and they’ve trampled on it.  The local church has been pushed aside by TV preachers and para-church organizations, and Christianity is anemic because of it.  Praise God for a vibrant church! Become a part of it.


Look in God’s Word from cover to cover, and you’ll not see any other organization or organism that is supposed to teach adults but the church.  None! You’ll never learn outside the church what you can learn inside it.  You can take your pencil and pad like so many people do today and run out to a Bible study or to the TV preacher, but you are going to end up as confused as a termite in a yo-yo.  Your head will be spinning.  That’s what’s wrong with Christians today. They don’t know doctrine.  They don’t know the Bible. They know their favorite Bible teacher’s rendition. Again, what if we loaded our academy students on buses and transported them from school to school? Even if we knew they were good schools, they would end up with nothing but confusion.  God knew what He was doing when He created the local church.  It was created to lead and to teach, and you’ll never be fulfilled until you accept that.


Now turn to Ephesians 6:4.  We need to bring our children up in church.  Ephesians 6:4 is written to fathers.  “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath:  but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”  Nurture here means discipline.  It means to spank, but it means more than that.  It means regimentation.  It means consistency.  We should have consistent, private devotions, and our children should also.  We should have consistent family devotions. We should be learning the Bible.  But God gave us the church to have consistent Bible study under men of God who are called of God, and you will not grow without it.  Even some of you older Christians are looking blank as if this is a new revelation.  We read continually in the Bible that God gave leaders to lead the people. I’ve often said that I’m not any better than any other church member, any decent, good Christian.  I’m no better, and I don’t think I’m any better.  But God clearly teaches that pastors are called of God to lead, and you can’t do without that leadership.  I’m not lifting myself up, but I’d be dishonest if I didn’t say it.  You can’t do without it any more than the children of Israel got by without following Moses.  I’m not comparing myself to Moses, I’m just saying that God gives leadership, and when you don’t follow that leadership, you fail.


Our sports teams from our schools will be as good as they are disciplined.  The reason we went for 15 years without losing a wrestling tournament and had such an unbelievable record is that we had a disciplined team.  It wasn’t that they were great athletes.  We had a small school. Discipline.  That’s what is needed for success.  If one of our basketball players or soccer players decides not to come, he is off the team.  They don’t have a choice.  Fathers, you are to bring your children up in the fear, and discipline, and nurture, and admonition of the Lord.  Don’t send them to Sunday School.  Bring them!  Don’t let them just learn on their own.  We’re talking here about raising our children. Repetition, discipline, regimentation.  You should set an example for them.  Boys and girls are going to do what their parents do.  It’s amazing.  Whether they are saved or unsaved, when your kids go haywire, it’s because they followed you.  If you go to church and Sunday School, they will go in the future.  If you have a right attitude about it, you look forward to it, you talk about it, they will too.  On the other hand, if you start criticizing, start finding fault, they will do the same thing.


Fourth, it’s commanded of God to forsake all other gods for Him.  Exodus 20:3 says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”  If there’s anything the world puts in front of our Lord and Savior, it’s Sunday. A lot of people today worship the god of pleasure on the Lord’s Day.  II Timothy 3:4 tells us that in the last days before the coming of the Lord, people will love pleasure more than God.  Isn’t that true today?  Snowmobiling, camping, boating, ball games—that’s what people do today.  People say, “I’m not one of those kooks who go to church.  I have fun.”  There’s nothing wrong with any of the things that I mentioned, is there? I like to ski, for instance.  My family and I have skied a fair amount and climbed mountains.


When I was young, I just loved football.  I was thinking about that, and I thought about my senior year in high school.  We had one of the best teams in the country, an excellent team; we were unbeaten.  One Saturday we just about lost to a team that wasn’t that good, and the coach said, “You’ll be here for practice on Sunday.”  Here I was, 17 or 18 years old, and he said, “You’ll be here, or you’re off the team.”  I had a decision to make, didn’t I?  That was the Lord’s Day.  I wrestled with that, but I did what was right.  I went to church instead of practice. On Monday when practice came, that coach was so mad.  Oh, did he cuss me out! He said, “Why didn’t you go to early mass?”  He was a

Notre Dame graduate.  And I said, “Sir, I’m a Baptist.” “A what?”  I said, “We have no early mass, and Sunday is the Lord’s Day.”  I’m happy to say that the guy had enough respect for God that nothing happened.  It was the Lord’s Day.  Play on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday when you have time, when it’s right to play, but Sunday is the Lord’s Day.  If you don’t follow this admonition, someday your children will fight going to church and they’ll say, “You taught us.  You taught us to go to the lake, Dad.  You taught us to go to the ball game.  I’m just doing what you did. ‘I’ve been working hard,’ you used to say, ‘I need rest.’” You come to church, and Jesus says, “I’ll give you rest.”


Not only that, but many times the god of money pushes our Savior out on Sunday.  I Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is the root of all evil.”  If you feel you need to stay home from church to rest because you are working so much during the week, cut back.  If your job keeps you from church, I would get another job.  Put God first, not money.  The love of it is the root of all evil.  You’ll destroy yourself and your family.  Some love things, and cars, and homes, and possessions, and again, there’s nothing wrong with them; but the Bible says, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness…” and let Him give you those things.  He will.


Last of all and quickly, Psalm 150:6, “Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD.  Praise ye the LORD.”  I don’t have time to go into it, but the Bible teaches this includes the animal kingdom.  If you live out in the country and the rooster is crowing on Sunday morning, you know what I think he’s saying? “Get up!  It’s Sunday.  Go to church.  This is the day the Lord hath made.  Rejoice and be glad in it.”  The bird sings, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  I’m having fun here, but I think they are saying, “We’re just sparrows, but if one of us falls, God knows about it.  Don’t be afraid.  Don’t worry.  Get to church, and He’ll bless you for it.”  “Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD.”  That’s one of the reasons we go to church—to worship Him.  The angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest,” and we ought to join in.  We come to church to worship Him.  Glory to God in the highest!  We should be at church whenever the doors are open because it is the Lord’s Day, because we need to study the Bible.  We should be in church whenever the doors are open because we need to bring our children up in church, because it’s compelled of us not to put anything before Him.  We should be in church whenever the doors are open because we ought to lift our voices up together in worship. “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:  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, For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.”


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