It might not be the most comfortable idea to consider, but it’s absolutely Biblical: Being faithful to God is akin to being put through the fire.
Listen to Peter…
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
1 Peter 1:7
Right now, the church is going through a trial. Forget the physical toll of COVID-19. Forget the pandemic’s effects on our economy. Forget what it’s done to our mental health. Forget everything it has done to every aspect of this world and just consider the spiritual toll it has done to the Kingdom.
What we’re seeing in 2020 is a great purifying fire. It’s a great purging fire. It’s the kind of fire that hardens metal but burns away the impurities.
This pandemic has caused many to decide “church is secondary.” What they put first varies, but what they put second (or lower) is Christ and His Kingdom. This is seen by how readily people have returned to work, returned to the supermarket, returned to the hair salon, and returned to school, while they have continued to hesitate returning to the assembly. Must we earn a living? Sure. Must we eat? Yes. Must we get our hair cut. Fine. Must we educate our children. Okay.
Must we not also worship the King?
Why do we have the idea that God’s mercy can be abused? That His Grace can be taken advantage of?
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
To think that because God is merciful and forgiving we can put him second, third, or fourth in our life and not suffer the consequences is to mock Him. Make no mistake: God is merciful and forgiving, but the condition of His forgiveness is this: Put Me first.
I’m reminded of the story set during the Roman persecution of the church. Brethren were in hiding but were still assembling together, in secret. Not everyone, however, was assembling. Some had decided their physical lives were more important than their spiritual, so they stayed home while the rest of the church met. Finally, the elders went to see one such member, to inquire why he had stopped attending. His response was “if I go, I might be arrested. I might be killed. I have all of these responsibilities I can’t abandon in prison or in death. I must live!”
The elder said in response: “Must you?”
That brother in question probably became a Christian during a time of peace in the Kingdom. Such times always see a swelling in membership. Such times never last, however. When hard times come and the fire is stoked against the church, what always happens is a great purifying. The true, the sincere, the committed; they grow stronger. The false, the insincere, the fickle; they burn away, flake away, and fall away.
Christianity is easy…until it isn’t.
Right now the fire is stoked, the church is being tried. Will we burn away or strengthen? That’s up to us.
PS:We desire for people to feel safe, but that’s second to our desire for people to be here. When we started “online worship” Alex and I recorded a video in which I said “this is no substitute for the assembly.” I meant that then and I mean it now. Sitting at home, away from the brethren, is no substitute for the assembly. At best it’s a temporary convenience to those unable to be here. At worst it’s a crutch for some to lean on in place of being here. I don’t want to enable someone or make it easier for someone to roll out of bed late in the morning on Sunday and say “eh, I’ll just ‘worship’ online.” The person who says that has a heart problem and they will give an account to God for it. I don’t want to give an account for enabling that heart problem, either. With that said, plans are being put into place right now to make attending at North Heights even more safe and accommodating to those concerned about the spread of COVID-19. When we announce those plans (very soon), please spread the word to those of our number that you haven’t been seeing in the assembly the past few months.