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Your Church Is No Guaranteed Passage to Heaven

Author : Tom Graneau

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Church, as we know it, is an indispensable element in the lives of Christians. It is, in fact, part of the very essence of salvation when seen in the broad context of the Bible. By definition, the church of God is not necessarily a human structure such as a political, economic, or social organism, but rather a living, spiritual entity that belongs to Jesus Christ, as he so stated in the Bible in referring to “my church” (Matthew 16:18). Here, the meaning is possessive, suggesting that he owns and controls the entity.

The church of God is a universal object. This means that it is a worldwide community that is set aside for his purpose. Symbolically, it’s a building where Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone or foundation; and literally, it’s the fellowship of God’s people, who happen to be the bride of Christ, saved and sanctified by his blood. In this context, no specific group can set claim as being the first or only church of God. Such an idea would be inconsistent with biblical designation of the entity.

To belong to the church, you must obtain salvation, which comes as a result of repenting of your sins and receiving God’s forgiveness. Once the transformation has taken place, you’re essentially in the church of Christ.

However, once your spiritual conversion has occurred, the definition of the church takes on a more local feel. The meaning changes slightly to include the local assembly where you demonstrate your allegiance to the faith, worshiping God and mingling with other believers.

The Bible encourages us to maintain our affiliation to the local assembly (Hebrews 10:24-25). It is spiritually healthy to do so because everyone gets blessed in the process. At the same time, you can’t automatically assume that your affiliation with the group meets all of the prerequisites for getting into heaven. You must be proactively involved with God each day, cultivating your individual relationship with him for complete spiritual success.

Too often, however, followers of Christ neglect to have regular, private communion with the Lord, hoping that Sunday services will be enough to sustain their spirituality in a fashion that meets his standard. More often than not, this attitude leads to complacency that robs them from being effective Christians, meaning missing the real purpose that he intended for their lives.

This means that with all of its good, the local church can, and does, become a major distraction for many Christians. While there is no argument that some people go to church with the right motive, which is to exalt the name of God, more people go for others reasons: Some go because they are captivated by the charismatic personality of the minister; some go to be seen and complimented by other believers; some go to listen to the latest gossip; some go to meet their weekly spiritual obligation; and some go to see the newest faces in the assembly. In the midst of all that, the real purpose of church gets lost, and the whole event becomes a social gathering.

The meaning of salvation

If salvation from God means anything, it is an individualized concept, meaning a one-on-one relationship with Jesus Christ. As such, you are responsible for motivating yourself toward positive, spiritual growth. The Bible says it this way: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:11-13). The emphasis is placed on the phrase “your own salvation,” which suggests that it’s an individual matter between you and God. This means that you must take the initiative to nurture the relationship. When you do, he will provide the grace and guidance you need to become the person he wants you to be.

Even then, the meaning of salvation goes deeper than the good it provides in this life. Its ultimate purpose is to secure your destination to heaven, the place where most people desire to be after death. To get there, however, you must be delivered from the bondage of sin, as indicated earlier. Equally important, you must possess a genuine love and appreciation for God, both of which require commitment and loyalty to his Lordship in this life.

Furthermore, when you consider that no one can take you to heaven, the situation gets even more serious. The journey is a solitary event, unaccompanied by parents, children, friends, and other Christians. This also means that your favorite minister or pastor can’t take you there either. For this reason, you shouldn’t depend on anyone to make the journey, except you and God.

This means that you must take the initiative to establish and build a solid relationship with Jesus Christ long before the moment of passing. In other words, you must be spiritually healthy to enter into his heavenly kingdom.

To help you with this endeavor, I recommended the following activities:

  • Develop a consistent pattern of prayer and Bible reading at home. Resist the temptation to follow any specific Bible reading program such as “reading the Bible in a year.” On the contrary, allow the spirit of God to guide you through the word at your own pace.
  • Don’t depend on Sunday services to motivate you to serve Christ. Let your love for him inspire a red-hot, spiritual fire that will burn inside you day and night.
  • When you go to church, block out all distractions that may keep you from focusing on God. Church gossip, people’s attire, and late arrivals are just a few of the many disruptions that occur in the assembly during services.
  • Work on personalizing God in your life. In other words, he may be your personal Savior, but is he your friend?
  • Show interest in God, and he will do the same with you.
  • Always demonstrate gratitude to him for your salvation and his love for humanity, as a whole.

If you do these things, you will be an inspiration to those in the church. This means that instead of waiting on services to inspire you to praise and glorify God, you will be contributing a great deal in the assembly of worship. God will then honor your devotion and commitment to him with bountiful blessings.

What are your thoughts on the matter?

Have you experienced distractions in church? Is there a way to stop or minimize the problem? What can you do to avoid contributing to the problem?

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