Imagine if when you walked into church this coming Sunday and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself was physically there. And beyond that, He was greeting people at the door as they sought to enter His house. Then try to imagine this challenging thought: what if He was asking people—asking you—as He welcomed you in, “why have you come today?”
This is a very provocative question, I know, but as I thought through how I might answer, I was struck by how tough it is to accurately examine our hearts and discover the true motivations behind why we do what we do. Second Corinthians 13:5 quite bluntly commands us to examine ourselves in an ongoing sense:
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 2 Cor 13:5
I think being prepared to answer Jesus at the door of the church, so to say, and to tell Him why you have come to His house, is a fair application of the 2 Cor 13:5 command, don’t you? So, why do you go to church?
I think people show up at the door for countless reasons—some right and true, and others nefarious. It is predictable that the church building tends to fill to the brim on Christmas and Easter while winnowing down on weekends when worldly events or circumstances that compete for our heart affections come strong.
Maybe you get dragged to church by a spouse or parent? Perhaps you are feeling guilty about something and hope for relief by sitting in the pew for an hour or so? You might come out of desperation because life circumstances are squeezing beyond your ability to cope, and a “good decision” to attend church seems a way to mitigate the stress. My point is not to judge or discourage in pointing out that one’s motivations for coming to the Lord’s house can often be less than what our Lord Himself desires for us. Therefore, an examination of the “why are you here?” question is certainly a worthwhile exercise for someone who has yet to trust Christ and be saved. But such an examination is also good for the regenerate soul desiring to become more like Christ. What would you say to Jesus at the door?
The Apostle Paul in the opening verses of Philippians, chapter two, tells us that really and truly wanting to be there is an important attitude to test. In his loving letter to the fledgling church at Philippi Paul appeals to them with a cry from his heart:
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” Phil 2:1–2
In verse one, Paul is describing the beautiful fellowship of believers that an authentic relationship with Christ makes possible. There is encouragement in Christ! There is comfort in love! There is participation in the Spirit! There is affection and sympathy in fellowship! And when believers gather together these things are not only present; they are also unifying in a manner not possible apart from saving faith in Jesus Christ. Authentic believers want to come to church (and other believer gatherings) because these things—encouragement, comfort, love, participation, affection, and sympathy are present.
In verse two, Paul exhorts the church fellowship to “complete his joy” by recognizing these unique blessings, and then unify around them: be of the same mind, have the same love, be in full accord, be one. And this is a picture of heaven on earth, which Christ brought in His magnificent voluntary act of taking on full humanity. “He came from heaven to earth to show us the way,” so the song lyric from goes Donnie McClurkin’s Hymn, Lord I Lift Your name on High.
Experiencing true Christian fellowship is a glimpse of heaven on earth, even as still-yet- becoming believers continue to work out their sanctification. No one has fully arrived, so there are some fuss and mess in church, but a healthy, becoming church should exhibit those things Paul calls out in Philippians 2:1. This sense of eternity is why you should want to come to church! You really do connect in a supernatural way with fellow sojourners and so you desire to be around them.
It has been said that if a person doesn’t like being around church people, how does that person expect to get on with anyone in heaven?
Maybe you should ask yourself this coming Sunday, why am I here? It has been a worthwhile exercise for me.