Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Michelle’s a money-grubber, Still small voice, Husband of one wife…)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!


Michelle, you’ve mentioned that your husband is previously divorced and also that he is a minister of music. How can this be? Isn’t he disobeying Scripture’s instruction that a pastor is to be “the husband of one wife“? Don’t you believe the Bible? Do you follow it? If so how do you justify your husband’s role in the church when compared to 1 Timothy 3?

Yes, of course, I believe and follow the Bible. I believe and follow the rightly handled, in context, written Word of God, not popular misunderstandings of certain passages.

(And by the way, asking a fellow Believer a question like “Don’t you believe/follow the Bible?” in an accusatory way is rude and inflammatory. Furthermore, while I am happy to answer polite questions, it is not incumbent upon me to “justify” myself or my husband to whatever stranger might have the temerity to demand that I do so.

Rudeness and ugliness from people who call themselves Christians seems to have hit epidemic proportions. I’m going to be addressing it more frequently. Let’s play nice, folks.)

I have previously written about the “husband of one wife” clause in the 1 Timothy 3/Titus 1 qualifications for elders in my Mailbag article “Can a divorced man be a pastor?”

For a number of reasons, it would be inappropriate for me to go into the details of my husband’s divorce in a public forum like this, but you may rest assured that we have not been living in sin for the past 25 years, and that we have been up front about his divorce with the search committee of every church he has ever interviewed with. There are some churches who have a policy of refusing to consider for ministry positions anyone who has ever been divorced. Though we personally disagree with those types of policies (based on the biblical reasons in the article cited above), we certainly respect each church’s right to set its own hiring policies and have been grateful to the churches that have disclosed their policies from the outset.


I recently discovered your blog and am enjoying looking around and reading your posts. I do wonder at your use of your blog for promoting your own gain, your option to donate, and the near complete aligning of one’s salvation with the allegiance to a physical church organization. I wonder if you can share Bible verses that support both of those things?

“Promoting my own gain”? I think you might need to look around and read some more. All of my blog content is available for free, including the Bible studies I write and allow individuals and churches to print out and use free of charge. I don’t keep any content behind a paywall (such as Patreon) or charge any sort of subscription fee. I don’t sell any books, materials, or other merchandise. I don’t receive any remuneration from the ads that appear on my blog. My blog isn’t sponsored by any organizations. And, I don’t receive any sort of salary for writing this blog. How is that “promoting my own gain”?

There are only two instances in which I receive money for anything in connection with this ministry:

1. When kind and generous readers take it upon themselves to send me a gift through my Financial Support page (I rarely mention this giving option, and I have never asked readers to send me money.). Few do, though I deeply appreciate the blessing those folks have been to my family. Most of the gifts I receive go toward paying household bills. (And when I say “bills” I mean electricity, water, rent, etc. I don’t have an extravagant wardrobe, a fancy car, or take luxury vacations.)

2. When I do a speaking engagement. If I could afford to do these events for free, I would. I can’t. As you no doubt read at the Financial Support tab “my family lives frugally on one modest income.” We can rarely afford to go out to eat, never mind afford for me to drive or fly hundreds of miles from home, spend several days away from taking care of my family, and pay for food and lodging once I get there. Additionally, it takes dozens of hours to properly prepare speaking engagement material, and it is work. I usually don’t do more than a few of these a year, and, so far, I haven’t spoken at any huge churches that can afford to pay me thousands of dollars. This money also usually goes towards bills.

It is absolutely Scripturally appropriate for me or any other Christian to receive financial gifts or compensation in these two instances. (Click on the words in red for related Scriptures.)

The first situation is the giving of a gift. The money I receive from time to time is not expected, asked for, owed, or required. Jesus received monetary gifts. The early church gave financial gifts to Christians in need. The Philippians sent Paul gifts more than once. The Corinthian and Galatian Believers sent financial gifts to the church in Jerusalem. You give people gifts. I give people gifts. Christians give each other gifts.

The second situation is a) payment for work, and b) support of ministry. Jesus didn’t have a secular job. He received financial support of His earthly ministry. First Corinthians 9 and 1 Timothy 5:17-18 are abundantly clear that “those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” Proverbs 31 speaks of the wife and mother who crafts various things and sells them to bring in extra money for her household. My craft is writing and speaking. This is how I help bring in extra money for my household. These Scriptures are also why it would be completely fine for me to sell books, utilize Patreon, charge subscription fees, receive money from ads and sponsorships and any of the other things I mentioned in the first paragraph, just as it is fine for most other Christian bloggers and ministries who do.

Another excellent resource on this topic is Daniel Darling’s article No, All Christian Content Shouldn’t Be Free.

As to “the near complete aligning of one’s salvation with the allegiance to a physical church organization”, first of all, I’m not entirely clear on what you mean by that, but the New Testament couldn’t be plainer that Christians are to be joined to a local church and that one of the first signs that someone isn’t a Christian is when she leaves or refuses to be part of the church. I’ve covered this thoroughly, including the relevant Scriptures, in my article Basic Training: 7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians.


Our church’s women’s Bible study is using Priscilla Shirer’s content (The Armor of God). I looked at your blog, but didn’t find too many quotes from Shirer that I could use to draw an appropriate conclusion. 

Occasionally I will get this question from readers: “I know you’ve written an article saying that _____ is a false teacher, but what about [this particular book she wrote]? Is it OK for me/our church to study?”

It seems like your question might be along those lines. I’ve answered it in this Mailbag article. 

Priscilla Shirer is a false teacher (see my article Going Beyond Scripture: Why It’s Time to Say Good-Bye to Priscilla Shirer and Going Beyond Ministries). The way Scripture instructs us to deal with false teachers is to avoid the person entirely, which would include all of her materials, merchandise, etc. This is not only the biblical way to do things, it is much less time-consuming than sifting through quotes from her books to find out if any of them might be passable for use in your church.

If your church is using Priscilla Shirer materials, you may also find my article How should I approach my church leaders about a false teacher they’re introducing? to be helpful.


I recently posted on Facebook about how Christians are easily fooled by the false teaching that God speaks to certain people. Someone commented, “Don’t discount the still small voice of the Holy Spirit who calls, guides, instructs, comforts.”. I have searched the Bible and I haven’t found any verses confirming or refuting this statement. Can you shed some light on that thought? Is it in line with Scripture or is it more false verbiage that has encroached on the church?

I think the person who commented proved the point of your Facebook post. Is it “in line with Scripture”? “More false verbiage”? Yes and no.

Usually, when I see the phrase “the still, small voice” of the Holy Spirit, if the person using the phrase even knows she’s alluding to Scripture (many are just parroting what they think is a catch-phrase from pop-evangelicalism), it is based on a misunderstanding, or deliberate twisting, of 1 Kings 19:12:

And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
1 Kings 19:11-13

This is God talking to Elijah. (The King James Version translates the blue phrase in verse 12 as “a still, small voice”). It was normal for God to talk to Elijah. He was an Old Testament prophet.

You’ll notice that this is a descriptive passage, not a prescriptive passage (more on that here). That means it’s simply a passage telling us what happened with Elijah at that moment. This passage doesn’t promise, imply, or even hint that God will speak to you, me, or anybody else in the same way. It’s just a report of what happened.

(Just an aside, but isn’t it interesting that people take descriptive passages like this and assume that God will speak to them the same way He spoke to Elijah, but no one ever reads about God turning Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt, God sending a whale to swallow a disobedient Jonah, or God causing the ground to open up and swallow the rebellious Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and assumes God will do the same to them? No, we only want the good stuff!)

God does not speak this way to people any more. He speaks to us through His written Word. And who is the author of Scripture, God’s written Word? Second Timothy 3:16 tells us it is the Holy Spirit. So if you want the Holy Spirit to “speak to you in a still small voice,” read your Bible. I’ve covered this topic in greater detail in my article Basic Training: The Bible Is Sufficient. You may also find this resource from John MacArthur to be helpful: Does God give us personal direction through a still small voice?


I just wanted to drop you a quick note and tell you how much I am enjoying your study of Mark. I have been praying a lot about exactly HOW to study the Bible on my own. I love MacArthur’s method of reading the OT in a year and a book of the NT each month, but when I’d sit down to read great portions of Scripture, I didn’t have a solid grasp of what I’d just read. This month I knew it was time to start in another gospel and I decided to use your Bible study to help. Your method and questions are just right! Turns out, it’s better for me to slow down and really dig into a smaller number of verses at one time rather than digesting a great number of chapters in one sitting. And the result? I’ve been so excited about what I’m learning and often mull over throughout the day what the Holy Spirit is teaching me through His Word. Thank you for sharing these studies so selflessly! Truly, I am blessed! Indeed, your whole site is an encouragement to fight the good fight; I am grateful for you!

I get encouraging little e-mails, messages, and blog/social media comments like this all the time. And I wouldn’t trade them for all the money in the world. It thrills me beyond words to hear about Christian women who are growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ, digging into His Word, growing in discernment, and serving their families and churches.

And when I get to be a tool in God’s hands to help a sister with that in some small way, it absolutely astounds me and humbles me beyond words. Christ is so good and so kind to allow us the honor and joy of serving Him by helping others, whether that’s a sister in Christ, our husbands, our children, a co-worker, or a neighbor.

Thanks so much, truly, to all of you who have ever written me a little note of encouragement. It will one day be my joy to lay all of those e-mails and comments at the feet of my precious Jesus as a fragrant offering. All of this has always been…and will always be…all for Him.

(If you’d like to try one of my Bible studies or learn more about how to study the Bible for yourself, click the “Bible Studies” tab at the top of this page.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Basic Training, Church

Basic Training: 7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

It’s a disturbing trend that’s spreading like the plague, especially among women who claim to be believers:

“I’m a Christian but I refuse to attend church.”

These aren’t women who can’t attend church due to health reasons, caring for an ill or disabled loved one, who have no other choice but to work on Sundays, or who live in an area with no reasonably doctrinally sound church to attend. They’re women who could get plugged in to a decent local church, but intentionally shun the body of Christ.

Usually, the decision to opt out of church boils down to one of two scenarios: a) a believer who was hurt by a previous church and yet isn’t ready to risk being hurt again or b) someone (often a false convert) who doesn’t grasp the concept that being joyfully joined to a local body of believers is part of what defines someone as a Christian.

I can tell some of y’all have already fired up your e-mail programs or mentally formulated a corrective comment. Hang on, and please read what I’m about to say so we’re all on the same page here. I am not saying, have never said, and will never say that attending church, joining a church, serving at a church, or being baptized into a church is what saves a person, even in part. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian. Everybody with me? Scripture is clear that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and that good works, such as church attendance, play zero part in a person’s salvation.

What I am saying is that one of the signs, or fruits, that someone is already saved is that she has a heartfelt love and affection for the things of God, which includes the gathering of the saints for fellowship, worship, encouragement, and edification. For a believer, love for the bride of Christ is a natural extension of loving Christ, Himself. She doesn’t have to be talked into attending church; there’s no place on earth she’d rather be.

We’ve all been in difficult situations with difficult people at church that can hurt, sometimes deeply – believe me, I’ve been there – and can leave us in need of taking a few Sundays off to recover, or possibly the need to change to a healthier church. But if you’ve harbored antipathy toward the church, as a whole, for years, have never taken joy in fellowshipping and worshiping with fellow believers, don’t see any particular need for gathering with the Body, or are generally apathetic in your attitude toward church, you’re in a very dangerous place, spiritually, and you need to question your salvation. Those are symptoms of being lost, not fruit of being saved.

For Christians, being joined to a local church is not optional and non-negotiable. Why?

1. God Says So

Just in case the entirety of the Bible isn’t clear enough that God wants His people meeting together for fellowship, worship, and the Word, He says so very bluntly in Hebrews 10:24-25:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

The HCSB puts it this way: “not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do,” and NASB says: “not forsaking our own assembling together.” God says we are not to neglect, stay away from, or forsake, the meeting of the church body. For anyone who claims to be a Christian, that reason alone ought to be good enough. When God tells us to do something, we do it. Period.

2. The Church is God’s Plan for Christians

God doesn’t need or want your help devising the best methodology for your life and growth as a Christian. He already has a plan. He already established that plan. That plan is the church. There’s no plan B or any cafeteria-style options. If you’re a Christian, God’s plan for you is to be a faithful part of a local body of believers. The Bible never suggests that it’s OK for you to be a “Lone Ranger Christian.” There are no explicit statements to this effect, nor even one example of a New Testament Christian who lived life apart from the church. The New Testament assumes Christians will be part of a church. If not, the majority of Matthew through Revelation would be moot. If you reject the church, you’re rejecting God’s word and His way in favor of your own way.

3. Jesus Values the Church

You claim to love and follow Jesus, right? Well, Jesus founded the church. Jesus is the head of the church. Jesus loves the church. Jesus died for the church. Jesus is the Savior of the church. Jesus nourishes, cherishes, and sanctifies the church. How could anyone claim to love and follow Jesus and yet cavalierly toss aside something He values so much that He laid His life down for it? If you really love Jesus, you’ll value the things He values, and, clearly, He values the church.

4. Being Joined to the Church Is an Indicator of Salvation

First John 2:18-19 makes no bones about it. Forsaking the church is an indicator that you’re not saved:

…now many antichrists have come…They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

Want to make it plain that you’re not of Christ? Step one is to leave the church.

5. The Church is the Dispensary for the Word and the Ordinances

The preaching and teaching of God’s Word. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In order to preserve their purity and sanctity, God established a hierarchical structure of ecclesiastical authority and placed the responsibility for administering Scripture and the ordinances with the church, not isolated individuals. Do we have women’s Bible studies and Sunday School classes? Of course. But only under the oversight of our pastors and elders, as an outflow of, and in keeping with, the preaching and teaching ministry of the church. Do we share the gospel with the lost we encounter during the week? You bet! Our churches enable us to do so by training us in the Word, and we bring new believers back to our churches so that they may be discipled.

6. The “One Anothers”

Love one another. Comfort one another. Forgive one another. Serve one another. Bear one another’s burdens. Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another. Have you ever stopped to think which people “one another” is referring to? It’s easy to see when you look at these verses in context. It’s our brothers and sisters in Christ. All of the New Testament “one anothers” are written to the church. You need brothers and sisters to minister the “one anothers” to you, and your brothers and sisters need you to minister the “one anothers” to them. We cannot properly carry out the “one anothers” outside the church because they were meant to be practiced first and foremost within the church.

7. Sheep Need Shepherds

The Bible often uses sheep as a metaphor for God’s people. And since we know that God is the author of Scripture, we know God handpicked that metaphor to describe us. Ever notice that God never describes a sheep wandering off on its own as though that were a good thing?

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way;
Isaiah 53:6a

I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant,
Psalm 119:176a

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew 9:36

What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?
Matthew 18:12

Sheep who leave the flock to make their own way in the world are in danger from wolves, the pitfalls of sin, and any number of other perils, especially the trials and tragedies of life. I can’t tell you how many e-mails I’ve received from distraught Christian women in dire personal circumstances who desperately need pastoral counsel. Sadly, when I tell them I’m not equipped to help them with such a complicated problem from so far away and that they need to make an appointment with their pastor for one on one, face to face counseling, the response is often, “I haven’t been going to church. I don’t have a pastor.”

We need the protection of the sheep pen, the brotherhood of the flock, and the leadership of our shepherds, our pastors, to help guide us. God knew we needed those things. That is one reason He established the church and created the position of pastor. Christ is our Good Shepherd, but until He returns, He has appointed godly men to watch over and protect the flock in His absence:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
John 21:15-17

And he gave…the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
Ephesians 4:11-12

So I exhort the elders among you…shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
1 Peter 5:1-4

You can’t shepherd yourself. That internet pastor you listen to – even the most doctrinally sound one – can’t shepherd you. You need to be part of a flock led by a shepherd who knows you and cares for your soul.

Do you take joy in gathering regularly with your brothers and sisters in Christ for worship, the Word, the ordinances, building one another up, and serving one another? If not, the solution is not to leave the church altogether. The solution is to examine your heart against Scripture to discover whether or not you’re truly saved, and then to find a healthy church you can pour yourself into. Christ has given believers the local church as a blessing and a benefit, not a burden and a bore. Love and embrace this precious gift He has lavished on you.


Additional Resources

Six Ways Not to Forsake the Assembly 

7 reasons worshipers need the church at The Cripplegate

Mailbag #49: Home Groups Over Church at 9Marks

My Jesus, I Love You; Your Bride I Despise! at Reformation21

Why You May Be Tempted To Neglect Your Church by Tim Challies

Five Essential Reasons for Christians to Gather in Public Worship at Ligonier

Prioritize Your Church by Tim Challies

Is a “Churchless Christian” an Oxymoron? at Ligonier

The Plight of Churchless Christians at The Cripplegate

40 reasons to be part of a local church at The Cripplegate

Christmas, Church

“If You Skip Church on Christmas You’re Probably Not Even Saved” and Other Holiday Nonsense

church-on-christmas

It happened in 2011, and it’s happening again this year in good old 2016. Christmas Day falls on a Sunday- and the spiritual lumps of coal are being lobbed all over the internet: If you’re a Christian who’s even thinking about taking the day off from church attendance or your church has decided to cancel services that day…well, you’ve firmly ensconced yourself on God’s “naughty” list.

So I’m innocently cruising around on social media, podcasts, and the blogosphere recently when what to my wondering eyes should appear, aspersions galore from those I hold dear. Seriously, scads of doctrinally sound Christians I love and respect have said things like, “Church attendance on Christmas will separate the wheat from the chaff,” and, “If your church is canceling services (or even modifying the regular Sunday schedule) on Christmas, it’s time to find a new church.”

Did I read that right? Are theologically-grounded Christians really questioning people’s salvation and the spiritual health of churches based solely on a once-every-five-to-eleven-years Christmas Day worship service?

I honestly don’t think I’m biblically out of bounds when I say that’s absurd and judgmental and it needs to stop. Like, yesterday.

Yes, probably a lot of the churches who are canceling services on Christmas are theologically wonky, but that’s because, statistically speaking, the majority of churches out there, period, are theologically wonky. Too many people are post hoc ergo propter hocing this situation. Just because there are bad churches that are canceling services doesn’t mean every church that cancels services is a bad church. What about the rural church of 20 members (that hasn’t had a visitor since the last century) who have all informed the pastor they’ll be out of town for Christmas? Is he supposed to show up and preach to an empty room? What about churches who have moved their services to Christmas Eve so members can spend time with family on Christmas without missing weekly worship? Is there a passage of Scripture I’m not familiar with that prohibits a church from doing this every once in a blue moon?

Yes, there are doctrinally unsound churches out there, but they’re doctrinally unsound because they consistently teach unsound doctrine as measured by applicable Scripture, not because they cancel a worship service or shift their normal schedule around for Christmas- an issue nowhere mentioned in Scripture.

As for judging people’s salvation (or love for Christ, love for the church, commitment, spiritual maturity, etc.) based on whether or not they attend church on Christmas- if you’re going to question a Christian’s salvation for skipping church that day, are you ready to pronounce a pagan saved if he shows up for services on Christmas Sunday?

Of course not. Because that’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

The people who are using Christmas Day church attendance as a spiritual barometer would be the first to tell you – and rightly so – that going to church won’t save you. Neither will missing one service (or a dozen) “unsave” you. Salvation is determined only by whether or not you’ve repented of your sin and placed your faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ to redeem you. And sanctification (spiritual growth) is a lifelong process – a trajectory – of becoming more and more Christlike through the years. Church attendance on Christmas isn’t a make or break for your salvation or sanctification.

Earlier this week in The Ten, we studied the fourth Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” We discovered that, while God’s intention for the Israelites was simply to abstain from working at their jobs, housework, and commerce in order to rest and worship Him, the Pharisees later came along and added all kinds of micro-managing rules defining “work.” So by the time Jesus came on the scene, things like picking (“harvesting,” according to the Pharisees) and eating grain as you walked along, and performing miracles of healing were considered “work”- thus breaking the Sabbath. But these were man-made laws, not God’s law. It was oppressive and robbed people of the joy of worship God intended His people to bask in each week. “The Sabbath was made for man,” Jesus said, “Not man for the Sabbath.”

mark-2-27

I can’t help but wonder if these “Real Christians will be at church on Christmas Day,” pronouncements aren’t similar. God has made no law for Christians that we must be at church on Christmas Day – or any other particular day – or we’re sinning. And, as for the churches who once every several years cancel services or shift their Sunday service to Christmas Eve, God has made no law that churches must meet on Sunday every single week or they’re in sin. What God has said for New Testament Christians is:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:24-25

“Not neglecting to meet together.” Reminiscent of the paucity of Old Testament explanations of what constituted Sabbath work, God doesn’t give a definition of this phrase or quantify it with a specific number of allowable and acceptable missed Sundays per year. It is left to the conscience of each individual Christian and the agreement of each local body of believers (but I can scarcely believe that a person who is at church every week unless Providentially hindered and opts to skip the Christmas service is “neglecting” to meet with the body by any stretch of the word). But when we by-pass issues of individual conscience and church agreement, make a law where no law exists in Scripture, and judge people’s relationships with God based on our own man-made law, are we not doing exactly what the Pharisees did?

What’s of far more concern than where your body is on Sunday, December 25, is where your heart is the other 364 days of the year. Do you love the body of Christ? Are you committed to serving the Lord and your brothers and sisters all year long at the church you’re a member of? Do you faithfully attend worship each week? Then deciding to spend Christmas Sunday at home with your family (especially if you’ve already attended the Christmas Eve service the night before) is not an indication that you’re backsliding or somehow “less” of a Christian than those decrying your absence.

But what if you answered “no” to those questions? What if you skip church as many or more Sundays as you attend because you just don’t feel like going, or you signed your kid up for a soccer team that plays on Sundays, or there’s a ball game on TV, or you’d rather go shopping, or you go out of town on pleasure trips a lot of weekends? What if your general attitude toward church is, “Meh, I’ll go when I feel like it and have nothing better to do.”?

That is much more problematic than skipping church the years Christmas falls on a Sunday. That’s an indicator that you need to examine your heart to discover whether or not you’re in the faith. To love Christ is to love His bride, the church. People who are genuinely regenerated love the church. As a general rule, they want to be at church worshiping, serving, learning, growing, and fellowshipping with their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Why, between 2011 and 2016 haven’t I seen and heard these same folks who are judging Christians about Christmas church attendance speaking out equally as boldly, and in the same numbers, about people being sporadic in their attendance and uncommitted to the body the remaining Sundays of those years? As Christians, we celebrate Christ’s incarnation every Sunday, not just when Christmas falls on a Sunday. Are those other Sundays somehow less important?

One day, out of the thousands that comprise your life span, is inconsequential. The Bible does not say that simply staying home from church on Sunday, December 25, is a sin. What’s important is pursuing Christ, hungering for holiness, and loving and serving the church every day, not just when Christmas Sunday rolls around.

The Ten (10 Commandments Bible Study)

The Ten: Lesson 6

the-ten

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Exodus 20:8-11

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Exodus 31:13-17

“You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you.14 You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. 16 Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 17 It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’”


Matthew 12:1-14

At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

(And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27- This verse is included in Mark’s account of the grain story.)

He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

Luke 13:10-17

Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.”13 And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.


Colossians 2:16-17

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

Acts 2:42,44

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers…44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common.

Hebrews 10:24-25

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider:

1. Examine the two Exodus passages. What was the purpose of the Sabbath for humans? (15) What did God mean by “labor” and “work”? (9-10, 14-15) What was the penalty for breaking the Sabbath? (14-15) What two things was the Sabbath to remind Israel of? (11,17; 13) How would remembering these two things lead the people to worship and honor God? Which word do verses 8, 11, and 14 use to characterize the Sabbath day itself? How would having a holy day of rest and worship, a reminder of God as Creator and that Israel was specially set apart by God, be a witness to the one true God to the pagan nations surrounding Israel?

2. Study the Matthew and Luke passages. Jesus was frequently called on the carpet by the Pharisees for “working” on the Sabbath. Most of the Old Testament verses regarding the Sabbath don’t specify what constitutes “work,” but a few do. The Pharisees had made many additional and burdensome rules about what constituted “work”- you could only walk a certain number of steps, you couldn’t drag a chair across a dirt floor (it would create a furrow, and that was plowing), etc. Considering the verses linked above and the Exodus passages, was Jesus really “working” on the Sabbath in the Matthew and Luke passages? Whose rules was Jesus breaking- man’s or God’s? What did Jesus say it was lawful to do on the Sabbath? (Matt. 12:12)

3. Review the purposes of the Sabbath in question 1. What did Jesus mean when He said the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath? (Mark 2:27) How might this idea relate to overextending yourself with church activities? How busy are your Sundays?

4. In the Matthew and Luke passages, Jesus gives two examples of how the Pharisees care for their animals on the Sabbath. What are those examples? What message was He trying to get across to them? Would you say the Pharisees cared more for rule-keeping or people? How might Jesus’ “breaking” of the Sabbath in such a public way have been a threat to the Pharisees power and position?

5. What does the Colossians passage tell us about the Old Testament feasts and the Sabbath? (17) If Christ is the fulfillment of these foreshadowings, must Christians still observe the Jewish Sabbath?

6. Which day of the week was the Old Testament Sabbath? (Ex. 31:15) Why? (Ex. 20:11) Which day of the week do Christians worship on? Why? Compare and contrast the Sabbath pointing to God as Creator and Christians’ Sunday worship pointing to Christ as Savior.

7. What components should characterize Christian worship, according to the Acts and Hebrews passages? What can we glean from God’s Old Testament instructions about the Sabbath about things like rest, worship, and holiness that still apply to our Christian worship today?

What does “not neglecting to meet together” mean? Why does God say it is important that we regularly meet together? What is the heart attitude of a “non-neglector”?
a) I love my church family, worship, serving, and being taught God’s word. Why would I want to miss all that?
b) I like church. I’ll go if nothing more important pops up. I’m there about half the time.
c) Church is OK. I go when I wake up on time and feel like it. That’s about once a month or so.
d) You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian, so I don’t really need it. Maybe on Christmas and Easter, but that’s about it.

Which of these most closely matches your heart attitude about attending church? Is your attitude about faithful church attendance pleasing to God?


Homework:

If you were to keep a calendar of your church attendance, what would it look like? Are you at church each week unless Providentially hindered (emergencies, illness, etc.)?

  • If you know your attendance could be better in God’s eyes, repent and commit to being at church every week. What are some practical, proactive steps you could take (setting an earlier alarm, laying your clothes out Saturday night, etc.) to set yourself up for success?
  • If you are already faithful in your church attendance, are there any areas of service at your church that you could fill?
  • Are you faithful in your church attendance, and overextending yourself in serving? Consider the importance God placed on the Sabbath being a day of rest. Do you need to cut back on the number of church activities you’re committed to?