Devotions

Church Is Meant to be a Grace-Trip not a Guilt-Trip

January 30, 2020
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“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)
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Utterly exhausted. And way too tired to clean up after dinner or get ready for bed.

That defined my Saturday night as I conked out on the couch after getting five kiddos to sleep. This was followed by a miserable combination of 2 a.m. insomnia, finally falling back asleep at 4 a.m., only to be startled back awake by a small child, and then woken up again by my out-of-town-husband’s alarm clock blaring at 6 a.m.

I dozed back asleep, only to wake up right in time to leave for church, with a serious case of the Sunday morning blues.

Ugh.

Although we live only five minutes away, every fiber of my being wanted to stay home, snuggled in my PJs.

Please God, don’t make me do this. Can’t I just skip it today?

I tried to convince myself it didn’t matter if we showed up or not.

Ultimately, I decided to go, even if we were late … and by some miracle, we arrived mere minutes before the sermon began.

And the topic? The Prodigal Son.

Oh, isn’t that just like the enemy of this world to want me to forget how much God loves me when I feel like running away? Surely the enemy wants to leave me in a spiritually isolated place.

During the message, the Holy Spirit reminded me to keep praying for the prodigals in my life — several who used to be very close to the Lord — and also reminded me that just a few days prior, I’d gone to a counseling appointment with a dear friend, and we’d started talking again for the first time in more than five years!

Wouldn’t the enemy of our souls want me to forget that prodigals can still come home, that our God is still in the business of bringing dead things back to life, and He still abounds in grace?

No wonder the enemy worked overtime to keep me out of church that weekend. Thankfully, I felt enveloped in reminders of God’s grace instead.

Today’s key verse, Hebrews 10:25, is the antidote for days when we’d simply rather skip church. It says, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” To me, this says, let’s keep connecting with one another and encouraging each other — until Christ’s return.

Digging deeper into the preceding verses, we see that through Jesus, God orchestrated a new covenant for His people. Verse 18 explains, “And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.”

For the Hebrew people addressed in this book, this was major news.

No more sacrifices? Christ’s death was enough, once and for all? This reminder was all about God’s infinite grace! And I’m fairly certain the world could benefit from us extending more grace to others!

Whether it’s the crazy driver who cuts me off in traffic, the friend who’s let me down, or even my own heart when I haven’t been the kindest toward the people in my home, spiritually isolating ourselves leads to all kinds of non-gracious activities. Why is that? Because we all benefit from walking in grace.

We live in a world that tempts us to abandon corporate worship and walk away from our faith. Hello, January.

But this passage shows us God never designed church or corporate worship to be a guilt trip. Instead, church should be a grace trip — a reminder to keep gathering and encouraging, and continuing to show His infinite grace to everyone around us.

Because whatever excuses we have for not getting there, God has more than enough grace to go around.

Lord, thank You for Your grace. And thank You that it’s designed for the whole world. May we keep meeting together and encouraging one another until You return or draw us home. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY

Hebrews 10:19, 23 “And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus … Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” (NLT)

2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” (NLT)

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REFLECT AND RESPOND

Ask yourself, Where does God want me to show the world more grace?

Read Exodus 20:8-11. Knowing God’s Word instructs us to set apart the Sabbath in the 10 Commandments, how can you make attending worship (or even an online congregation) a priority in your life over the next few weeks? If it’s already a consistent priority for you, what encouragement do you have to help someone — like a busy single mom or another friend in need — make their way back to church? Share your ideas in the comments!

© 2020 by Stephanie Raquel. All rights reserved.

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