Medical doctors know that there are some diseases that cannot be healed by treating their symptoms. Likewise, there are some spiritual maladies that cannot be overcome by merely treating symptoms. Forsaking the assembling of the saints is one such malady.
Without a doubt, forsaking the assembling of the saints is a sin in and of itself (Heb. 10:24-25). However, it often proves to be a symptom of some other sin — one more deeply imbedded within the heart of an individual. When one begins to miss assemblies, loving and caring brethren begin to be concerned. They express their concern by begging and pleading with the erring one to attend services. The preacher might be asked to preach on forsaking the assembly. Some situations might even be pressed to the point where the withdrawal of fellowship is necessary. Yet, this may prove futile and will not solve the deeper problems unless the cause of one’s absence is revealed.
Therefore, to effectively combat this sin, which afflicts many saints in many areas, we must understand some of the UN-derlying problems to this malicious spiritual malady.
Obviously, a Christian’s absence from assembling is in itself a direct manifestation of unfaithfulness. Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17) and God’s word commands Christians to “consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some” (read Heb. 10:23-27 carefully). When one is willfully absent from services, the problem is unfaithfulness.
In its deepest sense, to forsake is an attitude of the heart. It is not a matter of time or frequency. Just prior to giving us the command not to forsake, the Hebrew writer reminds us, “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23). We need to hold fast our confession and be faithful like our Lord. Regular attendance is one way we do that. On the other hand, immediately following the Hebrew writer’s command, he admonishes, “For if we sin willfully …” (v. 27). This is how we must understand “forsaking the assembling.” It is a willful sin!
Whenever one consciously and willfully chooses to do something other than assemble with the saints, he is forsaking the assemblies. If one rolls over to catch another hour of sleep on the Lord’s day, he has willfully chosen to do so. If one decides to watch a football game or play in a baseball game when the saints are gathered, he sins willfully. Beneath each instance of “forsaking the assemblies” lies the sin of UN-faithfulness.
In Matthew 25, we find the Lord declaring some as “good and faithful” servants (v. 21). Can this be said of us when we forsake the assembling of ourselves together? Faithful here means, “faithful, to be trusted, reliable” (Vine’s, 223). Christians should be reliable in every realm of their life. Would our boss think us reliable if we missed two out of every five days of work? Would our family think us reliable if we stayed away from home for days at a time? What happens when we cannot be relied upon in the church?
Not only do some forsake two out of every three assemblies, when they do attend, they are UN-prepared for Bible study, UN-fit to lead in worship, and UN-able to contribute to the edification process. The Bible says our stewardship depends upon our reliability (1 Cor. 4:2). If one is unreliable in the kingdom, as it exists on earth, will God grant him entrance into the kingdom, as it exists in heaven?
Christianity, these days, seems to be less a matter of commitment and more a matter of convenience. We tend to seek things that are easy and convenient. This might be fine for carnal matters, but it wreaks havoc in our spiritual lives. For many, attending each assembly of the church is inconvenient. They feel strapped by the obligation. Rather than anticipate, they come to dread such sweet fellowship (cf. Ps. 122:1). Such horrible words and attitudes should not accompany the assembling of the saints.
When one becomes a Christian, he makes a commitment to God. He is “yoked together” with him (Matt. 11:28-30). When one forsakes the assembling, he is manifesting his unfaithfulness to that commitment. Unlike Felix, who sought what was convenient, but did not commit, many have committed and then call for convenience (cf. Acts 24:24-25). It is like the illustration of a young man who was “desperately in love.” He wrote the pearl of his life and said he would be “willing to endure frigid cold, cross burning sands, climb the highest of mountains, or swim the ocean just to be in her charming presence.” He then closed that letter saying, “And I will see you Wednesday night if it does not rain.”
For the committed Christian, there is never a question about whether he will be found assembled with the saints. It is automatic. If the doors of the meetinghouse are open, he is there. This is commitment!
Are we like the nine lepers who were healed, but did not return to give thanks to God (Luke 17:12-19)? Or are we like the one Samaritan leper who did?
Beneath every case of forsaking the assembly is an ungrateful heart. There is a soul who has sought out the Lord’s healing, and having obtained it, cannot take time out of his busy life to glorify God. Indeed, such a condition is deplorable, even by the world’s standards.
What if God manifested the same attitude towards us that we do towards his saints? What if God met our needs the way we give him our lives? What if God took away each blessing we do not manifest true thanksgiving for? Are we grateful for the blessing of our assemblies, his fellowship, and his kingdom?
In many places, the word of God is likened unto a seed that is planted in our hearts. God intends for that seed to grow, mature, and produce fruit in our lives (Gal. 5:22-25; 2 Pet. 1:5-11; Matt. 13:18-23). One underlying problem with forsaking the assembling is like that of the fig tree (Luke 13:6-9).
Many become children of God, but never reach maturity in Christ. Brethren, elders, and gospel preachers fertilize and water this tree, yet it produces no fruit. Jesus revealed the fateful doom of such a one, when he said, “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this tree and find none, Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?” (Luke 13:7). He also taught, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away . . . By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit” (John 15:2, 8). When the Lord seeks fruit in your life, will he find any?
If none of the aforementioned applies, perhaps one is simply unconcerned. Many who profess Christianity are unconcerned about spiritual matters: the brethren, the church, the Lord, fulfilling the commands of the Lord, and believe it or not, heaven. One might say he is concerned about these things, but what do his actions say when he forsakes assemblies?
The Bible says Paul had a “deep concern” for the churches (2 Cor. 11:28). Titus had an “earnest care” for the saints (2 Cor. 8:16-17). Paul tells us of Timothy that he had “no one like-minded, who (would) sincerely care for” the state of the saints in Philippi (Phil. 2:19-22). The Lord cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7). Are we concerned enough to attend the assembling of the saints at every opportunity?
Does the church you labor with have a problem with forsaking the assembly? If there are less at Sunday PM worship than there are at Sunday AM worship, then there are problems! If your Sunday PM and mid-week Bible study look like skeleton crews, then there are problems! Let us not throw in the towel and capitulate on forsaking the assembly. Let us continue to fight and focus our efforts where the problem really exists, just beneath the surface of the heart.