Twice a Year
By Dennis Huebshman
As a pastor, there were two times a year that I was able to count on for extra seats being filled at church; Christmas and Easter. Sad to say, for some people, these are the only two occasions they give any thought about Our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ (Messiah). His name may have come up in their conversations, but mostly as a cuss word, and not in reverence of Him.
First question that comes to mind; are you saved just because you go to church regularly? On the same note, is a regular church-goer “more saved” than the “twice-a-year” person? How about the ones that don’t attend a church service at all? Who is saved, and who isn’t?
The answers to the above questions may be a bit surprising. Each of the situations given could end up with everyone in the Lake of Fire; some saved and some lost; and finally, it’s possible all could be saved. It does not depend on attending or not attending an organized religious service. In fact, some so-called church services are just “stage productions” meant to entertain the congregation, with a lot of visual effects, heart-thumping music, and a lot of ear-tickling messages. People become emotional at the experience and have momentary “inspiration”, but not in the true word of the Lord. As soon as most leave the building, the Lord is left behind. Also, they have not been fed the true Word. They walk away “hungry” for God’s word, but satisfied that they fulfilled their “obligation” of being seen in church once more. They gave the Lord “His Hour”, now the rest of the week was theirs to live as they wish.
The message of salvation has nothing to do with filling a seat and putting money in a collection plate. First of all, the words in the 66 books of the Bible, that the Father has given us through Holy Spirit inspired writers (2 Peter 1:20-21), have not changed in meaning. To Him, they’re as relevant today as when first written. (note, all emphasis throughout is mine)
For example, to counter those who now say there’s “many ways” to heaven, John 14:6, “Jesus said, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by me.” This is an absolute truth statement just as John 10:30, “The Father and I are One.” In fact, the majority of John 10 tells us of Our Savior being the Good Shepherd, and all who follow (accept) Him cannot be taken away from Him. Also, John 10:16 tells us Jesus came for everyone, not just the Jews. To top all this off, He came of His own free will, and gave Himself voluntarily, and was not forced to go to the Cross. (John 10:17-18) Because Jesus made this claim to the Jewish leaders, they tried to stone Him, but He was able to escape their attempt. His time had not yet come. They were an example of “organized man-made” religion, and not in God’s will.
Before Jesus went to the Cross, He prayed not only for His disciples, but for all who would believe in Him from then on (John 17). He included you and I as well in Verse 20, “I am not praying only on their behalf (disciples), but also on behalf of those who believe in Me through their testimony.” As God, He was able to look ahead in time and pray for all who would turn to Him for their salvation. The Florida Boys put out a beautiful Southern Gospel song, “When He was on the Cross, I was on His mind.” It’s hard for us to understand this concept, but after all, Jesus is our creator along with the Father and Holy Spirit.
Belief is the very first thing one has to have in order to become part of His “flock”. One of His own disciples, Thomas, had trouble believing Jesus had risen from the dead. In John 20:25, he told the ones who had previously seen Jesus that he wouldn’t believe until he actually saw and touched the wounds of the Savior. In John 20:27-29, Jesus took him up on this request, and Thomas responded, “My Lord, and My God!” Jesus then told Thomas (V.29) that he believed because he saw; but “blessed are the people who have not seen, and yet believed.” That would be you and I. Though we have not actually seen Jesus, we have the account of His ministry on this earth, and it’s up to us to believe the Word of the Lord, or reject it.
Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit told the members of the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:12), “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under Heaven given among people by which we must be saved.” He and John had been arrested and they exhibited a confidence the Sanhedrin could not overcome. They were told to stop talking in public about Jesus, but Peter and John told them, (Acts 4:19-20), “… whether it is right before God to obey you rather than God, you decide; (20) for it is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” They had been personal witnesses to Jesus’ ministry, death, burial, resurrection and ascension into Heaven.
Faith must be added to belief. Also, one must ask the Savior for their Salvation, which He will freely give. “All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13) Going to Romans 10:9, “because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart (true belief, not a spur-of-the-moment impulse) that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” As stated, “For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek (gentiles), for the Lord is Lord of All, who richly blesses all who call on Him.” (Romans 10:12)
There are people who worship the Savior every day through Bible reading and prayer. They are aware every moment who is responsible for each breath they take; for everything they possess; and they do not belong to any organized Church. They realize “They Are The Church”. They have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and asked for forgiveness of their sins. (1 John 1:8-10) They have a “relationship” with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and have no doubt of their eternal destiny. They have been “baptized” by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5) living within them, and are waiting Jesus’ call to take all believers Home.
There are still some good churches out there where the pastors are presenting the true Word of the Lord. Many are overwhelmed by some mega-churches in their area where the “entertainment” is focused on, and members attend for the “high”, not to learn how they need to live to really be saved. The people who attend Bible-based services are given what they need to know; that Jesus is Savior of all, and His sacrifice is a blessed gift to us. They believe He will forgive us and prepare a home for us with Him, and they carry Him in their hearts every day. The church building is not what saves us; just being there regularly or twice a year doesn’t really matter. What is important is Jesus! Like the song says, “Spread the tidings all around; Jesus Saves – Jesus Saves!”
Please understand, I am not trying to discredit anyone in their sincere worship. Whether a person is at every church service, twice a year or no service at all is not the issue. Truly having faith, believing in and accepting Jesus is the only way to have an eternal home with Him.
There will be those who filled a seat every service, donated money, sung the songs and shook the “preacher’s” hand every time they left the building; but if Jesus isn’t their Savior, they are lost.
If the twice-a-year people don’t have Jesus in their hearts, they may as well stay home those two days also. Likewise, if the non-church goer doesn’t accept Jesus, they are Great White Throne bound. (Revelation 20:11-15)
If all the above have believed, have faith, have accepted Jesus, have confessed to Him they are sinners in need of a Savior, then everything else is icing on the cake. Jesus didn’t only minister on Sundays or Wednesday nights or whenever; He was, and is, available 24/7 to hear our pleas. We can talk to Him at any time, either out loud or just in our minds, and He is there listening to us. Those who have become “His sheep” will be His forever. Those who only “play” at being a Christian, will be told, “Depart from Me for I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:23)
There’s no other options. It’s yours to choose, and the Father will never force you to be saved. If you ask, He will, because He’s waiting patiently for us. (2 Peter 3:9)
I’ve used Joshua 24:15 in the past; you have a plain invitation that is still available. Choose this day whom you will serve; as for me and my house, we will worship the Lord. There’s plenty of room at the “supper table”. Please join us!