I am not a legalist. The Bible clearly reveals that a saving relationship with God is received only by faith in Christ and not by any works which we may do. We cannot keep the law perfectly and keeping it only occasionally will never earn us anything but wrath!
I am not a legalist. Once God has caused us to be born again by the regenerating power of His Spirit and we have repented of our sins and trusted Christ for salvation, we do not keep that salvation by obeying God’s commands. Again, we continue to fail from time to time even after we are saved. Keeping us in a “saving” relationship with Christ is also the work of God. It is He who preserves us and our salvation to the end.
BUT, the Bible does teach that those who have been born again will keep God’s commandments. In other words, our desire has now changed and we long to be obedient, not because it earns or keeps our salvation but because we have been born again. Our new spiritual nature, received at our new birth, guides us to do good works and to obey the Word of God.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments” said our Lord in John 14:15.
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments” writes the Apostle John in 1 John 5:1-2. Evidence of one’s new birth is his love for God and his obedience to God’s commandments.
Throughout Scripture, God has called His children to set aside a day to remember Him. God wants us to join together with other brothers and sisters on that day and worship Him. According to the New Testament, the principal day for a church (brothers and sisters in Christ) to worship together is the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day, our Sunday.
“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 author of Hebrews records in 10:24-25. The Lord desires His children, His church, to meet together and not to neglect such meetings. In other words, He wants us worshiping Him with our church on the Lord’s Day.
But what are we teaching our children about our love of God, our love of our fellow believers, our love of our church, and our love of worship? Are we telling them and showing them that the worship of God with the church on the Lord’s Day is important and necessary?
A very noticeable trend has been developing over the past couple of decades. With their lips many believers are telling their children of the importance of worshiping God on the Lord’s Day with the church. But they are teaching them something entirely different with their lives. Essentially, their lives are saying, “Yes, worshiping God with our church family on Sunday is our #1 priority for the day UNLESS you have to participate in a sporting activity or attend some school activity or go fishing with someone, etc.”
Sports have probably been the most significant culprit in this trend. Parents and their children have elevated the importance of sports above the importance of God. Those individuals who have children presently engaged in sports are likely screaming “No” even as they read this. But face facts, folks. When you pull your child away from the worship of the Lord on Sunday morning to permit them to participate in a voluntary activity such as baseball, football, soccer, or any other sport, you are teaching them the sporting event is more important than the worship of God. If you did not believe so you would not let them participate in the activity.
Look at it from another angle. If you were to tell your child they are going to have to miss worship service in order to participate in a sporting event, almost without exception the child will NOT be disappointed (and you probably aren’t either). But tell that child they must miss the sporting event to participate in the worship of God and see who gets upset! Now tell me which is more important in their life, God or sports? The fact they become upset reveals which “god” they love the most. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
I can’t fault sports alone. In today’s culture, the school system seems to find new ways to pull families out of church on the Lord’s Day. “We have to be at Busch Stadium by 11:30 in order to prepare to play the National Anthem so we can’t make church today.” Why can’t they play the anthem any other day of the week? “We have such and such event out of town this Sunday so we will miss church.” Why is the event not held on Friday and Saturday only? Even some schools now have their graduation services on the Lord’s Day.
When we parents yield to the demands of athletic teams, school systems, and other organizations and allow our children to “skip” church in lieu of whatever the activity may be, we are teaching them this event is more important than the worship of God. In fact, we are telling them this event is our god.
Again, I am not a legalist. There are some professions which demand individuals work on Sunday mornings. Medical personnel are needed on the Lord’s Day. Businesses sometimes require operating on Sundays. I, myself, have had to work on the Lord’s Day and miss worship services on a few occasions over the years. Why, even families taking a vacation will miss Sunday worship from time to time. Missing the Lord’s Day worship is not necessarily wrong or evil. Sometimes it is unavoidable. This is not what I am talking about.
Parents, you have authority over your children. If you are permitting them to participate in activities which draw them away from their worship of God then you are, like it or not, teaching them that activity, no matter what it is, is more important than God. Period.
Those parents who are, in fact, engaged in such “education” are probably thinking they are stuck. They have a child who, for example, loves football. He plays for a football team in some local organization and some of their games are Sunday mornings. What can you do?
You can do plenty. You can teach your child the importance of being with their church on the Lord’s Day worshiping God by telling them they will not participate in any sporting event (or other activity) which requires them to “skip” the service. “But the team is counting on them.” Well, before the season begins, have a discussion with the coach and tell him your child will not play on Sundays. Tell your child this as well. Set the ground rules up front. We do not miss worshiping the Lord on Sunday mornings for sporting events. Find another league which does not schedule games on Sunday mornings. If enough Christians “stuck to their guns” on the issue of Sunday activities, the organizations would be more likely to eliminate those Sunday activities.
I am not a legalist. As a pastor, I do not keep a record of who is at church and who is away at some sporting event. Skipping worship services for sporting events or other activities does not cost you your salvation. But it is teaching your child a very dangerous lesson. Which “god” do you want your child to serve when they get older?