Going To Church But Not To Heaven?

I was talking with someone I’ve gotten to know over the past few months. I thought she was a Christian, but I’m starting to question that. It’s sad- You can go to a Church, lead a small group and sing in the choir and not know Jesus at all! In fact, that scenario or something like it is going on all the time in the Church. At least in America, going to Church does not necessarily mean you are a real Christian. You will be comforted that you’re on your way to heaven and part of God’s family, but maybe you’re just “going to Church”.

You mean going to Church doesn’t automatically make me a Christian?

No, it does not.

There are some really, really nice people who go to Church too. My friend is one of them. She loves people, has a big heart and wouldn’t hurt a fly- But is she born again? Is she going to heaven?

I thought that was what was supposed to matter. I thought this whole thing about knowing Jesus was all about heaven and hell and had eternal consequences and was supposed to be more than just a social outlet. Why does there appear to be so little concern over people’s souls? Why are we so content with simply being religious?


Jesus Is Not Religious

I wrote “Jesus Is Not Religious” over 30 years ago because of things I saw going on in the Church. I was a new Christian. I had found Jesus and He had changed my life. I honestly didn’t see why the Church was so religious in so many ways. Over the years I have seen it all! I’ve traveled singing my Christian music in denomination after denomination. Some Churches are on “the wild side” and some are somber to the point of sleep, but one thing I’ve noticed is that most have become in their own way, very religious. They do what they do because they’ve always done what they they’re doing. In many Churches across America you will never here an appeal to “come to Jesus” to be “born again” or do do anything other than what you’ve already been doing in life. No change is required, and apparently no relationship with Jesus- Just keep showing up on Sunday and you’ve done your religious duty, nothing more required. Other Churches may require you to take a class and get baptized. Once that happens you’re in! Still others have taken the word “production” to new heights- going to Church is like going to a play on Broadway, or attending a concert, or going to a movie. If nothing else you will be entertained. In the bid to fill seats you can find Churches raffling off iPads and other prizes. The crazy thing about all of this is that many Christians don’t seem to think these things are strange. We act like it’s all perfectly normal!

To add to this Christian caricature we have Churches all across America who are advocating things that the bible says are sin. From the pulpit to the pew we have Churches who are proud of how progressive we are on the issues of our time. Does it matter what the Word of God has to say? Apparently not. All that seems to matter is that we’re culturally relevant, and cutting edge, and that the world likes us and approves of our doctrine and the stands we take.

Maybe this complacent, religious circus doesn’t matter to you, but here’s something that should- Going to Church and being religious will not get you into heaven or out of hell. Jesus never said, “Go to Church!”. He did say “Come follow me” pointing to the necessity of having a real relationship with Him. As strange as it may sound, knowing Jesus and going to Church are often two very different things. There’s going to be a whole lot of people who stand before God who are going to be shocked to hear, “Depart from me, I never knew you!

“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'” -Matthew 7:23

Many are totally convinced that they’re Christians but are as lost as they could ever be- Religious as the noon day sun, they call themselves Christians and honestly believe it because they “go to Church”. If that’s not sad, I don’t know what is. The system (for lack of a better term) is so broken people can spend their entire life in Church and never know they’re not saved! Why this isn’t seen as the crisis it is, is beyond me. There are certainly those who see the problem and the seriousness of letting it continue unabated, but by and large we are living in an apathetic age. Compromise and complacency are not the marks of an apostolic church. We seem to be living in Laodicea without a care or thought to our condition.

“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” -Revelation 3:17

How is it that Jesus and His Church see things so differently in this verse? While the Church of Laodicea feels wealthy and in need of nothing, Jesus says they are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked”. Could there be a greater disconnect?

A Church without Jesus is indeed wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked”. Without Him all that is left is the hollow trappings of religion. To be in that condition and be fine with it is a terrible indictment of where too many Churches in America are at right now.

Could it in fact be the case that many Churches are operating apparently just fine without Jesus? Everything has been set in motion- all our programs, our worship, our tithes, our building programs- Could they all be on auto pilot? Why is it that we find Jesus standing on the outside knocking to get into His own Church?

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.…” -Revelation 3:20

Could it be we’ve gotten so good at this religious thing that we’ve actually forgotten about Jesus? Oh, we still use His name and His words, we’re very good about that. Many of us are very orthodox too, we’ve just left Jesus outside- He’s standing at the door, knocking! He’s standing there asking, “Remember me?”. He’s waiting for someone to recognize His voice and let Him in!

And if we do let Him in?

He wants to dine with us. He’s looking for something personal, something close, something intimate. He’s not looking for a religious demonstration, He’s seeking relationship.