by Terry Wane Benton

In China, it is reported that if you do not renounce your faith in Jesus you will be tortured till you do. If that is so, I wonder how many of us would renounce Christ? In parts of Nigeria, you will be killed for believing in Jesus. In some states here, there is external pressure to not assemble, and there is mounting pressure to limit the content of teaching so as not to "offend" certain very immoral people or expose the "unfruitful works of darkness" (Ephesians 5:11). Pressure is building to label these actions of love as "hate" instead of the love it takes to warn and appeal for people to repent so that they can be saved.

With all that has been happening, I hope that we are awake enough to see that the direction the world is moving and the fast rate of moral decline means that it might not be long until we are ordered not to assemble. They want us to think that it is for our good, but is it?

There are things that God commanded that must overrule the dictates of men. Peter said, "We ought to obey God rather than men!" (Acts 5:29). This was when the local governing leaders commanded them not to teach in Jesus' name anymore. It was upsetting many people, who would not hear and face the truth. Likewise, teaching the truth today is upsetting some people. Truth has a way of doing that.

But think about a church that never meets. What is happening to that church? They are breaking down their commitment to each other to "build each other up in the most holy faith." Our passions of love for God and His people begin to smolder and die out. Put single coal in with other blazing coals and they keep each other going. But isolate each coal to themselves, and the fire goes out. The warmth of love dies, and the feeling of common brotherhood dies. We no longer "speak to one another in psalms. hymns, spiritual songs" (Ephesians 5:19). We no longer share our common faith, hope, and love. We no longer confess Jesus to each other and keep His church edified in mutual togetherness. Our children now see the Lord's church as optional, and not necessary or all-important. We are actually not doing what the Lord wants us to do and designed local churches to do.

At this level, we have already consented to the devil's desire to have us. He sifts us as wheat and finds that we will easily give up confessing Jesus. All he lacks is a government mandate.

We must find ways to assemble and "hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering" and "let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, nor forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some." (Hebrews 10:23-25). Don't let the passion and enthusiasm for Jesus die within. God's mandate is higher than human mandates and far more important. Let faith in Jesus raise you up into spiritual service. Don't settle on weak or empty faith!

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