ATTENDING CHURCH MAY NOT LEAD TO HEAVEN
Probably hardly anyone would disagree that attending Church services is necessary for our salvation, but if we never miss church services in our lives, this will not in itself, bring us into the kingdom of heaven and eternal life. Many believe that attending church services regularly has a good end, but this is a part of our path to salvation. We are called to become sanctified children of God and not children of this world. Christ himself founded the Church, yet He taught many other rules of behavior blessings. He taught things that must be avoided as well as things that are necessary and affect our salvation. To claim that going to church is enough would nullify everything else which is impossible.
He taught that we must keep the written and oral traditions of the Church which instruct us an many things and we are bound to keep and preserve them. The Bible and the oral teaching and traditions of the Church instruct to avoid evils and to perform good words.
“The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:16). If anyone has the spirit of God within himself he will have witness that he is a child of God. Becoming a child of God will cause a person to completely modify his life, depart from all evil and do only good, and live according to Christ’s commandments. This change is effected by our conscious decision to live as a child of God. If the spirit of God does not dwell in us we cannot be inwardly aware that we belong to God. Repentance and confession and receiving Holy Communion is commanded to us by the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot continue to do evil, have a foul mouth and then claim to be Christians and children of God. Repentance, confession and communing are part of entire spiritual life.
If we are not children of God then we are slaves of the evil one and need the Lord’s help to escape. If we are not children of God then we have not become Christians even though we may bare the name. Genuine children of God strive to become purified and holy knowing that this is most necessary. If our souls do not testify to our struggle then we are not struggling and are wandering from the path leading to eternal life. “We have not received the spirit of slavery” says the Apostle. What is “this spirit of slavery? All that is other than the spirit of God, who Christ God sends to those who love Him. The spirit of slavery is everything that prevents us from being children of God. No one is excluded from the opportunity of becoming children of God which is the spirit of freedom and sonship.
The witness of God, that comes through sight can lead us to doubts for we do not see with our physical eyes. But He that bears witness within our hearts rids us of all doubt that we are children of God. For we have witness from within our own hearts with firmness that God is our Father and we are His children. What happiness, what peace, what joy is in the faithful when the spirit of God abides in a heart that is cleansed, for this opens up our hopes and reaches up to the most compassionate Father who embraces us within His arms!
It is never suggested that we not go to Church, but doing that one thing and neglecting everything else is not the way to life, and this needs our attention. Following Christ involves a complete personal change from our former lifestyle. There is much to be done by each of us, but to neglect is punishable while to gain victory is greatly rewarded, also God will make our path, a path become filled with great hope and sweetness.
Christ details His commandments, many of them in Matthew, Chapters 5,6,7, which is known as the Evangelical Law, the many things which we must understand and practice. The Gospels offer much information about Christ, His words, His parables, miracles and actions. The Acts of the Apostles is an account of the functions and activities and the missions of the earliest Church. It positively identifies Orthodoxy as being the continuation of the early Church. It shows that Peter was not in charge of the Apostles, rather it was the Holy Spirit governed them. The 14 Epistles of St. Paul, and those of St. Peter. St. John and St. Jude are vital to our souls and are historical and didachtical and God inspired. The Book of Revelation, recorded by St. John the Evangelist. It is not a hidden mystery, but it reveals things which must take place in the future, hence its name. This book also clearly describes the Orthodox Church as: “the woman clothed with the sun,” who is being attacked by two beasts.
Gathering together as Church is the center of our public spiritual life for in every Divine Liturgy, Christ himself is present with His Mother, Saints and holy Angels. The divine mysteries of the Liturgy are most wonderful to have a part in. The faithful do not attend as observers, but actually participate by pious attention, prayer and communing of Christ in the Holy Mysteries.