A friend once told me jokingly that being in church does not make a person a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes a person a mechanic. At the time it was a joking reference made to my insistence on attending church, but in retrospect, she was absolutely accurate. We claim to be Seventh-day Adventists, and we believe in keeping the seventh day holy as prescribed in the Bible by God. The fourth commandment tells us that God “hallowed” the seventh day and “rested” on it. “For the seventh day is the Lord’s day, and in it, you shall do no work.” (Exodus 20: 10.) The Sabbath was made as a day of worship and rest for man, a day set aside specifically for communion with God and contemplation of the individual relationship with Him that all Christians must have. Wonderful! But where does it say that for the other six days of the week we can do as we please, and disregard the relationship we are supposed to nurture with God? What do we, as Seventh-day Adventists, do with the other six days of the week?
“Being in church doesn’t make you any more a Christian than being in a garage makes you a mechanic.”
This thought, taken most literally, is true. A pagan could walk into a sanctuary and sit among us, sing our hymns, listen to a sermon, and we would never know. They could observe the day with us, acknowledge our beliefs, and go home and rest on Sabbath. Yet, if they make a prayer to Isis or Hecate the next day, they are still pagan; simply going to church does not change that. Likewise, they could walk through the service bay of a car dealership and not suddenly gain intimate knowledge of the inner workings of my truck.
How do we gain the knowledge of what we need to do to be Christians? How do we turn “Christian” into a verb? A mechanic can only apply the term to himself if it is what he does for a living. It ought to be the same with Christians. Spending time with God is a good start. The Bible says that wherever two or more gather in My name, I will be there. (Matthew 18:20) So God’s presence is promised to any group that gathers for the purpose of serving Him. But what about individuals? Does God spend time with them? The Bible is full of examples of God spending meaningful time with individuals in isolation from others. Moses spent much time on his own with God, as is evidenced in Exodus when he stays on the mountain for many days and nights, with only the will and power of God to sustain him. He spoke with God alone in the Tabernacle and had a close relationship with God, one of the closest in biblical history.
Jonah was alone in the belly of the whale, but God heard his cries of repentance and his pleas for forgiveness. Alone, Jonah’s acceptance of God’s purpose was acknowledged by God, and Jonah’s life was spared as he accepted the mission God gave him. Imagine the honor God bestowed upon him. He, personally, heard the voice of God commanding him to go and do His bidding, and what did he do? He fled. Jonah ran from the greatest honor and gift any of us could imagine outside of being in the literal presence of God Himself! What would you give to hear the voice of God; what would you do to obey that voice if it honored you with a command? Would anything be too much, too hard? How terrible was Jonah’s cowardice and his sin in running from a command he should have been honored to receive, yet, even after all that, God heard his lone cry for a second chance and granted it. Is that what we are doing in our calling as Christians? God has given us clear instructions through the Bible and other inspired writings; instructions that clearly outline what is proper and necessary for Christians, yet the vast majority, sadly, ignore Him.
It has come to a time where we who believe Christianity is a verb must stand alone. There will be no church available to us on earth. And yet we will be Christians regardless. A mechanic does not need a garage to work in. Wherever there is a vehicle and the tools necessary, he can work. Likewise, if God is in our hearts and minds, we can practice the life of a true Christian. It is a historically documented fact that the ancient Christians sometimes sold themselves into slavery to buy the freedom of another. Do you think these Christians were surrounded by fellow believers? No, many of the slaves kept by Romans were of varied backgrounds, including Greeks, and Gauls; any race or country they conquered. These early Christians had no one with whom to practice their beliefs; they were an outlawed people of an outlawed faith, punishable by death. Do you think God did not hear them and was not with them when they could get away to worship Him?
Being in church does not make you a Christian. We are Seventh-day Adventists, and should live as such. As a mechanic daily works on cars and exercises that knowledge and expertise, so we must daily work at being a Christian and grow in our relationship with God. We are sent out to spread the word of God, to “fix” the lack of knowledge or interest of others in preparation for His coming. Would you let a person who spends one day of the week in a garage in some capacity work on your most valuable, vintage, collectible Mustang? No, you call in an expert mechanic who spends hours every day working on cars to deal with your valuable possession and fix it so it runs perfectly. These master mechanics eat, sleep, and breathe their profession. How much more so, then, must we Christians work on and maintain our own relationship with God if we are to help others? I Corinthians 10:31 says: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” How much must God be in our daily lives to become adequate to help others find their way to God? This is a question that requires exceedingly careful attention. If we are Christians only in name and do not live as such, others who are brought to the church through us will only have a partial picture. They will not understand their responsibility as Christians. What would happen to a mechanic who was hired but only stood in the shop without working? He would get fired. It is the same with Christians. We will not reap unless we work. This is our responsibility and we must impart this information to others. Actions speak louder than words. Likewise, we can exemplify the Christian duty more powerfully than we can speak it.
We are sent to help people establish or repair a relationship with God, but we must always remember not to neglect our own relationship with Him. In the same way a mechanic keeps abreast of the latest technology and advancements, we must keep our relationship with God up to date if we are to help others establish one. If someone sees us not living up to the standards we profess, how much will they trust us if we try to change their practices? Would you trust a mechanic who cannot fix his own car, let alone yours? In that manner, how can we expect someone to trust us to impart knowledge of Christianity, if we are not practicing what we preach?
The relationship between God and a Christian is a deeply personal and private thing at times, and it is not for any of us to judge one another on how it stands between God and the individual. It can be seen and expressed in small ways in church, but that is not enough. As Seventh-day Adventists we must commune with God daily, feel Him in our lives, and do as He has commanded us through the Scriptures. A whispered prayer, or even simply a silent prayer for patience in trying times, or a thanks for something positive, even as minor as a tiny bit of providence, can bring us closer to Him in our daily lives. He is with us all the time, and we owe Him so much should we not at least acknowledge Him?
Just as technology is constantly changing with vehicles, and a mechanic must keep educated, so must we, as Christians, keep up with the light given us and use the truths to draw us closer to Christ. In so doing, we are enabled to spread His light that all may know Him as their personal Savior.
Lauri Hume has completed her BS degree and is currently working as a case manager in Hutchinson, Kansas. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.