In the book of Amos God says to his people:
“Seek me and live; but do not seek Bethel” Amos 5:5
Bethel means house of God. It was the place where the children of Israel knew that God had been with their father Abraham. Although Jerusalem was the designated place of worship Bethel was still seen as a place to come to God, especially after Israel and Judah split.
The problem was that the Israel were paying lip service to Bethel. They were going there, and they were offering sacrifices of a sort. In essence, they were half heartedly hedging their bets on being right with God by doing what they thought was just enough to get on God’s right side, when all along they were offending the Holy God who demands all because anything less is nothing.
That is why God says “Seek me and live” – it’s God we are to seek, not the peripherals, not the accoutrements that come with the practicalities of meeting together. As human beings we are prone to substitute doing for being, to assume that activity will do instead of attitude of heart. God says “Seek me”, don’t go to church just to go to church, seek out me and the church will be there.
It’s all too easy to rationalise our spiritual state by counting churchgoing as religion. It can and should be a fundamental part of our faith, but it doesn’t prove it or compensate for a hard heart.
The starting point for every believer is expressed in the Psalms:
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.” Psalm 73:25
So, please don’t stop going to church, but please don’t go thinking that church is a substitute for God. Seek him first and only, and go to church as a part of your seeking him. That way it will be a natural part of your daily worship and a blessing to our God and Saviour.
O Lord, forgive me for too often allowing the paraphernalia of church and Christian work to substitute for seeking you out. O Lord, whom have I in heaven but you, and there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. Draw me to you O God and I will find in you my portion forever.