Any reader of the Epistle to the Hebrews cannot fail to be impressed with the greatness of the truth presented and by the One who is at the centre of the teaching. It touches the heart, deepens affection for the Lord, and increases understanding of the blessings enjoyed by the believer. It encourages worship, spurs us on to more prayer, and stimulates desires to follow Him more closely. It may surprise us, therefore, to read the exhortation: "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (10.25).
But should we be surprised? The sad condition to which the writer refers is with us today, and in most assemblies there are those who are unreliable in their attendance at the gatherings. There are some saints whose absences are noticed and for which there is always a good reason. Let it be clear that the remarks which follow are not directed at such saints, for even when it is not possible for them to attend, they miss the gatherings of the Lords people. Sad to say, there are others whose absences do not surprise, indeed their presence at some of the gatherings is so unusual that it gives rise to comment.
What is the cause of such a condition? For those who are young in the faith, or untaught in the Scriptures, it may be ignorance of the Word of God, a condition that can be quickly rectified if there is a will to learn. Others may be discouraged in serving, some may harbour bitterness against other saints, there may be those who simply wish to retire from the battle, or it may be that the world has gripped the soul and destroyed zeal for the things of God. There are others who have never manifested much interest in spiritual matters despite being in "fellowship". All, however, would do well to consider some of the issues raised by such conduct.
First, it is an abdication of responsibility; they are irresponsible. Fellowship in an assembly brings with it obligations to be present, and participate in every Scriptural way. Second, it reveals a lack of care for other believers; they are uncaring. They are denying others the encouragement that their presence brings. They are discouraging overseers by showing their lack of obedience to the Lord in this matter, and in prayer meetings they are not adding their prayers to those of others, thus taking no part in helping those for whom prayer is offered. Third, it is a denial of the truth taught by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12.12-31, that all saints have gifts and all are necessary; they are dysfunctional, not fulfilling the function given them in the local assembly. Fourth, they deny themselves the blessing that is to be enjoyed when serving the Lord; they are spiritual losers and their conduct is a sign of spiritual ill-health.
If these lines are being read by some who know in their hearts that they are "unreliable", it is time to stop and take stock. You may assert that the gatherings of the saints do not attract you - they never will if you continue on your present path. Perhaps the excuse of "work demands" comes to mind, but you know that you could make the time available on prayer meeting night if you so wished. It is a fact that we make time for those things which we really want to do! Whatever the reasons or excuses, if you know that you are saved and yet fall short in these matters it is "high time to awake out of sleep" (Rom 13.11), and to endeavour to become a reliable servant. Attending the Breaking of Bread does not constitute being in fellowship.
But let all take heed to one great overriding reason for being present when saints gather. The Lord is there! If He is present, do we lightly ignore Him? Is our love for Him so dim that our conscience is silent when we choose to absent ourselves? If such is the case, seek His presence and, alone with Him, endeavour to have matters put right.
When these things are taken to heart your spiritual life will be enriched and the assembly will benefit. Prayer meetings will be more powerful, ministry meetings will be more profitable, open airs will bear a better witness, gospel interest will increase, and, above all, worship will be fuller and warmer. Start now, for, be warned, "the day" is approaching!