Why must a Christian be in Community in a Local Church? (3)
So what are the three things mentioned in Hebrews 10:23-25 that we are to accomplish on those occasions when we gather together or assemble ourselves? Continue reading . . .
So what are the three things mentioned in Hebrews 10:23-25 that we are to accomplish on those occasions when we gather together or assemble ourselves?
“23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
First, we are “to stir up one another to love” (v. 24a).
The sort of “meetings” or gatherings or assembly that our author has in view are the sort that make possible mutual interaction. There has to be time and opportunity for everyone to speak truth to others and to hear truth spoken personally to them. There has to be time and opportunity for you to stir up or incite or “provoke” other Christians “to love” others better. Love isn’t easy, especially when it comes to people you don’t even like! You need to know why you should love, how you should love, in what concrete ways you can love, and how to overcome your tendency to despise and ignore other people in the church.
And you need to come to these meetings thinking about how you can do the same thing for other people. Explore what might be the obstacles to their love. What is it about their personality that hinders them? What truths in God’s Word have they failed to fully grasp that may be keeping them back?
Sunday mornings are essential. But they aren’t enough! And they are not the ideal occasion or setting in which you can speak to others what needs to be said so they will be motivated to love others more passionately. And if you’re the one who isn’t loving well you need to be with people who can take time to speak into your life and call you to account and explain the countless reasons why you need to learn how to love the unlovely better than you do.
I don’t know where I heard it but I love the phrase “urgent intentionality”. It means that when we gather we are urgently intentional about accomplishing something worthwhile. We are diligent not just to kill time or hang out. There’s too much at stake to waste our time and energy on things that not only won’t help us love better but actually serve to undermine our commitment to do so.
We see the “intentionality” in our author’s mind when he uses the word “consider” at the start of v. 24. Think in advance about what you are going to say. Have a plan. Give it some forethought. Don’t come unprepared. “Consider” every person that you know will be present. Ask God to give you some insight into their situation. Ask the Spirit to give you discernment and perhaps a word of prophecy or exhortation to help them love better than they already do. Craft your “meeting” so that when you leave you feel more equipped to love, more motivated to love, and filled with greater wisdom to know how to do it well.
In other words, don’t drift aimlessly into a meeting. Come on a mission! Come on the lookout for those in greatest need.
I was greatly helped by something John Piper pointed out about this text. He noted that he is fascinated with the fact that love, the most important Christian virtue, the most crucial of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, is designed by God to be awakened and sustained in your soul as you meet regularly with other Christians and listen to their exhortations and then in turn exhort others as well. I agree. Love is the fulfillment of the Law, says Paul (Romans 13:8). Loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself are the first and second most important commandments. To think that we would deliberately ignore and neglect those gatherings where this love can be stirred up and strengthened in us is simply unimaginable.
Second, we are “to stir up one another to . . . good works” (v. 24b).
I find it interesting that the goal here isn’t simply to love and live a life of holiness. The goal is to be an instrument in the life of someone else so they can! That doesn’t mean you can ignore the responsibility to love and walk in godliness. After all, the others in the group ought to have you in mind when they show up at the meeting!
And let’s not conclude that the “good works” here are only internal to the church. Certainly that is involved, but he also means that we are to stir up each other so that we might learn how to live a godly life in an ungodly world. Doing “good works” in the context of church life isn’t that hard. Everyone expects it of us. No one comes to church or to a community group with a plan for committing sin! But we often enter the world at large with precisely that thought in mind. So be diligent to think of ways that you can help others resist the temptations they’ll face and say No to the invitation to join the guys at the strip club.
Third, we are to “encourage one another” (v. 25).
This is just one of the dozens of “one another” texts in the Bible. Elsewhere we are told to “love one another” (1 John 4:11) and to “welcome” one another (Rom. 15:7) and to “serve” one another (1 Peter 4:10) and to “submit” to one another (Eph. 5:21) and to “do good to” one another (1 Thess. 5:15) and to “exhort” one another (Heb. 3:13) and to “admonish” one another (Col. 3:16) and to “speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19) and to “comfort” one another (2 Cor. 13:11) and to “instruct” one another (Rom. 15:14) and to “forgive” one another (Col. 3:13) and to “confess our sins” to one another and “pray” for one another (James 5:16) and to “show hospitality” to one another (1 Peter 4:9).
Now here is a critically important question. How do we encourage each other to love and to obey the Word of God? What are we supposed to say? To what are we to direct their attention? The answer is found back in v. 23. What is the root cause of love? What is it that will best motivate yourself and others to good works?
I believe the answer is ever-increasing confidence in the certainty of God’s promises to us in Jesus Christ! We need to make the goal of our meetings the strengthening of one another’s faith and belief in the truthfulness of all that God has done for us in Christ! “Where do you get that, Sam?” I get it in v. 23. Love and good works grow in the rich soil of hope in the truth of what God has promised.
Look closely at v. 23 – “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” We have a “hope” that is grounded in what God has revealed about his gracious purposes for us in Jesus. This “hope” entails not only our present salvation but our future glory in Christ. One day our redemption will be consummated. One day we will be rid of these fallen and corrupt bodies and will experience what the Bible calls glorification. One day we will forevermore live on a new earth.
As we teach each other and remind each other and press deeply into each other’s hearts truths like this it helps us hold ever more tightly to the confession we’ve made regarding them. And this is what awakens in us a desire to love others and a desire to say No to sin and Yes to God’s ways.
But how can I hold fast to my confession of this hope in a world filled with wickedness and injustice and people who can’t be trusted? The answer is in the second half of the verse: The God who promised us these things is “faithful”! He won’t lie to you. He won’t make a promise and then break it. He can be counted on to come through on everything he said he would do. He is faithful!
That’s why it’s important to devote time in your group to reading and studying the great and gracious acts of God in Scripture. Talk about creation! Talk about the exodus! Talk about the giving of the Mosaic Law! Talk about the great prophetic passages of the OT! Talk about the promises of a coming Messiah! Talk about God’s character! Talk about the Incarnation, where God became human in Jesus! Talk about his sinless life! Talk about his sacrificial and atoning death! Talk about his resurrection! Talk about his second coming! Talk about how God has granted you eternal life through faith in this glorious Savior! This is what you encourage one another with. This is the food with which you feed not only your soul but that of others.
And the simple undeniable reality is that you can’t gain this hope and certainly cannot grow more confident in it if you only curl up under your covers and cut yourself off from other Christians who need this hope as desperately as you do. You can only grow in this hope so that it will produce love and good works in community with other Christians who are just as needy and weak as you are.
So, I pray that you can see now the connection between v. 23 and vv. 24-25. The kind of love that helps others and magnifies God is the fruit of hope rooted and grounded in the faithfulness of God. The kind of good works that blesses others and glorifies God is the fruit of hope rooted and grounded in the faithfulness of God.