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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:Christ exhorts His Church to come together for love and good deeds.
Text:Hebrews 10:24,25 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Calling
 
Preached:2012-03-18
Added:2012-03-26
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Note:  All songs from 1984 Book of Praise.  Bible translation used:  NKJV

Psalm 122:1,2,3

Psalm 85:3

Psalm 147:1,4,6

Hymn 38:1,2,3,4 (after sermon)

Psalm 5:4

 

Read:  Hebrews 10:11-39.

Text:  Hebrews 10:24,25.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Dear church of Jesus Christ.

When our Lord Jesus Christ gave a summary of the law in Matthew 22, He said:

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it:  You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

Love for God is so closely tied to love for the neighbour that you can not have one without the other.  As we grow in love and fellowship with God, we will necessarily also grow in love and fellowship with each other.  And this is especially seen in church, in the community of God.  1 John 4:21 says,

“And this commandment we have from Him:  that he who loves God must love his brother also.”

Now love is an intense feeling of deep affection.  It is intimate and it is personal.  You can not love from a distance.  You can not stand aloof, at arms length, and truly love at the same time.  You can not be selfish and self-centred in love.

To love God is to draw near to Him, to enter His embrace, to listen to Him, pray to Him, to enjoy fellowship and communion with Him.  And to love your brother or sister requires that same level of closeness and intimacy; it requires you to listen to him, to speak to her, to enjoy fellowship with them, encourage and support them.

But you can not love from a distance.  To love someone you have to come up close.  You have to interact with them.  You have to establish and maintain a relationship with them.  And for that you need to meet together, talk together, pray together, exhort and encourage one another.

And that is the reason for the exhortation that is given to us in Hebrews 10:24,25.  And so I preach to you the Word of the LORD under the following theme:

Christ exhorts His Church to come together for love and good deeds.

1.    Engaged in community.

2.    Spurred on for service.

1. Engaged in community.

Our Scripture reading for today contains that all-important word “Therefore” in verse 19. 

“Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus . . .” let us then live accordingly.

The word “therefore” is an important one, because it means that what comes after this word is dependent on what goes before it.  In other words, the reason why Hebrews 10:19-25 calls us to a certain pattern of behaviour and action is because of what we have received in the one perfect sacrifice of Christ

Before coming to that great “therefore” of Hebrews 10:19, the author of this letter was explaining the high priestly work of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Old Testament times the people of Israel were called to go to the temple to worship, but when they worshipped the LORD there, everything they saw and did reminded them of the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man.  Because of the sinfulness of man, God could not openly and fully live with them and so the Ark of the Covenant, the place where God was present in a special way, was placed in its own room at the back of the temple, in the Most Holy Place.  That Most Holy Place was separated from the Holy Place in the temple by a thick curtain or a veil and nobody was allowed to enter that room except the high priest, and he could only do that once a year.  And every year he would make the same sacrifices for sin. But, as verse 11 of Hebrews 10 pointed out, these sacrifices could never truly take away sin and as a result there was not a full and open access to God the Father.  But when Christ our Great and eternal high priest came, He brought the perfect sacrifice for sin.  He was the perfect Mediator between God and man, and He brought the perfect sacrifice by offering up Himself and dying on the cross.  And the result of that sacrifice was that a new and lasting way was opened up so that we might come into the presence of God forever.  There was no longer a need for another sacrifice for sin to be made, nor was there need for God to limit His special presence to the confines of the Most Holy Place.  And so when Christ hung on the cross and spoke those gospel words “It is finished!”, then the temple curtain that had closed off the Most Holy Place was torn from top to bottom.  There was now a new and a living way to come to God, there was now full and open access through Jesus Christ.  Through Jesus Christ we can now confidently enter the throne room of God and come before Him with boldness.

And then Hebrews 10 goes on to say that as we confidently enter into the presence of God through Jesus, let us live out of the blessings that our access to God gives us. 

Verse 22 –

“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith

Verse 23 -

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope

and verse 24 –

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.”

And so as a consequence of having the full assurance of salvation and our relationship with God fully restored, we may now live out of faith, hope and love.  Out of faith we may now draw near to God because our hearts have been made clean by the blood and spirit of Christ; out of hope we may have confidence in all things because Christ’s work guarantees us a secure future in Him.  And we may live out of love because the love of God in Christ requires the response not just of love for God but also of love for the people of God.  All three of these exhortations, the call to faith, hope and love, are the consequence of the blessings we have received in Jesus Christ.  And so that is also the reason for the exhortation we are looking at this morning, “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love.”

The command to love in Hebrews 10:24,25 is, in some ways, striking.  When we normally think about what Christ has done for us in His sacrifice on the cross, we think about the love which God has poured out on us, and the love that we want to give Him in return.  But Hebrews 10:24,25 does not specifically call us to love God (although that is included), but it teaches us that when we come near to God in Christ, this must also result in the practice of love for one another.

This may be striking but it is not a strange teaching.  The Bible repeatedly calls us to love one another.

John 13:35,

“By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Romans 13:8,

“Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

1 John 3:14,

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.  He who does not love his brother abides in death.”

So love for God and love for the brotherhood goes hand in hand.  As we draw near to God in Jesus Christ, we not only live in love with Him but that we also live in love with one another.  Because when we become one in Christ, we also, at the same time, become one with the body of Christ.  And therefore it is impossible to have a love for God and not, at the same time, to have a love for the community of God, for His Church.

Perhaps some of you are surprised to hear it said that a love for God must go with a love for His church.  The message that is more common today is that while love for God is absolutely necessary, love for our brothers and sisters is negotiable.  Of course we must love them, but how we love them and even who we love does not really have much to do with our salvation.  Love for the community, for the church, is nice but not necessary.  A personal relationship with God is what matters, while a relationship with our brothers and sisters in church is secondary.

But if all the focus is on me and my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, then the consequence of this is that if and when I go to church, I go there for me, for me to be fed, for me to receive, for me to be served, so that my needs are met, so that I feel happy, so that my relationship with Jesus grows.  I come to church.  I sit down.  I receive the church’s service.  I go home and I am satisfied.  And if I’m not satisfied, if I am not getting what I want out of church, either I will back off, stand on the sidelines, perhaps say something, perhaps stop coming.  Or I will go and look elsewhere until I find a church that is more “me”, that I am more comfortable with.

Now don’t get me wrong!  We should of course be strengthened in our faith and walk of life when we come to church.  And there is no excuse for poor sermons, for worship that is flat, hollow and empty, or for a lack of pastoral care.  But coming to church is so much more than simply an aid in helping you keep your so-called personal relationship with God on track.  We do not come to church for me, but we come together for us.  Hebrews 10:24,25 says,

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching.”  (NKJV)

In the original Greek language, as in the NKJV, verse 24 and 25 is all one sentence with the words “let us” at the beginning of verse 24.  So what this says is that the reason for us to assemble together is in order to stir up one another up to love and good works and to exhort one another!  Coming to church then has everything to do with coming to be with one another and to encourage one another.  Church, then, is not simply a place to go once or twice a week in order to “get your fix”, or “to tank up on the gospel” so that you can then get out and do your own thing.  Rather, church is the place where we gather together as the body of Christ and where we engage in the body, in the community of Christ!  If you love Jesus, you will also learn to love His people, you will also learn to love His Church!

And the first thing you need to do in order to be engaged in community is to come together.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another!  Let us come together, let us come to church, and let us do so regularly!

But let’s get specific here.  For what does it mean to come together regularly? How often is that?  Church services happen twice a Sunday, but do we have to be there every time, or as often as we are able to, in order to avoid forsaking the assembling of ourselves together?  Is it necessary to come twice?  Can you insist on that?

Well let’s talk about that for a minute.  No, there is not Bible verse insisting that we be in church morning and afternoon, even though this has been the practice since the days of the Early Church, modelled after the morning and evening sacrifices of the Old Testament.  But what is Sunday all about?  It is not the Lord’s hour, but the Lord’s day, a day in which we are called to meet together, to sing, to pray, to give, to listen to God’s Word and to have fellowship with one another.  And the Bible also tells us of the blessing that it is that we may come together.  We come together as the people of God, drawing near to Him in the full assurance of faith, remembering that this blessing is only possible because we have a new and living way to enjoy fellowship with God!  The price that was paid for us to be able to enter the Lord’s presence in church was the great sacrifice, the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the One who, through His Spirit, brings us into community, calls us to corporate worship.  And that in turn teaches us to see our church attendance, even twice each Sunday not as a legalistic demand but as God’s gracious gift.  And would we then not want to make the greatest possible use of the access we have to God’s throne?  And would we not want to hear this good news preached to us and explained to us more and more?  And would we not want to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ, and call others to share in that same blessing?  If you truly loved God, then you would also love your brother, and you would do all you could to meet with God and meet with your brother in God’s house.  For how can anyone say that he loves Christ and he loves the Bible and he loves his brother, but he does not want to hear Christ proclaimed, hear the Bible preached and meet together with his brothers and sisters in Christ as regularly as he can?

Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the habit of some, our text says.  And this is no idle exhortation, for just as we are blessed for coming together to worship the Lord, so we are in danger of being punished if we deliberately and wilfully stay away.  Hebrews chapter 10 goes on to warn us of what will happen if we fail to do this and so drift away from our confession. 

“Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?”  Hebrews 10:28,29

For that is the very real consequence if we fail to listen to the warning of our text, and we no longer heed the call to meet together regularly.

But remember the context in which we are encouraged to regularly come together.  For it is when we regularly and habitually meet together that we are able to consider one another in order to stir up love and good works!  We come together, we come to church, to be engaged in community.  And indeed, not just in Church, but also at Bible study, at social functions, in one another’s homes and so forth.  And we do so not just for our own benefit but for the benefit of others.  If we do not meet with one another, then we can not encourage one another, we can not ask how they are doing, we can not pray with them or sing with them or worship with them.  You see, when we meet together, there is not only to benefit our vertical relationship with God, but for the blessing of our horizontal relationship with one another.  And that is also why we do not simply go to church to do our thing and listen to the minister do his thing, after which we can go home and say we’ve done church for the week, we’ve listened to the encouragement of Hebrews 10:25 again for another week.  No!  “Greet one another with a brotherly kiss!” the apostle Paul regularly told the churches in his letters.  In other words, greet one another in love.  Don’t just rush in and out of church with blinkers on.  Take the time to pause, to speak to your brothers and sisters in Christ, to offer a word of encouragement, to exhort them in their walk with the Lord, to provoke one another to love and good works.

2. Spurred on for service.

Hebrews 10:24 does not only tell you to do the loving, but for you to encourage others to love. 

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.”

“Let us consider one another.”  Let us give careful thought, ponder deeply on what we can do to encourage them in their Christian service. 

If loving Christ and loving the body of Christ goes together, then we have good reason to do all that we can to promote this love!  Let us consider, let us give careful thought as to how this can happen and how we can stir one another up for love and good works.

We need to stir up, spur on, egg each other on to live a life of love and good works.  And this verse teaches us that we should all be living a life of love and good works, and we should all be spurring each other on to do those good works – just as a jockey spurs his horse on to get over the finishing line.

Just what that love and good deeds consists of, Hebrews 10 does not spell out, but Hebrews 13 gives some suggestions:

“Let brotherly love continue.  Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some have unwittingly entertained angels.  Remember the prisoners as if chained with them – those who are mistreated – since you yourselves are in the body also.”

And the writer of the letter to the Hebrews gives an example of how to stir up one another for good deeds in verse 20,21 of Hebrews 13.

“Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through theblood of the everlasting covenant, make you complee in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Chrit, to whom be glory forever and ever.”

Of course, such good works include loving the LORD with all our heart, soul and mind, because we can not separate the First Commandment from the Second, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”  But as we draw near to God in Christ, we will also draw near to one another.  As the form for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper says,

“For the sake of Christ, who so exceedingly loved us first, we shall now love one another, and shall show this to one another not just in works but also in deeds.”

As a blessing to His Church, the Lord has given to us not just elders but also to assist us in this work.  But it is not the deacons who are called to show mercy: that is something for all of us to both do and encourage others to do.  The deacons shall acquaint themselves with existing needs and difficulties, but they shall then exhort the members of Christ’s body, that is the church, to stir up love and good works.

It is not always easy and it never was easy to be engaged in the community of Christ’s church and exhort one another to love and good deeds.  To be engaged in community, to love the brotherhood and stir up others to do the same, will be challenging.  Conflict and discouragement and a host of other challenges can be expected.  Sometimes we will become weary in doing good.  Sometimes it will be hard to drag ourselves away from the things of this world and from the things that we want to do.  And if you are not in the habit of talking to others, of encouraging them and stirring them up to service, you will find it hard at first.  You might feel awkward not rushing to your car but standing there after church – not simply waiting for others to come to you, but also looking out for someone for you to encourage, to talk to.  If you are not used to inviting people into your homes, you will be nervous at first.  If you have not been to Bible study regularly for some time, it will take effort to get into the habit.  If you have not involved yourself in the church but stood too much on the sidelines, you will fear that you don’t have much in common with the other members.  Be spurred on for service, and spur others on for service.  No, we do not have to always live in each others pockets, nor are we called to be busybodies.  And we are not all called to live and act in exactly the same way, for God has given us a variety of gifts.  But let us all live and engage in our community, let us use our gifts readily and cheerfully for the other members, all the while encouraging others to do the same.

And verse 25 concludes by encouraging us to exhort one another

“. . . and so much more as you see the Day approaching.”

For the Day is coming when our Lord Jesus Christ will return.  And then it will be too late to spur one another on to good works.  The Day is coming and the books will be opened.  But for us that Day should not be a day to fear.  For we live in the full assurance of faith since our hearts are purified by the blood of Christ, and we hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, believing that He who promised is faithful.  And so we look forward to that great Day when we will enjoy the full and complete presence of God in the presence of His people.  And then we will be fully one in love with Him, and we will be joined forever to Him and to His church.  How good that day will be!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2012, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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