Why Should We Keeping Meeting Together?—Hebrews 10:23-25

20150329FBCAM [Anniversary Sunday]

Levi Durfey

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Today is Anniversary Sunday. Eighty-four years ago, in the Spring of 1931, three men: an evangelist and a missionary from Miles City, with a musician from Sweden, came to Baker and led a two-week evangelistic service. 

 

The messages warmed the hearts of several individuals, and with the help of a pastor from Miles City, they formally established the First Baptist Church of Baker in March of 1931. 

 

The very first Anniversary Sunday happened the next year, making this day an eighty-four year tradition of the church.

 

Originally, the church met in Graingers Hall (located a couple buildings to the North of Wells Fargo) on the top floor. One of the first members remembered that she was baptized in a horse trough that someone hauled into Graingers Hall.

 

By the end of 1934 the church had a basement built (with a dirt mound on top of it) that would serve as it’s home until the top half could be built following World War II. When the first pastor left in 1938, the church had grown from 17 to 200 members and were meeting in the original basement.

 

Why was church so important to them? Sure, the evangelistic meetings had lifted them closer to the Lord, but why not just go home and pray and study there?

 

In Hebrews 10:23-25 we find the answer to the question: why should we keep meeting together? In these verses, we’ll see our mission, our method, and our motivation.

 

23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23–25)

 

I. OUR MISSION: HOLD FAST

 

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 

 

A. Hold Fast

 

“Let us hold fast” (κατέχωμεν, VPAS1P, κατέχω) means to “adhere firmly to…convictions, or beliefs” (BDAG).

 

A “profession” (ὁμολογίαν, NASF, ὁμολογία) refers to a “statement of allegiance…[an] acknowledgment that one makes” (BDAG).

 

The word for “faith” (ἐλπίδος, NGSF, ἐλπίς) here is more commonly translated “hope” (in fact, this is the only place it’s translated “faith” in the KJV). But both faith and hope are words expressing confidence or expectation.

 

The words “without wavering” (ἀκλινῆ, JASF, ἀκλινής) refers to keeping something absolutely straight—like when you are trying to hold a piece of wood for someone who is trying to get it nailed in perfectly straight.

 

Pepper Rodgers was the coach of the ULCA Bruins football team from 1971-1973. When he first came to ULCA, it was tough going. He wanted to implement the Wishbone Offense, and it didn’t go over too well. It’s not an easy offense to get going at first.

 

“My dog was my only true friend,” he joked. “I told my wife that every man needs at least two good friends. So she bought me another dog.”

 

His players resisted the change, and the alumni squawked, demanding that he run another offense. 

 

A new offensive system, he said, “is like Christianity. If you believe in it only until something goes wrong, you didn’t believe in it in the first place.”[1]

 

Coach Rodgers understood that he needed to hold fast without wavering in order to get through. That first year was hard, only winning two of ten games. But the next two years they placed second each year.

 

Part of our mission in our Christian walks is to hold fast to our profession of faith and confident hope without wavering. And that can be difficult, like when:

 

  • Someone mocks your belief in Creationism, and you start to wonder if believing in that is really all that important. And if the Creation story isn’t true, what about the rest of the Bible? 

 

  • The silence of God and the boredom of devotions and church causes you to wonder if Christianity is just like other faiths—a psychological tool that helps you deal with life…sometimes. 

 

These and a million other life situations make it difficult to hold fast to our profession of faith and hope, that make us give up seeking our happiness and security in Christ.

 

B. For God Is Faithful

 

How is it that we can “hold fast…without wavering”? Our text has the answer tagged on to the end of the verse—“(for he is faithful that promised).”

 

God is faithful. That is not the same thing as saying life will be easy. Indeed, in Hebrews 11, there is list of great, faithful believers, but that list ends with these words:

 

36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: (Hebrews 11:36–39)

 

I mention this only to say that, because things in your life are going badly, it does not mean that God is not faithful. He is always faithful. Jeremiah, after Jerusalem had been conquered and burned by the Babylonians, sat amide the ashes and wrote:

 

21 This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. 22 It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:21–23)

 

Like Jeremiah, we also need to recall to our mind God’s faithfulness, whether we are in prosperity or in trial and trouble. But how do we keep ourselves reminded of God’s faithfulness so that we can hold fast? For that we turn to…

 

II. OUR METHOD: MEETING TOGETHER

 

Those folks who try to go it alone never end up happy. They turn bitter or depressed. Meeting together as a church is essential to our being able to hold fast to our faith and hope.

 

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 

 

A. Provoking Love And Good Works

 

The phrase, “let us consider” (κατανοῶμεν, VPAS1P, κατανοέω) is talking thinking carefully about something, or in this case, someone. We intentionally change the direction of our thoughts and put them on a certain path. We focus our mental powers. In what ways are we supposed to think about “one another”?

 

The word “provoke” (παροξυσμὸν, NASM, παροξυσμός) is, as it sounds, a very strong word. When we think of provoking someone, it’s not deeds of love that come to mind, but a knuckle sandwich instead! Most other translations weaken it, using words like “motivate,” “stir up,” or “stimulate” instead. Maybe the best translation for Montana is to “spur.”

 

Why would God use such a strong word? Sometimes the Bible puts two unlikely concepts together so that we can be shocked into realizing the importance of what is being said. We are to see that spurring each other to good works and to love is really important. It isn’t optional.

 

It is only when you remember that love and good works is the goal that you realize that the provoking cannot be done in a way to cause the opposite of love and good works, namely anger and revenge!

 

What are “love and to good works” referring to? You could read it this way, “encourage one another to have the love for one another that results in doing good deeds.”

 

Love doesn’t just happen, we often need provoked—stirred up—to love and good works.

 

Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

 

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is;” Evidently, some had backed out of the Christian community, and the author of Hebrews sees this as a dangerous development in the church that he is writing to. 

 

There is only so much that private devotions can do for a person spiritually. We each need to be in a Christian community. When we miss a service, we miss an opportunity to be challenged or encouraged, whether by the singing, the sermons, or by someone’s conversation.

 

Yes, it could be the conversation with a fellow believer that spurs you on to love and good works. The text says that we are to be “but exhorting one another” (παρακαλοῦντες, VPAP-PNM, παρακαλέω). We are to “urge strongly, appeal to, urge, exhort, encourage” (BDAG).

 

Someone in church can read you…they can ask, “How are you feeling today?” They can listen to you. They can give encouragement specific to your situation. A television preacher can’t do that, not even Benny Hinn!

 

B. Growing In Faith Requires Rooted Relationships

 

The crucial thing I want everyone to take home today about this is that the church is important not because coming to church is an important ritual but because the church is not a building, it is people…people whose relationships are important for helping us grow in our faith.

 

Have you ever read about the great Redwood trees in California? They are the tallest trees in the world, over a hundred of them tower at least 350 feet into the air. 

 

I was surprised to learn that these tall trees have very shallow root systems. In fact, when floods deposit mud around a redwood, it actually grows a new set of roots closer to the surface and the old roots are abandoned. Shallow roots allow the trees to get the nutrients and water they need to grow so tall. 

 

But how can shallow roots hold up trees that are so tall? Because they are interconnected with other Redwoods. The interconnected roots also help them to stand stronger against the forces of nature.[2]

 

Keep your roots close to the surface; don’t bury them deep. We do that when we hide our struggles from other Christians. But if we find people that we can share our struggles with, it’s like keeping our roots close to the surface. We get the spiritual water that we need to survive. Allow your roots to interconnect with other Christians. 

 

People who are alone often struggle with depression and pessimism in their faith. They aren’t reminded of God’s faithfulness. They are prone to waver in their faith and may fall with a crash. 

 

Who are you interconnecting your roots with for your benefit and for theirs? 

 

III. OUR MOTIVATION: CHRIST IS COMING

 

A. God Is Faithful; Christ Will Come

 

The last phrase in our passage today gives us the motivation for spurring one another on for good works and love: “as ye see the day approaching.” 

 

Jesus is coming again. For probably most Christians, this is honestly not a motivation. Yes, we believe Jesus is coming again, but when? We are like anxious kids on a long car trip who are told that if they’re quiet for the whole trip, they’ll get a treat. Well, ten minutes later, they’re back at it. Soon the reminders wear thin. 

 

Is it possible to be motivated by the return of Christ? Yes, the Bible uses the return of Christ a number of times as motivation for a command. 

 

8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. (James 5:8)

 

And Peter reminds us that God will be faithful to keep this promise of Jesus coming again.

 

9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. (2 Peter 3:9–10)

 

So the problem isn’t with the idea of the return of Christ, it is with us. How do we become more motivated by the return of Christ?

 

B. Longing For The Coming Of A Person

 

On Palm Sunday, some two thousand years ago, a crowd of people laid palm branches and coats on the road for Jesus, who was riding on a donkey and making what is called his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

 

Those people looked forward to the coming of their Messiah—perhaps some for the wrong reasons, for what he could do for them (They hoped the Messiah would conquer the Romans and make Israel an independent nation again). But there were a few, I’m sure, who looked to the coming of the Messiah simply because they wanted to be near him.

 

Referring to the Second Coming of Christ, Vance Havner said, 

 

The early believers were not looking for something to happen, they were looking for Someone to come. Looking for the train to arrive is one thing, but looking for someone we love to come on that train is another matter.

 

I think this is where we’ve blown it as Christians. Why do we want Christ to return? Honestly, I think most Christians want him to return because our nation is so bad off morally now. We want him, like the Jews did with the first coming of Jesus, to come and conquer our foes! We don’t give a hoot about Jesus himself—that’s why we don’t seem to care about his return.

 

That reminds me of a story from Fort Benton, Montana, from back near the time that this church was founded.

 

During the summer of 1936 a sheepherder fell ill while tending his flock and was brought to the St. Clare Hospital in Fort Benton, Montana. A nondescript sheep dog had followed the herder into town and soon set up a vigil at the hospital’s door. 

 

A kind hearted nun who ran the hospital kitchen fed the dog during those few days before the man died. The herder’s family in the East requested that his body be sent back home.  

 

On that August day the undertaker put the body on the east-bound train for shipment to his waiting relatives. As the gurney was rolled out onto the platform, a big gaunt shepherd dog with watchful eyes appeared out of nowhere and watched as the casket was loaded into the baggage car.  

 

Attendants later recalled the dog whining as the door slammed shut and the engine slowly started to pull away from the station, then head down, turning and trotting down the tracks. On that day the dog, later named Shep, began a five-and-a-half year vigil that was only broken by his death.

 

Day after day, meeting four trains daily, Shep became a fixture on the platform. He eyed each passenger hopefully, and was often chased off as a mongrel but never completely discouraged. Neither the heat of summer days nor the bitter Montana winter days prevented Shep from meeting the next train. 

 

…Shep was a one-man dog. The bond he had formed with the herder many years before was simply the most important thing is his life. Food, shelter and attention were now provided by the railroad employees. That was all he wanted, except his master’s return.  

 

Shep was an older dog when he came to the station house in Fort Benton. Throughout his [five and a half year] vigil the long nights under the platform and the cold winter had taken their toll. Stiff-legged and hard of hearing, Shep failed to hear old 235 as it rolled into the station at 10:17 that cold winter morning. He turned to look when the engine was almost upon him, moved to get out of the way, and slipped on the icy rails. Shep’s long vigil had ended.[3]

 

As a church, we ought to always be looking forward to meeting our Lord Jesus. We need to be one-Master people, wanting little in life except our Master’s return. To be more motivated by the return of Christ, we need to be more in love with our Master.

 

And unlike Shep’s master, our Master is not dead. No sir, he is alive and well, resurrected from the dead and seated at the right hand of his Father in Heaven.

 

Who is your Master? Everyone has a Master, for most, it is Satan and sin. But for a few, they have come to recognize that Jesus as the only Savior from sin and Satan. They have placed their trust in Jesus. Their loyalty belongs to him alone. 

 

Are you one of the few? Do you long for the return of your Master? Do you long to gather with those who love the Master also? Are you a Christian?

 

NOTES

[1] http://www.coachwyatt.com/Aug03.html

[2] http://sunnyfortuna.com/explore/redwoods_and_water.htm

[3] http://www.fortbenton.com/shep.html

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