RPM, Volume 18, Number 15, April 3 to April 9, 2016

Let Us Consider

Hebrews 10:24-25

By D. Marion Clark


Weve come to the second of a two-part message on understanding what God expects of Christians and of his churches. We are to draw near to God holding fast the confession of our hope; i.e., we are to know and hold fast to the teachings of Scripture, the doctrines that it teaches us about God, his work, and his promises. We come to God not through feelings or rituals, but through faith, through understanding and believing Christ and his work on our behalf. Hebrews speaks specifically of Christs work as high priest who has offered up the perfect sacrifice and who continues to intercede on behalf of his people.

The lesson from the verses we examined was the importance of knowing the doctrines of our faith. It does matter to God that we know as much as possible about him and whatever it is that he has revealed in his Scriptures. It matters to Jesus that we find him to be a fascinating subject and to want to know as much about him and his work as we can.

Finally, there is nothing more practical in helping us to cope with the struggles of life and our temptations than studying God. As we learn more about who he is and the work he has done and is doing, the more we will take heart in carrying on because of the hope such knowledge generates, and because we have clearer vision as to what we should be like and do.

That is a good lesson, but it is not the whole story. Our next two verses complete that story.


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.

Remember the context of the letter. The receivers of the letter are going through a rough time. It has included being "publicly exposed to reproach and affliction," thrown in prison, and having their property plundered. This suffering for the Lord is wearing on them. Some have left the faith. Others are growing weary and giving in to worldly temptations. And a number of them are attending church less regularly, some even quitting altogether.

The author, as we noted last Sunday, teaches doctrine about Christ, expecting that such doctrine will boost their moral. But at this point, he is simply saying, Come on; help each other out.

And let us consider how to stir up one another. That phrase, "stir up," is a good translation of the Greek noun being used. It is used one other time as a noun in the New Testament to describe a falling out between Paul and Barnabas. These men had such a stirring up, they broke off their partnership. The word, whether in its form as a noun or verb, almost always has a negative connotation. There is another mention of the apostle Paul being stirred up by the idolatry he saw in Athens. When he writes about love in his great discourse of 1 Corinthians 13, he will note that one of the virtues of love is that it is not easily stirred up, i.e., it is difficult to provoke love to anger.

The author is not telling his readers to consider how to make each other angry, but he is trying to stir them up. He is the coach rallying his team that is falling behind in the game and are in danger of giving in. He is the captain marshalling his troops to hold the line and not give way. And he is calling out to them to rally one another.

What does he want them stir up each other to do? To love and good works. Putting together love and good works is his way of saying show love by deeds. John expresses this concept clearly in his first epistle:

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the worlds goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does Gods love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:16-18).

Listen to other scriptures that speak of love and good works. First, regarding love:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us… God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him… 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother (1 John 4:7-12, 16, 19-21).

Paul, writing to the young minister Titus, tells him to be a model of good works and then for him to teach the following:

[Jesus Christ] gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works… Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work…The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works (Titus 2:14; 3:1,8).

Ephesians 2:8-9 is the great statement of how salvation is obtained by the grace of God only through faith and not by works. Verse 10 then says: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

The strongest statement about good works being integral to the Christian faith is found in the book of James. Listen:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead… 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead (James 2:14-17, 26).

So the author calls upon the people to stir up one another to love and good works. He then hits on the problem of declining church attendance: not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.

The problem with declining church attendance is this: the believers cannot stir up one another if they dont see each other. They cannot encourage one another in the faith if they do not worship together and have fellowship.

Why are they staying away? If there is persecution, fear could be one reason. My guess is that they are doing what most people do when they get discouraged, which is to isolate themselves. They dont feel like getting out. Whatever the reason, they need to move their bodies, show up, and fulfill their responsibilities to "be there" for one another.


Last week we considered what it means to hold fast to the confession of hope. We must know that confession in order to hold on to it. Thus, we need to make it our business to know the doctrines that Scripture teaches. We must be people who know our God and the basis of our hope. We must be people of real faith. What the remaining verses make clear is that we must also be a people who do something. Our faith must be seen through our love, which itself is seen through our good works.

So, how are we doing? How are we doing as a church? I am hesitant to make observations about us as individuals, because I periodically discover good works that you have been doing as individuals: cooking for neighbors, chauffeuring, yard work and home repair, reading to children, mentoring youth, tutoring internationals, and the list goes on.

But as a church doing good works together, weve got to be honest that we havent earned much of a reputation recently. Even then I have to be careful. There are people outside the church who have either been recipients of our attention or watched us minister to their friends and family, and they think we are wonderful. Indeed, when a need arises, we are pretty good at rising to the occasion.

But if a news reporter were to call, wanting to do a story on how our church is ministering to Gainesville, what would we say? What ministry can you think of? What ministry of good works do we have as a church, whether it be our own or one that we share? We give to parachurch ministries, and individuals on their own initiative help in some of them, but we have nothing of our own nor do we send out our people as our representatives. The result is that we have earned the reputation of a teaching church that is not interested in outreach.

This is one issue in which reputation does matter even with what the world thinks, or at least observes. We do not expect the world to think highly of our doctrine. I do not expect those outside the church to be impressed with my preaching. But what they should respect, even if begrudgingly, is our devotion to good works. They ought to see that in us as individuals and as a church. They should be impressed with the way we band together to help one another and our community.

What Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount ought to apply to individuals and churches alike:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).

So what are we to do? First, we must be together. If we are to stir one another up to love and good works, if we are to encourage one another, we must be together. Being together is the most effective way to encourage one another in the faith. We get tired; we feel defeated in the daily struggles of life; sometimes our faith wavers. We sin and feel discouraged. Sometimes we dont feel like we can withstand the temptations of the world or the testing of our faith. Then we come to church for worship and sit among fellow worshippers. We see young and old faces; we sing together; we hear the Word spoken and know that there are like-minded believers affirming a common faith. We are encouraged. The battle against sin and attacks on our faith, doesnt seem overwhelming as it once did. Our faith is renewed.

Sometimes we come to church and the faces we look forward to seeing are not present. Indeed, some familiar faces are seen less and less. We wonder whats wrong. We dont feel so encouraged. The battle does seem to be getting harder.

Being together matters and not just at worship, but at other church gatherings as well — Sunday School, WIC meetings and MIC suppers, youth groups, and Bible studies. Special events such as concerts and retreats. No church member can attend everything, but it is wearying; it is discouraging to know that most believers treat these gatherings as entertainment venues to be attended only if they strikes their interest. It is discouraging to have to try and be creative and entertaining enough to get church family together.

But when the family comes together, and you know they are coming to be together, then the energy comes back. The desire to love and to do good works is renewed.

Are you an encourager or a discourager? You are one or the other. This is where you dont have a choice. You either make the effort to come together with the church body as you are able, or you treat church gatherings as a consumer. The former encourages; the latter discourages. It is that simple.

But note further, we are called to stir up one another to good works. We are going to do more of that. We are going to be more intentional in building a reputation for Faith Church as a congregation that does good works. Actually, we are going to be a church that is hard to pin down which it values more — knowledge or action. Indeed, we want such an issue to be meaningless. The two do not compete; actions grows out of knowledge, and knowledge is reinforced by action.

That is what James meant in his speech about being doers of the word.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing (James 1:22-25).

And we will act not only as individuals but as a church. Before this month is up you will see the first signs of an organized effort to bring the church family together for good works. When you see those signs, I want you to respond positively. I want you to be praying now about how you will be an encourager. Some of you do lots of good works but you keep it quiet. You may be called upon to let others know about your work and even help you with it. I know that is hard to do, but you have a biblical mandate to encourage others to do good works as well. Some of you have yet to get involved in the church; you need to pray about now being the time to get involved. It may be uncomfortable for you, but, again, scripture mandates that we are to meet together and stir one another up to do good works.

This is not an idea for church growth. It is not an effort to help the church budget. It is a call to be obedient to Jesus Christ, the head of the church, who through his revealed word has said come together, stir one another up, encourage each other to love, to glorify our Father through good works.

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