The Congregation - Download This Episode
Over the last few weeks we have been looking at the biblical role of our church members. The first week we looked at the Shepherd and the role of the Pastor in church. We saw the Pastor has an equipping and shepherding role in the church. Last week we look at the role of Elders. We saw that this is a vital role in the health of the church. They shepherd, teach, oversea, encourage, and serve us. We saw that it is a high calling to be an Elder and we need to hold them in high regard.
This week I want to look at the role of the congregation or church members. In saying this though, I am mindful that the Pastor is one of the Elders, and the Elders are part of the congregation. So, in essence, this message is for all of us.
The passage I want to look at as our main text today is Hebrews 10:19-25. This passage looks at some key things that helps us to stay on track as individuals and as we do them together it helps us to stay of track as a church. I will also look at some other verses to fill in the things we need to do.
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,
20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,
21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
In this passage, it uses the term “Let us” four times. I am going to use this as the main points of my message today. Hopeful this will help you to remember and every time you re-read it, you will remember.
1. Let us draw near
Verse 22 – Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Today’s text tells us because of Christ’s death on the cross for us we can have confidence to enter the most holy place of God. In Old Testament times the people had to sacrifice animals to be right with God. And only the High Priest could enter the most holy place where God was. After prayer, fasting and ritualistic behavior could he go in once a year. He had to wear elaborate garments with bells and a large rope tied around his waist. The other priests would stand outside and if the bells stopped ringing they would drag the lifeless body out. Now we can enter in because of Christ.
Ephesians 3:12 tells us, “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”
Hebrews 4:16 also says, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
We can approach God with freedom and confidence. Drawing near to God is a key part of the Christian life. It is also a key component of church life. We have direct access to the Father through Christ. We can enter in.
So how do we enter in? The main way is through worship. That is why we have a time of worship each week. We are not just singing songs. We are worshipping our God and Creator. We are bowing our hearts and lives down to the One who deserves all of our love and adoration. Often in worship I hold my hands up to God. Why do I do this? It is for two reasons. Firstly, it is symbolic reaching out to God. I am lifting holy hands to my King. Secondly, it is an act of surrender. When we surrender, we hold our hands up. For me raising my hands is reaching out in an act of surrender. It is my way of drawing near to God.
2. Let us hold unswervingly
Verse 23 – Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
Let us hold unswerving. The KJV uses the words hold fast. The CEV uses the terms hold tightly. All of these ideas capture the meaning of the Greek word Katecho. This means to hold down, keep, possess, retain, seize on, or stay. All of these give us the thought of holding tightly and not letting go.
What does the writer want us to take hold of? He wants us to take hold of the hope and faith we have in Christ. We know Christ is with us in this life and He helps us through. We also have a great hope that Jesus is coming back for us. We have a great hope of spending eternity in heaven with God. We have faith that all God says is true and correct and will come to pass.
So how do we hold firmly and not waver? In Hebrews 12:1-2 the writer gives us some clues.
Hebrews 12:1-2 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
These verses tell us three things – throw off the sin that hinders us, run with perseverance, and focus our eyes on Jesus. If we do these things we will stay of track.
1 Corinthians 15:58 – Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.
This verse gives us some more clues to holding fast. Intentionally standing firm, let nothing move you or be determined, and giving ourselves fully to the work of the Lord.
2 Peter 3:17 – Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.
This verse reminds us that it is important to be on our guards. The Bible says in the last days many will be deceived and turn away from God. So we need to be on our guard at all times. 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
We need to be aware that the Devil wants us to trip us up and turn from God. We need to stand firm in our faith. We need to hold fast. We need to be unswerving in our devotion to Him.
3. Let us consider
Verse 24 – Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
This is the third let us in this passage. There are two things I like in this verse. The first one is “let us consider”. The NLT says let us think about ways. The Greek word for consider is kataneo. This means to consider, perceive, behold, observe fully, discover.
We should think about ways in which we can be more inspired to serve the Lord. Imagine if we all came to church thinking about how we could encourage someone. It might be a kind word, a Bible verse, a nice card or a prayer for someone that encourages them. I am encouraged by hearing testimonies or praise reports of things that have been happening. I like to hear about the impact people are making in their work for the Lord. It inspires me on towards love and good deeds. Merredin Church has a time each month in the service where people can share the good things God has been doing in their lives. They call it God Talk and people share of Bible verses God has encouraged them with, breakthroughs they have had, and the impact they have made. It is not about big noting yourself. It is about encouraging others in their journey with the Lord and their service.
The second thing I like in this verse is, it uses the word spur in the NIV. Other translations us words like provoke, stir up and motivate. All of these capture the Greek word par-ox-oos-mos which actually can be translated as provoke or incite. It has a positive outcome, but it can have a negative sound. Just like a spur on your foot causes discomfort or a small rock in your shoe motivates you to sort it out, the encouragement from others can irritate us at first, but in time it might bring fruit. I remember one of my Pastor’s told me I was spiritually slack. I got so annoyed and I thought I am the most disciplined person I know. I train six days a week in my fitness, sometimes twice a day. How could he say that to me? After I settled down and realised I was disciplined in my fitness, but he was right. I was slack spiritually. I would pray sometimes. I would read my Bible sometimes. I would go to church spasmodically. I would sometimes turn up for home group. I then spoke to him and we prayed that my discipline in my exercise would transfer over in to my faith life. It did and I never looked back. His words spurred me on to love and good deeds. Like an archer who hits the centre of the target, his work hit the mark for me.
So, what are the good deeds would should be inspired to? When we use our gifts for the good of others. When we share our faith with others. When we give people a helping hand when they are in need. When we are a listening ear when someone is going through a hard time. When we help others grow in their faith. When we provide Bibles and resources for people who can’t afford them. When we take someone into our home who has nowhere to live. When we provide food for someone in need. There are endless things we can be inspired to do – things that are both practical and things that are spiritual. If we do them in love and with a heart to serve God, most good things we do would be considered good deeds.
4. Let us not give up
Verse 25 – Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing. Bad habits are easy to form and a lot harder to break. Good habits are hard to stick too sometimes. Just as anyone who has ever started a diet or started to exercise. It is much easier to fall off the wagon, than get back on and stay on. Church attendance is a good habit we need to have as Christians.
When I think about church attendance I think of Jesus. He is my Lord and Saviour, but He is also my example. Jesus was raised a Jew and He followed Jewish tradition. On the Sabbath, He went to the Temple or Synagogue.
Luke 4:16 tells us that, “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom…”
Jesus, as the Son of God, saw attendance on the Sabbath as important. I need to too. We all do.
Why is church attendance so important? Today’s text tells us that we need to encourage one another. In a world that can at times be so discouraging, we need encouragement regularly. We hear about wars, earthquakes, famines, tornadoes, floods and people just treating each other badly. We need a safe place to come to where we can see our friends and our church family and just enjoy the Bible, prayer, worship and fellowship. We need to fill up our encouragement tanks. Especially as the text says with the Great Day of Jesus’ return approaching.
I read this story recently about a Pastor and his love of sports. It says…
I go to Aussie Rules Football in the winter. Basketball in the spring and summer. Cricket in the summer. This Pastor has been an avid sports fan all his life. But I’ve had it! I quit this sports business once and for all. You can’t get me near one of those places again. Want to know why…
Every time I went, they asked me for money. It was like they expected me to pay for my seats. The people with whom I had to sit didn’t seem very friendly. The seats were too hard and not at all comfortable. I went to many games, but the coach never came to call on me. The referee made a decision with which I could not agree. I suspected that I was sitting with some hypocrites — they came
to see their friends and what others were wearing rather than to see the game.
Some games went into overtime, and I was late getting home. The band played some numbers that I had never heard before. It seems that the games are scheduled when I want to do other things. I was taken to too many games by my parents when I was growing up. I don’t want to take my children to any games, because I want them to choose for themselves what sport they like best.
Does this sound like some of the reasons why people don’t come to church? I think it does. I have used some of them myself years ago as a new Christian.
For us as Christians it is so vital to be here when we can. We need to fill up our encouragement tanks and we need to love and support each other. After all we are all in this together. That is how God wants it to be. It is so vital that we don’t fall into the habit of not meeting together.
Today we have looked at Hebrews 10:19-25. A great passage that calls us to love God, and to love and encourage one another. We saw four main things.
- We need draw near to God.
- We need to hold tightly to our faith and hope in Christ.
- We need to think of ways to encourage each other to love and good deeds.
- We need to not forsake meeting together.
As Pastor, as Elders and as members of the congregation we need to commit to these things.