Hebrews 10:25

May 29, 2011 | Brian Bill

I confess that I feel really sad most Sunday mornings.  You would think it would be just the opposite because I look forward to worshipping with God’s incredible people here.   I love having the opportunity to dig into God’s Word each week and open it up to hungry people.  But I’m sad about what people miss when they’re not here.  

How do you explain what happened two weeks ago in the second service when so many got up out of their seats to “ring the bell” and then let go of the rope, to signify that they had given forgiveness to someone they had been holding hostage?  

Another reason I’m sad on Sundays is that when people aren’t here, we miss out on their contribution to the body of Christ.  Romans 12:5: “So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”  Each person has something to contribute to others and when they’re absent; their words of encouragement and exhortation are absent as well.  I sometimes joke with people when they tell me that they weren’t able to come to a service by telling them that we thought about cancelling church because they weren’t here.  Of course I’m teasing but in a real sense we miss out when others miss church because we belong to one another.

And, there’s a third reason I’m sad.  I’m sad when parents choose other activities over church attendance because of the message this sends to their kids.  The message is this.  Sports are more important than Sunday services.  Having some fun in the sun ends up trumping fellowship with the Son and with His people.

Let me be quick to say that I’m not trying to be negative or to make you feel guilty because you miss a service or two.  I totally understand that there are some legitimate reasons why people are unable to attend.  I get that.  For example, I know of a member that is not here today because she visits her elderly mother twice a month in another town.  Others are unable to come because of work or sickness or pain or lack of transportation or for other more hidden reasons.  And a bunch of people are taking a long weekend to kick off the summer vacation season.  I understand all this but there seems to be a growing disposition in our culture against church.

Fruitful families develop the holy habit of church involvement

Have you seen the commercial for fried chicken that shows families being together and having fun?   Here’s the voiceover: “You gotta love Sunday.  It’s like everyone came together and said, ‘If it’s good, let’s save it for Sunday.’  The best games.  The best papers.  The best times.  The best day of the week just got better.”  I’m not sure how greasy chicken makes Sundays better but I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that there was no mention of Sunday as a day to participate in a church service as a family.  Chicken, yes.  Church, no.  They did get part of it right, however.  If it’s good, let’s save it for Sunday.  Here’s the big idea today: Fruitful families develop the holy habit of church involvement.

I heard about a golfer who was twenty minutes late at the first tee one Sunday morning, and the other three members of the regular four-some were almost ready to start without him.  When he finally arrived, he gave this explanation: “I agreed with my wife that this Sunday I’d toss a coin to see whether I played golf or went to church.  Heads, I played golf.  Tails, I went to church.  Wouldn’t you know it; I had to toss that coin forty-three times before it came up heads.”

That reminds me of what took place one Sunday morning when a mother tried to wake her son up for church.  The son replied, “I’m not going.”  “Why not?” she asked.  “I’ll give you two good reasons,” he said.  “One, they don’t like me, and two, I don’t like them.”  To which she replied, “I’ll give you two good reasons why you should go to church.   One, you’re 54 years old, and two, you’re the pastor!”

I spent some time this week compiling some reasons why some Christians don’t come to church.  This list is by no means exhaustive.

  • Bad experiences at church
  • Church is boring
  • Guilt and shame
  • Personal sin
  • Conflict with another Christian
  • Personal pain
  • Sickness
  • Sports
  • Busyness
  • Laziness
  • Work 
  • Transportation issues
  • Out of town
  • In a funk
  • “Sunday’s my only day to sleep in.”  Here’s what I say to that.  Come to the service and join others who catch up on their sleep during the sermon.
  • “I don’t like the pastor’s personality.” Me either.
  • “I don’t like the pastor’s preaching.”  Join the club.
  • “I don’t like the pastor’s Packers.”  Get over it.
  • “I’m just out of the habit.”

I think this last one is very common.  From my experience, most people who don’t come to church on a regular basis have not necessarily made a decision to not come; it’s just that they get out of the habit of coming.  They miss one week which leads to two weeks, which turns into a month.  Other habits are formed for Sunday mornings.  And then, the thought of coming back brings feelings of embarrassment because people will ask where they’ve been.

Let’s dive into a really sweet passage of Scripture from the Book of Hebrews that will help motivate us to ramp up our commitment to the local church.  Fruitful families develop the holy habit of church involvement.

Before we ponder the text, let’s set the context.  The Book of Hebrews was primarily written to Christians with a Jewish background who were wavering in their faith.  Some wanted to go back to their old life because of the problems and the persecution they were experiencing.  Weaving several warnings with rich doctrine, the author urges his readers to hold fast and not go back.  Right from the beginning we hear some of the most beautiful words ever written about the supremacy of Jesus Christ.  The message is this: “Serving the Savior is worth everything you have because He is supreme over all.  Don’t settle for anything less than full devotion to Him.  He has made the once-for-all sacrifice for your sins so persevere through any problems or persecution you may face.”

Please turn to Hebrews 10:23-25: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  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.

My outline today is nothing fancy but it is faithful to Scripture.  I’m simply going to restate the four main points that follow the four uses of “Let us” in verses 23-25.  Actually, there are twelve different uses of these two words in Hebrews, which shows how important it is to put into action what we know to be true.  Let me make the obvious point that these commands are directed to each of us and that they are impossible to keep unless we are in community with others.

1. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess (23). 

Believers back then, as well as believers today, face a myriad of distractions and problems.  Literally, we’re to keep on holding fast and to make sure our families don’t falter.  The word “unswervingly” means to “get fast hold of something.”  We’re given a reason or incentive in the last part of this verse: “For He who promised is faithful.”  Because God is faithful to us, our families can be faithful to Him.  This is a promise and God never breaks His promises.  He never over-promises and he never under-delivers.

2. Let us consider how we may spur one another on (24). 

The word “consider” means to “think about with affection and attentiveness.”  This alone is quite challenging because most of us by default focus on what we can get, not on what we can give to others.  The idea here is to study someone to determine how best to minister to them. 

The word “spur” is translated as “provoke” in the King James and is used in two ways.  One is more negative: “to incite or irritate.” The other is more positive: “To rouse one to action; to excite.”  We are to create a convulsion in others toward “love and good deeds.”  One paraphrase puts it like this: “Let’s see how inventive we can be.”  In other words we’re to personally hold fast to hope and we’re to excite others to action.  That’s a good reminder for us parents.  Hold on to Jesus yourself and then look for ways to unleash your children to love more and serve more. Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” 

When you talk with others aim at stirring them up to love people and focus on mobilizing them to do good deeds.  We’re to incite their attitudes and their actions.  Parents, when you study your kids, ask yourself this question: “How can I spur greater love in my child’s heart and how can I stimulate acts of kindess?”

Have you ever wished your children were better behaved, exhibited more self-control, and got along fabulously with others? According to a new study from Mississippi State University, then you better start going to church…and taking them with you.  Sociologist John Bartkowski has discovered that “kids whose parents regularly attended religious services – especially when both did so frequently – and talked with their kids about religion were rated…as having better self-control, social skills, and approaches to living…” 

What would happen if people said, “I can’t miss today because I need to see Mabel so I can encourage her?” How would things change if we said, “I need to connect with Tom so I can encourage him to keep his vows?”

3. Let us not give up meeting together (25a). 

That reminds me of the church sign with these letters: CH__CH.  Underneath was this question: “What’s missing?”  The answer: UR.  Friends, if Jesus saw the value of attending synagogue every Sabbath, then shouldn’t we be meeting with fellow believers every week?  Check out Luke 4:16: “And on the Sabbath, Jesus went into the synagogue, as was His custom.”

We’re created for community but, here’s a weird truth about human beings. While we long for community, we also run from it.   It has been said that when humankind fell from grace, we inherited not only a tendency to hide from God, but a tendency to hide from one another as well.  We struggle with conflicting desires.  On the one hand, we desire to be close to one another, and on the other, we want to hold others at arm’s length.  

In a book by Miraslav Volk called Exclusion and Embrace, he says that there are really only two options available to us in relationships.  We can embrace people, take them by the hand, do life with them and open our heart to them.  Or, we can exclude others and grow cold and distant as we shut people out of our life.  Brothers and Sisters, are you doing life with others by embracing them – or are you intentionally, or unintentionally excluding people?  If we want PBC to be a caring community, we need embracers, not excluders.

I like this line from the movie, “Lord of the Rings”: “Fate has chosen him.  A fellowship will protect him.  Evil will haunt him.”

Let’s look at the next phrase in the verse: “As some are in the habit of doing.”  It’s easy to get out of the habit of church participation.  Too many of us plug in and then we back off.  Non participation can become habit-forming.  Are you familiar with those nature documentaries on TV?  When a lion stalks a herd of gazelles, he goes after the one straying from the herd.

A churchgoer wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday.  “I’ve gone for 30 years now,” he wrote, “and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me, I can’t remember a single one of them.  So, I think I’m wasting my time and the pastors are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all.”

This started a real controversy in the “Letters to the Editor” column, much to the delight of the editor.  It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher: “I’ve been married for 30 years now.  In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals.  But for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals.  But I do know this: They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work.  If I had not been given these meals, I would be physically dead today.  Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!”

Our absence from church communicates to our children that God doesn’t really matter

A study once disclosed that if both parents attend church regularly, 72 percent of their children remain faithful in attendance.  If only Dad attends, 55 percent remain faithful.   If only Mom attends each week, 15 percent remain faithful.   If neither parent attends on a regular basis, only 6 percent of children will remain faithful.  Your faithful church attendance affects the faith of your family…and this carries into the next generation.  Our absence from church communicates to our children that God doesn’t really matter.

4. But let us encourage one another (25b). 

The word “but” introduces a contrast.  Even if we attend services, if we fail to encourage others we have not obeyed this verse to the full extent.  Notice that this “let us” is in contrast to being in the habit of not meeting together.  To say it another way: It is impossible to encourage others if you are not engaged with others.  The word “encourage” means to put courage in, and in the Greek this word means “to call to one’s side, to comfort, to console and to strengthen.”  This word is also used to refer to the Holy Spirit as our Comforter.

Parents, we need to be cheering our children on, not just in sports but in their spiritual lives.  We need to pour courage into them when they’re afraid and walk beside them when they feel alone.  Let’s work at giving at least one encouraging word to each child in every conversation we have with them.  After all, if we’re not encouraging them, where will they get it?  The word “encourage” is in the present tense, meaning it should become a continuous habit.  That reminds me of Hebrews 3:13: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

Would you notice how verse 25 ends?  We’re to have some urgency in our encouraging because the return of Christ is getting closer: “…And all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  We need to encourage each other more because the time is short.  I believe it will become harder and harder for us to live holy lives and it will become more and more important for Christians to do life in community with other Christ-followers.  I’m already seeing two movements take place.  I see some Christians becoming even more sold out to Christ and I see others who have unplugged and now they’re unraveling.  Christ could return tomorrow, so let’s make the most of today.

Here are five basic assumptions that are foundational to the faith development of families:

  • Nothing is more important than someone’s relationship with God.
  • No one has more potential to influence a child’s relationship with God than a parent.
  • No one has more potential to influence the parent than the church.
  • The church’s potential to influence a child dramatically increases when it partners with a parent.
  • The parent’s potential to influence a child dramatically increases when that parent partners with the church.

Putting Into Practice

1. Determine to plug in for four weeks in a row. 

I like what one oastor says, “The church of Jesus Christ is, without a doubt, the most neglected family resource in the world today.  All around us families are trying with all their might to become all that they can be…yet many are doing so without the help of the only institution God created to nurture and support the family.”  

Studies show that if you do something for 21 days in a row, it will become a new habit.  While I’m not suggesting that you come to church for 21 straight days, if you come four weeks in a row, I think it will become natural to just get up and come.  You won’t have to think much about it.  It will be just what you do every Sunday.  Don’t underestimate the impact this will have on your life, and the lives of your children.  To keep growing in Christ, keep going to church

It’s easy to get out of the habit of going to church.  And, once you establish the habit of going, you will hang in there when hard times come.  Someone said it this way: “Make Sunday attendance a habit so when you can’t praise, you will continue the habit anyway.” 

Here we want to respect parent’s roles as the primary faith influencers in their families.  We also want to respond to cries for help. 

I close with these words from Albert Mohler:

“I think the one great lesson the Lord has taught me over these years is that the importance of the family and the local congregation supersedes every other relationship to which the Christian is called.  Christians demonstrate the glory of God and the power of the gospel by the way we marry and stay married, by the way we raise our children, by the way we love each other, and by the way we live faithfully in the congregation of believers.  In the end, I fear that far too much energy is devoted to and far too many hopes are invested in institutions, programs, and projects that will not last.  The centrality of Christ’s purpose to glorify himself in His church and the blessings of God that are directed to the precious gift of the family — these far exceed our other allegiances.”

When we get this straight, we won’t be sad but will instead be glad to the glory of God and the growth of His church.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?