Hebrews 10. Chapter 22.
An incredibly important series of commands is given in Hebrews 10. If we follow these, if we just do what is said here, we will grow, we will not lose hope, and we will encourage ourselves and others who are struggling. During a time of global pandemic, these needs are pressing.
That is the challenge. If we follow the instructions the Holy Spirit inspired, these things will result:
Discouraged people won’t give up on our churches, leaving because no one ever spoke to them, noticed that they were hurting, or recognized that they were just plain missing.
We won’t waffle around, living by our ever-fluctuating emotions and flawed thinking, supposing that God isn’t near, simply because we cannot feel him at any given moment. During this period of social isolation, knowing that God is near is essential.
We will understand more thoroughly the love of God and the incredible blessing of his forgiveness, recognizing what Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension actually accomplished for us.
Since we’re in a time of testing and trial with this pandemic, and the new rules keep pretty much everyone home, what can we do?
First the foundation: In Jesus, we have the confidence to walk right up to God, face to face, coming to him with our needs and our fears. The way is open. We can come right on in. His arms are spread wide in welcome. We have access to God in ways we may never have even imagined.In Jesus, we have the confidence to walk right up to God, face to face, coming to him with our needs and our fears. The way is open. We can come right on in. His arms are spread wide in welcome. Click To Tweet
Hebrews 10:19-21 NIV: Therefore, brothers and sisters, SINCE we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, AND SINCE we have a great priest over the house of God:
V. 22, first command: “LET US draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22 NIV)
In our relationship with the Lord, we need not hide anything. We can be entirely sincere and genuine. Nothing needs to be kept from God like it’s some secret that he knows nothing about. We cannot lie to God. He knows our fears. He knows if we look at porn. He knows if we gossip about our neighbors. He knows if we fight with our spouse and yell at our kids. God knows everything about us, and yet he loves us with a deep and abiding love that never fails and never ceases.God knows everything about us, and yet he loves us with a deep and abiding love that never fails and never ceases. Click To Tweet
Because of God’s deep and abiding love for us, we can draw near to God as his own little children, having a true heart, coming completely clean in a honest and entirely humble way, not lying, not covering up our many flaws, not justifying our failures, not ignoring them, but fearlessly confessing and turning from the damaging things we do and think. We need not be afraid. He holds us in his sheltering arms. He draws us close.
FACT: We are eternally and unconditionally loved, no matter what: “’Their sins and lawless acts I will REMEMBER NO MORE.’ And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is NO LONGER NECESSARY” (Hebrews 10:17b-18 NIV).
FACT: Jesus accomplished all that was necessary, so we could come on in: “We have confidence to enter the holy places BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS, by a new and living way that HE opened for us” (Hebrews 10:19b-20a ESV).
V. 23, second command: “LET US hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23 NIV).
His love isn’t fickle like human love can be. God the Son’s love involved becoming one of us, allowing himself to be tortured and murdered, so that his blood can pay for our sins, whether we meant to do them or not. His love is all in. Because of our belief, our confidence in God and in these facts that are true of Jesus, we can draw near, fully assured of his love.
Our guilty consciences are made clean by Christ’s sacrifice, sprinkled with his blood as was done in the OT era. Our bodies are symbolically washed clean as we’re dunked in the baptismal tank, an enactment of our death to self and our resurrection to a new life in Christ.
BECAUSE ALL OF THAT IS TRUE, we can hold unswervingly to our profession of faith in Christ, in every situation. We can do this without wavering, without giving way to any doubt or temptation. We can hold steady, for we know these facts: He will never leave us, nor will he ever forsake us, even in a pandemic. If our emotions tell us that God is nowhere near, our emotions are lying to us. Faith is believing the facts.
FACT: “He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23b ESV). “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10b NIV). “Once for all” means “once for all time,” “once and for all, forever and forever.” We have been made holy in God’s eyes. Period.
V. 24-25, third command: “LET US CONSIDER HOW we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, NOT GIVING UP meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, BUT ENCOURAGING one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV).
Therefore, with all of those foundational facts, confidence-building truths, and reassuring realities of a life with a loving God forever and forever, we can follow the final instructions in this string of three commands. We have all we need to obey this necessary application of truth.
Let’s honestly ask ourselves, have we ever considered or observed others carefully in order to determine how we might encourage or serve them? Have we noticed their struggles and their needs? Have we spent time in contemplation of how we might best help?
All of those steps are inherent in this phrase: “Let us consider how . . .”
Then what? Having observed, considered, and contemplated others’ needs, we are to act. We are to actually do something. We are to “stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together….but encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:24b-25a ESV).
Right now, our meeting together may be via Zoom, or other platforms. We may be meeting via video church on Facebook. We may be calling and texting far more. We still pursue being together, holding one another close.
What does that mean? Taking all of our observations of others, all we have noticed of their struggles and their needs, we are to come alongside them, encouraging them as needed, sharpening them with uplifting words if necessary, prodding them if required, toward loving others and toward good deeds, primarily through our own example of loving them.
AND, they are to do the same for us, for those they know and love. This is community. This is family. This is the body of Christ.
For instance, as I was working on this post, a friend from our church messaged to see if I needed anything, since I’m more tightly homebound with my autoimmune disease. She wanted to run any errands I needed doing. By the end of the evening two other people had also offered their help. I felt loved and seen.
When we have this type of community in our churches, we don’t neglect meeting together, even if it’s now in our church Facebook group during our current restrictions. We know we will find encouragement in our church, that others will come alongside us when we need support, that we’ll be comforted in our deepest times of need. We’ll know that we are seen and that we are loved. We’ll know that if we fall down, others will pick us up.
And, by the actions of these who love us, we will be inspired to do likewise. Our churches will thrive as places of love, acceptance, and growth.When we have loving community in our churches, we don't neglect meeting together, even if we're all chatting via Zoom during this pandemic. Others will come alongside us when we need support. We'll be comforted in our times of need. Click To Tweet
So, what does it mean if people are leaving our churches?
It means, we’re not loving others well. We’re failing in these essential ways of meeting the needs of others and of encouraging them onward. It means we’re not creating a church that cultivates a loving community. It means that we don’t know others well enough to come alongside them in an inclusive way that inspires them to stay.What does it mean if people are leaving our churches? It means we're not loving others well. We're failing in the essential ways of meeting the needs of others and of encouraging them onward. Click To Tweet
What must we do if our church is failing in these ways?
We must change. We must grow. We must learn to love one another.
The instructions are right here. They haven’t altered in two thousand years. They are the Word of God, his commands for us. The Holy Spirit spelled it out quite clearly. He will also strengthen us to do this, to love one another. Rely on him. Ask him to help you to love as you have been loved by God.
How do you see this played out in your own church community?
How has that impacted you for good or for ill?