(211) Inscription 87_Strengthened by an Encouraging Church
Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part 87: Strengthened by Your Church
September 2, 2012
SCRIPTURE READING: Hebrews 10:23-25 (Peter T.)
Last Sunday we started our FOUR WEEKS in the book of HEBREWS. Hebrews was written to a church that was tired, weak, DISCOURAGED and in danger of GIVING up AND going back.
* And so, the author of Hebrews wrote this letter to ENCOURAGE them and STRENGTHEN them to go the distance.
LIKE THEM, we can be discouraged, bogged down with the pressures of life. We need to be strengthened and encouraged. In Hebrews, we will talk about four DIFFERENT WAYS God strengthens us.
Last week, we talked about the MOST IMPORTANT: JESUS is both fully God, dying for our sins, and fully human, suffering under all the same weakness and temptations we endure, we know that we have a savior who does not despise us, but love and forgives us.
* But Jesus ISN’T ENOUGH.
Are you ready to STONE me for saying that? In Genesis is says, “It is NOT GOOD for man to be ALONE,” and throughout the Bible it is clear that God designed us to need each other.
* It is GOD’S DESIGN that our encouragement doesn’t just come from Christ, but from CHRIST THROUGH EACH OTHER.
When the Bible says we are the BODY of CHRIST, it means we continue to be HIS REPRESENTATIVE on earth. This week we will talk about how we get to be that for each other as the church.
If we can RELATE to Jesus because he knew WEAKNESS and faced temptation, then we can REALLY RELATE to the CHURCH, because it is even weaker and, unlike him, gives into sin.
* I can think of no other institution that has done such GREAT GOOD and GREAT HARM as the church.
Working at STARBUCKS, I have gotten to know several Christians turned ATHEIST. And in each case, their CHURCH played a prominent role in their loss of faith.
It’s not like they were part of a great church and suddenly though, “I bet God doesn’t exist.” No, in each case, they were WOUNDED by their CHURCH and then started to think, “Maybe the whole thing is hoax.”
* It KILLS me to hear those stories, because for me, the church has been a place of encouragement, healing, help, and hope.
The church is filled of FRAIL and SINFUL PEOPLE who make mistake after mistake, yet it is how God decided to represent himself to the world. So rather than LEAVING it, we need to IMPROVE it.
* The church is meant to be a place of ENCOURAGEMENT and STRENGTHENING and I want that to DESCRIBE US.
YOU’RE THE CHURCH
Hebrews 10:24-25 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.
The first thing I notice about this passage is that it doesn’t say, “PASTORS, CONSIDER how to spur your congregation on....”
This verse is the CLEAREST CALL to be part of a church body in the Bible, and its point is not to GO to a BUILDING and sit quietly and LISTEN to a sermon. I am a big believer in BIBLICAL PREACHING, but that is not enough.
* I saw a postcard that said on one side, “Don’t GO to CHURCH,” then on the other, “BE the church.”
The word for church is “EKKLESIA” and it means CONGREGATION, the people GATHERED TOGETHER. This is the idea behind calling our church, “The Gathering,” emphasizing the people, not the place.
As I talk about the church today, I am not PREACHING to MYSELF about how to be a BETTER PASTOR, but to all of us of how to be a BETTER CHURCH.
* We are the ones who are supposed to ENCOURAGING each other to LOVE more and live love out in GOOD DEEDS.
Let’s take a closer look:
Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
This passage is deceptively simple in English, in the original Greek there is more going on: A more LITERAL TRANSLATION would be “observe each other for the purpose of driving each other on to love and good deeds.”
* We think the KEY WORD here is “spur”, but it is “CONSIDER.”
Whenever we see a person who is LAZY, INCONSIDERATE, UNKIND, or just generally ANNOYING, we are very happy to sign up for the job of “SPURRING”: Find some good Scriptures, make some insightful, cutting observations, then brush our hands.
* FIRST we need to “CONSIDER each other,” we need to STUDY and understand each other.
Encouraging one another is not a “ONE SIZE fits all” thing. Each of us needs DIFFERENT ENCOURAGEMENTS at different times, and if we try to treat each other the same way we will hurt others.
* E.g.: ALEX Kinsman vs. ISAIAH TenBrink.
Considering each other usually requires four things: RELATIONSHIP, PATIENCE, PRAYER, and PRACTICE.
* RELATIONSHIP: Life together, (e.g. the camping trip), knowing and loving each other.
* PATIENCE: Building relationship and understanding what a person really needs (even if you think you know).
* PRAYER: Asking God for wisdom and discernment.
* PRACTICE: Trial and error.
Q How does this work out in REAL LIFE?
You meet me, and you immediately come to the conclusion that I need a SWIFT KICK in the pants. While you may be correct, you are probably not yet the person to do it.
But as you get to know me, the GOOD and the BAD, and build a relationship, you are no longer ANNOYED with me as much as CARE about me. You begin to understand how I TICK, how to COMMUNICATE with me, and what the DEEPER ISSUES are.
Then you will be able to start ASKING GOD (out of genuine LOVE) how to help spur me on and pray for God to show you what I really need. Then in HUMILITY you PRACTICE.
Q What if you don’t have the TIME or the ENERGY to “CONSIDER”?
Then you probably AREN’T the PERSON to “spur.” (There are rare exceptions.)
LOVE AND GOOD DEEDS
Q And WHAT are we supposed to SPUR each other on TO?
LOVE and GOOD DEEDS – becoming more loving and to living that love out in action. Encouraging and strengthening others isn’t SIMPLY PATTING each other on the BACK.
* E.g. “HARVEY,” “poor thing”.
The church is called to see the best in each other and spur each other on to that.
* Scene from Good Will Hunting (referring to Peter’s reference to “It’s not your fault”)
Chuckie is Will’s BEST FRIEND. Will has one of the HIGHEST IQ’S in the world, but he tells Chuckie that he’s looking forward to working CONSTRUCTION for the REST of his LIFE and watching the PATRIOT’S games at Chuckie’s house. Chuckie responds:
Look, you’re my BEST FRIEND, so don’t take this the WRONG WAY. In twenty years, if you’re STILL livin’ here, comin’ over to my house to watch the PATRIOTS games, still workin’ CONSTRUCTION, I’ll [blanking] KILL you. That’s not a THREAT. Now, that’s a FACT. I’ll [blanking] kill you.
Left to our own, we WANT TOO LITTLE for ourselves, we are called to help each other and be more than we can hope for on our own.
* If you want “POOR THING,” go to FACEBOOK, if you want, “I’ll [blanking] KILL you,” go to CHURCH
But once again, this is not ONE SIZE fits all, what SPURS one person may leave another DEJECTED.
* E.g. HOTEL HELL.
THE DISCIPLINE OF CHURCH
One thing is very obvious: These kinds of relationships take TIME together.
Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing...
There seems to be a new TREND popular these days, “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” Apparently, it isn’t that new of a trend.
* THEN, as NOW, people had various reasons for SKIPPING CHURCH.
One the earliest Christian Living books every written was a book called “The SHEPHERD of HERMAS,” written less than 100 years after Jesus’ death. It talks about believers who are too busy with their jobs to go to church.
* The sad irony is that the BUSYNESS of life that both PULLS US FROM the community and makes us NEED it MORE.
There will always be REASONS not to be connected to the church body, just like there will always be reasons for NOT EXERCISING. But the longer we go without it, the worse shape we will be in.
* We must make sure that we leave ENOUGH MARGINS in our lives that we can “MEET TOGETHER,” and NOT just on SUNDAY.
I understand that COMMUNITY takes TIME – one of the hardest parts of working at STARBUCKS is that is minimizes the time I have had to be with people.
* Yet Marilyn and I have made it a PRIORITY and I feel it badly when it is lacking.
ENCOURAGING EACH OTHER
What I am saying it this: Don’t GIVE UP on the CHURCH. We NEED EACH OTHER, we need encouragement, we need community, we need the swift kick in the pants:
Hebrews 10:25 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.
“All the more as you see the DAY APPROACHING,” is Hebrews remind that it just might GET WORSE before it gets better, we are going to need each other more.
* We need to be part of the church more BEFORE HARDSHIPS hit.
Back at my OLD CHURCH, we had one old lady that started to attend then passed away. The thing was no one told us, but the family was still FURIOUS that Bruce hadn’t called them.
Q If the BOTTOM were to DROP out from under you right now, are CONNECTED ENOUGH that you would have a community beside you?
DO I HAVE TO GO TO CHURCH?
But there is common THEOLOGICAL JUSTIFICATION for skipping church: I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian. That is TECHNICALLY TRUE, but (as that phrase indicates) mostly false.
* It’s not just THIS VERSE; the ENTIRE BIBLE works from the assumption of doing faith in community.
We are at OUR WORST when we are CUT OFF from the church. In this way, church can resemble an AA MEETING, weak people encouraging weak people.
* In the same way it is a BAD SIGN when an alcohol neglects AA meetings, it is a bad sign when a person neglects church.
Beyond that, the church isn’t meant to be an OBLIGATION of faith, but one of the KEY BENEFITS. When it is done right, one of the best parts of Christianity is the community.
* Please text “Sunday School Teacher” ; service is almost over
THE RISK OF COMMUNITY
I also understand that the reason why so many people avoid church is because of how DANGEROUS it is.
It is RISKY to bring other people in your life. It hurts when they FAIL you or BETRAY you. You put yourself out there and you may get hurt.
A couple of years ago I listened to a PASTOR talk about when things went sideways with a close friend at this church, so he WITHDREW from COMMUNITY. I tucked that away, and that warning helped me when we went through our stuff early this year.
During that time, in DARKER HOURS, I wondered about giving up. But it kept coming back to the fact that you are who I want to do life with. This is the COMMUNITY I want to be a part of.
* Marilyn, “SECOND FAMILY.”
WHAT WE REALLY WANT
Beyond all, we crave to be KNOWN and LOVED. We crave to be fully known and accepted, but that is a SCARY THING. We begin by slowly LETTING GOD in and showing him ourselves and finding acceptance.
* But part of that process is LETTING OTHERS in as well; I don’t think they can HAPPEN SEPARATELY.
SUNDAY ISN’T ENOUGH
I think that one thing is clear from this: Sunday morning service is NOT ENOUGH. Even potluck Sunday isn’t enough.
* Here we hear the Bible PREACHED, GLORIFY God through worship, take COMMUNION, make FRIENDS and build COMMUNITY.
But this has to carry on through the WEEK for us to be able to truly “CONSIDER,” “spur,” and ENCOURAGE each other. This takes effort and time.
Q & A