A few years ago a small town in southwest Missouri had a squirrel infestation.
The local population had exploded and squirrels were everywhere.
They had especially become a nuisance for home owners and businesses as the squirrels began making homes in attics.
Even the local churches were affected.
Each congregation struggled with how to deal with the infestation, and each came up with its own unique solution.
The Presbyterians contacted their local presbytery which told them that it was predestined that squirrels be in the church and that they would just have to live with them.
The Methodist congregation decided they should deal with the squirrels lovingly in the spirit of Charles Wesley.
They humanely trapped the squirrels and released them in a park at the edge of town.
Within three days, they were all back in the church, at which point the trap-and-release process would begin all over again.
The Baptists had the best solution.
After three committee meetings and two business sessions, they decided to vote the squirrels in as members.
Now they only see them at Christmas and Easter.
Let’s face it, a lot of Christians have become just like those Baptist squirrels—sporadic in their attendance to say the least.
Our text for this morning explicitly commands believers not to forsake assembling ourselves together.
Unfortunately, some of the Christians in this community had begun to waver in their fidelity to the Body of Christ.
When these Christians began to neglect the importance of church life, the apostle Paul recognized the danger and issued a challenge not to forsake the "gathering" of believers.
The possibility of a free-lance spirituality isolated from the fellowship of worshipers is as perilous today as it was then.
We need to accept the challenge of gathering with the faithful for several reasons.
I. WE NEED TO PERSEVERE IN SPITE OF THE PRESENCE OF FLAWED FAITH
#. whether the flawed faith is our own or someone else’s, the Apostle encourages us to remain faithful to the assembly of the brethren
#. the word forsake in Hebrews 10:25 means to leave behind or to utterly abandon
#. but the idea of forsaking in this passage is more than just about leaving
#. in forsaking the assembly, we leave the congregation that we’ve left behind in a helpless situation—we leave them in a lurch
The word lurch is a word that was first used in a 16th-century French dice game.
To incur a lurch meant to be so far behind all the other players that you couldn’t win the game.
In our modern English, it’s a word that has come to mean deserting someone in time of trouble.
#. the verb forsake in this passage also expresses continuous or repeated action
these people are not missing a Sunday or two because of illness or vacation
#. neglecting the Body of Christ has become a regular, persistent habit
#. this of course begs the question: /“Why would someone who names that name of Christ, not want to fully participate in the Body of Christ as expressed in the life of a local New Testament Church?”/
#. let me offer some observations
!! A. SOME WILL FORSAKE THE ASSEMBLY BECAUSE THEY LOVE THE WORLD TOO MUCH
Paul uses word forsake to describe the actions of Demas, who had once been an active partner in ministry
* /“for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.
Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia.”/
(2 Timothy 4:10, NIV84)
#. the things of the world will always be a temptation to us
#. it we do not combat their enticements through regular worship, bible study, prayer and fellowship they will overwhelm us and we shall grow to love the world too much
when we love the world too much, we will inevitably abandon the assembly
In the mid-19th century Jenny Lind was know as “The Swedish Nightingale.”
She achieved huge success in both Europe and America as an opera singer and concert performer.
She was one of the most highly regarded vocalistd of her day.
Her abilities earned her fame and fortune.
Yet, at the height of her career she left the stage and never went back.
Many years later a dear friend finally worked up the nerve to ask her why she abandoned the stage at the height of her success.
“When every day, made me think less of this (laying a finger on the Bible) and nothing at all of that (pointing to the sunset), what else could I do?”
!! B. SOME WILL FORSAKE THE ASSEMBLY BECAUSE THEY WERE NEVER ONE OF US IN THE FIRST PLACE
* /“They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us.
For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.”/ (1 John 2:19, NIV84)
#. in every generation there will be people who get religion but who don’t get Jesus
#. they are the tares who are mixed in with the wheat
#. the Apostle John reminds us that when the religious experience wares off, they often abandon the assembly
#. too often we treat long-time none attenders as though they were back-sliders to be reclaimed rather than sinners who needed to be converted
C. SOME WILL FORSAKE THE ASSEMBLY BECAUSE THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP IS TOO HIGH
* /““If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.
And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”/
(Luke 14:26–27, NIV84)
#. the Christian faith is not for sissies
#. to become a biblical Christian who fleshes out his or her faith in the world is a demanding, never-ending journey
Like the Character Christian in John Bunyan’s allegory Pilgrim’s Progress, we discover that the journey is fraught with dangers, temptations and difficulties.
At one point, Christian meets Mr. Worldly Wiseman who encourages him to find deliverance through legalism.
He travels through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and visits the city of Vanity Fair with all of it’s temptations.
He is captured by Giant Despair who imprisons him for a time in Doubting Castle.
In the end, however, Christian make it to Beulah Land where, at the end of life, he crosses over into the Celestial City.
#. the cost of the journey simply becomes too much for some and they forsake the assembly
British author G.K. Chesterton once said, /“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried”/
!! D. SOME WILL FORSAKE THE ASSEMBLY BECAUSE THEY FIND OFFENSES IN OTHERS
#. some will forsake the assembly because they become offended by others in the church
#. offended by the pastor’s preaching
#. offended by the church’s theology (too conservative or too liberal)
#. offended by fellow believer’s ‘hypocrisy’ real or imagined
#. offended by the failings of fellow saints
#. some come to the church with the mistaken notion that it is a provider of entitlements
#. they shop for church as they do for fast food
#. they want a little McChurch and might even suffer a few McSermons on Sunday
#. but don't ask them for any McService or involvement
#. they came asking a myriad of questions
#. /"Do you have a youth minister who can play with the kids?”/
#. /“Do you have an attended nursery so we don't have to be bothered with the baby?”/
#. /“Do you have an aerobics class and free counseling?"/
#. they came not seeking salvation, but membership in a club
#. they want all the perks of body life but are unwilling to extend themselves in providing the same thing for others
#. they are takers, not seekers, and when they don’t have all of their felt needs met, they find offence and forsake the assembly
!! E. SOME WILL FORSAKE THE ASSEMBLY BECAUSE THEY’VE GROWN WEARY OF WELL DOING
The #1 reason people give for quitting church–especially the 18-22 year-old-crowd is /"I simply wanted a break from church."/
#. we talk a lot about reaching the “un-churched” – but what about the “de-churched”– those who walked away from the church simply because they were tired of it
* /“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”/
(Hebrews 12:3, NIV84)
#. the Apostle Paul’s challenge is as relevant for the church today as it was when he wrote it–some had forsaken the assembly: Those of us who remain must not follow their example
WE NEED TO PRACTICE THE PRESENCE OF GOD COLLECTIVELY
#. our text does not identify the persons who had been habitually neglecting to join the assembly
#. it simply states the error and then expresses a positive alternative
#. the first portion of the text says to not stop gathering