Make Time for Others
MAKE TIME FOR OTHERS HEBREWS 10:24-25
Josef Gabor grew up in Czechoslovakia when it was dominated by communism, and religion was despised as weakness. His father taught communist doctrine classes. But Josef’s mother, who believed in Jesus Christ, took Josef and his brother with her to church. They got up early each Sunday morning and took a 3-hour train ride to Prague. Then they walked to the church and sat through a 2 1/2-hour service. After eating lunch in a nearby park, they returned to church for another 2 1/2-hour meeting. Then they took the 3-hour ride home. Today Josef Gabor is a missionary to his own people in Czechoslovakia. When he tells about going to church as a child, his eyes fill with tears of gratitude for a mother who cared enough about his spiritual welfare to help him come to know and serve Christ. This should be the aim of every Christian. Christians are people with a purpose. There are many in society who are trying to find their purpose in life. They want to know that life has meaning. But many wonder aimlessly in the world and this includes many Christians. Christians are not to be aimless; they have a purpose and created for a purpose, which is to glorify God. One way we glorify God is through our love and deeds. Jesus, in the Sermon of the Mount, described believers as salt and light. Salt that loses it saltiness becomes useless and light that is hidden does no good. Instead, we are to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16). So we come to our text, this morning, to discover what this is all about. So take your Bibles and turn to Hebrews 10:24-25. Here we are taught to be concerned about each other’s welfare. In order for us to understand this passage, let me give you a little background which provides our exhortation for this morning. The letter of Hebrews, like many of the letters in the New Testament, is divided into two clear and distinct segments. The first half of the book deals with doctrine and the last half of the book deals with practice. Belief always precede behavior, precepts always come before practice. In other words, conviction must be settled in the mind and heart before it affects the will. Paul and this writer do just that. The writer of Hebrews has been talking about the superiority of Christ over the covenants of the Old Testament, Moses, and the angels. There were some Jews who were on the fence of accepting Christ but have not yet made that commitment. The writer was encouraging them to do so. Today, there are many who are intrigued with the message of the gospel but are unwilling for some unknown reason to move from the camp of the world into the camp of God. It is our job as Christians to persuade them to do so. So we come to Hebrews 10 beginning in verse 19, that the writer finishes his discussion about the greatness of Christ and His sacrifice to encourage his readers to make a decision. It is decision time. You cannot have it both ways. There is no straddling the fence. We must decide whether or not we will choose Christ. Beginning in verse 19, the writer addresses the positive aspect of coming to Christ. This includes our position (16-21) and our practice (22-25). In verse 26 and following, there is a negative aspect presented about not making the correct choice. To be in church week in and week out and never decide to choose Christ is deadly, disastrous, and damning. This morning, I want to focus on one of the positive practices of coming to know the Lord Jesus Christ. In two verses, the writer gives us three thoughts about how we are to make time for each other. I have condensed these thoughts into three words: consideration, stimulation, and motivation. First, let us look into the consideration of others.
CONSIDERATION – 24a In verse 24, the writer commands us to consider one another. This is a commandment to be obeyed. The words “one another” speaks to life in the body of Christ. In fact, we can read in Scripture 31 one anothers. We are to love one another, comfort one another, admonish one another, care for one another, bear one another’s burdens, etc. So this informs me that we are to be a part of each other’s lives. That is why the church is described as a flock, an army, and a family. Yet, western culture has diminished the fact that we are to be a part of each other’s lives. Here in America our early forefathers were considered “rugged individualist.” They were known and admire for living independent of others. Now, I don’t want you to misunderstand what I am saying because there is must to be learned from these great men and women, who made this country what it is, today. But this mindset is devastating when it is spilled over into the church. Our lives are not to be lived in a vacuum, but in the context of a family. A body that is joined together by the head: Jesus Christ. In our text, we are commanded to consider one another. In order, for us to get the full force of this command let me draw your attention to the word consider. There is something in this text that is very hard to bring over into English. The word "consider," ("Let us consider how to . . .") is used one other time in the book, namely, Hebrews 3:1, where the writer say says, "Consider Jesus." That is, look at him; think about him, focus on him, study him, let your mind be occupied with him. "Jesus" is the direct object of the verb "consider." "Consider Jesus." Consider what? Consider Jesus. Well, in Hebrews 10:24 the grammar is the same: the direct object of the word "consider" is "one another." “Consider” means that you have to give some thought to this or it won’t happen. To give thought to it means that you have to take your focus off of yourself and think about others. It is the mindset of how can I help this person or encourage this person in their walk with the Lord.
STIMULATION - 24b-25a
In the latter half of verse 24 and the first half of verse 25, the writer instructs how we are to consider one another. He says we are “to consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.” I believe if we look a little closer into the passage, then we will be able to draw practical application from the text.
The words “stir up” literally means to stimulate, to incite, to irritate, or provoke. In the Old and New Testament, the word had a negative connotation. Someone would provoke someone to anger or distress (Hannah). In Acts 15:39, there was a sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas over John Mark. There is much of that today in the church with people irritating one another. But in this verse the word was used to encourage one another. Folks, we live in a fallen world and every one of us can use some encouragement.
I read a story that illustrates this point about a young man named Scott Kregel. He was an individual who had a tendency not to give up. He was a battler, a dedicated athlete who spent hour after hour perfecting his three throw and jump shot during the hot summer months of 1987. But just before fall practice everything changed. A serious car accident left Scott in a coma for several days. When he awoke, a long rehabilitation process lay ahead. Like most patients with closed head injuries, Scott balked at doing the slow, tedious work that was required to get him back to normal—things such as stringing beads. What high school junior would enjoy that?
Tom Martin, Scott’s basketball coach at the Christian school he attended, had an idea. Coach Martin told Scott that he would reserve a spot on the varsity for him—if he would cooperate with his therapist and show progress in the tasks he was asked to do. And Tom’s wife Cindy spent many hours with Scott, encouraging him to keep going. Within 2 months, Scott was riding off the basketball court on his teammates’ shoulders. He had made nine straight free throws to clinch a triple-overtime league victory. It was a remarkable testimony of the power of encouragement.
How much more should we as Christians encourage one another? We are told to encourage one another to love and good works. To love and good works are used in a general sense. We are to get people to have a love that is of the will rather than built on pure emotions. There are times when we may not feel like loving others, but the love here is agape (a matter of the will). Also, we are to encourage one another to good works for Christ’s sake.
There are times when we might feel that I am getting nothing out of the church, they are not meeting my needs, and the church seems unloving and unfriendly. This is why the attention is not to be on ourselves, but others. The motivation is not what have you done for me lately, but what can I do to help you. After all think about what Christ has done for us and we are to live obedient to him. So, therefore, let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good deeds.
Yet, this was not the case for some who were attending church. In fact, some were neglecting to meet with the others. They felt that they could do better at home. Folks, it is true that our faith in Christ can be practiced outside the church and we can have hope in Christ without being at church, but we cannot obey this command of considering one another without being in church.
The rugged individualist that characterized our early forefathers has crept into the church and this is nothing new. It was around in the first century church. There were some Jews that were having difficulty with the Gentiles being a part of the church because they were God’s chosen people. Therefore, they chose not to meet with others. There may have been other reasons, but we do not know what they might have been. But here they were encouraged not to neglect meeting together.
What does he mean by "assembling together"? The writer uses a term that Philip Hughes says, "should be understood as simply the regular gathering together of Christian believers for worship and exhortation in a particular place" [The Epistle to the Hebrews, 418]. And what about "not forsaking"? The word he uses means "to leave in the lurch," "to abandon," "to desert." It is a very strong word and one that was chosen by this writer later to express the promise of God: "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you" (with "desert" being the same Greek term in Heb. 13:5 and 10:25). It is the same word that our Lord used in his cry of dereliction on the cross: "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matt. 27:46). Paul used it to express Demas' departure in going after the world, "Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me" (II Tim. 4:10).
Folks, this is evidenced in our own denomination where more than half of the membership of the 16 million Southern Baptists live in an AWOL (Absent Without Leave) condition each week. According to our own denominational statistics, only 35% of Southern Baptist membership even bothers to attend on Sundays. If we had a way to gauge the involvement of members in encouraging one another, the percentage would be drastically lower. Where is their passion to follow after Jesus Christ? Where is their faithfulness in participating with others in the church? It is a strange version of Christianity—an unbiblical one at that—that will become a member of a church then not continuing on in faithfulness to Christ and the church. Yet it has become so much a part of the religious landscape of American that we are accustomed to it, perhaps not even noticing it! And it does affect us when we imbibe of this individualistic, lethargic spirit of modern Christianity and neglect the action that should characterize those who are born of God.
A book in my library includes a humorous tale about a man who refused to attend church. When a pastor asked him why, he answered, “I don’t go to church because every time I do they throw something at me.” “What do you mean?” the preacher inquired. The man went on to explain. “When I was just a baby and my parents took me to church, the minister threw water on me. When I got married, the wedding ceremony took place in a church, and they threw rice at me.”
Hearing this the pastor quickly responded, “And if you don’t start going to church soon, the next time you do I’m afraid they’ll throw DIRT on you!”
Sadly, this describes the situation for many people. As far as church attendance is concerned, it’s “three times and out.” They go to church to be baptized, married, and buried—and that’s about all. For an obedient child of God, however, that will never do. He does not forsake “the assembling together commanded in Hebrews 10:25. Rather, thanking God for the church, the dedicated believer takes advantage of the opportunities his local assembly offers for fellowship, for the ministry of God’s Word, for the observance of the ordinances, and for service. The church is a special blessing that God Himself has provided for believers. - R.W.D.
Now it came to pass that spring turned to summer again.
God’s people raised their voices and said: “Recreation is my shepherd, I shall not stay at home; He maketh me to lie down in a sleeping bag; He leadeth me down the Interstate each weekend.
He restoreth my suntan; He leadeth me to State Parks for comfort’s sake. Even though I stray on the Lord’s Day, I will fear no reprimand, for Thou art with me; my rod and reel they comfort me. I anointest my skin with oil, my gas tank runneth dry; Surely my trailer shall follow me all the weekends this summer, and I shall return to the House of the Lord this fall.” But then it is hunting season and that’s another psalm.
The author adds that this ministry involves “encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” The word “encouraging” can also mean, “exhorting.” The word carries a sense of urgency and importance, and also conveys the idea of verbal exhortation. It means that you are coming alongside others in the church to be a help to them in their onward passion in the Christian faith.
MOTIVATION – 25b
What was the driving reason for such urgency among these believers, so that they are rebuked for their slothfulness and neglect? Students of Scripture debate the precise meaning. I think we can see it as two-fold. First, it might have had an immediate meaning of the destruction of Jerusalem and with it the temple worship and all the outward forms and ceremonies of Judaism. As that great day of destruction drew near, one prophesied of by our Lord in Matthew 24, they were to be urgent in their faithfulness in the body. But a second reason, and one that hits squarely before us, is the great day of the Lord's return, culminating in judgment. In light of the imminence of Christ's return, we are to make sure that we do not get sloppy in our assembling together and neglectful in encouraging others in the body of Christ.
REFER TO MISSIPPIPPI RIVER ILLUSTRATION
This third command has several important implications. First, you are your brother’s keeper! It is impossible for the pastoral staff and elders of this church to shepherd everyone who comes here. For the body to be healthy, every member needs to take responsibility to encourage their fellow members. If you sense that someone may be dropping out or drifting from the Lord, consider how you can encourage them to deal with the problems that are keeping them away. If they’re having a conflict with another believer, encourage them and coach them (if need be) to work through it. If they isolate themselves from the body, it is only a matter of time that the wolves will pick them off.
Second, this ministry implies knowing one another on more than a superficial level. Again, it is impossible to know everyone in this church well, but each of us can and should know some fairly well. This means meeting together outside of Sunday mornings.
Our Sunday gatherings are crucial for worship and instruction in
God’s Word, but it is also of vital importance that you meet with other believers on other occasions so that you can encourage one another in your Christian walks.
Finally, this takes some deliberate focus and effort. You must take your eyes off of yourself and think about others. If you see someone at church who seems lonely or depressed or ill at ease, take the initiative to introduce yourself and take an interest in him or her. Perhaps you need to set up a time to meet them later in the week. It’s really just an application of the “golden rule”: Treat others as you would want them to treat you.