Know and Be Known: God's Vision for the Local Church (Hebrews Sermon 12 of 74)
December 12, 2010 | Andrew Davis
Brotherly Love, Church Membership, The Power of Sin, Good Works
The Beauty of Community Commitment to Each Other
I'm so eager to preach this sermon to you. I can't wait, I can't wait. I just want to see the effect of the Word of God. Not just today, but over years to come. Just have in my heart a burning vision for what this church already is and what it will be through the ministry of the word and the spirit that we would be a genuine community of believers that love one another, cherish each other's sanctification and growth in the Lord, that thinks spiritually-minded about church. So I'm eager that God would use this message.
We have close relatives that live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. We went and visited them. Christi's sister and her husband and children, wonderful children. What a gift they are to us, and we love to go up there to Pennsylvania. And one of the things I love when we go there is to see the Amish. I just enjoy being there. I don't intrude on them, I don't stare at them, but they live such an interesting and fascinating life and just with my interest in church history, I know a lot of the history that's led to their commitments and the things that they do, and there's a lot I don't know about them, but this Thanksgiving as we were driving, and coming near to the house, I saw a number of Amish building, a large structure, maybe a barn, I couldn't tell what it was, but they were hanging on the wood working there and working together, and I don't think it was an Amish barn raising, but there were Amish people building a structure, maybe a barn.
And it got me to thinking about that. And that's just part of their heritage. When somebody's barn burns down, the whole community will come together and the men and the women, the youth and the children they'll all be together and they'll be focused on one project; working together, building something together, that only one family in their community is going to use. They're all focused on that and there's a tremendous amount of sacrifice that goes into that and it's been depicted in a number of movies and it's a powerful part of their community. And I got to thinking how much I wanted to see something like that happen in our church. Now don't misunderstand me. You're saying, "I don't really need a barn actually, I don't have any need for the church to come to my yard and build a barn."
And I think we live in a different kind of situation, but the building I have in mind is of a spiritual nature more than anything. And I asked my brother in law Bill, who I just love and we're just good friends and I said, "Does that kind of thing still go on?" He said, "Yeah, frequently." As a matter of fact, he knows an Amish family and in that case, it wasn't a barn, and it was a bakery that had burned down. A young married couple’s had burned down, and the whole community came together and built the bakery again and now it's a thriving bakery in the community and the couple is doing well. So it's still going on. It's still part of their culture.
And I just yearn to see that happen here spiritually, more than anything. We have a beautiful building here. We have a church that we meet together, our needs are met. I'm not saying that there couldn't be a fire in our community and the need for a house and all that, but I don't know that many of us would be qualified to do that kind of building, but I know this, that God is building a different kind of structure in our midst. He's building the church of Jesus Christ. We are members of the Church, we are living stones in that structure and we're not done being built.
And so, it's really the Church that's in my mind today, the church, this local church, First Baptist Church, and then, the universal church. And I just have two questions I want to put before you, as I begin. First of all, just let me ask you personally, how important is the church to you? How important is it in your life? What is the church worth to you in your priority structure, what would you pay of yourself to see the church develop to full maturity? How much of a focus is the church in your life? That's just one question, it's different versions of the same question but that's the question, how important is the church to you?
Second question, how important is the church to Jesus Christ? What was she worth to Jesus in His priority structure? He said, "I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it." That's his priority structure. That's what he's doing in the world. What was he willing to pay for the church, his own blood, shed on the cross. He shed His blood for her that she would be pure in his sight. How much of a focus is the church in his life? Well, I tell you He ever lives to intercede for her, that's what he's doing; he never forgets the church, it is in his mind all the time.
Let me shift a little bit. Just speaking very sweetly positively. Do you realize what kind of riches there are for you sitting around you in this room right now? And probably you don't even know it. Brothers and sisters in Christ, a richness of fellowship, of prayer, of mutual sharing of the ministry of the Word of God, of fellow times of worship. You're rich people, and I don't think you even know it. I don't think I do either. And I just want us to plumb the riches of one another, in our fellowship together. I want you to have a sense this morning of just how much happiness awaits this church. If we can push through what I perceive to be somewhat of a ceiling, or a plateauing of our fellowship that we would push through that and see us reach a kind of a level of unity and of ministry that few churches frankly really attain.
I'd like us to drink in the benefits of a healthy ministry together, a full benefit of all, of each other spiritual gifts and to enjoy fellowship with brothers and sisters. I don't want to hear any more, "I just didn't meet anyone Or I just couldn't connect or just the... The fellowship here, it's too far to drive," and all that. That one always gets me. We haven't moved. And the people that stopped coming because it was too far, they didn't move either as far as I could tell, same distance, check it on the GPS.
What ends up happening is the attractive features that first drew them start to wane in their estimation, and some other problems start to rise, and so then they stop coming and they look for another place. And my goal is to kindle in your hearts a love for the church, for this church, if you're a member here that you would have a deep love for this church and I want to describe a fully healthy church for you. That's what I want to do and I want to look at these two passages that we've looked at, we already two weeks ago looked carefully at Hebrews 3:12-14. I want to add the other one that Ron read. Hebrews 10;24 and 25. Works out great that the ones he read are the same ones I'm going to preach on so that's fantastic, isn't that wonderful how that just works out. So just the Providence is wonderful, how that works.
I. A Community Commitment to Holiness: Hebrews 3:12-14
But what I want to do in the first passage in Hebrews 3:12-14, is talk about the church negatively, the benefits of the church in a negative sense, by that I mean a community committed to fighting sin in each other's lives. We've got a negative battle of sin, we're all fighting it and that's why we're drawn together, for help in that battle. We are to be a community fighting that battle with sin for each other in each other's lives, positively a community, committed to full fruitfulness in each other's lives. Fruitfulness, that you, each of you would have a full harvest, a rich life of good works to show Jesus on judgment day. And all the more as you see the day approach and we're going to talk about that.
These are the two things I want to simply put; negatively you need to be involved in a church, in this church, I think if you're called as a member here, to help you fight your sin battle and so you can help other people fight theirs, negatively. And then positively you need to be committed to this church. If you're a member here, you need to be committed to this church so that you can be maximally fruitful in your life for Jesus. Without the church you're going to be a victim of your own sinfulness, you're going to be left aside because of it. Satan is going to get you. I just say that with all the seriousness I can muster. If you're alone, you're going to be a victim. And positively, if you've got a church around you that cares, you're not. The Lord's going to use that church to protect you and concerning the spiritual gifts, you're going to be maximally fruitful, if you're involved in the church and you are not going to do all of those good works that God has laid out ahead of you, if you're not.
Let's look first of all at the... First one, Hebrews 3, a community's commitment to holiness. Look again at the verses. "See to it brothers that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God but encourage one another daily as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly to the end the confidence we had at first." So I'm just going to review what we did two weeks ago. I did the acts of Jesus, basically, I decided then we're going to be doing two sermons on Hebrews Three. The first would be just careful acts of Jesus and then the second would be that applications that will take up most of our time today. Let me review the acts of Jesus. That there is a danger right in the word here, the danger is apostasy turns away from the living God, αποστασία is the Greek, so we get this word apostasy.
The Greatest Danger: Turning Away from the Living God
It's part of a series of warnings on that same theme. Hebrews 2:1. "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away." Hebrews 3:12 speaks about turning away from the living God. Hebrews 6:6, which God willing, we'll get to in due time, talks about falling away, don't drift away, don't turn away, don't fall away from the living God. That implies conversely that the goal of our salvation is proximity to God, closeness to God, to be very near him, to be very close to him.
And so we looked at verses that talk about that in Hebrews. Hebrews 4:16. "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence." Hebrew 7:19 says the New Covenant is a better hope, "a better hope is introduced by which we draw near to God." How beautiful is that? And then Hebrews 10 just immediately before the verses that Ron read, it says, "Therefore brothers since we have confidence to enter the most holy place..." How could sinners like us do that? To enter into the Holy of Holies, but we have boldness to do it. "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, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and full assurance of faith." So proximity to God is the goal of our salvation.
So in these verses, these warning verses here in Hebrews 3: 12-14, you have a sense, as I mentioned two weeks ago, the greatest danger that faces you individually, and that is the loss of your soul, the eternal loss of your soul. What good would it be for a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul. What would a man give in exchange for his soul, your soul is in jeopardy through sin, apart from Jesus, you will be lost for all eternity. So I can do no better at this moment, then to plead with you, if you have not yet trusted in Jesus that you would come to Christ, come to the cross of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, you cannot survive Judgment Day without Jesus, you'll be sent to hell, you'll be condemned righteously and justly for your own sins, your transgressions of God's law, but if you'll just simply believe.
If you come to the cross where Jesus shed His blood, you will be forgiven and I plead with you. At this time, Christmas time, what a great time to be saved. I tell you, any time is a great time to be saved. Amen. But why not today? If you're on the outside looking in, don't stay on the outside of the church any longer, but come in and believe and be part be saved.
So the root cause of this great danger is sin's effect on the heart. And we're going to spend some time thinking about this today. Verse 12. "See to it brothers that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God." Sinful heart of unbelief. And really, the key here in verse 13 is that the heart can be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. The deceit is the real issue. We're dealing here with sins you don't see in your own life. You've been deceived in some way by sin and you need help with that. You can't save yourself from sins about which you're deceived, you've got to have people to help you.
That's the remedy here in verse 13. "Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." So a healthy church will be active, daily active in protecting its own members from the deceitful-ness of sin. This is what we do for each other.
And so we've got this deadly danger of indwelling sin, we talked about in Romans 7. Paul says, "I do not understand what I do, for what I want to do I do not do, and what I hate I do." And, "as it is, he says, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me" that does it. I think about all the revulsion you could ever muster. But those phrases should cause you to shudder, there should be a sense of revulsion. Sin is living in me. This wicked tumor, this parasite that would take my very life, is living inside me. Yes, it is, and we all have these deadly blind spots of how sin is cropping up in our lives, we can't see it. We need the insights of others to show us how sin is deceiving us. The warning of this passage is only those who finish ever really began.
Look at verse 14 again, "we have come to share in Christ, [past tense] if we hold firmly to the end the confidence we had at first." In other words, only those who finish ever really began. That's what I get out of this, you see it. So I had people come up to me two weeks ago and ask a wonderful question, good question.
The Impossibility of Losing Your Salvation
Now, are you saying with this whole teaching on apostasy that you can lose your salvation? Of course, you can't lose your salvation. We have been given eternal life and it's going to last for all eternity. It is absolutely true that He who begins a good work he will carry it on to completion. "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and those who come to me, I'll lose none of them, but I'll raise them up at the last day."
Of course, you can't lose it. My question is, do you have it or not? And don't you think you ought to know now while there's time to do something about it? So that's what we're talking about here. So, we have this community commitment to holiness. I'm going to talk about applications, but that's how we explained the verse last time.
II. A Community Commitment to Fruitfulness: Hebrews 10:24-25
Let's look at the second passage, Hebrews 10: 24-25. Now, I'm going to... God-willing, if God gives me time, if I'm still alive and we have the opportunity to do this, I will preach on Hebrews 10: 24-25 more thoroughly. So I just want to give you a thumbnail sketch of what's going on here. I'm not going to set it in context, do any of that, but full treatment later, but let's just kind of grab at it a little bit and get some things.
"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." So the angle on this one is a positive one, it's a positive one. It's a community verse, it's a church verse. Look at it in verse 24, "And let us", plural, "let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together."
It's a church verse. Let's encourage one another. This is definitely a church verse friends. It's a community verse, a church verse. And the goal of these two verses, is fruitfulness, maximal fruitfulness. It's toward love and good deeds that's what we're getting at here. We want the love and good deeds to happen. And so really it's each other’s full fruitfulness. I need to care about a brother or sister, that they are characterized by love and good deeds, and I'm going to do things toward them horizontally to help them do the love and good deeds that God wants them to do. So that's the goal.
The idea is Judgment Day, it says all the more as you see the day approaching, the day is Judgment Day, what's going on that day? You're going to give Christ a full account for your life, you're going to stand before Jesus, He's going to ask for all of the things he committed to you back, and he's going to ask you for what came from, and he's going to ask, he said, "I gave you five talents, what did you do with them? I gave you two talents I gave you, did you do anything. Did you trade with them? Is there some interest on the investment?" "You're a vineyard. I put a wall around you. I dug out a wine press, I saturated the soil with fertilizer. I rained on you. I gave you sunshine. I gave you everything you need, where's the harvest? I want the crop. What came?"
And you give Christ an account. So what this verse tells me is I should care about your account and you should care about mine, horizontally. Now don't just care about your own. I should care about the brother and the sisters account, that they're going to give to Jesus. All the more as you see the day approaching, I want you guys to be ready for that day. Positively ready. I want you to have a full treasure trove of good works to show to Jesus, so I preach toward that end.
The Danger of Forsaking Church
Now, the danger subverting all of this, is that some people make a habit of forsaking the assembling of themselves together. They make a habit of it friends. Let us not give up or forsake the assembling of ourselves together as some are in the habit of doing. The issue here is habitual forsaking of the assembly. The Greek word is ethos from which we get ethic. They make it an ethic, they make it an ethic of their lives to forsake the assembling of themselves. And as I've analyzed this, I see it in two senses, number one, someone who stays committed to the same local church, but is very spotty in their attendance, intermittent in their attendance. They don't come week by week by week.
Now, if you think I'm preaching a legalistic thing. You've got to be every single, and you're a wicked sinner if you ever miss church, I'm not saying that. The verse talks about a habit and I'm talking about making a habit of forsaking it's a choice you make. Again, I'm not talking about home-bound people friends, they're not forsaken. They yearned to be here.
That's not what this is talking about. This is talking about people that make a choice. Habitually make a choice to not go to go to the church that they're members of. There's a second sense, and this is more subtle, but it happens too. And these are people who forsake the congregation they were committed to, to go to another one for spurious reasons. Church nomads, church shopping, church hopping, church consumers. You know what happens with this category of people, they come, they like it for a while, there's certain features they like, and certain feature they didn't, but they were willing to put up with it, but then those features start to get, like on the sound board or their life started to get pushed up a higher level, the other things start to push down and then... Still living geographically in the same area, but not here anymore. They were members, they are no longer members.
Now, I don't say that it's sinful for somebody to stay geographically in the same area and go from one church to another, God does do that. He calls people to do that. Again just hear me, I'm not preaching legalism here. What I'm saying is there is a category of people that left and shouldn't have. That's all I'm saying. They left and shouldn't have. They should have stayed committed to their church. What are they looking for? I think sometimes it's a selfish view of, " What's in it for me? What can I get? Do I like the music? Do I like the people? Do I like the feel here?" That kind of thing.
The Need for “Spurring On”
Alright, so that's the danger. But positively, speaking, we've got here in these verses, Hebrews 10:24-25, a community that there's a rich cross-pollination, fertilization going on, and we are provoking one another, the word says. Just sticking in people's craw, until they do what they need to be doing. I mean it's really almost, it's a negative word, but it needs to be done well friends. It needs to be done with gentleness, with tenderness and all that, but I'm just telling you what the word says, provoking or stimulating or I like this one spur one another on toward love and good deeds. I've got spurs, that jingle jangle jingle, that kind of thing. It's like, "Boy I need to be spurred on right now." Well, I've got just the person for you, says the Holy Spirit. And in that person comes to spur you on to love and good deeds but hey, look, there's right ways to do these things and wrong ways. But that's what we're talking about.
Now central to this, we have to be together and we have to know each other. Now here I want to give you, I'm already just totally stealing the thunder of that sermon that I may preach. But you forget I forget when I come to it, in Hebrews 10, when's that going to be? In like the year 2012? I have no idea. You'll have forgotten this, and I can do it like it was fresh. Okay, fair enough. But actually, the NIV, and some other modern translations is slightly off here. Not harmfully off, but just slightly off. What does it say? "Let us consider... " What's the next word in the NIV? How. Let us consider how, implies we're studying a methodology. That's not what the Greek says. The direct object of the verb is one another.
So "let us consider one another to spur toward love and good deeds" is somewhat awkward translation, but you get the idea, how does it work? It means you think about brother, A or sister B, and you think about what their gifts are, and say, "Lord what good works could they do... What do I think they'd be good at, how could I go and encourage them?" And then you start to say, "Hey look, when you do hospitality, you do it as well as anybody I've ever seen, do that even more. That's so beautiful, how you do that. I'm so blessed by the way that you teach the Word of God and Bible for life do that more and more. Listen, Sister when you pray, I am just so blessed by that, You just pray with the faith that is so deep and rich, and I'm, strengthened by that." So, you consider the people in your church, you consider them to find out, "Lord, how can I spur them on toward love and good deeds?" So translation should be, let us consider one another. That's really how it should go.
I don't know that I've seen any of the translations that do that, maybe NIS does but I'm not really sure but that's what it teaches. Let's consider.
Know and Be Known
So therefore, key to both Hebrews 3, and Hebrews 10 is we must know and be known, we really do we have to know each other. You can't tell if a brother or sister developing a sinful heart of unbelief, unless you know them. Talked about that two weeks ago, how can you tell? You can't check their sinful heart of unbelief meter. I used to work in a company which I was exposed from time to time to x-rays, and I had to wear a little badge. And then they would look at it and read and see how the radiation levels were. Okay, it'd be so much easier we could do that. "Let me check your badge. How are you doing? Ohh sinful heart of unbelief starting to develop."
It just doesn't go that way. What you have to do is develop relationships and I do not say that they will happen Person A with every other person, 400 people in the church. It will not. But I'm looking for network so no one slips through the cracks. See to it brothers that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart, So that God would raise up brothers and sisters, appropriately for each one in a network so that we can see if a sinful heart of unbelief is developing. See same thing on the positive side. Let us consider one another means I don't know if I can go up to this person I've never heard of, and say, "Hey, you'd be really good at such and such," If I don't know them. We've got to know and be known, bottom line. So that's why it's in the sermon title, know and be known. Let's know each other and let's be known by each other.
III. Ten Steps for FBC Toward a Happier, Healthier Community Life
Alright, now what I want to do is just give you some practical steps for First Baptist Church, toward a happier and healthier community life. 10 of them. And they feed on each other, they build on each other, there is a certain logical progression here, and I just think this is the key, if we can just imbibe these.
1) Desire to Grow in Salvation and Help Others to Grow Too
Alright, number one, desire to grow in salvation and help others to grow too or simply put understand salvation as is taught in the Bible. I never tire of telling you that salvation is a process, justification, sanctification, glorification. So you have to realize that not a single person in this church is done being saved. Our salvation is an ongoing work and so is yours. If you don't understand salvation properly, you will not understand the local church and your need for it properly. You will think you can do it on your own and you will forget that you have not yet fully been saved, you're still working out, you should be, as the Bible says, working out your salvation with fear and trembling.
Salvation comes in stages, justification, sanctification, glorification, all truly justified people will most certainly be sanctified. There's just an indissoluble link between the two. And so we need to understand that we're not done being saved and no one else is that's here on earth. And so, as I already quoted Philippians 2:12, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." I think when I'm getting out of Hebrews 3 and 10 is work out other people's salvation with fear and trembling too. Not just your own. But care about whether other people are making progress in their salvation. So step number one is desire to grow in salvation and help others to grow too. Or perhaps another title for this would be: Understand salvation properly. You're not done being saved.
2) Understand the Grave Danger We Are All In
Secondly, understand therefore the grave danger every last one of us is still in. We are in a war zone, spiritually, you don't need the full armor of God, except that you're in a war and you are in a war.
So we have to see with spiritual eyes, the incredible danger we're all in from the world, the flesh, and the devil. These three ancient foes of the church are relentless and deadly. Only if we properly see their danger, will be properly committed to a local church. Every last one of us is in a vicious fight for the health of our souls. It says in 1st Peter 2:11, "Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful lusts which wage war against your soul." We're in a firefight and an analogy I had this morning, as I was thinking, we're in a firefight and the church is the fox hole. It is a dangerous world we live in, and we ought to be aware of this warfare and be intensely interested in it and concerned about it, not just for ourselves, but for our fellow soldiers. Somebody's head is up too high out of the foxhole, if a buddy loves him he's going to push his head down. The tracer bullet goes just an inch over where his head just was a moment ago.
Jesus was intensely concerned about leaving his church, here in John 17, He says, "I will remain," He's praying to God the night before He's crucified He's praying, He says, "I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world. And I'm coming to you. Holy Father protect them by the power of Your name, the name You gave Me. So that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe, by that name you gave me. None has been lost." Do you have a sense of the danger we're in? And that none of us would be lost? We need an active protection from the world, the flesh and the devil. The church is part of God's plan to protect you. So understand the danger all of us are in.
3) Develop an Eternal Perspective
Thirdly develop an eternal perspective. Hebrews 10 talks about, "And all the more as you see the day approaching." We fail to fully invest in a local church because we think far too highly of this present age in which we live. We think too much of the world, and so we think too little of church. That's what's going on, they're head-to-head.
I really think the biggest danger, the biggest threat to healthy Church life, is the American dream. That your life does in fact, consist in the abundance of your possessions or the abundance of your achievements. It's sucking time from the people of God that should be given to the church. And the only way we're going to remedy that is to say, "How is all this going to look on judgment day? How is it all going to look, when I stand before Jesus? Is this commitment to do this or to do that, or to do the other going to look good on judgment day? Or should I be pulling back in and do what God told me to do?" He told me, "Focus on Christ personally, stay abiding in the vine, and commit myself to the local church and build in each other's lives." That's what He told me to do. And so we need to see everything in light of eternity. This brother, this sister that we're standing near, someday he or she is going to stand before Jesus. Does that matter to you?
Can you do like CS Lewis said, "Bear the weight of their glory?" Can you carry that weight for them and say, "I want you to be glorious and radiant, fully obedient to the Lord. I don't want you to be a casualty in this war and I want you to be fully fruit, I want you to be, I want you to be rich on Judgment Day. Rich in good works, I really want that for you." And you should want it for each other. So ask a simple question about your church involvement. What will the Lord say on Judgement Day concerning your level of involvement in your local church? Can developing an eternal perspective help you focus more on what Christ is doing in the world? And what is Christ doing in the world? I already told you, I will build my church. That's what he's doing in the world, so therefore to love the church is to love what Christ is doing in the world. To hate the church is to hate what Christ is doing in the world. And to be indifferent to the church is to be indifferent to what Christ is doing in the world. This is what He's doing.
4) Weed Your Life of Distractions
Fourthly, Weed your Life of distractions. Worldly distractions. The world is full of alluring alternatives to healthy church involvement. Enticing alternatives to healthy church involvement. Jesus in the parable of the seed and the soil called them weeds, they are depleting the soil of nutrients and resources that should be going into spiritual growth in His children. And they're weeds, they're idols. And so, therefore we're going to hit a plateau. We are going to hit a plateau, is a glass ceiling or something like that of healthy church life. Unless we are willing to make hard choices about the way we spend our time. And weed our life of distraction. So do an inventory. How much time do you spend in good but not Christian activities? We are a busy people, and not only that, we pride ourself on our busyness. I see it, I see it, a glint of pride. Oh we're doing this, we're doing that, we're committed. Well, we're running in 40 different directions. I just sense Satan in all that. Don't you?
Growing families, who want experiences for their kids, they want their kids involved in different things; music, sports, scouting, community involvements, other things like that. Now let me tell you something, I'm always skating right on the edge of legalism. These things may be exactly what God's calling your family to do. This is exactly how you are called as a family to interact with unbelievers. This is your missionary endeavor. Do it to the... I'm just asking you through the Spirit, and through the Word of God to do an analysis of it, to do an assessment of it. Look at your time. It could be that you're too busy with good activities you have no time to develop your church commitments and relationship. And then there's the other side. How much time do you spend on just personal recreation, hobbies, electronic entertainment? We talk about it all the time, cable TV, internet, MP3 players, Wii Or X-box or whatever? I don't even know what's hot this Christmas, there's something every Christmas, they stand in line at three in the morning to get it.
So I don't know what it is this year, but you know what I'm talking about, or... And please don't come and yell at me about this: golf. God may be calling on you to golf. Again I'm always... I'm not saying thou shalt not golf. But maybe there's too much of a good thing. Honey is sweet, just eat a little and then go on and be committed to the church. Hunting, I don't know. Shopping, I don't know what it is for you, but just do that inventory.
5) Love Your Brothers and Sisters in Christ With Sacrificial Love
Fifth, love your brothers and sisters, with a sacrificial love. Simply put we will not make any changes in this area without sacrifice. You're just not going to. You have to love the brothers and sisters from the heart and care enough about their spiritual health, negatively and positively, to be involved in their lives and it takes sacrifice to do it. A fundamental discipline, Christian discipline is hospitality. It says in 1 Peter to offer it without grumbling. Well, the reason that we're tempted to grumble is that it is a sacrifice to open your home.
And so it just takes sacrifice, to get to know the brothers and sisters, without the sacrifice your connection to the church will be limited. And I worry, when I do exit interviews with people who stay in the same geographical region but go to a different good church. I hear so often, nobody ever reached out, nobody ever connected. Can I just turn that around. And I'm not... I tend to be meek as a lamb at times like that. Maybe I should be more like a lion. I don't know people have different ministries, different personalities, but did you sacrifice yourself for somebody else here in this church? I find the people that do that, they never complain about they don't have enough friends. They don't have any... They just don't, they're just deluged with friends and connections. But it doesn't happen without sacrifice and yet part of it could be material.
We have some needy people in the church that are struggling economically and 1st John 3 says, "If you have the world's goods, and see your brother in need, and don't do anything to help it how can you say the love of God is in you?" So some of our fellowship is going to be almost a literal kind of... Well, not exactly a barn raising, but sometimes there's going to be a time that we're going to be there with resources to help each other. But I'm talking, especially spiritually that we would sacrificial love each other, spiritually enough to listen, "What's going on in your life?" And then when they start to unload some mess on you, you're like, "I don't really want to get involved to that level." Sacrifice and love.
6) Humble Yourself
Number six, humble yourself. This may be the hardest of all. Know and be known takes humility, it really does. What do I mean? Well, we have a tendency to present a spiritual facade to our brother and sisters and say, "Hey look, everything's going great." Or, and I'm going to tread on some toes here, including my own, but to have a category of, I guess one book calls it, "Acceptable sins that you can share." You know what I'm talking about? I'm really struggling with, I'm only praying an hour a day, and really God's been leading me to..."
It's like come on. Is that really where your flesh is at work right now? Yeah, well I'm not sharing that. That would make me look like a horrible sinner that struggles with the flesh. Well, you've got to be humble, you've got to be willing to open up and be genuinely humble. Now, CJ Mahaney has done us all a good work by writing a book on this topic, Humility: True greatness. And he has a chapter entitled, inviting and pursuing correction. How's that sound to you? Does that sound good? I would like you to correct me, I invite you to correct me and to help me with my sin problems. It takes humility to do it. Now you know the story he told, it's very famous about a wealthy-looking guy, a business man who's at a breakfast shop, and he's eating a bagel, and he's got an Armani suit and he's got a well groomed moustache, he's got a Rolex watch, and he keeps glancing at his Rolex watch, because he's late to a meeting, and as he gets up to leave, he's got a big blob of cream cheese on his mustache.
And CJ Mahaney is wondering "Should I say something?" Think about, would you say something? Total stranger, "You have a big blob of cream cheese on your face. I'm not sure you're wanting to bring that to whatever meeting you're going to." Listen to this, now, I want to read this direct quote because this is powerful and as you listen, I want you to hear. I'd like this kind of fellowship go on in our church. This is a clear description of what I'm asking God to do here in this church.
Listen, let me tell you says CJ Mahaney about a cream cheese moment in my life.
"One of many such experiences that have helped convince me that there is no sin more deceptive than pride. I am in an accountability group, with men who care for and watch over my soul."
Do you hear that? I'm urging that kind of thing for men and women in the church.
"In a meeting with these brothers, I was telling them of a certain pattern of sin, a specific pattern of sin I'd noticed in my life in the past week, I'd become aware of this sin and been convicted about it, and I'd confessed it to God, and I'd received His forgiveness. Now, I wanted to inform these men about it as well, and move on, because there was another particular issue that I was more concerned about and wanted to discuss with them. But as I described in detail my sin from the previous week, my friend started to ask caring and insightful questions about the root issue behind the sin."
In effect, not so fast CJ, let's hang out here for a minute.
"I assured them that the root issue was obvious: It was pride. I even transitioned into a brief teaching on pride. And then let the guys know I wanted to move on to something else, that I thought was more important and more serious. There was almost certainly a tone of mild irritation, in my voice. But the men had more questions. They had observations. And they began to challenge me to look deeper at the pattern of sin I had shown in the previous week. Again, I felt irritation. I assumed I understood that particular sin completely. Why were we spending so much time on something I had already figured out. In essence there was cream cheese all over my face and I didn't know it. My underlying sin had deceived me, I was blind, I didn't see it, I couldn't see it. But they saw it clearly. And in my pride, I thought no one understood my heart as well as I did, but Scripture doesn't support such a conclusion. Actually God's word tells me, "No, CJ, sin is subtle, sin is deceitful and sin blinds you, and you need feedback from others in order to understand your own heart."
That's the church friends. He writes, "By God's grace because the men seated around me in that room are true friends who care for me and aren't afraid of me they persevered. Though I was arrogant not only in assuming I fully understood my sin and it's root issue, but also my reluctance to explore it more deeply, these men still persevered in kindness. And only by their kindness, and perseverance and only by God's grace did I finally begin to perceive how much my sin had indeed been deceiving me. I saw that my confidence about fully knowing my soul in the situation and in assuming I needed no one else’s eyes upon it was actually the height of arrogance. They were guarding my heart, they were helping me to see the true extent of my sin. I thought I'd already wiped the cream cheese from my face, and it was gone and they were faithfully telling me, 'it's not gone we're staring at it! And we're telling you this because we love you.'"
Do you really want something like that in your life? And if the answer is no, aren't you already in spiritual danger? Now, there's more to say about all this. There are right ways to do it and wrong ways to do it they're right people to do it, and ones that probably aren't going to be as effective for you. May God match you up like a heavenly matchmaker to the right ones. There's a gentleness and a reciprocity that's so beautiful, but I want this done in my life, and I want you to want it done in your lives, so that no one slips through the cracks here.
7) Know and be Known
So therefore, number seven is no one be known. Be willing to open up. I've already made this point. Hebrews 3, you've got to know and be known, for the sinful unbelieving heart and Hebrews 10 know and be known for your spiritual gifts. So be willing to invest in relationships. Pull down the facade, tell the truth.
8) Encourage by the Gospel
Number eight, encourage by the Gospel. In verse 3:13it says, "Encourage one another daily as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sins deceitfulness." Hebrews 10:25, "Let us encourage one another." So, encouragement means fill your conversations with the Gospel. Fill your conversations with Christ crucified and risen, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, and future in heaven and judgement day and the seriousness of that. Just fill, saturate these relationships with the gospel. I'm not just talking about friendships, drinking tea partners or something like that, I'm not talking about that friends. That's just, that's the matrix of it.
What I'm talking about is the actual sharing of the Word of God in these relationships. Men get together with other men one-on-one small groups share the Gospel with each other. Share scripture with each other. Women get together with in accountability relationships, prayer partners, do it. Youth share the Gospel with each other, challenge each other, by the gospel, help each other grow. Senior adults in your social times together, your outings and you're just eating a meal together, share the Gospel with each other. Encourage one another daily.
9) Pray Consistently for the Spiritual Health of Church Members
Ninth, pray consistently for the spiritual health of church members. Now here I get very practical, and I'm going to share with you a commitment that the elders have made. This is like one of the center pieces of our ministry to the church.
In 2011 we would like each of you to have a Church's membership directory, see this is a little one that fits inside your Bible, right in there. You can get bigger ones too. And what I'd like you to do, I'd like you to pray through this thing every month. I'd like you to take the day that it is, like today is December 12th, open at page 12 and pray for the people on that page. And then put it back in your Bible, and the next day pray for those on page 13. And by the way, there's a... What do we have now? 24 pages, pray that in two years we'll need 30 pages. Amen? Right now, you get six free days at the end of the month or seven, pray for anyone you want in those seven days. On the back inside, there are spiritual things to pray for. We're not just praying for medical issues or things like that. Financial, pray for spiritual growth and development things. Right on the back page, it's right in there.
Every single day, the elders are going to do it. We are... Been doing it, but we're going to do it all the more, And we're urging you as well to do this. They're at the exits. Pick one up as you go. And if you get on that page and you're like, " I don't know anyone on this page." Well invite somebody over to lunch. Say," I was praying for you today, and I don't know you. And I want to get to know you." Have lunch with them.
10) Be Committed to Public Worship and Home Fellowships
And then finally, 10th. And this is simple and obvious and straightforward, be committed to public worship and home fellowships. Don't be a church hopper.
Don't come to me six months and tell me it's just not a great fellowship here and we... Don't do that, don't. Make it great. Reach out, connect with people. And if you're saying the distance is too far, that's what home fellowships are for. Be committed to your home fellowship, and what I mean be committed means when you sign up in August, still be coming in November and December.
I don't mean to sting or whatever... I'm just saying, please if your commitment means yes, I'm going to be there then be there, again not legalistic. I know occasionally we need to miss, but what is the habit? Is your habit to keep coming to home fellowship, or is your habit to miss? And then in the context of that you can do so many things. Look use lunchtime after worship for getting to know people. Let's do some practical things. One final word, and I'll be done. This Wednesday in Acts class, we've been studying John Calvin. We're not going to do that this Wednesday, we're going to talk about these 10 points. And I'd like you to come.
I'd like you to come and share your ideas and thoughts. There's going to be some give and take and some prayer. And I think it'd be a good time for us as a church to gather together and say, "Hey how can we make FBC a more Hebrews 3, Hebrews 10 kind of church? How can we do that? And I think it's going to be a fruitful time. Let's close in prayer.
Father, we thank you for the time we've had in the word today, and thank you for just opening up this opportunity for us to listen and learn. And so Father, I pray in Jesus name, that you would take these truths and press them into our hearts, we pray in Jesus name. Amen.