Preparing for the Return Series
“Consider How To Simulate”
Today we come to the halfway point in our current series on “Preparing for the Return.” In this series we are considering five ways the writer of Hebrews tells us to prepare for the second coming of Christ. We were first exhorted to draw near to God and to hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering. Today we are called to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ by considering how to simulate one another to love and good deeds all the more as we see the day of the Lord drawing near.
Our text for this series is Hebrew chapter ten verses nineteen through twenty-five.
Hear now the Word of God:
19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Faith, Hope, and Love
In the first three exhortations of this passage we see the “triad of Christian graces” – faith, hope, and love. The inspired writer first challenged us to draw near in full assurance of faith, then to hold fast he confession of our hope, and now to simulate stimulate one another to love (10.22-24). We find this triad of Christian graces in four other passages in the New Testament (ICor.13.13; IThes.1.3, 5.8; Col.1.4-5) but the most familiar one is found in I Corinthians chapter thirteen verse thirteen, “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Our main text today is verse twenty-four which reads, and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. In the New Testament you will find more than fifty “one another” commands. For example, we are called to pray for one another (Js.5.16), accept one another (Rom.15.7), and to build up one another (Rom.14.19). But the one thing each of these “one another” passages have in common is that you cannot put them into practice without . . . one another.
We need each other to fulfill these commands. You cannot live the Christian life in a vacuum even during a pandemic. Christianity is communal – congregational. Not independent or isolated. Christianity is about the church – the body of Christ. It’s all about one another.
And Let Us Consider
Verse twenty-four begins, “and let us consider how.” The word translated “consider” means “to give careful consideration,” “to think about it very carefully,” “to consider closely.” The writer used this same word earlier in the book in chapter three verse one when he writes, “consider Jesus the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.” The grammar is clear. “Jesus” is the direct object of the verb “consider.” Literally it says, “Consider Jesus.” Give careful consideration to Jesus. Think very carefully about Jesus. Consider closely how Jesus was sent from the Father (Apostle) and how He is our High Priest. Here in Hebrews 10.24 the grammar is the same. “One another” is the direct object of the verb “consider.” The grammar is clear. Literally, it says, “Consider one another.” Give careful consideration to one another. Think very carefully about one another. Consider closely how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.
You might be saying, “Listen Pastor I appreciate it but I didn’t come here for an English lesson.” But I want to ask you a question, “How much time do you devote to considering the welfare of the church?” “How much careful consideration do you give to spiritual good of others in the church?” I fear that too many believers have more of a “consumer attitude” in the church than a “consider attitude.” They give careful consideration to what others in the church can do for them and give very little consideration to how they can stimulate others to love and good deeds. They make sure the church has great worship, in-depth Bible studies, great children and youth ministries but never give much thought to serving in the worship service, teaching a Bible study, or helping the children and youth ministries. This reminds me of President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address in 1961 when he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” It seems that the inspired writer in Hebrews is saying, “ask not what others in the church can do for you, ask what you can do for others in the church.” And this is something we should be asking ourselves all the more as you see the day drawing near.
I was so encourage when one day during the shutdown I received a phone call from one of our members asking for several phone numbers of members he wanted to stay in contact with during the quarantine. It seems he understood the biblical mandate to consider another. I think this is so important as we continue with COVID-19. We have to continue to consider one another. God has given us so many devises to stay connected even while we are maintaining social distancing. Our phones, email, texts, FaceTime, Zoom, and Skype are all resources we can use to consider another. Thank God for these modern devises. Regardless of what circumstances surround us we are call to mutually care for one another. The Virus doesn’t exempt us from fulfilling our Christian duty of mutual consideration.
Love and Good Deeds
Our text reads, “let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” The goal of our mutual consideration is that others engage in love and good deeds. Love is the supreme grace of Christian character. Faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (ICor.13.13) Love is the most Christ-like. Love is the most God-like. “God is love.” Love is what most truly represents our Savior to the world. One day a Pharisee asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Mt.22.36-40) You see our love for God and our neighbor is seen in the good deeds we perform. Love and good deeds go hand and hand. God calls us to love and to good deeds. The Bible tells us that we are created in Jesus Christ for good works. (Eph.2.10) The Scripture tells us that Christ gave Himself for us to redeem us from lawless deeds to be zealous for good deeds. (Tit.2.14) We are told that those who believe in God should be careful to engage in good deeds and learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs. (Tit.3.8, 14) Good deeds range from teaching the Word of God to visiting the sick. From comforting someone who is troubled or depressed to common duties like disinfecting the sanctuary after a worship service so that others can use it in safety.
Let’s read verse 24 again, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” Notice carefully the text is not what you might expect. It is not: consider how to love each other and do good deeds. That would be biblically correct but that is not the thrust of the passage. It reads, “Consider how to stimulate each other to love and good deeds.” The thrust of the text is on each one considering how to help others to love and to do good deeds. This is where a Christian spouse really helps. Barbara has been a constant source in my life to love and do good deeds.
We are to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. That is, we rouse and incite others to action. “Stimulate” is the word used by the New American Standard translators but the way others have translated this word is very interesting. The King James Version uses the word “provoke.” The English Standard Version uses the words “stir up.” The New International Version uses the words “spur on.” What is really interesting is the only other time this word is used in Scripture is in Acts 15.19 when Paul and Barnabas had a sharp disagreement about taking John Mark on the second missionary journey. The same word “stimulate” in Hebrews 10.24 is translated “sharp disagreement in Acts 15.19. So the underlining emphasis of this word is “passion.” Paul and Barnabas were both passionate about their opinion concerning John Mark and every believer should be very passionate about helping other believers to love and do good works. Sometimes we need others to stimulate us, to stir us up, to spur us on, to provoke us to love God and others better and to engage in good deeds.
Of all the translations I like the work “provoke” the best. The picture is Christians getting actively involved in each other’s lives, challenging one another, stirring things up in each other’s lives, jabbing one another to push them down the path of righteousness. It is as if the writer of Hebrews is saying that we ought to be getting in each other’s faces and saying, “Look here, I am not going to let you be a loser Christian. You need start loving and growing in good deeds and I’m going to stay on your back until you do.”
When Barbara and I were first married she attended Florida Southern College just a few blocks from our apartment. So she could walk to her classes. But I attended a Community College about thirty minutes away by car. After a few months I had accumulated enough speeding tickets that I was just about to lose my drivers license. I remember the day Barb walk into our little apartment to find another ticket laying on our dinette. She went crazy! I don’t remember everything she said. It was kind of like listening the Charlie Brown’s mother until she said, “I’m not going to be married to a loser!” “You get your act together and start driving the speed limit or I’m going to live with my mother!” I remember thinking, “Wow, this is really important to her. Maybe it should be important to me.” It was over twenty years before I got another speeding ticket! My point is that sometimes we need someone to get in our face and say, “Look here, I am not going to let you be a loser Christian. You need start loving and growing in good deeds and I’m going to stay on your back until you do.”
We should not do this provoking or stimulating from a bossy attitude or a superior spirit. We should always be seeking to stimulate others in a spirit of gentleness, examining own lives first. We should seek to simulate others out a sincere desire to see fellow brothers and sisters in Christ growing in love and doing good works. But how should we do this?
The Apostle Paul instructs young Pastor Titus in the threefold approach to spur others on to be zealous for good deeds. (Tit.2.14-15) Paul mentored his pastoral protégé to “speak and exhort and reprove with all authority.”
“Speak”—Sometimes, to stimulate one another, we need to simply open our Bibles and teach one another what the Bible says.
“Exhort”—Sometimes, we need to come along side of others, taking them gently by the hand lead and teaching them by example. This is the method of watch me – then – I’ll watch you – then you do it on your own.
“Reprove”—Sometimes, we need to have tough love, calling others to lay aside falsehood, and challenging each other to walk in repentance.
Why is this Important?
But why is any of this important? And why would the writer of Hebrews tell us to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds . . . all the more as you see the day drawing near? Because there is biblical warning that love and good works will diminish as the last days continue. Remember, the time between Christ’s resurrection and His second coming is considered to be the “last days.” Therefore, as we wait for the Lord’s return we will see a falling away from the faith. (2Tim.4.1)
In one of the greatest eschatological chapters in the New Testament Jesus told us that as the last days linger many will fall away, will betray one another, hate one another, and most people’s love will grow cold. (Mt.24.10-12) Jesus is warning us that many will be like those in the church of Ephesus who “left their first love.” (Rev.2.4) Therefore, we need others speaking, exhorting, and reproving us to repent and return to love and good deeds. (Rev.2.5)
Jesus concludes that great eschatological chapter telling the parable of the faithful and unfaithful servant saying, “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when He comes.” (Mt.24.45-51) At anytime it is possible for us to lose heart, grow weary, and neglect doing good. (Gal.6.9; 2Thes.3.13; Heb.13.16) But Jesus told us that the day of His coming will not come on you suddenly therefore be on guard so that your hearts don’t become weigh down with worldly worry. (Lk.21.34) The point is that as the Lord tarries it is easy for us to become lax in our faithfulness to God and distracted from doing good. I think this is one of the weapons of the evil one during the Virus. We become so isolated that we become weighed down with worry and neglect reaching out to others to love and good deeds. Therefore we need seek to stimulate one another to love and good deeds by speaking, exhorting, and reproving one another.
You cannot live the Christian life in a vacuum even during a pandemic. Christianity is communal – congregational. Not independent or isolated. Christianity is about the church – the body of Christ. It’s all about one another. Even during a pandemic.
As I shared with you last week one of my greatest fears during this pandemic has been that people would drift away. My greatest fear has been that God’s people drift away from God and the church. I need you help. I’m asking for you the think of three, four, five people in this church that you are going to call, text, FaceTime, or Zoom for the purpose to stimulate them to love and good deeds. I need you to join me in asking the Holy Spirit to make us open to other brothers or sisters in Christ by speaking, exhorting, and even reproving one another. We are equally responsible for stimulating one another to love and good deeds. This is your job. This is my job. Not because we are elders, deacons, pastors, youth directors, or Bible class teachers, but because we are Christians.
I want to challenge each of us to give careful consideration to how to stimulate others to love and good deeds. Contact me if you don’t have their phone numbers or emails and I will be happy to share pass contact information. Brothers and sisters let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.
Call to Prayer
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; (Rom.12.10-11)
May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph.3.17-19)