Because God Wants It–Heb. 10:19-26
I want to indulge in one of my favorite passions, cooking. Not!
However, Jell-O is one of the few items I can cook, so, let’s pretend I have a cooking show; why not? Everyone else does!
Okay, on my show, I am going to demonstrate how to prepare Jell-o. It is easy to do, first, open the box and in pour the contents into a bowl. Add water. Mix everything together. Then, pour your liquid into a mold.
Here is where it can be fun. You can try various molds for your Jell-O.
After you have poured the liquid into a mold, place your mold in the refrigerator. Your liquid has to congeal. After an hour or two, voilà! You open the refrigerator and pull out your beautiful mold of Jell-O.
Pour your Jell-O onto a plate. Now you can entertain and host you own exciting party!
One of the things that the preacher in Hebrews emphasizes is that there are a number of groups in the world who are competing to put people into their molds. What he tells the Christians in chapter ten is–for them, it had better be the local church.
Let's apply this to today. Are there a lot of groups in the world? Of course. Are they all trying to fit you into a mold? It would be good for you to understand that yes, they are.
Not all of these are bad. In fact, many of them are very good. The Lions Club is a very good group. It has a very good mold for its members to fit into. The same thing is true when it comes to the Rotary club. The Shriners have many children's hospitals in the United States.
Your group at work operates under a boss or a management that has a mold for its employees and that can be good or bad--depending upon the group (and depending upon the leadership.)
Schools have molds. Sports teams have molds. Little League has a mold.
However, make no mistake about it. Hebrews teaches us, (and the rest of Scripture reinforces this) that the most important group in the world is the church. Hebrews emphasizes that it is the church as represented by the local congregation.
You may be asking, “Why?” The reason is it is the mission of the church to help people become molded into the image of Jesus. That is unique, and even if some of the other groups try to do that, and very few do, that's not the group that the Lord has designated. It is the church.
One of the ways the church does this is in gathering together. What you have in chapter 10 verses 19 and following is, quite honestly, a commandment for Christians to gather together. Let’s read verses 19 to 25–19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
slide 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 stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. ESV
Now, a lot of people are sensitive about verse 25, and I get that. Because it has been taken out of context so many times. A congregation could call an assembly at three o'clock on a Tuesday afternoon for a gospel meeting, and if somebody didn't show up, I have heard this verse used, “Forsake not the assembly…”
Let me be frank, I believe this text is about the Sunday assembly of Christians gathering together, in sharing in the Lord's supper and communing together, building each other up, and other ministering activities, of which the New Testament offers hints such as singing, praying, preaching, giving…
I find it interesting to look at some of the translations of verse 25. Here are a few:
25 Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord's coming is getting closer. CEV
25 You should not stay away from the church meetings, as some are doing, but you should meet together and encourage each other. Do this even more as you see the day coming. NCV
25 Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching. AMP
25 Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. THE MESSAGE
25 And let us not hold aloof from our church meetings, as some do. Let us do all we can to help one another’s faith, and this the more earnestly as we see the final day drawing ever nearer. PHILLIPS
25 not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. HCSB
25Do not stop going to church meetings. Some people do stop. But help each other to be strong. You must do it all the more as you see the Great Day coming closer. WE
25 Let us not stay away from church meetings. Some people are doing this all the time. Comfort each other as you see the day of His return coming near. NLV
Hebrews enters our fast paced lives, slams on the brakes, and screams–wait a minute! The Lord and his work should drive the agenda.
A church might apply this principle to another time of meeting, or to a meeting for additional teaching, worship, prayer or encouragement, but the commandment here—and it is a commandment—is for the Sunday assembly of the saints. The event that takes place here is one reason that Sunday is referred to in Revelation as the Lord's Day.
So, why assemble?
1. It is cool as the body of Christ, as a community, to go into the presence of God together. That is a moldable experience. This is something that's been talked about before. Because of the work of Jesus, we can go into the throne room of God. So we, together, show group recognition of who this Holy Father is. It is a time of appreciation for the work of Jesus. It is a time of worship and adoration directed towards both.
2. We stir each other up to good works. I'll play off of something I have talked about before: take water and powdered Jell-O, put them together, and you have elements of what you need for a nice Jell-O dessert. But you still don't have Jell-O. Why? Because you have to mix them together. To do that, you have to stir them up.
Many Christians think about Christianity and they think about God doing powerful things with the Christian individual. You have a human being who has the Holy Spirit living within him or within her. However, that has to be stirred up for good works. Assembling together is an essential component of that process.
The Preacher is telling them–you make the Sunday worship assembly your priority.
One of the reasons people were dropping out of the faith and not enduring was because they had quit assembling together. Here is how serious the Preacher is about the problem: look at verse 26 and the phrase–“go on sinning”. What is he referring to? The fact that the Christians were not assembling together. Look at 26-27:
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. ESV
These are not proof texts. These is not a TV evangelists with a bad hairdo talking. I was blessed to have as a professor one of the world’s great scholars on Hebrews, Dr. James Thompson, in a class on Hebrews in graduate school. He told us you can boil Hebrews down to one statement–you need to be in church. I assure you, James Thompson is not a legalist.
Once again, this is important because you and I are going to fit into somebody's mold. It had better be God's mold.
Where does that happen? Well, as much as we might not like it, it is with our local congregation.
If you don't like that, take it to God. I didn’t write the Bible.
Did you know there are well-known people in the last one hundred years who have sacrificed to “go to church.” They did so because this was a priority for them. I will tell you about three.
You might not know who Christy Mathewson was. Known as the “Christian gentleman”, he was the most famous athlete in the United States in the first decade of the 1900s. A fantastic pitcher for the New York Giants, he was known for choosing to not pitch on Sundays. He believed Sunday was the Lord's Day. Mathewson still won 363 games, which was not bad.
Other players did not view his “church-going” as sanctimonious. Indeed, he remained extremely popular with them.
One player who loved and respected Christy Mathewson was hall-of-famer Ty Cobb. Cobb was a troubled individual known for being excessively mean. Yet, he cried when Christy Mathewson died due to complications from wounds from his service in World War I.
Anybody want to go to Chick-fil-A for lunch this Sunday? Good luck. It's going be closed.
That's because the founder, Truitt Cathy, decided when he opened his first restaurant that they would not open on Sundays. He wanted his family (and himself) to enjoy God on that day. He felt his employees should enjoy the same blessing as he and his family. Even though his competitors are open one extra day a week, Chick-fil-A is considered one of the most successful restaurant chains in the country.
Now, I want to say something to the person who feels he is too busy to attend church every week. Do you know who Vince Lombardi was?
Vince Lombardi coached the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s and was voted by some organizations as the greatest coach of the 20th century. A Broadway play, based on his life, has done remarkably well. Indeed, Lombardi has achieved legendary status in our culture.
Vince Lombardi was a Roman Catholic, who attended to church every day. Seven days a week Lombardi attended the Catholic mass. Now, regarding this fact, one of his star players, Bart Starr said, “If you knew Coach Lombardi, you would know that he needed to go to church every day.” Consequently, I write this not to offer a money-back guarantee that the worship assembly will make you the person you need to be. I am saying it is hard to be busier than Vince Lombardi was; yet he attended church everyday. (Some of us have difficulty scheduling a quiet time every day, much less go to church once a week.)
Some of you know that I enjoy reading about the presidents. I think it's interesting that, considering how stressful and time-consuming the job he is, many presidents are recorded to have attended church every Sunday (some of them multiple services.)
I think the Preacher of Hebrews is saying, “Don't tell me you don't have time to go to church. Tell me you won’t, tell me you don't, but don't tell me you can’t.”
Remember what has happened to some of these folks? Heb. 10:32-36 reminds us, to “recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”
All of this is based upon one assumption–that the most important thing in the world for you to become like Jesus. This does not mean to check in, check a box on a card, and leave.
Hebrews reminds us the most important thing in the world is knowing Jesus and becoming like him. After that, what else is there?
If you don’t know him, or if you knew him but you have decided to not be MOLDED into his image, how is that working for you?
Let me be non-judgmental:
What if we treated people like we wanted?
What if we spent our money like WE wanted?
What if we had sex with whomever we wanted?
What if we came and went with whomever we pleased?
What if we placed great groups such as charities above the church?
What if we decided what we did with our lives and we would not let that nosy church get involved?
Would our lives be better?
Now, what if we really try to do things God’s way:
What if we took God’s mold seriously?
What if we trusted in his plan with the church?
What if we established the right priorities?
What if we passed those priorities on to our kids?
How many of you would I visit on your deathbed and you tell me: I wish I had never trusted Jesus?
I wish I had never loved the church?
I wish I had never made the assembly a priority?
Which mold is going to offer more regret?
Which mold is going to offer more hell on earth?
Which mold is going to offer more heaven on earth?