Encourage, Motivate, Meet

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Hebrews 3:12-13, 10:24-25 (Small groups)

INTRODUCTION: Today I want to talk about Christian fellowship and the importance of Christians getting together on a regular basis for intentional prayer, Bible study and mutual support. We are going to look at three different commands for Christian fellowship found in the book of Hebrews – the command to encourage one another daily, the command to motivate one another to love and good works, and the command to meet together regularly. (Read Hebrews 3:12-13, 10:24-25 and pray.)

As we begin our message this morning, I want to take a moment first to review with you our church purpose statement. You will find a copy on the backside of your sermon outline.

The purpose of Plantation Community Church is to make disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ by: 1) calling people to Christ, 2) helping them grow in Christ, 3) receiving them into fellowship and service, 4) involving them in personal and group worship, 5) sharing God’s love in Broward County and beyond, and 6) teaching and equipping people for ministry.

Our purpose statement is a constant reminder of what we are called to do as a church. The first part of the statement reminds us that our purpose is to make disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, and then the other six statements flesh out how we go about doing that.

This morning we are going to especially focus on the third part of the statement: “receiving people into fellowship and service.” As Christians we were never meant to experience the Christian life on our own but rather in community with each other. In fact many aspects of the Christian life cannot be put into practice on our own. For example, there are more than 50 “one another” commands in the Bible: love one another (John 13:34); accept one another (Romans 15:7); be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50); pray for one another (James 5:16).

Well, the one thing all these commands have in common is that you cannot put them into practice without … one another. We need each other in the body of Christ, and so Christian fellowship is an important theme throughout the Scriptures.

This morning we are going to look at three of these “one another” commands found in the book of Hebrews. The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish believers who were in danger of turning their backs on their Christian faith and going back to their old ways before Christ. And so I find it significant that one of the themes we find in the letter is this theme of Christian fellowship. Christian fellowship is one of the primary resources God has given us as Christians to help us stand strong in our faith. There’s no such thing as Lone Ranger Christianity. We are all called into Christian fellowship with each other.

So let’s take a look at these three commands from the book of Hebrews and see what they can teach us about the importance of Christian fellowship.

I. Encourage one another daily (Hebrews 3:12-13)

The first command is to encourage one another daily. Look with me at Hebrews 3:12-13:

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:12-13)

The concern here is that even believers in Jesus Christ can fall into sin that turns them away from God. Notice it is a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns a person away from God. When you stop believing God’s promises and you choose sin over obedience, you are on dangerous ground. Now I don’t believe you can lose your salvation once you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, but you can turn away from following Christ for a season, which can have bitter consequences for your life as a Christian.

So if a sinful, unbelieving heart can turn you away from God, what is the antidote to a sinful, unbelieving heart? Hebrews 3:13 responds with one of the Bible’s “one another” commands. “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13)

Here we learn that sin is deceitful. Sin never presents itself as something that will pull us away from God and each other but usually as a harmless temptation. We tell ourselves: “It’s just a little sin. It’s not going to hurt anyone. No one will ever know.” But what we don’t realize is that each time we choose sin over obedience, we are hardening our heart towards God and his ways, and over time that hardened heart will make more drastic choices with more drastic consequences, and suddenly we find ourselves in spiritual ruin.

The Christian life is not a quick sprint in the park. It is a long-distance marathon, and we need each other to go the distance. Just like a pack of wolves will try to pick off the stragglers in the back of the herd, so Satan will go after the Christian believer who isolates himself or herself from the body of Christ. And so we are called to encourage one another daily so that none of us may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

And how do you do that? You must be in Christian fellowship with other believers. Notice that these words are not written primarily to pastors or teachers in the church but to the whole body of Christ. “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart.” This command is written to all Christian believers, not just those in Christian leadership. We all have a responsibility to each other to encourage each other in the faith and to do it daily if we can!

In other words, Sunday morning worship is important, but it is not enough. We need to reach beyond Sunday morning and establish good Christian friendships where we can encourage each other throughout the week. And then as we encourage others, and they encourage us, we will keep each other strong and help guard each other from the deceitfulness of sin.

So that’s our first command of Christian fellowship from the book of Hebrews this morning. Encourage one another daily.

II. Motivate one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24)

The second command is this: motivate one another to love and good works. Look at Hebrews 10:24:

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)

There are actually two commands tucked away in this verse: the command “to consider” and then the command “to spur one another on.” The word translated “consider” is a word that means “to give careful consideration to some matter, to think about it very carefully, to consider it closely.” So when we come across this word in Scripture, we are to pause and think very carefully about whatever comes next.

And what comes next is the second command “to spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” This is another one of our “one another” commands. In other words, this is not a command that you can keep by yourself but only in community with other believers.

The word translated “spur on” in the NIV is translated various ways in other translations. It is translated “stimulate” one another in the NASB, “stir up” one another in the ESV, “motivate” one another in the NLT, and “provoke” one another in the KJV. It’s a word that usually appears in negative contexts and can be used of someone who is upset or irritated or even exasperated. The main meaning is to have a strong reaction to something, and that’s what Hebrews 10:24 is getting at here. When we provoke or spur one another on toward love and good deeds, we are trying to provoke a strong reaction in each other. We are trying to motivate one another to love and good works.

Too often we can become lazy or complacent in our Christian lives and expect that everyone else will take care of the work of the kingdom. In fact a common statistic is that in many churches 20% of the people do 80% of the work. Well, that means a lot of people are not doing much beyond showing up for worship on Sunday mornings.

Now once again, Sunday morning worship is important. It is essential. It is really the starting ground for being involved in the church. But if it is the sum total of our commitment to Christ and the church, then something is missing. And that something is usually fellowship and service. Remember the third part of our church purpose statement is making disciples of Jesus Christ by “receiving them into fellowship and service.”

What Hebrews 10:24 tells us is that these two elements of Christian discipleship – fellowship and service – are interconnected. It is when we experience true Christian fellowship with each other that we have opportunity to motivate one another to love and good works. These things don’t happen in isolation from other believers but only when we engage in intentional, purposeful Christian fellowship.

Your whole purpose as a Christian is to glorify God by engaging in love and good works. God saved you so that you could be a blessing to others, not simply to receive a blessing for yourself. And so this is the second command of Christian fellowship that we find in the book of Hebrews. We should motivate one another to love and good works.

III. Meet together regularly (Hebrews 10:25)

We should encourage one another daily, we should motivate one another to love and good works, and then thirdly, we should meet together regularly. Look at Hebrews 10:25:

“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.” (Hebrews 10:25)

This verse encourages believers not to abandon meeting with other believers but to keep meeting together. One of the most important habits you will ever develop in life is the holy habit of meeting regularly with other Christians for worship and fellowship. This verse warns us about the opposite habit that some believers can fall into – the habit of NOT meeting together with other Christians.

It’s an easy habit to fall into. You miss a Sunday here, you miss a Sunday there, and then all of a sudden different things start popping up that seem to be more important. I hear the excuses all the time. “The weekends are our only chance to get away as a family.” “It’s a perfect beach day.” “We have sports on Sunday mornings.”

Now we don’t want to be legalistic and say that it’s wrong to ever miss a Sunday morning at church, but most of us don’t have a problem with legalism. Our problem is in the opposite direction. We have developed the bad habit of not going to church rather than the good habit of going to church regularly. I have seen so many families over the years that prioritized other things on Sunday mornings over church, and then they wonder why their kids don’t go to church when they grow older. The reason is simple. Sunday by Sunday, week by week, each of us is developing a habit of either going or not going to church. And Hebrews 10:25 warns us against developing the habit of not going.

Now so far we have been using this verse to encourage meeting together for worship on Sunday mornings. And that is an appropriate application of this verse. We are not to give up meeting together as a church on a weekly basis. But I believe this verse also speaks about meeting together regularly for Christian fellowship. Because once again, we have a “one another” command tucked away in there. “Let us not give up meeting together … but let us encourage one another.” And we can only do that if we are involved in Christian fellowship settings as well as worship.

Sunday morning worship is a wonderful time to come together to worship God, but the focus is really more on worship than fellowship. We all sit facing forward, we sing songs of praise and worship, and we hear the preaching of God’s word. We have some limited time for fellowship before and after the service, and perhaps during greeting time, but the whole focus of Sunday morning worship is more vertical than horizontal. We gather together to worship God.

And so if we are going to fulfill these “one another” commands, we must also meet together for Christian fellowship. That means smaller group settings, more interpersonal interactions, sitting facing each other instead of just facing forward.

Which is why one of our purposes as a church is to receive people into fellowship and service. We want you to experience the joy and privilege of growing in Christ by meeting with other believers on a regular basis.

And we want you to do that now. Notice the urgency in verse 25: “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.” (Hebrews 10:25) “The Day” refers to the time of Christ’s returning. In other words, your time for Christian fellowship and service here on earth comes with an expiration date. Either you will expire or this world will expire, but either way you only have a limited time to do God’s work here on earth.

The way you live here on earth has eternal repercussions, and so it is essential that we consider carefully these commands for Christian fellowship that God gives us here in the book of Hebrews.

CONCLUSION: We have looked at three commands this morning. 1) Encourage one another daily. 2) Motivate one another to love and good works. And 3) meet together regularly.

We believe that the best way – really the only way – to fulfill these commands is to get involved in some type of small group or Bible study outside of Sunday morning worship. Whether it’s a Sunday School class that meets on Sunday mornings, or a Bible study that meets at the church during the week or a small group that meets in somebody’s home, it is essential that you get involved in some type of small group Christian fellowship outside of Sunday morning worship.

We offer a number of small groups and Bible studies that meet on Sunday mornings and throughout the week. You will find them listed in your bulletin each week. We have men’s groups, women’s groups, singles’ groups, mixed groups, kids’ groups, youth groups, music groups, prayer groups and Bible studies.

We would like to open up even more groups and more opportunities so that more of us can get involved. We plan on offering new training in the coming months for people who would like to either lead or host a small group. Our goal is that everyone who comes to Plantation Community Church would be involved in some type of small group or Bible study beyond Sunday morning worship.

Sunday School is probably the easiest place to get started. You’re already here on a Sunday morning. You just need either to come a little bit earlier to catch a class before worship or stay a little bit later to catch a class after worship.

But that’s my challenge to you this morning. The book of Hebrews tells you to encourage one another daily, to motivate one another to love and good works, and to meet together regularly. And the best way to do that is to get involved in a small group or Bible study outside of Sunday morning worship.

© Ray Fowler

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