What are the key elements of Christian fellowship? How can we know if our Christian community is healthy? What keeps people from experiencing true fellowship? Is meeting together for fellowship really necessary? We looked at Hebrews 10 on Sunday as we relaunched our community groups.
Listen to the message here. There are some notes below.
“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. 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.”
Community starts with understanding what Christ has done for us. This is true because sin has separated us from God and one another. And the most important work, the first work is to repair the breach that our sin has caused between us and our God.
Sin separates us from God, and God from us. God’s righteousness has barred us from his presence. And because our consciences are defiled, being in the presence of God is no longer pleasurable. We now run from him rather than to him. The OT temple worship was a depiction of this situation. We are separated from God’s presence, but he has made a way for us to return and be cleansed.
The work of Jesus (especially v. 19-21), as described in this passage, shows us 4 things that are the foundation of Christian community. We cannot separate the way we relate to God from the way we relate to other people.
1. We are welcomed. We have bold access to God’s presence because of the sacrifice of Christ. His blood has cleansed us. We are no longer banished. This is not because we have become good enough or worked hard enough. This is purely because of his work on our behalf.
2. We are clean. Our hearts have been sprinkled by his blood. We are washed and forgiven and our consciences can be at peace. What the Old Testament animal sacrifices could only depict, Jesus has accomplished. We no longer need to be controlled by guilt and shame.
3. We are secure. A promise is only as good as the one who makes it, and we are safe and secure because he who promised is faithful.
4. We are in process. Though we are forgiven and accepted completely, there is much work to be done in us, on us, and through us. And this work is explained (in part) in this passage. God is at work in us through other believers. We desperately need them to help and encourage us.
So the exhortations of this passage show us that we need the following:
1. To stir one another up to love and good works. The term “stir up” that is used is really strong. It means to provoke. We are to have an active and engaging relationship with our brothers and sisters that helps us to become more loving, more Christ like. How in the world do you help someone become more loving? 2 ways: 1- by loving them in practical ways. 2- By explaining and reminding them of the love of Christ.
2. We are to consider how to stir one another up. Doing this is not as easy as we may suppose. We are going to have to spend time thinking about our brothers and sisters. Sin ties us in such knots that it is not easy to unravel. And God uses the patient, loving, prayerful relationships of his children to do his work in one another.
3. We are to meet together. This one is simple. We need to meet regularly, in face to face fellowship in order to do what this passage teaches. And if we were to make a graph of our fellowship, the shape of it would go upward. We should be doing this “more and more.” Meeting together for worship and fellowship is not an option; it is a vital part of God’s work in us. And we neglect it at our peril. There are no exceptions to this. Even if you are a soldier or a police officer and can’t attend normal worship on Sunday, you will need to discipline yourself to make other arrangements for worship and fellowship. If you neglect this, you threaten the health of your own soul and the church. Almost everyone that turns their back on Christ starts by turning their back on God’s people.
4. We are to encourage one another. This word is like a coin with 2 sides. Encouragement includes both admonition on the one hand (challenging one another and correction) and consolation on the other. This is something that others need from you. It is something that you need from others. In order to be healthy you need to give this and receive it. And this kind of fellowship can’t happen in a 10 minute conversation after worship. It will take time together.
And in the end, that is what the author concludes from the great work of Christ. It is all about relationship. We are to draw near to God in worship, and draw near to one another in fellowship. This is at the heart of what it means to be the church of Jesus.