“A Passion for Fellowship”
Series: The Pursuit of Passion
4-30-06 (AM) (5 of 5)
Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD
First Baptist Church Henderson, KY
- Please open your Bibles to Hebrews, chapter 10.
This morning we are looking at the fifth main purpose of First Baptist Church. This is the final message in our “Pursuit of Passion” emphasis this month. We have looked at five main reasons we exist as a church family: worship, ministry, evangelism, discipleship, and now—fellowship.
The writer of Hebrews has been talking about the superiority of the Lord Jesus Christ and how worship of Him far surpasses the old ways of worship the Old Testament writes about—animal sacrifices and so forth. The reason he is stressing the superiority of the new way in Christ is because some of the Jewish believers were under such persecution that they decided to go back to the old ways of worshiping God under the old covenant. And others were thinking about defecting from the faith. So the writer here is stressing the importance of sticking with their confession to Christ, not giving up, continuing to run the journey together with one another.
Prior to Jesus Christ, the average person could not go to God directly. In fact, someone said, the Old Testament way of worship kept the average person out of the presence of God, while the New Testament way of worship brought the average person into the presence of God. That’s pretty well true when you think of the way they worshiped in the Old Testament. Not just any person could enter into the tabernacle. First of all, you had to be a Jew just to go into the special outer court of the tabernacle. And the only way you could go into the next room of the tabernacle was to be a priest, to be born of the tribe of Levi. And then there’s another place beyond that room, the place called, “The holy of holies.” A thick curtain or veil separated that room from all others. It’s where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, the very presence of God. The only person who could go in there was the special “high priest.” And he didn’t just go in there any time he pleased. The high priest had to go through a lot of ritualistic cleansing and so forth in order to go into the holy of holies. He had to bring the blood of an animal sacrifice to enter in and he could only go in there once a year on what was called the Day of Atonement. The old way. Pretty restrictive, huh?
So the writer of Hebrews is talking about a new way, how blessed these folks were to be able to go directly to God without a priest. He says in verse 19-20, “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,
When Jesus died on the cross the Bible says that the curtain in the temple that separated man from the holy of holies, the presence of God, tore from top to bottom. When Jesus died on the cross, his death resulted in a new way to enter into God’s presence. When He shed His blood, His sacrifice was the final and perfect sacrifice for our sins. That’s why the writer continues:
21 and having a High Priest over the house of God,
22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Jesus is our High Priest. We need no other person to go to God for us. We who have received Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior can go directly to God. The New Testament is clear: there is no need for any priest to go to God for you and me. Jesus Christ is our High Priest. So we can draw near to God through Christ.
Then the writer encourages the Jewish believers to “stick with their profession of faith in Christ.” Keep trusting Christ. Don’t go back to the old way of worship just because you’re receiving persecution for being a Christian. That’s what he means when he says in verse 23:
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
Now here are the two verses I’m really going to hone-in on this morning. They speak of the importance of fellowship. Let me invite you to stand as we read them.
24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,
25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Last week I said that every Christian is on the same journey of becoming more and more like Christ. Picture in your mind a pathway on which Christians are walking together, or running together. We’re all going in the same direction, all heading toward the final goal of meeting Jesus Christ face to face.
Have you got that picture in your mind, all Christians journeying together on the strait and narrow path that leads to life? I said that picture illustrates discipleship, growing up together, maturing in our Christian faith.
By the way, how many of you have memorized 1 Peter 2:2? Let’s repeat it together: “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” Good. So we’re journeying together, growing together.
Now, how we interact with one another on the journey is what the word “fellowship” is all about. Fellowship is about the way in which Christians interact with one another on the journey. It’s the way the family relates to one another. Christianity is a “one another” life. It’s a life lived “together.” You see the words “one another” and “together” in these two verses. Verse 24 has: Let us consider “one another.” Verse 25, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves “together,” but, exhorting “one another.”
So fellowship is the mingling “together” and interacting with “one another” as we live this life for Jesus Christ. We do not run this race alone. There is no such thing as an “independent Christian.” No such thing. We are a family. Fellowship is about family relations.
I want to talk to you this morning about improving family relations along our journey together. Three things in these two verses built around what we are told to do regarding fellow members.
**I Must Take Seriously:
1. My Consideration for Fellow Members (24)
24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,
The word “consider” there is a word that means “to fix our eyes or minds upon.” When we come together we are instructed in the Scriptures to have an outward focus. We are to come, not with our eyes upon ourselves, but with our eyes upon others. It is interesting in these two verses that the stress is upon what we can contribute to the family of God, rather than what we can get from the family of God.
Can I say that again? The stress of these two verses is not on what you and I can get out of the church, but what we can give to the church. Too many people care only about what they can get out of the church. What can I get from the church? What can the church give me? I want you to see something. I saw this video clip this week and laughed every time I saw it. The producer of the clip wants you to imagine a church where it’s all about us instead of all about God and others. Imagine a church where it’s all about you. Check this out:
**VIDEO CLIP (“Me Church”; 1 minute, 20 seconds).
Me church! The writer of Hebrews says, “Not me church, but others church!” Let us consider “one another.” Did you know the words “one another” or “each other” occur over 50 times in the New Testament?
We are told in the New Testament to love one another, admonish one another, teach one another, confess our sins to one another, pray for one another, honor one another, carry one another’s burdens, encourage one another, comfort one another, forgive one another, serve one another, be kind to one another, and bear with one another. It’s not about me. It’s about others.
I told you Wednesday how much I appreciated the way you all have focused on one another as we’ve adjusted to a new worship and Sunday school schedule. I shared Wednesday how the ministerial staff recently reviewed the progress of our “Growing Up” initiative we began last fall and how God has honored it. Our Chair of Deacons, brother Marty Coursey, met with our staff at last Wednesday’s staff meeting and mentioned those two verses from Philippians that have become so instrumental to our adjusting to a new schedule. Paul says:
Philippians 2:3-4, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each of you esteem others better than himself. Let ach of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
I’m glad the members of First Baptist are not Me-centered, but others centered!
Let us consider “one another” for what reason? “In order to stir up love and good works.”
That’s our assignment. Come to worship and Sunday school with a view toward others, that you might stir them up to love and good works. I mean, the writer of Hebrews says, “If you’re going to ‘stir-up’ anything, stir people up to love and good works!
Show your love for one another by the way you act, by the way you speak. When you love others and serve others, the writer of Hebrews says you will inspire others to love others and serve others.
So if I’m going to improve family relations at First Baptist, I must take seriously my consideration for fellow members. Secondly, if I’m going to improve family relations and take fellowship seriously, not only must I take seriously my consideration for fellow members, but I must take seriously:
2. My Dedication to Fellow Members (25a)
25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some,
There in the Bible you have a verse that mandates regular worship attendance. “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together.” The words are in the present tense. We are continue meeting together for regular public worship. Someone says, “The Bible doesn’t say I have to go to worship.” Wrong. Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together.
Now, I don’t think we’re to obey that verse legalistically. You know, “Well, I’ve got to go to church every week because the Bible says so.” No, that’s missing the point. We should not think of regular attendance in worship and Sunday school as something we have to do, but something we want to do. That’s the whole point of what the writer of Hebrews was saying back up in verse 19 and following. It’s like he’s saying, “Man, don’t you remember what a privilege it is to be able to worship God and be in the very presence of God Himself, without aid of a priest?”
It’s like, “Remember what Jesus did for you and you won’t have any trouble getting out of bed Sunday morning.” Some of us have forgotten where we were without Christ. We were separated from God because of sin. We were on our way to hell. God took hold of our hearts and saved us from sin. Remember what Jesus Christ did for you and you’ll have no trouble getting here Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night.
And when you and I forget what Jesus did for us, then we may forget that we’re here for others. “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves TOGETHER.”
I must take seriously my dedication to fellow members. We need one another. Remember back when we talked about ministry from Romans, chapter 12? We talked about how the body of Christ is like a human body. Just as the human body is comprised of many members, or parts, or cells, so the body of Christ is comprised of many members, or parts. Like healthy cells we all have a part in the body of Christ. We’re all to use our talents, gifts and experiences to serve one another. As cells that make up the body of Christ, we must be dedicated to one another. What if one of the members decides to go off and do his own thing? Well in a physical body, we’d call that renegade cell a cancer cell. It doesn’t want to do what the other cells are doing. It wants to do its own thing. It brings destruction to the body. Don’t be a renegade cell.
Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together, “as is the manner of some.” The writer of Hebrews is saying, “I’m not going to name names, but we all know who has left the church. They gave up. They placed their own needs above the needs of their fellow members. Don’t be like them. Stay dedicated to one another.”
See how important church membership is? Why join a local church? Well, it’s a given, first of all. The New Testament writers just take for granted that every Christian is an active member of a local body of believers. I mean when you read the New Testament it’s pretty clear that a person trusts Christ, gets baptized, and becomes an active member of a local church.
The idea so popular today of just attending a church and not committing to a church is completely foreign to the New Testament. Some folks just attend church fellowships without ever committing to a local body. Some refer to them as “Bunny Christians,” they just hop from one church to another! I think if the writers of the New Testament were confronted with how some Christians question the need for church membership, they would scratch their heads in wonder.
Being a Christian without being a member of a church is like being a bee without a hive, a sailor without a ship, a parent without a family, a soldier without an army, and a football player without a team. What kind of commitment is that?
Imagine my meeting Michele (my wife) for the first time and saying, “You know, Michele, I am really attracted to you and I’d like us to just hang out for the rest of our lives. I mean, I’d like to be with you whenever I want and I’ll spend the night with you whenever I want, but I don’t want to be tied-down. I really don’t want to commit. So, if it’s okay with you, let’s just hang out and I’ll just be with you when I want and I’ll be with other women when I want.” No commitment.
I must take seriously my consideration for fellow member and my dedication to fellow members. Number three, if I’m going to be serious about fellowship, and about improving family relations, I must take seriously:
3. My Exhortation of Fellow Members (25b)
but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
The word translated “exhorting” carries the idea of encouraging. Be an encourager! Encourage one another.
Remember the context. These new believers in Christ were undergoing persecution for their faith. They were tempted to give up their faith in Christ and go back to the old way. The writer of Hebrews says, “You guys don’t stop meeting together. You need one another. Encourage one another. Hang in there!”
The same is true for you and me. Man, we need encouragement don’t we? I mean, we get beat up all week; isn’t it great to come to this place and get encouraged by one another? We all get discouraged once in awhile. Fellowship is about exhorting one another, encouraging one another.
Who have you encouraged today?
The word “exhorting” carries the idea of encouraging, but it also carries the idea of warning. If you see your brother or sister stumble, or fall into a sin, lovingly go to that person with a view toward holding them accountable. Lovingly lead them to do the right thing. I wish more of our people would do this when they see their brothers and sisters go through marital difficulties, for example. You hear someone is considering divorce, go up your brother and sister and say, “Hey, you guys need to stick it out. How can we help?” Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
See, we all get beat up and we all become discouraged at times. The body of Christ is here to exhort one another, to help one another out. We need one another. We keep one another encouraged. Without one another we are in danger of dying out.
Look closely at a fire that burns in a campground. You see the coals of that fire nestled against one another, drawing strength from one another as their fire burns bright. But if you take one of those coals out of the fire and lay it aside, something happens to that coal. At first, it burns as brightly as any other coal in the fire. But, over time, it starts to lose its strength. In time, it just dies out.
We need one another. “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
What is “the Day” the writer of Hebrews is talking about? It is the day of judgment. It is the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns again and we will all give an account before Him. Jesus has been faithful to you. How faithful have you been to Him?
- Stand with me for prayer.
We’ve been talking about the family of God. Some of you are not part of the family yet . . .
Others have recently become a part of the family of God and this morning you’re taking the next step . . .
Others have been a part of the family of God for a long while and you’ve been attending this church body, but you haven’t committed. Commit this morning. Take seriously your dedication to one another. Come this morning and unite officially with this church family.
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