jump to navigation

Paying Attention to Your Brethren – A Sermon from Hebrews 12 January 27, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Church Membership, Hebrews, Religion, Sermons.
trackback

PAYING ATTENTION TO OUR CHURCH FAMILY

Hebrews 12:7-17

 

Hebrews teaches us that the foundation of our lives as believers is Jesus Christ. Why then give so much time to the church? The primary reason given in the book of Hebrews is that the church and the individual members have enormous impact on whether the truth about Christ is accepted or not. This is especially important for us to consider in these times when it seems as if the concept of the church is under constant attack. We live in a day when many believers refuse to commit themselves to the church. There are a lot of reasons given and there are at times some reasons why one should not join a particular church.

A GOOD REASON NOT TO JOIN OUR CHURCH 

Let me give you an example of a reason why you should not join this church. This church believes that salvation is by faith in Christ alone. Now if you believe that reaching a certain standard of goodness is sufficient to satisfy God, you should not join this church. You are welcome to worship with us and you can even to a certain extent take part in the life of the church but you should not join this church because what we believe is not only different but is of such importance to us that we have no real foundation for a working relationship.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST CHURCH MEMBERSHIP 

Now there are those who say, “We belong to the whole body of Christ, so we are not going to let ourselves be tied down to commitment to one group within that body.” This attitude is similar to that of a man who marries a woman and then refuses to give up his loyalty to his old family. We often emphasize from God’s command in Genesis that spouses are not to leave each other and that is true. It is also true that they are to cleave each other. My ultimate loyalty in my physical family is to be to my wife. Not to my parents. Not to my siblings. Not even to my children. Are they all part of my family? Absolutely, but my loyalty, my commitment is to be to my wife and that commitment trumps every other family commitment. In the same way, we are a part of a larger body, the body of Christ but we are committed to a specific portion of that body, the Fellowship Bible Church.

There are others who argue that church membership is not found in Scriptures. If what they mean is that there is not an establishment of a list specifically commanded, then they are correct. What we do find in the New Testament is a body of people who are committed to each other and bound to each other in such a way that when someone rejects the truth, or dishonors Christ and His church, or causes constant division in the church, they are by the church body put out officially. In other words, by not joining a church, a believer is avoiding the commitment to other believers that Christ demands from us.

I would like to illustrate this with an example from an earthly family. For a believer to attend a church and not join is comparable to a man and a woman cohabitating with each other without the commitment of a marriage license. There may very well be an emotional commitment on some level but for some reason, the bets have been hedged.

You see, with commitment comes risk. With commitment comes a yielding of the will. With commitment comes demands and responsibility. Of course, commitment also brings with it blessing and privilege.

The passage that we are looking at today explains what this commitment is supposed to accomplish within the church body.

THE NORMAL LOT OF THE CHRISTIAN 

As children of God, we must endure chastening or discipline (12:7 with verses 2-3). We normally think of chastisement as painful and that aspect of chastisement is emphasized in this passage. The writer points out that as children of God we are to endure chastisement. This word is used in verses 2 and 3 of this same chapter.

 

2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

 

Now these verses point out a characteristic of endurance that we need to remember. Endurance is only needed during times of intense pain. When you are lying under a shade tree soaking in the summer breeze, the great need is for lemonade and not endurance. It is when the storms blow and howl that we need endurance. It was no different for our Savior than it is for us and because He suffered successfully we can have hope that we also will be able to endure the discipline and chastisement that God brings on us.

A TOUGH VERSE 

Chastening means training, correction, learning, discipline (verses 8-10). Now when I was a kid, verse 8 bothered me a lot. On face value, what this verse means is that those who are not chastened are not in God’s family, they are not saved, they are on their way to an eternal hell. I knew that I was saved but I also knew that I sinned much more than I should be which made me wonder whether I was saved or not. I also knew that in spite of my sin, it did not look like God was doing anything about it. I was healthy and my family was healthy. We were not rich and although my parents struggled to make ends meet, I never knew hunger growing up. My grades were up and for the most part it seemed like I had a pretty good life. I began to wonder, maybe the reason God is not punishing me is because I am not really saved. I remember one Sunday night, we were sitting in the car at Mill Creek Baptist Church near Falkville, Alabama. I asked my dad about this verse. He explained to me that chastisement and punishment are not the same. The word means discipline, correction, training, learning. He pointed out that the very fact that the verse bothered me indicated that the Holy Spirit was working in my life to open my eyes to the truth of His Word.

The point is that our Heavenly Father is concerned about making His children into spiritual adults. That is the main concern of a good father. Making his son into a man. Everything he does is concerned with the fact that this child is not going to stay the same. In the same way, the Father’s primary work today is making His children into spiritual adults.

That is why He gave the Bible. 2 Timothy 3 says that all Scripture is given so that we may be mature, capable of doing spiritual works. There is a sense in which the Bible is a training regimen that gives us nourishment. There is no junk food in the Bible. It is all wholesome, full of spiritual vitamins and minerals and energy and the Holy Spirit helps us to digest it and to draw what we need from it.

“TOUGH IS GOOD!” (Comedian Brad Stein) 

Chastening though also means pain (verse 11). If the Bible is our food and the Holy Spirit helps us to digest that spiritual food, then painful chastisement is the exercise that is necessary to turn the protein of the Bible into muscle and not into fat. You can eat well, eat healthy but if you do not exercise, you will not become strong. Certainly not all exercises are painful but to become really strong, to become truly mature, there will be some pain of varying intensities and for various reasons. That is our lot as children of God. The result though is mature fruit that meets His expectations.

WHERE DOES THE CHURCH COME IN? 

As siblings in Christ, we are responsible to facilitate that training, correction, learning, and discipline (12:12-17). You cannot grow as you should in isolation. Ephesians 4 makes it very clear that we as a church are to help each other to grow up together to become one like Christ. The picture here is that when our Father is sending our brother or sister through the ringer, we are to be there for them and the purpose of being there for each other is to help one another to grow.

THE LIFEBOAT ANALOGY 

Often the Christian life has been compared to a lifeboat. “The unredeemed life is as if we were about to perish on a crippled ship threatening to sink as a result of sustaining irreparable damage in a menacing storm. Lifeboats arrive to rescue us and begin the perilous journey to the safety of the shore. Once in the saving vessel, however, the storm rages on. No one is quite sure when the storm may dissipate or when another may erupt on the way to safety. While we may experience smooth sailing for a time, we very well could be smothered with peril again. Reaching the safe confines of the shore is the ultimate goal.”

“Making the exchange from a sinking to a saving vessel is the initiation of salvation, or justification; the voyage in the lifeboat is the working out of our salvation (see Phil 2:12), or sanctification; and reaching the shore is our final arrival in heaven. This is the consummation of salvation, or glorification (Paul Jackson in Mound’s Basics of Biblical Greek, page 278).”

We are not though in the storms of life left alone. God has given us the church, our brothers and sisters in Christ to help us and to strengthen us during our journey through the storm to the shore.

SUPPORTING EACH OTHER IN OUR WEAKNESS 

We support each other when the learning is painful (verse 12-13). This is why it is important to be a part of a church family. There are days when I am limping spiritually. I just cannot take another step. I am learning but it looks like I am going to die before I get the lesson that God wants me to learn. I read the Bible and nothing happens. I listen to the Spirit and silence is all I hear. It is then that I need my local church family.

Now that does not happen if you try to keep yourself away from others. You can join this church and not allow anyone to get close to you and you will limp around, not making progress because you are running the race alone. I know it is hard to trust people and it would be a rare church where every member could be trusted but if you do not allow God’s people to have an impact on you, you might learn a lot of Scripture but you will not mature.

I think of those who I have known in the past whose Bible knowledge was complete but they would not integrate themselves into the life of the church and although I saw evidence of their scriptural knowledge, they did not grow spiritually. They allowed themselves to get spiritually fat and proud and when God started putting them through the paces, they ran to their room, slammed the door, and screamed at His people, “Leave me alone! Stay away! I’ve been hurt! I don’t need you! I’m not going to let a church hurt me again! Let them see if they can do without me!” And they drift, and they drift, and they drift and sometimes…spiritually…they do not come back.

HUNTING PEACE WITH A PASSION 

By pursuing a peace with each other based on our holiness in Christ (verse 14). There are those who believe that Christ is more important than His church. That is not the picture in this verse. We are to pursue peace with one another. We are to give it first priority. Last fall when some of you fellows drove to the Midwest and set up your equipment and got up at three or four in the morning so that you can sit outside in freezing or rainy weather, pursuing that ten pointer. That is exactly how important our brothers and sisters in Christ are supposed to be to us. Sometimes it is possible to put the matter out of view and let it die a slow death but when after a year or two or more it is clear that you need to get your hunting boots on and go to that person and start pursuing peace. It is hard. You are absolutely right but if you are to grow as your Father wants you to and if that person is going to grow as they need to, you are going to have to give peace with other people priority in your life. The importance of Christ’s church (peace) is bundled with pursuing Christ (holiness).

EVERY  CHURCH MEMBER A SHEPHERD 

By watching over each other carefully (verses 15-17). The word hear means “oversee.” A synonym might mean shepherd. Who are you shepherding over in our church?

That’s why our Wednesday night prayer meeting is so important. That is a time that we have specifically set aside to pray for your spiritual growth. Some of you need to be there and help us shepherd those who God is putting through the ringer.

Some of you need to start praying for each other at home. Others of you need to reach out to others during the week to maintain contact with each other. Some of you have been going to church for a year with other people in this church and you have not made the effort once to greet someone other than the people who you greet every week. This is not a social club but a family where every person should be interested in strengthening and helping and shepherding one aother with whatever means the Lord may have given you.

Others of you need to get involved in a small group of some type. We cannot carry this type of healing and peace pursuing and shepherding ministry in our Sunday morning service as effectively as we can when a group of people get together week after week to share with each other and care for each other. It is vital that you get connected with others within the church body. More people leave the church because they do not feel at home than for any other reason. It takes more than a welcome mat and a cup of coffee to make a church a family.

 

THE DANGERS OF IGNORING THE LOCAL CHURCH 

You see, you cannot ignore and neglect the church family. If you do, you will be hampered in your spiritual growth and others will be hampered in their spiritual growth. None of us get to the point where we do not need the help and attention of our spiritual family.

 

What will happen if we do not pay attention to our church family. That is described for us in verses 15-17. Extreme wickedness. My personal feeling (based on my understanding of the book of Hebrews) is that those who are sitting on the fence in their faith will fall off onto the wrong side into a pool of wickedness out of which they will never be able to get out. Do you realize that there may be people here, who are not really saved who could eventually reject Christ based on the fact that the church family did not pay attention? Do you realize that there are people who are not here today that were here a year ago, who found it easy to drop out because they did not feel that they belonged, they did not feel that we were their family? If everyone of us begins to start changing our neglectful ways, we will be able both to bring each other to spiritual growth and to prevent others from turning from Christ to the world and its eternal damnation. What would God have you to change?

 

Advertisements

Comments»

No comments yet — be the first.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: