"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Four Words for a Searching Church: Four - Be Positive

This is the final post in my series on Hebrews 10:23-25. If you have not already, I would recommend reading Word One, Word Two, and Word Three first.
Hebrews 10:23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25not 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.

Attitudes Are Infectious

Let's get one thing out of the way up front - I am not a "power of positive thinking" type guy. But the exhortations in the Scripture are for us to focus on the positives in life. This is most evident in Philippians 4:4-9:
4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

I’m not saying, “don’t worry, be happy.” Life is hard sometimes and is seldom a bowl of cherries. Also, I know that there will be times when we must be "negative" in the sense of telling someone that certain behaviors and beliefs are wrong. The question is about how we generally approach life. Dragging yourself into church and plopping down in the pew with a “I'm here, are your happy now; let’s get this over with” attitude and expression is not what God wants. If your heart is not in it, you will not encourage others and you cannot fulfill this command.

We come to church to worship. To realize that the difficulties of life are passing things and we have an eternal hope. So church should be a refuge from the difficulties of life. Church should be a place where you rest and refuel your spirit. But for church to be that kind of place for you next week or next month or whenever life begins to press in on you, you need to start this week making it that kind of place. If you encourage people now, those people will be strengthened and renewed so that they can encourage you later.

We Are Going to a Celebration

But what if things are really bad and life’s troubles are weighing heavy on us all? What if church is a source of stress because of change (again) and uncertainty?

That is the time when we have to remember that this world is not our home. Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us, and one day, a day that is closer now than when Hebrews was written, He will come to take us home.

Maybe you think that's a stretch based on just a simple, "and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." But consider what follows in Hebrews:
11:13These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

11:16But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

12:2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

12:22But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

12:28Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,

The author of Hebrews points us to the consumation of God's plan. Our final home with Jesus in "a kingdom that cannot be shaken." This life and its troubles are but a breath. But we have an eternal home. Surely if that hope was sufficient to strengthen those who were losing property and were in danger of losing their lives, it is sufficient to sustain a searching church.

So, if we are to encourage one another, our fourth task is to be positive.

Epilogue

Bob Benson has gone home to be with Jesus, but he left behind some wonderful writings. His son collected many of them and published them in a book called See You at the House: Stories Bob Benson Used to Tell. The last section of the book is a reflection on last things, and our great hope, being with Christ in heaven. If we are to fulfill the purpose of encouraging one another to faithful Christian service, this hope must be “the anchor of our soul.”
In the last two chapters of 1 Thessalonians, Paul is writing about the second coming of Christ. In the fourth chapter, he assures the church there that ‘the Lord himself will come … and the dead in Christ will rise. After that, we who are still alive … will be caught up with them … to meet the Lord. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.’ I think he is telling us that the great foundation of our lives is to be found in the hope that these words can bring.

In the benediction, Paul writes that the certainty of this hope is to be found in the faithfulness of God: ‘The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:24 – NIV)

“The calling of God comes to us in ways I have been writing about. It can be heard deep within and it can be heard in the community of believers. It speaks to us from the providences and purposes of God. It makes demands on us for commitments and for consecrations. It summons us to holiness and purity even as it warns us to flee evil and wickedness. To truly answer it requires of us the dedication of all of the best that we are or can be. Paul tells us, though, that the steadfastness of our hope does not rest on the strength of our arm or in the doggedness of our determination. Our hope rests securely in the everlasting faithfulness and goodness of the one who called us. He is faithful and he will get us home.

See you at the house.”
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