Together

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 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” (Hebrews 10:24–25 ESV).

Stir/Spur One Another to Love and Good Deeds

“And let us consider…” To consider something is to give it thought, to be intentional. This is not just something that happens, it requires forethought. What are we to think carefully about? How to stir up one another or as the NIV says it, spur one another on. Right now, this sounds interesting to some of us because there are some people in our lives we wouldn’t mind giving the spur to at all. Wait. The goal of the spurring is not retaliation, but love and good deeds produced in their life.

Stir or spur is an interesting word in the Greek. It can mean, “to provoke, to incite, even to irritate.” The word is often used in the negative sense of inciting someone to some action, like a bully picking a fight. Come on! But that is the exact opposite of the sense here. We are to think about how to stir up desires of love and good deeds in the spiritual lives of our fellow members in the church.

Spurs provide a great example. Some of you know that I grew up around horses, although I was never a big horse lover. Most of this was because I had to feed them and help take care of them while my sister rode them in the horse shows and got the ribbons and the trophies and her name in the paper. They never noted in the paper that I was the one feeding them. I don’t recall her ever feeding the horses or pitching manure from the stalls. She was the princess rider.

Anyway, if you’ve ever seen a western, they are always riding horses wearing spurs. What is their purpose? They are there to slightly irritate the animal to get them to do what they need it to do. It puts the horse in motion. It gets them going. I was watching a rodeo with my daughters. The question came up why the horses buck like they do. I said because they put something scratchy on their belly. It really gets them going.

Anybody wearing spiritual spurs to church? Anybody going to church this week with someone on their heart that you are purposefully going to help in their spiritual walk? No. Pastor, I came to be helped. But the passage doesn’t say, Let us be stirred or spurred. It says, Let us spur. It’s an activity we do in love for others. Why? One way that God works to preserve his people is through his people working to preserve one another.

In other words, God uses the local church community to keep the individual members saved as the members look out for one another and actively promote the Christian life in one another.

Years ago, a remarkable thing happened to a man in our church. It ran in the papers and was quite the story. This man was playing golf at Oak Knoll Golf Club here in Crown Point with some friends. As they were playing, he suffered a massive heart attack. I was told that medically speaking, he died right there on the golf course. But he wasn’t alone. His golf buddies raced to him and did CPR. A neighbor happened to be looking out the window and saw it happen. They called the paramedics who were able to get to him in time to shock his heart and bring him back to life.

What’s the lesson? Don’t go golfing? Don’t go golfing alone? Maybe. But the point is that others play a role in sustaining our spiritual lives, especially when we are going through trauma, trials, or suffering. It’s an example of how we desperately need each other. By divine design, the Christian life is to be lived in community with other Christians. What does that look like? Look at verses 24-25:

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 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.”

There is a life choice that will seriously diminish your spiritual vitality. What is it? It’s said in the negative, don’t give up meeting together. There may be a play on words that hints at the problem—the Greek word is a form of synagogue. As the name of the book hints, Hebrews was written to formerly practicing Jews who have converted to Christianity. What might have been happening is that these Jews were “synagoguing” again. Not “churching” but synagoguing and being drawn back to Old Covenant religion. We don’t know. What we do know is that some of the members of the church were not prioritizing being together with other Christians.

The word for meeting together conveys a formal gathering. Let us not forsake the formal gathering of Christians, which some are already habitually doing. Why would this be so important that the Holy Spirit would inspire the writer to include it in Scripture? Because there is nothing more invigorating to the Christian life than being with other Christians who are passionate about living for Jesus Christ. And there is nothing more damaging than ignoring that opportunity.

Apparently, some professing Christians in Rome were doing just that. They were habitually not getting together. The reasons are not given but I think we can assume some of them.

  • Sunday chariot races
  • Sunday’s a great day to sell stuff at the market
  • Up too late the night before
  • Too many hypocrites at church

If we were to examine the heart issues behind these excuses, what is the real reason they were neglecting to get together? Pride (I don’t need church or other Christians). Idolatry (Sports, yard work, convenience). Greed (maybe I can pick up some overtime). How about this one—Lost. Pastor, are you saying people who don’t prioritize being with God’s people aren’t saved? Last year, we had 6,000 people at our Easter services across all campuses. We don’t have that many on a regular Sunday. One reason for Christmas- and Easter-only church attenders is that there is no reality to their faith. God isn’t the priority of their life.

“The warning about apostasy that follows (26–39) implies that people who deliberately and persistently abandon the fellowship of Christian believers are in danger of abandoning the Lord himself!” (New Bible Commentary)[1]

Here’s the point: we simply cannot do it alone. Our faith is too flimsy without the love and support of the church, so one reason I go to church is to stay saved. That’s the admonition here. Let’s get together, and in the getting together, let’s individually feed off the corporate heat that being together produces.

Martin Luther said, “At home in my own house there is no warmth or vigor in me, but in the church when the multitude is gathered together, a fire is kindled in my heart and it breaks its way through.”[2] Luther is remembered each year on yesterday’s date, Reformation Sunday. This hero said, At home, I’m weak but something happens in the corporate experience that I cannot produce on my own.

I hear that sort of thing from many people, I leave Bethel and I am ready to take on the week, or this is the highlight of my week. Good. It’s supposed to be.

Our church is in Indiana, home of the most famous car race in the world, the Indy 500. Did you know that the actual beginning of the Indy 500 was right here in Crown Point, Indiana? Before it moved to Indy, it was called the Cobe Cup race from Crown Point to Lowell and back. Average speed? 50 miles an hour. Try to beat that speed when you drive to Lowell. In a sense, you are winning the Indy 500. If I may connect one more dot, the property our building is on was a tree farm owned by the family the Cobe Cup hired to build the first grandstands. It’s possible wood from this property was used. For history lovers like me, that’s fun to think about.

I’ll assume you have watched at least a portion of the Indy 500. Round and round they go. But at certain intervals, they take a pit stop. They do this very fast. They clean the windshield. They change the tires. They top off the gas. They give the driver the thumbs up, and off the car goes.

What happens if an Indy car skips pit stops? Tires get really worn. It’s hard to see through the windshield. And worst of all, they run out of gas. They may go awhile. They run on fumes. They can coast for a long time. But eventually, they stop.

God’s design for Christian community and gathering is for it to be a spiritual pit stop. We all run 200 miles an hour throughout the week. Go. Go. Go. Got to win. Got to compete. Got to get around the track. As we do, our spiritual tank approaches empty. Our tires start to wobble. The service engine light comes on. Spiritually, we desperately need a pit stop.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2020 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

[1] D.G. Peterson, as quoted by D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), “Hebrews,” New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition (4th ed.). Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1345.

[2] Martin Luther as quoted by R. Kent Hughes, Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul (2 Volumes in 1, ESV Edition), (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015), page unknown.

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