The Approaching Day

Hebrews 10:24-25 - Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

We sometimes sing, "Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace." But heaven is a place that will also be filled with people--all believers from the beginning of human history. Won't it be fantastic to spend eternity with Abraham and Moses, David and Daniel, Peter, John and Paul, as well as countless believers we have yet to learn about. Think of all the great conversations we could have with the saints of all ages. It's going to be an exciting eternity!

"But, wait a minute," you say. "What about those believers I know now? I'm looking forward to spending eternity with the saints of old, but do I really have to relate forever to all the believers I know right now? Even that preacher who disagrees with my thoughts on certain Scriptures? Even that brother who continually rubs me the wrong way? Even that sister I haven't spoken to in years? Even that person who does nothing but criticize?" Yes, to all of the above! Heaven will not be a place where we can have our own select circle of friends and hide from fellow believers who never "saw it my way" here on earth! "But, wait another minute," you say. "Things will be different then. We'll be with the Lord. We won't disagree over Scripture interpretation. We'll all love each other automatically. Isn't that so?" Yes, once again. So, in view of these answers, the question we should logically be asking ourselves is, "If then, why not now?" If we are going to be "forced" to love all our brothers and sisters in heaven, why don't we get with the program now?

The writer to the Hebrews may have had these thoughts in mind when he wrote the words, "...and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25). In view of the ever­closer day of the Lord's return, we are told to relate to our fellow believers now. There is no way that we can justify playing favorites with some while dodging others. We are "stuck" with relating now to the believers with whom we will spend eternity!

Hebrews 10:24­-25 gives us three strong suggestions as to how we should relate to our fellow believers now. We should stimulate one another (v24). We should meet together (v25). And we should encourage each other (v25). This teaching was given to the believers of the first century, but as God's Word it certainly applies to us today. In fact, since we are closer than ever before to the Lord's return, it applies "all the more as we see the Day approaching" (v25).

What does "stimulate one another to love and good deeds" mean? The word "stimulate" or "provoke" can be used in a positive sense or a negative sense. That may be the very reason why the writer used it in this Scripture. The Hebrew believers may have been provoking one another wrongly by criticizing, holding grudges and spending too much time arguing. The Hebrews were urged to stir one another up in positive directions. Instead of bad-mouthing and needling one another, they were to be energetic in motivating and spurring one another toward love and good works.

Is this advice applicable to Christians today? Need we ask? We use too much time and energy in negative dealings with fellow believers. We talk about them. We become jealous of them. We judge them. We look down on them. We barely tolerate and even ignore some of them! How much better it would be if we could channel our energies into stimulating each other in positive ways.

How can we stimulate one another to love and good works? First of all, we can and must set a good example ourselves. Good role models stimulate! Opening your apartment or house for Bible studies or for helping needy people "provokes" some other believers to do the same. Loaning your car and using your weekends to help in teen ministries automatically produces convicting stimulation in other believers. You don't have to tell fellow believers what you are doing and what they are not doing for the Lord--they'll see it in action!

Another way to stimulate one another to love and good deeds is to compliment fellow believers on the positive things they are doing. You may not be able to find much to commend, but compliments can go a long way towards motivating a person to further expressions of love and good deeds. Even a brief word of thanks to a fellow believer for helping with the music or the setup for a church function may stimulate this Christian to become further involved the next time around.

Stimulating other believers to love and good deeds is not easy. It's work! That's why the word "consider" is used. This word in Greek emphasizes the use of the mind. God is telling us to to think through and plan out how we can stimulate fellow believers to greater expressions of love and good deeds. If at first we don't succeed, let's "consider" another way and try again!

In the first part of verse 25, we are told "not to forsake assembling together, as is the habit of some." Apparently some of the Hebrews were sporadic in their attendance and were not associating with their fellow believers. Why? There could have been any number of reasons. In view of what follows in verse 26, as well as the historical context of the book of Hebrews, the primary reason for the desertion of some of those Hebrew Christians was that they were attracted once again to the colorful ritual of Judaism. In fact, some who had entered the fellowship showed that their profession of faith was false by abandoning the fellowship. Others in the church shied away because of increasing public hostility directed towards Christian worship. Still others thought that they were spiritually superior and did not need or want the help and fellowship of other believers. And then, of course, there were those who were weary, or just plain lazy, and did not make any effort to exert themselves to be involved in the local fellowship.

It doesn't take much insight to see that the same rationalizations exist today for believers to "forsake the assembling together" with fellow Christians. Why not watch a more exciting preacher on TV? Why go to church so often that I risk being called a religious fanatic by my friends and neighbors? Do I really need the fellowship of those intellectually inferior or "social misfit" Christians that much? Why should I bother to make an effort to attend all the fellowship activities when I already have heavy business and social schedules?

The Hebrew believers who were shunning the fellowship--for whatever reason--were wrong. They needed Christian fellowship. The author's point was not that all members of the fellowship must support the church by attendance at allservices. His intention was not to provide legalistic Christians--both then and now--with a proof text for hounding their fellow believers to appear at all the services or else be perceived as unspiritual! No, the point is that believers need to relate to one another in Christian fellowship or their Christian growth will be stunted and incomplete. Even though we may be disillusioned with certain people or uptight with certain programs in our Christian fellowships, these are not legitimate reasons for staying away. They may even be excuses! Remember, we will never be 100 percent satisfied with any particular church or fellowship group, and there will always be things that irk us about certain of our fellow believers, but we must hang in there. We cannot function as God intended apart from body life. The Holy Spirit dwells within the individual Christian (1 Corinthians 6:19), but the local church (Christians gathered together) is also His Temple (1 Corinthians 3:16). According to Ephesians 3:10 and its context, God displays His manifold wisdom through Christians gathered together. Let us make the extra effort to meet together so that the fullness of God's plan is not hindered.

In the second half of verse 25, a third characteristic of conduct among believers is commanded. We should encourage one another. The word "encourage" means to "call to one's side" in order to help in time of need. That help may take a variety of forms--whatever is needed. That's why the same word is used of the Holy Spirit as Comforter or Counselor or Helper (1 Corinthians 16:7) as well as of Christ as our Advocate or Defender (1 John 2:1).

More than ever, Christians in the western world need encouragement. They are increasingly isolated from their primary support group--their natural families. Job transfers, marital breakups, parents retiring to different locations--many reasons may contribute to the feeling people have today of being alone in an unfriendly world. The family of believers must be prepared to step in and fill the needs of family members, just the way a natural family would rally around to help, support, counsel and encourage its own brothers, sisters or parents when they are in need.

Are we encouraging one another? Look around! Does some fellow "family member" need to be comforted because of an unexpected misfortune that took place this past week? Give a call or visit of comfort. Even better--be a true "brother" or "sister" and actively help that person back on his or her feet! Does some Christian friend need your counsel right now? Sharing from your own experience may be exactly what's needed. Is there a believer who needs your help because of a family or marital problem? Don't be afraid to be a "sister" or a "brother." Go to them with concern and perhaps confrontation (and remember not to sound "holier than thou!"). Comforting, counseling, caring and confronting are all forms of encouragement in the biblical sense. There are many needs among our Christian friends and in the church family. Don't leave the monumental task of meeting all the needs to your church leaders. Let us all obey Scripture and begin to encourage one another.

Do you need encouragement right now? Don't be afraid to call on another believer for help. We are to encourage one another and the initiation of the process does not always have to come from the encourager. As we call on the Lord, our Great Encourager, so we can call on His imperfect servants as encouragers. In fact, asking for help is another way to stimulate fellow believers to love and good deeds. Your call for assistance may be just what God intended to motivate another believer. Don't let personal or family pride block the means that God has provided for your encouragement.

In this text the Holy Spirit uses "the approaching Day" to motivate us to relate properly and enjoy happy fellowship with other Christians. Think ahead. Will we want to stand before the Lord in that Day, knowing that we haven't been willing to help or encourage or even been able to get along with some of His people here on earth? Are there any reasons or excuses that He will find acceptable? In view of the imminent return of our Lord, let us consider "all the more" how we can practice togetherness, be encouragers and stimulate one another to love and good works.
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