Hebrews 3 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Ray Choi, Gracepoint Berkeley

Hebrews 3
What picture of the church and relationships within the church emerges from this text?  This passage paints a picture of the church as a group of believers who have a very high level of responsibility for one another’s spiritual well-being, Christians who have laid claim over one another.  He says “that none of you” twice (that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart, or be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness), implying an unconditional commitment to every fellow believer in the community, regardless of personality differences or inclinations.  It’s a picture of believers interacting daily to encourage and be on guard for one another.  ‘

The kinds of relationships that this vision of the church requires must be characterized by proximity and frequency (daily), literally doing life together, relationships in which people give up their personal preferences in order to build one another and the community up.  People’s conduct would be guided and tempered by a regard for each other (like last week’s 1 Corinthians 8 bible study).  People would not be individualistic but rather sacrificial and accommodating to each other in order to better relate to and encourage one another.  And most importantly, people would have the trust in each other to be able to speak the truth in love to one another.  Spiritual authority, of Scriptures and of fellow believers and leaders, would be heeded and highly regarded.

This picture is such a contrast to the individualistic picture of Christianity that so many Christians and churchgoers have adopted because of inadequate teaching or bad church experiences in the past.  As I’ve been meeting a number of new students with this kind of outlook on church, I felt really sad for them, and all the more I need to help embody this kind of church and draw them into it.

Given “sin’s deceitfulness,” why is it wise to encourage each other daily?  Sin is deceitful.  It’s tricky, does things while I’m not looking.  It can harden and dull my heart to the things of God in a matter of one or two days.  It’s that scary.  Therefore, it would be shear folly to think I or any believer can escape sin’s deceitfulness for any stretch of time without the regular encouragement of the church, both corporately and individually.  It needs to be daily.  We need each other as often as possible.  That’s why I am so thankful for the schedule our church provides for its members and staff – not only Sundays, but prayer meeting, prayer band, DT sharing/accountability, ministry meetings, doing ministry together, Bible study – and that’s pretty much everyday that I have a chance to be encouraged and encourage others, to be each other’s keepers.  So often I hear, “where’s so-and-so today?” or “how’s so-and-so doing?”  It’s because we are trying to live close proximity, high frequency lives that we can experience the safeguards and richness that the author of Hebrews exhorted in this passage.

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Submitted by Dave Wu, Gracepoint Berkeley

What picture of the church, and relationships within the church, emerges from this text?
The picture of the church, and relationships within the church, that emerges from this text is one of being connected, deeply involved with and responsible for each others’ lives, well-being, and even faith.  We are called to see to it that none of us, whether it is ourselves or it is others within the church, has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  This is very different from the idea of a privatized, personal faith, where “it’s just between me and God”.  Not only are we to mind our own hearts and attitudes and sin towards God, but we are to be responsible for others’ hearts, attitudes and sins.  And it’s not just about what’s going on at the surface level, people’s actions, people’s words, as it is possible to be able to say all the right things, do all the right things, be at all the events and activities, and yet not have the right heart towards God, to not be connecting with God and relating with God in all of those words, events and activities. 
That’s why it is so important to take time to reflect – on God’s word, on our own hearts and attitudes, on why we are doing what we are doing, on what we believe, on how we stand before God, on how we are connecting with God – to pray, to be completely honest and humble. 
One example is how just this past week, it has been so busy with all of the Welcome Week events on the Berkeley campus and the New Student Welcome Night and all the preparation that needed to go into it.  Pastor Ed exhorted us that we take care over our hearts, that we connect with God during all of the busyness and activity, that we know why we are doing what we are doing, or else even if we are doing “all the right things”, it is not for God and just becomes reduced to trying to recruit new students for our club. 
Also, that’s why it is so important to have those relationships in the church where we can “encourage one another daily”, where we can’t be satisfied with a simple response of “It was good” to the question of “How are you doing?”, where we really try to dig into each others’ lives.   
So the picture that emerges is one that reflects and honestly deals with one’s own faith and heart before God, but also does not stop there but gets involved in the lives of their brothers and sisters in the same way.
 
Given “sin’s deceitfulness,” why is it wise to encourage each other daily?
It is wise to encourage each other daily because sin is deceitful, and our hearts our sinful and deceitful already, so sin has an advantage that we need to counteract.  Our hearts and our desires gravitate towards sin, and we are so easily deceived by sin’s lies and temptations, the promise of whatever it might be, pleasure, satisfaction, gratification, etc., without the truth of the temporariness of it, the damages, the longer-lasting effects, the breaking of relationships with God and others, the addictiveness and so on.  We are inclined, very susceptible to sin’s deceitfulness, so easy to forget the consequences of sin, and thus we would be wise if we encouraged each other daily about them to remind us and prevent us from becoming hardened or falling into sin.  And it must be daily, frequently, because the temptations of sin and sin’s deceitfulness doesn’t go away, it doesn’t relent or let up after the first try, and so again and again we need help, the constant guard and reminder, the constant encouragement to not give in.
 
How do I respond to encouragement from other believers to not harden my heart or be led away by sin’s deceitfulness?
I think my response to encouragement from other believers to not harden my heart or be led away by sin’s deceitfulness often depends on the form of the encouragement and the particular area or issue being encouraged.  For the most part, I try to receive it, take it humbly and seriously, and do the work of rooting out how or why my heart might be hardening or being led away by sin’s deceitfulness, confessing, and repenting.  However, there are times when I can already be “hardened” or “deceived”, and I don’t like receiving these kinds of “encouragements”.  I can be defensive, stuck on particular details, and I can refuse to listen and heed the encouragement.  In those cases, I need to remember this passage, remember the truthfulness of how susceptible, deceitful and sinful my own heart is, how  deceitful sin is, and how blind I can be, to even my own hardening of my heart and being led astray.  I need to trust in the love of the others around me that are seeing to it that my heart does not turn away from the living God.

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