February 16, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Devotion Sharing, Submitted by Daniel Kim, Gracepoint Berkeley

It is notable that these passages assume certain negative realities.

It assumes that there are people within the church whose heart will be hardened by sin.  There are people who turn away from God.  It also talks about the reality of some people fading away from the community — the people who are not meeting together with others for one reason or another.  Maybe they are getting busy in their business, and it’s becoming increasingly inconvenient to meet together.  Maybe they are getting sick of each other, so they are avoiding each other..  Do these things happen today?  Of course.  It happens all the time.  People get hardened by sin’s deceitfulness, they fall into addictions, they get involved in one thing or another and they find it increasingly difficult to be a part of the church.. and they slowly turn away from the living God.

But what does the typical church do about it today?   Nothing.   So many modern churches, the way that it is now, hardly even notice if people’s hearts are being hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.  No one “sees to it” that others are not straying..  Forget daily encouragement, the best people can hope for is weekly exhortation from the pulpit, where someone preaches a message, people listen to it like they listen to a podcast, and the leaders just hope for the best for Monday through Saturday.  And Christians expect the church to be basically that and no more.  This passage accentuates how much the modern church has lost the biblical vision of the church.

I remember talking to a 40-something contractor a few years back, and we got to talking about churches, at which point he told me that he recently moved churches because he didn’t like the pastor of his old church.  He said that the pastor crossed lines that he shouldn’t have crossed.  Thinking that the pastor did something immoral, I told him that I was sorry to hear that.  Then he said, “That pastor started to meddle in my business and started to talk to me about my business deals.  My business is my business.  And a pastor should just mind his own business.”   I just listened and didn’t argue back, but I wanted to take my initial apology back.  I thought how low his view of the church must be.  That pastor was probably a good pastor, trying to “see to it” that NONE of his flock turn away from the living God, making sure that this man’s life matched up with his confession of faith.

The picture that emerges from this text challenges me..  Because it paints a realistic picture of man.  Without daily encouragement, without meeting together and spurring one another, the natural tendency of sinful man is to fade away from God, to be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.  It is unbiblical to think that man, left to himself, will naturally just get closer to God.  Not only does that not line up with the Bible’s testimony of man’s sinful nature, but my own lone-ranger history apart from the church tells me plainly that when left to myself, my desires eventually turns me away from the living God, no matter how much I tried to spiritualize my whimsical desires for self-autonomy with language of God’s will.  This passage challenges me, because I see that as a part of the body of Christ, I am called to wage in this uphill battle… not only for my own spiritual life, but for others around me as well.  It’s hard these days, because the Christian world at large seems to have given up on the biblical vision of the church..  So when I try to actually obey this, I know that some might respond badly, saying that I should just mind my own business.  But I am called to align my life not to the naysayers, but to the Bible.  To relent would be a tragic abandonment of the high vision that God has for the church, and I want to strive toward that picture, as imperfect as it might be on this side of heaven.

Devotion Sharing ,Submitted by Lem Maghamil, Gracepoint San Diego

Hebrews 3:12-15
“The believers should ‘take care’ or ‘beware’ . because within any Christian
community there may be those whose outward association does not reflect the
inward condition of the heart.”
“Faithfulness grows from an encouraging association with the community of
faith. In 3:13 the author prompts us to ‘encourage one another daily.’ In
other words, the give and take of positive encouragement from others in the
body of Christ provides a safeguard against heart-hardening sin and
spiritual bankruptcy. [.] but life lived with the people of faith is an
indispensable ingredient in a faithful walk.”

What picture of the church, and relationships within the church,
emerges from the two Hebrews texts?

The picture that emerges from the two Hebrew texts is a church that is lives
in tight community and helps one another live out their faith. This is
contrary to today’s Christian idea of closeness as seeing each other on
Sundays and perhaps a mid week small group meeting or worse a “Lone Ranger”
Christian. The words here are very descriptive of the early Christian
communities that we strive to imitate today. “But encourage one another
daily as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by
sin’s deceitfulness.” (Heb 3:13) How are we to encourage one another daily
unless we see each other daily as a church family? This verse tells me that
daily encouragement and daily fellowship are antidotes to sin’s hardening
process of my life. I have personally experienced this many times. There
are times I have a hard day at work and I am driving over to prayer meeting.
Deadlines were not met, my boss chewed me out and I felt my heart harden
with the frustrations I carried inside. During prayer meeting I do business
with God and confess what’s going on within and ask Him for forgiveness and
the grace for the day. At the end of prayer meeting there is that sweet
time of lingering and catching up with other brothers and sisters in Christ.
Some people share their tough day and in comparison mine doesn’t seem so bad
after all. Others share about amazing spiritual encounters of a
friend/family member who is taking God seriously. These moments bring me
such joy and I am filled again. The commentary for today’s text says “life
with the people of faith is an indispensable ingredient in a faithful walk.”
God designed the church to be a place of connection where faithfulness comes
from the encouraging connections we have with one another. It is meant to
be a tight knit community where people truly know one another. We get past
the shallow surface and find out what’s truly happening at a deeper level.
Hebrews 3:12 says, “See to it brothers” and this phrase reminds me that I am
called to have an active role in the lives in the church family. If I hang
onto the mindset that your life is your business and I’ll keep to my life,
then I am going against God’s design for the church. In this text and in
previous DTs that emphasize unity, the picture that emerges is a church with
relational stickiness that holds people together. Hebrews 10:24 says, “And
let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
The picture that emerges for me here is a team of people that are
considering and thinking about detailed ways they can encourage one another
in this spiritual race. The members of the church realize that the only way
to win the race is if they all spur one another on to finish the race
together. The picture that emerges of the church from these two texts is a
Christ -centered community that is intimate/dynamic and prioritizes helping
one another live out their faith.

In the Hebrews 3 text it assumes that there are going to be people in the
church whose outside image does not reflect the true condition of the heart.
There are going to be people who outwardly present a life that agrees with
the teaching of Christ, but their hearts are in fact turning away from the
living God. Hypocrisy is poison in the soil of the church. God cannot
bless a church where the members are proclaiming the gospel with their
mouths and proclaiming heresy with their lives. This is an issue that is
very relevant today. Mask wearing and pretense is a struggle for every
church. The desire to be accepted and to fit in is a very strong desire and
unfortunately people in the church will settle for the outward image and
never really deal with their heart. God is not fooled however and people
who continue this deception only find themselves insecure, miserable and
un-free. A relationship with God is based on truth and people who are not
confessing the truth within find themselves frustrated and feeling very
alone. The Hebrew writer is aware of this reality and exhorts us as members
of the church to “see to it” that no one has that kind of heart. This is
not only an issue with every church but I would wager this is an area of
struggle for every human being. The desire to cover up and hide has been an
instinct passed down to us from the very first sin of Adam and Eve. Daily I
need to pray for God to reveal the areas of my life that are hidden. Daily
I need to repent and commit to truth to honor God and His church. And
finally I need to daily encourage and be encouraged so my heart can remain
humble and soft to the Holy Spirit instead of hardened by sin’s
deceitfulness.

The Hebrews 10 passage exhorts us to consider how to spur one another on
towards love and good deeds which assumes there are time when I am going to
want to coast. There will be days I want to take it easy and forget the
consequences of the spiritual battle I face each day. The desire for
comfort and the familiar is so engrained in us. This too is very relevant
to today’s church. So many Christian leaders and pastors lament about the
state of the American church and the lack of mission and zeal to win souls
for Christ. I pray that we may never become such a church. This text
reminds me that it will take the members of the church to consider ways to
spur one another on towards love- to sharpen our faith, to strive for
holiness and to seek ways to honor God in our generation.

Devotion Sharing Submitted by Joanna Oh, Gracepoint San Diego

Romans 14:13

This passage says that we need to stop passing judgment on one another, but instead make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.  This passage describes passing judgment on one anther as a stumbling block for others.  I never thought of it that way, but it is true that if someone passed judgment on me by being overly critical, harped on my sins and shortcomings, and did not give me grace, I would’ve shriveled up and that would’ve been a stumbling block to my growth.  I’d be so self-conscious about my problem, and it would be harder to change and fight my feelings of discouragement.

This passage also makes clear that I can make up my mind to not be judgmental and to remove stumbling blocks from people’s way. I tend to have a certain picture about someone and label them as “hard to get along with”, etc.  Instead of being bent on being critical, I can make up my mind to be an encouragement to others and embrace people in my life. I can and need to “make up my mind” to be a loving presence in someone’s life that “spurs them on towards love and good deeds” like it says in Hebrews 10:24.

Hebrews 10:24-25 shows me how actively I need to be to be an encouragement. By nature I am self-centered and do not think of other people’s needs. So when Hebrews 10:24 says I need to “consider how we may spur one another on..” this means I need to stop and pause in my day and think about how I can encourage someone around me.  I won’t naturally on my own think of others and how to love them, but I need to regularly engage in the active choice to think about others, and not let my busy to do list crowd out loving others.

For me, this passage was really timely because I think I really need to work on being a loving and encouraging presence.  I am quick to notice things and quick to criticize.  I don’t want people to become uncomfortable or scared when they are around me, but I need to become a loving older sister who can build others up, not tear people down with my words or actions.  I was thinking one concrete action I can do to change is that I can say or do just one act of encouragement per day, even if it’s really small and just get better at seizing opportunities to be kind and encourage.  One really big way I can encourage others is also by working hard and giving my 110% for God and others, and in that way be an encouragement and spur others on to do the same.  I shouldn’t grumble and wonder why other people are not doing more, but I need to cultivate a servant’s heart where I am practiced at serving and loving others.

Devotion Sharing, Submitted by Sarah Song, Gracepoint Austin

Hebrews 3:12-15

“The believers should ‘take care’ or ‘beware’ … because within any Christian community there may be those whose outward association does not reflect the inward condition of the heart.”1

“Faithfulness grows from an encouraging association with the community of faith.  In 3:13 the author prompts us to ‘encourage one another daily.’  In other words, the give and take of positive encouragement from others in the body of Christ provides a safeguard against heart-hardening sin and spiritual bankruptcy. […] but life lived with the people of faith is an indispensable ingredient in a faithful walk.”2

What picture of the church, and relationships within the church, emerges from the two Hebrews texts?

Picture of the church that is always in one another’s homes even daily, knowing one another’s lives. Picture of the church where people are genuinely caring for one another, encouraging one another daily as it says. Which shows me that the relationships here weren’t shallow but in order to encourage someone you have to know what they’re struggling with and what makes it difficult for them. It’s a picture of not merely focusing on my own spiritual life and it’s just about me and God, that lone rangerism. It says to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds,” which means that each person has this ownership over others, that each person wants to make sure that no one falls, each person is trying to help their other bro/sis toward greater deeds of love. I think this aspect of the church is something that I’ve been learning over these past years in Austin, where my sphere of concern growing larger and larger. I’ve learned that “putting on church” each Sunday or Friday night or planning activities and trying to gather a lot of people is just a part of what the church does, which is what I used to mainly focus on – having people come out to our events or TFN. However, the church has become something deeper these past few years. When I think of church, I think of all the relationships that I have with the staff and leaders here and back at home. I think of people going over to each other’s homes, bringing food for harried moms or for those who are sick, taking each other’s kids and watching them, doing DT together in the mornings, cooking with one another for LIFE group, sharing about how my life is going with the other sisters. For me, the picture of the church has grown. I experience that these relationships “spur [me] on towards love and good deeds” and encourage me, especially as I get older and the demands and stress of life just seems to increase. This is what the church is, and I want to take more ownership in this coming year to spur others on, to encourage people and not just think about my own tasks or duties or my own feelings. I want to care and not only try to think of ways to lead my students on but also to help my fellow staff sisters here, which means that I need to think a lot more of their needs. It means pushing myself out of my tiredness when I’m at home, pushing myself out of my own feelings that I can’t go out b/c I have two young kids and it’s too much trouble.

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