Calvary Road Baptist Church

“The Third Benefit Of Being A Church Member: In The Place Of Exhortation”

Hebrews 10.25

 

I will not cite sources for the following alarming facts this evening because I have more important uses of our available time. But those of you who read newspapers, who listen to the news on the radio, who watch television news programming, or who get news from Internet sites, realize that suicide is an ever increasing problem in our country. Males take their own lives at nearly four times the rate of females and represent 77.9% of all suicides. That said, females are more likely than males to have suicidal thoughts. Suicide is the seventh leading cause of death for males and the fourteenth leading cause for females.[1]

Not, at this time, dealing with the supernatural component of suicides, though the Bible does show that demonic influences in people’s lives invariably result in self-destructive behavior, let us recognize that the huge presenting problem in our country is the issue of discouragement. People become profoundly discouraged when they feel like they don’t know who they are when they feel like they don’t know why they are here, and when they feel like they don’t know what to do next. People are also discouraged when they feel overwhelmed by the circumstances of life, even if those circumstances are brought on by their own foolish behavior. Finally, people become overwhelmed when they face the fact that they really are not in control of their own lives. When such discouragement becomes chronic, which is to say when it does not go away, and you cannot distract yourself from it, it is then called depression. And an increasing number of young people who are discouraged in this way commit suicide. It happens on college campuses, in high schools, in the military and among veterans, and in almost every walk of life.

Please turn to Hebrews 10.22-25. When you find that passage, stand for the reading of God’s Word:

 

22    Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

23    Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

24    And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

25    Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

 

In these four verses, the writer to the Hebrews provides the real solution to the world’s problem with depression, which is discouragement drawn out over a long period, which is how people react when they are not encouraged.

If you want to be encouraged, if you want to be lifted up, if you want to be boosted, if you want to be spiritually invigorated, the first thing you need to do is “draw near.” Verse 22 reads,

 

“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”

 

Please understand that this is the great privilege of believers, the freedom to approach God through the merits of His Son, Jesus Christ. As well, if you want to be encouraged, if you want to be lifted up, if you want to be boosted, if you want to be spiritually invigorated, you also need to “hold fast.” Some people think when it gets tough for a Christian the thing to do is back up. That is the wrong thing to do. Proverbs 16.25 should have convinced everyone that God’s plan for His children’s lives is counterintuitive:

 

“There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

 

And verse 23 in our text confirms this when it reads,

 

“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;).”

 

And thirdly, if you want to be encouraged, if you want to be lifted up, if you want to be boosted, if you want to be spiritually invigorated, you will need to consider others and provoke them to good works. Verse 24 reads,

 

“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.”

 

To be sure, if a person will look upward and draw near to God, then God will draw near to him. That will be profoundly uplifting. And if a person will hold fast and not retreat, be sure that your spirit will be lifted and discouragement will take flight and depart from you. And if you will begin to consider others instead of focusing exclusively on yourself, and provoke them to love and good works, then, of course, you will be enthused and lifted up on eagles’ wings. But there is a difference between knowing what to do and doing it, between knowing the way and taking it, between having the opportunity and seizing it. If you want encouragement, if you want the pattern of feeling defeated to be dispelled, if you want to be invigorated and enthused and encouraged, then you need to immerse yourself in the life of the church.

At this point, you might be thinking that you are all for the encouragement, but you have no interest in being a Christian, in your sins being forgiven, in faithful involvement in a church, or in any such thing as that. Then I must inform you at the outset that apart from Christ and the means of grace that He provides through the church congregation and believers in Christ, there is no relief from discouragement. You can medicate. You can intoxicate. You can distract with sexual sins or lusts of other types. However, I speak not of covering over symptoms, but of remedy. Tonight’s message has to do with real remedy, not continuing to wallow in the muck and the mire and hoping the consequences will somehow be different.

My text is Hebrews 10.25:

 

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

 

It is one thing to know to do the things commanded in verses 22, 23 and 24. But it is in verse 25 where the context in which those commands issued to Christians will actually be obeyed is shown to us. It is in church where Christian people will actually do what verses 22, 23, and 24 direct us to do.

Please tell me what the writer of Hebrews is referring to if “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” does not refer to gathering with the assembly, meeting with the church congregation. He is saying, “Do not stop going to church!” As well, please tell me what the writer of Hebrews is referring to if “as the manner of some is” is not a reference to those who have stopped attending church regularly and faithfully. “As the manner of some is” is a reference to those who used to come to every service no longer attending every service, and eventually not attending any services. And, please, tell me what the writer of Hebrews is referring to if “but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” does not refer to encouraging those in attendance, lifting up those in attendance, boosting those in attendance, coming alongside and helping those in attendance . . . and so much the more as we see the day approaching.

This word “exhort” is the verb form of the word that the Lord Jesus Christ used when describing the Holy Spirit, in John 15.26, there translated “Comforter.” And the word is usually translated in the New Testament by such words as “comforted” and “beseech,” along with several other words. It means “to urge strongly, to appeal, to exhort, to encourage.”[2] In Matthew 5.4, the Lord Jesus Christ used the word:

 

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”

 

In Acts 2.40, Luke describes Peter’s Pentecostal preaching:

 

“And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.”

 

In Acts 8.31, the Ethiopian eunuch’s urging of Philip is described:

 

“And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.”

 

In Romans 12.1, the Apostle Paul used the word:

 

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

 

In Romans 16.17, the Apostle Paul encourages right actions with the word:

 

“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”

 

And in Second Corinthians 1.4, Paul uses the word four times in one sentence to describe God’s comfort:

 

“Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”

 

This word found in our text, “exhorting,” is found 104 times in the Greek New Testament. It is an important word, describing a much-needed blessing in the life of every Christian. And though God is very capable of encouraging and uplifting anyone directly, most of the time God makes use of various means to exhort and encourage His own.

I turn your attention to one particular example of God’s use of means, found in Second Corinthians 7.5-16:

 

5      For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.

6      Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;

7      And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more.

8      For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season.

9      Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.

10    For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

11    For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

12    Wherefore, though I wrote unto you, I did it not for his cause that had done the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you.

13    Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all.

14    For if I have boasted any thing to him of you, I am not ashamed; but as we spake all things to you in truth, even so our boasting, which I made before Titus, is found a truth.

15    And his inward affection is more abundant toward you, whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him.

16    I rejoice therefore that I have confidence in you in all things.

 

Rather than bogging down in the details of this passage, notice that Paul gives evidence of discouragement because of circumstances in verse 5. But God used Titus to comfort Paul, verse 6, who had in turn been comforted by the Corinthians Paul was writing to, verse 7. So, Paul declares that he and his co-laborers were comforted by the Corinthian’s own comfort, verse 13, which resulted in not only the discouragement being dispelled but with Paul’s rejoicing and bragging on them, verses 14-16.

To state again, God typically makes use of means to accomplish His will. He is the God of all comfort, Second Corinthians 1.3. He comforted the Corinthian Christians in their congregation. They, in turn, comforted Titus. Titus, in turn, comforted the Apostle Paul. Thus, according to Paul, the Corinthians exhorted him to the point that he rejoiced. And back of it all was the God of all comfort. Isn’t that what you need today?

Have I ever mentioned to you folks that I am a Baptist preacher? Did I cause you to understand that I do not believe certain things because I am a Baptist, but that I am a Baptist because I believe certain things? Throughout history, there have been different Christian movements and groups who have been wonderfully blessed of God, and who have claimed that the Word of God is their only rule of faith and practice. However, it has been the Baptists throughout history, with their fidelity to God’s Word and their understanding of God’s plan for the church congregation for this age in which we live, who seem to me to have most consistently adhered to the practice of the Bible being our only rule of faith and practice. That said, many Baptists are faltering in these last days, in direct proportion to their departure from the Biblical norm for evangelizing the lost and the central role of the church, just as every other group of Christian churches seems to be faltering. Why? First, Baptists, for the most part, are not seeing many people saved. Oh, they get professions of faith, and they baptize people quickly before buyer’s remorse sets in and the new “convert” goes back to his old lifestyle. But very few are genuinely converted these days. Most Baptist churches that are growing numerically are doing so at the expense of nearby Baptist churches, as parasitic larger congregations siphon off the members of smaller churches. Of course, Baptists are not alone in doing this. Second, when someone does get into a church, he will likely find the role of the congregation so diminished in the mind of even the pastor and in the lives of the members that often worship seems like little more than a social or civic club, if not a nightclub. The result will be a short-circuiting of the church’s ministry, with members being deprived of blessings they so desperately need by the elimination the number of services held each week, and a diminishing of the importance of church attendance for family gatherings or watching television, or perhaps the incessant playing of computer games.

The writer of Hebrews pointed out the problem when he called attention to what was happening. For one reason or another, people were no longer as faithful to the assembly as they had been or as they ought to be. Perhaps they were going to high school football games instead of church evangelism. Whatever they were doing, the inspired writer warned,

 

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is.”

 

Instead of bailing out, and thereby diminishing the importance of church attendance, and perhaps becoming distracted by school activities or completely unspiritual family gatherings, the focus should remain on church attendance and ministry. You high school and college students. Your life should not be wrapped up in your school but in this church. You family people. Your life should not be wrapped up in your family but in this church. How many family members have your family brought to Christ?

And what should you be doing while you are here at church?

 

“exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

 

Allow me to draw quickly your attention to seven different kinds of exhortation that are most properly engaged in, if not exclusively engaged in, only when you are gathered with the body:

 

First, WITH THE CHURCH THERE IS THE EXHORTATION OF GOSPEL PREACHING

 

Quite obviously, gospel preaching, at first, did not take place in church houses or the assemblies of believers. John the Baptist went about preaching. The Lord Jesus Christ went about preaching. The apostles were sent forth to preach. The great Pentecostal sermon of Peter and most subsequent sermons he and the other apostles preached was preached in the open air. Indeed, for several centuries the only sermons preached indoors were preached in private homes or the occasional synagogue. Not that a building is a church congregation, but, in the beginning, congregations were filled with such evangelistic fervor that preachers were always sent out doors to where people could be found. And only later, when the revival that began at Pentecost began to cool down, did most gospel preaching take place within the assembly, where visitors had been invited to come and hear.

In our day, here in the United States where God is not powerfully moving in our midst, virtually all real gospel preaching is done in church services, with the assembly gathered. In China, and Southeast Asia, and some places in Africa, gospel preaching frequently takes place outside the assembly. But where we are, because conversions come with such difficulty, it is not the case. Therefore, if you want to see and experience the exhortation of gospel preaching, if you want to be encouraged to abandon your sins in favor of the salvation that only Jesus Christ offers, if you want to hear someone plead with you, beseech you, urge you, and cajole you as Peter did on the day of Pentecost, then you will have to come to church hear it.

You won’t find such exhortations in most church campaigns because the gospel is typically not preached on such occasions. Neither will you find it on Christian television programming. And if you think the late Jerry Falwell by simply mentioning the death, burial and resurrection of Christ on the Larry King Show was preaching the gospel, you are almost beyond help.

In Acts 2.40 we read,

 

“And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.”

 

Such exhortations are no longer heard except when a preacher is preaching to the lost who are sitting in the midst of a congregation. Christians love to hear the old, old story, and lost people desperately need to hear the old, old story.

And what about when those believers in attendance encourage the lost? Oh, how wrong it is for the child of God to discourage the lost man by missing church when he could be so encouraging by simply being in church. I am thinking, of course, of First Corinthians 14.25-26:

 

“. . . he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.”

 

Thus, the believer who is in church with the unbeliever can exhort him to come to Christ by just being there. Oh, what people miss out on when they miss church. Not only can you exhort, but you can be exhorted.

 

Second, WITH THE CHURCH THERE IS THE EXHORTATION OF BELIEVER’S BAPTISM

 

I recently baptized a woman. She has been hopefully converted for many years, has what seems a sound conversion testimony, and our congregation seemed equally convinced when they heard her testimony. Since the Great Commission was given by our Lord Jesus Christ to church congregations such as ours and not to individuals, she was baptized by the authority vested in our Church in obedience to the Great Commission.

If exhortation is understood to be a lifting up of those who are discouraged, or encouragement to continue steadfast and unmoveable in Christian service, always abounding in the work of the Lord, then believer baptism is always a wonderful exhortation to Church people. You see, there are times when the difficulty of bringing a sinner to Christ can get people down, can cause them to ask themselves “What’s the use?”

But when a hopeful convert is buried by baptism into death and raised up out of the water to walk in newness of life, the Scriptural public profession of faith in Christ takes place, and the baptismal candidate has become a part of our church body, being tempered together with the rest of us by God. My friends, Pat Boone, does not have the authority to do that in his back yard. Parachurch ministries do not have the authority to do that anywhere. Only a congregation of born-again Scripturally baptized believers in Jesus Christ has the authority to administer that Church ordinance.

So, you want to see the exhortation of believer baptism? Want to be lifted up and encouraged to keep on serving God, to keep on bringing people to Church? Baptism goes a long way toward doing that for you. But for the baptism to be genuine exhortation and not counterfeit exhortation, you have to be in Church.

 

Third, WITH THE CHURCH THERE IS THE EXHORTATION OF THE COMMUNION OF THE LORD’S SUPPER

 

Our church’s usual practice is to observe the communion of the Lord Supper once a month in what is described as a closed communion. We are not always able to celebrate the Lord’s Supper on a monthly basis, but that is our usual practice. To avoid offending those who are not Church members and who might feel slighted by our closed communion position, we observe this Church ordinance in private.

This ordinance, too, provides a wonderful exhortation to members, which is why no Church member should normally miss the communion service unless providentially hindered. Where else, and in what setting, can a Christian gather with brothers and sisters in Christ in their Church body to remember what the Lord Jesus Christ did . . . until He comes again? Yes, this unique ordinance, instituted by the Savior, Himself, the night before His crucifixion, and properly observed only within the congregation’s membership, can be a profoundly exhilarating experience.

Feel lonely? Overwhelmed by circumstances? Persuaded that you are unloved and under- appreciated? Focused on trivial matters? Discouraged by your feelings of insignificance? Such feelings quickly dissipate when you are contemplating the body and the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, which bestows significance upon anyone, which focuses on things transcendent and majestic, which persuades you that you are both loved and appreciated, which overwhelms all of life’s circumstances, and which dispels feelings of loneliness and replaces them with reminders of that One which sticketh closer than a brother.

Ah, the exhortation that lifts the soul during the celebration of the communion of the Lord’s Supper is in some ways unsurpassed. Gospel preaching occurs primarily in Church. Baptizing is done only by the authority of a Church. And communion is observed by a Church. These three means of exhortation are shunned and missed by those members who do not attend Church, or who do not attend faithfully.

 

Next, WITH THE CHURCH THERE IS THE EXHORTATION OF BIBLE PREACHING AND TEACHING

 

Paul remarked, “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.”[3]

 

Pray tell, in what setting can one imagine this being done, Bible study at work? No. The kitchen table at the family altar? No. This means of exhortation can only take place in the assembly, where the men who are called and equipped to discharge such duties conduct their ministries. Fathers are instructed how to exhort, to comfort, and to charge their children.[4] Husbands are trained how to dwell with their wives according to knowledge.[5] Children are directed how to honor and obey their parents.[6] Women are shown how to love their husbands and love their children. Workers are instructed how to render service as unto the Lord.[7] And bosses are shown their responsibilities toward those in their employ.[8] Believers are discipled and shown how to live their lives and serve God.[9]

 

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”[10]

 

What is exhortation if it is not showing people what God wants and then urging them to obey Him? And such takes place in Church, where the pastor declares to members, if not to those present who are lost, the whole counsel of God. Oh, what exhortation you miss when you miss Church.

 

Fifth, WITH THE CHURCH THERE IS THE EXHORTATION OF GODLY EXAMPLES TO FOLLOW

 

In Second Timothy 2.2, Paul wrote to the young pastor,

 

“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”

 

This is Paul’s instruction to Timothy to maximize the effect of examples that are set in the Church.

It is one thing to tell people to raise and rule their children. It is quite another thing for a young father to watch one of our older men skillfully deal with his errant son to bring about a genuine change of heart. Fathers do not learn how to be good fathers by spending time around their unsaved dads who were not themselves skilled fathers. They learn how to be fathers by the examples set for them by other good Christian fathers in Church.

It is also one thing to tell a young woman to follow the example of Sarah with Abraham, in First Peter 3.1-6. But it is quite another thing for a young Christian, or even a young girl, to see a woman in subjection to her husband, delighting in her role as a godly wife and mother. Does she do so because she is brain dead? No. Does she do so because she is helpless? No. Does she do so because she is married to a Sugar Daddy and is afraid he will reduce her allowance if she is not good? Absurd. Her joy in obeying God is the example that is better caught than taught.

Where do you see such examples, men? Do you see them at work? No. Do you see them at the gym? No. Do you see them at the track? No. Do you see them when visiting the grandparents? Rarely. Where do you see such examples, ladies? At work? No. At the grocery store? Hardly. At the mall? Nope. At home? Sometimes. But only if both parents are godly. Most of the time you will see such exhortation by example only in Church. Oh, what you miss when you miss Church.

 

Sixth, WITH THE CHURCH THERE IS THE EXHORTATION OF MUTUAL ENCOURAGEMENT

 

If you get here early enough to watch the women in our Church greet each other, you will receive a wonderful blessing. If you get here so late that you do not have time to see that, or to participate in that if you are a woman, you miss out on a great deal. As well the men, but in a different way, are involved in this ministry of mutual encouragement. And it comes from brothers and sisters in Christ who are real with each other, and who genuinely love each other. Where do you find this type of exhortation, this love of one another that the Lord Jesus Christ commanded in John 13.34?

To be sure, there are parallels of this in the Armed Forces, in law enforcement, on sports teams, in businesses of various kinds, and even in families of mostly unsaved people. But those are only imitations of the genuine, the real, the living, and the eternal. Remember Paul making mention of the Corinthians comforting (same word as exhorting) Titus, who then exhorted him, which then resulted in him rejoicing, Second Corinthians 7.5-7?

There is something wrong with someone who is not revitalized, who is not cranked up a bit, who is not exhilarated, who is not in some way quickened, whose spirit does not soar, whose step does not get a bit more bounce, whose soul is not warmed, by the tender encouragement to simply be here and to stay here and to remain faithful that comes from such simple practices as greeting each other before Church and saying good-bye after Church. I wonder about those people who think they do not receive benefit from such mutual encouragement, who act like they can do without such mutual encouragement, and who denigrate the importance of such mutual encouragement as one can only receive by coming to Church a bit early and not running to the car afterward. It is sad to see those who come too late to give or receive benefit and leave too quickly to be of any use to others.

I need to see Archie and Shirley. I need to see Demetra and do not look forward to not seeing her. I need to see Lee and C. R. and Mike and other men. I need to see Karen and Julie and Arjelia and other women. Do you not know that I need to see each of you? I need your encouragement and your love and your friendship and your prayers. And you need mine. And you won’t get it if you are not at Church. Oh, what exhortation people deprive themselves of and others of who miss Church.

 

Finally, WITH THE CHURCH THERE IS THE EXHORTATION OF THE SPIRIT’S FILLING

 

In Ephesians 5.18, Paul commanded his readers to be filled with the Spirit. In the following verses, he describes how Spirit-filled Christians behave, how they conduct themselves. Interestingly, if you look at Colossians 3.16 and following, you will find the same behavior exhibited by Christians who “let the word of Christ dwell in them richly.” This is a wonderful illustration showing that a person is Spirit-filled if and when he is obeying God’s Word.

Do you realize what that means, Christian? It means that when you do what God tells you to do in His Word (and He tells you not to forsake the assembly), and when you do it how God tells you to do it (by exhorting others when you are at church, encouraging others in church as best you can), then you are filled with the Spirit of God.

And since the Spirit of God is designated by the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself, as that other Comforter, that other Exhorter, what better way of being encouraged, of receiving exhortation, of being spiritually lifted up, than by doing that which you are absolutely confident is God’s will and which, at the same time, shows the Spirit of God filling you?

 

Oh, what profound blessings are associated with involvement in and faithfulness to the assembly.

Oh, what people get when they come to Church and what they miss when they miss Church. Exhortation. Encouragement. Uplifting. Glorious.

And this is only the third benefit of Church membership, being in the place of exhortation, being where you are exhorted by your fellow Church members.

__________

 

[1] http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/Suicide-DataSheet-a.pdf   1/18/16

[2] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 765.

[3] Acts 20.27

[4] 1 Thessalonians 2.10-12

[5] 1 Peter 3.7

[6] Ephesians 6.1-3

[7] Ephesians 6.5-8

[8] Ephesians 6.9

[9] Ephesians 4.11-16

[10] 2 Timothy 3.16

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org