27 September 2006

Individual Perseverance is a Community Project, Part Three

How do we exhort one another?

Hebrews 3.13But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Unlike the spiritual life of an post-modern America, the life of the Christian isn’t a castaway, recluse experience. The writer tells us not only to “take care” that we might fall away, but to also exhort one another to keep them from falling away. That entails being in spiritual ear-shot of another person. And for the Christian this is crucial. What is needed to keep you from being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin is someone exhorting you. And not just “another” person but someone from among you. The text literally means exhort “yourselves”. These are people that are like-minded with the same goals. I don't at all mean people that will tell you what you want a hear. But I do mean people that will hold you accountable to finding the Treasure of the universe.

Here is how I see the situation. I picture sin whispering in your ear, “Money…money is more important than God. God doesn’t care about you. If He did, he'd support you better financially. Money can make you happy. You could take care of your family.” nd try as you might, you can’t shake the notion that it would feel so good to be financially padded, comfortable, safe and secure. Then someone comes up beside you and says, “Don’t you believe that. Money can lead you away from the living God. You were not made to fall away from the living God. There’s a promise today. Believe that promise today."

We could exhort the believer to remember God's covenants to his people. For today God has fulfilled his covenant. “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since [Jesus] always lives to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25 ESV). Draw near to him. He won’t turn you away. He has always helped his people make it to the end. Remember Abraham. He lived in tents. He never had a permanent place to live. Remember Moses. He forsook the wealth and comfort of all the riches of Egypt to go and suffer with Israel. Remember those that “conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth" (Hebrews 11:33-38 ESV). And they didn’t get all that God promised them. God has promised that apart from you, they would not be made perfect. Don’t dishonor them for their faith, by making little of the God after whom they went hard.

They are surrounding you, so look to Jesus, not to money! He endured the cross because of the joy set before him. He despised the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God having completed His work so that you might receive eternal joy in God and all things as a sharer in Christ. And Jesus has said that He “will never leave your nor forsake you.” So you can “confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (13.5-6). Therefore, don’t turn away after money, and don’t let your heart lead you away from God. Turn back to God!

And what is the believer to do if he has no voice of exhortation? Without a community grounding him in the Bible and pressing on him to finish the race, he could drop out. He could buy into the lie that a few dollars here are more rewarding than a universe and a God purchased through the blood of Christ. So we have a crowd in heaven eagerly awaiting and cheering for our arrival for their share in Christ, and we have a community on earth eagerly exhorting and calling us to lay aside everything that might keep us away from the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus. Don't let your heart disqualify you from the race by tempting you to run alone.


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