What kind of salad do you like? I like mine with lost of lettuce and fresh tomatoes with oil and vinegar dressing. Maybe some cheese and avocados. And some red onions. With bacon. Maybe some bread cubes.
Five times in this passage, the author writes: Let us… That is a very nice salad. Lettuce alone is a great Honeymoon salad. This implies unity and the ‘feeling' of working together in agreement.
The writer of Hebrews really wants his readers to KNOW the Lord of their Faith. He goes into deep details to reminding them of how the temple has been set aside. The New Calling is to the Person of the great High Priest, the Lord Jesus.
We find ourselves in a similar situation. We, as well, want you all to know this One who has called you to serve Him. So let us… draw near. Let us… hold onto the Hope. Let us… spur each other to love and good works. Let us… not give up. Let us… encourage each other.
The first instruction is to draw near to God. This should be our initial response to what the writer of Hebrews has written thus far. Because of Jesus death on the cross, resurrection and ascension we can have confidence to enter the Most Holy place.
If we look at this verse a little more closely, we see that what allows us to have this assurance is that we are cleansed from a guilty conscience. Think about it—what keeps you from drawing near to God? Somewhere in our lives we are struggling with sins that keep us from God. We feel inadequate, without worth, sure that we don’t measure up to what God wants. We have thoughts that wander to places they shouldn’t go. We hate, we grumble, we are dissatisfied, we are selfish, full of pride, or full of self-loathing. We may even like these things—and if drawing near to God requires us to give them up, we will resist. But we can be cleansed, released from that guilty conscience; we can be washed with the pure water. And when we respond in this way, we are drawing near to God.
Some of the Spiritual Formation materials I (Faith) work with in my role in missionary care and training says “doing flows from being.” Who you are determines what you do. We need to draw near to God before we can effectively do any of the following “Let us” instructions.
The Apostle’s Creed comes to mind here.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
On the third day He rose again; He ascended into heaven,
He is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
It is to this Hope that the early church and the many millions that followed died to protect and pursued. They held onto the teachings of the Early Fathers unswervingly. Why? Because it is true. The author here wants us to remember where we have come from. This Hope is not based on fairy tales or myths. History bears witness with our Faith. This Jesus gives us Hope in the hereafter PLUS Hope for today! He was pressed up against the wall and was crucified and yet placed His trust-His Hope in His Father. There are no hopeless situations; there is life after death for those who believe in His Name. Don’t forget that and hold onto that truth. Your life depends on that!
We do serve the One who has set HOPE into the hearts of all who put their trust in Him.
We are not to be like the world. They have not lasting hope in the hereafter nor for any better life here and now.
Typical inscription on a grave in Paul's day:
I am not
I care not.
But not with Jesus. We know the One who cares and He has placed our names in His Hands. He is our true Hope.
I (Faith) have watched many of you already urging one another to do good. To love God. To live faithfully. I encourage you to continue, and to be responsible not only for yourselves, but for those near you. Draw others into this. “Catch one another doing good.” Remembering that doing flows from your being—keep drawing near to God, hold unswervingly to hope, and then you can DO the work of spurring one another on.
I have enjoyed participating in a women’s bible study here at ICCS for many years. Two years ago, the composition of the group created some of the most open and authentic sharing I have experienced. Almost all of us were dealing with really messy life situations. We encouraged one another to make life choices that demonstrated Christ’s love. Sometimes we were spurring one another to do something loving to people who were difficult to love. We were learning from one another about the power available to do these things as we prayed for one another. And God has done amazing work in each of us in answer to these prayers.
As we’ve just completed a series on spiritual gifts, each of you has the opportunity to explore how God has gifted you. I challenge you to consider how you can use those gifts in the body of Christ called ICCS. Whether your gifts are in teaching, administration, service, mercy or any of the others we’ve looked at, by finding a place to use them within the fellowship, you live out God’s love as you do good deeds.
Why would someone give up meeting together? Maybe they became angry with someone in the group. Maybe they got insulted. Taken for granted. Unloved by the group. All these things might be real or unreal; imagined or dreamed up. Nonetheless, feelings have been hurt and there has not been any forgiveness given nor received. The heart has been hurt. Broken. So, they, in their hurt condition, fall away from fellowship. Fall away is the right word for it. Here Hebrews encourages us all to stick with it. It is worth the effort. It is worth the pain. But not for us to stay separated. Even for a season. “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Eph 4:26.
And as our family prepares to leave Japan for a year, we want to encourage you to continue walking in the faith you have been taught. Continue to draw near to God with a sincere heart and in full assurance of faith. Continue to hold unswervingly to the hope we profess. Continue to spur one another on in love and good deeds. Continue meeting together. Continue to encourage one another.
Our hope and prayer is that when we return, we will find that you have grown in your faith and in confidence. We hope that you will have discovered not only what your spiritual gifts are, but have enjoyed exercising them. We hope that the “Community” in ICCS will be blessed through you as you demonstrate Christ’s love to those right here in Enoki Cho.
We have confidence to enter the Most Holy place…So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. (Heb 10:35)
And as you encourage one another, you will learn of some deep hurts. You will hear of how some have traveled very far to get where we are today. Some still carry a very heavy load. Some of this load is not yours to carry. We are to be forgiving others and look for the good in their lives as they reflect God’s image. And as you encourage each other, you will find that the Great Physician is there to heal and to save. The community services Andy is willing to start here is one of the great steps God can use within us to bring inner healing and a great sense of how Grand and Glorious our God really is.
May His Grace fill you as you all seek to serve the One Who has called you!