I would like to provoke you today!
Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
The writer to the Hebrews understands that there is a connection between meeting together and living out the Christian life. One commentator states that the scripture “implies that people who deliberately and persistently abandon the fellowship of Christian believers are in danger of abandoning the Lord himself.” (New Bible Commentary) Our holy God is Trinitarian — Father, Son and Holy Spirit and as such is a community of holy love. From God spring love and good deeds for they are God’s nature.
As God’s people we are to be reflections of this holy love and it is only found in relationship. God is a relationship. We are called to be in a relationship and this happens when we gather together and the love we have for one another grows until we are able to provoke us to live in the world overflowing with God’s love and good deeds. The urgency to this behavior is added when placed in regard to Jesus’ day approaching. We don’t have time to waste — but we must make it a priority to be gathering as God’s holy people so that we will know how to live and act in this world. We need to be provoked and it will only come from gathering.
Over and over in the scriptures we are reminded that something unique happens when the people of God gather together. We are told, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:20) Something about that fellowshipping of God’s children together seems to make a difference.
A couple of days ago I wrote about the need for accountability and Wesley’s small groups. Here is the same idea again. If we do not meet together, if we do not hold one another accountable we will not be able to live in the way that God has intended for his children.
The temptation to attend church only occasionally these days is far too common. Even those who consider themselves regular attenders only attend a couple of times a month. On the whole church attendance in the western world is on the decrease. Somehow we have become far too busy to be bothered with the physical connection to a community of faith. We convince ourselves that an electronic link or connection may be good enough and so we sit down to the pod-cast of the service or watch it live streamed, if we participate at all.
I want to provoke us today — provoke us to an understanding that we need to be regular attenders of a community of faith. We have to stop lying to ourselves and convincing ourselves that if we show up from time to time it will be okay. I’m preaching to myself today because nearly every Sunday I’m out somewhere — preaching! However, I have also come to realize that I need a community into which I can be connected and be held accountable. I have returned to live in Kansas City where I lived in my youth. I didn’t church shop — I just decided to go home. The community of faith — and no, she’s not perfect — is more important to me than “what I like” in a church. There are people in this church who have known me since I was 13 years old and still love me and pray for me! I was there a couple of weeks ago and I ended up going to Sunday dinner with my former youth pastor (who stunned me when he told me he was 70!), the parents of one of my good friends from the youth group (they’re more than 70!) and a former denominational executive (also in the over 70 crowd). They were so kind and loving toward me and told me that any Sunday that I’m at “home” and have nowhere to go I can join them for lunch — the church family inviting me to be a part of a community. Another person at the church wrote me and said that she knew I needed a circle of intercessors who would pray for me and my work and that they’d like to suggest an overnight gathering and time of prayer in the spring — could I plan on that. Here are people who are provoking me on — people who know me and are worried about the schedule I am trying to keep. This is what the community of faith is all about — loving one another and provoking one another. And we give this up because there are certain ways in which things are done that don’t fit our “taste.” Really? The enemy is laughing all the way — because he knows that you’ve just given up meeting together and are perilously close to “abandoning the Lord himself.”
I want to provoke you today. Think about the priority of attending church and becoming active participants in a life of accountability before God and others. Become a reflection of our holy God.
Lord, please help me to be willing to be provoked. Amen.