Hebrews 10:24-25 says, "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."
William Lane says the book of "Hebrews is a sermon that is rooted in real life. It addresses men and women like ourselves who discover that they can be penetrated by circumstances over which they have no control. It is a sensitive response to the emotional fragileness that characterizes each one of us. Hebrews is a pastoral response to the sagging faith of frightened men and women at a time when the imperial capital was striving to regain composure after devastation of the great fire. It conveys a word from God addressed to the harsh reality of life in an insecure world."
A few of William Lane's sentences really hit me hard. I can identify with what he's saying here... 'Men and women like ourselves', 'who discovered they could be penetrated by circumstance over which they have no control'. Or, the book is a 'pastoral response to the sagging faith of frightened men and women.' or the fact that we desperately need a word from God while living here in this fallen, insecure world.
What I can't identify with is what this little house church was experiencing on a regular basis. The paralyzing reality of the fear of death. They had heard of other house churches in their city, friends that had been meeting together just like they were when all of a sudden the meeting was broken up by Roman soldiers arresting them and sending them off to be martyred for their faith.
Meeting together meant a stronger possibility that they'd be found and killed therefore the temptation to avoid meeting at all was very strong. The public confession that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour could cost them their lives.
They needed to gather for fellowship, to put courage in one another, to stimulate faith, hope and love but the fight that must have gone on in their hearts as they weighed their decision to commit or not commit in light of the real danger.
As a pastor I've encouraged many people in my church to make our gatherings a priority knowing that our times together always encourage and build us up in our faith. Some skip church for all kinds of reasons but not usually because there's a high risk of being martyred for their faith.
I know there situations from time to time that arise in our lives and we have no other choice but to miss out on meeting together but these times should be few and far between and when they happen there should be an ache in our hearts that we're missing out on one of our favorite times, being with the people we love the most and talking about the One we love the most. Does this describe you? If not then we need to ask ourselves...
Do I still value gathering as God's redeemed people or have I lost the joy of being together? When I meet do I seek to put courage in my brothers and sisters in Christ or am I attending only to take?
I'm not sure what awaits us in our future... maybe we'll actually experience a day like the little house church in the book of Hebrews where we will suffer great persecution for our faith. What I do know is that right now we are free to choose whether or not we will identify with Christ and his bride. A choice to identify with the good, the bad and the ugly of doing life together. It is his will that we meet, and when we meet he promises to meet with us and build us up and encourage us so that we might be sent out to walk in a manner worthy of his great name.
Jesus is coming soon. When he comes will he find you in fellowship with other brothers and sisters in a local church? A place where you are using the gifts he has given you for the edification and building up of his body? What a privilege we have to gather each week. My prayer for you is that you will go to church this Sunday with a fresh appreciation for your church family and that it will grow more and more as the 'Day draws near'.