criticism

Encourage One Another

Criticism of the church is probably at an all-time high today. It's increased over the last couple decades and a fair amount of it is warranted.

Much of it comes down to answering the question— Does the church exist for the people or should people be there for the church?

Some of the answer to this question comes down to the consumeristic attitude of American culture. But the church—across denominations and groups—can hold a pretty myopic and monolithic view of its place and purpose.

We live in the 21st century. It may be a futile effort to try to capture the simplicity and closeness of the early church, as seen in the early book of Acts, but we can learn some relevant values intrinsic to the early church.

Scripture

We must continue to hold firmly to our declaration of faith. The one who made the promise is faithful.

We must also consider how to encourage each other to show love and to do good things.

We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming.

(Hebrews 10:23-25 GW) [Context– Hebrews 10]

Key phrase—

We must also consider how to encourage each other to show love and to do good things

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What do we need to continue to do? What should our motivation be to do so?

  • What are two things we need to encourage each other to do? How do you think this should be done and what should it include?

  • What are we to not stop doing and in what ways do you think this should be done?

  • What seems to be the reason behind the urgency for this exhortation? Is this still relevant?

Reflection...

At times, it may seem that genuine encouragement is a lost gift among believers. Encouragement is not flattery nor is it the same as a like on social media. True encouragement is personal and specific to the person we encourage.

The church is not an institution or the building where the church meets. It's a living organism called the Body of Christ and has many members—people who are followers of Jesus. Each person has a useful and necessary place and purpose within the Body (Eph 4:16).

Each of us is called to encourage one another. This includes accountability and exhortation along with gentle words of correction and comfort. Again, it's much deeper than shallow praise or congratulations.

True encouragement reminds those of us who are believers of our need to continue following Jesus together. It's one of the ways we prepare for the Lord's return.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • How is the first exhortation connected to those that follow and the ones in earlier verses?

  • How do you see these exhortations as relevant for believers and churches now?

  • In what way do they all relate to our current (American) cultural environment?

  • Are any of these exhortations difficult for you? Is one more difficult than the others?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

A New Relationship

Hebrews study.png

It seems there's increased criticism of Christianity and church the past decade or so. Some of it may seem justifiable based on an oft-quoted saying attributed to Gandhi, "I love your Christ, but I dislike your Christianity."

As with many cultural trends, great liberty is taken with some truth, then opinions get mixed in and are seasoned with a measure of ignorance.

The quote appears to be a distillation of Gandhi's thoughts where a veteran missionary to India acknowledges that the example of Christians may not match the life and nature of the One they claim to follow. 

But, in a sense, all of this misses the more important issue. Christianity may be a major world religion, but its originator—Jesus Christ—had something very different in mind.

Christianity is not just a religious dogma or philosophy to follow or believe. Jesus always intended for His followers to be in relationship with Him by faith.

Scripture

 If nothing had been wrong with the first promise, no one would look for another one. But God found something wrong with his people and said to them,
“The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new promise to Israel and Judah. It will not be like the promise that I made to their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of Egypt. They rejected that promise, so I ignored them, says the Lord. [vss 7-9]
But this is the promise that I will make to Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my teachings inside them, and I will write those teachings on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will each person teach his neighbors or his relatives by saying, ‘Know the Lord.’ All of them from the least important to the most important will all know me because I will forgive their wickedness and I will no longer hold their sins against them.”
God made this new promise and showed that the first promise was outdated. What is outdated and aging will soon disappear. [vss 10-13]
(Hebrews 8:7-13 GW) [Context– Hebrews 8]

Key phrase—

I will be their God, and they will be my people

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What does God say is coming and why does He say this?

  • How What did God find wrong with His people (Israel)? What did they do?

  • What are two important things we are told about this new promise of God?

  • How is this new promise better than the promise of the Old Covenant Law?

Reflection...

The Christian faith is too often minimalized to a prescribed moral code and acceptable behaviors, but that's a religious regimen, not faith.

The Old Covenant or Mosaic Law, inscribed upon tablets of stone, was a relationship with God based on required obedience to specific moral, civil, health, and religious or spiritual laws. Great blessings were promised by God for those who kept this covenant promise.

But His people failed to keep this covenant. So God established a new promise and a new relationship through Jesus Christ.

Jesus established this new promise by giving Himself as the perfect sacrifice upon the cross and guaranteed it when He rose from the grave. It is a personal promise based in relationship, not in obedience or good behavior. It is a relationship of faith, confident trust.

This new promise is called the New Covenant (or Testament). It replaces the Old Covenant Law because it is better and more powerful and more personal. It is written in our heart, our inner being, rather than on tablets of stone.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Do you understand the difference between the Old and New Covenants?

  • Are you aware of how different relationship by faith is in contrast to religion?

  • Can you see how much more personal this new relationship with God is?

  • Have you personally experienced the Spirit of God writing the truth of God in your heart?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews