As a pastor, I’ve often thought that church would go so much better on Sundays if certain people stayed away. Most notably, people who feel guilty if they miss, people who feel pressured to be there, and people who go just because they have always attended. I’m convinced that these three types of people kill opportunity for true worship. The problem is that our numbers would be greatly diminished!
It is far better to attend church with people who are simply holding fast. Part of discipleship is figuring out early why we should faithfully attend church services. Hebrews 10.23-25 is instructive for this purpose. We are to be a people who continue to believe and practice Christianity. We ought to be faithful and reliable. We desire to put more into church attendance than they get out of it.
Earlier, the writer of Hebrews encourages believers to “hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end” (Hebrews 3.6). The great peril found within the Christian life is the peril of pessimism. It is a jaded outlook on life that hardens the heart in unbelief and departure from the living God and from a living faith. Sin beckons us to give into its deceptive pull, to drain courage from us.
Hebrews 4.14 beckons us to “hold fast our profession” just as Hebrews 10.23 does. But the words profession or confession might be a bit misleading to us. We hold fast to our profession in the sense that we confidently pronounce our loyalty to Jesus Christ in a public manner. We all gather to say the same thing about Jesus Christ. The content is the same, namely that Jesus Christ alone is worthy of our praise and adoration. We are loyal to Him and to His people. So we “hold on to the hope (which springs from faith) in which we have told people we have such confidence.” That is, other people need to hear us pronounce allegiance to Christ and to Him alone. That fills us all with courage.
Hope springs from faith. Hope is optimistic and confident about the future. But hope is not something we see. It springs from faith. “Faith is the substance of things hope for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11.1). My deep and abiding faith within must find an outward expression each Lord’s Day in order to build hope within the body of Christ. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness (inward witness); and with the mouth confession (outward witness) is made unto salvation (Romans 10.10).
“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering” (Hebrews 10.23). If we are commanded not to waver, it must mean that we will face the temptation to do so. The plain fact of the matter is that the world, the flesh, and the devil attack any group of people who unwaveringly gathers to profess faith in Christ.
The devil is delighted by base motives for attending church. Gather because of guilt. Stew in misery. Brood in silence. Gather to make others happy. You may be empty inside, but at least you are filling up space. Gather because when the church has a service, you never miss. The devil lauds this type of faithfulness. But hold fast the profession of the Christian faith without wavering, and you will face great opposition.
Why do we gather together as local churches? We see with the eye of faith. We hear a sound of hope. And we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard among our assemblies (see Acts 4.20). We hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering. Our desire is to belong to those who belong to Christ. We shine as lights in the world. We shine brightest when we shine together. We are faithful and unwavering because God is faithful in what He has promised.
There will always be people who forsake assembling together with those holding fast the profession of their faith without wavering. This is the manner of some, even of some who name the name of Christ. They have many reasons for why they forsake attending church services.
When Hebrews was written, people forsook assembling together because they were fearful of persecution. Others forsook assembling together because the weeds of the world choked out any inward witness of faith that once existed. The excuses sound weak and anemic to those holding fast. They are meaningless and empty. They betray people who want more out of life than what they put into life.
Hebrews 10.24 offers a two-step thought process we must go through every time we are tempted to forsake church attendance. First, we consider one another. Considering takes place within the inner man. It happens during our prayer for one another. We talk to the Lord about one another. By this I mean private intercession and not corporate. There are too many people within our churches talking to other people about one another. This brings great disunity and distrust. When we consider one another (inward thought and prayer), the Lord will lead us to proper provocation.
Consider what God wants in the lives of the people He has redeemed. Consider your own weaknesses and failings. Then consider that these also exist in the lives others. Consider that people around you are retreating instead of advancing. They are hurting instead of benefitting. They are hindering instead of helping. Pray for opportunity to rally them to serve the Lord once again.
Pray for help directing them. There are abilities God has given only to certain people. There are opportunities available only for them. Consider these. Where are those who teach, encourage, and give? Where are those who work with their hands? Where are the compassionate? Where are the cheerful? Where should all these serve? Consider one another.
Provoke one another unto love and to good works. Love naturally wanes within all relationships. Love is active (see 1 Corinthians 13). It ought to be remembered and rekindled. We must stir it up in our lives or it dies. Perhaps we have become too passive in our relationships. We see no value in attending a church gathering because we have become spiritually idle. Hypocrisy prevents us from becoming a part of an enthusiastic gathering for the glory of God.
Again, we fan the flame of faith within in order to radiate hope without. There is no short-cut. Love (inward witness) drives good works (outward witness). We exhort one another at all times, but especially when we gather at our local church services. We do all of this knowing that the day is approaching. What day? It is the day when the Lord Jesus will come. It is in that day that we will account for the stewardship of time, talent, and treasure given to all within His body. We redeem the time given knowing that the days in which we live are evil (Ephesians 5.16).
God is faithful in His promises (Hebrews 10.23). We possess all we need. I fear that we remain unaware of that which we possess. It is an unwavering and unchanging fact that God does not lie. Not one thing has failed of all the good things which the LORD our God has spoken concerning us. These promises (inward witness) animate our actions (outward witness).
If we did not have God’s promises, we would have no evidence of future expectation or confidence in our assemblies. I fear we assemble together with inferior motivations. Therefore, we remain discouraged and unchanged. We are not looking to the promises of God but to the burdens of man. Church is not a duty as much as it is a privilege. It is holding fast together. We find that together we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. We hold fast in spite of our external circumstances (Philippians 4.10-13).
God is faithful to His promises and so are His children. We belong to Him body and soul. Therefore, we must glorify Him body and soul. There are great and precious promises given to us. These promises transform us into those who are partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1.4). 2 Corinthians 7.1 teaches that we possess the promises of God in order to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Together we publicly testify of the increasing faith and holiness within our individual lives. A pastor understands this because He is only able to share publicly what he has first privately received. A pastor cannot have an enduring, effective, and eternal ministry without truth and integrity within.
Perhaps we sit idly and passively within church services or miss them altogether because we lack inward transformation. There is no inward faith and therefore no external joy. I think we sense this and make up for it in fleshly, sensual ways. We have false fire among us. It is manufactured by men rather than a product of a Spirit-filled church.
The light is dim. The salt has lost its savor. How much better it is to experience the joy of the Lord in active service within our assemblies! You work to put more into life than you get out of life; however, you find that that really is impossible for the child of God. We are living eternal life in the present day. This is a wholly satisfying quality of life. We certainly will enter into the joy of our Lord and be rescued forever from this present evil day. Yet the Lord Jesus would have us live eternal life today. We hold fast by faith in order to strengthen not only our own hope but the hope of one another.