“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:12-13
I’ve been reading through the first part of Hebrews recently, and today I spent some time meditating on Hebrews 3:12-13. After reading the larger passage of Hebrews 3:7-4:1, I kept coming back to these two verses. There was something peculiar to me about their message that made my spiritual antennae perk up and graze over their meaning.
It seems that most of my spiritual life has been shaped by individualism—my whole life I’ve been encouraged to “make my faith my own” by examining my own heart, pursuing personal holiness, and taking the initiative to hide God’s Word in my heart…to study it in depth so that I might know the Lord more intimately. Of course, I’ve always been encouraged to share the gospel with the lost and give aid to the needy, but down deep I seem to have thought that’s where my responsibility ends. So how does that fit with spending myself for the sake of others’ faith like Hebrews 3:12-13 seems to call me to do?
After milling it over on my own for a while, I decided to seek wisdom from a commentary close at hand. The result of my search yielded clarity and encouragement that I thought valuable enough to share. Here’s what one commentator says of Hebrews 3:12-13:
The writer wants his fellow believers (brothers will include ‘sisters’) to have such a care for one another that none will be lost. A commitment to understand and help others in the local church is required. The greatest danger is that someone in the congregation might have a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. …Sin is an active, aggressive power that must be resisted. If you harden your hearts against the word of God (8), sin will have its way and you may be hardened (13…. The antidote is to encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today. Such encouragement will be on the basis of Scripture, following the writer’s own example….It may take place in the more formal context of Christian gatherings (cf. 10:24-25) or in the daily informal contacts that Christians have with one another. Either way, a word–based ministry to one another is the key to faithfulness and perseverance. It is not a responsibility of church leaders alone, but a duty of each Christian. (New Bible Commentary)
I think what is said here is true; we have a responsibility as members of God’s family to care for one another zealously. Of course, there is no human measure that can be taken to create faith in another’s heart, but according to God’s word in Hebrews 3:12-13, there is a God-ordained means of grace in our persevering watchcare over one another. What does that look like? I think it must look something like conversations that are sometimes uncomfortable because they go deeper than the latest political intrigue or current weather pattern. It will probably mean that lump welling up in the backs of our throats as we pray for grace to choke out the gospel to a relative or friend we’ve known for ages but always steered clear of spiritual discussions around. It might involve coming across as overly pious to some or nosey to others. But let’s get real—if sin really is “an active, aggressive power” that has the potential to ravage the heart and destroy the soul, aren’t we better off risking the insult to our reputations? Doesn’t caring for our brothers and sisters in the faith in a gracious, loving, and God-honoring way entail concern for the welfare of the most important part of their being? It is, I believe, as the commentator says, “a duty of each Christian” to care for one another in this way.
So how do we do it? St. Francis of Assisi is credited with the famous words, “Preach the gospel daily, and if necessary use words.” I understand the gist of his statement—that we should live the gospel-centered life in such a way that those around us are pointed God-ward by our actions-- but I think preaching the gospel to one another daily always requires words. It requires God’s Word first and foremost—soaked into our hearts and poured out of our mouths to those around us. He himself tells us that His Word is life and hope for every believer: “My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word” (Psalm 119:81). “You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word” (Psalm 119:114). The entirety of Psalm 119 testifies to this truth, and God means for us to say it to one another!
Of course, words of encouragement, exhortation, or in some instances even merciful rebuke are not the only ways we can care for one another and guard against the deceitfulness of sin. We are also called to pray for one another (James 5:16), listen to one another (Proverbs 10:19), and give to one another (Acts 4:34-35). But what I was personally convicted of today by Hebrews 3:12-13 is that all these other things can so often be a “cover up” when what I most need to do is simply say the gospel to my friends and family in the faith. I pray that God would empower us as his people to do just that. May he make us gospel-proclaiming encouragers for one another as we hold fast to our Living God!
Monday, June 29, 2009
We've been enjoying our time at Beech Mtn. where we've been transitioning back to American life and praying for God's guidance for the next move for our family. Please continue to pray for us as we seek His direction: Rusty continues to send off resumes to churches and friends as we look for a place to engage in full-time pastoral ministry in the local church while continuing Rusty's education at SBTS in the fall. We are communicating with one church in particular in southern Indiana that is interested in getting to know us better. Please pray for this relationship and that God would make his will clear for our family and for that church as they seek a new pastor. We are praying that God would provide a job for us near enough to Louisville for Rusty to continue with his ThM studies. Please pray with us to that end as well as praying that we would trust Him to know what is good for us and his kingdom far beyond the capabilities of our own human minds.
In the mean time, we are trying to relish our days on "the mountain." We have been blessed with lots of sunshine, cool weather, and outdoor play. It's still amazing to me how intricately the Lord seems to have planned our return; this place has been such a wonderful bridge for us as we get back into the flow of things in America. We even made some new friends at the church we visited this past Sunday. The family keeping the nursery "just happens" to be leaving for a year of missionary work in China at the end of this month. How fun to be able to share our own experiences about taking a family overseas for a year! We exchanged phone numbers and hope to have dinner with them sometime soon. We also enjoyed meeting the pastor who took the initiative to talk with us in depth and help us get a good feel for the church. These were all tremendous blessings for us as we are missing our friends from Ndu and eager to get involved in our new (albeit temporary) community here. Although we are not planning to be at Beech Mtn. permanently, we desire to be here while we're here. Please pray with us that God would open doors for for friendships, church involvement, and opportunities to share the journey of the gospel-cenetered life while we are here. Thank you for your prayers!
A final note...I am so enthralled by the speed at which we can upload pictures here that I just had to throw some recent ones of the girls in! You can see we've had no shortage of fun around here: feeding the ducks, playing dress-up (bears, princesses...you name it!), and Sophie's first solo tricycle ride are merely a few of the adventures we've enjoyed. Hope you enjoy seeing them too!
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Thursday, June 25, 2009
Welcome to the new State-side counterpart to www.sendtheosbornes.com! After a year of blogging from Cameroon, I have decided to continue the tradition from U.S. soil. Part of my motivation is that I simply enjoy writing and sharing my life with those around me. But I also hope that this page will also serve as a starting point for meaningful dialogue between real people who are all looking to a Sovereign God to "daily bear us up." I pray that every word shared on this blog will be used as fuel for His plan to form each of us more into the image of Christ every day. And I hope you'll find joy and encouragement in joining me in the journey!
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