Encourage one another daily…

In continuing my posts on Hebrews 3 (post one is here, post two is here) I’ve come to the place of talking about a scripturally prescribed remedy to being “hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” – encouragement.

Often we think of encouragement as a kind remark or a nice comment.  While these may qualify as things that are encouraging to the one who hears, they are NOT what the author of Hebrews is prescribing.  Read the entire passage carefully…

Hebrews 312 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.

The kind of encouragement required in order to prevent hardening by sin and in order to offset the temptation to move toward a sinful, unbelieving heart is much more than a kind word – it’s the loving and sometimes firm reminder of the truths upon which our faith is built.  We all have spiritual amnesia and personal blind-spots.  We all have times of spiritual lethargy when we don’t pay close attention to the things we should.  We need other, outside input to help us stay on track.  We need faithful brothers and sisters in Christ who will help us to do so.

Based on this observation, I’ve been asking myself,

  • Do I have people in my life who encourage me to stick diligently and passionately to my faith?
  • Are there individuals close to me who take the time to promote God’s agenda in my life when I may be promoting my own?
  • Are there friends available to me who are willing to ask me the difficult questions – calling into question my motives and behavior when they are not as honoring to Christ and His cause as they could be?
  • Do I have close friends who remind me of Christ’s calling, His promises, His faithfulness to me, and the seriousness of what I would forfeit if I decided to give it all up?

When I ask these of myself, I find one individual who regularly serves me in this way – my wife.  Her service to me over the years in this regard has been truly priceless.  But besides here, I have to admit that there are not many people in my life who are serving as my spiritual sounding boards – individuals close enough to me to see me in good times and bad and to exhort me toward Christ-like behavior, attitudes, and goals during both seasons.  Why are these types of people so conspicuously absent?  I think because it takes hard work to develop those kinds of relationships, to keep them going, to work out perceived offenses that will inevitably arise in them, and to push ahead together regardless.

Now, I’ll turn my self-examination questions to you… ask them of yourself and see what answers you come up with.

It may seem foreign to you to even consider having people THAT close to you.  In our “leave me alone” culture, we typically don’t WANT anyone to know our stuff or question our motives.  We like to think that we are adequate and mature enough to be the kings and queens of our own destiny (yes, even as Christians).  But here’s the rub – If we DON’T have close, questioning, encouraging allies in our lives in sufficient number, we are at risk.  We are putting ourselves in a place where we will be more prone to spiritual lethargy.  When we are alone in this way, the only barometer of our devotion to Christ will be OUR perception of our lives, OUR isolated interpretations of scripture, OUR reasoning and emotion, and OUR very limited spiritual maturity.  In that scenario there’s an incredible amount of potential for blind-spots and spontaneous feelings to rule us more than we’d like to even consider.

These thoughts have shaken me deeply.  They’ve prompted me to consider what “could” happen to me if I don’t have the right people around me to “encourage me daily” so that I’m not hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

  • I “could” be the next Pastor to fall into some sexual or financial impropriety…
  • I “could” be the next husband to walk out on his wife and kids…
  • I “could” be the next church leader to dominate my congregation, bending them to MY will…
  • I “could” be the next porn addict hiding out in the church…
  • I “could” be the next Christian leader to bag the entire thing and decide that MY way or the world’s way is better…
  • I “could” be the next Christian man to waste my life, having nothing to show for it…
  • I “could,” most tragically, bring shame to the name of Jesus, who bought me with His own blood…

Why are all these (and more) possible?  Because sin is deceitful.  It’s tricky.  It’s powerfully able to convince even the strongest believer that its lies are actually truth and that it’s temporary benefits are eternal.  To use a familiar modern movie analogy: It’s the ring of power that corrupts all who trifle with it… and that’s no overstatement.  Couple all of that with the very real human proneness toward selfish behavior and personal fulfillment, and it’s a time-bomb waiting to go off.  I hope you can see (as I’m beginning to see) that this is HUGE!

I need fellow Christians in my life who are able to come alongside me, stand outside the subjective fog of my perceptions, and speak God’s truth to me – again and again and again – as long as it’s called “today.”  My wife has been such a wonderful blessing to me, in exactly this way – but I need others who can be that kind of support and encouargement for me in addition to her.   And I need to be an encourager for others.

I’m praying for God to show me who those people are for my life, in this season of it.  As He does, I plan on arranging some sort of accountability group or system whereby we can be these types of encouragers for each other.

What steps do YOU need to take?

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