A young girl once asked an older gentleman at church about the portraits lining the hallway. The man looked at her and said, “these are heroes from our church who died in the service?” The girl frowned for a moment, then asked “Which service? The 8 o’clock service or the 10 o’clock service?”
Maybe you have experienced what it’s to feel that you are on the verge of death sitting through a church service.
One of the reasons church services may feel irrelevant and dull at times, is we haven’t made the connection between the Scriptures and our lives. What is true in the Scriptures is true in your life today. What is commanded in the Scriptures is commanded of us today.
This morning we are going to look at one of those commands in Hebrews 10:24. Let’s read.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. . .
This morning we will see the priority, place, pairing, peril, provoking and planning of love and good deeds. For the one or two of you who love alliteration, you are welcome. For the rest of you, I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it.
First, let’s look at
The priority of love and good deeds.
This verse is one of many throughout the New Testament that highlight the priority of love. Love is the greatest commandment, love is the sum of the law and it’s the ultimate command of Christ for his people. Love is the distinguishing mark of Christ’s people.
Above everything else, we are driven by love.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:8
Love and good deeds are our first priority in this world. Next we see
The place of love and good deeds.
Love is priority number 1, but in God’s order it is 2nd place. This is a critical distinction.
Before calling us to love and good deeds in chapter 10, the author of Hebrews has laid a glorious foundation of grace. Christ our high priest has offered a final sacrifice, cleansed us of our sins, torn the veil of the most holy place and made a way for sinners to enter the throne of grace with freedom and confidence.
First, God loves us. Then we love. This is always the order of things with the gospel.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
1 John 3:16
This is how we know what love is, not by looking inside ourselves, not by generating something within us, we know what love is because Christ laid down his life for us. We know what love is as we look to Christ hanging on the cross, his body broken and his blood spilled, crying out “father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”
First we are loved, then we love. We are here as Christians, not because we have arrived at state of superiority to others. We gather here on a Sunday because we are not superior and yet we are loved. We have failed to love and yet God’s love for us is unfailing. We have unending access to an unstoppable love and so we came week after week.
That kind of love changes you. We can never be saved by our love or our deeds, but God’s love motivates us to love and good deeds.
who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Love is the first priority, it is second place. Now let’s consider
The pairing of love and good deeds.
Why does the author include both love and good deeds in this verse?
Good deeds can be done without love, they can be done for self-righteousness. They can be done in coldness. Good deeds are best done in the warmth of caring love.
Anyone who has been a target of good deeds expressed with a cold or self-righteous heart is not eager to repeat the experience. Good deeds need love.
But love can be professed without deeds. There are some who very easily say “I love you”, but who can’t be found when there a real need for love arises.
In Christ love and good deeds are inseparable.
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:18
Good deeds done in love are the mark of the Christian, but love is always under threat.
The peril of love and good deeds.
We looked at this a few months ago. When Jesus looked ahead to the last days, he lamented the loss of love.
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,
I experienced that in my own heart last year. In a year of uncertainty I felt a strong instinct to withdraw, to gather my family and retreat from the world. I felt the pull of tribalizing forces in our society. I felt my love growing cold.
I think this is why Hebrews tells us that we must help each other with love and good deeds. We need to be motivated and stirred up in our love. So Hebrews calls us to
The provoking of love and good deeds.
The ESV tells us to consider how we may stir one another up. Other versions use the words spur or provoke. The Greek word means to provoke, incite or motivate. The root of the word is a sharp point.
You can imagine a rider in a race, spurring on a horse to keep its pace.
Or a coach, leaning over the sideline yelling and cheering on her players.
Athletes who want to compete at a high level know that at times they will need outside help. They will need someone to provoke and motivate them.
There’s nothing greater than the opportunity to love others for the glory of God. By our love we bring light to souls languishing in a dark world. By our love we win honor for our Savior. By our love we fulfil the desires of our Father in heaven.
But love is hard and we don’t always want to do the hard thing. That’s why we need each other. That’s why we need DNA groups and Missional Communities. We need others who can cheer us on and prod us to keep going in love. We need others we can cheer on and motivate. We need
The planning love and good deeds.
Hebrews 10:24 calls us to spend time thinking about this. It calls us to strategize and plan. Some of us spend time each week planning out the days ahead – planning meals and meetings and entertainment.
Why not devote some time to planning how to spur one another on in love? What would happen if you took 10 minutes today to plan some actions steps in practice of this verse?
What are some things we could do? I can think of a few things.
1. Exposition. Sharing or exposing the Word of God with each other can be a life giving and encouraging practice which takes very little time.
2. Encouragement. There is nothing that motivates and empowers like words of encouragement. When we see love in action, let’s cheer one another on.
3. Exhortation. I have been challenged to love by friends who are passionate about specific causes and needs. I’ve been provoked to get involved in other’s lives by some of you who have exhorted us in this way.
4. Example. Sometimes the best motivator is a good example. There’s no better way to encourage others to love and good deeds than by taking the first step yourself.
5. Equipping. Sometimes we have the willingness to love, but we don’t know what to do. We are always striving to find ways to better equip or church family. One of those ways we are experimenting with this year is creating a new role at Vintage. In 2021 Rachel Henry will be taking on the role of Care Coordinator. She’ll be working with us to develop relationships with potential service partners and developing systems for communicating and organizing us in service.
We’re going to transition to Communion this morning in Philippians chapter 2:3-11. What we’ve been talking about this morning is really the practice of thinking about others. In fact, the literal translation of verse 24 begins with the words, “let us consider one another”.
To learn how to do that, we go back to what is in the first place. We look to Jesus who left the throne of heaven to become a servant. The king of kings became a friend and servant of sinners. Is there anything more wonderful than that?
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown