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Addressing the issue of assembling in Hebrews 10:25 is part of the discussion. However, it’s vital to “ramp up” that conversation by taking time to evaluate the current condition of our hearts. Whenever we discuss hot-button issues, the first call to action must always be our hearts’ calibration. If we don’t do this, we may engage the conversation with a less-than-biblical attitude.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:14-15).
When your child protests against what you are doing, what attitude would be acceptable to you? I’m sure you have expectations for their mood and words as they convey their perspective.
We encourage our children to have a voice in what we’re doing as a family. What we don’t appreciate or permit are bad attitudes in how they voice their opinions.
The evaluation that every church member must make about their disagreements is their attitude toward the leadership in areas where they disagree. (This idea comes from a sermon by Tom Pennington.)
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:10-13).
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you (Hebrews 13:17).
You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits (Matthew 7:16-20). (The context of this passage is about unbelievers, but the application about the fruit revealing the heart is for anyone.)
My default position is that I do not wear a mask anywhere; we live in a mostly conservative state. However, if I’m in a situation where I have to don the mask (i.e., Starbucks or Traders Joe’s), I do comply. You, too, have complied with the mask mandate if you’ve been in places where they asked you to do so and you did not want to leave.
My point here is that adapting is something we all do, though we might not prefer it.
Standards and preferences are convenient when there is no challenge to them. But when circumstances change, we must humbly reevaluate our positions. Are masks and Zoom meetings the hills I want to die on?
The most vital key is a church preaching the gospel. If your church does not preach the gospel, you should leave. I’m not minimizing congregating, but an American-centric view of the church can harm your soul.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Forsaking, in context, means deserting something like a teen running away from home. The Hebrew writer goes to great lengths to talk about falling away, leaving the faith, or abandoning the body of Christ. Read Hebrews 5:11-6:20.
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 3:13).
If you believe that forsaking means “not showing up at your church meeting” rather than intentionally distancing yourself from gathering, you will bind many believers who aren’t able to assemble, i.e., shut-ins or those medically hindered.
But this exhortation to gather is where you want to be careful. If forsaking was the “end-all, be-all” in that not meeting in a building on a regular schedule is a sin, you might think the person who never misses a meeting to be at the pinnacle of the Christian faith, only to realize he never was born again (Matthew 7:21). Then you have the believer who cannot meet regularly due to physical impediments or is shut-in, but their faith could not be more robust.
We should meet as often and in as many ways as we can. But if we lose one of our typical ways that affirm our faith (e.g., how we gather or evangelize) and have to pivot due to unforeseen or unwanted reasons, it does not alter our faith. It mobilizes unquenchable Christians to flex in other ways because they are Christians, always seeking to figure out avenues to spread the fame of Christ. —Rick Thomas
I’m not minimizing the gatherings at all. I’m a strong advocate for the local church and its regular meetings. I hope this vitriolic season is temporary, and we do not become the underground church in America. However, if it’s not a season but a new way of life, we still won’t “bow to the king” because the regenerated heart will always find a way to love God and others—even if it’s in less desirable ways. (Read Hebrews 11:1-40.)
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