No one doubts this is an interesting time in our world. I don't think anyone is arguing about the fact that we are very divided in many ways, but something that has been very interesting to me, and even troubled me, are the amount of Christians that I hear that are quick to give their thoughts or focuses to the many conspiracies and issues of our day.
When we more quickly share the latest gossip or inside scoop on the issues of America on our social media feeds than we share the gospel, then something is clearly wrong in our thinking and our worldview.
The most surprising of all, to me, is seeing Christians that post and talk mostly about what's wrong and what they're not being told, rather than spending time building up the body (1 Thessalonians 5:11) and pointing others to the Truth (John 14:6).
Now, I do not doubt that some things that are being presented in contrast to the mainstream media have some truth to them, but I am concerned for how much I hear from my fellow believers about what they are taking in and focusing on.
What you put into your mind often shapes how you think. And often when we are so quick to controversial things we can think we are being discerning while going down a rabbit trail that can dangerously distract us from Christ and reshape our worldview.
[This is why I think we should be quicker to examine where Paul warned Timothy not to get involved in “foolish, ignorant controversies” (2 Timothy 2:23)].
So many questions come to mind as I hear of people spouting conspiracy theories and stories of evil.
There is no doubt a slew of evil facts and stories out there, but is this really the best for you to take in and spend your time on?
And I ask that, not to tell you to turn a blind eye or to be ignorant of world issues, but rather to ask you to consider what you are putting in your mind and spending your time on.
The words of the Apostle Paul come to mind when he told the church in Rome (in Romans 12:1), "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind..."
This verse has probably been one of the most theorized and philosophized among Bible passages because the question often asked by Christians today is: how are we to be IN the world, but not OF it?
And on this, many have taken extremes, where you have those responding with “don’t be in it at all”. And then others say, “lets be in it, to the greatest degree we can, without sin, so we can show HOW we’re not OF it.”
But, the problem in both of those ideas is what they seek to model.
One is moralism based on personal conviction, and the other is liberalism based on personal freedom. And neither gets it right, because both are ultimately “…conformed to this world.”
Christ calls us to a special kind of non-conformity: a refusal to conform to the sinful patterns of the world, and rather to be conformed to Christ.
And notice that the call is not simply a negative restriction, but also a positive affirmation. Paul says, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
To be transformed means to go above and beyond the forms and structures of this world. That means Christians are called to be light to the world, to be the salt of the earth, to show a more excellent way.
So, this is not as much a call to drop out of society and culture, as it is a call to display a setting apart for something greater, that we have dedicated and devoted our lives to the glory of God.
Understanding these things is incredibly important when it comes to living for Christ. And it challenges us to really consider what consumes our minds and our time, because what we spend the most time on and give the most of our energy to, will ultimately reveal what we trust and love.
So whenever I hear Christians talk of conspiracy or political agendas, I want to ask... does that surprise you?
If it doesn't then why should it consume your time and thoughts?
It should never surprise the Christian that an evil world (in rebellion against a Holy God) is doing evil things. It grieves God (Genesis 6:5-6), but it doesn’t surprise Him or happen outside His plan (Isaiah 45:21, 46:9-10).
The ways of this world are evil and they are opposed to God. This is why Paul is urging the church not to be conformed to it, but to God.
And consider what the application is for the believer.
We are God’s official representatives on earth, those who are believers are those who display the character of God and His gospel. We are those who are set apart and “transformed”.
We are those who have been changed by the gospel, so we submit and surrender ourselves to God “by His mercy”, …as “living sacrifices.” (Romans 12:1)
So the Christian is no longer to live according to the world or as the world lives, but they are to pursue holy living unto the glory of God.
This means that the Christian LOOKS different, LIVES different, and even THINKS different. So, do not be surprised my friends that in Christ we must relearn things.
Our view of the world must be changed. We must learn to think as God thinks (seeking His thoughts), where we begin to see the world as He sees it.
See, if the transformation that God desires to see in us is to be real and lasting, there must be a renewal of the mind, a changing of the heart.
This is why Paul continued in that verse (Romans 12:2) by saying, "that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
In this, Paul gets at the greatest aim and deepest goal in our sanctification—that our minds and hearts would be so renewed by God and His Word, that what God desires for us is what we begin to desire. And what God has commanded is what we are most happy to do.
So again, I am not saying that we should be those that are ignorant of the times, or absent from the issues. What I am saying is that a Christian that has been transformed by the work of Christ, and has a renewed mind, is someone who LOOKS different, LIVES different, and even THINKS different.
In that very chapter, down in verse 9, Paul tells the believers to, “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”
The only way to do that is by having a heart and mind that is both transformed and conformed to Christ—where what you desire most, is not the information on the latest conspiracy or agenda but, the truth of the Word that gives life (Hebrews 4:12).
Most of us have heard the old story that a bank teller is not trained to spot counterfeit by studying bills that are fake. This is the same principle for the Christian. If we truly want to know Christ and love Him (because we have been raised with Him), then we have to set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:1-2).
That is my prayer for you because there is no doubt in my mind that we should be wise, seek the will of the Lord, and consider how to live unto Him, because this world and this time carries much evil (Ephesians 5:15-17).
So as you consider what it means to “be transformed” with a “renewed mind”, ask yourself these questions:
I think these are important questions to ask as we are bombarded with all kinds of information.
This pandemic has brought about many questions for all of us. We are stuck at home, alone with our thoughts, and many of us are wondering when things will go back to normal and we can gather again on the Lord's Day.
In light of this many have asked the question: are we disobeying the command of Hebrews 10:25 by not gathering? I think this is an excellent question, but I do not think we should be quick to answer yes or no. We should consider the context, the command, and the call to care for one another.
First, it's helpful to consider the context of Hebrews 10 and its recipients. The writer is in the middle of a discourse regarding our redemption through Christ's sacrificial work. He then moves to talk about our assurance of faith.
(v21-22) "since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith..." And in verse 23, he says, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful."
So in this section of Hebrews the author is reminding us that we have been given, through Jesus, unrestricted access to God (10:19-21). *This truth motivates certain actions.
First we are to draw near (v22), secondly we are to hold fast our confession (v23) and lastly we are to consider how to stir up one another to love and good works (v24).
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 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.
The word for “neglect” (enkataleipontes) is a very strong word. It refers to "an abandonment or forsaking.” The ESV translates this term as “neglect,” since it implies a failure to do something one ought to be doing.
It’s the same word that Jesus cried from the Cross (Matthew 27:46) when he felt forsaken by God. It’s the same word used in 2 Timothy 4:10 of Demas who deserted prisoner Paul. It’s not a word of “oops, I’ve kind of let this discipline slip in my life”. No, it’s a word of “I am intentionally abandoning you.”
This type of neglect is very different than not being able to gather on the Lord’s day because of an intended season of restriction (for the care of others). This type of neglect is the intentional action of giving up meeting, even when one could, because they are being selfish and sinful.
So the command in this text is not calling us to gather in defiance, it’s calling us to gather in obedience because we are caring for our fellow believer above ourself. So when we find ourselves in a pandemic we aren’t disobeying Hebrews 10:25 by not gathering together for a season out of love and concern for one another.
We are called in Scripture to submit to our authorities. (Romans 13:1-7, Titus 3:1). Right now, in the midst of a pandemic, we ought to submit to the directives of organizations like the CDC. When our governing authorities aim to do us good then our submission to that authority is clear. But this submission is not absolute. *Our ultimate authority is God.
And so the Christian position has always been to obey the governing authorities unless they require you to go against the will of God (and this is expressly outlined in Scripture).
So a bad reason to defy governing authorities is when they are doing something for our care, and for the care of our fellow neighbor. A good reason to defy governing authorities is when they are demanding or forcing us to listen to them rather than God (Acts 5:27-32).
I think, on the subject of Hebrews 10, it’s also helpful to remember that the audience of Hebrews was not faced with a shut down due to compliance to government and care for their fellow man. The reason some were “neglecting to meet together” was due to the fact that they were facing hardship and persecution (v32-34), and they didn’t want to face the cost. Again, it was because they are being selfish and sinful.
It is a very different situation if we were being forced to give up our gatherings on the Lord's day because we were being restricted from, or persecuted for, preaching the gospel and worshipping together.
More Christian’s sin today, and are lazy towards this command to ‘stir up one another to love and good works’ because they have a tendency to put themselves first and forget the commands of Scripture.
This is why the writer of Hebrews is reminding them of the work Christ has done, the redemption we’ve received, and the family we have been brought into (through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ).
Again, *this truth motivates certain actions. So, while we cannot meet, there are still ways that we can obey this command.
Notice the other great concern for “neglect”, which is a neglect of caring for one another. That, while we cannot meet together face-to-face, we can still “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works”. I think to neglect that would be to violate or be disobedient to the full command and instruction in Hebrews 10:25.
I think another way that we would be disobeying the command of Hebrews 10:25 is if, when we are able to gather together again, we remained in isolation and simply live streamed the service(s) from our homes because we grew comfortable and even complacent.
So are we being disobedient to the command of Hebrews 10:25? No, I don’t believe so. So long as we still “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” *[even when we cannot gather].
I think this would even be possible to see in how we commonly respond to the flu and cold season each year. Many people stay home from the Lord’s Day gathering for a week or two (as not to spread their sicknesses), but we don’t call that disobedience, we call that care.
I believe the same point is applied here. Care is different than neglect. We are not neglecting “one another”. Pastors have not stopped teaching, they have not ceased to shepherd, and for many Christians they have not stopped praying or considering how to “stir up one another to love and good works”.
If those things stop, then we are truly disobeying the command of Hebrews 10:25. But in this time our prayer should be to ask God to give us the ability to gather again! We should long for the ordinary means of grace in the gathering of God’s people on the Lord’s Day. That should drive us to a deeper love and care for one another!