Community Group Study Notes
- Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s teaching.
- Read Hebrew 10:24-25. Sin’s deception, spiritual laziness, and fear were reasons that some were in the habit of not assembling. How do you see these show up in our context and culture? Which of these has shown up in your own life?
- Why does the gathering of the Church and connection to other Christ-followers help us live in light of eternity and spur on love and good deeds? Why can’t we do this in isolation or with only a few others? Why do we need the larger Body of believers?
- What is one action step from the message that you believe God wants you to put into practice in your life this week?
So every August something happens in the United States that is an American tradition, the Little League World Series. It started in 1947 and in 1947 the first Little League World Series was played and a team from the United States won. And then in 1948 and 49 all the way up till 1957 a United States team won every single year until 1957. And in 1957 there was a really small group of little kids from Monterrey, Mexico. And this group from Monterey, Mexico was a beautiful group of kids. You can see them here on the screen. This group of kids hadn't played on a grass in field before, but they started doing pretty good and they actually qualified for the little league world series and they walked across the border and they came to McAllen, Texas and they got a ride to McAllen, Texas. They didn't walk all the way to McAllen, Texas.
They literally though did walk across the border. They got a ride to McAllen, Texas and they played in a Southern regional. Now these are kids who hadn't played on grass in field before and they actually didn't have a lot of money. The struggle for them was that they were actually only eating two meals a day because they didn't think they were going to be in the United States all that long. Remember since the inception of the Little League World Series an American team had won the Little League World Series every single year for a decade. They didn't think they were going to be there all that long. So they only had money for basically two meals a day and once they started winning a few games, they realized that their visas had expired. And so the governments got together and were able to help these kids be able to grant them additional stay because they didn't realize they would be winning that much.
And they ended up not only advancing from McAllen, Texas and winning the Southern regional but making it all the way to Williamsport, Pennsylvania where they ended up in 1957 becoming the very first international team to win the Little League World Series. And by the way, they did it in really remarkable fashion. They were a small group of kids, but the one pitcher that they had could throw right-handed and left-handed either way. And he ended up throwing the only perfect game in Little League World Series championship in its history in that particular game, even though he wasn't throwing all together that hard and wasn't necessarily known as a superstar. You see, this team was really, really small. They were and I mean that in stature. The average height for a team member on that team was 4'11 and the average weight was 90 pounds.
The average size 4'11 and 90 pounds. That's why they became known as los pequeños gigantes, the little giants because of their ability. Listen to this, not to be about one individual superstar, but because they understood the power of what it was like to play for one another and to play for a team. They understood that the power of us is greater than the power of me, the little giants.
I think when we get to Hebrews chapter 10 which is where we'll be today, in Hebrews chapter 10 this lesson becomes even clearer to us because the writer is going to talk to us about the power of us. Now prior to getting there and if you want to turn their, it's kind of in two thirds of the way through your new Testament if you are looking in the Bible where you are or finding it on your phone.
Hebrews chapter 10 is where we're going to be in just a moment, but prior to getting there, I can tell you this, that there's a lot about the book of Hebrews that we don't know. I'm not talking about the contents. The contents are rich and wonderful and remarkable, but I'm talking about the writer and the date and to whom it was written. Generally speaking, a lot of scholars hold the writing of this was either just prior to the demolition of the temple in 80, 70 so it would have been in the late 60s but some are scholars also argue for it being after the demolition of the temple probably in the 80s A.D. Not sure really to be honest with you and we don't know exactly who wrote it. There are some that argue that it was Paul, even though the Greek writing of this text looks nothing like Paul, but the ideas behind it and the doctrine behind it sound an awful lot like Paul, but the writing looks nothing like what he normally writes like in all of... And we have a ton of Paul's writing to be able to compare it to.
Some have argued that it's Luke. If you ask Pastor Deon, he would tell you that he argues for Luke being the writer of this and there's really good argument that that could be the case. There's others that argue for Barnabas. There's others that argue for Apollos, but either way, here's what we do think. We think that it's Pauline in terms of its inspiration that he's probably the one who inspired the doctrine behind it. But I have a tendency to believe he wasn't the one that wrote it, but either way it was the apostle or the associate of an apostle who wrote this text in Hebrews under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And we don't know exactly the place to whom the people were that received the book of Hebrews. We do generally understand that this was a book written to struggling Jewish Christians that came from a Jewish background and when you read the book of Hebrews, you figured that out real quickly because you could read the book of Hebrews and the book of Leviticus in some times together.
Because it talks so much about the things of the law, the things of the covenant, things related even to the temple, the Day of Atonement, Passover, all of those things are in the book of Hebrews. So it's very Jewish in its nature and it's written to people who come from a Jewish background who are now saying they're followers of Jesus.
It's meant to encourage them. Some of them may have been struggling. Many argue that the group of this Jewish believers that it was initially written to were found in Rome. Because when you read chapter 13 of the book of Hebrews, you hear some correspondence from Italy. And so we have in the text itself a reminder that Italy was a part of this, so it very well could be that these were struggling Jewish believers who had left in the dispersion of persecution from Jerusalem and had made their way into places all over basically the Roman Empire. And they were either living in Rome or they were under the shadow of the Roman Empire one way or the other.
So that's where we are. And when the writer gets to chapter 10 we start hearing this writer conveying to those who are listening to him, the power of us as opposed to just the power of me. But prior to getting to the verses we're going to concentrate on today, which is a little further down in the text in verses 24 and 25 when we get there, I want to read the context that's leading up to it. And here's what it says in Hebrews 10 beginning in verse 19, it says, "Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the most holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain that is his body. And since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for he who promised is faithful."
See, right out of the gate in this context, you can hear very Jewish conversation because what you hear is conversation around the Day of Atonement. You see, he was making an illustration about Jesus that was consistent with what the Jewish people knew about the temple. If you remember how the temple was set up, there was a place that was called the Holy of Holies or the most holy place, and it was curtained off from another place, just called the Holy place, which was walled off from places that were outside of that where people could go.
One day a year the high priest over Israel would go into the temple, behind the curtain, would bring the blood offering from a spotless lamb, would place it on the alter, the mercy seat, so to speak, so that the holiness of God would not consume his people, but the people would experience what is called atonement or a covering. Right? And so the writer tells us here that we have this great confidence in being able to enter into the Holy of Holies because the great high priest, Jesus, the one in the order of Melchizedek, according to Hebrews, not one who was going to die, but one who was going to always live, even though he died, he would rise again and would always live. He was the one who went in as the great high priest to make the sacrifice in the holy place. As the sinful son of God, he was not only the high priest, but he himself was also the offering.
It was he as the high priest who actually offered his own blood on the mercy seat so that those who put their faith in him could be reconciled to God and the curtain that separated us out from the very presence of God was torn and this scripture says that that was his body. That he gave his life for those of us who were sinful and in need of being forgiven and atoned for, and that by faith in him, we now have the confidence to be able to enter the presence of God, speak to God freely, all because of what Jesus has done, not because of who we are. This is what the writer tells us in that very few first verses. But then in saying that about Jesus, because that's who we worship, that's who we come to, that's who we gather to sing about.
The writer gives us an exhortation and a strong one. Notice what he says in the following verses, verses 24 and 25, "Since all of this is the case, let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." Listen to this, "Not giving up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the day approaching." You see the author here is really concerned because apparently there were some people that had initially connected to what we would call the church. They're in maybe Rome or wherever it was and he was concerned because some of them were checking out. They had gotten in the habit of giving up meeting together. Now this word in the Greek language meeting together is the word episynagōgēn .
When you listen to that word you can hear a word that we would recognize, episynagōgēn, synagogue. We can hear that word when we hear it in the Greek language. That's really what it was referring to. It was referring to the idea of the gathering place where people would gather to be able to worship and to fellowship and to learn. And what the writer says is, I don't want you to give up your habit of gathering together of synagogue-ing together. Now, there were probably two things in view here when the writer is talking about meeting together.
If you remember back from the beginning of the church as we read about this and in the early portions of Acts, right? We see then the church, when we get to Acts two and three and four, we see how it meets. It meets in large groups setting. Remember there were 3000 saved in that early day and they were being taught by the apostles themselves because they were all still in Jerusalem at that time before the persecution dispersed them all. And they were teaching them in a large group about what it meant to follow the way of Jesus.
And that's why these believers, they clung to and listened to the apostles teaching. And that would happen often in large gatherings. They were probably also in the early church in Jerusalem, mid-size gatherings like in Solomon's Colonnade that you would read about where there might've been 100 gathered as opposed to 1000 gathered.
And then more specifically what we know is the early church was gathering in homes where they were breaking bread and they were praying together and they were worshiping together and they were fellowshipping together. And they were helping each other learn the reality of what it meant to live, what the apostles are teaching about Jesus.
And so I think here, even though this is probably after persecution has happened and it is after persecution has happened and the churches probably spread out all over the Roman Empire, I think the writer here is concerned that one, they are giving up meeting together in public worship and two, some people are giving up meeting in their smaller or communal kind of worship and communal gatherings that are in homes.
This was common for the early church in that context. And so he's concerned that if you give up meeting in these contexts that to detach from the body of Christ would probably result in spiritual impotence and defeat. And would also be a poor public witness to the world that the church has been sent to reach. And so he's exhorting them strongly that they would be people who would not forsake or abandon the assembling of themselves together either in public or both in the communal way. But it begs the question, doesn't it? What was causing some of these people to forsake getting together with the other believers? What was causing them not to be willing to engage in public worship or be able to gather together in homes to be able to learn the way of Jesus? What was causing that? I started looking through the book of Hebrews actually for some clues and I think that there are some in there that I'm going to offer to you and I would not suggest to you that these are all of them.
I'm just giving you a few that might be some of the reasons that they quit gathering together. Let me give you the first one. It's this, sin's deception. This may be the first reason, or at least one of the reasons I found that caused some to be in the habit of not meeting together with other believers, sin's deception. If you back up for just a moment into Hebrews chapter three, I want you to see what it says. It says, "See to it brothers and sisters that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God, but encourage one another daily as long as it is called today so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." You see, that's what sin has a tendency to do, and if we detach ourselves, listen to this, if we detach ourselves from the one another's, which is what this writer is talking about in Hebrews, then we can find ourselves being deceived by sin and falling prey to sin's deception.
How does that happen? Well, it can happen simple, right? Things like pride can begin to well up in us and we think to ourselves, "You know what? I'm smart. I don't really need other people to talk to me about God or to walk with me in my relationship with God, I'm smart enough, I've got my act together, I can do this on my own." And pride begins to well up in us even though God has said from the very inception of humanity, it was not good for man to be what? Alone, right? It's not good for man to be alone. And that was primarily in the understanding there related to marriage with Adam and Eve as the New Testament writers talk about. But I think also just in the context of humanity. God has been so gracious and so good to give us one another to be able to walk out the truth of what this life actually looks like.
It's a beautiful thing and for us to detach from the body of Christ and act as if we don't need that is really, I think at its core, pride. And what happens is we fall prey to sin's deception of our pride and our self-indulgence. And we think we don't need anybody. We don't need to be connected to anybody. We can just do this thing on our own, when that's not the way that God set it up. That's not the way that God has designed it. Or we can give in to sin's deception by embracing false teaching. If we detached from the body and we hear all manner of whether it's cultural teaching or all manner of false teaching, for instance, in this ancient world, they could have gone over to the Temple of Isis or Cybele and they could have gone in there and here's what they would do.
They would just go in there and they'd rub a little blessing on them and move on. And maybe for some of them it was like that when it came to this new God named Jesus and they thought to themselves, "Well, when these people gather, I'll just go get a little bit of that and I'll rub a little bit of that on me and then I'll just go on my way and do whatever I do." I know that nothing like that ever happens in our modern culture, but it certainly was happening in the ancient one. And in that we have to pay attention because sin's deception can cause us to detach from the body of Christ, from gathering together in the body of Christ. Today you can find all manner of bad teaching online. Any bad teaching you want to find, you can go find it. If you really want to go find it, you can go find it.
If you are looking for heresy, you don't even have to look hard. You can just go find it. You can go find the guy who just created his own YouTube channel just to spout these heresies, right? It's super easy to be able to do and some people when they're detached and they don't have the accountability of iron sharpening iron and as we are supposed to be stones that are being fitted together in this building. As Ephesians says, when we don't have that in our lives, we embrace all manner of bad teaching. Sometimes our culture is teaching us things too. "Hey, you don't really need all of that stuff. You don't need a church, right? You can just, like God's just whatever. You can do that wherever you're at, it doesn't really matter. You don't really need people alongside of you. You can just go right and just do whatever you want. It doesn't really matter."
Except it does according to the writer of scripture, except it does matter. You see, the culture is telling us something different and that's what happens is we can give rise to sin's deception in our life, and it causes us to maybe give up meeting together. But there's a second reason that I found in the book of Hebrews and it was spiritual laziness, spiritual laziness. Let me show you what I mean. This is in chapter number six. The writer says, "We want each of you to show the same diligence to the very end so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised."
Listen to this. You can't imitate people that you're not around. You can't do it. You cannot imitate people that you are not around. And he says, we don't want you to become lazy and this is connected to the idea of us maybe just doing our own thing and we get caught up in the culture or we get caught up in entertainment, we get caught up in self-indulgence. And maybe what was happening in this early context is that people were getting caught up in the same thing. Think about it. If this is to people that are in Rome, there was lots to do, there was lots to do and they got caught up in this, right? So much so that they thought to themselves, wait a minute, this is way more exciting and way more stimulating than just Jesus.
Isn't it interesting that you can actually be super active and spiritually lazy at the same time? It's true, isn't it? You know what's interesting? We have energy for the things we care about. We have no energy for the things that are really low in our priority list. And so when those things that are low in our priority list get butted up next to or in conflict with the things that we really, really care about, we know which one wins and which one doesn't. Right, and so it doesn't, by the way, being spiritually lazy doesn't mean that we are necessarily lazy people. It can just simply mean we're lazy spiritually, but we're real active in every other way.
You see, let's pretend for just a moment, and I don't know this to be absolutely the case, but let's say that the book of Hebrews was written in the 80s A.D. And it very well could have been, there are many scholars who argue for that position, that it was written in the 80s A.D. And let's say also that this was written to Jewish believers who were in Rome, which is also a high likelihood. So we're not rushing too far out in our imaginations to say those early church folks could have been missing somebody in their meetings for a few weeks and then they called them up, stay with me here.
They called them up and they were like, "Hey Alexander, man, where are you? I haven't seen you. Where you been? You haven't been over to the house when we've gathered there. You haven't been in our public meetings, man. What's going on?" "Oh, I forgot to tell you. I've got season tickets to the Colosseum."
Stay with me. You see, the Colosseum was built, it started in... Listen to this in 70 A.D. the Coliseum was being built. It took 10 years to build it, so it would've been completed in 80. if this was written slightly in the 80s somewhere, and we're talking about Rome, think about the lure of the entertainment and the lure of everything that they could have gotten at the Colosseum. Now, I don't know if much about what happened historically at the Colosseum. In your mind you're going, "Yeah, that's where they killed Christians." Well, that was something that they did there, but the activities of the Coliseum were enormous. You see, what they had is they had something called the festival of the games. This lasted, listen to this for 100 straight days, the festival of games. And you know what they had? They had exotic animals that they would parade around and people would bring their families and they would see all these exotic animals. It was really great.
Then they would also do things where they would do hunting expeditions in the Colosseum sometimes the Cesar, which by the way, these festival of games were basically an ego thing for the Caesar. They needed to make it great so the people thought they were great. Sometimes the Caesar would stand up there with a bow and arrow and be able to hunt some of the animals in the Coliseum floor and would show his marksmanship and the people would all cheer. They also had bare knuckle fighting. It was like early MMA in the Roman empire there in the Colosseum.
Listen to this, they had basically circus type of stuff. They had clowns. They featured in that context. Little people that did shows during that time, they had chariot races. They had gladiator fights and obviously yes, they put to death Christians at some point in time during the persecution of the Roman Empire. There was a lot going on there. So just imagine the pull for some of those who are gathering in the early church and now they were feeling pulled because they were like, "Man, dude, have you seen this place? This Colosseum is incredible." There've been some places where they live, but look at this place, this place is unbelievable. And I mean when we get in there and we start chanting, it makes me want... And then we...
I mean it's incredible when we get in there like it's unbelievable. And that's why you're not going to see me. It's like, "Hey, I'm not going to be around until the winter." And by the way, listen to this. If this was going on in the early context, because they were drawn by this kind of idea. They were probably also drawing their kids with them. Listen, this is not a guilt trip about going to a Bill's game. Please hear that, I like the Bills. I hope they win today, but I don't care near as much about them as I do about Jesus. I'm just being honest, I like them. It's a job. It's fun. I'm on the team, I love them and don't like New England and I'm saying that with no apology. I don't mean that as in hate, like real hate, but in like football hate, right.
Nonetheless, listen carefully. If what we do in our lives is we demonstrate our priorities by forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, sometimes when you see people that you don't see for a number of months because church gets in the way of their entertainment, the danger is exactly what this writer was warning them about. Because it will cause you to detach. And by the way, yeah you know what? I just love having my kids with me. I don't want them hearing the gospel of Jesus every week, but I definitely want them to know the shout song.
Listen, I'm not putting a guilt trip on you. I've gone to some Bills games like two, one of them was at four o'clock in the afternoon and one of them was Monday Night Football like the only time since I've lived here that we were on Monday Night Football. And they're enjoyable. I love then. I love the Bills. Some of the coaches connect with us online when they're during the season and are here when the season is going. This isn't a guilt trip. It's not any of those kinds of things. It's a reminder. It's a reminder because isn't it shocking that in the early church context that people could have detached from the body of Christ hiding behind going to a stadium of how many of the Colosseum seat? 80,000 people.
Something to think about. Because spiritual laziness can do that to us, because we have plenty of energy for the things that we care about and we have less energy for the things that we don't. Those should be good opportunities for heart checks, right? For all of us because you could ask yourself this question, has this become an idol for me? We'll ask this question. What if your team or your dance troupe or your baseball thing or your cheerleading thing or your biking group or whatever. What if they did it every Sunday all the time?
For many people, what it would mean is I'll never see the doors of being assembled with the people of God again because you've unveiled what you most care about, right? Again, my goal here is not to guilt, my goal here is to teach, but the application was so painfully obvious that I couldn't help but do it. If I stepped on your toes just know this, I tried to take my spiritual shoes off to do so because I do love you, but I also care that you love Jesus. My job is the preparation of a people to meet Jesus. That's what I do. That's what I do with my life. The preparation of a people to know Jesus in the now and to be prepared to meet him and to be on mission together, which is what this writer is actually trying to get us toward.
But there's a third thing that I would want to point out to you. It's this, it could've been fear. The reason that they weren't assembling together could have been fear, listen carefully. In ancient Rome, in Ancient Rome, the Jewish religion was a protected religion by the Romans. They didn't persecute them, they had protection. But now you've got these Jewish believers who had come from Jerusalem and now were spread out and now maybe they're in Rome and they're following the way of Jesus. And that gets hairy because the Christians, they were not protected, but the Jews were. So what it meant for these young Jewish Christians is they could fall back into their Judaism because they feared what it meant to be followers of Jesus in the Roman Empire. And this writer is saying, "Hey, don't do that. It's not good for you." In fact, listen to how the writer says it in chapter 10 he says, "You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised, for in just a little while he who is coming will come and will not delay."
He also said this another quote from the scripture, "But my righteous one will live by faith and I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back, but we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved." He's speaking to this issue of fear of shrinking back, right? You say, "Well, that doesn't really have as much relevance in the cultural climate that we live in here right now." That may be true in part in Western culture in the United States and Canada, but I can tell you this, in our lifetime, we may see what we're seeing globally. We don't know. Our global brothers and sisters don't have all the same freedoms. In China just this week, the Chinese government said that all of those that are national churches, the three self-churches is what they call them in China, I've been there. When the three self-churches are there, they made all of those churches take down from their wall the 10 commandments and replace it with quotes by President Jinping.
That was this week. That's not even talking about the churches that are meeting somewhat illegally in what we would call cell groups or cell churches or house churches. You see, this may be something we experienced in our lifetime, I don't know. But what we have to be reminded of is this, as the writer is saying, some have given up meeting together because of fear. Maybe it was fear of being seen in the public worship environment. Maybe it was fear of being labeled because everybody now, when we follow Jesus, even in the culture that we live in, we're bigoted and we're mean and we're narrow-minded, and we're stupid and we're all of those things. So now we're fearful of the culture that we live in because we're going to get a label because we show up and identify with Jesus and his people and the writer's saying some have given up meeting together that they are in the habit of doing this.
Now, there are a number of reasons that people may have done this, but the writer exhorts them not to do this, don't give up on meeting together. Why? Why does he exhort them to do this? Look carefully at verse number 25 he says, "Not giving up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing but encouraging one another." You see the whole goal here is that the reason that we need one another is we're encouraging one another in the direction of Jesus, but what are we encouraging one another to do specifically? Well the text gives us a few things that I think we should point out real quickly. The first thing I would say is this, is that we're encouraging one another to live in the light of eternity, that we're going to live in the light of eternity. Notice again what verse number 25 says, "Don't give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the day approaching."
Now, when you read the day in the New Testament, generally speaking, I mean maybe not in every case, but generally speaking, it's referring to the return of Jesus. Those who are hearing that message before 70 A.D. may have seen the signs of the destruction of Jerusalem that were impending, but it also had a further or what we would call an eschatological meaning. That means we are talking about the return of Jesus in judgment and in salvation, and when we listen to this as a people, when we gather together, we are reminding ourselves of the risen Lord who has done everything he said he would do, every promise he ever made. He has gotten up from the dead. He has promised to return, and we need to live our lives by faith in him in light of that truth.
Do you know it's incredibly helpful to have people in your life and around you that you worship together with, that you gather together in homes with that are people who live in light of eternity. People who are actually care about the kingdom of God, seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness so that all other things would be added to us as well.
I remember when I first got here in 2002 to come and pastor this church, 2002 that's a long time ago. I was 11. Actually, I was 32 when I got here. 2002 that means I'm about to turn 50 so just stop talking. All right. Just a number, leave me alone. 32 years old I got here and what was happening. This church was actually beginning to launch right before I got here, meetings in homes, they called it at the time Life Links for those of you who've been around a long time, you remember those and it was just small groups that were meeting in homes. We didn't have a room to do all that teaching in space that we had at the time when we were at North Forest. And so you know what I did since I got here? I joined a small group.
Do you know why? Because I learned a lesson in my ministry that was really important for me and it was this, before I am a staff member, I am a church member. You see the New Testament talks about me as part of the body of Christ. It doesn't talk about me as a part of some special class of citizen, that I'm just a part of the body. I'm a member of the body, right? Whether I'm an ear or an eye or a nose or a pinkie toe, whatever, doesn't really matter, but I'm a part of the body of Christ, right? That's my job. See, Jesus didn't die to give me a full time job. That's not why he did what he did. I am a part of the body of Christ before I am a staff member at a local congregation.
Now, yes, God calls us out. Yes, God separates us for a work and all that and that's wonderful. But I'm still a part of body so you know what I was doing? What the body was doing. I'm going to be in a small group because the rest of the body is going to be in a small group and so in that small group, I had a number of people in there. It was great. We had a wonderful time. Mostly people my age, people that Edith and I were getting to know because we literally didn't, we knew no one when we moved here, no family, no anything. And there was a guy in our group, a guy and a girl named Dan and Gina Trippy, Dan and Gina's family who kind of came from the chapel moms especially. Dan grew up here in some sense, came to Christ a little bit later and he had a really successful business with his dad as a car repair guy, basically collision work and all that stuff.
And I mean listen, the guy was doing well financially for his young age because Dan is like a year younger than me. I was 32 I think he was 31, 30 whatever he was and the guy was making coin. I was like, "Dude, right on." And as we grew together, listen to this, God just got ahold of him and called him, separated him out for the work of ministry that he would now have to start going to school and learning and developing and growing and listen to this saying no to that big fat paycheck that he had with that business. And I don't know how fat it was, but it was really good. And then not making near as much money saying yes to being in vocational ministry, which is what he was going to do. And he was going to say yes to making way less money and yes to having a way harder job.
And he did it. that did? It built my faith. He didn't do it because of me. We were in a group together, but it built my faith and I think it built the faith of people that were around. Why? Because this was a guy and a girl, Dan and Gina who lived their lives in light of eternity. I was proud. And you know what? God has used him. He was served in a couple of places in some other States, and now he's back in Buffalo and he's leading restoration church in Amherst. And I'm grateful to God for that because I'm not only proud of what he's doing in the ministry he's involved in. I'm proud of the fact that I remember what all that looked like. And then it inspired faith in my heart. We need to surround ourselves with people who live their lives in light of eternity, not people who know more names that are Kardashians than they do the disciples of Jesus.
We need people who actually lived their lives for eternity, for the sake of the kingdom of God. We need them speaking into our lives, and we need to be the kind of people who are that in the lives of others. So that's the first thing that I think that he's saying. We encourage one another to live in light of eternity, but there's a second thing, we encourage one another by spurring one another on in love. We spur on love. Listen to what the text says again in Hebrews 10, "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love." Now, here's what's interesting, the passage of the context that I read to you at the very beginning of the message, right in verses 22 and 23 when I was giving you the context there, that context noted faith and hope. You know what I know about this?
Faith can be activated and experienced alone. Hope can be activated and experienced alone, but love takes one another. Love takes one another. You can't do it in isolation, and so he says, one of the things that I want to encourage you toward is this. I want to encourage you to spur one another. Now, that word spur on in the Greek language is where we get our word provoke. Usually it's used in a negative sense, right? I provoked him to do something, but in this sense it's a strong word used in a positive sense that your presence together is actually provoking love in one another and through one another so that the world can see the love of Jesus in us. That's what we're being encouraged to do, to spur one another on in love, but there's a third thing too. We're also encouraged to spur on good deeds or good works.
Listen again to the text. He says, "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." You see what's being talked about here are not good deeds for the sake of doing good deeds. It's actually talking about the life of Jesus in us that leads to or yields the works of Jesus through us. This is what we're encouraging people to do along this line. You know what's helpful? Sometimes in life we get nervous about serving the Lord in a particular area. Do what makes it easier? Serving together, serving together. Sometimes we get a little nervous sometimes about what we feel like God's asking us to obey in his word, you know what makes it easier, obeying together. That we get the privilege that God has graced us with people around us, brothers and sisters, where we can practice all of these one anothers in the scripture and we can obey and we can serve together.
See what the author of Hebrews is doing is trying to help us understand something that the power of us is greater than the power of I or the power of me. This is a communal way of saying this. In fact, if you wanted to write down kind of a summary statement, it would be this. The power of us is a unified witness and unified obedience to Jesus. That's what the power of us looks like. It looks like a unified witness and a unified obedience to Jesus. You see what we're trying to do here at The Chapel, ladies and gentlemen, is we're trying to take the mutual strength of two things that the Bible is encouraging us toward and we're trying to leverage them together, the public witness of who we are and the public worship and teaching of what we do and the communal life in community groups where we meet together to be able to work some of that stuff out.
That's why, by the way, we're not saying that the way that we're doing everything is the only way to do things. We're not saying that at all. That would be arrogant and silly. What we're saying is this, there's a biblical impetus behind what we're doing, that this is rooted in what we believe the scripture says and to honor, listen to this, to honor the exhortation of the writer of Hebrews by the Holy Spirit that says, do not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another, spurring one another on to love and to good deeds and all the more so as you see the day approaching. We want to take the teaching of what we're doing publicly as we gather to worship and teach, and we want to put that into the communal side where we can start to live out what that looks like together so that they're... Listen to this so that the power of us is on display, not just the power of I or you or me, right? So that we can have a unified witness and a unified obedience to Jesus.
In the place where we live. We desperately need this, ladies and gentlemen, desperately. I don't know if you realize how desperate our area is, even in the United States. There are two surveys that were done. Barna Group did a couple of these, one that talked about the most Bible minded cities in the United States and he took the 100 kind of 100 large city areas and he chronicled them from most Bible minded, number one, to least Bible minded, number 100. Let me show you what that looks like. You won't be able to see it. I'm going to point it out. You're going to have to trust me. Number one, by the way, it's like Chattanooga, Tennessee and number two is Birmingham, Alabama and it's like all those Southern people.
And then number 96 of 100, Buffalo, New York. In terms of being America's most Bible minded cities, it took the 100 large city areas of the United States and we're 96th out of 100. Do you know what also we found out? Is that we are one of the most post-Christian cities in the nation. Christianity now is something in the rear view mirror and it's an afterthought. We are a post-Christian city. Do you know the same group did a study of the 10 most post-Christian cities in the United States?
Number 10 Buffalo, New York. We made the top 10 of most post-Christian cities, so we're one of the least Bible minded cities in the nation and we're one of the most post-Christian cities in the nation. Do you know why? We are trying to give attention to taking the teaching of the word of God and bringing it into the smaller context so we can learn and we can live it out is because that's what our place actually needs to see. A unified witness and unified obedience to Jesus from the people of God because in our context where we live, this is all really real, sins, deception, it's real. Spiritual laziness, it's real. Fear could potentially be real. Spiritual ignorance, it's real. All of these things that would want to detach us, but I want you to understand something. It doesn't matter if we believer's are few in number compared to the rest of our region and we are. The power of us is greater than the power of I and we can still be little giants used by God in our region if we will listen to the exhortation of scripture.
Do not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another. All the more as you see the day approaching. That's why you need to be in the public gathering because it builds faith and it teaches us about Jesus and you need to be in a communal gathering through our community groups, which is the avenue we're doing so that we can grow in grace together. That's why we're doing it. So I encourage you to act on that. Let's bow our heads together.
We're dismissed in just a moment. If you're here and you've never before entered into a relationship with God through Jesus, you've heard me talking about this. You've heard me talking about he's who we worship. You've seen people go through the waters of baptism who have communicated that to you as well. And if you've never before entrusted your life to Jesus, had your sins forgiven, washed away, a tone for forgiven, and to know that you could have a new kind of life in the now and an eternal kind of life forever.
Then when we dismiss in just a moment, I hope that you'll come right across the atrium into the fireside room. We would love to be able to speak to you about what it means to receive Jesus as your Lord and savior. And father for those of us that are here who have heard your word today, I don't know what areas in my own heart and areas in all of our hearts that you want to course correct, that you want to build faith, that you want to encourage, that you want to graciously as a father does discipline us, whatever it may be I pray that we would be receptive to your spirit God.
I and we want to sit under your word, not over it and be responsive to what you want out of our lives. This exhortation is really clear God, to us and we want to be responsive to it, that we might demonstrate a unified witness and a unified obedience to the glory of who you are Jesus. Because that's what the region we live in needs to see. It's what our nation and our world needs to see. And so would you help us to be people who prioritize our hearts in such a way God that would make sure that you are the glorious, beautiful center of everything we are and everything we do, we trust you to do that in our hearts now in Jesus name. Amen.