Parameters of Encouragement (5)
Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus…exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end… Hebrews 3.1, 13, 14
Here again we meet a simple instruction that is mostly ignored by most of us as disciples of Christ: “exhort one another”. As you might suppose, the Greek word is actually “encourage.” We live in the day of salvation, the day when the Gospel is going out over all the world, and those whose hearts God is opening are believing in Jesus and entering into God’s rest (Heb. 3.7-11). And in this day, we who believe are called to encourage one another daily, while the work of salvation is going forward.
Encouraging and being encouraged should be one of the most identifiable aspects of our discipleship as followers of Jesus Christ.
Because it’s dangerous not to be encouraged: “but encourage one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (emphasis added).
Put another way, if we’re not being encouraged to follow Jesus, to seek His Kingdom and righteousness, and to live for His glory, we are in danger of being deceived by sin and becoming hardened in our heart to God. And every believer we fail to encourage is in similar danger. Encouragement is crucial to fulfilling our calling as disciples unto the Kingdom and glory of God.
Why? Because the days are evil, Paul reminds us (Eph. 5.15-17). Spiritual forces of evil in high places don’t want us to be courageous followers of Jesus Christ. They are working to make us complacent, not courageous. And they are always on the job. Every ounce of energy, every thought or affection, every next step that is not consciously devoted to our Kingdom-and-glory calling in Jesus Christ runs the risk of being lost to spiritual forces of wickedness and evil, which are capable of many forms of deception. And each time we allow ourselves to become deceived, we add fresh bricks and mortar to the rebuilding of our hard hearts.
Encouragement is the antidote to complacency, deceitfulness, and hardness of heart. Be sure you get some daily. And be sure you give some daily as well.
In this together
Because as disciples of Jesus Christ, Kingdom-seekers and glory-getters, we are in this together. We are “partakers”, the writer of Hebrews tells us, of a common calling and life. We are partners, co-laborers, teammates, and brethren in a “heavenly calling” which derives from, is sustained by, and circles back to Jesus Christ (vv. 1.14; cf. Rom. 11.36). That Greek word, μέτοχοι, metochoi, means that we have been united by a mandate and remit, sent from Jesus, to live the then and there of our heavenly provenance and home in every moment of the here and now of our earthly existence. And to do so together, with and for one another.
This is what it means to pray that God’s Kingdom should come on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6.10).
We are seated with Christ in heavenly places (Eph. 2.6). With the eye of our heart, we can see Him, exalted in glory (Eph. 1.15-23; Col. 3.1-3). He is indeed our fairest Lord Jesus, the Ruler of all creation (Ps. 45). We observe strong and holy angels going to and from upon Him to serve His purposes over all the earth (Jn. 1.52). Our hearts beat gladly with the continuous singing of departed saints who delight in nothing more than to sing the holiness and greatness of King Jesus (Rev. 4, 5). We see all this by faith. It’s what we hope for one day, in all its glory, because when we arrive there, we will see Jesus face to face (1 Jn. 3.1-3). And what we see and hope for is meant to bear fruit in our daily lives (Heb. 11.1; cf. 2 Pet. 3.11-14; 1 Jn. 3.3). In fragments, brief glimpses, momentary gestures, timely words, thoughtful acts of kindness, and ready helps, the beauty and power and wonder and majesty and mystery and sweetness and glory and holiness and reality of heaven come down to earth through our words and deeds, filling those spaces we occupy with the fragrance of Jesus and a foretaste of the world to come (2 Cor. 2.15, 16; Heb. 2.1-9).
Jesus intends to fill the world with Himself, and to do so through us, as we are emboldened and transformed by the Encourager from God, as He uses us to encourage one another in our heavenly calling (Eph. 4.8-10).
This is our heavenly calling. This is our calling in and from and unto Jesus. And it is this calling, as μέτοχοι, that we share in together and toward which we must encourage one another daily.
All this is conditional. It’s all true and all available to every disciple of Jesus Christ. But it’s conditional. As both Jesus and Paul remind us, it’s possible to delude ourselves – to be deceived – into believing that we are disciples of Christ, seekers of His Kingdom, and bound for glory with Him, and to be in fact dead wrong. A day is coming, Jesus said, when many will appear before Him, fully confident of being received into glory, only to hear Him say, “Depart from Me; I never knew you” (Matt. 7.23). And Paul warned a whole city of professing Christians that it’s possible none of them were anything other than reprobates when it came to sincere faith in Jesus (2 Cor. 13.5).
Twice in the passage we’ve been examining, if appears. First, in verse 6: “whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.” Then again in verse 14: “we have become partakers (μέτοχοι) of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end”.
The Greek has two words for “if.” The first means something like “since” “or because it is so”. But that’s not the word used here. The second, which has a couple of forms, means “if…and it might not actually be so”, and that’s what the writer uses here.
How can we be sure of something that seems so iffy? By encouraging our fellow partakers, partners, and disciples in their heavenly calling in Christ, and by seeking out such people to encourage us as well.
Because the Christian life requires courage. God gives us courage through the work of His Spirit, as we have seen. And the Spirit is pleased to use us to encourage one another, so that we “hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end” and “hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of [our] hope firm to the end.”
The days are evil. Deceitful, lying spirits are after us for complacency, not courage. But we can be used of God to bring a little bit of heaven to earth, and to bring more of Jesus into the world, if we will encourage one another and be encouraged in our journey as μέτοχοι together in Jesus Christ.
1. According to this passage, why is it important that we encourage others and are encouraged in our own walk with and work for the Lord? What can happen when we’re encouraged?
2. What’s working against our being thus encouraged? How can we recognize when we’re being worked on like this?
3. Why is it important that we keep in mind that we and all believers in Jesus are μέτοχοι in this heavenly calling?
Next steps – Preparation: Pray for the believers you will see today. Ask God to give you one special thing to do for each believer, to encourage them to hold fast their hope and press on in their heavenly calling.
T. M. Moore
Resources for the Journey
If you missed our ReVision series, “We Would See Jesus,” you can download all four installments by clicking here. Our newest book, What in Heaven Is Jesus Doing on Earth?, can help you to “see Jesus” as He continues His work at the right hand of God. Order your copy by clicking here. For a sweeping study of the unseen realm and the world to come, order our workbook, The Landscape of Unseen Things, by clicking here. And you can learn how our Celtic Christian forebears saw Jesus through the 28 days of meditations in Be Thou My Vision (click here).
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.